Evidence of meeting #53 for Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development in the 40th Parliament, 3rd Session. (The original version is on Parliament’s site, as are the minutes.) The winning word was first.

A recording is available from Parliament.

MPs speaking

Also speaking

  • Michael Wernick  Deputy Minister, Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development
  • Michael Nadler  Director General, Policy and Planning, Canadian Northern Economic Development Agency

March 10th, 2011 / 10 a.m.

Michael Nadler Director General, Policy and Planning, Canadian Northern Economic Development Agency

If that's possible, I'll answer in English.

Tourism is a very important sector for all three territories in the north. Since CanNor's creation in 2009 the agency has invested $11 million in tourism-related projects in all three territories. As the minister mentioned, since February around $5.5 million in projects have been invested. Tourism is an emerging sector in Nunavut, in the Northwest Territories, but a well-established sector in Yukon. We've seen some very recent projects announced in Yukon, and as a consequence that sector is very important to the Yukon economy.

10 a.m.

Conservative

John Weston West Vancouver—Sunshine Coast—Sea to Sky Country, BC

Are there any other projects?

10 a.m.

Director General, Policy and Planning, Canadian Northern Economic Development Agency

Michael Nadler

There are a number. We're going to launch a national project to promote tourism in the north. So that will be a national campaign. We're also going to promote tourism in the north in countries such as France and other European countries.

We're supporting projects that will bring tourism from southern Canada into the north, into all three territories. This is a pan-territorial project, but also reaching into other markets around the world. That includes countries in Europe and also countries in the Asia-Pacific region.

10:05 a.m.

Conservative

John Weston West Vancouver—Sunshine Coast—Sea to Sky Country, BC

I believe that's quite consistent with the emphasis our Prime Minister is putting on the issue of sovereignty in the north.

May I ask a question about the Mackenzie gas project?

What actions have been taken now that responsibilities for the project have been transferred to the Department of Indian Affairs?

10:05 a.m.

Deputy Minister, Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development

Michael Wernick

Minister Duncan has been given responsibility for the project and for the associated things, like the impact fund. The project is at a point where it's basically come out of the regulatory process. The joint review panel is done; the NEB process is done. There are a number of licensing and permitting issues we'll have to work through, and my department will be handling those.

The other issues have to do with the economics of the program of the project, and that's really up to the private sector proponents. They will have to make a market decision as to whether to construct or proceed, I think, about two years from now. In terms of the impact fund, it's really just sitting there. If there's no pipeline, there will be no impact fund dispersement. We're quite optimistic the project will proceed, but it really is going to be a private sector decision.

10:05 a.m.

Conservative

John Weston West Vancouver—Sunshine Coast—Sea to Sky Country, BC

Is the Department of the Environment involved?

10:05 a.m.

Deputy Minister, Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development

Michael Wernick

Yes. A lot of departments are involved in the permitting and licensing associated with the pipeline project--Fisheries and Oceans, Environment Canada, Transport, and others--so we coordinate all of that. There was and is a Mackenzie gas pipeline project management office and we are bringing that into the department smoothly. I'm not aware of any glitches or issues in terms of that hand-off.

10:05 a.m.

Conservative

John Weston West Vancouver—Sunshine Coast—Sea to Sky Country, BC

All right. Thank you.

Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

10:05 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair Bruce Stanton

Thank you, Mr. Weston.

We'll now go to Ms. Crowder.

10:05 a.m.

NDP

Jean Crowder Nanaimo—Cowichan, BC

I just want this on record. It's not my question, but I found the numbers out of the environment commissioner's report. The report says that the freshwater quality monitoring program is not monitoring on most federal lands. On first nations reserves, the number of federal lands is 3,000, and the number monitored for our freshwater quality monitoring program is 12. So I think there's a bit of a gap there.

The question I wanted to ask was on the First Nations Land Management Act. I'm asking in the context of the supplementary estimates because $24.1 million is the allocation on an annual basis. I'm sure that changes from year to year. Typically, over the last few years only $13 million to $16 million have been used. I know there's a significant list of first nations that are wanting to be on the program. I think it's about 80. There are ones that are in development and then there are 80 waiting to even get to the development stage.

The other thing is that KPMG has done a study on the economic benefits of the FNLMA and it has demonstrated that there are economic benefits to the first nations on reserves: it adds to self-sufficiency, it speeds up a number of other processes, and so on. It seems like it's a win-win-win. My understanding is that the department and the government is very supportive of FNLMA.

I have a couple of questions about this. Why the delay in bringing new people onto the program? You've demonstrated with the supplementary estimates that you can roll money over. I know it's capital versus operating, but you've demonstrated that money can be rolled over. So why hasn't the money in the past been rolled over into a program that seems to be working quite successfully for first nations and presumably for the government, because it is contributing to economic self-sufficiency? Can you comment on that?

10:05 a.m.

Deputy Minister, Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development

Michael Wernick

Thank you for the question.

And yes, we're very positive about this new tool. It gets reserve communities out of the worst parts of the Indian Act, and it gives them a lot of control over local land management decisions and so on.

We are not the gatekeeper as to who gets in and who doesn't. This was set up very much as a collaborative process with first nations, so the lands advisory board actually is the gatekeeper in recommending--

10:10 a.m.

NDP

Jean Crowder Nanaimo—Cowichan, BC

Mr. Wernick, I met with the chair of the board, and he indicated that the block isn't with the board. They're ready to go. They are supportive and want to see this happen.

10:10 a.m.

Deputy Minister, Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development

Michael Wernick

Yes. Well, we're all waiting to see the federal budget in a couple of weeks, and perhaps I can give you a more definitive answer in April, when we come back for main estimates. We've made a pitch for additional resources. We'll see what happens, and if we don't get additional resources we may have to reallocate within the department and find some money. But we'd like to--

10:10 a.m.

NDP

Jean Crowder Nanaimo—Cowichan, BC

But retrospectively, there is money there that hasn't been used, sometimes up to $11 million, so--

10:10 a.m.

Deputy Minister, Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development

Michael Wernick

When you actually look at the cases, they're not as ready as they may look. Lots of people would like to be ready, but there are a number of things that have to be ticked off in terms of environmental assessments and regulations being in place, and so on. We will move as many first nations through as we can over the coming year or two. I can't give you a precise number.