The Chamber

Budget and Main Estimates

Budget Address

Budget Address, 2020 – 2021
Northwest Territories

The Honourable Caroline Wawzonek
Minister of Finance
Second Session of the Nineteenth Legislative Assembly

Introduction

Mr. Speaker, the Northwest Territories is a land of opportunity. We have a vast geography, a wealth of resources and a population strengthened by incredible diversity.

The 19th Legislative Assembly wants to see the Northwest Territories make the best possible use of all of our opportunities and resources, including the strength of our people, to achieve the 22 priorities that were set by all 19 members of this Assembly. These priorities stretch across all of our communities and are our shared vision for economic growth, environmental stewardship and a healthy and better educated population.

Achieving these priorities will be a continuing journey that will outlast the life of the 19th Assembly and this government must make decisions in a way that looks beyond four years to the next generation. We have a responsibility to put the Northwest Territories on a good path using our priorities as a guide and establishing a budget and a fiscal plan to achieve as much distance towards these priorities as possible.

It has been said that it is easier to destroy than to create. Think about an ice sculpture. Creating takes time. It requires patience. It succeeds with thoughtfulness and planning. This government wants to create a positive path forward for the future.

Budget 2020 is a first step on a path towards our priorities, one for which we build relationships within our government, with our communities, and between governments.

This Budget proposes to spend almost $1.9 billion on programs and services in the coming year and sets out further fiscal steps that will support progress on all 22 priorities. This Budget is a foundation upon which we will create and build.

Shortly, I will review the Northwest Territories economic situation and outlook. I will describe some key drivers in our economy as well as some of our challenges. Next, I will discuss our fiscal situation and strategy, which speaks to some of the direct impacts that government can have toward positively influencing our economic situation. I will then describe our planned revenues and expenditures for the next fiscal year and conclude with a discussion about next steps for the financial health and planning of the Northwest Territories.

I want to make two comments about how this Budget was prepared.

First, this Budget was a collective effort. It stretches back to the last Assembly when departments were working on their plans for the coming year. We are always building on work from prior assemblies in a consensus government. In the relatively short time of four months since this Cabinet was formed, we have tried to chart a more inclusive approach to financial policy setting that better engages all Members. It is my intention to continue establishing opportunities throughout our processes for public dialogue and engagement with this Assembly. Evidence based decision making requires information and perspectives and potential decisions should, where possible, be vetted by those impacted.

I want to thank all Members of this Assembly for their constructive ideas and work in building our financial plan for the next fiscal year and beyond.

Second, in preparing this Budget we needed to take a realistic look at our fiscal challenges. Our immediate fiscal situation is not what was hoped in the last budget but it is manageable. We are not in a crisis. This is a time for cautious optimism. Achieving the priorities of this Assembly will require a disciplined approach and a plan to ensure that we are getting value for the money we are spending while preserving the ability to responsibly fund infrastructure needs in our communities and across the territory. Although this is next fiscal year’s operating budget, the revenues projected in this Budget must also partially pay for the 2020-21 capital budget that was approved last fall. More important, we must remember that we are on a longer journey and the first step taken in today’s Budget sets the direction for the financial plan over the next four years. Within our Budget we remain committed to responsible fiscal management.

Just as this Budget is meant to provide a stable starting point for the future of the 19th Assembly within a context of change, our approach to financial management is changing progressively to deliver a better product to serve the goals of this government.

Part of this change includes the use of four-year business plans, instead of an isolated annual version each year. We will regularly return to the business plan to evaluate our progress and performance so that we will know if we are getting the results and value we expect for the money we spend.

We will also be focusing resources to improve evaluation and monitoring of key performance measures across sectors and programs. Many of the programs and services that government delivers cannot be measured purely by numbers. Much of what we do provides a social return that is going to need a more nuanced measure. Our goal is to ensure not only that residents of the Northwest Territories get the best monetary value for their dollar but that they get a positive social, cultural, educational, health and economic return on our collective investment.

Economic Outlook

The financial foundation for all our priorities is a vibrant and diverse economy. The Macroeconomic Policy Framework is a set of measures used to assess the territory’s economic performance over time. It shows the economy has not recovered to its pre-recession peak in 2007. We know that circumstances have changed since then. Political and economic uncertainty across the world can significantly impact our small resource-based economy.

