Liberal MP Carolyn Bennett says it’s “totally inappropriate” for Canada’s aboriginal affairs minister to take political pot shots when talking about the First Nation Financial Transparency Act.
Bernard Valcourt issued a written statement Tuesday pledging to take action against bands that do not comply with the controversial piece of legislation. In it, he squeezed in a dig at the Liberals.
“It is shameful that Liberal leader Justin Trudeau said he would scrap this law and deny these members the right to access basic information about their community finances, a right that is awarded to every other Canadian,” he said.
“It’s just totally inappropriate for a minister to be playing partisan politics on something this important,” Bennett told The Huffington Post Canada in an interview.
She called the FNFTA a “misguided” piece of legislation.
“The problem right now is this government’s relationship with First Nations has never been lower and it is time that they rebuild the trust in this frayed relationship with First Nations and not go slamming the leaders of other parties,” she said.
First Nations face sanctions if they fail to report their finances online by midnight Wednesday, according to the Aboriginal Affairs ministry.
The transparency rules, which became law last year, require bands to post their financial statements, revealing the expenses and salaries of chiefs and councillors.
But after two 120-day extensions last year, the government is now taking a hardline approach, telling bands it’s time to hand over documents.
“No additional extension will be provided before these measures are applied. I have directed that the sanctions not target essential services that support First Nations measures,” Valcourt said.
In the law’s first year, 98 per cent of bands complied. Communities that don’t meet the deadline face the threat of having their non-essential services funding withheld.
Swipe At The NDP
On top of his dig at the Liberals, Valcourt also squeezed in a swipe at the NDP — a party currently leading multiple public opinion polls.
“Similar to the Liberal leader, NDP leader Thomas Mulcair has shown his party does not believe they need to be accountable to taxpayers by refusing to pay back the $2.7 million of taxpayer dollars they owe for use of their satellite offices outside Ottawa,” he said.
He added Canadians should expect transparency and accountability from their governments.
Valcourt’s statement follows a story from CBC News Monday that said eight First Nations are being taken to court by the federal government in an effort to force their compliance to the act.
The NDP’s Niki Ashton called the FNFTA the “wrong way” for the government to achieve accountability.
“For a minister that has already withheld $1 billion in promised spending from First Nations, it’s staggering that he would now threaten to withhold further funding that will impact people living on reserve,” she said in an email to HuffPost.
Critics have condemned the controversial piece of legislation for being pushed through without prior consultation with First Nations.
“The coercion of the state on this matter is an atrocity,” Saskatchewan’s Thunderchild First Nation explained in a backgrounder about the law last year. “The Act does not improve the capacity of our nations to assume control over our own affairs.
“By focusing only on the expenditures of the nations, the legislation sidesteps larger systemic issues of funding and responsibility for those issues,” it read.
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