Normally a budget that contains no tax increases would be cause for celebration. These aren't normal times.
Since 1993-94 the territories have gone from an surplus of $56 million to a debt of $65 million. This year, Finance Minister John Todd was faced with the self-imposed task of bringing the budget back into balance by 1999. To that end, he delivered a budget for the that predicts a surplus of $9 million.
However, the surplus comes with a price. In order to achieve his goal, Todd had to make a choice: cut spending, raise more revenue or a combination of the two. He chose to cut spending.
The easiest way to raise revenue is raise taxes. Personal income taxes account for about 25 per cent of the money the GNWT gets from the territories. The payroll tax accounts for another 5.6 per cent. So people with jobs and their families pay about 31 per cent of the taxes collected by the GNWT.
The territorial portion of corporate income tax amounts to 17.5 per cent. The NWT joins Quebec and Newfoundland in having the lowest corporate tax rates in the country. They are also the three jurisdictions most in need of corporate development.
Governments usually keep corporate taxes low to attract business. But looking at where the lowest rates are, there doesn't seem to be any corelation between low rates and corporate growth.
The tax rate in the NWT for major corporations is 14 per cent. Alberta's rate is about 15 per cent and British Columbia's is close to 17.
Those provinces don't appear to have trouble attracting businesses. And even if corporate taxes were higher, BHP wouldn't move their mine to Prince Edward Island. In the territories, it's resources that attract businesses, not low taxes.
Raising the rates for large corporations would ease the strain on ordinary taxpayers. In an era of fiscal pressure it seems only fair that the burden be spread across the tax base equally. (3/Feb/97)
There was a time, not so long ago, when massive hydroelectric dams sounded like a good idea.
After all, what could be better than a clean, abundant and endless source of power?
Sadly, we now know that these dams, including the. Bennett dam in northern B.C. that is worrying NWT resident living downstream, don't come without a price. Flooding, erosion and ecological and economic chaos are often part of the bargain with nature.
Few are arguing we tear down the dams, but it is time we managed them more responsibly. (3/Feb/97)
Is a Mickey Mouse tie appropriate dress for the legislative assembly of the Northwest Territories in 1997?
We would love see a definitive ruling on dress codes by the Speaker. But first there are a few issues slightly higher on the priority list. The debt, devolution of powers to the communities, writing a constitution of a post-division western and dealing with abysmally low literacy rates are just a few that come to mind.
By all means, bring on the cartoon-character debate. But only after MLAs have nothing better to do.(3/Feb/97)