OTTAWA – The federal Liberal budget contains billions in new spending for aboriginal programming, including money to address issues including education, boil water advisories and child and family services.
The spending commitments are considered one of the central themes of the government’s first fiscal blueprint, with $8.4-billion over the next five years aimed at bringing about “transformational change.”
The budget also says the spending represents a significant increase over the investments that would have been made under the Kelowna Accord, which was negotiated by former Liberal prime minister Paul Martin.
Part of the government’s commitment involves spending $2.6-billion on First Nations education and almost $2-billion in water and wastewater infrastructure over the next five years, the latter project part of an effort to end boil-water advisories on reserves.
Finance Minister Bill Morneau says Canada can’t be successful as long as indigenous peoples are not given every chance to succeed, noting the arguments are irrefutable in economic terms.
Leader of the official Opposition Rona Ambrose calls the budget “a nightmare scenario.” Ambrose says the Liberal government needs a more solid plan to create jobs, not just boost taxes while also creating a deficit much larger than the party promised during last fall’s federal election.
“We have the Liberals borrowing way beyond the $10 billion deficit promise, we have no plan to create the jobs that we need in Canada right now, and we have taxes going up,” Ambrose says.
“So this is a bad day for the tax-payers of Canada.”
NDP leader Tom Mulcair believes the Liberals failed to live up to several of their campaign promises.
“One of the things one notices first when looking at this budget is that several of their promises are not being kept,” he explained. “These are key promises that had to do with First Nations children, had to do with our seniors that had to live in poverty and had to do also with people in need of employment insurance.”
Craig Alexander, vice-president of economic affairs at the C.D. Howe Institute, says it is encouraging to see the government spending on Aboriginal Peoples, but says money is only part of the solution.
With files from Kevin Nielsen