Time for Trudeau to fulfil promises
Read this article for free:
Already have an account? Log in here »
To continue reading, please subscribe:
Monthly Digital Subscription
$4.75 per week*
- Enjoy unlimited reading on winnipegfreepress.com
- Read the E-Edition, our digital replica newspaper
- Access News Break, our award-winning app
- Play interactive puzzles
*Billed as $19.00 plus GST every four weeks. Cancel anytime.
Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 20/10/2016 (2343 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
As the Liberal government heads into its second year of governing, following its historic defeat of the Harper Conservatives, support for Prime Minister Justin Trudeau remains high. Mr. Trudeau won last October largely because he had a bold and optimistic agenda aimed at revitalizing and rebuilding the economy and he promised a new relationship with Canada’s indigenous people. It was all sunny ways, my friend.
But those sunny ways are fading into October days and frustration may be growing, particularly as the government grapples with the complexities of aboriginal issues in Canada. According internal government documents released in January, it could cost $1.9 billion to fix the housing crisis on northern Manitoba reserves. Only $50 million is budgeted for reserve housing in Manitoba this year and that budget will drop to $29 million next year. Despite the report, Indigenous Affairs Minister Carolyn Bennett couldn’t commit additional funds to address the issue.
In March, a suicide crisis was declared in Cross Lake after 140 students and young adults stepped forward and admitted to seriously considering suicide in a 90-day period. Poverty and inadequate housing were considered triggers.
More recently, a Probe poll suggests that 74 per cent of Canadians say water infrastructure in many First Nations communities is unacceptable and must be fixed immediately. Approximately 90 reserves have a boil water advisory in effect, 11 of them located in Manitoba.
One of those communities is Shoal Lake 40 which has been under a boil water advisory for a decade. The reason? The lack of an access road makes the price of building a water treatment plant prohibitive. The reserve has been cut off from the rest of the country for nearly a century.
There was optimism in December that the freedom road was going to be built. All three levels of government came to an agreement on its construction after considerable foot dragging. With the new Liberal government in power in Ottawa, there was a breakthrough and construction was planned for 2016 with completion by 2017. The price tag was at $30 million.
Today, freedom road remains a dream.
The price tag has gone up to $52 million and with a new provincial government on Broadway, the project is under review, as the Tories eye slaying Manitoba’s growing deficit. But that doesn’t mean the federal government should waver on its commitment to get the access road built. It would be easy to blame the province for failing to cough up the additional money to cover the shortfall, but that would be playing politics. In the grand scheme of things the buck should stop at the feet of Indigenous Affairs, which has a fiduciary responsibility for First Nations in Canada and a prime minister who pledged things would be different.
Shoal Lake Chief Erwin Redsky is frustrated but given the Probe poll findings, he is not alone. It’s time. Substandard housing, boiling water advisories and broken promises can no longer be ignored — especially not in 2016.