Poilievre said he has been listening to First Nations leaders who say they want less red tape and more control over their own resources and money
OTTAWA — Conservative Leader Pierre Poilievre is launching consultations on a proposal to let First Nations communities collect more directly the federal tax revenue generated by resource projects on their lands.
In an interview with the National Post, Poilievre said he has been listening to First Nations leaders who say they want less red tape and more control over their own resources and money, and he said his party will be consulting across the country on a plan to help them do exactly that.
“This is a grassroots First Nations solution to a made-in-Ottawa problem,” he said.
In a speech in Vancouver Tuesday, Poilievre noted that the First Nations Tax Commission has worked for decades to get local revenues on reserve, having successfully secured the rights for First Nations to collect their own property taxes in the 1980s.
More recently, he said, the commission has been exploring ideas on how to “put First Nations back in control of their resource revenues” and that is why the Conservatives are launching consultations to come up with a proposal.
Poilievre insisted that it would be “completely optional,” meaning that First Nations could decide to keep their existing tax arrangements, and that the Conservative plan would be done with no additional cost for industry.
“Payments by resource companies to First Nations should be offset by the federal government ceding tax room,” he said in his speech. “The effect of this would be to redirect revenues from the federal government to First Nations governments that would make sure that the projects are actually economical, that they would actually happen.”
“If we impose double taxation, then projects will never happen and the benefits will be zero. So we need to come up with arrangements that make the projects attractive, so that they go ahead.”
He promised that the proposal would not affect any “treaty rights, inherent rights, self-government agreements, rights under Section 35 of the Constitution, legal claims or funding agreements to do with Indigenous Services Canada.”
Finally, he said none of this would affect provincial taxes or royalties, though, he added, “provinces could choose to match or build upon the First Nations resource charge and offer something similar to it.”
“In essence, we want resources for First Nations communities to defeat poverty and provide for the people, not to fatten the faraway bureaucracy and Ottawa.”
But he admitted there are many questions that will need to be worked out.
“And that’s why we’re consulting and listening to the people most affected and with the most knowledge, many of whom are here today,” he said, pointing to First Nations leaders in attendance.
The Conservative leader said the consultations with First Nations will happen in all provinces and territories.
He said he has asked a number of his shadow cabinet ministers to get in touch with First Nations directly to gather their input, but added that consultations would be directed by his office and he himself would be involved.
Together, they will consult to see which resource projects the policy should cover, such as oil and gas, critical minerals, forestry and fisheries, and whether it should include other commercial projects.
They will also work on ideas to “increase transparency and simplicity to the benefit of First Nations,” said Poilievre.
Asked by the National Post if he is considering any type of oversight, he said “these are the questions we’re consulting the First Nations on” but added that “we don’t want the government in Ottawa dictating to First Nations.”
While Poilievre does not have a “firm deadline” to unveil his party’s proposal — though he said it will be ready by the next election — he is pushing his team to work “as quickly as possible” and make sure “everyone is heard” before the launch.
“These problems have been dragging on for over a century. We want to gather this input very intensively and very easily, but we don’t want to drag on for years and years,” he said in the interview. “I want to show that we’re a party that will deliver results.”
Poilievre said he has seen “example after example” of First Nations communities “who know how to be better with their money and their governance than Ottawa” — such as the Squamish Nation’s real estate development in Vancouver or Indigenous tourism in the Okanagan Valley.
“They’re frankly much more competent and capable than the federal government in any of these areas, so we just need to get the federal government out of the way.”