The good, the bad and the maybe? A closer look at the federal budget

There is nearly $5 billion in new funding for Indigenous peoples in Budget 2019.

Liberal MP Marc Miller says he’s proud of the 2019 federal budget and no one should question the Trudeau government’s commitment to reconciliation.

“It is a significant step in a very long path that we call reconciliation and so no one should question the government’s dedication. We’ve heard this silly questioning over the last couple of weeks,” said Miller on Nation to Nation Thursday.

“You need to look at 2016, 2017, 2018 and now the 2019 budget and you look at the consistent investment of this government into Indigenous peoples.”

There is nearly $5 billion in new funding for Indigenous peoples. Each budget has had billions of funding leaving some to call it “historical”.

But the politicians on the panel with Miller are questioning the Trudeau government’s dedication to reconciliation.

More so that it appears Prime Minister Justin Trudeau over promises and under delivers, like the Indigenous rights and recognition framework that fizzled out last year after a big speech in the House of Commons Feb. 14, 2018.

“The bigger issue with this government is actually they make a lot of promises. Do they actually follow through in terms of the promises made, promises delivered?” said Cathy McLeod, Conservative shadow critic on Indigenous affairs.

“So you look at the rights and recognition framework, we look at the infrastructure money – very, very slow to get out the door.”

Related Feds promise $4.5B in new spending on Indigenous peoples in pre-election budget

One area that is widely believed to be lacking in every budget is equitable funding for housing on-reserve and in the territories. Tens of billions are estimated to be required but there’s been nothing close to it in Trudeau’s four years in power said Peter Julien, NDP finance critic.

“Housing is of critical importance and we’re not seeing really, from this government, any attempt to seriously address the problem,” said Julien.

“Listening to what the prime minister says is different from what the prime minister does and if we’re really going to achieve true, meaningful and lasting reconciliation we actually need to do things.”

One of those is the Indigenous child welfare bill that was tabled weeks after Trudeau said it would be.

It took two days this week for it to get second reading and move to committee to be debated.

Miller blamed the Conservatives for holding it up in the House of Commons.

“In terms of child and family services, I hope the Conservatives stop blocking that legislation so that we can actually talk about it and go through with that very important discussion,” said Miller.

McLeod didn’t take to that kindly.

“They are trying to rush things, they are not doing it properly and really they should have had this all on the table months ago,” said McLeod. “Now they are trying to put the blame everywhere else but where it actually belongs and that’s with them.”

The bill has to reach royal assent by the end of June or it will be dead with a fall election scheduled.

But there was also no new money in the budget for the bill, particularly to help nations build capacity to enforce their jurisdiction that the bill promises to affirm.

It received support out of the gate upon it being tabled in late February from various groups like the Assembly of First Nations.

But critics have now had more time to review the proposed bill.

A group of chiefs spoke out earlier this week.

The chiefs of Onion Lake Cree Nation, Ermineskin Cree Nation Alexander First Nation, Tsuut’ina Nation and the Association of Iroquois & Allied Indians issued a release rejecting Bill C-92  “in its entirety” hours before the budget was released.

“It is evident that the rejected Rights Framework is being implemented piecemeal through legislation and policy with outcomes that undermine our inherent jurisdiction. We see Bill C-92 as an extension of the Rights Framework and as a form of delegated authority,” the group said.

“First Nations must be in the driver’s seat and Bill C-92 fails to achieve this.”

The bill was also the focus of May 7th show of Nation to Nation. Click here to watch it.