Mr. Speaker, to prevent this outflow of revenues our government will continue to aggressively pursue the transfer of provincial-type responsibilities for oil and gas and minerals through processes such as the Northern Accord.
Mr. Speaker, the involvement and support of all Members of the Assembly is needed in order to eliminate the deficit and live within our reduced funding level. Emphasis must be placed on using whatever resources we can find to create job opportunities throughout the Northwest Territories. And we must implement changes in accordance with a long-term plan so that the choices and decisions we make now will take us in the direction we prefer to go.
Adding to the difficulty of our task is the short time frame in which a long-term plan must be developed and agreed to and major decisions taken. Our deficit is now $50 million. Unchecked, it could grow to $100 million by the end of 1992-93. We cannot let this happen. We must take action now before we get into so much debt that we cannot pay it back without drastic tax increases and huge reductions in services to NWT residents. In June of this year we will have to consider the 1992-93 phase of a deficit reduction plan. The goal of this phase should be to reduce the deficit to no more than $25 million in 1992-93. Before the start of the 1993-94 fiscal year we will have to consider the final phase of a plan for returning to a balanced budget.
The 1992-93 Budget Process
Mr. Speaker, the Government Leader and our cabinet are committed to a more open planning and decision-making process one that provides a greater role for ordinary Members of the Legislative Assembly than in the past. It will be a critical challenge for the cabinet and for our consensus system of government to agree on a process that provides greater input from MLAs and results in the major decisions being made within the time frames that are available for dealing with the deficit.
To a large extent, Mr. Speaker, the 1992-93 budget year will be unique. Due to the interruption of the normal budget cycle caused by the election last fall, the time available to make most of the budget decisions is much more limited than it would otherwise be. For this reason 1992-93 will form a bridge between the old decision-making process and the new.
The 1992-93 capital estimates are being dealt with before the main 1992-93 budget is presented. This is being done to meet the summer transportation and construction season. There is considerable merit in making this procedure permanent. We have recommended this change in scheduling to the standing committee on finance.
With the main 1992-93 budget being delayed until June or July, it will be necessary, Mr. Speaker, to seek the Assembly's approval of an interim appropriation for operations and maintenance for the first four months of 1992-93. This interim appropriation request is based on 1991-92 funding levels and will not contain significant organizational or program changes. MLAs will have the opportunity to review and approve any major changes in June and July when the main 1992-93 budget is presented.
That budget will reflect the first phase of many of the major changes necessary to deal with our deficit situation. These changes will demonstrate our commitment to living within our means; they will reflect our commitment to a more streamlined and simplified government structure; and they will reflect our commitment to community transfers. In addition, the Government Leader will be tabling an implementation plan for reshaping northern government, during this session.
The 1992-93 Capital Estimates
Mr. Speaker, the budget process for the 1992-93 fiscal year is unique, particularly in the area of capital planning. The previous government did most of the planning for the 1992-93 construction season last spring and summer, and over half of the capital projects contained in the estimates are simply the completion of projects already started. We have had little opportunity to change the 1992-93 capital plan from what had been developed by the previous government.
We did, however, make some changes in light of our deficit problem. In making decisions on capital projects we were guided by the following objectives: to achieve equity and fairness among communities; to ensure that vital community infrastructure is put in place; to honour commitments to communities; to allocate and deliver capital projects in a manner that maximizes the local employment and business opportunities that can be obtained from capital spending.
This will require that capital spending is spread more evenly between years. In this way we intend to reduce the amount of labour being imported into the NWT, and maximize the local employment and training opportunities afforded by government capital projects.
The 1993-94 Capital Process
For the 1993-94 capital estimates we are proposing a whole new approach to capital budgeting. This new approach will provide for greater involvement by ordinary MLAs and by communities. The major elements of this new process, Mr. Speaker, are: the provision of a capital needs assessment to MLAs and communities as a consultation document for capital planning; a permanent change to the planning and approval cycle so that the capital budget is dealt with in the fall; and the introduction of, and adherence to, a standardized schedule and procedure for MLA and community involvement in the capital planning process. I have provided the details of this new process to the standing committee on finance for its review, and I will be providing more information on the proposed new process later in this session.
There is no doubt that we will have less money to spend, but if we make the right changes and take a new approach to how we operate, we should be able to get more benefit from the money we do spend. I am convinced, Mr. Speaker, that this is possible, but we will need to work together in an open and constructive way. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.