Bill clears the way for spending

Premier Dennis Fentie wants to spend an additional $54.7 million this fiscal year, bringing Yukon’s budget to $954.4 million.

Premier Dennis Fentie wants to spend an additional $54.7 million this fiscal year, bringing Yukon’s budget to $954.4 million.

Fentie, who doubles as Finance minister, tabled a special bill Tuesday, called a supplementary appropriation, that would allow him to do so.

Last-minute spending splurges include an additional $3.5 million on the Shakwak project to rebuild the northern end of the Alaska Highway beyond Haines Junction. Most of the new money will help rebuild Slim’s River Bridge. The increase would bring annual spending on the project to $31.5 million.

Other new roadwork proposed by Fentie includes $560,000 to maintain the North Canol, $500,000 to upgrade mining roads and $700,000 to fix washouts on the Dempster and Klondike highways.

Work to extend Whitehorse’s Hamilton Boulevard gets an additional $3.2 million, bringing annual spending to $10.6 million.

And work to expand the Whitehorse airport may be stalled by a First Nation court challenge, but the territory is sinking another $1.7 million into the project this year, bringing the budget above $10 million, likely to finish work on a related project — the airport parking lot.

Another $3.2 million will go to developing Whitehorse’s waterfront, bringing its annual budget to $7 million.

Outside the capital, spending on the Carmacks sewage treatment plant has more than doubled this year, to $4.9 million from $2 million.

And an additional $1.1 million would go to complete the Tombstone Visitor Reception Centre, bringing that project’s annual budget to $1.5 million.

Much of the new spending is offset by a windfall of money the Yukon government has received, most of which comes from Ottawa. The territory received a $26.6-million bump in revenues, up to $900.6 million.

The territory expects a $4-million surplus under the new spending plan, said Fentie.

Some of the new spending is already old news, thanks to Fentie’s tendency to announce new projects before spending has been approved.

For example, a new women’s unit at the Whitehorse jail is to receive $1 million for work this year. Construction started on the project in August, although no money, as yet, has been approved for the work.

The same goes for a $3.7-million funding deal with Whitehorse General Hospital, also previously announced by Fentie, which will help pay for the construction of a secure psychiatric ward.

Other new money will help strengthen the territory’s emergency services.

Plans to build a new radio network for the RCMP also received a jump-start in the bill, which sets aside $6.2 million for the work. The project is expected to cost $18.5 million over three years.

Firefighters are to receive a new airport rescue vehicle, for $1.1 million, and another $132,000 is to go towards paying First Nation firefighters.

The government’s bungled efforts to build a health centre in Watson Lake gets a $6-million markdown, as the government no longer plans to finish the half-built shell.

Instead, the shell is to be turned into a new, $25-million hospital. There is no money identified for the new hospital in the bill.

But Watson Lake is to get a new ambulance base, to be built at a cost of $1.2 million.

Dawson City has long been promised a new health centre, but this project has been on ice for years. It appears this plan will be revived by Fentie as another construction project to help Yukoners get through the global economic downturn — the project is to receive $60,000 in late-year money, up from an existing budget line of zero.

There is no new money set aside to rebuild FH Collins Secondary School — only an additional $212,000 to continue a review of school programming.

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