Economic Opportunities and Accountability for First Nations (Feb. 14, 2013)

February 14, 2013

O T T A W A – Recently, there has been a lot of news coverage regarding “Idle No More”. I would like to sift through the rhetoric and highly charged emotions of this to highlight to Yellowhead the real, concrete actions your Government is taking to create opportunities and economic prosperity for First Nations. These are suggestions that have been heard during the 5,000 consultations with First Nations your Government has each year.

To begin with, your Government recently announced a major investment in First Nation water and wastewater systems in over 50 First Nation communities. However, we know this alone is far from enough to create meaningful economic opportunities. Thus, your Government has taken steps to create the conditions necessary for First Nation communities to participate more fully in Canada’s economy.

First Nations’ land represents a tremendous asset that can create economic opportunities for First Nation people and communities. Some First Nations have had success leasing land for commercial development, bringing jobs and generating property taxes to pay for services to members.

That’s why our Jobs and Growth Act (Bill C-45) implements action on long-standing requests from some First Nations for more logical and timely process for leasing land, helping them attract investment and jobs, while ensuring that First Nations maintain ownership of those lands

Previously, approval of a lease required approval of a majority of voters in a vote in which a majority of potential voters in the First Nation took part. Because of the second requirement, 80 per cent of votes failed, forcing a second simple majority referendum. The changes will get rid of the burdensome, costly, and time consuming first criteria. In addition, these leases required approval by the federal government – and we’ve replaced the lengthy Governor-in-Council process with approval by the Minister of Aboriginal Affairs, saving additional months.

This is a practical and incremental change that will increase economic development opportunities on reserve land while reducing red tape and unnecessary costs to Canada and First Nations.

Your Government is committed to ensuring First Nations have strong, transparent and accountable governments.

Bill C-27, the First Nations Financial Transparency Act currently before the Senate, will ensure community members have access to basic financial information such as audited financial statements, and the salaries and expenses of chief and council.

Your Government believes First Nations, like all Canadians, deserve accountability and transparency from their leadership. Currently, First Nation governments operating under the Indian Act are the only level of government in Canada that are not obligated to make basic financial information public.

Transparency and accountability, coupled with the land designation changes, will create the conditions for economic development to help generate much needed jobs and growth on reserves across Canada. This is good for First Nations, good for Yellowhead, and good for all Canadians from coast to coast to coast.

 

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