Thank you for that question because it's always concerned me.
Having been a bureaucrat, I know that all of the funding is basically done on an annual contribution agreement. When they went to what you would call block funding, or AFA, to five years, it was always at a very restricted amount. It had little to do with building capacity or training first nations. That was excluded within those kinds of funding formulas for first nations. Then, on a proposal-driven basis, you could apply for funds for capacity development. They call it PIDP, the professional and institutional development program.
Those programs only operate on an annual basis. The sad reality is that many first nations were on remedial management plans, so the majority of those dollars did not go towards professional development of first nations. It was provided to contractors such as Deloitte Touche and financial institutions that would parachute into first nations and help them get out of remedial management. I use that as one example.
Therefore, there was no long-term vision in regard to these contributions arrangements. As you're well aware, when you do it on a proposal-driven basis, and it's only on an annual basis, there is no ability to look at a five-year or 10-year strategic plan, because it's not there. How do you say to somebody that you want to move in a certain direction?
I will say that in the last five to 10 years, government has come to the realization that comprehensive community planning is a critical instrument, so they invested in it. With comprehensive community planning, three or four first nations got global attention and won a number of awards, and they updated the planning every two years. The sad reality, however, is that consultants have taken this situation, and rather than build on it from the ground up, they're once again imposing it from the top down and saying they're “cutting and pasting”. That doesn't help anyone. That's the reality.
More importantly, to answer your question, government is still operating on an annual contribution basis in the majority of cases. They're going to say to you that they're offering a 10-year grant. But if you look at it very closely, the 10-year grant is really in regard to statutory requirements, where there's discretionary and non-discretionary funding. Non-discretionary is the 10-year grant, and all others are still proposal-driven.