To gather public feedback for Budget 2021, the GNWT plans to hold four online sessions over the next week and a half, Finance Minister Caroline Wawzonek told reporters during a teleconference on Tuesday.
A significant difference of the upcoming budget unlike those of previous years is the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic. Among the many effects of the pandemic, the projected operating surpluses for the GNWT will be lower than expected for the next three years, Wawzonek said.
According to a GNWT report the government is expecting to run a $70 million deficit in fiscal 2020.
The projected operating surpluses in coming years have been revised down from $203 million to $121 million in 2021 and from $147 million to $99 million in 2022, lower than the $147 million that was projected in this year’s budget.
Wawzonek said the government is projecting spending between $215 million and $308 million on capital items such as critical infrastructure in each of the next five years (including this year).
A long-term goal of the GNWT is figuring out how to increase surpluses, Wawzonek explained. Reducing spending, increasing taxes or borrowing more money are ways of doing that, although each have their limitations and borrowing isn’t sustainable.
Tax rates in the NWT are in fact below the national average, she said, and there are no territorial sales taxes.
It is important for the GNWT to focus on things it can control, such as infrastructure, programs and services, public utilities and taxation.
And while mining and tourism represent significant sources of revenue for the territory, the NWT can’t control global demand for non-renewable resources, international tourism and population growth, Wawzonek said.
During the upcoming sessions, the finance minister encourages residents to consider such questions as what the economy should look like; which industries the GNWT should support; how government can support private businesses; what programs, services and infrastructure benefit our communities the most; and what programs, services and infrastructure are residents prepared to give up to maintain the spending that is deemed most important?
Sessions will be held on Thursday, July 23 at 7 p.m; Friday, July 24 at 12 p.m; Tuesday, July 28 at 7 p.m; and Thursday, July 30 at 12 p.m.