It was an interesting week in federal politics. Last Tuesday, I had the TV on waiting to see what the 3 opposition parties would do with the budget. Predictably, all of them rejected it. Then it was a wait and see how long it would take to bring the government down. Took 3 days and many of us were relieved and happy because it could mean a different party in power and possibly positive changes for First Nations people.
The Conservatives wanted the budget to be the issue that brought the government down so they could prove that it was a good budget and the other parties caused an unnecessary election. The opposition parties wanted to bring the government down on a non confidence vote on the many scandals that have been happening with the government like being in contempt of Parliament on the “in and out” scheme with election money. Or the Minister Oda or Bruce Carson scandals. So much being revealed about how the federal government operates and the Prime Minister thinking such conduct is acceptable. And now Harper is condemning other parties for a coalition government when there is no intention to do so and a coalition government is what he once tried so he could gain power. What does this say about the Prime Minister? It speaks volumes and I hope people listen.
Harper in my opinion has no credibility. He promised to reform the Senate, but he proceeded to use his office to appoint conservative senators until they were in the majority with no efforts at reform. He did everything he condemned the liberals for. His continual attack ads against Michael Ignatieff, does he have so little confidence in himself that he has to continually run those ads to try and embed in the minds of Canadians that Michael Ignatieff does not like Canada. Like who listens to those ads anyway? I fast forward through them, I turn the channel, mute the volume or frankly, I block them out. I always think when people attack others in a personal way it is because they have nothing of substance to go after. Let’s stick to the issues, debate the issues and find good solutions for Canada. I hope this election does not bring out more of these types of ads or it will be a very long one to suffer through. Hopefully people will see them as avoidance behavior to debate what is really important.
As First Nations people we really need to up the profile of our issues and make them elections issues. We need to ensure that in the minds of Canadians, the federal government is not working to change the social and economic conditions of First Nations people and it is affecting the credibility of Canada. Also, that the federal government's inability to settle their land question over aboriginal title in BC is continually causing great uncertainty and the development of major projects. So what do we need to push as issues?
Every region of the country is different but there are some issues we all share. Like the 3% cap on funding to First Nations and our inability to keep up with the cost of living. Safe Drinking water is also a shared issue. The safe drinking water legislation was not developed fully with First Nations and was designed to off load the responsibility to local governments or to First Nations without proper funding and training. Adding members to our list as the results of Bill C-3 was done without any financial assistance to the First Nations and if these members are added without any assistance, then First Nations will only be further behind than before in housing and infrastructures.
There are issues on not providing enough funding to schools on reserve and are way behind the provincial schools in what can be offered. Or not enough money being provided for all our students that want a post secondary education or trades trading can be funded. There is also the fact that even the federal government passed the First Nation in BC Jurisdiction Act Over Education there was not sufficient funding for schools to take over jurisdiction. There is also the lack of enough homes for our members or the ability to repair those homes that are not up to standard or are moldy or other health hazard.
What about the environment? This government has not done much to help reduce greenhouse gases or respect the Kyoto accord. Climate change is affecting our way of life and our ability to exercise our aboriginal rights. Rising sea levels, melting permafrost and warmer ocean temperatures that kill salmon and their eggs. Greater winds and storms. We need more action from the federal government now or we will find ourselves in a world that is totally unsustainable.
Should I go on? I understand that the new additions to reserve policy states that you have to pay compensation yearly to the local government for any lands taken out of their tax base. How did that one slip by our First Nations leaders and why hasn’t any one taken issue with this? Some reserves on the west coast were small because they were told they would always be able to rely on getting their livelihood and sustenance from the oceans and rivers. Of course this is not so and for many, there isn’t even a land base to sustain our home and community facilities. This is paying tax without saying it is tax and not in keeping with the Indian Act.
First Nations people everywhere need to start talking up their issues. Writing letters to the editor, calling into talk shows on radio, commenting on newspapers and TV websites and asking candidates at candidate forums their positions on issues that are important to your First Nation. We need to help educate voters as to why our issues are important and why they affect them. Morally, ethically and legally, our issues need to be resolved with our input and collectively come to solutions. Nothing less will do. Let us make use of our voices in this election, let us not sit home and grumble that nothing changes even if we try to do something. Only by being the voice, the educator and the agent of change will we make this world a better place for our children and grandchildren to live and something to hope for.