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 program.

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

9:50 a.m.

Deputy Minister, Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development

Michael Wernick

I don't want to scoop the minister; he'll be making a more fulsome announcement in the coming days. But we've been working with the Assembly of First Nations to make this as collaborative a project as possible. I think its core focus will be on education legislation. One of the biggest problems in first nation education across the country is there's no statutory framework--there's no law similar to a provincial education act. So I think that is the core they will work on. Some of the ideas have been around for a while, and they may be able to crystallize those as advice to the minister and the national chief very quickly.

I guess what we don't know is whether the panel will go into other issues around the delivery of education, services, funding, and all that sort of stuff. The deeper they go, the longer they'll take. The panel is free to give the government its best advice, as it sees fit.

9:55 a.m.

Conservative

Earl Dreeshen Red Deer, AB

So when we speak to culturally appropriate education, we could look at different types of delivery models as well. These are part of the things that are also being discussed, I assume.

9:55 a.m.

Deputy Minister, Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development

Michael Wernick

Yes. I think this is similar to other areas. It's very hard to come out with a national framework that is going to work equally well in the Fraser Valley, Vancouver Island, northern Quebec, or southern Ontario. Education is so important to communities' sense of themselves, and they want a lot of control over it. So my prediction is that we will end up with enabling legislation, framework legislation that clarifies some accountabilities and roles and responsibilities, but with a great deal of local delivery, just as it is for non-aboriginal Canadians.

The local school boards, parents' councils, and the communities are really going to be the key, but we have to give them the tools and the accountability--the kind of structure that will make them more successful and more investment-grade going forward.

9:55 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair Bruce Stanton

You have 30 seconds left, Mr. Dreeshen.

9:55 a.m.

Conservative

Earl Dreeshen Red Deer, AB

On the backlog of registrations as Indian, can you give us an update as to what is happening in dealing with that?

9:55 a.m.

Deputy Minister, Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development

Michael Wernick

Yes.

We have a fairly steady business at the registry, as long as there's an Indian Act and people have status defined by the Indian Act. People are born, die, marry, adopt, and so on, so there's a lot of business at the Indian registry. We'll also have new business because of the people enfranchised under Bill C-3. It was identified about a year and a half ago that a backlog was building up. Things were coming in faster than we could get them out. I'm very pleased to say that with some hard work and process engineering, that backlog has been eliminated.

9:55 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair Bruce Stanton

Thank you.

Thank you, Mr. Dreeshen.

We'll now go to Mr. Lévesque.

Mr. Lévesque, you have five minutes.

March 10th, 2011 / 9:55 a.m.

Bloc

Yvon Lévesque Abitibi—Baie-James—Nunavik—Eeyou, QC

Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

Mr. Wernick, I'm sure you have highly developed accounting skills. You've proven that over the years.

The Nutrition North program will go into effect on April 1. I know you can't answer me on behalf of the Department of Health, but I would like to know what savings the Department of Indian and Northern Affairs will achieve by transferring the Food Mail program's transportation costs to the Nutrition North program.

Furthermore, the demand for housing in the north is enormous. Already last year, there was demand for 1,000 additional housing units, and they were absolutely necessary.

We made a recommendation to the minister, but I don't know whether he will accept it. In view of the obligations that will be imposed on retailers in the north under the Food North program, we suggest that the department build and maintain warehouses in order to avoid unduly transferring costs to consumers.

I would like to know whether you have set aside any reserves for that purpose.

9:55 a.m.

Deputy Minister, Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development

Michael Wernick

Thank you, Mr. Lévesque.

I believe your question can be divided into three points. First, there will be no saving to the department. I believe the new program will cost more than the old one. The largest amount that we've spent for the old program is $66 million or $68 million. We'll spend more than that next year. In the subsidies, importance will be attached more to the goods targeted by the program. However, there will not be any savings as such.

There will be a table of subsidy rates for each community. The subsidy rate for community X will be different from that for community Y. The difference is that we now have a much more competitive model. The retailers will be able to choose their source of supply. Canada Post will no longer have a monopoly. All efforts will go into looking for the most effective ways to get the best supply of goods. I believe there will be enormous efficiency gains. Of course, there will be an adjustment process for retailers and the communities. That's why the minister has decided to extend the transition period.

Let's consider a third aspect to this same program. Our department does not intend to create a major subsidy program for storage and all that. However, I believe we'll be cooperating with the economic development agencies. If a cost-benefit analysis is good, an investment in those kinds of infrastructures in the context of a more competitive market will be a good project. I believe there will be investments by the economic development agencies. We're going to provide consulting services to the people who now have to deal with a much more open and competitive market. We'll be hiring experts to work directly with the communities.

10 a.m.

Bloc

Yvon Lévesque Abitibi—Baie-James—Nunavik—Eeyou, QC

Let's discuss the economic issue, Mr. Wernick. Considering the fact that the carriers will have to negotiate with a single retailer at a time, that they will be taking the retailer's size into account, that they won't know the volume of goods that has to be transported every day and that they also won't know the days when they will have to transport them, do you actually believe that the retailers' capacity will be greater than that of the Canada Post Corporation so that they can negotiate lower transportation prices?

10 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair Bruce Stanton

Give a brief answer.

10 a.m.

Deputy Minister, Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development

Michael Wernick

As is the case for the open and unsubsidized markets, there are now electronic systems with which we can measure the daily demand for goods very accurately. There will be a model. We have a lot of information on the models used at the time of the old program, on what people eat, on what they order and on what they buy. These data will vary a little in future.

I believe we've given the power to the retailers and consumers—personal options are always important. They'll find the most effective ways to get the best offers. I believe the carriers will meet that need.

10 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair Bruce Stanton

Thank you, Mr. Lévesque.

Mr. Weston, you're up, for five minutes.

10 a.m.

Conservative

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

Thank you, Mr. Lévesque.

We've just heard our minister's remarks. Among other things, he said that our government would be investing in tourism in the north.

Mr. Wernick, can you tell us a little more about what our government is doing to support tourism in the north?

10 a.m.

Deputy Minister, Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development

Michael Wernick

Thank you for that question. I will turn it over to Mr. Nadler, because these programs of direct business support and economic development are now delivered by the Northern Economic Development Agency.