M’Chigeeng Chief Joe Hare retiring from band council

M’CHIGEENG— It has been a 36-year run for M’Chigeeng First Nation Chief Joe Hare, but the veteran politician has decided not to run in the upcoming September 12 band council elections.

“You know when it is time to fade away and disappear,” said Chief Hare. “It is time for younger people to take over.”

That isn’t a universal sentiment found in politics of any era, many politicians seem to hang on until the electorate decides to usher them out the door. Chief Hare considered that for a moment before chuckling and saying with characteristic humour, “better to go out a winner.”

M'Chigeeng Chief Joe Hare. File photo.
M’Chigeeng Chief Joe Hare. File photo.

Chief Hare said that he decided to step aside for the new generation of leaders in which he said he has found much to admire. “They are so much more educated these days,” he said.

Chief Hare was first elected to office in the 1979-1980 election and he has held a number of elected positions in First Nations politics down through the years, but admitted that being chosen as the leader of his community has been the most humbling.

Asked about his favourite accomplishment in a career that has seen his community develop dramatically over almost 40 years Chief Hare is quick to demur. “It is not only me,” he said, pointing out that a band leader cannot accomplish much without the support and assistance of his council.

That being said, Chief Hare said the financial stability of the community is definitely the thing of which he is most proud.

Financially and economically, M’Chigeeng enjoys a stable fiscal grounding. “Because of that we have a credibility with financial institutions that ensures we can take on any project that is appropriate to our community,” he said.

Chief Hare said that of all of the investments that the band has made over the years the most profitable and sustainable has been their forays into the energy sector, a direction he hopes will continue after he has left office. “That has proven, in hindsight, to be a very good decision by band council years ago,” he said. Chief Hare pointed to the two wind turbines that rise above his community and the band’s partnership in putting up the 24 wind turbines that rise above McLean’s Mountain, but also a rooftop solar partnership that is building projects in southern Ontario that are proving successful.

“The apartment buildings in Sudbury, the new hotel, they are all marginal operations,” he said. “The successful ones have largely been in the energy sector. It is something for the future leadership to think about.” In any event, he said he believes that the ability to “think outside the box” has been a key element in his community’s economic success.

As to advice to the community’s future leaders, Chief Hare gives a hearty laugh. “I have given a lot of advice down through the years,” he said. “Some of it people followed up on, some of it was ignored. If they ask me, I am available.”

Chief Hare agreed that he was looking forward to the role of elder statesman for a change, but those who have followed his recent years would not be surprised, it is a role he has already been filling with the new generation of leaders for some time now already.