Evidence of meeting #29 for Official Languages in the 41st Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament’s site, as are the minutes.) The winning word was industry.

A recording is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

  • Michel Robillard  Vice-President, Canadian Northern Economic Development Agency
  • Mitch Davies  sous-ministre adjoint intérimaire, Opérations régionales, ministère de l'Industrie
  • Lisa Setlakwe  Director General, Regional Policy and Coordination Branch, Department of Industry
  • Lucie Lecomte  Committee Researcher
  • Aime Dimatteo  Director General, FedNor (Federal Economic Development Initiative in Northern Ontario), Department of Industry

8:45 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair Michael Chong

Welcome to the 29th meeting of the Standing Committee on Official Languages on this Tuesday, March 6, 2012. Pursuant to Standing Order 108, we are studying the evaluation of the roadmap: improving programs and service delivery.

Today we have Michel Robillard and Yves Robineau, from the Canadian Northern Economic Development Agency, as well as

Mr. Davies, Mr. Dimatteo, and Madame Setlakwe from the Department of Industry.

To begin, we will give the floor to Mr. Robillard.

8:45 a.m.

Michel Robillard Vice-President, Canadian Northern Economic Development Agency

Mr. Chair, members of the committee, good morning.

My name is Michel Robillard, Vice-President of the Canadian Northern Economic Development Agency, CanNor, and the agency's official languages champion. Today I am accompanied by Yves Robineau, head of finance. Patrick Borbey, the President of CanNor, would have liked to attend this meeting, but he is unfortunately out of town.

I would like to thank you for this invitation to appear before the Standing Committee on Official Languages to discuss the work CanNor is doing with the minority language communities in the territories.

CanNor was created in August 2009. It is the only federal department with a mandate exclusively for the north and headquarters located in the territories where it offers its services and programs.

The work of our agency is shaped by northern realities, and we are prepared to represent the interests of the north. Our headquarters are located in Iqaluit, and we have regional offices in Yukon, the Northwest Territories, and Nunavut, as well as a liaison office in Ottawa. The agency has a team of 72 dedicated employees. These individuals are committed to working with our many partners to respond to the unique needs and aspirations of northern residents and aboriginal people.

CanNor reports to Parliament through Mrs. Aglukkaq, Minister of the Canadian Northern Economic Development Agency and Minister of Health, and is led by our president, Mr. Patrick Borbey.

Our mandate is to promote regional economic development in the three territories by offering programs, forging investment partnerships and promoting the interests of northern residents and aboriginal peoples.

CanNor gives a strategic orientation to all federal economic development activities in the territories. The agency administers funding programs for northern residents and aboriginal peoples, offers project management services and advice through its Northern Project Management Office, represents the interests of the north, and encourages economic diversification and prosperity in the territories.

It also mobilizes the stakeholders by developing partnerships, and promotes the programs and services it offers to the communities. CanNor conducts research to support the development of fact-based policies that contribute to the development and diversification of the economy in the territories.

The agency's work helps expand each territory's economic base and gives people the opportunity to benefit from development possibilities and develop productive partnerships with various economic stakeholders. The agency contributes to creating a prosperous economic future for people living, working and supporting families in the territories, for the benefit of all Canadians.

CanNor administers a number of major programs, including the aboriginal economic development program, the northern adult basic education program, the economic development initiative, EDI, in support of the road map for official languages, and the agency's flagship program, strategic investments in northern economic development, SINED, which has four components: targeted investment programs, innovation and knowledge fund, partnership and advisory forums, and a pan-territorial fund.

The SINED program focuses on the consolidation of growing sectors in the territorial economies and economic diversification, and it encourages northern residents and aboriginal people to participate in their economy. The projects are based mainly on five-year territorial investment plans developed in accordance with the stakeholders' proposal and are then approved by the Minister of the Canadian Northern Economic Development Agency.

In terms of support for minority language communities in the three territories, CanNor became a designated institution under section 41 of the Official Languages Act in May 2010. This duty compels CanNor to support the social and economic development of official language minority communities.

Since its designation, the agency has been diligent in implementing an appropriate structure for its work, in order to support the minority language communities in the three territories. It has appointed an official languages champion, created an internal official languages committee, published its first report on results, and continues to develop its implementation plan. Allow me to emphasize two fundamental aspects in its efforts to support the francophone communities in the north.

