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Op-Ed: The 2019 Federal Election & its Impact on the Indigenous Economy

by JP Gladu, President & CEO, Canadian Council for Aboriginal Business

Canadians were paying attention to the federal 2019 election issues, and scrutinizing party platforms. We all want our elected government to focus on issues that benefit the planet, the people and the economy.

With Indigenous peoples being the youngest, fastest growing demographic in Canada it stands to reason that Indigenous issues should be at the forefront.

An important issue that was addressed in the Liberal platform was their commitment to target at least 5% of all federal contracts to Aboriginal business. CCAB has been the driving force behind the federal government’s challenge to hit an Indigenous procurement target of 5% by 2024. By raising the Federal percentage of procurement from Aboriginal businesses from the current less than 1% to an increased 5%, it helps to meet supplier diversity outcome targets and it would put over a billion dollars into the Indigenous economy.

To put it into perspective, each year the federal government spends roughly $60-$200 million procuring goods and services from Aboriginal firms. In the private sector, there are individual companies like Imperial Oil, Syncrude, and Suncor doing more than $1.8 billion of business with Indigenous firms annually. Suncor Energy for example spent approximately $703 million in goods and services with Aboriginal suppliers in 2018. Its total Aboriginal spend since 1999 has been about $5 billion.

So, a commitment to a 5% target is a start, one that we’d like to see all parties endorse. CCAB also knows, from our research and from our work on government procurement, that Aboriginal businesses could supply more than 24% of the Federal supply chain.

Our new minority government and elected MPs from all parties should focus on the potential that Aboriginal business can provide to the Canadian economy.

The Liberal platform also emphasizes continued efforts, through legal assistance and support, particularly SMEs (Small and Medium Enterprises) to increase Canadian export by 50% by 2025. CCAB’s research report, Indigenous-Owned Exporting SME’s in Canada, finds that exporting Indigenous SMEs have twice the propensity at 24% to export than non-Indigenous SMEs. With 12% exporting to international markets the ability for these Indigenous businesses to expand into the global market is a huge indicator of their success.

CCAB is leading the research that provides us with insight into the state of Canada’s emerging Indigenous economy. Indigenous peoples are creating businesses at 9 times the rate of the average non-Indigenous Canadian. With over 50,000 Indigenous businesses in Canada, operating in every sector, size and region, this also means that the purchasing power of Indigenous people increases exorbitantly as employment and entrepreneurship continue to rise.

We know that Indigenous-led business and communities contribute $31 billion annually to Canada’s GDP and it has been estimated that it will increase to $100 billion by 2024.

The message is clear. Government and elected officials that promote strong business relationships with Indigenous communities are promoting a stronger Canadian economy.

Without holding the majority of seats, the Liberal government will need the support of other MPs in order to pass legislation. Five of the 10 Indigenous candidates elected to the House of Commons were Liberal incumbents and 4 newly elected (2 NDP, 1 Liberal, 1 Conservative). As well, former attorney general Jody Wilson-Raybould ran as an Independent and kept her seat in the Vancouver-Granville riding. Jody, CCAB’s inaugural laureate for the Indigenous Women In Leadership (IWIL) award, will be the only Independent in the House. Strong voices matter and we look forward to Jody’s contribution, and that of all newly elected MPs, in ensuring that economic reconciliation is the priority and that the right path is to raise the federal percentage of procurement from Aboriginal businesses to at least a 5% target.

A stronger Indigenous economy is a stronger economy for all Canadians.

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