Thursday, September 18, 2014
Text Size

All politicians, including aboriginal leaders, need scrutiny

By: Colin Craig

Winnipeg Free Press

Recent columns in the Winnipeg Free Press (Attacking chiefs mindless, Aug. 2) and (Chiefs don't answer to Ottawa, Aug. 7) have criticized the Canadian Taxpayers Federation and our involvement in the new First Nations Financial Transparency Act.


A few inaccuracies deserve to be cleared up.

First, the Canadian Taxpayers Federation started calling for the federal government to post the salaries of aboriginal chiefs and councillors online (as well as band financial statements) back in 2009. We did so for a simple reason -- cries from grassroots band members on reserves.

Grassroots band members would routinely tell us that they had trouble getting access to basic financial information such as their chief and council's pay. Those in media know this is a concern on many reserves as we've seen them copied on many of the same emails and letters that we receive from whistleblowers. Sadly, too often those who ask questions on reserves can be labeled as troublemakers by elites in their communities and can face repercussions for daring to speak out.

That's not to say all aboriginal politicians are crooked or unethical; far from it. We've said countless times over the years there are thousands of aboriginal politicians in Canada and you're going to find some who are good, honest people and some with not-so-pure intentions. It's the same for municipal, provincial and federal politicians.

However, a difference with First Nations politicians is that many people off-reserve shy away from investigating or critiquing those politicians' decisions. They fear being called racist for daring to question how tax dollars are spent. Aboriginal Canadians deserve to have their locally elected politicians receive the same scrutiny as other politicians. But sadly, too many people on reserves have told us "no one will listen."

As for the funds bands receive; we are in fact talking about tax dollars - billions of them. According to the Fraser Institute, federal and provincial governments spent over $11 billion on programs geared to aboriginal people in 2011-12; most of those dollars were transferred to reserves.

Some of those dollars fulfill treaty obligations while a significant amount does not. For example, no treaty ever mentioned funding for building homes, hockey rinks or chief and council pay, to name a few. But yes, the taxpayer has footed the bill for many of those expenses in the past.

A concern raised in both columns about the Canadian Taxpayers Federation (CTF) is that we fixate on the outlandish pay examples involving aboriginal politicians -- like the B.C. chief who made the equivalent of $1.6 million last year.

Yet, ironically, the media join us in focusing on outlandish examples involving off reserve politicians too. We all commented on the golden pensions our federal politicians receive or the personal "sky palace" that former Alberta premier Alison Redford was having built on the top floor of a government building in Edmonton. Premier Greg Selinger's pay never makes the front page because it's just not seen as alarming.

Our hope is always that by bringing the alarming matters to light, something can be done to rectify the situation or prevent it from happening again.

Naturally, we hope for the same with aboriginal politicians. We focus on the million-dollar chief because his compensation was clearly outrageous and a questionable use of band funds (some of which come from the federal government). Just ask those in his community who are now trying to oust him. But just as important, those on reserves now have more information to make informed decisions about their elected officials.

Before the new law came into being, some whistleblowers leaked band council salaries and the CTF received some incomplete pay information from the government. After controversial pay information hit the media, several band councils scaled back their pay. Just look at the Peguis reserve (Manitoba), Standing Buffalo (Saskatchewan) and Glooscap (Nova Scotia) to name a few. Thus, scrutiny and transparency helped the situation.

One thing is clear. Whether we're talking about aboriginal politicians or politicians off reserve, their activities deserve to be watchdogged. We'll be doing our part, regardless of what the critics say.

Colin Craig is prairie director of the Canadian Taxpayers Federation.

Whatever Trevor

Dis is Trevor.

Education & Training

Blast from the past: FP archive

When is Consultation, Consultation?

Ovide Mercredi

National Chief – AFN

During a Treaty Roundtable meeting of the Alberta Chiefs, I took note of a federal government document outlining their strategy to define and ultimately impose their own form of self-government. Read more...

Letting go of residential schools

by Gilbert Oskaboose, Nov 1993 First Perspective

There is a lot of "unfinished business" in Indian Country. Garbage that we as a people have never really dealt with. Chief among them is the whole issue of those infamous residential schools and their impact on people. Read more...


obidiah picture

ANALYSIS - Bill Gallagher

gallagher picture

Under the Northern Sky by Xavier Kataquapit

Under the Northern Sky by Xavier Kataquapit


First Nations Cultural Interpreter PM – 02 Riding Mountain National Park Seasonal Indeterminate

(May to October) From $54,543 to $58,764

Closing Sept. 19, 2014

Read More

Regional Media Officer– Temp (Until Nov 2015) –F/T Position

Office of the Leader of the Official Opposition / NDP Research Office

Location:131 Queen Street, Suite 10-02, Ottawa, ON


Communicate regularly with regional media outlets (community newspapers, radio stations, student media, ethnic media, etc.) to propose ideas for interviews and opinion content Read more...

Canadian Chamber of Commerce Aboriginal Workforce Report

The Canadian Chamber of Commerce released a report that highlights initiatives to improve the workforce participation of Aboriginal peoples. 

Opportunity Found: Improving the Participation of Aboriginal Peoples in Canada’s Workforce (December 2013)  

click image to download report

Tue Sep 23 @ 3:00PM - 04:15PM
FNHMA National Conference 2014
Sun Oct 05 @ 9:00AM - 05:00PM
INIHKD & Manitoba NEAHR Conference 2014


September 2014
31 1 2 3 4 5 6
7 8 9 10 11 12 13
14 15 16 17 18 19 20
21 22 23 24 25 26 27
28 29 30 1 2 3 4

Current Video

RIP Percy Tuesday


Thanks to Althea Guiboche for allowing The First Perspective to share her video taken at the Manitowapow book launch at McNally Robinson. 

Percey sings Freddy Fender's "Wasted Days and Wasted Nights" and people join in to harmonize. 

Last Week Tonight with John Oliver (HBO): The Washington Redskins