Evidence of meeting #24 for Human Resources, Skills and Social Development and the Status of Persons with Disabilities in the 41st Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament’s site, as are the minutes.) The winning word was first.

A recording is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

  • Kim Warburton  Vice-President, Communications and Public Relations, General Electric Canada Inc.
  • Ross Hornby  Vice-President, Government Affairs and Policy, General Electric Canada Inc.
  • Barb Keenan  Senior Vice-President, Human Resources and Chief Ethics Officer, Ontario Power Generation Inc.
  • Kelly Lendsay  President and Chief Executive Officer, Aboriginal Human Resource Council
  • Peter Dinsdale  Chief Operating Officer, Assembly of First Nations
  • Elvera Garlow  Representative, Assembly of First Nations
  • Cheryl McDonald  Representative, Assembly of First Nations

3:55 p.m.

Conservative

Joe Daniel Don Valley East, ON

Okay. I will change the subject to an area you've all talked about, which is the lack of high-speed Internet and access to it. It clearly isn't beyond the wit of man to put high-speed Internet into these places. You have rights-of-way for cabling, etc. What barriers are you experiencing in providing this critical infrastructure to these remote communities? Anybody?

3:55 p.m.

Vice-President, Communications and Public Relations, General Electric Canada Inc.

Kim Warburton

In terms of barriers, there are a couple of things that were expressed. One is that the population of the communities is so low that it doesn't make economic sense for companies to build a robust, broadband infrastructure. That was something that was expressed in the round tables. Some communities are a little more creative than others. You can do some satellites.

At the end of the day, we talked to a couple of businesses who were actually large graphic design companies, based in Nunavut and Yellowknife, who talked about the experience of having to be online first thing in the morning, knowing that their business was going to lack access throughout chunks of the day, and trying to do business around that kind of system. It's sort of the economic model more than anything else that was cited.

3:55 p.m.

Conservative

Joe Daniel Don Valley East, ON

Okay. Are there any other comments?

3:55 p.m.

Senior Vice-President, Human Resources and Chief Ethics Officer, Ontario Power Generation Inc.

Barb Keenan

I must say I'm not knowledgeable enough to answer that. I would have to go back to the project and see what the barriers were.

In the case of the lower Mattagami project, it is a residential project. It's literally out in the middle of nowhere. Anybody who works on the project lives there. They are actually driven or flown in and out of that project.

3:55 p.m.

Conservative

Joe Daniel Don Valley East, ON

Again, I was assuming that if you have power lines going through, it isn't beyond the wit of man to put a fibre optic cable alongside and put in high-speed Internet without going wireless. That's just another thing.

Are there any regulatory changes you would like to see made at the federal level that would assist in the development of rural communities?

3:55 p.m.

Vice-President, Government Affairs and Policy, General Electric Canada Inc.

Ross Hornby

The recurring difficulty that we heard from business and also from our clients is really over the speed of regulatory approval for new projects. Any effort that can be made to both speed up the regulatory process and avoid unnecessary duplication between various federal agencies in the regulatory process is helpful.

Then, there's also the issue of overlapping processes in the south between the federal and provincial processes, and then territorial procedures as well. At all times, we heard that companies and the local communities are concerned about the environment, but they also would like to see—while protecting the environment—a faster decision-making process in the regulatory area. Anything that the government can do to help in that area will help get some of these projects off the ground much faster than is currently the case.

4 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Ed Komarnicki

Thank you.

We'll move to Ms. Crowder. Go ahead.

4 p.m.

NDP

Jean Crowder Nanaimo—Cowichan, BC

Mr. Patry is going to start first.

4 p.m.

NDP

Claude Patry Jonquière—Alma, QC

Mr. Chair, I'll share my time with Mrs. Crowder.

My question is for Mrs. Warburton.

You talked about very high dropout rates. Can you tell me why these rates are so high? What was done to reduce these rates and to bring those kids back to school?

4 p.m.

Vice-President, Communications and Public Relations, General Electric Canada Inc.

Kim Warburton

We talked at length with the community about the dropout rates and why they were so high. There were a couple of things that were explained to us. One was the legacy of residential schools. Parents right now tend not to encourage their children to go to school. If kids are feeling they want to be off doing something else, there isn't anybody there telling them they need to be there.

One of the ways that this is being addressed—and I speak for Nunavut—is through the recent "First Canadians, Canadians First" policy document and plan for education. Of the 10 strategies in that, the one that Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami, or ITK, has chosen to really pursue initially is a program for parents. It's getting parents connected with the schools and also encouraging parents to get their kids to go to school.

4 p.m.

NDP

Jean Crowder Nanaimo—Cowichan, BC

Thank you to the witnesses. The study that GE and the Chamber of Commerce engaged in was, I think, a very important study for rural and remote communities. I think it highlighted the fact that the language needs to shift to being an investment, not an expense.

In your recommendations, Mr. Hornby and Ms. Warburton, one of the things that you talked about, recommendation number six in the brief that came to us, was the collaboration with community organizations and so on around transition programs. Part of the challenge is that the colleges are not funded to do this, so unless the federal government steps up with a pot of funding to do this....

I was actually speaking to some colleges last week and what they told me was that they actually have to try to find money from somewhere else, because they are concerned about the success of aboriginal students once they get into post-secondary education.

I just wonder if you have heard that as well.

4 p.m.

Vice-President, Communications and Public Relations, General Electric Canada Inc.

Kim Warburton

Yes, definitely. We did hear a little bit about that, not so much around the funding in a big way, but the real need to have this kind of initiative. What a number of people told us as well is that the transition is almost a one-year transition. So people coming from northern communities need a year to acclimatize and be within a community, and then get into the university. Then there's a need for university-related support as the students go through a four- or five-year program.

4 p.m.

NDP

Jean Crowder Nanaimo—Cowichan, BC

Some colleges and universities have actually experimented with having students take only two or three courses in that first year and build the rest of the support around them. But then it becomes a challenge for student funding because they're expected to carry a certain course load in order to qualify for loans, grants, or bursaries. It's a huge problem in terms of the traditional funding models.

Ms. Keenan, and perhaps Mr. Hornby and Ms. Warburton, can you tell us how many first nations, Métis, and Inuit apprentices or tradespeople you have working in your organizations?

4 p.m.

Senior Vice-President, Human Resources and Chief Ethics Officer, Ontario Power Generation Inc.

Barb Keenan

I could not tell you how many. I'd have to get back to you on that. However, I can say that we do have 139 self-identified first nations and Métis employees in OPG right now, and that's aside from the lower Mattagami project, which is a design-builder-contractor approach where there are around 100 to 200 at any given time. I can get back to you with that number.

4 p.m.

NDP

Jean Crowder Nanaimo—Cowichan, BC

I think it's an important number and you did make the point in your presentation, Ms. Keenan, that in the lower Mattagami project it's largely entry-level jobs. I used to be the aboriginal affairs critic for the NDP, so I spent five years on this file. One of the things that we fairly consistently heard from first nations was that they were always employed in the entry-level programs, and that often there weren't any mentoring and support programs to allow them to move into the skilled trades areas, middle management, or supervisory positions.

You're absolutely correct. If you can't graduate people from grade 12, you can't get them into these other areas. There's no question about that.

Aside from the trades area, do either of your companies have programs to take people into middle management?