Union of Ontario Indians
OTTAWA - The federal budget certainly wasn't reflective of First Nations expectations, nor close to what was offered by the First Ministers at Kelowna, but the budget does need to address overall economic uncertainty according to Grand Council Chief John Beaucage. He also called the government's investment in on-reserve social housing "a good start".
An economist by education, Grand Council Chief Beaucage understands the need to balance economic stability with enhancement to First Nations communities.
"A strong Canadian economy is necessary to ensure continued investment in First Nations governments and economies," said Grand Council Chief Beaucage. "Our goal is to build self-sustainable First Nations economies as a means of eliminating poverty."
Grand Council Chief was disappointed that the Government did not include a more significant economic stimulus package for First Nations in the budget. The Assembly of First Nations and the Chiefs of Ontario had put forward proposals for $3 billion in additional spending for First Nations, mainly through investments in infrastructure, housing and economic development.
However, as the AFN national portfolio holder for housing, Beaucage was pleased to see a commitment of $400 million toward on-reserve social housing.
"We cannot discount the tremendous need for social housing on-reserve. In reality, the majority of our citizens are unable to afford their own homes and have difficulty finding affordable housing,' said Beaucage. "As far as I'm concerned, this investment is a good start and needs further consideration in future budgets."
Other First Nations components in the budget include: $305 million over two years has been ear-marked to improve health outcomes and $20 million over two years to improve child and family services on First Nations.
$100 million over three years toward an Aboriginal Skills and Employment Partnership (ASEP) initiative, with a goal of creating 6,000 jobs; $75 million in a two-year Aboriginal Skills and Training Strategic Investment program: and $515 million toward "ready-to-go" community infrastructure projects, including school, water and community projects.
"I'm really pleased to see priority given to First Nations skills development," said Beaucage. "Investment in our youth and potential workforce will go a long way in ensuring a bright future of First Nations and Canada's economy."
Grand Council Chief Beaucage has advice for Parliamentarians following the budget - the need for political stability during a recession and that the deficit may be compounded in future budgets.
"Parliament must be able to work together, with First Nations and all Canadians, and move toward positive financial growth," said Beaucage. "This goal shouldn't be compromised through further political crisis or through a policy of permanent deficit."
The Anishinabek Nation established the Union of Ontario Indians as its political advocate and secretariat in 1949. The Union of Ontario Indians is the oldest political organization in Ontario and can trace its roots back to the Confederacy of Three Fires that have existed long before European contact.