Yukon budget focuses on health and education as employment levels recover from pandemic

In its latest budget, Yukon is increasing spending on health care, education, energy retrofits and managing the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Capital expenditures will increase by 27% in fiscal year 2022-23, while total revenues are expected to reach $1.46 billion, an increase of $86 million from 2021-22. The government forecasts a surplus of $39.5 million.

Premier Sandy Silver, who is also the territory’s finance minister, said the economy has exceeded expectations during the pandemic.

“Yukon’s economy is experiencing phenomenal growth that really sets it apart from the rest of Canada,” he told the Legislative Assembly Thursday.

It was the Liberal government’s first budget since forming a minority government last spring.

The Liberal government has earmarked $546.5 million for roads, buildings, bridges and airports in the territory.

The government said its economic outlook had improved, with the labor market nearly back to pre-pandemic levels.

“Yukon is leading the country as we see unprecedented growth in the population and economy of our territory,” said Silver.

But the government warns that there is a shortage of workers in the territory.

“The pandemic has wreaked havoc on our territory,” Silver said.

The government is also warning of a decline in tourism over the next few years as COVID-19 travel restrictions continue to affect revenue.

Silver said improvements to the territory’s mining industry have helped boost revenues.

“Mineral production is expected to increase to more than $1.1 billion this year, a record high,” he said. “Mining remains an important driver of our territory’s economy.

Part of the increased revenue comes from mining tax revenues through corporate income tax or quartz mining royalties and licenses.

Yukon Party Leader Currie Dixon said his party was unimpressed with the budget.

“The budget is remarkable for its size,” he said, referring to the amount the government intends to spend. “It’s quite banal in its content. The budget content is a long list of projects from the last budget or campaign.

“This is an expanded version of last year’s budget.”

Last year’s budget projected a deficit of $6.6 million for 2021-22, but the government revised that estimate last October in a budget update to $18.2 million.

At the time, he said spending rose by $72.2 million, in part due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the cost of public health measures and financial relief programs.

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