Yukon budget lays out $48.2-million surplus, funding for dental, inflation relief

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WHITEHORSE – The Yukon government is predicting a $48.2-million surplus in 2023 with a budget promising cash for housing, health care, infrastructure and inflation relief.
The document, tabled by Finance Minister Sandy Silver, is the first budget of new Premier Ranj Pillai, who took over the top job from Silver earlier this year.

Silver told the legislature the government is delivering programs and services that meet today’s needs while investing in infrastructure for the future.

“This year’s budget will make life more affordable for Yukoners. It moves our territory forward on reconciliation. It sets out our plan to grow a strong, resilient economy,” he said.

The 2023 budget includes almost $10 million in inflation relief measures like ongoing utility rebates, school food programs and income supplements for seniors.

An estimated $3.6 million is being spent on the territory’s new dental program, which gives uninsured Yukon residents up to $1,300 in benefits each year.

Another $26 million is going to land development projects and more than $40 million to stimulate housing development.

Silver said there’s also $61.4 million for infrastructure including local projects like community centres, recreational facilities, boat launches, fire halls, EMS stations and public works buildings.

The budget also earmarks $4 million for efforts to increase the number of health-care workers in the territory.

“Our government recently signed a new memorandum of understanding with the Yukon Medical Association. Through this agreement, we will support a series of innovative projects including the new attachment and attraction program, which will increase access to primary health-care services, support recruitment and retention efforts, and reduce overhead operating costs for physicians,” Silver said.

“The Yukon Medical Association is confident that our new agreement will make Yukon one of the most competitive and desirable places to practise medicine in Canada.”

Another $10 million is going to a mental wellness unit at the Whitehorse General Hospital.

Silver said the Yukon is also funding projects to help address the substance-use health emergency, including the expansion of the safe supply of opioids in the territory.

Yukon Party Opposition Leader Currie Dixon said he thought this budget would be an opportunity for Pillai to “put his stamp” on the government as premier but instead the territory got “more of the same.”

“The only things that appear to be new, from what we can tell, come from the NDP, through the confidence and supply agreements. So, that sort of tells us that this Liberal party is out of ideas of their own,” he said.

Earlier this year, Pillai’s minority government signed an extended agreement with the third-party New Democrats, allowing the Liberals to maintain power.

The 33 promises in the latest agreement include a new walk-in clinic in Whitehorse by January 2024, more money to recruit health-care workers, a managed alcohol program within a year and banning no-cause rental evictions.

In a statement, the NDP said the party’s “bold and optimistic vision for the territory brings a breath of fresh air to an otherwise uneventful budget.”

“I’m glad that the confidence and supply agreement ensures that some of the money is going into the right places,” leader Kate White said.

In total, the territory is predicting $484 million in capital spending and $1.45 billion in operations and maintenance expenditures for this fiscal year.

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