Picco: Todd’s budget good for Nunavut residents

Iqaluit MLA Ed Picco, the man who regularly challenges Finance Minister John Todd in the legislative assembly, has high praise for much of Todd’s 1998-99 budget.


Nunatsiaq News

IQALUIT – Generally speaking, Finance Minister John Todd’s last budget for the united Northwest Territories will be good for Nunavut, Iqaluit MLA Ed Picco predicted this week.

Picco lauded the finance department’s plan to increase funding for a territorial food-basket program known as the Income Support Food Allowance.

And he was particularly pleased to learn that the GNWT intends to boost support to low-income families by contributing $2 million in additional funding for a new Northwest Territories Child Benefit program.

The money will be distributed by Revenue Canada and delivered in monthly payments beginning July 1, 1998, together with federal Child-Tax Benefit.

“That was one of the things I had talked about with Minister Todd, putting in some kind of tax credit for low-income families,” Picco said. “He actually acted on that request, so I was very pleased to see that in there.”

No new health, education spending

On the other hand, the 1998-99 budget allows for no new spending in education or health, Picco said, and it looks like GNWT employees themselves will go at least another year without a raise.

“The last time they had a pay increase was four years ago, which was 1.8 per cent, and then they suffered through the indignity of having a 6 per cent rollback in 1996,” Picco said. “So I thought that Mr. Todd could have signalled that indeed, some gains have been made in collective bargaining with our employees.”

On the whole, the Iqaluit MLA said he could find little to fault in what might be characterized as a conservative, no-frills pre-election spending plan.

Starting next July, all families with less than $42,000 in net income are expected to receive some financial support through the Child Benefit program.

For instance, families with net incomes of less than $20,921 per year will be eligible for a minimum of $330 per child.

In addition, families with earned income of $3,750 or more will be entitled to the Territorial Workers Supplement. The supplement will be phased in so that the maximum benefit is paid when working income reaches $10,000, and phased out as earned income increases beyond $10,000.

The maximum supplement is $605 per year for the first child, $405 for the second child and $330 for each subsequent child.

The GNWT’s proposed new home-ownership incentive program shows much promise, too. But it still falls short of addressing the need to build more subsidized housing, Picco noted.

In the budget he unveiled last week, Finance Minister Todd a proposal to to spend $40 to $50 million over the next two years on programs to entice eligible northerners out of social housing and into their own homes.

“The problem is we’re short about 70 social housing units in Iqaluit, alone. So that still won’t fill our need,” Picco said.

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