The 2016 Federal Budget was tabled in the House of Commons by the Honourable William Francis Morneau, P.C., M.P. Minister of Finance on March 22, 2016. Chapter 3 – “A Better Future for Indigenous Peoples” contains promises and commitments to First Nations peoples across Canada, with a substantial focus on education, children’s health, and infrastructure.
Commentary on the recent Federal Budget from Indigenous leaders has ranged from “historic” to concerns that the $8.4-billion commitment is “spread too thin”.
First, regarding education, the government has pledged $413.5 million over the next two years for improving Primary and Secondary Education for First Nations Children.
Second, the challenges facing the health and well-being of First Nations children in Canada feature prominently in this budget. The government has pledged to support both the immediate and longer term needs of First Nations children with investments of $634.8 million over five years.
Finally, there are two noteworthy contributions to infrastructure that affect First Nations:
- a pledge to add $255 million over two years to fund roads and bridges, energy systems, broadband connectivity, and nearly $2 billion for water and waste water infrastructure; and
- a pledge to support the First Nations Finance Authority. Many Aboriginal communities seek access to longer term funding (i.e., borrowings which extend beyond Council terms) for infrastructure and economic development projects in their communities by raising capital from the First Nations Finance Authority rather than by obtaining bank loans. The Federal Budget proposal to add $20 million over two years, beginning in 2016, to strengthen the Authority’s capital base presents an opportunity for First Nations to obtain funding for capital projects in the coming years.