Bill C-20 (Historical)
First Nations Fiscal and Statistical Management Act
An Act to provide for real property taxation powers of first nations, to create a First Nations Tax Commission, First Nations Financial Management Board, First Nations Finance Authority and First Nations Statistical Institute and to make consequential amendments to other Acts
This bill was last introduced in the 38th Parliament, 1st Session, which ended in November 2005.
Andy Scott Liberal
This bill has received Royal Assent and is now law.
This is from the published bill. The Library of Parliament often publishes better independent summaries.
This enactment strengthens first nations’ real property tax regimes and creates a first nation bond financing regime, and creates four institutions to support those regimes, to promote first nations’ economic development and to strengthen first nations’ statistical capacity.
First Nations Commercial and Industrial Development Act
November 18th, 2005 / 10:30 a.m.
Jim Prentice Calgary North Centre, AB
Mr. Speaker, I acknowledge the fine work my colleague has done in advancing the cause of first nations, not only the first nations in his riding but elsewhere.
I was a little saddened to hear that comment. This legislation is being dealt with in a non-partisan way, as my learned friend points out. I wish to point out for the record that this Parliament has perhaps been unique because an enormous amount of legislation has arrived at Parliament from the doorsteps of first nations, not legislation developed by the Government of Canada but legislation developed by first nations.
I speak of Bill C-54, the oil and gas legislation that was brought to the House, developed by the first nations themselves; Bill C-71, which we are speaking to today, again developed by first nations; and Bill C-20, the fiscal and management package legislation, also developed by first nations.
All the legislation has been brought to the House and it has been moved through the House expeditiously, with a minimum of partisanship. There has been no partisanship from any of the opposition parties on any of the legislation. That needs to be pointed out because there is an attempt being made right now to suggest that somehow Parliament has blocked the advancement of aboriginal Canadians or that Parliament has not been in favour of the legislation that has been brought forward to improve their economic and social conditions.
Parliament can be very proud of the work it has done. The Indian affairs committee can be very proud of the work it has been done over the course of the last 18 months. There is, at this point, not a single piece of aboriginal legislation backlogged in the House. The opposition parties have not blocked any legislation that the Government of Canada has brought forward on aboriginal Canadians. Therefore, to somehow suggest that the opposition parties are being partisan is unfair in the extreme.
This legislation was brought to the House by the government today. The opposition parties are indicating their willingness to have it moved expeditiously through the House of Commons before any election takes place. At the end of the day, Canadians will be the judge of who is responsible for many of the difficulties and grievances that we see in aboriginal communities. It has not been the opposition parties.
I congratulate the proponents of this legislation, who are in Ottawa today, and they have our support.
First Nations Oil and Gas and Moneys Management Act
October 6th, 2005 / 3:20 p.m.
Jim Prentice Calgary North Centre, AB
Mr. Speaker, I rise today with pleasure to speak to Bill C-54, the first nations oil and gas and moneys management act. This is a piece of legislation that my party is pleased and proud to support.
In a sense this legislation follows upon Bill C-20, the first nations fiscal and statistical institutions legislation that was passed earlier this year. This legislation, taken together with the earlier legislation and, I believe, legislation that will follow, represents very important steps in this country toward self-government. I will address my comments to that.
This legislation is important for all first nations in Canada, but it is of specific importance to and follows upon the very hard work of three first nations in particular: the Blood Tribe of Alberta, the White Bear First Nation of Saskatchewan, and the Siksika Blackfoot First Nation of Alberta. These three first nations have worked together with the Government of Canada for 11 years in the pursuit of this legislation.
It is worth pausing to bear in mind that in the case of White Bear, Treaty No. 4 between the Crown and the White Bear First Nation was executed in 1875. This legislation is coming forward 130 years later. It has taken us 130 years to create this self-government initiative. With regard to the Blood and Siksika first nations, Treaty No. 7 was signed in 1877. In that context it has been 128 years since the treaties were executed. This is a very important historic step we are taking.
The Conservative Party is speaking in favour of this legislation. The position of the Conservative Party in respect of self-government was clearly enunciated by the members of our party at our policy convention this past March in Montreal. The policy position of the party is as follows:
The Indian Act (and related legislation) should be replaced by a modern legislative framework which provides for the devolution of full legal and democratic responsibility to [aboriginal Canadians] for their own affairs within the overall constitutional framework of our federal state.
Such legislative reform should be pursued following full consultation with First Nations, with the objective of achieving a full and complete devolution of democratic authority that is consistent with the devolution of other decision making responsibility within our federal system.
[Aboriginal Canadians], like other Canadians, are entitled to enjoy democratic control over their own affairs within a legislative context that ensures certainty, stability, respect for the rule of law and which balances collective and individual responsibility. [Aboriginal] communities must have the flexibility to determine for themselves whether and how free market principles, such as individual property ownership, should apply to reserve lands.
[This devolution] should be accomplished in a manner which takes into account the cultural and linguistic diversity of Canada's First Nations. Within the context of the Canadian Constitution, we should be prepared to make flexible accommodations for the protection of language and culture within self-government agreements.
The initiative that is before the House today is described in some circles as sectoral self-government. Some time ago one of Canada's national newspapers published an opinion piece which I recall was written by Phil Fontaine, the national chief of the Assembly of First Nations. In that article there were a number of matters raised by National Chief Fontaine with which I wholeheartedly agree.
Canada is a modern, full-fledged federal democratic state. It is a state in which all citizens must bear equally the responsibilities and the privileges of citizenship.
Aboriginal Canadians are entitled, indeed expected, to share in the governance of Canada. If our aboriginal peoples are to be equal citizens also bearing the hopes and the dreams of this country on their shoulders, then they must bear equally the responsibilities of governing this land. Concurrently, they must enjoy the full benefits of Canadian citizenship including control over their own affairs, including the protection of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
As Chief Fontaine observed, as I recall in that article, aboriginal people will only be self-sufficient, and free and able to rely upon themselves if they are free and able to make their own choices because reliance upon the choices of others is a denial of the status of citizenship.
Earlier this week I had the privilege to meet with a number of first nation leaders. I have spoken with Chief Strater Crowfoot who is one of the architects of this legislation and who has fought many years for it. I have spoken with Jim Boucher, the Chief of the Fort McKay First Nation and other chiefs as well.
In particular I reflect upon the comments of Chief Boucher of the Fort McKay First Nation who pointed out that in his view those aboriginal communities which are strong, vibrant and building wonderful economic and strong cultural opportunity, and a high quality of life for their citizens are those in which people have the confidence that comes from accessing their own resources. That is what is so important about this legislation.
Bill C-54 before the House points out in the preamble that this legislation is optional. This is legislation which first nations can either opt into or not. As the title of the bill says, it is “An Act to provide first nations with the option of managing and regulating oil and gas exploration and exploitation and of receiving moneys otherwise held for them by Canada”.
This is legislation which first nations will be expected and required to make a decision about. The subject matter of the legislation is very broad, providing first nations with extensive control over all matters relating to control of their own oil and gas and their own money. In particular, the definition of exploitation in relation to oil and gas in the legislation includes its extraction, production, storage, distribution, processing, refinery and use.
The definition of exploration includes all things which are ancillary to exploration. Of course, oil and gas money includes all of the money derived by first nations from their oil and gas assets as well as other money which is held by the Government of Canada to the account of the first nation in question.
It is important to point out that this legislation has been well thought out. It has been developed in a manner which is consistent with the principles of fundamental justice. It contains precautionary measures, balancing measures which I will speak to.
First, the procedural protection for first nations citizens is very extensive. Oil and gas assets can only be transferred from the Government of Canada to the first nation if the procedures set out in clause 6 of the legislation are followed which specifically requires a council of the first nation by resolution to invoke the process. Similarly, if a first nation wishes to access its own money, it requires the initiation by a decision of the council of the first nation either to access money which will be collected in the future or money which is currently held in trust for the first nation.
Before any first nations are entitled to access their own oil and gas they are required, pursuant to subclause 10(1) of the legislation, to pass an oil and gas code. That code is defined in the legislation. It contains extensive mechanisms to protect the process for amending the code itself, accountability mechanisms, mechanisms to disclose any conflicts of interest, and in addition, under subclause 10(2), first nations are also required to pass a financial code.
Stated simply, no aboriginal community can access its own oil and gas resources until such time as it has taken the legislative steps that are required by the Government of Canada in this legislation to be invoked.
Similarly, no first nation is entitled to access its own money on the terms of its own trust conditions and indentures unless it has passed the financial code. The financial code must deal with the method of holding money, the form of the trust, the nature of the trustees, the manner in which money is to be collected and distributed, and to whom it is to be distributed, and also dealing with the resolution of conflicts of interest.
