Many people think a First Nation’s economy should be based on resource development. Some think building an economy starts with tourism. A few feel it’s all about smoke shops. For me, it’s much simpler than that. Building an economy should start from the ground up.
I’ll concede that a strong economy requires outside investment, corporate and industry opportunities. That’s certainly the case of a strong, FUNCTIONING economy. But First Nations are not quite there… yet. For First Nations communities, an economy has to start with family and community.
This election is about a stark choice between tax cuts and benefits for big business and idealistic support for families. The Conservatives are relying on big business to foster the economy. Most communities don’t have their own grocery store, much less commercial infrastructure or an industrial park. While the Liberal and NDP vision is to restore strength and support to Canadian families.
In First Nations, most communities need to build their micro-economies starting with family income. In order to foster small business, and a small products and services industry within a community, each household requires a stable income source. This can only happen with greater opportunity and sustainable jobs.
But there is a broad spectrum of support needed to enable those jobs. In order to get jobs, First Nations citizens needs skills. For higher skilled jobs – our people need a college diploma or a university degree. In order to get to our jobs or our classes, we need child care, income support and to be able to care for our Elders or sick family members.
First Nations governments also need support. We need schools, daycares, health centres, community centres, libraries, adequate housing and clean water to support our citizen’s success. First Nations don’t have a tax base, and require a government to support and understand the complex fiduciary relationship that sustains ongoing funding to First Nation communities.
Sure, we need willing partners, economic development, joint ventures and resource development opportunities. But there will be no one to take advantage of those opportunities without proper support to First Nations communities and families.
The Conservative plan does absolutely nothing to meet First Nation’s needs in these areas. In fact, I’ve never heard so much voter backlash against a governing party from First Nations.
In most cases, we’re far from welcoming Bombardier or Samsung to our reserve borders, although two First Nations are oh so close, respectively. Six Nations may have an economic deal in the works with the Korean, green energy giant, while Fort William is a stone’s throw from the Bombardier transit assembly facility. But even in those progressive communities, you’ll be hard pressed to find a Conservative supporter in their midst.