In 2019, the Northwest Territories economy is expected to have shrunk 4.3 per cent, due to declines in diamond production and private-sector investment. Increases in government investment expenditures helped cushion the slowdown in private sector activity and saved the economy from a more severe decline. Government infrastructure investments are the prime driver in a 3.4 per cent increase in total private and public investment from 2019 to 2020. This year, economic growth is expected to improve, with real gross domestic product forecast to increase 3.8 per cent. However, this growth will only partially offset the real GDP decline from 2019, leaving the economy still smaller than it was two years ago. In short, the Northwest Territories economy is stable, but it is not growing.

Economic stability does not describe the longer term outlook. The diamond mining industry has been our economic engine for the last two decades. However, the industry has matured, and all existing Northwest Territories diamond mines could be closed by 2030, with the first one ceasing operations within the next five years. Possible expansions may allow one or more of the diamond mines to continue to operate, but that remains uncertain just as there is no certainty of finding new economically viable deposits. The closure of the diamond mines will result in a large drop in economic output and there are no other confirmed projects on the horizon large enough to fill this gap.

The role government can play in supporting economic growth should not be underestimated. Strategic infrastructure investments are key to supporting future economic growth and to supporting our people to be drivers of that growth. The Canadian economy is in the midst of re-structuring towards a more digital and service-centred economy and we want the Northwest Territories to be contributing members as this evolves. The GNWT has already invested in the basic infrastructure for a more digital economy with the Mackenzie Valley Fibre Link that gives better access to the global digital economy and countless new opportunities for Northerners. Government spending on programs, goods and services will provide stability to the economy by supporting Northern businesses, local wages, and household consumption. Public infrastructure investments such as roads, bridges, power corridors, and communications networks as well as schools, hospitals and community facilities will contribute to higher standards of living for Northerners, and to improved private sector business cases for future investments. Investing in physical and social infrastructure sets the Northwest Territories up for economic growth tomorrow. We will be guided by the principle that the expenditure of our public funds maximizes economic benefits to residents and local economies and supports Northern business.

Fiscal Situation and Outlook

Mr. Speaker, our fiscal situation is not dire. However, unexpected revenue declines mean that the previous fiscal strategy objectives to increase fiscal capacity and eliminate the cash deficit were not achieved.
We are expecting our operations budget from 2019-20 to show a deficit of $70 million. Although this is quite a distance from the $60 million operating surplus projected in last year’s budget, over one-third of the revenue loss is due to a reallocation of federal transfers for infrastructure projects from the 2019-20 fiscal year to 2020-21.

In 2020-21, our operating budget is projected to show a surplus of $203 million. Over the next four years, we are currently projecting that average annual revenue growth will be greater than operating expenditure growth which allows us to project operating surpluses for the entire Assembly. However, after this year, the operating surpluses will start to decline, dropping to $147 million in 2021-22, $116 million in 2022-23 and then to $3 million in 2023-24.

An operating surplus is only one part of our total financial picture. The operating budget is mainly the funding of day-to-day programs and services provided by government. The capital budget is where we show the funding of large-scale investments in infrastructure projects. Without a surplus in our operating budget, there is no cash available to put into our capital budget to pay for infrastructure investments. The less cash available from an operating surplus, the more we would have to borrow to continue to invest in capital projects.

In the not too distant past, the Government of the Northwest Territories made large investments to help connect our communities with improved transportation networks such as highways, roads, bridges and airports. Large public investment has enhanced energy and communication infrastructure and built health facilities and schools. Despite these efforts, the Northwest Territories remains in a significant infrastructure deficit compared to much of the rest of Canada. Many communities have no road access, limited internet connectivity and rely on diesel to generate heat and power. Several of our communities have small and aging school facilities that accommodate only one or two teachers to cover classes from kindergarten to grade 12. The Northwest Territories’ core housing need is among the highest in Canada. Surpluses in the operating budgets are not large enough on their own to support the kind of large-scale investments we need to catch the Northwest Territories up to a similar level of infrastructure seen elsewhere in Canada. Borrowing has been and will remain necessary to make strategic infrastructure investments.

Remaining fiscally responsible includes managing our debt. Our debt level is approaching the federally-imposed borrowing limit of $1.3 billion and current projections show that we will be over the limit by 2021-22. The Department of Finance uses a variety of measures to assess our debt level and ensure that we continue to use debt responsibly. We have the fiscal capacity to handle higher debt levels and discussions are underway with Finance Canada to raise the limit to provide more flexibility for long term planning.

Fiscal Strategy

When it comes to developing our fiscal strategy, our focus is on the future.

