N.W.T. government announces review aimed at freeing up $150M annually

N.W.T. Premier R.J. Simpson discusses an upcoming government-wide review that will be part of developing the territory’s new fiscal strategy on Monday. That strategy includes making up $150 million dollars and paying down short term debt. (Travis Burke/CBC)

The N.W.T. government has announced a strategy to find an additional $150 million annually through a combination of spending cuts and revenue increases starting in the 2024-25 fiscal year.

The strategy, titled Restoring Balance: A Fiscal Sustainability Strategy for the 20th Legislative Assembly, was presented on Monday.

At the centre of it is a government-wide program review aimed at trimming expenses. In a news release issued on Monday, the territorial government said the review will “determine inefficiencies and duplication in resources.” The review is being carried out over the next few weeks.

The findings of the review, and a separate initiative to look at ways to increase revenues, will be in the N.W.T.’s 2024-2025 operating budget. The budget is scheduled to be debated in the Legislative Assembly in May.

The Restoring Balance strategy sets a target of lowering the short term debt by $150 million by March 31, 2028, the end of the 20th assembly.

In the document, the territory writes that the strategy is needed because of the growth of the public service, escalating health-care spending, and the N.W.T. not receiving enough money from the federal government to pay for its programming.

According to the strategy, the territorial government’s workforce grew by 27 per cent, or 1,391 positions since 2019-2020.

Revenues are projected to grow by around 3 per cent a year, while expenses are expected to increase by 4.5 per cent each year.

The fiscal update also says that disasters caused by climate change have added challenges. Although the costs are subsidized by the federal government, the time it takes to be reimbursed adds to the territory’s “borrowing pressures and costs.”

Other goals outlined in the document include fully funding capital projects from operating surpluses instead of borrowing.

The government says the review will involve input from all territorial government employees.

There will be a web-based survey where employees can provide anonymous feedback and suggestions about where efficiencies can be found.

The release said several factors will be considered in the review of government programs, including:

  • Is the program required by legislation?
  • How broadly is the program delivered?
  • Does the program relate to a priority set by the Legislative Assembly?
  • How would external stakeholders be affected by a change to the program?
  • What impact would a reduction in the program’s budget have on the territorial public service?

N.W.T. Premier R.J. Simpson and Finance Minister Caroline Wawzonek unveiled the fiscal strategy at a news conference on Monday.

Related stories from around the North: 

Canada: Nunavik school board vows to fight new Quebec language law, Eye on the Arctic

Finland: Report highlights Finland’s top 5 housing problems, Yle News

Norway: Population declining in Arctic Norway, The Independent Barents Observer

Sweden: Abandoned properties a challenge for rural Sweden, Radio Sweden

United States: Budget cuts threaten transitional housing program in Alaska’s largest city, Alaska Public Media

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