First Nations Financial Transparency Act

An Act to enhance the financial accountability and transparency of First Nations

This bill was last introduced in the 41st Parliament, 1st Session, which ended in September 2013.

Sponsor

John Duncan  Conservative

Status

This bill has received Royal Assent and is now law.

Summary

This is from the published bill. The Library of Parliament often publishes better independent summaries.

This enactment enhances the financial accountability and transparency of First Nations.

Elsewhere

All sorts of information on this bill is available at LEGISinfo, provided by the Library of Parliament. You can also read the full text of the bill.

Votes

  • Nov. 27, 2012 Passed That the Bill be now read a third time and do pass.
  • Nov. 26, 2012 Passed That Bill C-27, An Act to enhance the financial accountability and transparency of First Nations, {as amended}, be concurred in at report stage [with a further amendment/with further amendments] .
  • Nov. 26, 2012 Failed That Bill C-27 be amended by deleting Clause 13.
  • Nov. 26, 2012 Failed That Bill C-27 be amended by deleting Clause 11.
  • Nov. 26, 2012 Failed That Bill C-27 be amended by deleting Clause 1.
  • Nov. 22, 2012 Passed That, in relation to Bill C-27, An Act to enhance the financial accountability and transparency of First Nations, not more than one further sitting day shall be allotted to the consideration at report stage of the Bill and one sitting day shall be allotted to the consideration at third reading stage of the said Bill; and That, 15 minutes before the expiry of the time provided for Government Orders on the day allotted to the consideration at report stage and on the day allotted to the consideration at third reading stage of the said Bill, any proceedings before the House shall be interrupted, if required for the purpose of this Order, and in turn every question necessary for the disposal of the stage of the Bill then under consideration shall be put forthwith and successively without further debate or amendment.
  • June 21, 2012 Passed That the Bill be now read a second time and referred to the Standing Committee on Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development.

First Nations Financial Transparency Act
Government Orders

November 27th, 2012 / 11:10 a.m.
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NDP

Pierre Nantel Longueuil—Pierre-Boucher, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to attest to the fact that the member is an undisputed expert on the matter. When she goes through a bill, we know that it has been thoroughly examined.

However, as I am not an expert on this issue, I can only ask the following question: does she not find this reaction a bit embarrassing after 16 reports from the Auditor General's office in response to our report on first nations' living conditions?

First Nations Financial Transparency Act
Government Orders

November 27th, 2012 / 11:10 a.m.
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NDP

Jean Crowder Nanaimo—Cowichan, BC

Mr. Speaker, it is very interesting. The government, as it likes to remind us, has a majority and this is the bill that it has chosen to bring forward to address an issue that it sees as relevant in first nations communities.

What we also know from a number of auditor general reports is that child welfare services are underfunded. In fact, there is a human rights tribunal going on about discrimination against first nations children. We know education is underfunded. We know many first nations have boil water advisories or have no access to clean drinking water. We know the houses are full of mould in many communities. We know the child poverty rates in first nations communities are the highest in the country. Yet what the government chooses to bring forward is a bill about accountability and transparency that does not, again, meet any of the requirements of consultation. Therefore, we have to wonder where the priorities of the government are.

First Nations Financial Transparency Act
Government Orders

November 27th, 2012 / 11:10 a.m.
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NDP

Sadia Groguhé Saint-Lambert, QC

Mr. Speaker, first of all, I would like to congratulate my colleague on her speech and remind the House that the government moved a 29th time allocation motion, and it concerns this bill. The time allocation motion will again muzzle the House and, consequently, first nations, who have continually asked to be consulted. This consultation has never really taken place. However, the duty to consult is entrenched in our Constitution. It is a constitutional duty, but unfortunately something that the first nations have not been entitled to.

We are talking about a lot of issues, including access to water and access to education, which are basic rights of any people. But we have not had any real action on these issues.

I would like to ask my colleague to speak further about the need to ensure that first nations are consulted at least to some extent if not fully.

