Budget to keep status quo
Ng says no big changes this year

Kerry McCluskey
Northern News Services

IQALUIT (May 10/99) - Well into the fourth draft of the budget address he's expected to deliver to Nunavut's legislature this week, Finance Minister Kelvin Ng, said residents of the fledgling territory could expect money matters to be business as usual.

"For the first year, there won't be any surprises or any dramatic events that take place," said Ng, a former GNWT Health Minister.

He explained that cabinet ministers needed a chance to fully set up their departments and get their feet wet before any significant changes could be handed down. Until then, the estimated $620 million in revenue for the 1999-2000 fiscal year -- 90 per cent of which comes from the formula financing agreement with the federal government -- will go towards maintaining current services and ensuring that Nunavut remains out of debt.

"I don't think (it's going to be a tough budget) in the perspective that there's not going to be any dramatic reductions. It's the status quo until we analyze and get a grasp of what's in there now."

With the exception of the shifting of a few dollars between the 11 governmental departments, Ng said the budget he planned to table this Friday, May 14, would stray very little from the preliminary plan presented by Jack Anawak last December.

"I don't think there will be any significant changes. There's going to be some tinkering obviously between departments, but for all intents and purposes, it was laid out based on historical spending."

And while some of the hopes and high expectations for new programs will not be realized, in order for Ng to present a balanced and fiscally- responsible budget, he had to make some tough decisions.

"If we're providing new stuff, we have to change existing stuff. You can't do this overnight."

Ng said his address would also outline the problems the new government faces in trying to come up with programs to counteract the many social changes faced by residents.

The legislative assembly is set to convene on May 12 and run until the end of May.