The Waskaganish band is over $6.3 million in the red, or $3,680 for each man,woman and child in the community. The debt exists because of high spending on“special projects.” Here’s where some of the money went:
• the gravel pit ($1.14 million in debt)
• inactive past projects ($1.16 million)
• police ($582,000)
• community wellness program ($644,000)
• aircraft ($281,000)
• tourism marketing ($584,000)
• the lagoon ($633,000)
• economic development-administration ($107,000)
• gate-alcohol control ($191,000)
The band’s finances are in such a bad
state it took $450,000 out of housing renovations and put it toward its debt: in particular, a huge cost overrun on the construction of two quadruplexes.
The band got the $450,000 from the federal government on the condition that it go to housing renovations. In this deal, signed in 1997, the nine Cree communities got $8.5 million in federal funds for housing. Waskaganish’s share was just over $1 million, of which the band now has only $613,000 left.
Of that, $175,000 is slated to go toward the creation of something known as the Waskaganish Housing Authority. Just what is this? Few people seem to know. Residents are asking themselves why the entity is being created when the band already has a housing department.
“Spending $175,000 is ridiculous, to say the least,” said one. “Where’s all the money going? It only needs to be incorporated.
That costs $500. Who are we paying?”
Another resident said, “We have to discuss the deficit of the band. I’d say it’s a very big problem.” Yet another went so far as to say the chief should resign because of the debt. “He’s the guy at the top, but he doesn’t want to accept responsibility.”
There is still some money left:
$438,000. This has been set aside for unspecified projects “in future years.”