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BUDGET ESTIMATES – Government of Yukon operations and maintenance, and capital expenditures by department for the 2018-19 fiscal year. Spending was laid out in the territorial budget today. Chart courtesy GOVERNMENT OF YUKON

Liberal plan to slay projected deficits

The Yukon Liberal government tabled its second record-breaking budget in the legislature this afternoon.

By Taylor Blewett on March 1, 2018

The Yukon Liberal government tabled its second record-breaking budget in the legislature this afternoon.

At $1.47 billion, it’s the largest in territorial history, surpassing last year’s $1.44-billion fiscal blueprint.

The 2018-19 budget plans for an annual deficit of $4.5 million for the fiscal year, which will begin April 1.

This is a significant decrease from the $49-million deficit projected for 2018-19, when the current fiscal year’s budget was tabled last April.

The deficit projected for 2019-2020 is also much smaller than forecast last year: $6.9 million instead of $58 million.

“For too long, Government of Yukon budgeting was a year-to-year process,” Premier and Finance Minister Sandy Silver said in his budget address in the legislature.

Capital projects were built “without thought to a long-term strategic approach,” and operations and maintenance costs were not fully considered, he said.

“The Government of Yukon’s finances were on an unsustainable path. Significant deficits were projected for coming years.”

The whys of the deficit re-calibration will be explored further in the coming days, but Silver offered some explanation.

Deficits are not expected to be as large as first thought, “in part because of the fiscal approach our government is taking to fully account for costs.”

Further, he said, “we will continue communicating with Yukoners about our plan to return government finances to surplus.”

In 2020-21, the government is now projecting a very slim, $1.8-million surplus, instead of a predicted $42-million deficit.

This year, the majority of the Yukon’s budgeted revenue is coming from the federal government, as always.

Transfers from Ottawa have seen a modest increase from last year, and now sit at more than $1 billion.

This figure includes a new $400,000 transfer resulting from the legalization of cannabis, expected to occur late this summer or early fall.

Revenue from a tax on legal pot is to be split 75/25 between the provincial/territorial and federal governments, respectively.

Other tax revenues – personal and corporate income tax and tobacco tax being the largest three – are bringing in $118.5 million.

There are no new tax changes introduced in this budget. (The tobacco tax will rise, as planned in last year’s budget.)

Fees will also remain unchanged.

Carbon pricing revenues are absent from the budget, as the Yukon government waits for more clarity from Ottawa. The tax will not be applied in the territory until Jan. 1, 2019.

The government plans to spend $1.2 billion in operations and maintenance (O&M) funding, a small increase from the $1.1 billion it budgeted to spend in this category last year.

The largest spending increases are in the Departments of Health and Social Services, Education and Environment.

In Health and Social Services, which comprises 34 per cent of total O&M spending, increases are explained by $24 million budgeted for the opening of the Whistle Bend Continuing Care Facility, $2.3 million for operating 10 new beds in the Thomson Centre, and $6 million for anticipated boosts to insured health programs.

Increases in Education include $6 million for various elements of public school education, and $1 million for Labour Market Development Agreement adjustments.

Increased Environment O&M spending involves $4.6 million for environmental remediation work at the Marwell Tar Pit.

Under the operations and maintenance budget for 2018-19, estimates for the 10 largest departmental budgets and how they compare to last year’s estimates are as follows:

• Health and Social Services – $400 million, up 10 per cent from last year’s $364 million;

• Education – $183 million, up four per cent from last year’s $176 million;

• Highways and Public Works – $141 million, up three per cent from last year’s $137 million;

• Energy, Mines and Resources – $76 million, up from last year’s $75 million;

• Community Services – $92 million, up three per cent from last year’s $89 million;

• Justice – $73 million, up four per cent from last year’s $70 million;

• Public Service Commission – $48 million, a drop of $1 million from last year’s $49 million;

• Environment – $46 million, up 10 per cent from last year’s $41 million;

• Tourism and Culture – $28 million, same as last year’s estimate of $28 million; and

•  Executive Council Office – $21 million, down 12 per cent from last year’s $24 million.

The capital budget for 2018-19 is just over $280 million, which represents a 10 per cent decrease from last year’s $309 million capital budget. (See story below.)

Comments (6)

Up 0 Down 1

Wilson on Mar 7, 2018 at 4:26 am

Gee, if this keeps up some of the permanent road under repair signage put up under 'Yukon Party' tutelage will have to come down. Those annual milking maintenance areas may actually be fixed instead of being under permanent repair. Sorry local contractors.

Up 0 Down 2

Stanley on Mar 6, 2018 at 10:46 pm

I've never voted for the Liberals but, I think I will next time if they keep up with the responsible fiscal governance like what's demonstrated with this budget. A budget for services the people need instead of inflated profit for the party insiders. This is such a pleasant change.

Up 2 Down 0

Josey Wales on Mar 6, 2018 at 12:32 pm

Folks calm down it is completely under control both here and from coast to coast and yes...the other coast too!
How might I come to know this?
Despite being ignorant of this phenomenon myself, apparently “budgets
balance themselves”.
Said an idiot.

Up 3 Down 0

Simon on Mar 2, 2018 at 2:39 pm

Government of Yukon is ripe for efficiency gains. There's countless "tiny" but over-complicated manual processes all over the place which, if optimized and added up could amount to quite a substantial savings. Death by a thousand cuts, as usual.

It will just take Sandy and his crew to force departments responsible to make these changes happen, and pronto.

Up 3 Down 0

SC Holmes on Mar 2, 2018 at 1:44 pm

Nice job Sandy. Soften up the electorate with an imaginary deficit of $42 million and become a hero with a deficit of only $6 million, but still Yukon's first deficit. We can all agree the $42 million was a scare tactic to float a trial balloon for a sales tax. The $6 million could easily be scratched off through efficiencies or the increased transfers from the federal budget, but not doing so still let's you hold onto the sales tax stick. Well played, but voters will remember...

Up 0 Down 2

Stand pat budget on Mar 1, 2018 at 5:15 pm

Well the Premier wants to keep his job and listened. Good job Sandy. Yukoners don't want debt. There are many ways to make government more cost effective.
Cut all unnecessary spending will save $42 million dollars.
I give them a B+.
Their planning is off according to the pre-budget comments.
Wilf Carter

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