With the Huu-ay-aht First Nations having successfully negotiated the Maa-nulth Final Agreement and in the midst of successfully implementing that treaty, one of the most important factors that will determine our overall success as a Nation will be how we manage our economic policies. Gone are the days where it was expected that we merely get our people from pay-cheque to pay-cheque. Our People need to make a living. They need careers that they can plan their lives around. In this past term of office, I have worked with my colleagues in government, the administration and our advisors to forge a new way to take advantage of the new opportunities afforded to us through the treaty.
For a government, the trick of successfully managing economic policy is to balance helping our people to be successful with staying out of their way when they have things figured out for themselves. Everyone knows the parable of teaching the hungry man to fish, but as I've said before, saying it and doing it are very different things. Our government has to do two things: (1) it has to ensure that there are economic opportunities for our People and our Nation as a whole and (2) it has to ensure that there are proven methods for our People and our Nation to benefit from those economic opportunities.
It's All About Creating Opportunity
The key to independence is being able to do things for oneself. This is a truth that all youth find out for themselves and it's something that applies to groups like the Huu-ay-aht First Nations, too. When you're able to make decisions for yourself and act upon them, then you're truly free to do what you want with your life. Having been granted self-government and enough authority over our resources to do something about it, it is the job of government to ensure that our People and our Nation have the opportunity to make real improvement in our standards of living.
Some time ago, the Huu-ay-aht government embarked upon a program of creating businesses for income and jobs. With businesses such as the forestry company, we accessed the value in our traditional lands without yet having control over them. Now, we have control over a substantial portion of our traditional territory; enough that we can now unlock the value in our lands and resources in such a way to help make the lives of our people better. This is the key to our economic salvation, this is the way by which we make our lives better, we must ensure that we have the full benefit of our lands and resources like it's enjoyed in the rest of this country.
For the government, it's a balancing act. We have to seek harmony between creating job and career opportunities for our people with protecting our resources from total depletion. In addition to that, we have manage our businesses in such a way that we can access profit. So, our government needs to make decisions that give everyone the potential to access the value in our land and from our resources.
This cannot be, and has not been, restricted solely to our own businesses through the Huu-ay-aht Development Corporation, it has to be accessible by individuals willing to take the risk on their own ventures. We need to ensure that business interests from around Canada and the world at large can come in and strike up partnerships with the Nation, its companies and interests of individual Huu-ay-aht. We can no longer afford to hold the world at the borders of our territory, in order to succeed economically, the government needs to be open to opportunities put forward by anyone.
It's About Ensuring Equal Opportunity through Equal Access to Education
I have long held the belief that the vast majority of our people only need two things to succeed: (1) the chance to succeed and (2) the tools to do it. As a government, we can give them the chance to succeed by creating laws and making decisions that allow for people to work for themselves. As a government, we can give them the tools to succeed. Those tools should be familiar: comprehensive education for our children and youth, training opportunities for everyone and accurate and timely information for our people to make their own decisions in the market so they can work.
There are two types of work: jobs and careers. Jobs are often temporary and get you a life of pay-cheque to pay-cheque. It's not all bad, though, since this is where we all start out in our youth. It's a learning process, we need jobs to learn what it takes to have longer term employment. Careers are less temporary and they are something that people can plan their lives around. Creating careers should be the goal of our Nation and all of our People. Jobs make rent, careers make lives. But earning a career requires planning and perseverence in the face of inevitable setbacks.
If we imagine our working lives as some sort of race, then jobs are sprints and careers are cross-country marathons. We still need to help prepare our people for bi-weekly sprints, but we need to focus on equipping our people with the discipline and fortitude to run that marathon. As with most things, it all starts with knowledge. Success in primary school and secondary school should be the first priority of a government that concerns itself with the success of our future generations. We need our youth to graduate and then we need them to seek out the skills needed to move toward a career by seeking out more education or trades training.
By focusing on education and training, everyone will have the same chance at making their lives better. Individual lifepaths will be very different, but if we can prepare our people for the trials and challenges of the long road ahead then our community can only benefit from that.
Business-Friendly Policies Create Jobs, Careers and Improve Lives
In this era of independence, the Huu-ay-aht First Nations created the Huu-ay-aht Development Corporation (HDC), an arm's length company that oversees the business operations owned by the Nation. It was set up to ensure that the decisions it makes are strictly business-oriented. It was created to eliminate harmful practices like nepotism (favouring family and friends over other citizens) and keep purely political decisions from affecting the profitability of our businesses.
When our businesses are successful, they provide income to our Nation that can be used to fund health, education and other programs vital to preparing our People for success. Providing income is their first function, the job and career opportunities come as a part of any business activity on our lands. We need to attract businesses to our land in order to create jobs and career opportunities for our People.
We need to invest in our people so they have the same chances that everyone else has in this country. If we do our job right, we won't have to have job quotas for our People. They'll be qualified for jobs and able to earn career positions on their own merit. Of course, this will take time and we can enact policies to help give our people a leg up, and there should also be programs to help people who have fallen on hard times, but those programs must be oriented in such a way to get people back on their feet and able to help themselves.
Only when I'm able to do things for myself am I truly free. I may stumble, I may fall, and I may need help getting up from time to time. But in the end, I have to be the one to learn from my mistakes and keep going.
This is what was taught to me by my parents and my grandparents. The challenges we face now are ultimately no different than the challenges our ancestors faced decades, generations, centuries ago. Our people worked. They worked hard. We have inherited the fruits of their hard work. Now, we owe it to future generations to take what our ancestors left us and make our lives better.