Evidence of meeting #7 for Natural Resources in the 41st Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament’s site, as are the minutes.) The winning word was north.

A recording is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

  • Mitch Bloom  Vice-President, Policy and Planning, Canadian Northern Economic Development Agency
  • Janet King  Assistant Deputy Minister, Northern Affairs Organization, Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development
  • Sara Filbee  Assistant Deputy Minister, Lands and Economic Development, Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development

3:55 p.m.

Vice-President, Policy and Planning, Canadian Northern Economic Development Agency

Mitch Bloom

Yes. Thank you for the questions. Indeed, the organization was established a little over two years ago, in August 2009. Its current annual budget is $44 million. That's $30 million of what I would call program funding. Those are the contribution programs that we operate, some of which I made reference to earlier. There is about $14.5 million that we use to cover off our overall operating costs across the three territories we operate in.

It was an extremely good question on the hires, because you are right, it is technical work and you do need to understand and know the north. CanNor's core, if I can call it that, actually came from the Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development. Those people and those programs came over and provided us with a solid base of understanding of what was going on. To complement that, we did things like establishing a northern projects management office. Don James, who is sitting next to me, will give you a good example of the small but deep technical expertise we have to bear on projects like that. You are right that you have to understand the regulatory process. You have to understand how the private sector itself understands major project development in order to bring your value-added to the process.

There is no question about it, we have a fairly seasoned team on the ground, and it's growing and maturing as we go through time. The bringing together of that aspect that I talked about whereby we do both the pathfinding and supporting of the major projects with the on-the-ground community economic development is definitely something that is unique to CanNor in its creation. That's the objective: to ensure the major development does have the impact and is spread throughout communities in the north.

As I said, in that respect it is important that we have that kind of team in place. You asked about the $15 billion in investment and talked about the response from government. I am sitting here as part of that response from government. The government felt it was extremely important that it have that kind of focal point. I attended the same session that Janet did last week in Edmonton, which was quite remarkable in terms of the breadth of organizations and individuals attending it. They said what you said, actually, that it's about time and it's a good thing there is an organization completely dedicated—because INAC did have some of these activities before that we do right now—and very much focused.

I am not a regulator. Our job is to make sure the regulators are doing their jobs and to make sure industry understands that to the best extent possible. Is it really adding value to the process? I can only tell you what major corporations have told me when they come into the office or speak to me at the large conferences. They say they love the fact that there is an organization out there that they can turn to that will provide them with clear guidance in that regard.

I will make one more comment on red tape reduction. It just flows from the previous comment on the question you posed. It is our job north of 60° to try to make sure we are keeping the entire system of federal government focused on regulatory streamlining and simplification. Again, I am not encumbered as the regulator the way my colleagues are, so yes, we get to push them and try to make sure we are maximizing that to the collective benefit of Canadians, understanding at the end of the day that it is running through a process that is legislatively established.

4 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Leon Benoit

Thank you, Mr. Calkins, for the questions.

And thank you, Mr. Bloom, for your concise answers.

We will go to Mr. Bevington for up to seven minutes. Go ahead, please.

October 17th, 2011 / 4 p.m.

NDP

Dennis Bevington Western Arctic, NT

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

I am very pleased to be here. I know the issue of CanNor actually came to my attention much before the events of two weeks ago, with various companies coming to me asking why there were such delays in the final approval of their funding for the projects they were working on. Information came out that only the minister right now can make financial decisions with CanNor, while previously the minister was only involved when decisions were less than $250,000. Is that the case today?

4 p.m.

Vice-President, Policy and Planning, Canadian Northern Economic Development Agency

Mitch Bloom

The answer to your question is yes. Our minister does make decisions on the programs and funding we provide to communities and projects.

4 p.m.

NDP

Dennis Bevington Western Arctic, NT

How low does this go, with the financial decision-making right now?

4 p.m.

Vice-President, Policy and Planning, Canadian Northern Economic Development Agency

Mitch Bloom

The minister makes decisions on all the projects based on recommendations she gets from the officials.

4 p.m.

NDP

Dennis Bevington Western Arctic, NT

Does she make decisions on the ordinary operation of the offices?

4 p.m.

Vice-President, Policy and Planning, Canadian Northern Economic Development Agency

Mitch Bloom

No, I was speaking to the project proposals that come in through our contributions program, the $30 million programs I made reference to earlier.

4 p.m.

NDP

Dennis Bevington Western Arctic, NT

What impact has this made on the decision-making process in project approval? What is the average length of time right now for a project to be approved through the minister's office?

4 p.m.

Vice-President, Policy and Planning, Canadian Northern Economic Development Agency

Mitch Bloom

That's a good question. I can't honestly answer you regarding how long it takes, but I can try to respond to the “what has it done to the process” question. It's a very rigorous process because it has to get through several levels of the organization prior to approval by the minister, which ensures we are providing our best advice once and at that point the minister decides.

4 p.m.

NDP

Dennis Bevington Western Arctic, NT

As of June 6, 2011, only 10 projects this year, most of them multi-year projects, were approved. How many have been approved since then?

4 p.m.

Vice-President, Policy and Planning, Canadian Northern Economic Development Agency

Mitch Bloom

I can't answer that sitting in front of you today, but we'd be happy to provide you with that information.

4 p.m.

NDP

Dennis Bevington Western Arctic, NT

Okay.

Now, the department is subject to an internal audit, and the minister said the audit's not complete and that she would act only once it is completed. But Friday the Prime Minister said:

The reason we have regular internal audits is to ensure that organizations are...well-run. When they find they're not well-run, we take action. This is a draft audit, we're looking at the completed audit but we have already some time ago started to make changes to ensure better management of that organization, and we will.

Which is it? Are they waiting to finalize the audit or are they acting on an incomplete audit right now and making changes to the department?

4 p.m.

Vice-President, Policy and Planning, Canadian Northern Economic Development Agency

Mitch Bloom

We have received the draft audit, and it is just that: a draft. So when it's final, it's final.

4 p.m.

NDP

Dennis Bevington Western Arctic, NT

But you've made changes to the department already, as the Prime Minister has indicated?