Chief Clarence Louie

Chief Clarence Louie

Okay, we get it.  The Canadian Taxpayers Federation (and those inclined to bear witness to their truths) don’t like First Nations’ exemption to taxation.  They seem to have a stubborn, pre-disposition to not understanding the basis in law to First Nations’ treaty and aboriginal rights.  They simply don’t want to hear, much less understand, that the right to taxation is based on our nationhood.  As a Nation, our governments and our citizens should not be subject to the taxation of another nation.

Nobody really takes exception that a foreign dignitary, living in Canada, is exempt from taxation.  No one needs to debate it – it’s just how it is.  But the CTF (and those inclined to bear witness to their truths) can’t accept the concept of indigenous nationhood.

They apparently don’t like First Nations people making good money, either.

The Canadian Taxpayers Federation (and those inclined to bear witness to their truths) would rather focus their media attention on addressing the minority of First Nation Chiefs with high salaries, rather than the hundreds of Chiefs that are elected to lead their communities with little financial incentive to do so.

Perhaps, the CTF want you to think that First Nations are better off than they really are.  That the crisis of poverty isn’t that bad.  That this latest bit of evidence is endemic of an estimated $8 billion dollars of Indian Affairs budget being wasted on a small minority of people in First Nation communities.  This fortune is limited to Chiefs, consultants and lawyers who own lakefront estates and a three car garage for our Farraris, supped-up pick-ups and a 1200-cc Formula 1 snowmobile.

Wrong on all accounts, Batman.

Those 30 First Nations who pay their Chiefs this level of salary indeed have a very good reason.  These communities are well on a course to economic success.  Chances are their elected leaders are integral to that transformation.  These Chiefs not only run a First Nations administration, they likely run a complex organization with numerous corporations, businesses, self-government arrangements, land claim settlements and casinos.  In turn, this leads to local investment, higher community revenues, lower unemployment and the development of significant economies.

First Nations in these categories do a lot to enhance the local, regional and national economy.  They contribute to broader tax base.  Ultimately, these communities reduce the burden of First Nations from taxpayers to their own communities.  The CTF totally missed that argument.

The modern, successful Chief is not only a community leader but a successful Chief Executive Officer.  CEOs of that calibre are often paid more than Premiers.  In fact, it is not heard of to pay CEOs a half-million or more.

I would like to hold up just one shiny example.  Chief Clarence Louie of the Osoyoos Indian Band in BC is a trusted advisor to the government on aboriginal economic development.  When it comes to First Nations, he is always held up as someone who is anti-establishment.  He doesn’t make a living going from meeting to meeting.  In fact, he is a rare a fixture at Assembly of First Nations (AFN) assemblies.  Some may not agree, but he speaks candidly about raising First Nations people out of victimization, laziness and professes the need for motivation.

I would hasten to guess that he is one of those in the top 30.  If not, it’s even a better point.

The CTF (and those inclined to bear witness to their truths) want people to think that First Nations are corrupt and unaccountable.  The CTF want people to think that Chief Louie and others are getting paid under-the-table, undertaking clandestine activity without the knowledge and consent of the community.  Feeding them like mushrooms underground.

The CTF don’t want you to know that, on average, Chiefs and Councils are elected every 2 years unlike a Premier who is elected ever four years.  The CTF won’t point out that First Nations must provide an annual, government-approved audit in order to receive ongoing government funding.  They fail to mention that if an audit is not acceptable or it shows that finances are being mis-managed – there is a process for the government to take over the finances of a First Nation.  The CTF won’t mention the findings of the Auditor General, who in 2002 states that First Nations continue to carry an overwhelming reporting burden for every single program dollar flowed to them.  They also neglect to mention this all this information is available through the INAC website.

Chief Louie is one of the forward-thinking leaders that keep their books open to their membership.  The Osoyoos Band Council owns a winery, a golf course, a four-star resort among other ventures.  Chief Louie and his Council hold annual general meetings every year.  They provide copies of audited financial statements to their members.  They even have workshops teaching their grass-roots members how to read a balance sheet and audited financial statements.

This is happening more and more in First Nations.  My community of Nipissing First Nation also holds an annual general meeting with specific presentations about band finances.  Financial statements are provided to any member who asks or attends these sessions.  As such, I know for a fact that my Chief’s salary is a little better that the national average – which is about right given her level of responsibility and accountability.

The CTF fails to point out that even the average salary for a Chief may not be incentive enough to bring in the top talent – young, educated leaders who can make a difference, and lead their communities and people out of poverty.

For example, if I wanted to run for Chief, I’d have to take a pretty significant pay cut.  That $60K pay cheque isn’t much of an incentive for me or to many other young professionals such as accountants, lawyers, MBA, poli-sci or public administration grads who would like to make a difference in their own community.

I used to get upset reading CTF’s one-sided propaganda.  Not for what they say, but what they infer.  How they live to rile up their followers, those “inclined to bear witness to their truths”.  Like a Jedi mind trick, a wave of a pen, a CTF news release generates plenty of stereotypical, often-times, racist feedback.  Don’t just read the Globe and Mail or The Province article – click into the “Comments” section and scroll down and read the hundreds of comments.

Today, I just take it as another example of contemporary stereotype that widens the gap between First Nations people and all Canadians.  Another example that will lead to further hate by those not willing to understand First Nations and our circumstances.  The CTF may not be racist – but judging by the strength of their mind-trick – they certainly contribute to the problem.

As for comparing Chiefs to Premiers, why not compare apples to apples.  What would a Premier be making if he was exempt from taxation?  Round up or round down.  What would a Premier make if he was a First Nations person and claiming a tax exemption?  Round up or round down.  What if he or she has two dependants and a spouse who is paying alimony?  Can he or she claim all fourteen extended family living in an unfinished bungalow without running water?  Are all our Ferraris tax deductible if they are paid for by the Band?  How much does Iraq’s ambassador to Canada pay in personal income tax?
Hey CTF guy…  how much to you make?

Either way, all your figures are make-believe.