Thursday, June 04, 2009

For Whom Might Fontaine Run?

Retiring Assembly of First Nations chief may run for Parliament

Phil Fontaine's retirement as the National Chief of the Assembly of First Nations may be the precursor to a run for Parliament, CTV reports.

Apparently, the Liberal party has asked Fontaine to consider running for them in the next election.

Yet interestingly enough, it may be within the Conservative party that Fontaine may find the most productive home. Certainly, his most productive achievements as National Chief of the AFN were negotiated with Stephen Harper's Conservative government.

In 2005, Fontaine and then-Indian Affairs Minister negotiated the Indian Residential Schools Settlement Agreement, a settlement worth $1.9 billion to victims of the Residential School system and their families.

In 2007, Fontaine and Prentice again collaborated on a land claims plan that would allocate $250 million per annum over ten years to settle many outstanding claims. The plan also introduced a new independent tribunal to rule on these cases.

Last but certainly not least, Fontaine was present when Prime Minister Harper finally delivered the long-overdue apology for the abuses in Canadian Residential Schools.

This isn't to say that Fontaine's relationship with the Conservative government has been nothing but smooth sailing. Fontaine has noted that the cancellation of the Kelowna Accord was greatly disappointing to him.

Conservative MP Pierre Poilievre also sparked a brush fire between the two with some ill-timed remarks last year -- although the outrage surrounding his comments was largely manufactured, and really reflected the dominance of political paternalism toward Aboriginals in the face of the need to reevaluate Canadian policies toward Aboriginal Affairs.

Within the Conservative party Fontaine could forge a potent partnership with Senator Patrick Brazeau -- whose tenure as a Senator has, to date, been productive if not untroubled -- in order to find new ways to help the government help meet the needs of Canadian aboriginals, both on- and off-reserve.

Of course this is all just speculation. While it remains unknown whether the Conservative party has made any attempts to recruit Fontaine -- although they will if they are wise -- it also remains to be seen whether or not Fontaine will run for office at all.


  1. The story of Phil Fontaine running for the Liberals is an old one, that never seems to quite get its legs. Fact is, he won't run for mainstream politics for any party because he has too many skeletons. He knows it, even if the Liberals and NDP don't quite get it.

  2. I rather like and respect Fontaine. If he has any skeletons in his closet, I certainly don't know about them.

  3. Well, off to the Royal Bank it seems, with what promises to be another fabulous and undisclosed salary. May I say "I told you so" with regards to the speculation that he would run for the Liberals?

    The downside for Mr. Fontaine, of course, is that he - as an off-reserve status Indian - will now no longer have access to the personal tax exemption that he had negotiated for himself with the Liberals under Paul Martin.

    That deal, circa 2004 (?), protected only the status Indian leaders of the National Aboriginal Organizations who lived off reserve - and not the masses that they claimed to represent, who have paid income tax on their taxable off-reserve earnings all the while.


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