The optional alternative would reduce the centralized role of the federal government and ensure more money from resource projects stays directly in the community rather than in the hands of the federal government.
One major paradox of Canadian politics is that the Conservatives – who tend to be the most in favour of decentralizing power – have often had an antagnostic relationship with many First Nations communities, at least compared to the Liberals and NDP.
And yet, the Liberal-NDP approach is the approach with the most echoes of the past, with a paternalistic and centralizing mindset that locks in the relationship between the federal government and many Indigenous communities that was put in place by the Indian Act.
There has always been an opportunity for the Conservatives to help move the country beyond this contradiction, but it has not been seized to the fullest extent.
In a recent video, a series of Conservative MPs discussed the idea of a new revenue model for First Nations communities.
“For hundreds of years, First Nations people have suffered under a broken system giving power over their lives to a distant government in Ottawa. Less power in Ottawa means more control, more benefits, and more autonomy for First Nations people. It’s time to change.”
For hundreds of years, First Nations people have suffered under a broken system giving power over their lives to a distant government in Ottawa. Less power in Ottawa means more control, more benefits, and more autonomy for First Nations people. It’s time to change. pic.twitter.com/B3FXaF15Da
— Jamie Schmale (@Jamie_Schmale) February 9, 2023
The model – which the Conservatives say would be optional and upon which they are still consulting First Nations and industry leaders – would get rid of the Ottawa ‘middleman,’ and keep resource project revenue in the communities where it was earned.
Currently, that revenue goes to the federal government, and First Nations communities then have to go and ask for it to be remitted.
That sets up a significant power-imbalance, and it’s one the Conservatives are seeking to address.
Beyond the rhetoric, real ideas do exist
The Liberals and NDP love to talk about ‘reconciliation,’ but seem to show little interest in actually looking at the fundamental imbalances that exist in how the federal government works with First Nations in Canada.
It’s easy to talk, but it’s much harder to actually propose real ideas.
With their proposal on a new revenue model, the Conservatives are putting forward a real idea that could make a real difference.
With our country stagnating and increasingly divided, new ideas and new ways of thinking are exactly what we need.