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Liberals introduce new budget with universal dental and safe supply funding

The new items were added to secure the support of the NDP.

The Liberal’s updated budget for 2021/22 will be the first territorial budget NDP leader Kate White has ever supported.

“A lot of the criticisms that I had in March still exist, except there have been some wins,” she said on May 13 after Premier Sandy Silver tabled the updated documents in the House.

The new budget remains very similar to the original Liberal budget introduced on March 5. An election was called by the premier before that document could be passed. The new version also has $1.5 million extra added to secure NDP support.

Those line items cover $500,000 to develop territory-wide dental coverage and $1 million for the set-up of a safe supply and supervised consumption site that will be implemented by Aug. 31.

The two promises were part of an agreement signed by the two parties in order to stabilize Silver’s minority government until Jan. 31, 2023.

“This budget builds on the strong foundation developed during the previous mandate and continues us on the path toward a brighter future for the Yukon,” said Silver in his budget speech.

He also pointed to returning promises, including green energy, health care reform and COVID-19 recovery funding.

Despite the new additions from the NDP, the numbers for the annual deficit and net financial debt have actually been reduced. The new estimate for the deficit is $6.6 million, compared to double that figure in March, and a reduced $169.6 million for the net financial debt.

Those numbers have shrunk thanks to a boost in funding from the federal government, which provided extra funds to the territorial health investment fund and COVID-19 health and vaccination efforts.

“You have a federal government that is starting to, hopefully, turn the page from relief to recovery. They just released their budget and we noticed a few different pieces there,” Silver said.

As in the March budget, the numbers also contain a $15 million COVID-19 contingency fund that has been calculated into the deficit but may not need to be spent.

Despite the shrunken deficit, Yukon Party leader Currie Dixon said he would vote against the budget.

“There are a few things that are slightly different, but nothing really substantially different. So there are things in there that we’re supportive of and there are things in there that we oppose, but overall, we oppose the direction the Liberals are going and so we won’t be supporting the budget,” he said.

“They’ve been bailed out by the feds again. That’s great for the territorial public finances. But you know, that the spending direction of this government is still troubling,” he said.

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