First Nations and long neglected federal services like Via Rail and national parks were among the winners Tuesday in the new Liberal government’s first budget, but other specific Northern interests like FedNor and Ring of Fire infrastructure didn’t make the cut.
Nishnawbe Aski Nation Grand Chief Alvin Fiddler called the $8.4 billion earmarked over five years for the needs of aboriginals “a good start.” The money, which the government called “unprecedented,” is aimed at a long list of urgent concerns, including inadequate housing on remote reserves, a shortage of proper schools and waste management services.
The budget document says the financial investment intends to “lay the foundation for growth in Indigenous communities (which) will benefit the broader Canadian economy.”
The document noted only 38 per cent of First Nation people aged 18-24 living on reserves have completed high school, compared to 87 per cent for non-Indigenous Canadians.
Fiddler also praised the government for keeping its commitment to an inquiry into murdered and missing aboriginal women and girls by pledging $40 million over two years.
NDP MP Charlie Angus said the budget’s failure to reference FedNor and the Ring of Fire was “shocking.”
Angus (Timmins-James Bay) said the Liberals could have at least mentioned some money for Ring of Fire roads on the condition that mining companies be willing to follow through with private investments.
“Perhaps when we drill down into spending on aboriginal infrastructure we’ll see some roads to resources (in the Ring of Fire), but on the surface I don’t see it,” said Thunder Bay Mayor Keith Hobbs.
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