It is important in examining this legislation to consider that the legislation does contain protection both for aboriginal Canadians but also for others such as third party interests who have an interest at the present time in oil and gas activities on aboriginal reserves or aboriginal assets.
We not only have the oil and gas code and the financial code, but there is a clear prohibition that the council members of the first nation are not allowed to serve as trustees in a trust. They do not meet the qualifying requirements to be trustees and therefore are not able to serve in that capacity.
Clause 14 of the legislation also contains specific bonding requirements, so that the people who do serve as trustees need to meet the requirements of the provincial trustee legislation such that they are reliable people, properly secured and properly bonded if they are to be entrusted with aboriginal moneys.
Clause 24 of the legislation is quite important because in the context of the transition toward this kind of sectoral self-government, the protection of existing contract holders, people who have currently a contract or an expectation from the Government of Canada, are quite important. Clause 24 provides that oil and gas laws that come into force on a first nations transfer date may not impair the rights or interests of the contract holder under a contract as signed by clause 23. So, in effect the oil and gas contracts that are in place today are transferred from the Government of Canada to the first nation. The first nation must by law honour those obligations.
It is also important in considering this type of legislation to address the extent to which the position of the Crown has been protected. This is consistent with the Samson decision, but the legislation actually could not be clearer. After the oil and gas assets are transferred to an aboriginal community, a first nation, subclause 27(3) of the legislation provides as follows:
Her Majesty is not liable, as the holder of title to reserve lands or to oil and gas found in those lands, in respect of any damage occasioned by oil and gas exploration or exploitation under this Act.
It carries on in clause 28:
Subject to section 27, this Act does not affect the liability of Her Majesty or a first nation for any act or omission occurring before the first nation’s transfer date.
Therefore, the effect of this is clear. Any claims or disputes that might exist between a first nation and the Government of Canada relating to the management of aboriginal oil and gas are not affected but on a go-forward basis, the communities that accept responsibility for the governance of their own assets are responsible themselves for the governance of those assets and the Crown is not exposed to liability for any decision making. Nor is the Crown exposed to any liability if a first nation decides of their own volition to pursue these remedies.
The mechanisms are equally clear with respect to money. Subclause 32(2) provides that:
Following the payment of moneys out of the Consolidated Revenue Fund into an account or a trust under section 30 or 31, Her Majesty is not liable for the payment or the management of those moneys.
Again, making it very clear that if a first nation decides that it is going to assume responsibility for its own financial decision making, the management of its own money, henceforth on a go-forward basis, the Government of Canada is no longer responsible for any of the decision making that is made by that first nation.
This is consistent with the principles of self-government because if first nations are going to accept responsibility for these assets and these moneys and benefit from the upside, they will be responsible as well for any decisions that are made which do not over time prove to be happy ones, if I could say that.
In light of the significant consequences of a first nation therefore invoking the legislation, it is important that we look at the process by which a first nation is able to invoke the legislation. The ratification procedures are set out in the statute and specifically, the majority of the majority has to approve if a first nation is going to opt into the legislation.
A majority of the eligible voters on the reserve must show up to vote and the majority of those who vote must be in favour. It is a provision known as the majority of the majority and it means that once a majority of a majority is on side, that is essentially approval, the Government of Canada can then pursue the devolution of responsibility.
It is also important that we have regard to the constitutional framework in Canada, the federal legislative constitutional jurisdiction, because self-government will not work in this country unless there is a respect for the distribution of powers between the federal and provincial governments. We are essentially overlaying on top of the existing federal distribution of powers a legislative framework for self-government in a sectoral sense.
The legislation does deal with that. Clause 34 outlines very clearly the circumstances in which a first nation has the right to pass legislation. Clause 35 is very important. It allows for the passage of laws and says: “to the extent that those laws are not in relation to matters coming within the exclusive jurisdiction of a provincial legislature”. Clause 36 protects areas of federal jurisdiction. In a sense we have a clear attempt to ensure that the self-government legislation respects provincial and federal jurisdictions and that we do not have unacceptable overlaps.
It is also important that one of the hallmarks by which we judge the legislation is the extent to which it protects the environment. I would point out clause 37 of the legislation where environmental assessments are mandatory. The legislation specifically provides that in the context of the oil and gas code that the first nation develops, the provincial environmental legislation must be adhered to and first nations must pursue environmental assessments if they are to exploit oil and gas resources on their own land. Once again there has been a recognition and an attempt to protect the environment.
It may seem to be a small point, but this is a difficulty that exists elsewhere in Canada. The legislation specifically preserves the right of the federal Crown, if necessary, to expropriate an interest. Pursuant to the legislation, the federal Crown has reserved its right, in circumstances that are in the overall public interest, to step in and actually expropriate an interest if that is needed.
I raise this as a very important point because there are other jurisdictions in the country where there are now, because of the failure of the government to address this in a proper way, issues about whether the federal government has in fact vacated its jurisdiction to ever act in the public interest on first nation lands. Clearly, if we are going to have constitutional workability in the country, paramount authority must rest with this Parliament, with the Government of Canada, and we must have the capacity preserved to act.
Finally, the legislation is also consistent with the Federal Court decision on the Terry Buffalo case which is a court decision of some importance in this country. It was a decision for billions of dollars where the Samson Indian Band sued the Government of Canada claiming that its oil and gas assets had been mismanaged over a period of 30 years.
Last year the judge in that case issued a decision calling upon the Government of Canada to deliver those assets to the first nation and he stipulated a process that the government and the first nation would have to follow to ensure that there was procedural protection. The legislation is in fact quite consistent with the Samson case.
For all of those reasons, I will conclude by saying that this is an important step forward. It is extremely important self-government legislation and of obvious importance in western Canada but applicable throughout the country. It is consistent with our party's position and we are pleased to support it.
May 6th, 2005 / 12:45 p.m.
Jay Hill Prince George—Peace River, BC
Mr. Speaker, I have four petitions to present to the House this afternoon from my riding of Prince George—Peace River. They are all on the same subject and signed by a great many residents of my riding, particularly from the cities of Fort St. John and Dawson Creek in the Peace River district and Charlie Lake, Taylor, Chetwynd and the surrounding rural areas.
The petitioners want to draw the attention of the House to the fact that the creation and use of child pornography is condemned by the clear majority of Canadians. They believe that Bill C-20, put forward by the Liberal government, does not adequately protect our nation's children.
Therefore, they call upon Parliament to protect our children by taking all necessary steps to ensure that all materials that promote or glorify child pornography are outlawed.
Committees of the House
May 5th, 2005 / 11:20 a.m.
Benoît Sauvageau Repentigny, QC
Madam Speaker, I am pleased to have this opportunity to speak to the motion introduced today by our friends in the Conservative Party.
First of all, the Bloc Québécois is going to support this very commendable Conservative initiative. As our leader has repeatedly said, I think that our arguments are well-known now, solid and very justifiable in the sense that this government no longer has the moral authority to continue to administer public property, most of all, and the affairs of state. For this reason, my colleagues in the Bloc Québécois and I are going to support the motion introduced today by the Conservative Party.
The purpose of this motion is to ask the government to withdraw from these functions, which are supposed to be honourable, and give the people a chance to say now—at a time of year when people are doing their spring cleaning in several ways, including on the political level—that we must be sure that clean people are doing honest work. The money our fellow citizens have provided, especially just recently through their income tax returns, must also be handled a little more honestly. The money provided by these people must flow back to them in the form of quality services. Canadians and Quebeckers have a right to expect quality services.
When I heard the member for Glengarry—Prescott—Russell shouting himself hoarse a little while ago, I remembered his oratorical flights back in the days when he was in the rat pack along with Sheila Copps, John Nunziata, Brian Tobin and others who have left now. I remember when the member was scathing toward Mr. Mulroney's Conservative government. If the situation were reversed, I wonder what kind of scene they would be making, like the ones we saw back in the days of the Conservative government, when the famous rat pack was in opposition.
I heard the deputy leader of the government, the former chair of the Standing Committee on Official Languages, tell us that Canadians want to wait for the Gomery commission to finish its work. However, if we were in question period, I would ask him why, on May 3, 2004, on the eve of the calling of the federal election, his current Prime Minister said and I quote, “People know enough about the sponsorship scandal; we need to have an election”.
If the Liberals knew enough on May 3, 2004, why do they know less now after hearing all the witnesses who have appeared before the Standing Committee on Public Accounts and the Gomery commission?
If enough was known on May 3, 2004, it was about how this mess, which we knew about last year, came to be. All we are finding out now really is the who, because we already knew, in large part, about the how. We are hearing about who did what to create this mess.
