"Things take time and I believe the political will is there and it's my job as national chief to hold them to their promises and to account."The details were provided this week in response to an order paper question, which is like an access-to-information request for MPs.
"We are in transition and the money is flowing, notwithstanding that (lag)."First Nations leaders have long criticized the cap for not keeping up with the population growth in indigenous communities.> The Liberal government has agreed, promising to replace it with a new fiscal relationship to be negotiated over the course of the year. Indigenous Affairs Minister Carolyn Bennett insisted Thursday the cap had already been lifted. "I wouldn't waste your time on this, because the two-per-cent cap is gone," Bennett told Angus during a testy exchange Thursday at the House of Commons standing committee on Indigenous and Northern Affairs. Paul Thoppil, the chief financial officer at the department who appeared with Bennett at committee, was more nuanced, saying there is a time lag between the information that was in the response to the order paper question and escalators that will appear in future spending plans. "We are in transition and the money is flowing, notwithstanding that (lag)," he said. Perry Bellegarde, national chief of the Assembly of First Nations, said the numbers show there is still a lot of work ahead. "That's why we have to keep pushing the Crown to work towards long-term, sustainable, predictable funding that has to be in place," Bellegarde said.
Justin Trudeau greets Edmund Bellegarde and Perry Bellegarde before meeting with the File Hills Qu'Appelle Tribal Council in Fort Qu'Appelle, Sask., April 26, 2016. (Photo: Matt Smith/CP)Bellegarde said the clock is ticking on setting up the promised working group to figure out the new escalator in time for the 2017 federal budget. "We need to establish that working group as soon as possible so we can work out those details, do the proper research, do the proper analysis and gets to the right number." Bellegarde said he welcomed the investments in the budget and believes the rest will come. "Things take time and I believe the political will is there and it's my job as national chief to hold them to their promises and to account." Other documents The Canadian Press obtained through the Access to Information Act illustrate how the escalator forces the department to move money around to make up for gaps. "To address funding pressures, the department has had to reallocate funds from program areas, mainly infrastructure, to address pressures in other program areas, particularly education and social development, but more recently only social development," says a Feb. 2 internal backgrounder on the promise to lift the cap.
"Results are that program integrity issues have emerged, particularly in infrastructure."The memo goes on to say that recent investments brought the overall average annual increase in funding to about three per cent, but stressed the need for a more stable solution. "While these targeted and time-limited investments have helped address immediate needs they have not provided the stability and predictability required for the delivery of basic ongoing services that are subject to annual cost increases," the memo states. "Further, some targeted funding has been more focused on improvement initiatives and capacity building as opposed to funding to address shortfalls for basic needs."
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