District of Port Hardy photo What the Port Hardy Multiplex may look like once the project is wrapped up.

Kervin’s Corner: If the district wants us to pitch in for the multiplex, then let us vote in local elections and have a seat at the table

“Until the bands have some input into RDMW or the district I’d say just forget about.”

The District of Port Hardy recently reached out to neighbouring First Nations’ bands to chip in for the multiplex project. The project, which has reached over $15 million in budgeted costs, was planned as early as 2016.

During the whole process since then, the district received a number of donations, one of which was from Marine Harvest for $250,000, but none from local First Nations. That’s for a reason. When local bands aren’t given much input into municipal affairs, say on the First Nations’ Committee, then there’s really no reason to bother pitching in for a multimillion-dollar project anyway.

However, I’d argue that perhaps local Indigenous governments might be more inclined to pay hefty amounts if they were given the right to vote in municipal elections.

I’ve heard time and again that First Nations should be allowed to vote in local elections. They’re just as much affected by the local government as Port Hardy residents. After all, First Nations bands pay into service agreements with the district and use many of those said services in town, too.

So naturally, why wouldn’t we get a say? If the district is asking us to help pay for a project that continually rises in cost, then we should have more of a say at the table.

Some residents might argue that everyone on the North Island is paying into the new pool. Tri-Port residents are pitching into the project through RDMW taxes. The RDMW has dedicated roughly $50,000 every year through grant in aid to the multiplex, but it’s noted that First Nations aren’t obligated to pay taxes to RDMW or any local government for that matter.

Andrew Hory, then chair of RDMW, had stated previously in an interview with The Gazette that it was his hope that “Port Hardy will also achieve Municipal Type Service Agreements with the local First Nations so that all levels of North Island government, and all surrounding communities, contribute to the cost of such an important asset.”

It’d be interesting for sure if First Nations had service agreements with the district and regional government, but in reality, if bands are paying for agreements, then why shouldn’t we also have a seat at the RDMW? I think it’s pretty unfair to pay into a project or any service agreement without having a designated spot on the RDMW board.

I’d also argue that it’s not about bands contributing their fair portion of the cost, but it’s about tapping into those federal funds that bands use to barely scrape by as a community and use it elsewhere. So until the bands have some serious input into the RDMW or The District of Port Hardy, I’d say let’s just forget about First Nations governments paying anything to any other local government.

The First Nations’ bands haven’t donated any money and probably won’t in the future. But like any service, First Nations will pay for it whenever they go to the newly built pool, but as for pitching in large sums, forget about it.

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