Spring is here and with it comes a new session of the Legislature and the opportunity for the Huu-ay-aht government to pass new laws and make amendments to existing ones. The motions passed at the People’s Assembly 2012 have been drafted into Huu-ay-aht law, and Huu-ay-aht citizens were consulted as the new Economic Development Act and the Budget Act 2013 were drafted.
On March 18, 2013 Executive Council opened the new session of the Legislative Assembly with prayer and song. The Budget Act 2013, the Economic Development Act and the Miscellaneous Statutes Amendment Act were all presented and given first reading. Discussion was light and Executive Council proceeded into the Executive Council meeting after a short lunch break.
The Budget Act 2013 defines HFN’s spending authority in the coming year. The Economic Development Act defines HFN’s role as ‘patron’ of the economic growth of the Huu-ay-aht people while also removing them from the day-to-day operations of the Huu-ay-aht Development Corporation (HDC) and its subsidiaries. The Miscellaneous Statutes Amendment Act covers a few minor amendments related to quorum, penalties for harassment and the authority to issue fines on Treaty Settlement Land; the motions from the People’s Assembly are primarily found within this Act.
This government, the first self-governing Huu-ay-aht government in modern times, has been tasked with laying out the guidelines for how government is to proceed in these early years of treaty implementation. For example, the Economic Development Act is a concise strategy and set of rules on how the HFN government and HDC are to interact and communicate with each other. HFN is already involved in business expansion through investment in HDC; this relationship needed to be defined. This government is setting the rules for itself to enter into profitable business ventures while keeping political interference out of decision making. HFN will not oversee day-to-day operations, but does have final say over anything affecting Huu-ay-aht lands or its citizens. Economic Development is key to future good governance.
Treaty implementation brought HFN a large one-time cash settlement. However, this government’s goal is to build a sustainable funding formula for Huu-ay-aht for the future by reducing government spending to manageable levels, pay off treaty debts and debts incurred by the government leading up to treaty, and to generate additional sources of revenue.
A three-year spending plan was put in place at treaty implementation date in 2011 so that the government would manage its debt and repay the treaty implementation loans. The spending plan allowed for a deficit each year with the goal of a balanced budget in Year 4. We are currently beginning Year 3 of this spending plan (the fiscal year runs April 1 to March 31). By Year 4, this government must pass a balanced budget to work from as we expand our services with increased revenues from HDC’s businesses.
- Year 1 (2011-12): maximum allowable deficit of $1 000 000
- Year 2 (2012-13): maximum allowable deficit of $600 000
- Year 3 (2013-14): maximum allowable deficit of $300 000
However, the Budget Act 2013 highlights this government’s determination not to run at a deficit of $300 000 this year, and to pass a balanced budget for the first time since treaty implementation—a full year ahead of schedule. This allows this government to settle our treaty debts. It has been a challenging year financially to lay this groundwork and we are preparing for another similar year of restraint. The decision has been to provide a stable government and work towards stable funding of that government. When we are able to sustain the work being done without going into any further debt we can plan for providing additional services to citizens.
At second reading of the Budget Act 2013 on March 28 it was noted that the road upgrades in Anacla that were budgeted for in this fiscal year had not taken place in the time allowed. The Budget Act was amended to move those unspent funds from 2012-13 to the new fiscal year. Since roads count as capital spending and all capital spending must be laid out in the Budget Act, it was necessary to amend the budget before that money could be spent in the new fiscal year. An amendment to the acts and regulations was suggested for next year in order to allow for carry over of a small amount of capital spending in each budget year for unfinished or delayed projects. Technical moments like this underline the immense amount of work and detail that goes into crafting a system of laws for a new self-governing nation.
After the lunch break, Speaker Johnson Ginger and Executive Council passed and signed the new Acts into effect.
Thank you to citizens Brian Nookemus, Ed Johnson Sr. and Zelta Clappis for attending these sessions and being patient with the process and work that goes into these proceedings.