Compare and contrast: Those Attawapiskat numbers vs. Toronto numbers

Please chip in to support more articles like this. Support for as little as $5 per month!

Should Toronto be put under third-party management? That community has been running a deficit for years, and the combined total of all government spending (federal, provincial and municipal) is $24,000 a year for each Torontonian.

Attawapiskat, on the other hand, which is only funded by one level of government -- federal -- received $17.6 million in this fiscal year, for all of the programs and infrastructure for its 1,550 residents. That works out to about $11,355 per capita in Attawapiskat.

People often forget, when talking about costs of delivering programs and services to First Nations, that almost all those costs are paid from one pot: Aboriginal Affairs. By contrast, non-Aboriginal Canadians receive services from at least three levels of government.

Here are the total expenditures per capita per level of government for Toronto residents:

• The 2010 federal budget expenditures were $280 billion or about $9,300 for each Canadian;

• The 2010 Ontario budget is $123 billion in expenditures or about $9,500 for each Ontario resident;

• The 2010 Toronto budget is $13 billion, or $5,200 for each Toronto resident;

• That's a grand total of $24,000 per Torontonian.

Some additional points to consider:

Indian Affairs (now Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada, or AANDC) has capped expenditure increases for First Nations at two per cent a year since 1996.


• The Aboriginal population has been growing at a rate closer to four per cent a year, so per capita support is falling behind;

• In that same period, the number of staff hired at AANDC has almost doubled, from 3,300 in 1995 to 5,150 in 2010. (Source: Indian Affairs);

• Those salaries plus consultants fees for people like third-party managers come from the program dollars that should go to First Nations;

• Consultants (including lawyers and accountants) receive 1,500 contracts per year from AANDC, worth about $125 million. (This does not include fees that First Nations pay directly using sources other than AANDC funding). (Source: Toronto Star);

• One of these sets of fees, taken away from other AANDC budgeting and provided instead to consultants, is the payment for third-party managers;

• Another recent and publicly disclosed example of third-party manager fees is those being paid for Barriere Lake. When the community took political action on some of its issues, Canada imposed third-party management. The accounting firm is paid $600,000 per year, according to Indian Affairs Records. (Source: Toronto Star);

• Almost every time a First Nation goes into third-party management, it comes out with as much debt as it had going in -- or more. This is a good indicator that the problem is not fiscal mismanagement, it's the insufficiency of resources to deliver the programs needed. (Source: what we hear and see from our own clients);

• Each First Nation has to file, on average, 160 reports per year to AANDC. The auditor general says the problem is not under-reporting, its over-reporting (because of the resources and administration needed to service AANDC's bureaucratic requirements). (Source: Federal Auditor General);

• Costs of living in northern Aboriginal communities are considerably higher than costs in the rest of Canada. A bag of apples in Pikangikum is $7.65 (versus the Canadian average of $2.95) and a loaf of bread in Sandy Lake costs $4.17 (versus the Canadian average of $2.43). (Source: Canadian Association of Foodbanks). In Attawapiskat, 6 apples and 4 small bottles of juice currently costs $23.50 (Source: CBC).

Lorraine Y. Land is a partner with Olthuis, Kleer, Townshend, L.L.P., in Toronto. This article was first published on their website.

Dear reader... Can you support by matching your mainstream media costs? Will you donate a month's charges for newspaper subscription, cable, satellite, mobile or Internet costs to our independent media site?

Thank you for reading this story…

More people are reading than ever and unlike many news organizations, we have never put up a paywall – at rabble we’ve always believed in making our reporting and analysis free to all, while striving to make it sustainable as well. Media isn’t free to produce. rabble’s total budget is likely less than what big corporate media spend on photocopying (we kid you not!) and we do not have any major foundation, sponsor or angel investor. Our main supporters are people and organizations -- like you. This is why we need your help. You are what keep us sustainable. has staked its existence on you. We live or die on community support -- your support! We get hundreds of thousands of visitors and we believe in them. We believe in you. We believe people will put in what they can for the greater good. We call that sustainable.

So what is the easy answer for us? Depend on a community of visitors who care passionately about media that amplifies the voices of people struggling for change and justice. It really is that simple. When the people who visit rabble care enough to contribute a bit then it works for everyone.

And so we’re asking you if you could make a donation, right now, to help us carry forward on our mission. Make a donation today.


We welcome your comments! embraces a pro-human rights, pro-feminist, anti-racist, queer-positive, anti-imperialist and pro-labour stance, and encourages discussions which develop progressive thought. Our full comment policy can be found here. Learn more about Disqus on and your privacy here. Please keep in mind:


  • Tell the truth and avoid rumours.
  • Add context and background.
  • Report typos and logical fallacies.
  • Be respectful.
  • Respect copyright - link to articles.
  • Stay focused. Bring in-depth commentary to our discussion forum, babble.


  • Use oppressive/offensive language.
  • Libel or defame.
  • Bully or troll.
  • Post spam.
  • Engage trolls. Flag suspect activity instead.