Premier Sandy Silver during a press conference in January. (Joel Krahn/Yukon News)

Yukon Liberals table supplementary budget

Projected surplus continues to shrink from $6.5M to $3.1M

The premier is claiming victory when it comes to financial planning after tabling a supplementary budget this year. But even with a small change the territory’s surplus continues to shrink.

The new budget, if it passes, will mean an increase of $3.7 million in operation and maintenance spending. This represents an overall 0.32 per cent increase over the main estimates released earlier this year.

Past supplementary budgets have seen increases ranging from 0.86 to 6.1 per cent of the main estimates.

“The smaller size of our first supplementary budget compared to previous years reflects the success of departments in more accurately calculating their estimated needs at the beginning of the year,” Premier Sandy Silver told the legislative assembly Oct. 11.

The changes have shrunk the projected surplus to $3.1 million, down from an estimated $6.5 million when the budget was announced.

As far as territorial cash goes, the largest reduction in planned spending was the $9.6 million earmarked for the French high school in Riverdale and the new track at F.H. Collins, which isn’t getting spent this year. This summer construction crews found serious soil contamination that had to be cleaned up first.

The Department of Community Services is getting an extra $3.8 million to cover unexpected costs of fighting wildfires this season.

MLAs are expected to debate some of the finer points of the supplementary budget during the rest of this sitting.

Yukon Party finance critic Brad Cathers said he is waiting for more detail on some of the plans including on the half a million dollars of new money for planning the Yukon Resource Gateway project to build roads in mineral-rich areas of the territory.

“It is not quite clear at this point how much of that money is for consultants, new staff or engineering reports, but again, even if the decisions themselves have merit, new spending approved by this government is new spending approved by this government.”

Cathers criticized the government for not giving more money to the Department of Health and Social Services.

The department ended up not spending about $1.22 million that was earmarked for pensions, he said.

Cathers said he was disappointed that money didn’t get reinvested into the hospital.

“The minister of health and social services acknowledged that the Hospital Corporation had asked for $5.2 million more than the government chose to provide in the budget,” he said.

Cathers also took a swipe at the government for reducing the territory’s net financial assets — essentially the government’s extra cash in the bank — from the $93.3 million at the beginning of the fiscal year to an estimated $11.26 million at the end. He accused the government of planning to “burn through over $80 million in cash this fiscal year”

The territory’s net financial assets have been dropping for the last few years. According to the Department of Finance, the territory had net financial assets of $223 million in 2015, and $153 million the year after that.

Contact Ashley Joannou at ashleyj@yukon-news.com

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