Some $250 million is involved. Like everyone watching us today, I read the papers. An international firm, Kroll, not to mention any names, is currently following the money, tracking where every dollar went. It wants to find out how the person in charge of signing the cheques at the time, namely the finance minister, could sign $250 million worth of cheques over a few years to make his friends happy. How was this money paid out by the federal government, the Department of Finance, through some large cracks in Treasury Board, thereby flouting the system and government regulations governing advertising contracts and sponsorships? The cracks must have been very large at the time. Perhaps, as the Prime Minister said in his address to the nation, the then President of the Treasury Board will also tell us he was not vigilant enough. No one in that government was vigilant enough, if they let such a mess happen.
The Liberals are saying, “Let us stay in office, we who have grabbed $100 million out of the $250 million. Let us stay in office, and we will be able to fix this”.
They are not wrong there, in part. Let us take the example of a bank manager who steals $10 million from his employer and asks to be allowed to stay on the job because he knows how to prevent someone else from stealing that amount. Of course, he stole the money and knows how he did it. He knows what needs to be corrected so that no one can steal $10 million again from the bank. I wonder whether his employer will say, “You are right. You stole $10 million, and I am so proud you want to fix up the system that I will keep you on. I will even give you a bonus and a raise. Indeed, I will appoint you the ambassador to Denmark”.
There is absolutely no doubt they can rectify the problem, because they created it, they abused the system. However, this is not what Canadians and voters want. They want the people who made the grave mistakes to be punished and more trustworthy individuals to take over from them and clean it all up.
It is not up to the person who starts a fire to put it out. It is not the person who stole who will be asked to rectify the system. There is a bit of a paradox here. It is true, they know the system. They set it up, created it and abused it.
What's more, they tell us a parallel group was involved and they were not part of it. In connection with the parallel group and this government's morality, I am going to mention a few names. If the captain, the coach or the leader of a group of people acting dishonestly is changed, only one person is changed, but the rest of the team remains as corrupt as it was under another leader.
So let us look at the group that is now in power, and see whether they have sufficient moral fibre to continue. The member for Outremont, the Prime Minister's lieutenant, gives us information, does not give it, gives us a little bit, implies or conceals information as to whether he was or was not a lobbyist, did or did not have social meetings, as to whether his meals with Jean Lafleur and some of the people involved in the sponsorship scandal—where they feasted on foie gras and filet mignon washed down with champagne, sauternes and fine wines—were just a quick lunch.
I do not if other members of this House have quick lunches like that, so well organized and with such a high-priced menu and wine list.
When he organized meetings with his friends and with ex-minister Gagliano, these were social get-togethers. When he is asked whether he was paid by contract or on retainer for a set period, he does not dare answer. So here we have players on today's team trying to cast doubt on former team members when they certainly appear not to be as pure as the driven snow, themselves.
We are told that people do not know enough for there to be an election, and that we need to wait until the Gomery inquiry is over. How can it be that the Prime Minister knew enough to recall Alfonso Gagliano from his ambassador's post in Denmark? According to the Liberals, he did not have the right to be presumed innocent. He was recalled before the inquiry was over. If those were nothing but allegations, will there be a public apology? Will Mr. Gagliano get his job in Denmark back? Will they make amends? Can the Liberals stand up and tell us that they will indeed give him back all his lost wages, give him back his position, and make an apology because it looks as if he was recalled based on false allegations?
Allegations serious enough to recall an ambassador are not something one sees every day, you will agree. The allegations are serious enough to get two CEOs of crown agencies dismissed. Now for a flight of political fancy. What if, when the Gomery inquiry was over, the conclusion was that these were nothing but allegations? Would those two get apologies because they were let go in error? Enough was known when they were let go, but today not enough was known to admit to people “this is the mess we have made”.
The current Minister of the Environment and member for Saint-Laurent—Cartierville was minister responsible for the Privy Council at the time when money was being hidden in the Canadian Unity Fund. Today, he is still part of the same team. He is now the Minister of the Environment and sponsor of the referendum clarity bill. And on that topic, we learned at the Gomery inquiry that once again taxpayer dollars were freely used to shove an unspeakably anti-democratic bill down the throats of Quebeckers. I think the public should know that.
We could make an analogy between the clarity bill, Bill C-20, and a game of hockey. Bill C-20 has two main components, it strives for a clear result and a clear question. What is a clear result? They say it will be determined after the referendum. That would be like two hockey teams facing off and the game ending with a score of 4 to 1 for the white team only to have the blue team tell them that, unfortunately, they needed 6 goals to win. The 4 to 1 result would not be enough for them to win the game. How many points do you need to win a hockey game? Under Bill C-20 the number of points needed for a win would be confirmed once the game is over.
Insofar as a clear question is concerned, my leader has already joked that, as long we have been talking about it, there could be two boxes: “Are you for yes?” and “Are you for no?” It would be clear for people. They speak about a clear question, but who is supposed to decide whether the question is clear? They say that everyone and no one should. The Senate, for example, could say that it did not find the question clear. Prince Edward Island could do the same. Maybe Bill C-20 could have been amended to say that the opinion of the Pope and the American president should be sought in order to know whether the question is clear. That is roughly what the Liberal Party was proposing in introducing Bill C-20.
In view of the fact that the clear question was not so clear for Quebeckers and the result that was wanted after the game was over was not clear either, they needed some good ways of selling the idea. So the Minister of the Environment dipped into the Canadian Unity Fund and tried to sell the idea to Quebeckers, telling them that this bill made some sense.
One of the former heads of the Canadian Unity Council was named an ambassador as well. I do not know where he is now, but he was appointed Canadian ambassador to China, in Beijing, immediately after these events. His name is Howard Balloch.
I had the privilege of meeting him. Because he was very far away, he was much more loquacious that some ministers are and some witnesses heard by the Gomery Commission. He told me that he had certain disagreements with former minister Tobin, “Captain Canada”, about organizing the famous “love-in” in Montreal to tell us how much we were loved. If he has returned to Canadian shores and is listening to us today, I will gladly recall his words of 1997-98 for him. There are words one never forgets. He told me, rather boastfully, that the separatists would never find the $18 million that had been hidden in the Canadian Unity Fund. He said that the job had been done so well that the money would never be found. Maybe he too could be recalled to Canada, if he is still the Canadian ambassador somewhere. It is a suggestion of mine, unless my allegations are not as serious as in Mr. Gagliano's case.
Unfortunately for him, his confidence is looking rather unfounded. I think that we will find where the $18 million was hidden, just as we are learning where the $100 million from the sponsorship scandal went.
Jean Pelletier was on this team as well. They wanted us to believe that there was a parallel scandal woven by a parallel group. So, when the Prime Minister's chief of staff is involved in a scandal, is it still reasonable to speak of a parallel group, as the Prime Minister's Quebec lieutenant continues to do?
This morning, Serge Gosselin testified before the Gomery commission. He too has been a chief of staff. John Welch will also be called. He is the former chief of staff of a current minister. I learned something very interesting recently: Claire Brouillet, the partner or former partner of Daniel Dezainde, will be testifying before the Gomery commission.
What I find interesting in this is that she was my Liberal opponent in 1993 in my riding. After that, questionable things were happening in the Liberal Party. It took 12 years to finally prove these things and get the people involved to testify before the Gomery commission. I am very curious to hear what she has to say. I am sure she too knows some interesting things.
I introduced a motion in the Standing Committee on Public Accounts, which was supported by the majority. Oddly, the Liberals, who want to know everything, opposed it. The aim of the motion was to have a better understanding of chapter 5 of the Auditor General's November 2003 report.
According to the motion presented by the Conservatives, once witnesses have been heard in the public accounts committee on chapters 3, 4 and 5, a confidence vote is to be held. It is useful to recall that this committee has in fact studied chapters 3 and 4, but set chapter 5 aside on the assumption that Justice Gomery would study it. To everyone's surprise, we learned that the Gomery commission was looking at chapters 3 and 4 only. So the committee wanted to examine chapter 5, since the aim is to discover the truth. However, the Liberals opposed it.
What is so special about chapter 5? It contains a little paragraph, hardly anything at all, paragraph 5.17, if I recall correctly, which provides that, within the Department of Finance and certain other departments, problems were encountered in the awarding of public opinion and research contracts. There is no mention of advertising or polls. Chapters 3 and 4, however, concern the Department of Public Works and Government Services, the Treasury Board Secretariat and the PMO. Chapter 5 involves the office of the Minister of Finance. Who held that portfolio at the time? The current Prime Minister.
Why did he exclude chapter 5 from the mandate of the Gomery commission? Was it a coincidence? Perhaps the answer is buried in the question itself. Why did the Liberals refuse to let the Standing Committee on Public Accounts review this chapter? Indeed, the answer may be buried in the question itself. What was it in this chapter that had to do with this government's morals?
