Posts tagged ‘Conservative Party’

None of the Above: Why First Nations still can’t vote PC.

Christine Elliot & Patrick Brown

One of my earliest recollections of politics was the occasional visit of elected members and cabinet ministers to Nipissing First Nation.

Early on in his career, our local Progressive Conservative MPP provided our community with a few hundred bucks to sponsor the “Mike Harris Family Picnic”. For our people in the mid-1980s, it was merely another occasion for a great Homemaker’s Club fish fry, playing fish-pond and 25 cent Crown & Anchor and holding a rowdy beer garden. I’m not quite sure what Mike Harris got out of it other than a chance at glad-handing and making a short speech to the those of us playing chip bingo in the community hall.

Next came then-Minister of Indian Affairs Bill McKnight, who served in the federal PC government. It’s wasn’t that often that our “Great White Father” pays us an in-person visit. While he brought us shiny trinkets, I’m sure we treated him well, as we always did for our MP and friend Moe Mantha Sr.

Fast forward to present day, nearly 30 years later. Years of Conservative governments, both provincially and federally, have delivered absolutely nothing to First Nations but catastrophic cuts, hopelessness and frustration.

Consider the Oka Crisis, Ipperwash and the killing of Dudley George, the abysmal response to missing and murdered Aboriginal women, cuts to Aboriginal organizations and political representation, the limiting the protections of our water sources, and now the criminalization of our right to assembly in our traditional territory and freedom of speech.  The Conservatives have a track record alright.  I don’t know who’s track, but someone’s track.

There are no longer any Conservative sponsored picnics taking place in Nipissing these days.

Forget the idiom: “I want the f***ing Indians out of the park”. It’s more like, “Get the f***ing Indians out of our G*d d*mned way”. (That has to be in the Conservative policy statement somewhere.)

Which leads up to today’s selection of a new leader for the Ontario Progressive Conservative Party. Who should our people support: Christine Elliot or Patrick Brown? I liken this to the hypothetical choice between Mike Harris or Stephen Harper. Or a choice between your favourite method of torture. Electrocution? Waterboarding? Anyone? Anyone?

All this is notwithstanding the day that Nipissing MPP Vic Fedeli entered the Ontario PC leadership race.  Vic had a new take on leadership and a refreshing oratory that suggested a new start and a transformation for their struggling party.  Knowing Vic personally, I also knew that he truly gets First Nations issues, priorities and even our frustrations.  The question was could he stand up for his vision and overcome the intense pressure of 160 years of assimilationist mentality?  Can he singlehandedly alter the perceptions of First Nations within the PC ranks and foster a place where our people feel welcome and compelled to participate in their process?  Unfortunately, not.  Vic graciously bowed out of the race early on.

Given what I’ve said to this point in this article, and in recent political history, there can’t be a single First Nation person (with a baseline of basic political awareness) who can actually support the Conservative ideology, policies or direction.  This finding is based on a rather simple premise: If you don’t care for me, why would I care for you?

Neither Christine Elliot nor Patrick Brown have provided any indication that First Nation issues are even being considered. Nor do our issues even appear to be an afterthought. That’s par-for-the-course. The same Party. The same leader. The same old treatment of First Nation, Métis and Inuit people.

From the First Nation perspective, the Conservatives play the Ring of Fire game as a purely partisan chess match. They show no commitment to addressing climate change, considering First Nation’s environmental concerns nor protecting our sacred, fresh water. There has been no real commitment to developing First Nation economies, creating jobs or including our people in the development of natural resources. Resource benefit sharing? Treaty implementation? No and no. How about better understanding First Nations rights, addressing outstanding title negotiations, and contributing to alleviating the crippling poverty in our communities?

Pigs may fly in Alberta, but they are thoroughly grounded here.

That’s why the PC party is in the crisis they are in, and why they will continue to be unelectable to the sensible majority. There is nothing of substance from either leadership candidate to suggest that they wish to change the course of the Ontario PC recent political fortunes. They are not willing to transform and be a party that is accepting of others and consider new and relevant policy objectives. They continue to cater to the same old Conservative ideology. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: First Nations don’t have a place under their proverbial tent.

For us, the Conservative tent is stained redder than the necks of some of their caucus members. After all, it’s a tent stained with the blood and remains of so many of our dreams, and sadly, even a few of our lives.

So, Christine Elliot or Patrick Brown? Who cares.

It’s Saturday night.  Bingo anyone?

Also see:  “Why First Nations can’t nor shouldn’t vote Conservative

First Nations can’t nor shouldn’t vote Conservative

harrishudakI had an interesting political debate the other day about the provincial election.  It seems that many people in Ontario don’t know that First Nations can’t vote Conservative in this election or any other election, nor the reasons why we absolutely shouldn’t.

