Ken Coates is a distinguished fellow and director of the Indigenous Affairs program at the Macdonald-Laurier Institute, and a Canada Research Chair in Regional Innovation at the University of Saskatchewan.
Despite a decade of dramatic increases in federal funding for Indigenous affairs, a damning report from the Parliamentary Budget Officer released in May revealed a gaping disconnect between the government’s aspirations and the amount of money spent on the one hand, and the actual consequences on the other.
Put bluntly, Canada is not getting what it is paying for – and what’s worse, the massive spending is not improving lives in Indigenous communities. The PBO’s report on Crown-Indigenous Relations and Northern Affairs Canada (CIRNAC) and Indigenous Services Canada (ISC) summarized the situation succinctly, in the passion-free language that defines Ottawa’s civil service:
“The increased spending did not result in a commensurate improvement in the ability of these organizations to achieve the goals that they had set for themselves. Based on the qualitative review the ability to achieve the targets specified has declined.”
The government can and does change up targets and metrics, making it difficult to determine actual outcomes. But given the vast expenditures, such a conclusion is tragic. Canadians have become numb to reading about public expenditures on Indigenous peoples, much as they have to federal spending generally