AFN National Chief Says Federal Budget Fair on Infrastructure - But Needs to Do More for First Nations

    OTTAWA, Jan. 27 /CNW Telbec/ - Assembly of First Nations National Chief
Phil Fontaine stated that today's federal budget includes some positive
measures for First Nations but needs to do much more to strengthen First
Nations economies which, in turn, benefits all Canadians.
    "Today's federal budget provides a fair and helpful response in terms of
First Nations infrastructure because we need to build houses and schools,"
National Chief Fontaine said. "But we also need to build First Nations skills
and First Nations economies. This is where the budget falls far short. Without
those investments, First Nations will fall further behind and be forever in
need of fiscal stimulus. Building schools is not an end in itself. We want our
students to graduate from those schools. We want our students to have the
opportunities to fully participate in the economy and society."
    The National Chief stated that First Nations want to work with government
on a comprehensive plan that lifts First Nations out of poverty and begins to
level the playing field for First Nations. In the weeks leading up to the
budget, the AFN set out a practical and reasonable First Nations economic
stimulus plan that targeted investments in First Nations infrastructure,
education and skills and a repayable loan fund for First Nations economic
development and partnerships. The proposal received wide support at the
January 15 meeting between Aboriginal leaders and First Ministers.
    "The infrastructure investments are welcome and necessary, as are the
investments in health and child and family services. We also need to be
assured that resources targeted for northern housing will be available for
First Nations in those regions," the National Chief said. "We are
disappointed, however, that there is no response to our calls for investments
in education and the repayable loan fund. Investments in education would get
more of our people working and help eliminate poverty. As well, our
governments should have access to credit to spark their economies and develop
partnerships with the private sector. Our request for the loan fund amounts to
0.5 percent of the $200 billion that this budget puts into the credit system.
We believe our request was reasonable and we will continue to pursue it
because it will benefit both First Nations and Canada."
    The National Chief noted that the AFN will continue to advocate with the
political parties and all Canadians for a more comprehensive response to the
First Nations economic stimulus package, and will continue to press for a
long-term plan that addresses systemic problems that impede progress.
    "We will be working with all parties and all Canadians to obtain the
adjustments needed to make this an effective budget for First Nations and
Canada," the National Chief stated. "This is not a partisan issue. This is a
Canadian issue."

    The Assembly of First Nations is the national organization representing
First Nations citizens in Canada.

For further information:

For further information: Don Kelly, A/Communications Director, Assembly
of First Nations, (613) 241-6789 ext. 334, cell: (613) 292-2787,; Gina Cosentino, Government Relations, National Chief's Office,
Assembly of First Nations, (613) 241-6789 ext 356,

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