Okalik likes territorial financing changes

Extra cash coming to territorial governments


Premier Paul Okalik said this week that he’s still happy with the new funding arrangement that Prime Minister Paul Martin is offering Canada’s three territorial governments.

Martin made the offer to the three territories on Sept. 13, just before the start of last month’s first minister’s conference on health care. The offer also included a new system for calculating equalization payments to the poorer provinces.

At the time, Nunavut government officials estimated that Ottawa’s revamped formula financing deal could give Nunavut at least $188 million in extra funds over the next six years.

When combined with money that will flow from last month’s agreement on health care funding, the Nunavut government could get extra revenues of between $200 million and $300 million over the next five to six years.

Under Martin’s initial offer, the federal government would give the three territories a total of at least $1.9 billion in the 2004-05 fiscal year. In 2005-06, that figure would rise to $2 billion.

And each year after that, Ottawa’s contribution would rise by 3.5 per cent, until the 2009-10 fiscal year, when it would reach about $2.3 billion.

Okalik said, however, that territorial premiers have agreed to a similar arrangement, but that it would be reviewed after three years.

“We hope to have something in place by the end of November,” Okalik said.

Okalik, unlike the premier of Newfoundland, Danny Williams, said Paul Martin is a man “who keeps his commitments.”

Okalik also said that he discussed devolution and housing with Martin, and ways of fleshing out the prime minister’s “northern vision.” And he’ll make more concrete announcements by the end of the year, Okalik said.

Meanwhile, Jim Prentice, the Conservative party’s critic for Indian affairs and northern development, said that Danny Williams’ experience shows that not everything the prime minister says can be believed.

The Nunavut government raises only about five per cent of its revenue on its own, through taxes, licence fees and liquor sales. Almost all of its remaining cash is given to Nunavut by Ottawa every year through the formula financing agreement.

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