Standing up for Canada’s aboriginals – Crowfoot MP

Many of you will have seen the media reports of the outrageous chief and council pay data released by the Canadian Taxpayers Federation. For example, approximately 50 reserve politicians took home paycheques larger than the prime minister in 2008-09.

Approximately 160 reserve politicians were paid more than their respective provincial premiers in 2008-09. Over 600 received an income that is equivalent to over $100,000 off reserve; and one Atlantic Canada reserve politician was paid $978,468 tax-free in 2008-09 (equivalent to about $1.8 million off reserve).

Canadians also know of some of the desperate and third-world conditions that exist on some Indian reserves and want greater transparency of federal spending on reserves and in particular, reserve politicians’ pay levels. Why is the federal funding of Aboriginals not trickling down to the grassroots Aboriginal families?

Conservative MP Kelly Block (Saskatoon-Rosetown-Biggar) has introduced Private Member’s Bill, C-575 the First Nations Financial Transparency Act to do something about it. Bill C-575 would require First Nations to publish the salary and expenses paid to chiefs and councillors with federal government funds.

This important Bill is about increasing the transparency and accountability of federal government funds flowing to First Nations. First Nation community members, and all Canadians, have a right to know how tax dollars are spent. While First Nation governments are responsible for determining salary and other forms of compensation, this Act will require First Nations officials to publish their salary and expenses in their annual financial statements.

Chiefs across the country have, in the past, united to demonstrate their commitment to financial accountability and transparency. As a Conservative Member of Parliament, I too believe in financial accountability and transparency. I also truly believe that this legislation will help people on all sides. These measures would facilitate band councils and members coming together in a greater atmosphere of trust and openness.

This is a clear and straightforward piece of legislation that will give all MPs the opportunity to support accountability in First Nations communities. I trust First Nations elected officials will welcome this as an important tool in helping deliver transparency to their constituents.

Salary and expense portions of financial statements would be made publicly available by the First Nation 120 days following March 31 in each calendar year. Failure to do so would allow the minister of Indian and Northern Affairs to make the remuneration and expenses information publicly available.

Since I was first elected as our federal representative, I have seen that successive federal governments have not responded effectively to reports of extravagant and sometimes nefarious spending of federal tax dollars by individual aboriginal leaders. All the while, we have seen governments trying to work toward addressing the challenges Canada’s First Nations Peoples confront on and off reserves. It is with the welfare of the average Aboriginal who is subject to the actions of these chiefs and councils in mind that I will be voting in support of C-575.

If you have any questions or concerns regarding this or previous columns you may write me at 4945-50th Street, Camrose, Alberta, T4V 1P9, call 780-608-4600, toll-free 1-800-665-4358, fax 780-608-4603 or e-mail sorenk1@parl.gc.ca

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