Lately, there have been some who are bemoaning that the Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development (now known as Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada) was spending $922 per registered Indian in 1950, and today, Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada (formerly known as the Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development) is spending $9,056 per status First Nations person.
They point to such documents as those published by the Fraser Institute to support their claim that Indigenous peoples are getting far more financial support from the government than they deserve.
Let’s compare 1950 with today so we can see if the claims of those who decry this spending have merit.
The information in this article comes from government files which means they are factual. They aren’t interpretations or anecdotal, romanticized memories from those who lived in 1950. They are not “Richie Cunningham of Happy Days” representations. They are facts.
In 1950, the average family income was $3,300; today, the average family income is $51,107.
In 1950, the average cost of a brand new car was $1,150; today, the average cost of a brand new car is $31,252.
In 1950, the median rent was $75 per month; today, the median rent is $1,025 per month.
In 1950, the median price for a brand new home was $7,354; today, the median price for a brand new home is $188,900.
The following is the only non-government fact, and it’s included because it can be verified as accurate and factual. A quick trip to your local McDonald’s franchise restaurant will confirm today’s prices.
Back in 1950, these were the prices McDonald’s customers paid for a meal combo when they visited McDonald’s. This combo originally cost $0.45 back in 1950!
With the help of a CPI Inflation Calculator, the facts indicated that same meal should cost $4.45 … with that meal including a “triple-thick and delicious shake” and not just a carbonated drink. Good luck getting that same meal combo with a shake at that price these days anywhere in the U.S. or Canada!
And now back to government researched facts.
In 1950, movie tickets were $0.65 each; today, movie tickets cost $9.00 each.
In 1950, it cost $0.03 to mail a letter in Canada to an address in Canada; today, it costs $0.85 to mail a letter in Canada to an address in Canada.
In 1950, gasoline cost $0.18 per gallon or about $0.05 per litre since gas was pumped by the gallon in 1950 in Canada and is now pumped by the litre; today, gasoline costs $1.24 per liter or the equivalent of $4.69 per gallon.
What’s my point in comparing the cost of living in 1950 and the cost of living today? After all, everyone’s aware that inflation has kicked the daylights out of everyone over the decades. But in light of all that, how does this apply to what was paid out by Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development in 1950 and what is paid out by Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada these days?
Using the CPI Inflation Calculator, $922 in 1950 is the equivalent of $9,115 in today’s economy. But the Harper government is only paying out $9,056!
Since $9,056 is being spent per First Nations person in today’s economy, that means the Harper government is paying out less — $59 per person less — than the [Louis Stephen St. Laurent] government paid out in 1950. Now that may not seem like very much to anyone, but in 2006, there were 623,780 status Indians according to Statistics Canada. Multiply 623,780 by $59, and that total comes to $36,803,020.
Nearly $37 MILLION dollars that the Harper government won’t be paying to status First Nations peoples this year!
The Harper government is cutting costs all right, and it seems to be at the expense of First Nations peoples. How appropriate and fair is that? And before anyone starts complaining that it’s a nearly $37 MILLION dollar saving for Canadian taxpayers, that money that’s not being paid out is money that already belongs to First Nations peoples thanks to the First Nations Trust Fund where First Nations monies are kept.
So for those who are complaining about how much is being spent on status First Nations peoples, perhaps a lesson in economics as well as in mathematics is in order so they can better understand how status First Nations peoples are getting less of their own money — as decided by the government — than they did back in 1950.