What we want is the ability to enhance fiscal resources to advance the 22 priorities of this Assembly.

First, using today’s current estimates, the Fiscal Strategy provides an initial allocation of $25 million over the life of the 19th Assembly to advance towards our mandate priorities, starting with $10 million in 2020-21. Over the next few weeks we will be working with Members to allocate this funding.

Second, we will continue to build on our relationship with the federal government to take advantage of funding opportunities to advance our priorities, such as housing investments. We will also be looking for more flexibility than the usual 75/25 approach to cost-sharing.

Third, we will seek opportunities for collaboration with other governments to advance shared priorities. This government does not want to compete for resources with other organizations within the Northwest Territories. We will work with Indigenous Governments across the Northwest Territories to advance projects that benefit all of our people.

Finally, we are looking for creative low or no cost initiatives to improve fiscal planning, including four-year business plans, to bring the longer-term horizon into view and will rely on increased program evaluation to bring more value for our dollars spent.The GNWT will undertake strategic reviews to ensure programs and services are meeting expectations and that budgeted expenditures for these programs are properly aligned with our mandate and all additional revenue options are considered.

Further, we are seeking an increase to the borrowing limit for better flexibility while maintaining a level of debt that is affordable. We have already begun to engage the federal government and remind them that the NWT is a fiscally responsible jurisdiction, with much opportunity but also long standing gaps. However, we can only succeed in increasing the limit if we demonstrate responsible and strategic spending. Investments will need to be modest and reflect our expected revenue growth over the next four years.

From a fiscal perspective, we believe that more effective and sometimes more flexible use of our existing programs and services will provide better value for the public money that we are spending. We expect to improve performance while reducing costs so that we can free up fiscal resources to help close the infrastructure gap that exists across our communities without overreliance on debt.

Tax Measures

The cost of living is high in the territory, especially within small communities where average incomes are lower. Budget 2020 introduces no new taxes. We will be reviewing our tax regime in tandem with Standing Committee and we are developing a plan to engage the people of the Northwest Territories in a dialogue about government revenues. Together we will continue to explore ways to increase our own-source revenues without an undue burden on our residents and businesses.

The Northwest Territories is at the forefront of climate change, with the impacts of rising average global temperatures being more pronounced here than in other parts of the world, affecting permafrost, ice road seasons, and forest fires. Carbon pricing was developed as a response to the federal proposal and implemented as part of a made-in-the-North approach to encourage greenhouse gas reductions.

Effective July 1, federally mandated carbon tax rates will increase to $30 per tonne of greenhouse gas emissions as part of our legislated commitment to carbon pricing under the Pan-Canadian Framework. This means a tax rate increase of 2.3 cents per litre on gasoline and 2.7 cents per litre on diesel fuel. In lock step with the carbon tax increase, the Cost of Living Offset will increase to $156 per year for an individual and $180 per year for a child on July 1. The Cost of Living Offset payments are made quarterly, except for single individuals who will receive a lump sum in July because their quarterly payments would be less than $50.

Budget 2020 proposes almost $11 million in spending for residents and businesses for the Cost of Living Offset, heating rebates, large emitters’ rebates and grants, and rebates for electricity producers to mitigate the impact on the cost of living due to the carbon tax.

Expenditures

Mr. Speaker, we propose to spend $1.896 billion in this Budget.

We mapped out the proposed budget starting with the blueprint of last year’s budget. Departments worked hard to find $15 million to reallocate. We also partnered with the federal government for $29 million in new federal funding for some projects. This effort gives us the flexibility to fund $94 million in additional spending.

We are investing $39 million of this new spending in our public service to conclude the last collective bargaining agreements. The remainder of the additional funds are proposed to adjust department budgets to better match their spending needs, to deliver on partnership agreements with Canada and to add $6 million in funds for initiatives started in the last Assembly.

Based on current fiscal forecasts we will set aside at least $25 million over the term of this government to advance this Assembly’s priorities. The proposed amount for 2020-21 will be submitted through a supplementary appropriation after the Main Estimates have been approved by the Assembly. We will be more collaborative and more strategic in how we approach delivering on our Mandate that comes from this Assembly’s priorities.

Providing quality health care and social services that are comparable to what other Canadians receive will always be a key consideration in budget planning. The Department of Health and Social Services has a proposed budget of over half a billion dollars with $18 million of enhancements and adjustments introduced this year. Budget 2020 includes $10 million for supporting well-being through the recently amended Northern Wellness Agreement with the federal government. This means more health and wellness programming in our communities in collaboration with Indigenous Services Canada.

