APTN National News
A comparison of the platforms from the three main federal parties vying to form government after Oct. 19 shows the NDP is offering the richest promise on core, K to 12 First Nation education.
Key to commitments from the Conservatives, Liberals and NDP on First Nation education is the $1.9 billion the Stephen Harper government set aside in its 2014 budget.
That money was contingent on passage of the First Nation Control of First Nation Education Act, which died on the Order Paper after it was rejected by the majority of Assembly of First Nations chiefs.
According to numbers provided by Aboriginal Affairs, about $1.2 billion of that money is still set aside in the fiscal framework for First Nation education. The federal Finance department also confirmed the money exists.
“The remaining funds are still available, but as we said all along, investment will follow reform, not replace reform, so we are working with willing First Nation partners to help provide First Nations children with quality education,” said Amanda Gordon, a spokesperson in Aboriginal Affairs Minister Bernard Valcourt’s office.
The Conservatives have used $700 million of that money for their existing First Nation education commitments, said Gordon. The 2015 budget committed $200 million over five years for First Nation education and $500 million has been slated for education-related infrastructure on reserves over seven years.
NDP leader Thomas Mulcair on Wednesday announced his party, if elected to govern, would invest $1.8 billion in new money for core First Nation education over four years. Mulcair told reporters later that total would be added to whatever money the Conservatives have left in the fiscal framework for on-reserve education.
This would bring the NDP total to $3 billion.
Liberal leader Justin Trudeau announced in August that his party, if elected, would invest $2.6 billion into core First Nation education, but that total assumed $1.7 billion remains in the fiscal framework from the Conservatives.
The Liberal party’s platform costing document has the party committing $900 million for First Nation education in new money over four years.
If only $1.2 billion remains in the fiscal framework, that would mean there is a $500 million gap in the Liberal’s total education promise for First Nations.
Both the NDP and the Liberals have committed to lifting the two per cent cap on transfers to First Nations.
For comparison purposes, the total NDP promise for core First Nation education tops up at about $3 billion if the fiscal framework dollars are included.
The Liberal core First Nation education promise, including the fiscal framework dollars, totals $2.6 billion. If only $1.2 billion remains in the fiscal framework, then the Liberal total would drop to $2.1 billion.
The Conservative commitment on core education would total $1.4 billion if the party used every dollar set aside in the fiscal framework plus the $200 million already budgeted to flow this fiscal year.
Polls currently show the NDP now trailing the Liberals and the Conservatives as the election race hits the final stretch.