The Prime Minister, who was then the Minister of Finance, stubbornly refused to get involved in the Prime Minister's game, not because he was so pure, but because he had to please his friends, including Earnscliffe, which is a firm located in Ottawa. Who was working for Earnscliffe? There was David Herle, the spouse of his chief of staff, with whom they bought some land. The chief of staff threatened the Department of Public Works and Government Services into giving contracts to Earnscliffe without complying with Treasury Board rules or government standards.
Why did the Liberals deliberately omit the review of chapter 5 by the Gomery commission, and why did they refuse to do so in committee, even though the majority would have allowed such an exercise?
It is because there was another little scandal. We are not talking about a parallel group involved in the same scandal, we are talking about a parallel scandal involving the current Prime Minister when he was the Minister of Finance.
These are, in essence, the reasons why we support the motion by the Conservative Party.
Oral Question Period
May 2nd, 2005 / 2:25 p.m.
Michel Guimond Charlevoix—Montmorency, QC
Mr. Speaker, the Minister of the Environment took great care not to disclose to the Gomery inquiry that the national unity fund had been used to promote the clarity bill, Bill C-20.
How was the minister able to conceal that from the Gomery inquiry when he was required by his oath to disclose everything he knew about this matter?
April 21st, 2005 / 1:15 p.m.
Jay Hill Prince George—Peace River, BC
Mr. Speaker, it is my pleasure to present this petition on behalf of my constituents in Prince George—Peace River, from the residents of the city of Fort St. John and the smaller communities of nearby Taylor, Rose Prairie, Charlie Lake and Cecil Lake. I have a number of petitions on this subject which I will be presenting in the days and weeks ahead.
These constituents note that the creation and use of child pornography is condemned by the clear majority of Canadians and that Liberal Bill C-20 does not adequately protect our nation's children.
Therefore, the petitioners call upon Parliament to protect our children by taking all necessary steps to ensure that all materials that promote or glorify child pornography are outlawed in our nation.
Message from the Senate
The Royal Assent
March 23rd, 2005 / 6:40 p.m.
The Acting Speaker (Hon. Jean Augustine)
Order, please. I have the honour to inform the House that a communication has been received as follows:
March 23, 2005
I have the honour to inform you that the Right Honourable Adrienne Clarkson, Governor General of Canada, signified royal assent by written declaration to the bills listed in the Schedule to this letter on the 23rd day of March, 2005, at 4:56 p.m.
Policy, Program and Protocol
The schedule indicates that royal assent was given to Bill S-17, an act to implement an agreement, conventions and protocols concluded between Canada and Gabon, Ireland, Armenia, Oman and Azerbaijan for the avoidance of double taxation and the prevention of fiscal evasion--Chapter No. 8; Bill C-20, an act to provide for real property taxation powers of first nations, to create a First Nations Tax Commission, First Nations Financial Management Board, First Nations Finance Authority and First Nations Statistical Institute and to make consequential amendments to other acts--Chapter No. 9; Bill C-6, an act to establish the Department of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness and to amend or repeal certain acts--Chapter No. 10; Bill C-39, an act to amend the Federal-Provincial Fiscal Arrangements Act and to enact an act respecting the provision of funding for diagnostic and medical equipment--Chapter No. 11; Bill C-41, an act for granting to Her Majesty certain sums of money for the public service of Canada for the financial year ending March 31, 2005--Chapter No. 12; Bill C-42, an act for granting to Her Majesty certain sums of money for the public service of Canada for the financial year ending March 31, 2006--Chapter No. 13; and Bill C-18, an act to amend the Telefilm Canada Act and another act--Chapter No. 14.
A motion to adjourn the House under Standing Order 38 deemed to have been moved.
February 16th, 2005 / 3:15 p.m.
Jay Hill Prince George—Peace River, BC
Mr. Speaker, I have two petitions to present to the House of Commons this afternoon.
The first is from residents in my riding of Prince George—Peace River, specifically from the city of Fort St. John and the surrounding areas, including Charlie Lake, a small community outside Fort St. John.
The petitioners call upon Parliament to recognize that child pornography is condemned by the clear majority of Canadians, that Liberal Bill C-20 does not adequately protect our nation's children, and that the Liberal government has not prevented artistic merit from being used as a defence for the production and possession of child pornography. Therefore, the petitioners call upon Parliament to protect our children by taking all necessary steps to ensure that all materials that promote or glorify child pornography are outlawed.
First Nations Fiscal and Statistical Management Act
December 10th, 2004 / 12:25 p.m.
David Christopherson Hamilton Centre, ON
Mr. Speaker, I will be sharing my time with my colleague from Skeena—Bulkley Valley.
I am very pleased to rise on behalf of the NDP to speak to Bill C-20. Nothing is perfect, but we see a lot of improvements in this bill over the one that was introduced in the 37th Parliament, Bill C-23. We had some very serious problems back then and thankfully people have had a chance to take another look. This is a bill that we can live with.
It is important because it does a number of things. It takes a huge step forward in giving autonomous responsibility to the first nations people for their own future. At the end of the day, is that not what all people ask for, frankly around the world, to be the authors of their own destiny? In the modern world, if we do not have control of our finances, we really are limited to how much true control we have over the course in front of us.
I am particularly pleased in terms of the pooling aspect, which is a big part of this. It came from the experience in B.C. with the New Democratic government there working with the municipalities and the provincial government. They pooled all their money so their borrowing needs were also pooled and that meant two things. First, all municipalities had an opportunity to borrow money at one of the best rates available. That will now apply to the first nations people, assuming this bill carries and we certainly hope it does.
Second, it allows smaller communities or municipalities, in the case of the first nations people, to still benefit from what is usually available only to larger urban centres where they have the money and the ability to back up their borrowing needs with sufficient revenue at a very good rate. The lower rate we pay the more tax money can be applied to other important things such as health, education, environment, et cetera.
This part alone will play a significant role in assisting first nations people with a lot of their needed projects. Anyone who has visited any of the first nations reserves will know the challenges that are there. We cannot help but walk away with a heavy heart realizing how much more this country has to do for its first nations people.
This modest step forward is still significant because it will allow them a little more certainty in terms of the future: how they get there and how they are going to pay. The fact that they have smaller numbers will not limit their ability to play the kind of role that they obviously want to play, and that the House wants to see played.
Long after the bill is passed, we are going to be watching to ensure that there is no creeping paternalism in this process at all. This is meant to be an arm's-length autonomous process that allows the first nations people to make their own decisions. That means beginning with appointments to these boards and commissions and agencies, all the way through to the decisions that they make and the implementation of them. They need to be in control. We as a caucus will not stand for any kind of paternalism.
The whole idea is to get away from paternalism. This is very significant to us. It is equal in fact to the money and commissions that are being created, and the ability to charge for property taxes and increase their revenues. They are all important, but if we do not move away determinedly and in a progressive fashion from the overhang of paternalism that still exists, if we are not achieving that with Bill C-20 and every other bill we deal with from here on in, then quite frankly, this House is selling a bill of goods to the first nations people. History would show that they have been sold more than bill of goods.
This needs to work for them. It needs to work for Canada.
First Nations Fiscal and Statistical Management Act
December 10th, 2004 / 12:10 p.m.
André Bellavance Richmond—Arthabaska, QC
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak to Bill C-20, the First Nations Fiscal and Statistical Management Act.
Like my colleague from Louis-Saint-Laurent—the Bloc Québécois Indian Affairs and Northern Development critic—who also delivered a speech at second reading on November 19 in favour of this bill, I agree with this act to provide for real property taxation powers of first nations, to create a First Nations Tax Commission, First Nations Financial Management Board, First Nations Finance Authority and First Nations Statistical Institute and to make consequential amendments to other Acts.
This bill essentially provides the first nations with financial management tools. Like many other bills, the bill being presented to this House today is not perfect, but it could help in creating a environment that would help first nations to assume their financial independence.
It was very important for us to support this bill to help the first nations to assume a certain financial independence or least much more than they had in the past.
I sit on the Standing Committee on Aboriginal Affairs, Northern Development and Natural Resources with the hon. member for Louis-Saint-Laurent, and we heard from a number of first nations officials, who supported this bill, not to mention those whom we met privately, as part of our parliamentarian duties.
Everyone knows that the Bloc Québécois cares about the self-government claims of the aboriginals, since we too have many such claims in Quebec. In fact, we prefer the term “sovereignist”. In our opinion, true self-government is achieved when a nation controls all of its economic levers. First nations that will avail themselves of the services provided under Bill C-20 will be able to play a more active role in their economy and promote private investments on their territory. This legislation will give first nations access to tools that are already available to other levels of government and in turn access to financial markets, among other things.
