Says renewed funding is proof positive
By: Melissa Martin | 21/03/2010 1:00 AM
Glass half-empty, or glass half-full: A day after reports Ottawa had taken control of Peguis First Nation’s funds, band leadership announced a “partial victory” in securing another extension of a major line of federal funding.
At a news conference in the band offices on Saturday, Peguis Chief Glenn Hudson said the conditional one-year extension of the band’s Canada First Nation Funding Arrangement (CFNA) is proof the financial co-management ordered in a letter from Indian Affairs Minister Chuck Strahl last month does not mean the band isn’t getting its books in order. The media “just doesn’t understand” Indian and Northern Affairs Canada’s policies on co-management, he said.
“This (funding extension) is very much a victory for us,” Hudson said. “(There are) things that you as a media do not see, other than in one form of a written letter that you interpret. We’ve been given our extensions because we are improving.” The band’s original five-year CFNA was originally slated to expire in 2008, which would have slashed up to $9 million and up to 120 jobs from the band’s budget. Peguis was granted an extension of the deal and, on March 1 of this year, was informed by government its CFNA would be extended another year.
Still, the band has a long road ahead to get back to financial health. Because Peguis hasn’t met reduction targets laid out by the feds on its $20-million debt, it will not be given a two per cent inflationary funding increase, and $155,000 will be cut from funding for band support.
In the last year, the band’s financial position improved slightly: to a 41.78 per cent deficit in 2008-09, from a 42.16 per cent deficit in 2007-08.
That’s the lowest deficit percentage since 2002-03, when it stood at 29.21 per cent. More cuts, however, will be necessary to meet federal targets, which include a 20 per cent cut in its operating deficit in 2009-10.
Hudson, who was elected chief in 2007, said the band is planning to take a critical look at its budget to eliminate “inefficiencies,” including potentially cutting the band’s controversial travel budget and consolidating financial services. Social and health programs would not be cut, Hudson said, and job losses were not anticipated.
That’s some good news for the band, which has been racked by public calls of corruption and a protracted power struggle between Hudson and former chief Louis Stevenson, who Hudson said managed the band for 26 years. While the tension has frustrated many of Peguis’s 8,500 members, Hudson didn’t mince words when it came to the former chief’s contribution to the current state of affairs. “Sure, people call me a bad manager, but I wasn’t the one who drove the debt over $20-plus million. So you tell me who’s the bad manager,” Hudson said. “It’s transition, it’s change. It’s taken 26 years to get to the debt levels where we’re at, and it’s going to take a minimum of five years to address.”
A meeting to discuss governance policies with band members is scheduled for March 31 at 6:30 p.m. at the Selkirk Friendship Centre. “Members have every right to ask questions. We have an upcoming meeting… we were going to release this then, as it is very much a victory for us,” Hudson said.
Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition March 21, 2010 A12