First Nations Financial Transparency Act

Recently I have received a number of inquiries on the First Nations Financial Transparency Act. In large, part the comments have been raised over the financial disclosure (as required under the law) that a BC First Nations Chief from the Kwikwetlem First Nation received over $914,000 in the 2013/2014 fiscal year. Further commentary occurred this week when it was reported that if elected to government, the leader of the Liberal Party would scrap the new First Nations Financial Transparency Act. The bill was opposed by the Liberals in the House of Commons. This leads to the question: what is the First Nations Financial Transparency Act?

A brief summary of this Act which recently came into force is that it requires First Nations to publicly disclose consolidated financial statements that include financial information on how much individual First Nations leaders are being paid, including expenses. In short the same type of information that is publicly available from other levels of government. Why the need to make this disclosure requirement a law? It should be pointed out that in some cases there are First Nations communities that have, for some time, voluntarily provided this information to band members. However in other cases this information was unavailable and in some situations band members were unsuccessful in having this information provided to them. Some have suggested that this may dissuade interested band members from inquiring further out of fear of repercussion. In these situations the only recourse for a band member was to appeal directly to the Minister of the Department of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development. Rather than have the Minister deal with such requests on an ad hoc basis a more fair and balanced approach is to create a standard that applies equally across the board to ensure information can be easily found by band members. Accountability is a basic principle of democratic governance and it is important for all elected officials to be held to account by the citizens who elect them. Increased information through disclosure can also help provide clarity and put to rest allegations and rumours that may be unhelpful and not factual.

My thoughts on this legislation? As most will know I support increased accountability; however it is also important to recognize that while one chief is paid $914,000, in our riding for example, the Chief of the Lower Nicola First Nation was paid just over $25,000 during the same period. It is also worth recognizing that some Chiefs also serve as the Band’s economic development officer; an added responsibility that may understandably increase annual compensation. I have recently been asked whether or not elected officials should be allowed to serve as employees, particularly if they are the ones who are in charge of compensation as well as hiring? These are good governance questions for First Nation communities. We should note that bands themselves have also become far more complex operations than many citizens may realize. For example, the Penticton Indian Band in the 2012/2013 fiscal period received Federal funding in excess of $9 million to provide many critical services to band members. As these are significant amounts with many services involved, increased accountability through the First Nations Financial Transparency Act is, in my view helpful to provide more information for all involved.

Now that the First Nations Financial Transparency Act has come into force and some would prefer it was scrapped, I would also be interested in hearing your thoughts on this new legislation. As always I welcome all comments and questions on this or on other Federal matters and can be reached at [email protected] or toll-free at 1-800-665-8711.

More Dan in Ottawa articles

About the Author

Dan Albas has been a Penticton resident since 1981. After attending Okanagan University College, he chose to move into small business where his company Kick City Martial Arts has flourished, training hundreds of men, women and children to bring out their best. For his work on child safety and awareness, Dan was the recipient Penticton’s 2005 Young Entrepreneur of the Year award.

Dan and his wife, Tara, reside in West Kelowna, where they raise their four daughters.

He has served as campaign chair for the United Way of the South Okanagan-Similkameen in 2006-07 and 2010-11, both times surpassing their fundraising goals.

As a community leader, he was elected to Penticton City Council in the 2008 municipal elections, where, as a first time candidate, he won with 5,656 votes, topping the polls. Through his work as a city councillor, Dan has proven himself to be a strong constituency worker delivering results and standing up for what he believes in. Dan took a leading role on public safety by proposing aggressive panhandling and dog control bylaws; he proposed a review that greatly helped his community to balance the books and to focus on core services by eliminating wasteful or unnecessary spending. His Penticton Politics website blog has offered new ways for constituents to communicate on important issues.

On June 28 of 2012 Dan became one of the first MP’s in recent history to have a Private Members Bill (Bill 311) C-311 become law with the unanimous all party support of both the House of Commons and the Canadian Senate.  Bill C-311 “An Act to amend the importation of intoxicating liquors Act” amended a prohibition era law to prevented the free trade of wine over provincial boarders.

Dan is honoured to serve the residents of Central Okanagan-Similkameen-Nicola as their Member of Parliament. He has made good on his commitment to establish a personal blog with his http://www.danalbas.com/mp-report site, where he chronicles his activities as the Member of Parliament for Central Okanagan-Similkameen-Nicola.

Dan welcomes your input, so please contact him by e-mail, phone or mail. He can be reached at:

Central Okanagan-Similkameen-Nicola's MP office

2562-B Main Street
West Kelowna, B.C. V4T 2N5
Email: [email protected]
Phone toll free: 1.800.665.8711
Fax: 250.707.2153

The views expressed are strictly those of the author and not necessarily those of Castanet. Castanet does not warrant the contents.

Previous Stories