First, we are always working closely with francophone associations and francophone economic development organizations in the three territories. This collaboration allows us to understand their specific needs. It also allows us to help them with capacity building, business development, and consequently community development through economic diversification, allowing them to capitalize on economic benefits, thus ensuring their sustainability. These activities are directly related to the agency mandate and are aligned with CanNor's program architecture activities. Moreover, these partnerships enable us to review and analyze the factors that are essential to strong and autonomous communities, for example, entrepreneurship deeply rooted among francophone business owners, which is conducive to economic growth for everyone's benefit.

This particular matter is very important to us, because we are among those who believe that building strong and autonomous francophone communities is difficult, and even impossible, without constant economic growth. CanNor has a role to play in this respect. It must, to the extent of its means, help northern residents and aboriginal peoples acquire the tools and resources they need to ensure economic growth in their region.

CanNor now acts as a liaison centre for the federal government's efforts to give northern residents and aboriginal peoples the means to build diversified and performing territorial economies that will bring them prosperity.

Second, this essential support involves research and selection of projects that will be funded mainly through two specific programs. The first program, strategic investments in northern economic development, or SINED, I have mentioned earlier, equally distributes a total of $90 million among the three territories over a period of five fiscal years for various projects which can affect official languages.

The second program, the Economic Development Initiative, EDI, with a budget of $400,000 over four fiscal years, is earmarked for projects that affect the official language minority communities.

That said, CanNor will not single-handedly identify, select, and carry out projects. Quite the contrary. I would like to state that our raison d'être is to have more northern residents and aboriginal people accorded a means to take action. That is where our francophone partners come in. Over the past two years, francophone groups from across the north have collaborated eagerly and enthusiastically with each other and with us to ensure that program funding is used in a sound and prudent manner.

In 2010, representatives of francophone groups from across the territory played a key role in preparing comprehensive investment plans that identify the projects to be funded through the SINED program.

The cornerstone of their partnership is Table 867, named after the area code of the three territories. Table 867 brings together the three main francophone groups in the territories. It provides them with an effective and open way to determine how to distribute federal government funding to the territories through the economic development initiative (EDI) and to exercise leverage on SINED program funding. This leverage creates more opportunities for francophones to take action and contribute to their growth and the success of the businesses they own and operate.

A portion of the funding allotted has been put to use in number of projects already approved in the three territories. More specifically, there are nine projects, for a total of $1.85 million. To name a few: the Carrefour Nunavut, $175,000 for the planning and development of a business incubator; the Conseil de développement économique des Territoires du Nord-Ouest, $453,000 for the development of a territorial strategy for francophone tourism; the Association Franco-Yukonnaise, $122,550 for francophone tourism capacity-building in the Yukon.

CanNor and its francophone community partners bring their talent, experience, and knowledge to the table to make a difference in the lives of francophones in northern Canada, bringing them opportunities for prosperity and self-fulfilment and a promising economic future. These are noble aspirations. With concerted efforts, we can achieve these goals together with the francophones, northern residents, aboriginal people, and our partners.

Mr. Chair, ladies and gentlemen, members of the committee, thank you again for this invitation to appear before the official languages parliamentary committee. I am now available to answer your questions. Thank you.

8:50 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair Michael Chong

Thank you, Mr. Robillard.

Now we'll have an opening statement from Mr. Davies.

8:50 a.m.

Mitch Davies sous-ministre adjoint intérimaire, Opérations régionales, ministère de l'Industrie

Mr. Chair, thank you for the opportunity to appear before you today to discuss Industry Canada's role in the Roadmap for Canada's Linguistic Duality. I am here with my colleagues Lisa Setlakwe, who is Director General of the Regional Policy and Coordination Branch, and Aime Dimatteo, who is Director General of FedNor.

As you know, Industry Canada and the regional development agencies are responsible for implementing the economic development initiative, which is part of the roadmap. The purpose of the economic development initiative is to build on the economic advantages of linguistic duality and to support the economic development of the official language minority communities. The aim of the economic development initiative is to develop new expertise through innovation, partnerships, entrepreneurship, diversification and greater support for small and medium enterprises. The government has allocated a total of $30.5 million to the economic development initiative under the roadmap.

The economic development initiative is based on the coordination role that Industry Canada plays for federal partners in the initiative, including certain functions to which I will return in a moment. The regional development agencies and FedNor, in the case of northern Ontario, implement the economic development initiative at the local level based on their own program terms and conditions. This is a new approach to collaboration with the official language minority communities.