However, we warn the federal government not to succumb to the temptation of using Bill C-20 to opt out of its fiduciary responsibilities towards aboriginal people. It remains the government's job to address inequality between aboriginals and non-aboriginals. I can assure the government that we will keep a close watch.
For the benefit of the public and of those members who may not be very familiar with the bill, I should mention this legislation proposes the establishment of four financial institutions. I will explain them briefly.
The first one is the first nations tax commission, which will replace the Indian taxation advisory board. It will be responsible for the property tax rule approval process, and its streamlining will also help strike a fair balance between the interests of the community and those of taxpayers, when rates are set.
The second institution is the first nations financial management board. The board will set financial standards and provide the independent and professional property assessment services required by first nations that want to take advantage of the borrowing pool of the first nations finance authority.
The third institution, namely the first nations finance authority, will help first nations communities that will adhere to the legislative scheme to issue securities collectively and to raise long term capital at preferential rates for highways, water supply systems, sewers and, of course, other infrastructure projects.
Finally, the first nations statistical institute will help all first nations communities to meet their local data needs, while encouraging participation in Statistics Canada's integrated national systems and their use.
The establishment of a new financial relationship between the federal government and the first nations is nothing new. Already in 1983, the Penner report, a report by the special parliamentary committee on aboriginal self-government, recommended that the fiscal relationship between the federal government and the first nations be redefined. The Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples made the same recommendation in 1996. Bill C-20 is a step along the road toward greater economic autonomy for first nations.
Here is a brief historical overview of Bill C-20. Before it established a supervisory structure to administer the new legislation, the Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development created the Indian Taxation Advisory Board in early 1989. In September 2003, 107 first nations began to tax real property. After the Kamloops amendments, in 1988, if I am not mistaken, a number of events strengthened the existing support for the restructuring of financial relations between the first nations and the federal government.
In 1991, the Department of Finance undertook a review of its policy on Indian taxation and, in 1993, made public the Working Paper on Indian Government Taxation.
In 1995, the First Nations Financial Institute or FNFI was created and, at the instigation of the Westbank First Nation, it was then federally incorporated. The main objective of the FNFI was to provide investment opportunities to first nations in order to ensure long-term financing of their public debt. With the adoption of Bill C-20, the FNFI will become the First Nations Finance Authority, which was discussed a bit earlier in this debate.
In 1995, a round table of representatives from the Department of Finance and the Assembly of First Nations led to the adoption of a resolution on taxation. The following year, the participants at the annual general meeting of the Assembly of First Nations adopted resolution 5/96 supporting the establishment, between the first nations governments and the Government of Canada, of new fiscal relationships based on the principles of flexibility, equity, choice, the assurance of government services comparable to those provided by other governments, economic incentives and efficiency.
The Chiefs' Committee on Fiscal Relations was created two years later to review fiscal relations between first nation governments and the federal government. That is known as resolution 49/98 of the general assembly. It recommended the establishment of first nations financial institutions. In 1999, the Assembly of First Nations expressed its support for this initiative when participants in its annual general meeting supported the creation of the first nations financial authority, and backed the Indian Taxation Advisory Board's efforts to establish the first nations tax commission. Those are known as resolutions 6/99 and 7/99 respectively.
In December of the same year, the federal government and the Assembly of First Nations signed a memorandum of understanding concerning the creation of a national round table on financial relationships, with the objective of establishing solid bases for these relationships through an exchange of information, capacity building and the establishment of benchmarks.
In 2000—we are getting closer—the Assembly of First Nations maintained its support for the creation of the first nations statistical institute and the first nations financial management board, pursuant to resolutions 5/2000 and 6/2000 of the Confederacy of Indian Nations. The general assembly then passed resolution 24/2001 supporting the recommendation by the chiefs' committee regarding the establishment of the four new first nations financial institutions by federal legislation. The legal validity of this resolution was questioned, however, since some people thought that it had not received the support of 60% of those present required, as we know, under the charter of the Assembly of First Nations.
On August 15, 2002, the Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development released a draft bill with the intent to carry out public consultations before introducing it in the House. Several first nations then raised deep concerns with the way the bill was written. Of course, the Bloc Québécois shared these same concerns.
As a result, the AFN convened a special chiefs assembly in November 2002 and passed a resolution rejecting the proposed first nations fiscal and statistical management bill. According to Resolution 30/2002, the proposed legislation violated the historic nation to nation relationship, infringed upon aboriginal and treaty rights, and was otherwise so flawed that it could not be corrected by mere amendments.
An additional so-called accommodation resolution was also passed, that is AFN Resolution 31/2002 respecting the right of those first nations to enter into local and regional agreements, but not in the context of national legislation.
On December 2, 2002, the Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development tabled Bill C-19 on first nations fiscal and statistical management in the House of Commons. That bill, which died on the Order Paper in November 2003, was reinstated as Bill C-23 on March 10, 2004. That bill also died on the Order Paper after third reading. It was reintroduced very recently, on November 2, 2004, with some significant changes. We are debating this new Bill C-20 today, after studying it for not too long, but, say, carefully in committee.
However, former Bills C-19 and Bill C-23 were unacceptable both to us and to first nations. We had concerns about the fact that the act could work against aboriginal rights and reduce the federal government's fiduciary obligations toward the first nations. We were also concerned that the institutions would only serve a few first nations.
Bill C-23, for example, like the Indian Act, delegated tax authority to first nations communities, which came down to making aboriginal governments municipal entities, if you will, when their legitimate desire was to enjoy greater financial autonomy.
Moreover, the preamble to Bill C-20 uses language that reflects the government's strongly municipal approach to the first nations.
With respect to Bill C-19, we had a number of critical comments. First, the definition of “specific claims” was too narrow. Access to the tribunal was nearly impossible; the $7 million ceiling excluded most claims. Neither the commission nor the tribunal were independent or impartial. The minister had the power to accept or reject claims. Finally, there was doubt about the impartiality and flexibility of the process.
Fortunately, two very important changes have been made in the bill before us today. First, a schedule was added to ensure that the legislation applies to those first nations who wish to participate, because participation is optional, something we feel is very important. Second, a non-derogation clause was included to protect the aboriginal and treaty rights of all first nations.
These changes ensure consistency with the Charter of the Assembly of First Nations as well as the principles of self-determination, the approach taken by the first nations, and the optionality provided for in recent resolutions of the Assembly of First Nations, which were passed in Saskatoon and ratified again in Charlottetown.
This economic disparity exists because some lands do not have services, investors are uncertain and the cost of starting a business is still too high.
A backgrounder produced by the First Nations Fiscal Institutions Initiative says that a dollar of first nation tax revenue buys 30% to 50% less in capital works than it does for other governments. The problem lies primarily in the legislative and institutional framework.
For 130 years, the Indian Act has perpetuated this state of affairs, this lack of fairness. It has prevented first nations from creating their own institutions and participating in the economy.
Will Bill C-20 completely correct this situation? No, but we think it is a step in the right direction, as long, of course, as the federal government does not use this bill as a means to opt out of its financial obligations with respect to the first nations. I repeat, the government has a fiduciary obligation to the aboriginal peoples and it cannot opt out of that.
There are so many things to improve in the living conditions of the first nations that they will not be settled by this bill, but only through real political will exercised by the current government.
Housing conditions, education and health are inferior compared to the rest of the population. On the reserves, 65% of families live in substandard housing. The Bloc Québécois is deeply concerned about the fact that the lack of adequate, affordable housing for aboriginals has implications beyond housing standards. We know that various medical and social problems are related to poor housing conditions and quality of life. The Government of Canada must make the necessary efforts to correct the situation without offloading the problems to the first nations.
Bill C-20 will help first nations who so desire to participate significantly in their economy and encourage private investment on their lands, which is more difficult at present. First nations wanting to borrow money to develop their community infrastructure face transaction costs, processing delays and interest rates that are far too high, even prohibitive.
Despite the positive aspects of this bill, we must not lose sight of some of the basic principles it must respect. First, will it protect the first nations' right to self-determination? Will it benefit first nations, particularly those in Quebec? Will it protect the rights of first nations that opt out of the legislation and the obligations toward them? Will it help redress the fiscal imbalance of first nations that take advantage of this legislation? We may not get all the answers today, but we will make sure the minister does not forget these questions.
For the Bloc Québécois, aboriginal independence claims are very important and must be respected. Recently, with Bill C-14, we supported the aboriginal peoples' right to self-government. Bill C-14 was about the Tlicho people. This bill will help those first nations who so desire to access the financial tools they have been lacking and that the other levels of government have been using for a long time.
That is why we are in favour of Bill C-20.
