The first dent
New finance minister delivers his inaugural budget address

Doug Ashbury
Northern News Services

NNSL (Apr 19/99) - It's time for a new pair of shoes. Or will it be a new briefcase?

When Charles Dent walks into the Great Hall at the legislature this afternoon (Monday), it will be with his first budget address in hand.

Dent, member of the legislative assembly for Yellowknife Frame Lake, took finance minister reigns from Keewatin Central MLA John Todd late last month.

In the three weeks between Premier Jim Antoine's appointing Dent to the finance minister's portfolio to bringing down the budget, Dent has had little time to put his personal touch on the budget.

"Obviously, there isn't a lot of room for (his own) innovation," Dent said last Thursday.

Details of the NWT 1999-2000 budget were released to the press today at the legislature.

For the 1998-99 fiscal year ended March 31, expenditures exceeded revenues.

As a result, the NWT incurred a $22-million deficit resulting from supplementary items.

But because of population adjustments made to prior years -- which increased federal grant money -- the NWT ended with no debt for the fiscal year 1998-99.

Dent said he was not surprised when Premier Antoine called on him to be new finance minister. "I thought there was a good chance."

Dent, who has been an MLA for seven years, said the 2000-2001 budget will better reflect his role as finance minister.

It won't be long before Dent gets chance to roll up his sleeves on the 2000-2001 budget. Work on that budget gets under way this summer.

As well as seven years as an MLA, Dent brings three-and-one-half years of Cabinet experience to the finance portfolio.

As a cabinet member and a member of the Financial Management Board, Dent has definitely faced fiscal discussion.

"(Finance) is not something I haven't been exposed to," he said.

As finance minister, he also chairs the Financial Management Board and is responsible for the FMB Secretariat which involves labour relations and related issues like pay equity. As well, he assumes women's directorate responsibilities.

Prior to taking on the finance portfolio, Dent was GNWT Education, Culture and Employment minister. Thebacha MLA Michael Miltenberger takes over the education, culture and employment portfolio.

Dent will continue to be minister responsible for the NWT Power Corp., a territorial Crown Corporation. A two-year transition plan has been signed between NWT and Nunavut governments. If a long-term continuance plan is not finalized by April 2000, independent power corporations will be established for both territories.

Dent joined politics seven years ago after running CJCD, a radio station based in Yellowknife, which he started.