First Nations Financial Transparency Act
Government Orders

November 27th, 2012 / 11:15 a.m.
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NDP

Jean Crowder Nanaimo—Cowichan, BC

Mr. Speaker, the member is absolutely correct. When I started my speech, I talked about the government-to-government relationship. Back in January at the Crown-first nations gathering, the Prime Minister indicated there would be a change in that relationship and people quite optimistically thought that perhaps there was going to be an improvement in that relationship, that the government would consult in a meaningful way before it brought forward legislation.

Consultation is a very complex matter, and a number of tests must be in place in order to ensure that the requirements around the duty to consult are met. Consultation does not just mean going out and gathering information and then coming back and going behind closed doors and developing a bill that does not reflect what was heard from first nations across this country. We have seen that in a number of other bills. Matrimonial real property is an excellent example.

Consultation needs to be a closed loop. Resources and information and context need to be provided. We need to make sure first nations have the ability to engage, that there is enough time for them to engage in that process. There are going to be challenges when all of the information is gathered, because we are talking about nation-to-nation and governments. They are not all going to agree with the outcome of it, so then we need to figure out a process about how to take these disparate views and come up with a consensus position. Then when the legislation is being drafted, first nations need to be included. That would constitute a consultation process, and that has not happened with respect to this legislation.

First Nations Financial Transparency Act
Government Orders

November 27th, 2012 / 11:15 a.m.
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Liberal

Carolyn Bennett St. Paul's, ON

Mr. Speaker, as I have stated in the House before, transparency and proactive disclosure are important goals for all governments, including first nations governments, and goals that the Liberal opposition supports. However, the Conservatives have a duty to work with first nations to improve mutual accountability, not just impose made-in-Ottawa legislation.

First nations are willing partners on the issues of governance. However, the government must stop treating them as adversaries; it must stop the paternalism; it must stop the raining down of legislation on first nations without any prior consultation; it must stop treating first nations as though they are children in need of discipline or adult supervision. The government must go back to the original understanding of a government-to-government relationship, as was stated in the Royal Proclamation, which will be 250 years ago next year.

The total lack of consultation on this bill is an insult. The government signed the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, which insists upon free, prior and informed consent. The government now sees that as aspirational in nature and has put in absolutely no mechanisms to implement this declaration across government departments or even within the Department of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development. It is very sad that again we stand in the House having to fight back against the kind of paternalistic approaches that do nothing to enhance the capacity of first nations in the country. Yet again, this is a tremendous example of insulting behaviour.

We are very concerned about the genesis of this legislation and its predecessor, which seems to be linked to the controversial report published by the Canadian Taxpayers Federation detailing salary figures of first nations chiefs. We say “misleading” salary figures of first nations chiefs. Then again, as we came to understand in the amendments, linking salary, expenses and the remuneration for band-owned businesses is actually a purposeful sticker shock that has fed into the stereotypes and is extremely damaging to the reputations of all first nations. It is particularly insulting to the first nations who are moving out and leading in terms of successful business enterprises.

The sensationalist report was shown to have contained inflated numbers and misleading calculations of remuneration for first nations elected officials. It reminds me, as a physician in Ontario, of the time when people were listing the fees taken by physicians, not bringing into account that we had to pay our rent, pay our staff, pay the costs of doing business out of that remuneration. It was misleading, as though it was income going directly to physicians.

The Canadian Bar Association has expressed concern that:

...debates that focus on such matters make an informed discussion about the realities of first nations governments difficult.

It has also stated that:

Rather than focusing on legislation that diverts attention from more pressing challenges facing First Nations governments, we encourage a nation to nation dialogue held in the light of constitutional principles.

The AFN has expressed concern that the federal government seems increasingly focused on designing first nations governance from Ottawa despite the fundamental need for first nations to undertake this work for themselves for it to be legitimate. As the member for Nanaimo—Cowichan articulated, this was beautifully done in the Assembly of First Nations discussion on governance and accountability in January 2006. We share those concerns about Bill C-27.

