How Will HST Impact First Nations Communities?

Apparently a number of readers have tried to get a straight answer on this. The answer is pretty straightforward. At this point it makes no difference. So long as the First Nations member has a status card and either purchases goods on reserve or has the purchase delivered to the reserve, they remain tax exempt for HST.

If something is purchased off-reserve and delivered to the reserve, the purchase will be completely tax exempt with Proof of Indian Status. If something is purchased on-reserve, the purchase will be completely tax exempt with Proof of Indian Status.

What happened to the funding for high performance athletes?

Canada has never won an Olympic gold medal on our own soil. We all hope this sad statistic will change this year, and when it does, the credit will largely go to Own The Podium (OTP). Own The Podium was created in 2004 and is an unprecedented collaboration between Canada’s 13 winter national sport organizations (NSOs), the Canadian Olympic Committee (COC), the Canadian Paralympic Committee (CPC), the Calgary Olympic Development Association (CODA), Sport Canada and the Vancouver Organizing Committee for the 2010 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games (VANOC).

In the past, funding and leadership in the Canadian high performance sport sector has been fractured and fragmented. OTP has brought clarity, vision and accountability along with targeted and efficiently deployed financial resources to the high performance realm leading to unprecedented levels of success for Canadian athletes.

Support for our athletes is a shared responsibility. To date, OTP has enjoyed all-party support both inside and outside of Parliament. Currently, the ‘Winter’ component of Own The Podium invests approximately $29 million/year in our winter athletes, their coaches and trainers.

In the Summer of 2009, the federal Minister of State for Sport, Gary Lunn, struck a panel specifically to look at the future of high performance sport in Canada. The non-partisan panel was headed by David Zussman, Jarislowsky Chair in Public Sector Management at the University of Ottawa. The panel engaged sport leaders from across Canada through five roundtables and receiving more than 30 submissions representing the best thinking of over one hundred sports organizations and leaders from across Canada. In October 2009 the panel’s report, ‘2010 and Beyond: the future of high performance athletics in Canada’ was handed to Minister Gary Lunn. It is unclear why it was not made public immediately. It was on his desk and there it sat. Up until early February, neither the panel nor the people within Own the Podium had had any contact from the minister. In this case, no news was not good news. The sports community became increasingly frantic in the lead up to the Olympics. Without any assured funding for the next fiscal year, the five high performance sports centres in Canada were wondering how they could ever meet their staff costs. The Calgary Centre decided it had no choice by to lay off 39 staff. Among them were some who were working to achieve gold in Vancouver. The coach of our luge team was affected.

The worry began to spread to the pages of the media; in sports blogs and in the Toronto Star. Contacted by The Star on February 3, Minister Lunn laughed and provided a non- answer.

That same day, based on extensive consultations with people in the sports community, I issued a release calling for Gary Lunn to release the ‘2010 and Beyond’ report, announce the funding for Own the Podium, and reduce the anxiety for our athletes.

I was being interviewed on CBC national television ‘Power and Politics,’ when host Evan Solomon read me a statement from the minister, claiming he had already announced his funding. The CBC reporter who had been digging into this story, Tom Herrington, agreed with me that no one had been told anything by the minister—as recently as an hour before the broadcast.

Where Are We Now?

As of February 9, Minister Lunn has announced a grant of half the amount that Own the Podium says is needed. The report is still on his desk and not public, so its policy analysis and recommendations are not known. Many critical programmes will need continued funding as we head into the 2010 budget. The desire for gold medals does not rank with climate action or health care funding. But having created a strong programme, knowing these dedicated young athletes struggle against amazing odds and economic hardship, at least the Minister of State for Sport should be willing to release the report’s recommendations.

Elizabeth May has been a longtime contributor (host, writer, researcher, columnist) for TV Ontario, CJOH TV, CBC television’s ‘Newsworld’, and ‘Midday’; CBC-Ottawa’s ‘Radio Noon’; CTV television’s ‘Canada AM’; and CBC Radio programs such as ‘Morningside’, ‘The Current’, The Sunday Edition, and ‘As it Happens’. She is leader of the federal Green Party, an Officer of the Order of Canada and lives in Sidney, BC.