A 2009 report by PricewaterhouseCoopers, concluded that completing treaties with First Nations will deliver more than $10 billion in benefits to British Columbia's economy over the next 15 years.
Government OperationsTreaties may include funding for First Nation government operations, programs and services.
In treaties concluded in BC and other parts of Canada, funding for First Nation government operations typically covers several years at a time, are renegotiated periodically and are not usually constitutionally protected.
Generally, funding provided by Canada for all First Nation government operations, programs and services to members will be combined and forwarded to the First Nation government. These funding agreements are intended to allow for longer-term planning and budgeting.
Funding to implement the TreatyTreaties may also include funding for First Nations to make the change from operating under the Indian Act to self government.
For example, funding may be negotiated to develop laws and a First Nation constitution, or to determine eligibility for treaty benefits, and to undertake enrollment and ratification for treaty purposes. The Tsawwassen First Nation treaty agreement provided $13.5 for startup and transition cost. The treaty agreement with the five Maa-nulth First Nations provided $47.3 to fund transition and implementation costs.
Funding for InfrastructureThere may be one-time costs established in the treaty for physical infrastructure. An example is the BC government's commitment of $41 million to pave the Nisga'a Highway.
Fiscal AccountabilityEach First Nation will develop a constitution and a government structure with greater accountability for allocation of funding than is currently provided by the Indian Act. For example, Tsawwassen First Nation government is required to prepare an annual report including financial statements.
The Task Force further recommended that "Although recognition of past and current uses is important, detailed calculations would be technically difficult, costly and time consuming. The Task Force encourages the parties to reach a negotiated solution by bargaining in good faith in the determination of compensation."
Compensation is a tough issue for treaty negotiations. First Nations feel they should be compensated for land they are being asked to give up and wrongs done to them in the past; the governments of Canada and BC want to avoid focusing on the past and use treaties to build stronger relationships for the future.
Canada, BC and the First Nations Summit are working together to find creative solutions to compensation and other common fiscal issues.
When the tax exemption came into effect under the 1876 Indian Act (Section 87), First Nations did not have the right to vote, own property or practise many cultural traditions. First Nations did not gain the right to vote in federal elections until 1960.
The Indian Act has made economic development on reserves difficult. Because it stipulates that reserve lands cannot be seized to enforce payment of a debt, these lands have never been available for use as collateral. The same is true of all real and personal property of aboriginal people or bands on a reserve. Negotiated cash and land settlements will provide First Nations people with the capital they need to begin businesses and create jobs and industries.
Through treaties, First Nations will acquire a land base and establish a government with powers to access revenues, borrow, receive transfers from other governments and levy taxes. The governments of Canada and BC seek to gradually eliminate tax exemptions as First Nations move towards greater economic self sufficiency. For example, under the Nisga'a Treaty transaction taxes such as sales tax will be eliminated eight years after the effective date and all other taxes, including incomes tax, after 12 years.
Many First Nations in the BC treaty process are reluctant to give up their tax exemption when most other First Nations in Canada will continue to have these exemptions including those that have signed treaties in the past. Canada, BC and the First Nations Summit are working together to find creative solutions to taxation and other common fiscal issues.
A study conducted by PricewaterhouseCoopers estimated that uncertainty surrounding unresolved aboriginal rights and title could cost B.C. $1 billion in lost investment and 1,500 jobs a year in the mining and forestry sectors alone. A 2009 report by PricewaterhouseCoopers, concluded that completing treaties with First Nations will deliver more than $10 billion in benefits to British Columbia's economy over the next 15 years.
The BC government's share of the overall cost is estimated at $2 billion, or $50 million annually over 40 years, plus rural Crown land with a notional value of $2.8 billion to $3.5 billion. BC's annual portion is equal to about 25 cents of every $100 in the current provincial budget.
The Treaty Commission allocates negotiation support funding so that First Nations can prepare for and carry out negotiations on equal footing with the provincial and federal governments. Since opening its doors in May 1993 the Treaty Commission has allocated approximately $533million in negotiation support funding to more than 50 First Nations $422 million in the form of loans and $111 million in the form of contributions.
Canada funds 60 per cent of the Treaty Commission's operating costs and BC funds 40 per cent. The Treaty Commission is a small organization, with 10 full time staff in addition to the five commissioners. The operating budget for 2010/2011 was $2.55 million. The Treaty Commission's total operating costs from 1993 to March 31, 2011 are $39 million.
Canada funds 60 per cent of the Treaty Commission's operating budget, and BC funds 40 per cent.
Eighty per cent of negotiation support funding to First Nations is provided as loans from the federal government, and 20 per cent as contributions from the federal and provincial governments. The federal government provides 60 per cent of the contribution funding and the provincial government provides 40 per cent.