Greg Rickford MP – “Positive opportunities for First Nations communities in the Economic Action Plan 2012”

Greg RickfordOTTAWA – Kenora MP Greg Rickford say there are “Positive opportunities for First Nations communities in the Economic Action Plan 2012 tabled Thursday, March 29 in the House of Commons. Economic Action Plan 2012 takes concrete steps toward the shared objectives we have set through the joint action plan between the Minister of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development and National Chief of Assembly of First Nations Atleo. It is also consistent with our shared priorities flowing from the First Nations Crown Gathering”.

“First Nations education is a priority for our government and our commitment to improving educational outcomes is demonstrated by the $275 million in new funding over the next three years to support literacy programs and other supports, as well as to fund the building and renovations of schools on reserve,” adds Rickford. “This builds on our government’s investment of more than $1.5 billion annually in First Nations education, the construction of 37 new schools and major renovations to 22 more in the past six years, and our ongoing partnerships to extend or launch programs to support First Nations students”.

Critics of the government have said that the $275 million in the budget isn’t enough. Rickford however says that is just the beginning. “In response to the National Panel’s report, our government has also committed to working with willing partners to introduce a First Nations Education Act, to be implemented by September 2014, and to explore mechanisms to ensure stable, predictable and sustainable funding for First Nations Education”, says the MP.

“Another important step in the Economic Action Plan 2012 proposes $330.8 million over two years to build and renovate water and wastewater infrastructure on reserves and to develop a long term strategy to improve water quality in First Nations communities,” shared Rickford. “The proposal comes after the introduction in February of Bill S-8, the Safe Drinking Water for First Nations Act, which is the result of discussions with First Nations over the last five years”.

“This is a substantial commitment to build and renovate water infrastructure on reserves and develop strategies to improve water quality in First Nations communities. This additional funding complements the more than $2.5 billion our government has invested in the construction, maintenance and operation of water and wastewater systems in First Nations communities since 2006. These investments will help to improve water quality on reserves,” Rickford continued.

“Another key part of the Plan is to improve the economic potential on First Nation lands,” stated Rickford. “The Plan will build on our government’s steps to address barriers to economic development on reserve. Specifically we will work with interested First Nations to explore the option of moving forward with legislation that would allow private property ownership within current reserve boundaries”.