TORONTO — An Ontario minister said during question period Thursday that First Nations could have clean drinking water if the previous Liberal government hadn’t racked up debt.
“They had 15 years to have taken action so you wouldn’t have to stand here today,” Associate Minister of Energy Bill Walker told NDP Indigenous affairs critic Sol Mamakwa.
“It’s sad that they actually built our debt; we spend $13 billion a year on interest payments. That money could have gone to programs, services and, yes, clean water.”
Reconciliation requires real resources and real effort. Sol Mamakwa
Mamakwa, who represents the northwestern riding of Kiiwetinoong and is a member of the Kingfisher First Nation, had directed his questions to Premier Doug Ford.
“Reconciliation requires real resources and real effort,” he said. “Will the Premier restore the base funding for Indigenous affairs that he has cut since forming government: yes or no?”
Ford referred the questions to Walker, who was acting on behalf of Minister of Indigenous Affairs Greg Rickford.
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Ontario cut $6.6 million from its base funding for Indigenous affairs in the 2019 budget. Another $2.2-million decrease appeared in the fall economic statement released Wednesday. But a spokesperson for Rickford said it is due to an accounting change in how the government classifies its real estate portfolio.
“There is no change to overall government spending due to this change,” Sydney Stonier told HuffPost Canada by email, “simply a reporting change that is fiscally neutral.”
Mamakwa said it’s “very discouraging” that Ford wouldn’t answer the questions himself.
He said he’s heard Progressive Conservative ministers list off Walker’s talking points before.
“Those were the same answers from yesterday that they read off a script,” he said. “They don’t mean anything.”
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