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Perhaps its time to take a longer view...

We have been hearing a lot about government deficit spending lately. It is clear that deficits contribute to national debt and this in turn makes us vulnerable to a future of potentially significant restricted services or even no services at all. An extreme example of this is what has been happening to Greece over the last few years. Clearly, to be secure and sustainable we need to consider the longer view. 

Just for a moment, think about what Winnipeg would be like if all government services stopped or were severely constrained. Unimaginable. We count on a financially strong government for our health, security, education, employment and infrastructure. Even down to the basic availability of drinking water.

In a similar way, the possible prospect of a financially weak government concerns us as First Nations because we count on a financially strong government to fulfill its obligations to First Nations. As it is with the rest of Canada, First Nations need government funding to be predictable, stable and dependable.

In recent years some First Nations have seen community development in education, security, housing, employment, utilities infrastructure and in health care. In order to make progress it takes a lot of hard work and we needed the government to play a role in assisting with this development. However, there is much work to be done and we need to move beyond project-by-project funding.

There needs to be more effective long-term strategic plans. These plans must be sustainable, consistent in the long run and must build and support efforts that lead to our communities being more economically self-reliant. This means a serious reconsideration of economic development and First Nation's role in the development of natural resources within their territories. 

From our perspective, long range planning must focus on sustainability. Two key elements of sustainability are opportunity and capacity building.

For an example of how this might work, we must be allowed to participate in contract opportunities within our traditional territories. If we secure the contract, it gives us a chance to utilize our internal capacity in the trades, management, administration, business or any other skilled roles that may be applicable. This in turn helps support the community by increasing employment as well as supporting the overall local economy with the increase in local economic activity.

If we don't have the capacity and another bidder has the capacity and is chosen, that's fair game. This outcome gives us a purpose to strive further, to build local skills and to enhance our overall local capacity building as a long-term continuing process to meet our developmental goals. 

We expect that the result of a thoughtful approach to sustainability will lead us into a future where First Nation communities have more capacity and more access to available economic opportunities. In this way, we will be less reliant on government funding, more capable of taking-on larger economic opportunities and securing the long-term sustainable benefits from economic development projects.

So, to achieve our long-term goals, we need to engage with government to make a thoughtful and sustainable strategic plan that helps open economic opportunities and builds local capacity. It is only then that we can truly participate within the larger regional, provincial and national 'economic wheel' and it is only then that we have the chance to establish a truly sustainable community.

If we don't and if this continues to happen, First Nations will not be able to build capacity, seize opportunity and finally establish' sustainable communities. However, with a strategic plan in place, government spending is investment and this investment will return value and reduce long-term costs. Take for example the Winnipeg Floodway and the money it has saved and the destruction it has prevented. So, starting today, lets take the longer view. 

As we have been taught, "Suppose one of you wants to build a tower. Won't you first sit down and estimate the cost to see if you have enough money to complete it" For if you lay the foundation and are not able to finish it, everyone who sees it will ridicule you, saying, "This person began to build and wasn't able to finish." Luke 14: 28-30 New International Version (NIV)

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