With the opening of the Stanton Territorial Hospital last year, we have created a facility that will serve us for many years and will be administered through an agreement with Boreal Health Partners. More functions are becoming operational, and Budget 2020 proposes adding $2.6 million for a wide range of operations in ongoing funding. This funding will support 51 positions to help patients, including 15 behavioural health workers, nine positions in the medicine unit, five staff for processing medical devices, four positions in each of the emergency triage department and day procedures units, and three for rehabilitation services. Through partnership and collaboration with the federal government, we are leveraging our ability to provide health care and this Budget delivers $2.1 million in spending over several areas of health. These include mental health and addictions, home and community care, cannabis awareness, emergency treatment, climate change and health adaptation, improving wellness and aftercare plans for cancer patients and survivors, supporting our participation in the Pan-Canadian Pharmaceutical Alliance, and enhanced seasonal flu monitoring.

There are infrastructure deficits across all of our communities. Infrastructure includes all of the physical structures needed to support our programs and services. Our hospitals and health facilities care for people to get back on their feet. Our schools provide the space for education received by our students. Our roads allow all residents and businesses the ability to grow our economy by moving goods and labour to where they are in demand, while also allowing ambulances and first responders quick access to emergencies. Transportation links us across this territory through a network of airports and runways of not only concrete but also ice on rivers and lakes. Our laboratories, warehouses, parks, fire monitoring stations and towers, and all other government buildings and assets are ultimately to support the health, safety and well-being of our people.

We have a rich, diverse and expansive terrain which creates a challenge for serving our many small communities. The territory continues to lag the rest of Canada in terms of infrastructure with the oldest average age in the country. By investing in the territory, infrastructure has the ability to lower the cost of living and develop the economy at the same time by creating multiple benefits across several sectors and departments to make the Northwest Territories a better place to live and work.

The Department of Infrastructure has a proposed budget of $275 million, which includes $10 million of new spending this year. As part of a larger strategy for care, 72 new long-term care beds at the old Stanton hospital will be supported with $4 million of new funding. Proposed spending enhancements of $2.2 million provide for operations of new buildings, including the new Stanton hospital, the Hay River fish plant, biomass heating plants in schools in Hay River and Aklavik, and a laboratory and warehouse in Fort Simpson. Investment in the Inuvik-Tuktoyaktuk Highway has increased the use of the Dempster Highway, Kilometer 0 to 272 of Highway 8, and Budget 2020 proposes an enhancement of $659,000 for ongoing upkeep to support people seeking adventure in our spectacular North. This Budget introduces a permafrost data management and analytical system for both highways through Transport Canada funding under the Northern Transportation Adaptation Initiative for $390,000.

There is a proposed $250,000 to support the Lafferty ferry over the Liard River and Ndulee ferry over the Mackenzie River. Resources from the federal government’s Low Carbon Economy Leadership Fund to address climate change will allow us to allocate $2.4 million in the Infrastructure budget, with $300,000 put towards increased funding for the Arctic Energy Alliance and its programs which would bring its total funding to $5.8 million. The remainder will go to approved projects that get underway this year.

Given the investment of previous assemblies, a proposed $4.5 million is recommended for the Department of Finance for interest costs related to mainly short-term borrowing, which has advanced our ability to take advantage of cost-shared capital funding offered by the federal government to invest in the territory’s infrastructure with favourable financing.

Finance, working with several other departments, is improving the way NWT residents and businesses can access government services through a better and expanded online portal that covers a range of departmental services. Budget 2020 proposes $337,000 to complete the implementation of a single, secure online portal for existing services across various departments and to bring 40 more licences and permits to the platform.

The people of the Northwest Territories have a proud history as stewards of the land. We all share a responsibility to ensure our environment is healthy for present and future generations. Budget 2020 introduces additional funding of $8 million for the Department of Environment and Natural Resources within a proposed budget of almost $100 million. In an ongoing effort to establish protected areas, this Budget allocates $175,000 of additional funding to monitor more candidate protected area sites. An additional $2 million is proposed to support our forest fire suppression air tanker fleet to be better prepared for wildfire outbreaks. As part of the environmental assessment of the Inuvik-Tuktoyaktuk Highway, $45,000 is proposed to fulfill commitments to support the wildlife monitoring program that will expand our understanding of the impact of roads on wildlife and can be applied to future projects.