First Nations Fiscal and Statistical Management Act
December 10th, 2004 / 10:55 a.m.
Jim Prentice Calgary North Centre, AB
Mr. Speaker, I can confirm that it is a pleasure to be the critic on this subject matter for the Conservative Party. I can also confirm, as my friend has said, that it is a pleasure not to be burdened by contradiction because we are not.
Our party has spoken in a principled way about the way forward. We have consulted with people in the community. We have talked with the AFN and with others. We have put forward a series of policy ideas that take the Conservative Party to the very front of what is going to happen in this country in the next 20 years in terms of the development of self-government and those are based upon a very logical, consistent and principled approach.
I would point out that it is an approach that has enjoyed a great deal of support among the aboriginal Canadians with whom I have spoken. It involves the gradual orderly elimination of the Indian Act with other legislation, which will make it possible for aboriginal Canadians to get on with their lives and to achieve social and economic progress.
We are proud of where we are going. It is a program that will enjoy support in the days ahead. I have spoken of the need to develop a legislative framework which governs the expenditures that the department is making on behalf of aboriginal Canadians.
I would encourage my learned friend to stay involved in the debate and he will continue to be pleased with the progress that the Conservative Party is making.
With respect to his specific question, his party brought forward a series of motions which were soundly defeated at the committee stage. The effect of those motions would have been to essentially take the good work of the respected leaders, the respected aboriginal Canadians who brought Bill C-20 forward to this point, and frozen it by adopting a process of consultation that would have been unworkable and would have made it impossible for the government, or frankly any government, to achieve the necessary unanimity on appointments, and that is why we did not--
First Nations Fiscal and Statistical Management Act
December 10th, 2004 / 10:55 a.m.
Pat Martin Winnipeg Centre, MB
Mr. Speaker, it must be simple being the aboriginal affairs critic for that party because members of that party do not seem burdened by any contradictions or contradictions do not seem to bother them.
On the one hand, the member has been waxing poetic about the importance of self-determination and self-governance, and on the other hand, just this week we saw members of the Conservative Party en masse vote against the most historic self-governance and self-determination land claims issue in recent history, only the second such modern land claim in the country since the Nisga'a bill which they also voted against.
For all the member's quite valid language about the importance of the abolition of the Indian Act and that successful economic development models are directly correlated to the degree of self-governance, during the clause by clause consideration of Bill C-20 in committee he and his party voted against eight separate amendments which would have given some input into the placement of the board of directors of these new fiscal institutions.
I would ask him to dwell on, if he could, why he could not see fit to support changes to the appointment process in Bill C-20, of appointing the board of directors which would have given first nations more direction and control over who will get these key commissioner, co-commissioner and director positions in these new fiscal institutions.
First Nations Fiscal and Statistical Management Act
December 10th, 2004 / 10:35 a.m.
Jim Prentice Calgary North Centre, AB
Mr. Speaker, it is my pleasure to rise today and speak to Bill C-20, a bill described as the first nations statistical and management act. The bill has made quite an expeditious journey through the House of Commons to committee and back onto the floor of the House of Commons today, anticipating early approval with the cooperation of all of the parties in the House.
I will not replicate the comments made by my learned friend. There are substantial parts of this legislation upon which she and I agree for once. My comments will respond to a couple of the questions that have been raised and to outline in philosophical terms why our party supports this legislation. The Conservative Party is fully in support of Bill C-20 and the principles contained therein.
This past month the National Post published an opinion piece which was prepared by Phil Fontaine, the National Chief of the Assembly of First Nations. As I said before, while I do not agree with everything that my colleague, Grand Chief Fontaine, has said in that article, there are many matters upon which he and I agree and which I think all Canadians should consider.
This country is a modern federal democracy in which all of the citizens of Canada must bear equally the responsibilities and also the privileges of citizenship. The time has come that aboriginal Canadians are entitled, indeed they are expected, to share in the governance of Canada, to share in the governance of their own affairs, and their inherent right of self-government. If aboriginal Canadians are to be equal citizens in this country, if they are also to bear upon their shoulders the hopes and dreams of Canada, then they must also bear equally the responsibilities of governing this country. Concurrently, they must enjoy the full benefits of citizenship, including the protection of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
As Chief Fontaine observed in the
To be self-sufficient, to rely on ourselves, we must be free and able to make our own choices. Reliance on the choices that others make for us is a denial of the means to self-sufficiency.
In that regard, an important study was carried out in Canada and referred to by Mr. Fontaine, the Harvard Project. It referred to three factors which are critical to economic self-sufficiency. These are worth emphasizing in the context of this debate.
First, practical sovereignty means genuine decision-making power over internal affairs, governance, resources, institutions and development strategies.
Second, capable governing institutions are those which exercise power effectively, responsibly and reliably.
Third, the necessity for a cultural match, which means formal institutions of government that match indigenous concepts of how authority should be organized and should be exercised.
In this country, over the past many years, we have had a debate about the scope and content of aboriginal self-government. Much has been said about that subject and that debate will carry on. The debate, by and large, has been a democratic and a civil one, even though it has been marked by a lack of consensus on many fundamental matters.
Both aboriginal and non-aboriginal Canadians need to be reminded that, while we do not always agree upon the scope and content of governance rights, virtually all Canadians share a desire to see aboriginal Canadians as equal partners in this marvellous country. They wish to see a full embodiment of the inherent right of self-government in a way which is practical and which achieves success for aboriginal Canadians.
The Indian Act is both anachronistic and archaic. Frankly, it has no place in the Canada of tomorrow. It has not yet been replaced in our country by a modern legislative framework only because we have been unable as a country to this point to define how and by what legislative means the Indian Act should be replaced. However, I would hasten to add that I anticipate that in the next several years we will make great strides in that regard. We will succeed in replacing the Indian Act with legislation which has the support of first nations and which moves us into the future.
The issues to be sure are complex. They involve questions that strike to the heart of this country: issues pertaining to the application of the charter; the distribution of governmental jurisdiction within our country, within our federal system; the incidence of citizenship; the correlative rights and expectations which we demand of one another as fellow citizens; and also those difficult issues that deal with the distribution of resources.
These would be difficult enough questions on their own. They are all the more difficult when one factors in the rich and diverse mosaic, the linguistic mosaic, and the cultural mosaic of Canada's aboriginal peoples: Inuit, Métis and over 600 distinct Indian first nations.
As Grand Chief Fontaine has observed, people need control over their own lives and the chance to reap the benefits of their own labours. They do not flourish when they are denied the right to decide for themselves how they will live.
I for one have reached the conclusion, after many years of involvement on this subject, that many of the difficulties which aboriginal people have faced in this country tie back to their struggle against the collectivist tyranny of the Indian Act. It is important that we replace that legislation and Bill C-20 is extraordinarily important legislation in that regard. It represents one of the first steps to pass control of the lives of aboriginal Canadians in respect of economic and taxation matters back within their own jurisdiction in a voluntary manner.
In respect of self-government, the position of myself and my party is clear. The Indian Act and related legislation should be replaced by a modern legislative framework which provides for the inherent right of self-government for the devolution of full, legal and democratic responsibility to aboriginal peoples over their own affairs. This must be done within the overall framework of our federal state.
This reform should be pursued following full consultation with first nations, with the objective of achieving a full and complete devolution of democratic authority that is consistent with the devolution of authority elsewhere within our federal democratic system. Aboriginal Canadians, like all Canadians, are entitled to enjoy democratic control over their own affairs within a legislative context that ensures certainty, stability, respect for the rule of law, and which balances individual and collective responsibility.
Aboriginal communities must have the flexibility to determine for themselves whether and how principles, such as free market principles and individual property ownership should apply to reserve lands. We feel very strongly that this devolution should be accomplished in a manner which takes into account the cultural, linguistic and rich diversity of Canada's first nations. Within that context and within the framework of the Canadian Constitution, we should be prepared to make flexible accommodations for the protection of language and culture within self-government agreements.
I return at this point to the legislation before the House, Bill C-20. One of the fundamental aspects of this legislation, which warrants emphasis, is that it originates not so much with the Government of Canada, and I mean no disrespect in that regard, but rather with a group of visionary leaders, aboriginal Canadians who have fought for their vision of self-government and who have persisted in the face of considerable difficulty.
I speak of a team of people, but there are four or five people in particular I wish to mention for the record in this honourable House. They are Chief Tom Bressette, the chairman of the first nations statistical advisory panel and the present Chief of the Chippewas of Kettle and Stony Point First Nation; Harold Calla, chairman of the financial management advisory panel, a councillor and individual from the Squamish First Nation; Chief Strater Crowfoot, chairman of the Indian taxation advisory board and chief of the Siksika First Nation; Deanna Hamilton, the president and CEO of the first nation finance authority of the Westbank First Nation; and Manny Jules, the former Indian taxation advisory board chairman and the former chief of the Kamloops Indian Band.