Unfortunately, the government's decision to cut the National Centre for First Nations Governance and to slash the funding for tribal councils and other institutions, which are focused on building first nations capacity, is further undermining the ability of first nations to develop and implement accountability measures. The NCFNG will now be closing its doors early next year. It is hypocrisy to legislate accountability and transparency while cutting funding to the organizations, like the NCFNG, whose mandate is to support the process of nation rebuilding and self-government. How can the government justify imposing additional reporting duties, while at the same time cutting the resources first nations have to comply with these requirements?

While Bill C-27 is intended to improve the accountability and transparency of first nations governments to first nations citizens, the government failed to carry out its constitutional duty to consult with first nations on the drafting of this legislation or regarding government amendments during the committee stage. Unfortunately, this lack of consultation has resulted in a number of fundamental problems with this bill. The government must work with, not simply on behalf of, aboriginal peoples, as we promised to do in our original treaty relationship and as expressed to us by the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

Beyond its legal duties to consult, the government also has a moral duty to ensure that first nations are a part of the process to develop good policy that will work for them. However, with this bill the Conservative government would impose major changes to first nations financial reporting requirements with no significant prior consultation with those who would have to implement these proposed changes. One of the most shocking things we heard during the committee testimony was the fact that when the government went to the Whitecap Dakota First Nation to announce this bill, Chief Darcy Bear and his council were not permitted to see the bill in its final form. Chief Darcy Bear even wrote to his local Conservative MP and minister, expressing his concerns on December 11, 2011, stating:

I do wish to point out that when we were asked to endorse the new Bill we were only provided with the backgrounder on November 22, 2011. We did not receive a copy of the actual draft Bill until it was introduced in Parliament on November 23, 2011, which was after our press conference of that same day. We did not have the opportunity to review and analyze Bill C-27....

The chief went on to say:

I do wish to emphasize that we provided our endorsement of the new Bill C-27 based on our support for the former Bill C-575, for the reasons stated above.

The Whitecap Dakota First Nation went on to raise serious concerns about the scope and application of Bill C-27. How does this kind of bait and switch approach, on an accountability bill of all things, facilitate trust and partnership with first nations?

The government has used the same flawed approach to manage the issues of drinking water and matrimonial real property. It does not consult the stakeholders, let alone the opposition, about the details of these bills before introducing them.

The government's approach violates its constitutional duty to consult first nations before making any changes to legislation and policies that affect first nations peoples, institutions and rights.

The government continued this pattern at committee, rejecting all opposition amendments out of hand and refusing to consult broadly on the few government amendments brought forward.

The previous Liberal government worked with first nations to develop a broad-based and comprehensive mutual accountability framework. This framework was included in the Kelowna accord, which Conservatives tore up in 2006. It was creative. It was built on collaboration and it was the way forward in terms of building accountability and transparency.

First nations funding arrangements are currently subject to annual allocations, changing program parameters and reporting obligations as well as unilateral realignment, reductions and adjustments. Any effort to improve accountability and transparency must be mutual and should include a commitment by the federal government to be accountable for its spending on first nations programs.

As I have indicated, Liberals fully support the principle of proactive disclosure of financial information from first nation chiefs and councils to band members. Clearly, cases of first nation citizens being denied access to this information are unacceptable. However, we must look at the appropriate accountability relationship for the disclosure of this information.

First nation governments must be accountable to the members of that first nation, the people who elect them. Reporting requirements should be focused on making sure the members of a first nation have access to the appropriate information to hold their elected leaders accountable. Therefore, the proactive disclosure provisions in the legislation should apply to first nations alone. There are existing models from first nations that already have strong governance models, which can be adopted. For instance, there are examples of bands that already proactively disclose financial statements on password-protected websites. These are the types of creative solutions that result from thorough two-way consultation.

The bill also applies to first nations with financial administration laws made under the First Nations Fiscal and Statistical Management Act and this could lead to conflicting reporting requirements. The reporting of salaries and expenses, which the government admitted would have created confusion, was amended but still requires first nation leaders to include compensation in their personal capacity. This not only creates serious privacy concerns but also the possibility of misleading information being disclosed regarding first nation leaders' compensation.

