NDP makes principled promise to give First Nations all mining tax revenue
Mining towns and cities have long argued they should get cut of provincial royalties
The Ontario NDP are promising to give First Nations all of the money the province makes from mining tax revenue.
Party leader Andrea Horwath says that would amount to about $41 million dollars a year.
She says the NDP has long thought that Indigenous peoples should benefit from the resources taken from their traditional lands.
"That's been a principle that we've held for many, many, many years. And we feel that should we form government, we should actually live up to that principle and begin to change the circumstances," Horwath says.
The loss of revenue has been accounted for in the party platform, Horwath says, and will be largely made up by raising taxes on wealthy individuals and corporations.
Patrick Madahbee, the Grand Chief of the Anishnabek Nation which represents 40 First Nations across the province, was pleased to hear of the NDP's platform pledge.
"This discussion is long overdue. It does support a long-standing position that we've had that the treaties indicated that we should be sharing in the bounty of this land," he says.
Madhabee says he's been negotiating revenue sharing with the provincial government for 10 years and is hoping that the discussion branches out from mining revenue to include forestry, as well as the provincial use of First Nations territory for highways and hydro corridors.
He acknowledged that with mining revenue specifically, the negotiations could include giving communities in treaty areas where actually mining takes place a larger piece of the pie.
Still, Madahbee says he's wary of promises that come during an election campaign.
"Obviously I mean we're used to that," he says. "There is a long history of good words from federal and provincial parties all the time and very little follow-up."
In the 2011 election, the Progressive Conservatives led by Tim Hudak pledged to give the tax revenue from any new mines to First Nations and municipalities in the north.
Mining towns such as Sudbury and Timmins have long argued they should get some of the money the province makes from taxing mines.
Former Greater Sudbury Mayor John Rodriguez repeatedly raised the issue and even struck an expert panel in 2007 to draft a policy document called "A Refined Argument."
The Liberal government at the time said resource revenues were put back into northern Ontario through the Northern Ontario Heritage Fund.
Horwath says she's aware of the argument put forward by mining towns, but feels it's more important to take reconciliation "seriously" and give Indigenous communities some financial independence.
"For far too long, First Nations communities come to the bottom of the list when it comes to anything," she says.