Bridging the gap
Things will remain the same until budget is approved

Richard Gleeson
Northern News Services

Yellowknife (Feb 23/00) - The status quo will prevail between budgets, says Finance Minister Joe Handley.

Handley will be introducing an interim appropriation bill to bridge the gap between the end of this year's budget and the beginning of the 2000-2001 budget.

The bill will be introduced March 21, 10 days before the 1999-2000 budget year ends.

Handley said regular MLAs are well aware of the bill and the time constraints.

"There probably will not be as much debate in there as with the regular budget ... It won't be the same as going through departmental business plans because there aren't any."

The 2000-2001 budget will be introduced at the start of the next sitting of the assembly. If all goes according to plan, said Handley, it will take effect July 1.

The gap between budgets is the result of the late election, held in December instead of October because of division.

Non-profit organizations concerned about meeting their financial commitments between the end of this budget and the beginning of the next should not lose any sleep, said the finance minister.

"Their funding will continue, it would be part of the appropriation," said Handley. "It will be business as usual until we get our budget approved."

The gap between budgets caused a few difficulties, like dealing with longer term decisions that require decisions at the end of the fiscal year.

Handley said those will be dealt with on a case-by-case basis.

The process of developing the next budget began with the Fort Providence priority-setting meeting, Feb. 8-11, of all MLAs.

Handley said regular MLAs will have at least one more chance to have a say before the budget is introduced and the line-by-line review of it begins.

That opportunity will happen when the NWT's general business plan is developed further. That plan will set out the priorities each department must adhere to in developing its business plan.