APTN National News
OTTAWA — Pressure mounted on a wavering Conservative government Wednesday to reverse course and fund First Nations University of Canada after the Saskatchewan government struck a deal that will see provincial dollars return to the beleaguered institution.
The federal government has repeatedly said it would not provide more funding to the university. But a softer tone emerged from Prime Minister Stephen Harper and Indian Affairs Minister Chuck Strahl following news of a deal with the province.
The Saskatchewan government, the Federation of Saskatchewan Indian Nations, the University of Regina and First Nations University signed an agreement Tuesday setting conditions for the flow of provincial dollars. FNUC is expected to get about $5 million.
The university has been beset by scandal and accusations of financial mismanagement.
Yesterday’s agreement with the province put the focus back on Ottawa which had been aligning with Saskatchewan’s decision to pull the university’s funding. Calls came Wednesday from across the House of Commons aisle and from the Assembly of First Nations for the government to change its mind.
Responding to Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff in question period today, the prime minister raised the possibility of federal dollars returning to the university’s coffers.
“There will not be a blank cheque. We are working on options and, whatever we do, we will ensure that any money given is used in a way that is fully in the public interest and used properly,” said Harper.
Strahl also left open the possibility in an interview with APTN National News.
“Unfortunately, the fruit they’re bearing right now is year in and year out promises about ‘this is the year that accountability takes place. This is the year than an overhaul on governance is going to happen and this is the year we’ll look back on as a watershed moment,” Strahl said. “Going forward, it’ll be interesting to see the plan. There’s a couple of options on the table now and we’ll be looking at these in detail to see what we can do.”