Three years ago, MP Maxime Bernier said the past five decades of nationalist demands by successive Quebec governments had not brought any concrete results.
As he explained: "(T)he rest of Canada has nothing to do with the fact that we are poorer … We are poorer because of bad economic policies that made Quebec's economy less productive … because the first reflex of much of our political class is to constantly beg for more money in Ottawa instead of taking the necessary decisions that would solve our problems and put our house in order."
Bernier was predictably accused of being a "sell-out" by the usual nationalist mouthpieces, but many Quebecers instinctively agreed with this.
I was reminded of that speech during all the tumult surrounding the Idle No More movement.
Current laws give Natives fewer rights – property rights for example – than other Canadians, and treats them in a paternalistic way that denies their status as fully responsible individuals. This certainly needs to change.
But among the many grievances we hear is that of deplorable conditions on reserves because of a lack of public money. Just transfer more cash and things will get better.
Well, huge amounts of cash keep flowing to reserves and it never seems to be enough. In some cases, it even appears is if the situation is getting worse even though spending is going up.
According to the Fraser Institute's Mark Milke, Ottawa spends almost $12-billion annually on aboriginal matters. And you have to add to this amount the money spent by provinces. For instance, Quebec alone spent $1.6 billion in 2010 for only about 100,000 aboriginals.
The deleterious effects of welfare spending have been well documented for many years. It distorts incentives and creates a cycle of dependency that becomes very difficult to escape. Perhaps this is where the problem lies.
Those aboriginal reserves that have flourished and become really autonomous are the ones that have focused on economic development, rather than on increased government transfers. There are many such success stories across Canada, but we rarely hear about them. The members of those bands typically don't block bridges or highways.
Theresa Spence's diet was a sideshow, but I don't mean this to imply that she was not sincere. I simply mean that the real action is every time a native entrepreneur creates a business and jobs in his community.
Michel Kelly-Gagnon is President and CEO of the Montreal Economic Institute. The views reflected in this column are his own.
* This column appears in Sun Media newspapers, published both in several of Canada's key urban markets (Toronto, Ottawa, Calgary, Edmonton, Winnipeg and London) and in its 28 community dailies.