Again, the government refused to listen to the expert testimony at committee and rejected opposition amendments on these issues out of hand.

Bill C-27 does nothing to reduce the current overwhelming reporting burden, especially for small first nations with limited administrative capacity.

The Auditor General has repeatedly called for meaningful action to reduce unnecessary first nation reporting requirements that shift limited capacity from community programs. In her 2002 report, the Auditor General recommended that:

The federal government should consult with First Nations to review reporting requirements on a regular basis and to determine reporting needs when new programs are set up.

As recently as June 2011, the Auditor General reported government progress toward achieving this needed rationalization as unsatisfactory. The government has failed to make meaningful progress on this issue.

First nations provide a minimum of 168 different financial reports to the four major funding departments: INAC, Health Canada, HRSDC and CMHC. That is three per week. The majority of these communities have less than 500 people. AANDC alone receives over 60,000 reports from first nations annually as a requirement under existing funding agreements.

Legislation that adds additional reporting requirements for first nations must also deal with the overwhelming and often outdated and unnecessary burden of existing reporting requirements. The practical requirements of the legislation have the potential to be unduly burdensome to first nations. For example, many communities are in remote areas, which impacts both their service delivery and operating expenses. Most communities do not have funding to build the infrastructure necessary for Internet access or the resource to create and maintain their own websites. Again, the government rejected opposition amendments to provide for alternative reporting options to band members.

I would also like to point out that paternalistic lectures about accountability are particularly insulting coming from the Conservative government. The Parliamentary Secretary to the Prime Minister is facing a serious investigation by Canada's independent election authority for spending irregularities and the Minister of Intergovernmental is under a cloud regarding questionable election expenses during the last election. Both still have their jobs and so much for accountability.

What about transparency? Bill C-38, a 425-page omnibus bill that amended over 70 different acts was rammed through Parliament last spring with no amendments and minimal debate. This fall, the government introduced yet another massive 443-page omnibus bill, tucking in changes to everything from exempting the Detroit-Windsor bridge from environmental laws, to changing the list of navigable waters, to changing the definition of aboriginal fisheries and rules for aboriginal land ownership. All indications are that the government will ram this mammoth bill through completely unchanged as well.

First nations have little to learn about accountability and transparency from the government when the Parliamentary Budget Officer, who the government enshrined in the 2006 Federal Accountability Act, now has to go to court to get the information he needs in order to do his job of reporting back to Canadians, members of Parliament and senators on what is going on with the government's spending.

The bill is inconsistent with the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and the Prime Minister's commitment at the Crown-first nations gathering to reset the relationship.

It is inconsistent with the new approach to managing relations between the Government of Canada and first nations that was supposed to have resulted from the residential schools apology in 2008.

As I have stated, Liberals support the underlying goal of the legislation, but we are very concerned about how it was brought to the House and how the lack of consultation and collaboration in its development has resulted in a fatally, fundamentally, flawed legislation.

First Nations Financial Transparency Act
Government Orders

November 27th, 2012 / 11:30 a.m.
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NDP

Pierre Jacob Brome—Missisquoi, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank my hon. colleague for her speech. I would like to begin by pointing out that I also think it is appalling that Bill C-27 is the object of the 29th time allocation motion.

That being said, I would like to ask my colleague the following question. First of all, first nations governments are among the most transparent and accountable in all of Canada, and they are in favour of continuous improvement with consultation. However, the real problem is that they have suffered decades of paternalism, which has placed first nations chiefs in a position where, under the Indian Act, they are responsible for implementing decisions made by the federal government. Not only is that clearly inappropriate, but it is still a recipe for poor results. I wonder if my colleague could comment on these remarks from a first nations chief.

First Nations Financial Transparency Act
Government Orders

November 27th, 2012 / 11:30 a.m.
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Liberal

Carolyn Bennett St. Paul's, ON

Mr. Speaker, I thank my hon. colleague for this excellent question. It is so sad that this government does not understand how important it is to avoid paternalistic approaches. The federal government is the one that needs to be more transparent and accountable. First nations exemplify transparency and accountability. I think this government could learn a few things from first nations and follow their lead, and not the other way around.

