Since Covid-19 is taking a toll on the territory’s finances, Iqaluit-Niaqunnguu MLA Pat Angnakak asked Tuesday what the GN will do for Budget 2021-22: borrow money, raise revenues or cut spending?
Finance Minister George Hickes admitted that the GN has few options to increase revenue due to a small tax base “and to put further hardship on Nunavummiut to deal with a budget situation is not a path I would want to go down.”
He said he has no interest in borrowing money for the GN’s operations and maintenance, but would consider it for a large-scale project or facility.
“There’s barely a government on this planet that isn’t dealing with additional costs related to the Covid-19 pandemic and we’re going to continue to work with our cabinet, with the federal government, and with other jurisdictions on how we can reduce costs and limit our exposure to a large deficit,” Hickes said.
Angnakak asked specifically whether a retail sales tax and a hiring or wage freeze are off the table, the latter being significant financially because close to one-third of the GN’s budget goes towards employee compensation and benefits.
Hickes replied that “there’s nothing that’s off the table entirely.” He added that there’s already an “advanced level of scrutiny at the cabinet table whenever new positions are proposed to be created.”
“We’re going to continue those measures and if need be, we can and will look at additional measures,” he said.