Aboriginal governments, unions, and the Chamber of Mines were just a few groups at the roundtable revenue talks this week, sharing ideas on how the NWT can make more money. The territory needs to raise about $40 million in two years to avoid an operating deficit, according to the Department of Finance. Some at the roundtable discussions disagree with any kind of tax hike, saying the government should instead make cuts to programs and services.

The former president of the NWT Chamber of Commerce, Don Yamkowy, says finding $40 million shouldn’t be too difficult. “In a billion dollar budget, that’s only five per cent and you know, five per cent can be found within government by efficiency cuts. It’s not hard to find five per cent. You know, even if your own household, if you had to cut your budget by five per cent, you could find those efficiencies.” Yamkowy adds the government should get an independent review of the territory’s programs to find ways to modify or reduce. Others like Aggie Brockman from Alternatives North aren’t opposed to raising taxes, depending on which ones.

“The government of the NWT has some capacity and authority to, through taxation, either a corporate income tax or a resource tax, to actually get some economic rents from our non- renewable resources that could then perhaps pay for some programs and services that we need.” Large corporations in the NWT currently pay 11.5 % income tax, but there’s no specific levy on resources. It’s too early to say what taxpayers can expect from the upcoming budget talks but Finance Minister Michael Miltenberger says delegates at the table were leaning toward the so- called ‘sin taxes’, such as alcohol and tobacco.

“We had an interesting discussion about the issue of consumption taxes versus taxing income and the benefit to having consumption taxes versus maybe just the income tax which limits people’s ability to save and be able to have money to spend.” The NWT has the highest taxation rate on tobacco products and the highest mark-up on alcohol in the country. Delegates agree on at least one thing: the need for the territory to attract and retain more workers. The public can submit ideas on raising revenues to the Department of Finance by the middle of October. Natasha Riebe