As a nation grows so does the need for more and more infrastructure, tools, policies and procedures that will enable it to develop in a healthy way. There is no doubt that the Cree Nation, as a whole, has grown over the years. Where we once had people stand in front of the candidate for the local chief they wanted to elect, changes in the communities saw the arrival of polling stations and secret ballots. It was an important change as voting for a losing candidate could have consequences as the communities grew and jobs were scarce.
Then with the signing of the James Bay and Northern Quebec Agreement (JBNQA), regional entities entered the political arena. Though the Grand Council of the Crees was not a part of the Agreement, the Cree people as whole decided a political arm to represent all the communities was needed. The position of Grand Chief was tied to the position of Chairman of the Cree Regional Authority (part of the JBNQA) and politics got a lot more complex and interesting.
This brings us to something we have to seriously consider and that is subsidizing candidates. Campaigning in Eeyou Istchee is a costly affair no matter how you look at it. Candidates have to cover over 450,000 sq. km in order to reach all the Cree voters. The cost of travel, food and lodging alone can be more than most people can afford and this limits our choices. Many countries introduced public funding for politicians because of rising costs. Others have done so as a result of the ways politicians have had to raise money. Past examples included the wealthy and successful entrepreneurs supplying the funds to elect the candidate of their choice. These days campaign fundraising has expanded to include special interest groups and others, who would benefit financially from an election result.
Not to say Eeyou Istchee has political fundraising problems but a proactive action would be better than a reactive measure. Given the growth and political strength of the Cree Nation it would not be surprising to see non-Crees, such as businesses, consultants and lawyers, make political contributions in order to see an outcome that would create a beneficial atmosphere for them. In effect non-members of the Cree people of Eeyou Istchee would play a part in deciding who our leaders are. These days many countries ban anonymous donations or contributions from foreign sources. Is it not time that we follow in those footsteps as they would benefit our right to a democratic process without interference?
In looking at Cree public political financing we would have to have some degree of transparency with monitoring, control and enforcement of the rules for the funding of political competition with adequate legal stipulations. There should be a reasonable funding limit per candidate and tied to votes as to not make this open season on Cree public funds.
With the growth of the Cree Nation, people need to ensure that money and financial backers are not the most important factors in electing our leaders. It is the next step to ensure we have the right leaders for the Cree Nation.