The gentleman I was debating was unable to look past the Liberal gas plant scandal and the wasting of millions of dollars over a bad political decision.  Fair enough.  Certainly, business and politics often don’t mix.  I’m sure Dalton McGuinty has learned that lesson.

But I gave this fellow a chuckle when I said: “Well that’s just money.  Electing a Conservative government could cost lives.”

In defence of my statement, I brought up the saga of our brothers and sisters in Kettle & Stony Point and the September 6, 1996 death of Dudley George.  It was direct political influence, and I argue a political decision, by a Progressive Conservative government that led to the death of the unarmed Anishinaabe activist.

“I want the f*****g Indians out of the park” – Mike Harris

That one statement sums up the intolerance and callousness of the Ontario Progressive Conservative Party towards First Nations.  From the mouth of their leader and mentor to Tim Hudak, Mike Harris demonstrated unrepentant racism and disregard for our people.

The Ipperwash Inquiry found that Mike Harris, then-Premier and leader of the Progressive Conservative party indeed made the statement.  No acknowledgement or apology has ever been offered.  As Mr. Hudak likes to point out about the gas plant issue, did anyone in Cabinet or Harris’ inner circle address the behaviour and direction of the government over the Ipperwash affair.  No.

Mike Harris’ most senior advisor at the time was none other that Tim Hudak’s wife, Deborah Hutton.  The same woman who stated under oath at the Inquiry that she had absolutely no recollection of any deliberations regarding Ipperwash.  In fact, she uttered that she had no recollection a staggering 134 times.

During the so-called “Common Sense Revolution”, the Mike Harris government made many unilateral and devastating cuts to social programs and health care including government assistance to seniors and the poor.  Those sorts of decisions have certainly led to deaths in Ontario.  A smattering of carnage here and there during the 2001 heat wave, the 2003 SARS outbreak and an unprecedented surge of homelessness in Ontario’s cities.  In 2000, the Progressive Conservative decision to cut staff and funding for water monitoring, public health and safety may have contributed to the deaths of 7 directly from e-coli poisoning and another 14 from e-coli related illnesses in Walkerton.

Sure, a million dollar political scandal and government waste is intolerable.  For a Liberal supporter, it is downright annoying!  But what does it really mean in terms of people’s lives?

First Nations have been a victim to Conservative governments cuts for years.  During the Common Sense years, First Nations, the poor and the working poor bore the brunt of Progressive Conservative cruelty.

Most recently, Stephen Harper and his cabinet of former Ontario Progressive Conservatives have gutted many First Nations organizations across Canada.  Staff of Provincial Territorial Organizations (PTOs) and Tribal Councils have been laid off due to Conservative cuts.  Those kinds of cuts in a small community are absolutely devastating.  We’re talking about the income and well-being of hundreds of families, children and single parents.  These cuts are not cost saving measures but are clearly a punishment to Aboriginal organizations that have spoken out against Conservative, anti-indigenous policies.

At the end of the day, I sum it up this way: Conservative parties care more about money than people.  After all, the Hudak plan is all about cuts to corporate taxes and a promise to cut 100,000 public servants.

Incidentally, my home position in the provincial government is in a recently created Aboriginal policy branch.  Under a Hudak government, I’m guessing that my position would be first on the chopping block as would the entire Ministry of Aboriginal Affairs. After all, it’s the newest and smallest Ministry in an area that the Conservatives don’t feel is essential.  Unfortunately, it’s also the ministry that employs the most First Nations people.  More potential shrapnel from the Conservative ticking time bomb.

Conservatives have been shown to be punitive, harsh and uncaring to the First Nations people of Ontario.  Their policies of intolerance and callousness have effected the lives of far too many already.  Certainly, if Tim Hudak is taking cues from his mentor Mike Harris and his wife Deb Hutton, we can expect nothing less of an Ontario PC government.

That’s something that First Nations people can’t forgive nor overlook.

Day 35: Where are the Conservatives? First Nations want to know.

We all know that Stephen Harper hasn’t been very accessible. I’m pretty sure his party is worried that if people actually got to know Mr. Harper and what he stands for, no one would actually support him. So the Conservative flacks limit his exposure.

He only takes five questions at a time from media that he trusts. When he’s done his five answers, he’s whisked away. A Stephen Harper Town Hall? Forget about it. He certainly doesn’t take questions from average Canadians.

We also know that the Conservative Party only invites Conservatives to their campaign events and rallies. Even if you have an invite to one of their events, they have campaign staff on hand to check your Facebook. If they don’t like that they see you get the ole Harper boot.

