Working in Aboriginal relations, we at Communica think it is important to stay up-to-date on current policy, legislative, legal, social and political trends in Canada. Below, we summarize the Aboriginal funding items announced in the 2016 federal budget. Overall, the funding commitments to Aboriginal programs, particularly on-reserve programming, is unprecedented. This signals the federal government’s shift in approaching relationships with Aboriginal peoples in Canada.
On March 22, 2016, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s Liberal government released the 2016 federal budget. Finance Minister Bill Morneau announced that the federal government would commit a total of $8.2 billion to projects and programs targeted at Aboriginal peoples. Nearly half that amount will go to on-reserve education improvements, including building infrastructure and hiring teachers. With these measures, Prime Minister Trudeau addressed a significant amount of campaign promises.
Minister Morneau acknowledged that in building this budget, the federal government looked at the Liberals’ failed $5 billion Kelowna Accord of 2005 as a baseline. Prime Minister Trudeau explained that he consulted with Aboriginal groups on the design of this funding. He intends to allow Aboriginal groups to guide the funding discussions going forward and play more of a leadership role in how the federal government allocates this money.
Notable Aboriginal items in the 2016 federal budget include:
- $2.6 billion over five years to improve primary and secondary education for First Nations children living on reserve, including investments in language and cultural programming
- $2.42 billion over five years for green infrastructure in Aboriginal and northern communities
- $1.8 billion over five years to improve on-reserve water quality
- $969 million over five years to build and renovate on-reserve schools
- $96 million over five years to Aboriginal representative organizations
- $40 million to the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women inquiry
- $15 million over two years to launch a pilot project that provides opportunities for Aboriginal peoples to train for jobs that support their communities, including in housing construction, water treatment and local administration
- $16.5 million over three years to the National Energy Board, Natural Resources Canada and Transport Canada to enhance public and Aboriginal consultation for major projects currently under review
- $14.2 million over four years for the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency
- $10.7 million for developing renewable energy projects for Indigenous and Northern communities that currently depend on diesel power generation
How Will This Affect Resource Development IN BC?
Overall, this budget is an indication that the federal government is committed to working with Aboriginal groups to develop mutually-beneficial approaches to long-standing issues. As the federal Liberal Party moves deeper into their four-year term, we can expect more influence, funding and opportunities afforded to Aboriginal groups, not less.
Not specifically targeted for Aboriginal populations, the federal government is focusing on infrastructure development with a keen interest in green infrastructure and promotion of clean energy. This could impact resource development in BC by assisting Aboriginal groups in developing small-scale clean energy projects. Additionally, some long-standing infrastructure deficits could be filled in areas around northern BC.
Notably, the 2016 budget did not allocate any money for the implementation of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s 94 recommendations. This was a major campaign promise from Prime Minister Trudeau’s Liberal Party and how, when and if the federal government implements these commitments will likely have a major impact on all aspects of Aboriginal relations. Communica is awaiting any policy developments on this front.