The Member of Parliament for the Northwest Territories has no problem with the non-Indigenous Seamus O’Regan being named Indigenous Services minister, but Michael McLeod says it was the wrong time for a cabinet shuffle.
McLeod made the comment Tuesday following a federal funding announcement at the Det’on Cho Corporation office in N’dilo.
“I would have preferred to see no shuffle. It’s not good to have a shuffle in the final year as we move towards an election,” McLeod said. “It’s not good to have a shuffle when you’re really working hard. Budgets are being wrapped up now, they’re being signed off. Projects that you want to see move forward are on the discussion table. A shuffle creates some uncertainty that I don’t like. It makes me a little bit nervous.”
McLeod says he does not know the new minister very well but he’s hopeful that O’Regan, whose riding is in St. John”s Newfoundland, will take the time to do his homework and learn about the challenges faced by Indigenous people in the North.
“They are different challenges than the south. We don’t have many things that the south wrestles with but we have other things that we are challenged with.” McLeod said. “It’s important that (O’Regan) understands that. It’s important that he comes up here to get a good feel for what’s happening.”
McLeod says Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s decision to move O’Regan into the Indigenous Services portfolio was made without consultation with the Liberal’s Indigenous caucus, although he did not seem particularly bothered by that.
He added that he believes his fellow Indigenous caucus member Jody Wilson-Raybould will do well in her new role as Veteran’s Affairs Minister.
Some observers felt she had been demoted from her old cabinet position as justice minister.
McLeod doesn’t see it that way.
“I watched cabinet positions change hands many times as a cabinet minister with the Government of the Northwest Territories. Many people feel that they’ve been done wrong when it happens. Some people are reluctant to change,” McLeod said. “I think that it broadens their capabilities. They get really entrenched in one department and then you force them to go to a different department and they become a better minister in the long run.”
McLeod hosted the funding announcement which sees the Feds kick in $300 thousand this year – a million dollars over three years – for five new employees at the Det’on Cho Corporation.
The corporation is the business side of the Yellowknives Dene First Nation (YKDFN).
The corporation has also chipped in with more than 3/4 of a million dollars on its own for the project.
The new positions are described by officials as strategic and progressive and will help local Dene enhance their prosperity in the North.
Det’on Cho Chair Bobby Drygeese says the funding brings a much needed boost to Dene people in Yellowknife, N’dilo and Dettah.
There’s lots of struggles for First Nations people in the North and elsewhere. We are trying to make sure we help as many people as we can,” said Drygeese. ““This program is specifically targeted at building a generation of business leaders that will help our community prosper for years to come.”
N’dilo Chief Ernest Betsina and Dettah Chief Edward Sangris were also among those taking in Tuesday’s announcement which was made by Quebec MP Marc Miller, Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Crown-Indigenous Relations.