N.B. deal offers $22M for housing, roads projects in Neqotkuk First Nation
Agreement follows province's controversial decision to scrap tax revenue-sharing agreements with communities
The New Brunswick government says it's struck a "first of its kind" agreement to help fund housing and roads projects in Neqotkuk First Nation.
According to a news release, the government will spend $22 million over five years to help build houses and fix roads in the northwestern Wolastoqey community, also known as Tobique.
Neqotkuk will also spend $8.2 million, with some of that coming from federal funding.
"Neqotkuk is pleased to partner with the province to address the housing shortage and crumbling roads in our community," said Chief Ross Perley, in the news release.
"Our community is facing ongoing challenges with homelessness, overcrowding and poor road conditions. This partnership is a positive step in the right direction. We look forward to continuing to work together on our other priorities."
CBC News was unable to contact Perley for further comment on Monday.
End of tax revenue sharing
The agreement appears to be the latest development in the province's controversial decision to replace tax revenue-sharing agreements it had with Wolastoqey and Mi'kmaw First Nations.
In April 2021, the New Brunswick government announced it would not renew agreements with 13 Wolastoqey and Mi'kmaw communities that saw retail taxes for fuel, tobacco and alcohol shared between those communities and the province.
The agreements with Wolastoqey communities ended as of February, while those with Mi'kmaw communities will end as of 2024.
In place since 1994, the agreements helped generate hundreds of millions in revenue for First Nations communities, and the decision to not renew them was strongly criticized by some Wolastoqey leaders.
However, Premier Blaine Higgs defended the move by saying the former agreements were unfair, leading to some communities prospering more than others.
He said that they would be replaced with a new model that would see communities receive provincial funding for housing, health care, social assistance and education — subject to terms set out by the province.
Aboriginal Affairs Minister Arlene Dunn reiterated that sentiment in a letter to Wolastoqey chiefs last December, in which she highlighted that these communities generated a combined $326.5 million from 2003 to 2021, while Mi'kmaw communities received a combined $45 million from 2004 to 2021.
Dunn also hinted at a similar disparity among Wolastoqey communities, with figures provided showing Madawaska First Nation generated $124 million over 17 years while Neqotkuk generated just $1 million.
Dunn also noted in her letter that Neqotkuk was the only community that had provided information leading to the preparation of terms for new a development agreement.
CBC News was unable to contact Dunn for comment on Monday, but in the news release she said she wants all First Nations in New Brunswick to prosper in "a new, modern economic partnership."