Fire and flood relief will be seeing a $20.2-million boost in the wake of a historic fire season and some serious flooding, according to the premier.
Premier Sandy Silver revealed the 2022-23 supplementary budget, which accounts for spending that is unforeseen at the time of setting the $1.97-billion annual budget, in the Yukon legislature on the first day of the fall sitting on Oct. 6.
In total, the supplementary budget tags on $26.2 million in operations and maintenance, with no changes in capital spending.
An Oct. 6 release highlights the spending increases in response to the latest fire season as well as mitigation and clean-up in response to flooding in the territory.
“This summer, it started out very troubled,” Silver told reporters in the cabinet office.
“We saw unprecedented fire activity, with major fire activity in every single region.”
In July, the News reported that Yukon fire information officer Mike Fancie predicted the $22-million budget may not cover the wildfire costs.
The supplementary budget also includes $3.2 million to pay for the $150 rebate, announced in March 2022, on all residential and commercial electricity bills.
That increase is being offset by $1.5 million in recoverable funding from the federal government and $18.2 million in new revenue, which is comprised of a $2.2 million increase in the Canada health transfer, $15 million as part of the federal affordable housing in the North agreement and $1 million from land sale agreements.
The opposition parties criticized the supplementary budget for what was left out.
Yukon Party Leader Currie Dixon noted the Yukon government’s most recently announced inflation relief measures do not appear in the budget or the supplementary budget.
“Our concern is that there’s a lack of a real plan here,” Dixon said.
“It’s clear to us that they’ve come up with these on the fly.”
Yukon NDP Leader Kate White said the financial impacts of climate change — fires, floods and landslides in particular — should be top of mind in the territory.
“We’ve seen landslides like we’ve never seen before,” White said.
She was referring to the spring landslides in Whitehorse, as well as the latest series of more than 10 landslides along the North Klondike Highway just outside of Dawson City.
White said the territory is going to “continue to see those things augment” over time, thus increased spending is necessary.
“It’s not something that we can scrimp on.”
White suggested the supplementary budget missed an opportunity to do something with the surplus to address the rising cost of living.
“We really could have done some good for people with that surplus as far as trying to help with people’s reality right now,” she said.
This year’s surplus is forecast at $33 million, which is down from the March forecast of $39.5 million.
The projected year-end debt is up to $214 million from the March projection of $207.5 million.
Contact Dana Hatherly at firstname.lastname@example.org