'We want to see well-prepared and more detailed documents'

MLAs to pass more than $370 million in spending

By CHRIS WINDEYER

Nunavut's MLAs are expected to pass four bills next week to supply the Government of Nunavut with funds until lawmakers can pass a proper budget in June.

It took MLAs just a few minutes March 19 to give Bill 2, the interim appropriation act, approval in committee of the whole. That's the last step before a bill gets third reading.

Bill 2 provides for a whopping $369 million in spending to cover the four-month period between April 1 and July 31.

The government is trying to pass all its money bills quickly, because the current sitting will end March 31 to allow for a new session that can begin on April 1, Nunavut's 10th birthday.

Tununiq MLA James Arvaluk expressed concern that MLAs weren't getting line-by-line breakdowns of spending. Instead, MLAs were given breakdowns by department.

"It's too bad we have to approve the interim supplementary from April 1 and July 31 before we see the details," Arvaluk told the committee of the whole March 19.

"But after this, we don't want to do that again. We want to see well-prepared and more detailed documents."

Keith Peterson, the finance minister, said there are no new spending programs in Bill 2, but that the government's operations and maintenance budget for April 1 to July 31 is based on last year's budget.

"It's all based on programs and services we currently provide, so it's been approved by the legislative assembly already," Peterson said.

MLAs are also working on a pair of bills that are meant to retroactively approve supplementary government spending up to the end of March.

They're also working on, Bill 1, a $121 million capital budget for 2009-2010, although that bill was still in committee of the whole by Nunatsiaq News press-time this past Wednesday.

Peterson said he expected the MLAs to finish poring over Bill 1 by today, March 27, and that all four bills would go to a vote Monday or Tuesday.

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