These men and women, and the extraordinary team of people who have worked with them are fighting to ensure that the first nation communities that wish to will have voluntary access to practical levers of self-government, which will bring them economic progress, prosperity and social development.
Their vision is one of prosperity, of infrastructure development, of economic development, of economic opportunity and social progress. The self-government, which they are fighting for, is predicated upon the hard work associated with citizenship in this country, the installation of community infrastructure, the responsibilities of debt service, the administration of a property tax system, and the building of fiscal, managerial and financial capacity in their communities.
The legislation also concurrently balances the interests of the federal crown and contains provisions that would provide the necessary protection for the position of taxpayers commensurate with that of other taxpayers in our federal system.
I wish to point out, in response to some of the questions that have been raised surrounding this legislation, that there has been an enormous amount of consultation surrounding the development of this statute.
The bill not only originated with the first nation communities, of which I have spoken, but this project evolved to include many other first nations and regional first nation bodies, the First Nation Summit of British Columbia and the Union of Ontario Indians. Discussion was held in those forums.
Years of consultation and debate have surrounded the development of this initiative. Debates with the Assembly of First Nations AGM, the B.C. First Nation Summit, the Union of Ontario Indians, the Atlantic Policy Congress, as well as numerous discussions with individual first nations. In addition to those consultations, meetings have been held with non-first nation taxpayers, provincial governments, private sector companies and municipal governments.
I would point out for the record and for special note, that consultations have been held with the Canadian Property Tax Association, the Canadian Energy Pipeline Association, the Federation of Canadian Municipalities, the Union of B.C. Municipalities, the Bank of Montreal, First Nations Bank, TD Canada Trust, VanCity Credit Union, Standard & Poor's Corporation, Moody's Investors Services, the Aboriginal Finance Officers Association, the Municipal Finance Authority of British Columbia and other bodies as well.
What all of that speaks to is the remarkable amount of consultation on the legislative progress of the bill. In that regard, when I went through the provisions of the bill in a detailed way, chapter and verse, paragraph by paragraph, I was struck by the fact that the provisions of the bill were well thought out, well crafted and meticulously drafted.
There are three particular issues which the House needs to be aware of and which I think are adequately addressed in the legislation. First, the rights of taxpayers under this legislation; second, the liability of the crown; and third, the provisions relating to default or defalcation.
It is important to note that with respect to the rights of taxpayers, a great deal has been done in the legislation to ensure that a taxpayer on reserve, whether it be an industrial taxpayer or a taxpayer in a residential or commercial context, is being treated very much the same as a taxpayer anywhere else in Canada. An assessment bylaw must be approved by the tax commission under clause 5(2). Assessment appeals are mandatory and prescribed by regulation. There is an appeal review process. A review can be requested of the first nation tax commission under clause 33. In addition, the commissioners of the tax commission include specifically taxpayer appointed nominees under clause 20.
A great deal of effort went into ensuring that the rights of taxpayers were examined, considered and protected. I think they are quite commensurate with a situation any other taxpayer would face in this country.
With respect to the liability of the crown, this is an issue that has been raised. I would point out that under section 60 of the statute, no one is entitled to give a guarantee on behalf of the Government of Canada. Both sections 133 and 135 provide very clearly that no person has a right to receive any compensation or damages, or an indemnity from the crown in respect of this legislation.
I think that is very important because the first nations in this case are not being backstopped by anyone other than themselves. When we talk about aboriginal Canadians standing up and taking responsibility for their own affairs, this legislation shows that it is exactly what is happening. They are not being backstopped by the Government of Canada. This is their own responsibility. It is a collective effort on the part of first nations to guarantee one another's debt and, through that method, to advance themselves economically.
The legislation does contain provisions relating to accountability, and in particular what happens in the event of a difficult circumstance of defalcation or default. There are also extensive co-management or third party management procedures that would happen under the direction of the First Nations Finance Authority. Those matters have been dealt with as well.
This is good legislation and it is indicative of the direction in which we need to move. I spoke earlier of the individuals who have exercised leadership in bringing this forward. Our party compliments them. We are proud of the work they have achieved. We are proud to support this initiative. We think it sets a direction for the country.
Other initiatives in Canada are developing along these same lines. Just this week I met with a very well respected aboriginal leader, Satsan Herb George, who spoke of the governance centre in Chilliwack, British Columbia. This is a proposal that will fit quite naturally in with what is being envisioned by the legislation in front of us, Bill C-20.
What we are talking about is capacity building for first nations to put themselves in a position where they will have governance structures, taxation options, finance options and fiscal management capabilities to lift themselves up and to make social and economic progress on their reserves. This is all very positive.
For my part, I have sometimes worried about the endlessness of the debate that we are having surrounding self-government. The many issues surrounding self-government, the meaning, the scope and the content of that term will, in gradual course, be resolved in Canada, but I think it will be resolved in the same way that other issues in our country have been resolved and that is in an evolutionary and, I would suggest, a conservative and cautious manner that responds in a gradual way to the needs of our diverse Canadian community.
We will make progress. We perhaps will make it cautiously but we will make it with full regard to the consequences of the decisions that we are making.
Let us move forward with the legislation. This is not legislation that answers all of the self-government questions in this nation but it is a start . If we adopt this legislation there will be economic and social progress in Canada for many of the first nations that are in a position and can decide to avail themselves of this legislation. We will be closer to the economic independence and self-sufficiency of which Grand Chief Fontaine speaks.
First Nations Fiscal and Statistical Management Act
December 10th, 2004 / 10:30 a.m.
Pat Martin Winnipeg Centre, MB
Mr. Speaker, throughout the debate on this bill much has been made of the optional nature of the bill. Even in earlier incarnations this was less clear, but in this incarnation of the bill, as it went from Bill C-19 to Bill C-23, to now Bill C-20 in this Parliament, the claim is made by the government that this is truly optional and people's fears are groundless.
However, it remains unclear to me and perhaps the parliamentary secretary can help me with this. In relation to the statistical institute, which is one of the four new fiscal institutions created by Bill C-20, I do not understand how the claim can be made that Bill C-20 is optional. In fact, the statistical institute is not optional at all. All first nations in Canada come under this whether they wish to or not.
Unless I am missing something completely, there is no optional nature to the statistical institute. Perhaps this should have been dealt with as a separate bill. Perhaps the government should have introduced the three other fiscal institutions as one bill. If there was a need for the statistical institute, it could have been dealt with separately. I would like the parliamentary secretary to explain to me how the statistical institute could be seen as optional.
First Nations Fiscal and Statistical Management Act
December 10th, 2004 / 10:05 a.m.
Sue Barnes Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development and Federal Interlocutor for Métis and Non-Status Indians
Mr. Speaker, I rise today in support of Bill C-20, the first nations fiscal and statistical management act.
Before I speak to the contents of the proposed legislation though, I would like to extend my sincere thanks to the members of the Standing Committee on Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development, and I note that our chair, the member for Nunavut is here today, and colleagues in the House who, with their consent, facilitated this final debate today. I acknowledge and am grateful for that.
This important legislation will enable first nations to access the tools they need to increase their participation in the economy. Under the provisions of Bill C-20, first nations will have at their disposal the same financial instruments and mechanisms used by municipal governments to plan effectively, raise capital and secure investments. With this capacity, first nations will be better able to realize their dreams of self-sufficiency and prosperity.
The impetus for this legislation originates with first nation leaders from across the country. It is important to recognize that Bill C-20 was developed by first nations for first nations.
The legislation before us today is the product of many years of hard work, detailed analysis and continual refinement. Leaders of first nations have told us that Bill C-20 represents their communities' best hope for a more equitable share in Canada's prosperity. I believe it is incumbent upon us to champion this hope and facilitate a new reality for first nations in our country together.
The latest figures from Statistics Canada confirm that first nations communities continue to rank among the poorest in Canada; their residents experience the lowest standards of living. This is not acceptable. This we need to address.
Manny Jules, the principal architect of Bill C-20, summed up the current situation eloquently, when he said:
Today a wall surrounds First Nation economies; a wall built by past legislation and policies; a wall of mistrust and dependency that traps us in poverty. Each additional year of dependency adds another brick in this wall. The wall has not served Canada well because it prevents us from participating in the economy.
Manny Jules, together with Chief Strater Crowfoot, Chief Tom Bresette, Harold Calla and Deanna Hamilton are foremost among the committed leaders of this legislative initiative. Others have done amazing work to assist the development and realization of their dreams, and I acknowledge not only their presence and support today, but their steadfast efforts over time.
