All posts for the month May, 2013

A quick note: I plan on posting thoughts on what it will take for us to succeed as a First Nation of the Maa-nulth Final Agreement. These are my thoughts alone, and not the official line of the government of the Huu-ay-aht First Nations. I am but one voice in that chorus, and here I sing alone.

As Chair of Economic Development for the Huu-ay-aht First Nations, I am responsible for overseeing the agenda of government in regards to economic development. Notwithstanding the threat of seeming a hammer looking for nails, I will posit two notions: (1) that our community entered into treaty in order better our potential and actual lives individual and as a community, and (2) that our success is predicated on success in business and local economic development.

If the Huu-ay-aht First Nations stayed under the current federal regime, I do not think we would have the tools necessary to make our lives better. Without tools such as ownership of land, access to resource development, and meaningful self-government, a community is hamstrung from the get-go. Though there are plenty of routes to acquiring the tools necessary to pursue a better life for our people, I do not think those routes are as effective as Treaty itself. We may be able to come into a cobble of agreements with the Province and Federal government, but they do not have the certainty nor the authority of a treaty. Pursuing our ends by way of Court proceeding can feed a strong sense of conflict-based patriotism, but it ends up straining the relationship with the very folks we need to work with to succeed in the long term. Relying on the Courts too much will result in a new relationship that feels very much like an extended divorce proceeding — and I think this is not an ideal situation for any party.

Treaty gives us the tools and material to rebuild our First Nation, but we need to use those tools effectively and those materials efficiently. One such task before us to find new and renewable resources necessary to continue our work. In essence, we need to find ways to make a living on a community scale. As a government, we have two main tools: (1) taxation and (2) economic development. While we are pursuing everything we can to make our lands attractive for residential and commercial investment, and that this taxation will form a basis for maintaining our lands and services on those lands, I think they will live only pay for the services rendered to the land base in question. Honestly, I think it should likely remain that way — overly taxing those on our lands to extend benefits to others away from those lands will likely dissuade people from investing their lives or money there.

I think that the resources we need to reach parity in potential standard of living with the rest of Canada will require canny use of current resources we have to make more in the future. We will do this through investment, in general and in various things, but for now I will speak to economic development. We can invest in stocks and bonds and accounts that will create a return on investment, but I only think of this as a measure to keep what we have rather than a means of generating more.

Keep in mind that we have to grow faster, much faster, than other communities in order to reach parity in standard of living. First off, basic physics state that a thing needs to travel at a higher velocity than the target in order to catch up to that target. Thus, we have to grow at an average rate higher than the Canadian average. Secondly, our community has a much higher rate of growth than the rest of Canada. We have to grow our resources as fast as inflation and our birthrate in order to maintain what we have now, and we have to grow faster than that in order to see an improvement. If we wish to reach some form of parity (actual or potential) with the rest of Canada, we need to reliably grow faster than the rest of Canada for a period of years and years.

This is not impossible, but the decisions we make as leaders now can jumpstart that process or slow it down by years and years. The decisions we make, the ones that matter, they have trade-offs. We cannot have everything we want because we live in a world of scarcity. We need to look to the future and plan on creating an environment far into the future where our successors’ problems will be centered on what to do with their wealth, rather than what they can do with what little they have….

Not exactly scholarly, but at this point, I’m just blogging here.

– J.