OTTAWA ‑ Liberals announced the 2016 budget, including $8.4 billion over five years to help indigenous communities, including $2 billion on water and wastewater systems in First Nations and $2.6 billion over five years for primary and secondary education on reserves.
Minister Morneau explained to mainstream Canada the government’s approach to addressing the socio-economic conditions of indigenous peoples.
“One of the things I am most proud of in this budget is that we have decided to make very significant investments for indigenous people in this country,” he said.
The budget proposes $141.7 million be spent over five years for the monitoring and testing of reserve drinking water and $1.8 billion over the same time period for facility operation and maintenance.
“I think people need to look closely at what they’re actually spending and when,” said Cindy Blackstock, the president of the First Nations Child and Family Caring Society. “The biggest investments on the First Nations file are after the next election.”
Blackstock is critical of the new budget’s falls below the needs for funding for on-reserve child welfare services and said she was looking for $200-million this year to close the gap.
“My feeling is, that bar falls far below what is required to meet the order that is required by the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal,” Blackstock said.
Although generally pleased with the budget, he warns First Nations that it “isn’t a silver bullet.”
“There are some underlying barriers that actually need to be addressed so that we get the positive outcomes.”
The budget also contains additional commitments, such as $40 million over two years for the inquiry on missing and murdered indigenous women.
Other expenditures outlined in Trudeau’s first budget include: $10 billion more over two years for a new Canada child benefit, absorbing and replacing both the Canada child tax benefit and the universal child care benefit. $6.6 billion over two years for infrastructure, less than the $10 billion promised in the Liberal election platform. $3.4 billion over five years to increase the guaranteed income supplement top-up benefit for single seniors, and restore the old age security eligibility age to 65 from 67. $2 billion over three years for a new strategic investment fund for infrastructure improvements at colleges and universities. $2 billion over two years for a low-carbon economy fund, beginning in 2017-18.