A new study released Wednesday shows the Indigenous economy in Atlantic Canada contributes approximately the same amount of money as other major projects in the region such as the Irving Shipbuilding.
According to the study released by the Atlantic Policy Congress of First Nation Chiefs, Indigenous communities, businesses and organizations contribute approximately $1.14-billion annually to the overall Atlantic economy.
“In this study, it was telling a story to change the fundamental narrative about our communities,” John G. Paul, executive director of the Atlantic Policy Congress said during a news conference on the Dalhousie University campus Wednesday.
“We’re not a sinkhole of money. We’re not all on the negative scale,” Paul added.
The study, which was conducted by Group ATN Consulting for the Atlantic Policy Congress, shows that spending by Indigenous people, First Nations, communities, organizations and businesses creates more than 16,000 jobs, contributes $184.5-million in total tax revenue and generates $710.9-million in household income in the region.
“Comparatively speaking, the annual spending by the Atlantic Indigenous Economy is on par with the annualized spending of virtually any major project being discussed in Atlantic Canada in recent years,” the study states.
Those other projects in comparison include Irving Shipbuilding, the Labrador-Island Link, the Maritime Link and Shell’s off-shore exploration drilling.
“The major projects have a beginning and an end,” Tom McGuire, an economist and vice-president of Group ATN Consulting, said during the news conference.
“The kind of spending we’re talking about with the Indigenous economy is going to occur every year,” he explained.
94 per cent of money spent by Indigenous communities stays in region
The study included 13 Mi’kmaq and Maliseet communities in New Brunswick, Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island. Other groups targeted for the study included Indigenous businesses and organizations and band staff within the selected communities.
The study concluded that “Atlantic Indigenous communities are supporting local businesses in largely rural areas in Atlantic Canada.”
As First Nations spend money, neighbouring communities surrounding those First Nations financially benefit from that, the study suggests.
It also states that 94 per cent of money spent by the Atlantic Indigenous communities remains in the Atlantic Canada.
“It’s very important point to make that there’s a huge retention of the amount of money that’s spent,” McGuire said.
The study pointed out that the Indigenous population in the region is younger and growing compared to overall population.
“Their participation in the economy is accelerated,” McGuire explained. “A lot of the businesses that we see in the study that we’ve done have been fore, from the majority, almost 80 per cent have been formed since 2000.”
Minister of Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada Carolyn Bennett said she considered the money her department contributed to the study as an investment.
“It gives us the clear evidence, data and research. We need to capitalize on that knowledge to inform policy,” Bennett said.
“And this is the kind of evidence we need to inform and shape the policy as we go forward,” she said.
Paul said First Nation communities now want to use to study to encourage more engagement and business between them and all levels of government and the private sector.
“We want to be a part of the solution and move from the problem side of the equation to the solution side of the equation.”