Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Attawapiskat is Economically Unviable

There is no economic reason for Attawapiskat to exist. In this sense it is like many abandoned Newfoundland outposts. However, unlike those abandoned outposts the modern incarnation of Attawapiskat, which dates back to the 1960s, has never been tied to the world economy. It has never had an economic reason to exist. Outside of contracting and user fees, which amount to next to nothing, the band has no internally driven soure of revenue. Thus, the welfare of its inhabits depends on two things. 1) Federal and Provincial government funding. 2) The effective distribution of those funds. The NDP and Liberals have focused on the first of these, the Conservatives on the second.

Both miss the point. Namely, the community is economically unviable and people living there do not have the means to leave nor the incentive to leave. The two work in tandem. The less assets, work experience and education a person has the more attractive the prospect of obtaining housing, however squalid, becomes. This is doubly so if one already owns a home there. A bird in the hand is better than two in bush as it were; a dilapidated house in the hand is better than the dim prospects of a better house elsewhere.

Now, the prospects for Attawapiskat are dim no matter how you slice it. However, one thing that needs to be done with Attawapiskat and reserves around the country is this. 1) All reserve lands and homes need to be privatized with home owners given the right to sell their homes on the open market. 2) The financial burden of maintaining and upgrading housing must switch from the band to the individual home owners. 3) Band councils must gain the ability to impose property taxes.

Attawapiskat must be allowed to sink or swim and above all else people living there must be given additional economic incentives to leave. Either property taxes and the cost of upkeep will drive people away in the absense of a job, or prospect of using the capital from the sale one's house and land will. The later is obviously preferable. It means that the prospect future economic activity has given these homes, the land on which they built anyway, some value.

1 comment:

Anyong said...

To clarify a point....the rural fishing commnity of Newfoundland & Labrador was not abandoned. The Newfoundland & Labrador Government of the time lead by Joey Smallwood forced those people to move to larger centres. Those people had their own homes, drinking water and made a living from fishing. The government of the day forced those people to move to larger centres to save money and denied any kind of service to these small communities. Most of these people ended up on welfare after moving to larger centres with no thought by the government of re-education. The government ended up paying out more money after this forced move than if they had maintained the few services to maintain those people where they were.