Budget 2020 allocates Environment and Natural Resources with $1.4 million for conservation and recovery of the Bathurst and Bluenose-East barren-ground caribou herds.

There is $960,000 to support boreal caribou range planning in Budget 2020 under the Conservation Agreement with the federal government, with $897,000 proposed under Environment and Natural Resources and $63,000 under the Department of Lands. Budget 2020 also recommends $3.5 million in funding for advancing activities under three Challenge Nature Fund Agreements with the federal government, much of which is for the GNWT and indigenous governments to collaboratively establish, manage and monitor Thaidene Nëné and Ts’udé Niliné Tuyeta, which are new territorial protected areas and Dınàgà Wek’èhodì, which is currently a candidate protected area. These four-year agreements, with a total of $11 million in federal funding, will also support the conservation economy and job creation in small communities.

Budget 2020 includes $23 million for the Department of Lands for ongoing work to manage, administer and plan for the sustainable use of public land, fairly and transparently, to reflect the interests of our people now and for generations to come.

The Department of Justice delivers the Integrated Case Management program. ICM breaks down silos with project collaboration between Health and Social Services, Education, Culture and Employment, Northwest Territories Health and Social Services Authority staff, the Stanton hospital, and the NWT Housing Corporation. It is an example of government re-imagining existing resources to support better outcomes for people. It empowers them with knowledge and is an innovative solution that delivers results.

Most of the people accepted in the program have gone through a life-changing crisis before admission and 70 per cent of them live with mental health challenges. Many program participants are referred to the program to address housing needs, a foundational aspect of the program. More than half of them are experiencing homelessness or precarious housing. Pathfinders are the backbone of the program. They work alongside clients, help navigate systems, and even sit in on appointments between clients and government service providers. The outcomes for participants are tangible, such as secure housing, as well as the intangible, such as the self-confidence it gives participants who gain greater independence once they understand how to effectively access the supports they need. ICM is also tasked with identifying barriers that participants have faced so that departments can collaborate to remove those barriers for all service users. Budget 2020 allocates $827,000 towards ongoing funding to make ICM a permanent program. The participating departments will move forward together to make the best use of the knowledge and experience about accessing government programs that is being gathered through this program.

Budget 2020 also proposes $240,000 for the Victim Services Program that directs funds entirely to community-based organizations that provide victim support services.

A strong education system for all stages of childhood development is one of the cornerstones on which to build the future of the Northwest Territories. Budget 2020 proposes $340 million in spending for the second largest department, Education, Culture and Employment. Budget 2020 continues to implement the Specialized Territorial Support Team for schools with $319,000 in new funding for mental health and speech and language specialists, bringing the specialist team to five members. This Budget continues to improve the Northern curricula with $129,000 of new funding to support resource development about Northern issues and to create assessment tools for credential recognition of this curricula beyond our borders for students applying for post-secondary opportunities, and also to provide training for our teachers to deliver this material. Budget 2020 also proposes an ongoing funding increase for education authorities of $269,000 for student transportation to catch up with actual expenditures.

Another successful and innovative program that is expanding is Northern Distance Learning. Funding of $604,000 is proposed to bring Northern Distance Learning to five more schools and provide access to more students, as well as enhancements and funding for the equipment needed. Northern Distance Learning harnesses technology to improve student learning opportunities across all of our communities with videoconferencing and online tools linked to high schools in regional centres. The program is helping high school students achieve academic success without having to leave their home communities.

To support the processing of information requests related to Day School Settlement Records, $129,000 is dedicated to a Student Records Coordinator. This coordinator will help former Day School students get the compensation to which they are entitled under the March 2019 class-action suit settlement with the federal government.

The GNWT is dedicated to creating a prosperous and sustainable Northern economy and the Department of Industry, Tourism and Investment has a proposed budget of $60 million to that end. Spending proposed in Budget 2020 includes an increase of $758,000. To promote economic growth, Budget 2020 is proposing $250,000 to support implementing socioeconomic agreements that will facilitate mine developments in the Dehcho and Tłı̨chǫ regions. To promote economic diversity and nurture a growing tourism sector, $176,000 is dedicated to support increased activity in the Beaufort-Delta region from Inuvik-Tuktoyaktuk Highway traffic and $92,000 is dedicated to improving public safety along the Ingraham Trail for aurora viewing in North Slave parks.

