Yesterday’s federal budget left Yukon MP Larry Bagnell scratching his head.
“It’s a status-quo budget with almost nothing new,” he said. “The good news is that the programs that were working in the past will continue. But the major problems in the North that people wanted addressed won’t be addressed this time around.”
Federal infrastructure money will continue to pour into the territory, meaning that the good times will continue to roll for the territory’s construction contractors.
And government workers will be relieved to hear that the Conservative government has no plans to raid their pensions, as unions warned one week ago.
But a spending freeze in the federal civil service, which employs about 300 Yukoners, means “there will be cutbacks related to federal government programs in the North,” said Bagnell. Inflation and growing federal salaries mean the freeze is effectively a spending cut.
Ottawa will also continue to provide the territories with $30 million annually to top-up health care funding for the next two years. It was feared that this five-year program would be cut, leaving the Yukon in the lurch.
With Parliament prorogued, Bagnell held a meeting in Ottawa last month to discuss northern issues that resulted in a long list of problems he says the federal government ought to fix.
More affordable housing, a new push to resolve outstanding land-claim negotiations, more help for alcoholics and drug addicts, and plans to adapt to climate change are all needed in the North, and the federal government should do more to help, said Bagnell.