Work on N.W.T. roads a priority in final capital budget of 19th Assembly

N.W.T. Finance Minister Caroline Wawzonek discussed the capital estimates at the Legislative Assembly on Thursday. (N.W.T. Legislative Assembly/CBC)

Over a quarter of the money the N.W.T. government budgeted for next year’s infrastructure projects is expected to go toward highways, winter roads, bridges and culverts.

In her final capital budget of the 19th Assembly, Finance Minister Caroline Wawzonek said the government is projecting to spend over $361 million, of which over $94 million will go toward roadwork. 

“This budget builds on our commitment to tabling a capital budget that is achievable while still addressing the priorities and needs of Northwest Territories residents,” Wawzonek said in her opening remarks on the budget at the Legislative Assembly on Thursday. 

Although the budget included significant investment in key infrastructure projects, several regular MLAs were critical that it didn’t focus enough on upgrades or replacements for schools across the territory.

Wawzonek said a key investment on roads includes a $26 million for the Frank Channel Bridge on Highway 3 near Behchokǫ̀, which is slated for replacement

The budget also set aside $73 million to support community governments for infrastructure needs and $26.2 million for renewable energy projects, Wawzonek said.

Kevin O’Reilly, MLA for Frame Lake, said he didn’t approve of the budget and said it would leave the next assembly “in a very difficult position.”  

“When our government continues to spend six times as much on roads versus housing, there is something wrong,” he said. 

Jane Weyallon Armstrong, MLA for Monfwi, said she was disappointed to see only $3 million going toward schools. 

“We have a lot of schools in the Northwest Territories that need upgrades,” she said. 

Katrina Nokleby, MLA for Great Slave, echoed this point. 

“This government has not been serious or taken really to heart the mandate item to actually improve the educational outcomes of students to the rest of Canada,” she said. 

“Because how could they even begin if they’re in schools that are making them sick and are not full of the equipment that they need to learn?”

Related stories from around the North:

Canada: N.W.T. projected to spend $100M on fighting wildfires — 5 times more than budgeted

Russia: Huge budget deficit is building up in Russia’s economy

Sweden: Climate adaptation funding cut in budget in Sweden, Radio Sweden

Luke Caroll, CBC News

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