Community Rounds Vancouver
The first community meeting of the year took place at the Aboriginal Mother Centre in Vancouver on Jan 31. Councillors John Jack, Tom Happynook and Jack Cook were there to answer questions. We had a small gathering of about fifteen people. Councillor Jack opened with a presentation on the Huu-ay-aht First Nation’s plans for economic development and the importance of having the proper structure in place to build up business and encourage citizens to start their own businesses. The micro-hydro project, the possible purchase of the Tides and Trails restaurant and store, expansion of the gas station and the addition of long-term vehicle parking at the trailhead were all brought up as projects that Huu-ay-aht Development Corporation (HDC) is currently invested in or considering.
Councillor Jack explained the restructuring of HDC as key to running it as a profitable business. HFN government is still free to decide what projects are appropriate for government to be investing in and must consult with its people on these decisions but the business is run at arm’s length from government. All the business decisions made by HDC are removed from government control or approval. Government works slowly because it must follow a necessary consultation and approval process. Private businesses must move quickly on investment opportunities to make profit. Investments like these allow the HFN government to create the revenue they need to operate without creating unfair competition with its’ own private citizens. This restructuring allows HDC to be the umbrella corporation for all of these projects like the gravel pit, the forestry business, the campground and the East Bamfield Dock. All these measures ensure that all liability is with them and that treaty funding for the Huu-ay-aht government is not reduced due to running for-profit businesses.
Councillor Jack presented the government’s role in this restructure as focusing on education funding and skills training for our citizens so that we can get people involved in building a local economy without directly running businesses and spending a lot of money on short-term plans. The focus for HFN is long-term people investment and catching up now that our hands are not tied economically by the Indian Act.
Councillors reaffirmed their commitment to not using the deficit ceiling this year. Some other concerns were raised about the People’s Assembly and missing the feeling of a ‘gathering’ of a large group of Huu-ay-aht when we used the video-conferencing. The plans presented in this new legislation were ultimately about getting the full potential out of the land we are now free to develop and use to our benefit and getting people interested and trained to build up a large economy without spending money that is not coming in.