I am convinced that Bill C-20 will help dismantle the wall. With this vitally important legislation, first nations communities will be able to fulfill their vision of self-sufficiency and prosperity. Bill C-20 would enable first nations leaders to meet the specific needs of their specific community.
The essence of the legislation is a series of four distinct yet complementary institutions: a finance authority, a tax commission, a financial management board and a statistical institute. Precursors to two of these institutions, for instance the Indian taxation advisory board, have operated for several years and the results have been remarkable. The time has come to move forward to do better.
Once these institutions are in place, first nations will have many of the powers long enjoyed by municipal governments, including the ability to borrow money at competitive rates, to develop effective real property tax systems and to protect the interests of their ratepayers.
First nations that participate in these institutions will also be able to increase financial management capacity and improve long term planning. In short, first nations will exercise greater control over and assume greater responsibility for the economic and social health of their communities.
The viability of every community in Canada is affected by the strength and reliability of its physical infrastructure. For example, transportation links, water and sewage treatment facilities and other components of modern infrastructure are also essential to economic growth, Municipalities across Canada have long funded infrastructure projects through low interest loans. Lenders were keen to invest in these projects because of the legal status, financial health and political stability of municipal governments.
Most first nation communities, though, struggle to attract investors and finance the construction of infrastructure. Funding even the most modest of projects quickly becomes prohibitively expensive due to high transaction costs and interest rates. Furthermore, verification and approval processes often delay the start of projects, leading to additional costs.
According to a study completed by first nations fiscal institutions initiative, funding an infrastructure project in a first nations community can be up to 10 times more expensive than a similar project built elsewhere. As a result, today many first nations communities suffer from the effects of inadequate physical infrastructure. Bill C-20 would establish these four independent institutions that would provide valuable services to first nations at every stage of growth.
I would like to describe these institutions briefly now and explain their roles.
More than a decade ago, a handful of communities pooled their resources to create the First Nations Finance Authority Inc. for investment purposes. As the number of first nations participating in the authority grew, so did the feasibility of issuing debentures to access long term capital at competitive interest rates. The concept attracted the support of a key partner, the Municipal Finance Authority of British Columbia, which had 30 years' experience and a triple A credit rating.
The new First Nations Finance Authority will provide participating first nations with access to capital markets by issuing debentures using property tax revenues as security, debentures that will finance infrastructure projects.
To assist band councils in instituting effective property tax regimes, Bill C-20 would create the First Nations Tax Commission, or FNTC. The FNTC will establish the legal framework needed to effectively balance community and ratepayer interests. It will institute processes to resolve disputes and to approve bylaws and it will provide the services needed to securitize real property tax revenues. In short, the FNTC will foster the secure and stable fiscal environments sought by investors.
To ensure that this environment thrives over the long term, first nations must have access to adequate financial management services. Lenders must have a clear and accurate picture of the fiscal health of borrowers. Independent assessments must be readily available. The First Nations Financial Management Board, or FMB, is designed to meet these requirements.
There are two components of the FMB's mandate. The first component focuses on the provision of technical services to first nations regardless of financial status. The FMB will assist with research and advocacy, policy and capacity development, along with financial management, reporting and standards. These activities will help first nations communities to make the most of their financial resources.
The second part of the board's mandate focuses on first nations that collect property tax and seek to borrow against this revenue. The FMB will certify and monitor financial management standards of these first nations, providing potential investors with a clear and accurate picture of fiscal health. By conducting independent assessments of financial status, the board will ensure that lenders have the information and the confidence needed to invest. The FMB will be empowered to intervene promptly and decisively if needed.
To ensure that the institutions I have described can function appropriately, their performance must be recorded accurately and also analyzed regularly. To accomplish these goals, an effective method of gathering statistics is needed. Unfortunately. the quality and accuracy of statistical systems in first nations communities has been inadequate and, I must say, inconsistent. Precise, relevant data is particularly essential for community planners. Information on population growth and effectiveness of service delivery mechanisms, for instance, is needed to design effective housing and health initiatives.
Planners in first nations communities, though, rarely have had access to the valuable information collected from fellow residents. Although several government departments and agencies have long collected data about and from members of first nations, this information is seldom shared with other agencies or even with the communities that have provided the information in the first place.
A few years ago, the Auditor General estimated that each first nation annually provides the government with information about more than 150 aspects of community life. Data concerning school enrolment, employment, population and dozen of other subjects are recorded and analyzed, but the information is usually gathered for specific purposes and rarely shared with first nations.
Not surprisingly, this severely hampers the ability of band councils and aboriginal leaders to plan effectively. Further compounding the problem is the fact that few agencies involve residents of first nations communities directly in the compilation, collation and analysis of information. As a result, few aboriginal people have acquired any familiarity or expertise with statistical techniques. Although this is a generalization, I think it is relatively true.
Bill C-20 would improve the situation significantly by establishing the First Nations Statistical Institute, or FNSI. FNSI will have the power to collect information from a variety of sources and develop a comprehensive database of accurate and pertinent statistics about each first nation community in Canada. As a first nations led organization, FNSI will bring an aboriginal perspective to every aspect of information collection, interpretation and use.
Of greater significance, though, is the positive effect that the expertise in data management will have on local governance. Chiefs and councils will have the data needed to make informed decisions about economic and social development in their communities.
In the Speech from the Throne, the government committed to begin the essential task of renewing its relations with first nations. The government vowed to follow a collaborative approach and pledged to establish a relationship based on equality, trust and mutual respect. Much progress has been made on this front and we will continue to go forward.
The Canada-aboriginal peoples round table united representatives of dozens of governments, agencies and organizations from across Canada for a series of focused and productive discussions. These talks led to a series of processes to accelerate progress and measure performance.
Sectoral follow-up meetings focusing on health, lifelong learning and housing have already been held. Next week, sessions on fostering economic opportunity will get under way.
The legislation before us today is another part of this collaborative effort. Designed by first nations, Bill C-20 would play an important role in the new relationship between Canada and aboriginal peoples. The legislation sends a clear message to all first nations that the Government of Canada is aware of the problems they face, has listened carefully to the solutions they have proposed, and is now prepared to act.
The practical fiscal management tools at the heart of this legislation will help first nations better manage their land and more easily acquire the funds they need to engage in community building projects. Improvements in physical infrastructure would contribute to a better quality of life in two ways. Upgrading transportation and communication links creates jobs, establishes new opportunities for entrepreneurs and increases land values. Investments in infrastructure fuel a healthy cycle of economic development that will continue well into the future.
Bill C-20 provides these tools that would support the building of new relationships and give first nations access to financial instruments and mechanisms to raise capital and secure investment. With these tools, first nations would be able to create a business-friendly economic growth and realize their dreams, not ours, of self-sufficiency and prosperity.
This legislation is not a panacea for the economic woes of first nations. It will not magically transform poverty stricken communities into prosperous, thriving towns. Bill C-20, however, would give first nations the freedom to develop their communities on their own terms. Community leaders would gain access to the same legal tools and financial mechanisms that enabled other Canadian communities to flourish and grow. All first nations can benefit from the expertise of institutions such as the FMB, whether or not they decide to participate in the borrowing pool.
Bill C-20 would not diminish the constitutionally protected rights of aboriginal peoples. Instead, the legislation would help those first nations that choose to participate to exercise those rights by creating equal opportunities for first nations within the Canadian constitutional framework.
The government is well aware that there is no such thing as a one size fits all solution to the divergent needs and aspirations of first nations. First nations governments can use this legislation if and when they are ready. No band will ever be forced to take part. The choice of whether to participate or not will be up to the individual communities.
Bill C-20 is flexible and inclusive enough to meet the needs of hundreds of first nations. I am convinced that the tools accessible through Bill C-20 would help to close the considerable gaps that exist between aboriginal and non-aboriginal communities in this country.
Furthermore, by combining rigorous standards with legal powers and institutional support, the legislation would ensure that first nations operate within their debt carrying capacity as they move toward self-sufficiency.
Finally, Bill C-20 would create a legal framework enabling first nations to work directly and effectively with private companies and public agencies. This would put an end to first nation isolation and lead to a better quality of life for first nations communities.
In short, Bill C-20 outlines a balanced approach to long term financial health for first nations. Clearly, all Canadians stand to benefit.
Bill C-20 is not a prescriptive bill. First nations are neither required to participate in the institutions I have described, nor must they adhere to a specific regime. This legislation recognizes and accommodates the divergent needs and aspirations of first nations. I believe that the flexible, inclusive approach articulated by Bill C-20 is its greatest strength. Bill C-20 would provide access to a range of options, enabling each community to chart its own path to prosperity.
I thank my hon. colleagues of all parties who have by their actions shown support for this legislation. I say merci and I wish good luck to everyone.