First Nations Financial Transparency Act
Government Orders

November 27th, 2012 / 11:35 a.m.
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NDP

Pierre-Luc Dusseault Sherbrooke, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for her very interesting comments. Does she agree that this government is not in a position to be lecturing us on transparency? When I saw that this bill was calling for transparency from the first nations, I was flabbergasted. This bill calls for transparency from the first nations, yet this government is the perfect example of a lack of transparency.

Could the member comment on the Conservatives' double standard?

First Nations Financial Transparency Act
Government Orders

November 27th, 2012 / 11:35 a.m.
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Conservative

Kyle Seeback Brampton West, ON

Mr. Speaker, my colleague seemed to be alluding to the fact that Chief Bear is somewhat in the dark on the legislation. That is just not the truth. We did extensive consultation, including in the previous incarnation of this legislation by the member for Saskatoon—Rosetown—Biggar. The two concerns that were raised by Chief Bear about separating out certain types of expenses have been addressed in the bill. When the member talks about some kind of lack of transparency that is just not the truth. Chief Bear is now fully supportive of the legislation.

The member was at committee and she heard from individual members who begged our government to do something because when they ask for remuneration from their band council, there is sometimes threats and intimidation. What does my colleague have to say to members of the community who are begging for this legislation, when she is opposing it? How is she going to help them?

First Nations Financial Transparency Act
Government Orders

November 27th, 2012 / 11:35 a.m.
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Liberal

Carolyn Bennett St. Paul's, ON

Mr. Speaker, I would encourage the member to view the testimony of the Minister of Aboriginal Affairs when he was at committee. He and his officials had to admit that there was no consultation on the bill. Consultation was conducted on the previous bill. Chief Darcy Bear supported the previous bill. This legislation reaches far beyond the scope of the previous private member's bill and has created all of the problems that Chief Darcy Bear put in the letter to that member and the minister.

The minister already has the power to request a first nation to release data to a member of a community that has complained. It is appalling that the minister and his officials have literally no data on those complaints. They said they had around 200 complaints a year but they had no data as to whether all of those complaints came from the same person or whether they were all with respect to the same band. There was absolutely no data to support this kind of legislation coming forward. They had no excuses as to why no consultation took place with respect to the huge difference between the original private member's bill and this government bill.

Government amendments had to fix that difference because of the very clear speaking of Chief Darcy Bear and the first nations who were appalled at the bait and switch of support for the principles of a private member's bill. The government bill exceeds the intent of the original private member's bill and first nations find this totally insulting.

First Nations Financial Transparency Act
Government Orders

November 27th, 2012 / 11:40 a.m.
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NDP

François Choquette Drummond, QC

Mr. Speaker, it is rather strange to see this bill on transparency from a government that is the complete opposite of transparent.

They have muzzled us almost 30 times now and have prevented us from making speeches and debating bills. Here in the House, we can see that this government bill is strange, since it will not improve the precarious situation or the autonomy and development of the first nations.

What is this government's real objective in demanding something that it does not do itself? In fact, it is currently in court for having refused to provide information on the finance bill.

First Nations Financial Transparency Act
Government Orders

November 27th, 2012 / 11:40 a.m.
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Liberal

Carolyn Bennett St. Paul's, ON

Mr. Speaker, we have to remember that this is the week after the Parliamentary Budget Officer had to go to court to get the information he requires to do his job.

It is the Information Commissioner who is just appalled, department by department by department, at the lack of transparency. It is the access to information requests that are still in bankers' boxes, without searchable information.

I do not know how many Grand and Toy trucks pull up to the government with boxes of black magic markers for it to be able to erase all of the information that might be remotely interesting to Canadians if they are to hold the government to account.

Of course, there is also the inability of Parliament to hold the government to account, because the government will not even give us the information on crime bills, on the F-35s, or anything that we are expected to vote on here in this House.

