Following up on the recent — and anonymously sourced — report that the Harper Government™ intends to legislate to establish individual property rights on First Nations reserves, both the Globe and Mail editorial board and John Ibbitson weigh in today. Ibbitson's column, in particular, provides a pretty succinct summary of the real motive behind this push. When you look past the paternalistic argument that the only way First Nations communities can possibly thrive is to be more like us, this is what's left:
...businesses that want to unlock the economic potential of reserves, from real estate development to forestry and mining, need the legal certainty that a property regime makes possible.
In this context, "unlock the economic potential" looks very much like a euphemism for "streamline the regulatory and tax regime to make it as easy as possible for us to suck all the wealth out." We've been unlocking our own economic potential since around the time Reagan was elected president south of the border. We've unlocked so much economic potential that we now live in the Age of Austerity because all the money is stashed in offshore accounts. If the First Nations have any sense, they'll tell us to get stuffed.
And note that Tom Flanagan makes an appearance in Ibbitson's column. About that...
Flanagan will no doubt be a presence in a lot of these articles because he's written extensively on the subject. And admittedly he has. But that doesn't mean he's written well on the subject. It certainly doesn't mean that he's some kind of objective expert or that his work represents anything but a very narrow agenda. Since that agenda is shared by the Harper Government™ and its supporters, I expect Flanagan to be an "expert" they invoke whenever possible.
That would be the same Tom Flanagan who has claimed that the free market would properly resolve human rights issues without intervention by governments and that human activity plays no part in climate change. Personally I think his record of being a reliable and objective expert is a bit spotty.
As for Ibbitson's closer:
But one is tempted to ask: Do the opponents oppose because they think things are going so well?
That implies that the only alternative to this proposal is to do nothing and that would be a classic false dichotomy. One is tempted to ask: isn't Ibbitson smart enough to know that's a fallacy?