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NWT chapter rallies against territorial government’s austerity budget

The Council of Canadians Northwest Territories (NWT) chapter will be protesting against the Government of the Northwest Territories (GNWT) austerity agenda at rallies organized by the Public Service Alliance of Canada North.

The chapter has posted on Facebook, “The GNWT is promoting austerity without assessing the costs to northerners or with a plan to manage these costs. This is irresponsible governance. If you agree, join a rally at the Legislative Assembly this week. Call your MLA. Never forget the power of the people.”

Noon hour rallies will be taking place everyday between February 7 to 10.

MyYellowknifeNow.com reports, “Northwest Territories Finance Minister Robert C. McLeod tabled his second budget in the legislature [on February 1]. Altogether, the 2017-2018 budget seeks to eliminate 65 positions, though about 29 of those aren’t currently staffed. McLeod also confirmed three department mergers. The Department of Public Works and Services will merge with the Department of Transportation to form a single Department of Infrastructure. Meanwhile, Finance will merge with Human Resources and the Executive will merge with Aboriginal Affairs and Intergovernmental Relations.”

That article highlights, “Two NWT unions expressed disappointment with the budget once it was released, calling it an austerity measure that regular MLAs should vote down. The Public Service Alliance of Canada (PSAC) North accused cabinet ministers of ignoring their constituents in a stern release issued [February 2]. Jack Bourassa, regional executive vice-president of PSAC North, says job losses will result in people leaving the territory. Todd Parsons, president of the Union of Northern Workers, says it’s time for the government to start prioritizing quality jobs over infrastructure projects.”

The Government of the Northwest Territories does not have political parties. The Legislative Assembly is composed of one member elected from each of the nineteen constituencies in the territory. After each general election, the Assembly elects the Premier and Speaker by secret ballot. Seven MLAs are then chosen as cabinet ministers, with the remainder forming the opposition.

A CBC report notes, “Regular MLAs in the Northwest Territories say they don’t have any confidence in cabinet’s spending plan for the coming year. Despite weeks of squabbling over it behind closed doors, cabinet and non-cabinet MLAs disagree on the most basic starting point of any budget — cabinet says it’s time to cut back, and the MLAs say it’s time to spend.”

That article adds, “The [MLAs not in cabinet] want to see spending increase in areas where longer-term savings can be realized. That includes $1.3 million to help seniors stay at home longer instead of moving out of their home communities to more expensive long-term care facilities in regional centres, $500,000 for youth suicide prevention and $1.5 million for home health care. They’re also hoping to see the funding for the territory’s Mining Incentive Program increased. The government says it wants to reduce spending on things such as wages and programs and services to reduce its debt and save money for infrastructure projects.”

MLAs will now debate the budget over the next six weeks.