Nunavut Finance Minister Tables $2.5 Billion Housing Budget
Nunavut Finance Minister Lorne Kusugak tabled a proposed $2.5 billion operations and maintenance budget for the 2022-23 fiscal year with increased spending for public housing and staff.
The budget is the first from the newly elected Government of Nunavut and reflects its priorities for the coming year.
Capital expenditures for the Nunavut Housing Corporation have increased by $3 million over last year for a total of $51.5 million in this budget. Of this amount, $21 million is allocated to the construction of new social housing and $6 million is allocated to staff housing for the Government of Nunavut.
“Even with these investments, we know that we will continue to suffer from [a] shortage of affordable, decent, subsidized housing,” Kusugak said during his budget speech to the Nunavut Legislative Assembly.
The government wants to build 1,000 new homes over the next four years. The current investment of $27 million will not be enough to build all the units.
This year’s budget shows an estimated operating surplus of $40 million. The surplus is the result of lower COVID-19 related spending and a tax increase of about 5%.
The 2021-2022 budget had an estimated deficit of $31 million.
Kusugak said the surplus leaves room to spend more money on housing if needed.
“Plans are already in the works that could see a proposal to spend more than $200 million more on housing and housing programs over our tenure,” Kusugak said in his remarks.
Kusugak says spending the money saved would mean future deficit budgets.
“If that means tapping into the surplus from the previous year to start addressing the housing shortage, I’m all for it and I really hope the Legislature is all for it,” Kusugak said.
Last year, former finance minister George Hickes introduced a $2.4 billion budget that had a $75 million emergency fund in place for emergency spending in the event of the COVID pandemic. -19.
In the last fiscal year, the government did not need to use the entire contingency fund to deal with COVID-19 outbreaks, which contributed to the surplus.
This year, the government will also have a $75 million contingency fund that can be used for emergency expenses.
But the government says it would be used if the New Nunavut Employees Union Collective Agreement is ratified and the retroactive remuneration of government employees must be reimbursed.
Few expenses in the event of a pandemic
The fund is also one of the only places the government can withdraw money for COVID-19 needs.
Last year’s budget also made room for a pandemic response secretariat that will work with the departments of health, community and government services, and executive and intergovernmental affairs.
The $4.8 million allocated to the secretariat created 30 positions.
The 2022-2023 budget will continue to fund the secretariat for at least another year.
In April, Nunavut’s public health emergency was lifted, ending government-imposed restrictions on gathering sizes and mask mandates.
The Government of Nunavut has also strongly supported northern airlines during the pandemic, spending nearly $35 million last year in subsidies.
But this year, airlines like Canadian North, Calm Air and Kenn Borek Air will not be subsidized.
Now that the draft budget is tabled, Nunavut MPs will be reviewing it over the next few weeks. The current winter sitting of the Legislative Assembly ends on June 14.