When it comes to candidate’s debates, the Conservatives are often absent. Just look at the headlines: “Tory a no-show at poverty debate”. “Conservative incumbent a no-show”. “Missing: Another Conservative Candidate in BC”. “Town Hall meeting proceeds despite Minister no-show”. The Globe and Mail did a story, which I can’t find right now, but I’d say 95 per cent of their listed no-shows were Conservative candidates. Shame!

Most notably, they’ve been no-shows at some of the highest profile First Nations-organized events.

Harper’s soldiers were absent from an AFN Town Hall held earlier this week in Toronto. They skipped out on a recent Assembly of Manitoba Chief’s debate organized in Winnipeg. They we also no-shows in all-candidates events held in Wasauksing and Edmonton.

Why would they skip out on trying to court the First Nation vote, I wonder? Are they not proud of their record? Are they not proud of their Aboriginal platform? Are they not afraid of questions and accountability?

Or are they ambivalent about First Nations issues? Are our issues not important to them? Perhaps they don’t care about First Nations poverty, education, health status and our aboriginal and treaty rights?

Perhaps they are like Harper and are afraid we’ll actually get to know them, and find our what they stand for.

Day 14: Deciphering the Conservative Aboriginal Platform

The Conservative Party outlined their election platform today, and as expected, there was nothing nearly as compelling as what other parties are offering First Nations.

But there is plenty to be concerned about.

“Increased investment in First Nations Lands Management”:  In far-right-conservative-speak this means privatize Indian Reserves and offload responsibility.

The First Nations Lands Management initiative is actually a very positive thing.  This Liberal initiative began nearly fifteen years ago and was passed by the Chretien government in 1999.  Then, 14 First Nations, including my community of Nipissing First Nation, entered a process to opt out of the land management sections of the Indian Act in favour of a community-driven land management code.  I was pleased to be on Band Council when our Land Code was passed in a referendum.

However, the Conservative Party has always had ulterior motives when it comes to First Nations land and jurisdiction.  Time and time again, far-right-conservative types have openly advocated for private property ownership.  They feel that if First Nations owned their own land, they could use it as collateral, buy it, sell it… and probably for many, turn over vast quantities of land for the value of the resources underneath.

Private ownership of land isn’t a political issue.  Plain and simple, it is against our value system and beliefs.  No one can own land.  We are merely caretakers of the land for our future generations.  We can’t sell the land or lose it to the bank – because it doesn’t belong to us.  It is the birthright of the seventh generation.  For First Nations, land is not a commodity to be traded and sold.  She is our mother!  She gives us life.

I really feel this is the Conservative angle to their support of First Nations Lands Management.  They don’t want to recognize First Nations jurisdiction over the land – they want to offload responsibility and enable it’s use as an economic instrument.

“Controlling Spending and Cutting Waste”: In far-right-conservative-speak this means further cuts to First Nations programs and services, starting with post-secondary education funding.

From our experience with the Kelowna Accord, we know First Nations programs and services are not safe from the Harper straight edge.

Judging from their recent INAC “program review”, all things point to Conservative cuts in the post-secondary education support program.  Perhaps even a reclassification of the grant program to a loan program.  Can you imagine, Canada’s most marginalized people, with the lowest incomes and graduation rates, and the highest unemployment and incarceration rates, having the same opportunities as everyone else.  Meaning less grants and more loans.  For far-right-conservatives, “more equal” is always better when it comes to Aboriginal people.

You can get help with debt management quite easily online without having to pay a penny, but it is often worth paying for a one off consultation with a professional adviser to make sure that you can get advice tailored to your situation specifically.

“First Nations Financial Accountability”:  In far-right conservative-speak this means getting a few more votes from the racists and ignorants within the party.

Just as they have demonized refugees and Canadian Tamils through their assault on human smuggling they are looking to demonize First Nations Chiefs, Councillors and employees.  The Conservative campaign of fear now extends to First Nations leadership.

The Conservative government stated today that their will introduce a government bill that will require the disclosure of First Nation’s salaries.  From my perspective, this is a complete witch-hunt that will be used by far-right-conservatives to further reduce funding and governance support to First Nations.

Of course, equality is important for the far-right conservative.  This measure is being done, and I quote to “ensure they enjoy the same rights as other Canadians”.  More equal is always better!

Knowing the issue quite well, we will find that 90 percent of these salaries are very low.  I argue, they need to be increased in order to attract the best talent that First Nations deserve to govern their communities.  To remaining 10 per cent of high salaries will continue to fuel the fire that “First Nations are getting way too much funding” and are “probably better off than most Canadians”.  The reality is that per capita spending on First Nations is half the amount of average Canadians: $8,754 compared to $18,724.

It only fuels the contemporary stereotypes that state that First Nations are mismanaged, corrupt banana republics.  It only fuels ignorance of Aboriginal and Treaty Rights.  Sadly, it also fuels racist attitudes.