First Nations Financial Transparency Act
Government Orders

November 27th, 2012 / 11:40 a.m.
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Conservative

Blake Richards Wild Rose, AB

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise to speak on this piece of legislation today.

There are those who argue that it is not necessary to enshrine transparency and accountability in legislation governing first nations' financial transactions. Those people appear to be content to let band officials decide whether they want to make available to members the information about how community funds are spent. They seem willing to leave such decisions to chance. Complaints by some first nation residents about their community leaders certainly seem to verify this observation, at least in certain cases. Nonetheless, I remind the House that we have heard disturbing tales about abuses of power.

For example, the Quebec resident Michael Benedict is a member of the Coalition of Abenaki Citizens for a Just, Transparent and Accountable Abenaki Government. He reported that:

My spouse and I have been harassed, my house vandalized and members of our local accountability organization have been intimidated for speaking out.

He went on to say:

Local elected officials were afraid we would empower Abenaki citizens to take a stand against abuse of power, misappropriation of public money and unavailability of information. C-27 will help improve transparency.

We have heard similar concerns in other parts of the country as well. For instance, Bev Brown of the Squamish First Nation has said:

When grassroots people request financial information from band council they are often threatened with support cuts from the band and are shunned in the community....

Like Michael Benedict, she believes that:

C-27 will help band members because it will allow them to view the material online and anonymously.

The problem boils down to this: Even though community members may ask for details about the remuneration of their chiefs and councillors, unless their leaders choose to release this information, there is no guarantee they will ever see it.

Now, one should not jump to the conclusion that this is the norm. Certainly, many first nations make every effort to provide this information to their community members. The Mohawk Council of Kahnawake, which is forthcoming with this kind of financial information, is a case in point. There is no question that some band councils display these records on their websites while others provide details in householder mailings or post them in their bands' offices. For that, they should be commended.

However, it appears that this is not the practice followed by all. The fact is that every year the federal government receives complaints from first nation residents that they cannot find out what the salaries of their chiefs and councillors are, or the specific work they do to earn their pay. Nor is there any accountability regarding reimbursement of expenses for activities that sometimes are a complete mystery to community members. In fact, many first nation members do not get to see the community's audited consolidated financial statements at all.

In those cases, everything may in fact be above board and the salaries or other financial compensation being paid to first nation leaders may well be worth every last penny. However, unless the books are open for the community members to judge, there is simply no way to know if that is true.

Testimony at the Standing Committee on Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development, of which I am a member, addressed the legislation earlier this fall and suggested that the examples I have cited are not isolated ones. Research data from the aboriginal governance index presented by the Frontier Centre for Public Policy indicates that 25% of first nations fail to provide financial information regarding salaries and expenses to their band members.

Admittedly, this is not the majority, but I am sure that all parties would agree, or certainly should agree, that one in four is very high. Indeed, even one such incident is one too many in a country that prides itself on being a democracy.

While compensation disclosure is basic information that is freely and easily available in all other jurisdictions in Canada, too many of the country's first nation leaders still refuse to make it available to their members. This is despite the fact that our country's chiefs have acknowledged the need to be more forthcoming.

I would remind my hon. colleagues that the Assembly of First Nations' chiefs passed a resolution at their special chiefs assembly in December of 2010 regarding financial disclosure. They affirmed the need to publicly release information regarding salaries and expenses to their members. They also agreed to make financial information available via the Internet, where applicable.

Just over half of the more that 600 first nations have their own websites. However, to date, very few have actually posted salary and remuneration information on the Internet. This does not suggest that all of the others have anything to hide, but it does confirm that good intentions do not automatically translate into good results. The current voluntary approach clearly does not always satisfy first nation members' right to know.

The assurance of a transparent, accountable, local government is the minimum that first nations members should expect in a democracy like ours. What first nations residents deserve and want is transparency and tangible information from their elected representatives when it comes to such issues.

