Late last year Tony Clement wrote an article in the Globe and Mail, upon which I commented, here, and in that article he asked four questions:
- Can Conservatives have a distinctively conservative policy on poverty elimination?
- What is the Conservative vision regarding the relationship with indigenous peoples?
- How about an environmental policy that is consistent with Canadian values?
- Or Internet rights and responsibilities?
Now, Brian Lee Crowley, managing director of the Macdonald-Laurier Institute, has taken a stab at answering Question 2 in an article in the Ottawa Citizen which is headlined: How conservatives can talk to Aboriginals.
After noting that the Liberal–left looks mainly in one direction, only: towards the victim/restitution narrative, he suggests that Conservatives “might take an entirely different tack, noting that victimhood focuses on the past, which cannot be changed, and disempowers the victims, who must go cap in hand to the authorities for restitution. In its place can be put a narrative of opportunity and legitimate Aboriginal power that must now be accommodated in modern Canada.”
Dr Crowley then offers some observations about aboriginal entrepreneurship …
“First Nations, Métis and Inuit are now striking deals for development of those resources with hundreds of developers and realizing major opportunities as a result. They are an increasingly vocal and articulate voice in favour of the natural resource development the Tories see as key to Canada’s future, just as they hold the power to obstruct that development. Significantly, polling shows that when local Aboriginal groups support development, extreme environmental opposition has difficulty gaining traction.
Within a few years, several Aboriginal development corporations will be among the largest corporations in Canada, with billions in assets. The evidence shows when Aboriginals negotiate benefits with developers, those benefits stay in the local community, benefiting Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal alike.“
Then he concludes with a challenge …
“A pro-opportunity Conservative Party that embraced Aboriginal Canada as a respected, necessary and welcome partner in unlocking prosperity would find a growing audience in the Indigenous world. And it would have the foundation of that distinctive Tory narrative on social issues that Canadians are looking for.“
Now Dr Crowley recognizes, I am sure, that the aboriginal communities are deeply divided. Some are, as he says, “open for business,” but the so called “leaders” of other first nations are determined to suck the “victim” teat for as long as they can because it is effortless cash for them, the leaders, even if it does perpetuate poverty by denying opportunities for most of the people in those communities. Most communities are, of course, somewhere between the two poles. We, Conservatives, have to be judicious in how we engage, but, in general, I agree with Brian Lee Crowley: let us reach out to the responsible leaders of first nations and offer well targeted programmes that reward first nations for looking after themselves. Let us, equally, put pressure back on the crooked and irresponsible leaders and, by so doing, help the people of those first nations empower themselves and break the strangleholds that some “leaders” have on power over them.
I would like to go one step further and examine our “law and order” agenda and first nations: I don’t think anyone disagrees that first nations people, especially young men, are incarcerated in numbers that are way out of proportion to their share of the population. Most are in jail because they broke the law. We need to work with first nations leaders ~ the real, responsible leaders ~ to help them improve education and employment opportunities because those two, together, will break the cycles of poverty, despair and crime and then incarceration and back to despair, poverty and more crime. People with good jobs, jobs that allow them to support families, do not, by and large, do crime and they don’t end up in jail … it’s really deceptively simple. Just sending money doesn’t work; what works are good, useful, productive jobs, jobs to which people are proud to go every day, and with which they can raise families and build communities … and that, by golly, is a Conservative value.
So, well done to Dr Crowley, this puts some flesh on the sort of prescriptive points that Preston Manning offered earlier this year (also in the Globe and Mail) and they are the sorts of points with which Conservatives need to come to grips if we want to return to power in 2019.