Monday, June 19, 2006

Indians Hit The Jackpot

Throw quarters down the slots for an hour and you'll know where your money went.

But if you're the guy who empties the slot machine, you won't:

Casino Rama has pumped $1-billion into dozens of Ontario native bands over the last decade, but tracing that cash is like chasing lightning.

Most taxpayers, including First Nations people themselves, don't get to see yearly audits accounting for how Rama cash is spent across the province.

They're kept under wraps by a small board of native directors who say they're accountable only to the government and chiefs.

Public spending watchdogs have demanded more scrutiny to ensure Rama cash meets its original purpose: to help 134 native bands out of sometimes bleak poverty and promote self-sufficiency.


Why the secrecy?

“First of all, it's not the taxpayers' money, it's First Nations' money,” says Steve Williams, spokesman for the Ontario First Nations Limited Partnership.

The oversight agency, created as part of a complex deal with the province, has a board of four directors appointed by major provincial native organizations and one independent. It distributes and tracks Rama payments to Ontario bands.

“Why would we account for money that belongs to us?” Mr. Williams asked.

“We don't tell GM (General Motors): ‘You made this much money. Tell me if you're getting value for your money.'”

A spokeswoman for the Ontario government says there are enough safeguards in a system that relies on a mediator — and ultimately the courts — to settle disputes.

Where do you think the money's going? Into the pockets of the band chiefs and their cronies, as usual.

If the books ever get opened on Casino Rama, there won't be enough space in Caledonia to hide the fugitives who've been skimming the proceeds.

And we'll all be told that requesting basic financial disclosure is a racist act.

Would that we could be as irresponsible with our money, with equally little consequence to ourselves.

Source: Globe and Mail


Robert McClelland said...

And we'll all be told that requesting basic financial disclosure is a racist act.

Actually you'll be told that it's none of your damned business. Casino money is not taxpayer money so Aboriginal communities only need to be accountable to Aboriginals, not the Canadian taxpayer.

deaner said...

"Casino money is not taxpayer money so Aboriginal communities only need to be accountable to Aboriginals..."

Well, it sounds like their not even dong that, are they? That also presupposes, Robbie, that Natives have an inherent right to build and operate casinos, as well as to have them served by road infrastructure, municipal water and sanitary service, and electrical connections. I don't believe this to be the case: while the argument can (and no doubt will) be made that non-Aboriginal taxpayers cannot prevent the construction of an Aboriginal casino, there is no question that these taxpayers are under no obligation to make it accesible, or to prevent competing entertainment. As a practical matter, operation of a facility by a selected group that is otherwise illegal is a matter of give and take between the various levels of goernment and the parties who wish to run the enterprise.

In addition, governments are (for example) forgoing the revenue that could come from an off-reserve gaming operation in order to provide funding for activities that will support aboriginal people. Those governments have a reasonable expectation that this funding will indeed benefit those aboriginals, in part meeting the obligations that governments otherwise have to them; this forgone revenue is every bit as much a government contribution to Aboriginal well-being as a direct cash payment, and like all governments, they have an obligation to their own taxpayers and to the (supposed) beneficiaries to ensure theat the funds are used effectively and in the manner intended. Under such circumstances, I don't see it as unreasonable for those governments to deamnd accountability from those running the casino.