Bill C-27 would ensure there are written, legal and binding guarantees that financial information will be freely and regularly released by first nation governments to local residents. The legislation would remove any opportunity to leave financial disclosure open to interpretation. It would put an end to the questionable practices of some leaders who think they do not need to account for their salaries and expenses, or for the way financial decisions are made. First nation governments are the only governments in Canada that do not currently have a legislated requirement to make this basic financial information public. The bill before us is designed to address that gap.

Once passed, the act would require all first nations not under a self-government agreement to publish the salaries and expenses they pay to their chiefs and councillors on an annual basis. This means that they would need to disclose things like wages, commissions, bonuses, fees, honorariums, dividends and any other financial or non-monetary benefits they may receive. The entire remuneration received by chiefs and councillors would be disclosed, not just a portion of their remuneration paid for from funds transferred by Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada. The proposed act also stipulates that information must be provided about spending related to transportation, accommodations, meals, hospitality and other expenses. I would note, however, that Bill C-27 would focus only on the political leaders of first nation governments. It would not apply to their appointed officials or senior staff.

The proposed legislation goes further than Bill C-575,, the private member's bill on which it is based. My hon. colleagues will recall that it died on the order paper when the last election was called. The new bill builds on the basic tenets of that earlier legislation, but goes further. Under Bill C-27, Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada would also be required to publish the audited consolidated financial statements, as well as the schedule of remuneration for elected officials, for first nations all across Canada, as soon as the information is available.

It is expected that these records would also be made available in band offices, as well as be posted on their websites. As I know, not every first nation has a website. The community could request that another organization, such as a tribal council, a first nation organization, or even Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada itself, post the information on its behalf.

In addition, the new act would require that audited consolidated financial statements of first nation governments be prepared annually and disclosed to community members and the general public. The audited consolidated financial statements would include information related to any entities that, according to generally accepted accounting principles, are to be consolidated with the financial statements of the first nation, such as band-owned businesses.

Before anyone suggests that this could hurt those businesses' competitiveness, let me set the record straight. Bill C-27 would not require each individual business owned by the band to publish its detailed financial statements. All that is asked for is the publication of audited consolidated financial statements of the first nation as a whole. This would include entities that, according to accounting rules, are consolidated with the first nation, including band-owned businesses. This is simply standard accounting practice. These same principles and rules already apply to government-owned businesses all across Canada.

It is important to recognize that these statements are highly aggregated. Consequently, they would not be required to reveal any proprietary information that would undermine the competitiveness of a first nation's business or that of its partners. In fact, in response to concerns raised by witnesses appearing before the standing committee, the language of the bill has been amended to ensure it matches this spirit and intent.

I also want to be very clear about something else. We are not trying to create extra paperwork or to add red tape that might deter communities from attracting business development. Bill C-27 has been crafted so that no new reports are required. I repeat, no new reports are required. Do not forget that first nations are already required to produce annual consolidated financial statements audited by independent accredited professional auditors. As well, schedules of remuneration and expenses for the chiefs and councillors are a condition of their funding agreements with the federal government.

All that will change once the bill becomes law is that first nations will be legally obligated to share this information with the members of their bands. As I have already noted, many first nation elected officials already practice transparent and accountable reporting of their actions. Indeed, this is a requirement of self-government agreements, which explains why communities with signed agreements would be exempt from the act. However, those who have yet to demonstrate openness and willingness to be accountable to their communities and members must be held to the same standard and that is what the first nations financial transparency act would ensure.

Any concerns that first nation members have about how their communities' moneys are managed can be addressed if first nation governments meet this new accountability standard. This legislation is a win-win-win, no matter how one looks at it. Most essential is that Bill C-27 would make sure that first nation residents have access to the necessary information to make sound decisions about their leadership and their community's future. This goes to the very heart of a democratic society.

Equally important, it would enhance the confidence of all Canadians in first nation governments. Perhaps most promising is that his act would ensure potential investors that they can safely enter into joint financial agreements and business undertakings with first nations. This could lead to social and economic improvements in the lives and livelihoods of first nation members. When businesses create those kinds of opportunities, it opens up many new prospects for first nation members. It provides jobs and economic opportunities, which could make a real difference in many of these communities.