The responsibility of Northern governance and decision-making often spans more than one department, and that includes offshore oil and gas negotiations. Budget 2020 puts forth $825,000 to support resource management under the Pan-Territorial Vision for Sustainable Development, with $705,000 allocated to the Department of the Executive and Indigenous Affairs, and $60,000 for each of Environment and Natural Resources and Industry, Tourism and Investment.

The Northwest Territories Housing Corporation is proposing a total operating budget of $109.2 million in 2020-21 to support the Corporation’s mandate, which includes $4.2 million of additional spending to promote housing partnerships, homeownership and the preservation of the public housing program.

During the term of the 19th Assembly, the NWTHC will continue to work with thirty-three communities toward the development of Community Housing Plans that include local and community-based strategies and solutions to guide the adaptation of existing housing, and the development of future housing in each community.

Further, the NWTHC will work with people currently in Public Housing who may have the resources to become homeowners through the New Home Program and through the sale of public housing. We will also address housing affordability through the Canada Housing Benefit, a new national portable housing benefit program designed to address housing affordability.

We recognize the need for an increased supply of affordable housing in the territory. To move forward we look to housing partnership programming such as the Community Housing Support Initiative that will support local and Indigenous governments and community partners in developing unique housing approaches. Additional opportunities can be found in the National Housing Co-Investment Fund, with a $60 million allocation for NWT housing projects.

Recognizing the great need of people who are experiencing or at risk of homelessness, we are developing the GNWT Homelessness Strategy to ensure that GNWT investments in, and actions on, homelessness are aligned, consistent and effective.

Next Steps

Having set a foundation for government operations, I would like to say a few words about our immediate next steps.

The next task is to review and analyze how we use this $1.9 billion budget not only to deliver good governance day-to-day but also to advance initiatives in support of the 19th Assembly’s priorities. To do this, we will take a “whole of government” approach and try to avoid pitting one set of needs against another. We must find ways to advance all of our priorities, recognizing that different regions, communities, and people within those communities will have different needs. Recognizing and balancing the many needs of a diverse society is one of the roles of government. It is a challenge but also an opportunity to showcase consensus government by working with all Members of this Assembly.

We will also be working on a more consistent approach to evaluate programs and services. All departments will be involved in performance measure development and monitoring to ensure we are getting optimal returns on our investments.

We expect that a more systematic approach should help achieve more value from our expenditures and improve evaluation of our service levels.

Last, but far from least, we will change the way that the government does business.

There will always be risk in the world. Our government recognizes that there are risks around us and challenges ahead. We acknowledge that our economy has slowed, our fiscal resources are limited, and much of our physical and technological infrastructure still needs to catch up to the rest of Canada. National and international conditions are continuously changing. However, having acknowledged those risks and challenges, we believe that changing our approach to how to deliver government services will help us prepare for whatever new challenges the future may bring.

We will not be afraid to take risks because risk is where the opportunities arise. We will not be stalled in fear that decisions, proposals, solutions, or new programs may not deliver as hoped. We will have the courage to start taking measured risks with incremental evaluation of our efforts. We will remain engaged with our residents in order to be responsive and proactive. To achieve this goal may require a cultural shift to harness the ingenuity of our public service and our communities.

We will build a culture of creativity and innovation within our administration, our public service and, hopefully, across the Northwest Territories. This does not require millions of dollars of new investment, but it will take relationships built on trust, communication and respect. Fortunately, we start in a position of strength given the good work done day in and day out by our public service. This culture shift will also need to start from the top with each of us in Cabinet and in the 19th Assembly leading with integrity and courage and solving problems creatively and collaboratively.

My commitment to this Assembly was a commitment to people, building relationships, and understanding the stories of others. I have learned that the budget process is a year-long endeavour and with the shift to four-year business plans it will be important to hear from different perspectives throughout our term.

While the message in Budget 2020 is largely one of stability, that is not the message of the 19th Assembly. The message from this Assembly is found in its priorities and we will take measurable actions using a collaborative approach to achieve our Mandate. This Assembly is one that listens to each other and its constituents and will reach out to stakeholders for feedback. We may have differences of opinion, but these conversations are the true strength of our consensus government.

Through collaboration, we will achieve more creative problem solving. With more creative problem solving, we can achieve more responsive and effective results. Establishing performance measures helps evaluate the success of our work so that our resources are used effectively. Making this approach the way we do business and govern will show the world that the Northwest Territories is a premier destination to live with a positive economic future, strong educational opportunities for our children, quality health care, a respectful approach to honouring our lands, water and wildlife, and collaborative relationships with Indigenous governments based in our commitment to reconciliation.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.