Belanger, Beatty Happy With Northern Budget Items

Friday, April 07, 2006 at 15:13



The minister of Northern Affairs says she’s comfortable this year’s provincial budget addresses the needs of northerners.


Joan Beatty feels the increased social assistance allowance gives impoverished residents a little more breathing room when it comes to paying the bills.


She is also pleased $22 million is being set aside to train First Nations and Metis residents.


She feels these commitments will enable those residents who are on welfare to eventually gain independence, without tempting them to remain on welfare.


Beatty also notes a lot of work is proceeding on northern road projects this year, on top of the $28 million in regular maintenance and construction of northern roads.


Northern Affairs’ specific measures include a 25 per cent increase in the Northern Development Fund. The NDF will now have $2.5 million available in the coming year for loans to develop northern businesses and assist primary producers.


The Justice department will spend approximately $1.9 million on the northern portion of its First Nations Policing Policy — an increase of 20 per cent. It also will increase funding for the Cree Translation Program for court hearings to $590,000, and it will spend $50,000 to expand a similar Dene program.


Meanwhile, northern health authorities will receive new funding this year.


Athabasca MLA Buckley Belanger says the three health regions are set to receive an extra $2.93 million combined from the province. That doesn’t include an additional $217,000 that is being set aside for the population health promotion unit.


Belanger also says the government is moving ahead on last year’s committment to construct an all-weather road in the Far North.


He says clearing work and other preparations are beginning this spring.


In all, provincial funding for northern programs, capital and new initiatives will amount to $145.5 million this year — almost 11 per cent more than the $131.3 million committed the previous year.