As the Winnipeg Free Press stated in an editorial about Bill C-27 on November 23:

The transparency law may not spark a revolution, but it will certainly enhance accountability and could lead to demands for more reforms, which are desperately needed to raise the living standards of Canada's first people.

That, at the end of the day, is really what the bill is all about. It would provide the legislative foundation upon which to build strong communities and strong economies to create a better quality of life for people living on reserve. What we are talking about here are those opportunities, the business prospects, the economic growth and the jobs that could be created. First nation members, indeed all Canadians, need Bill C-27. This legislation would ensure that first nation community members can count on law and reason, rather than passion, when it comes to good government. They would have written assurance that they can hold their leaders to account.

Frankly, I cannot fathom why there would be any opposition to this reasoned and reasonable legislation. I, for one, am proud to stand behind this progressive act that would put an end to practices that are all too often denying first nations people the same access to fundamental financial freedom as other Canadians. The first nations financial transparency bill would guarantee that first nation residents would enjoy the same democratic rights as all other Canadians.

As I have already mentioned, many first nations already provide this information to their members. It is the same kind of information that is available to citizens across Canada. Certainly here in the House as members of Parliament and in the other place, our salaries are disclosed through the Parliament of Canada Act and through the Salaries Act. That legislation lays out a transparent formula that calculates our salaries and provides for the publication of those details, both for regular incomes and for special allowances that are added to the salaries of MPs who take on extra responsibilities. It is also subject to conflict of interest and ethics legislation.

The Government of Canada is not, by any means, the only jurisdiction that requires this disclosure. Many provinces across Canada require similar transparency and accountability. There are examples from Newfoundland and Labrador. That province has the Financial Administration Act, which permits the provincial legislature to table public accounts each year. In Prince Edward Island and New Brunswick there are similar laws as well.

Ontario, Saskatchewan and Alberta all have legislation governing the duty of municipalities to prepare and publish annual financial statements. Territorial governments also hold themselves to this standard. The Government of the Northwest Territories makes its annual financial statements readily available on its website. The Government of Nunavut, through its Financial Administration Act, requires the government to publicly account for its expenditures for the previous year by laying the public accounts before the legislative assembly.

Precise wording of transparency and accountability legislation obviously varies from province to province, but the fact remains that almost all Canadian taxpayers have a guarantee in law that they can access the basic financial information they require to hold their elected representatives accountable for their decisions and their actions. I think that is only to be accepted in a democracy.

The first nations financial transparency act would guarantee that first nation residents would enjoy the same democratic rights as all other Canadians. Bill C-27 would be good for first nation communities, it would be good for business and it would be good for democracy. For all these reasons, I encourage all parties to give the proposed legislation their full endorsement.

First Nations Financial Transparency Act
Government Orders

November 27th, 2012 / noon
See context

NDP

Sadia Groguhé Saint-Lambert, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would first like to thank my hon. colleague for his speech and remind the House that the words “transparency”, “accountability” and “democracy” are not part of this government's vocabulary.

Let us talk about the lack of democracy. This bill is the target of the 29th gag order, the 29th time allocation motion moved in this House in order to cut short the debate. We would have liked to be able to continue the debate on this bill.

First nations have been asking the federal government to work with them in order to come up with better transparency and governance mechanisms. Why does the government continue to ignore this opportunity for co-operation?

First Nations Financial Transparency Act
Government Orders

November 27th, 2012 / noon
See context

Conservative

Blake Richards Wild Rose, AB

Mr. Speaker, part of this legislation would be accountability and transparency, which our government has made very high priorities. In fact, members only have to look as far as the first thing our government did upon taking office, which was the Federal Accountability Act, to demonstrate the government's very strong commitment to ensuring accountability and transparency.

Certainly I find it troubling that colleagues across the way in the opposition parties would somehow feel that first nation members are not deserving, for some reason, of that same accountability and transparency that all other Canadians have in the disclosure of financial information and the remuneration of their leaders. It is very hard for me to understand why opposition members would feel that accountability and transparency is not worthy of their support. It is very unfortunate.