A change is being made and we are moving toward a more decentralized and regional, rather than centralized and national, approach. The regional development agencies are in an ideal position to work with the official language minority communities. Their offices and staff are in the field, and they are more familiar with local concerns and opportunities. Each agency is authorized and able to make its own funding decisions under the economic development initiative, and funding is granted directly to those agencies under the financial framework.

Industry Canada focuses its economic development initiative efforts in four key areas: first, national community consultations; second, a national research program; third, FedNor's program delivery function; and finally, evaluation. One of the cornerstones of the economic development initiative is the implementation of a national consultation process with official language minority communities. In the fall of 2010, Industry Canada organized two national economic development initiative dialogue days. One was with French-speaking organizations, and another was with English-speaking organizations of Quebec. In both cases, key partners from official language minority communities and federal institutions were present to update each other on progress achieved with the economic development initiative, to better understand and appreciate each others' circumstances and to develop closer working relationships.

A major outcome from these meetings was an agreement with our official language minority community partners to set up follow-up committees, to follow through on dialogue day commitments, and to open lines of communication on a more regular basis. For both economic development initiative follow-up committees, we are able to bring together the two major national minority language associations to sit down together to share information and ideas with their federal partners. The anglophone and francophone follow-up committees share information and meeting minutes and are now able to better understand each others' challenges and realities. Industry Canada considers the follow-up committees a valuable component of its consultative process. Our community partners also value these joint committees because they are results-oriented.

In the case of the anglophone committee, a specific project is under way to gain a better understanding of the role of the creative economy. I'll speak more to this in a moment.

The Fédération des communautés francophones et acadienne,

for its part, was appreciative of the opportunity we provided for it to meet with departmental tourism officials and to work together and determine how official language minority communities could play an active role in the implementation of the federal tourism strategy that was launched in October 2011.

We have two permanent mechanisms, but at the same time we remain committed to formally consulting with our community partners with respect to the economic development initiative. We are currently assessing options to undertake another set of consultations this fall.

As part of our commitment under the economic development initiative, we coordinate a national research program focusing on evaluating the socioeconomic conditions of the official language minority communities. Research project selection decisions are made in cooperation with the federal partners in the economic development initiative. We organize regular meetings to discuss such issues as research and program evaluation. This research work enables the federal partners in the economic development initiative and other federal institutions involved in the roadmap to obtain evidence of economic trends and of impacts on policy development and program design.

Last year, in cooperation with our federal partners, we were one of the main contributors to the economic development workshop that was held at the same as the 2011 Symposium on Official Languages Research in Canada, organized by the Department of Canadian Heritage and Official Languages. We are thus actively making good on our commitment to official languages research by co-funding the development of a document that has helped community and federal partners acquire additional, current information on issues related to the official language minority communities. That document, entitled, Research on Economic Development in Official Language Minority Communities, was presented during the symposium and is now guiding our research efforts.

Community stakeholders send us observations, which we use in developing research plans. We also forward the results of completed research work to them. In this way, through the close working relationship that we have formed with the anglophone minority community over the past two years, we have funded a research project to which the Quebec English-Speaking Communities Research Network is contributing. This project is one example of a grassroots research initiative that will help us understand how the arts and culture sector contributes to the economic development of an official language minority community.

Industry Canada was the promoter of our research project involving the francophone community and concerning the economic integration of francophone immigrants. These are just a few examples of research projects that have been carried out in recent years. We have funded or co-funded more than 15 different studies and research projects.

Giving regional federal organizations the key role to deliver the economic development initiative locally has truly allowed us to build a stronger and more productive working relationship with official language minority communities. You'll hear more from the other agencies in this regard, as you have this morning from CanNor.

FedNor plays a similar role to that of the regional development agencies elsewhere in the country. With FedNor as a member of Industry Canada's portfolio, we have the benefit of seeing first-hand the concrete results of the program investments. FedNor is our eyes and ears in the field, building relationships with official language minority communities. FedNor, as the delivery agent for the economic development initiative in northern Ontario, has supported numerous projects.

One such project involved the trade mission at Futurallia in Kansas City. Futurallia brings together entrepreneurs from all over the world who meet over two days to get to know each other and foster business alliances. In 2011, a $55,000 FedNor contribution to RDÉE Ontario resulted in the training of 30 SMEs on business alliances, as well as the participation of 10 SMEs in the trade mission, 50% of which saw their sales increase or expect such increases based on negotiations under way. The project's proponents reported that participation at Futurallia allowed for the creation of 20 jobs and the maintenance of another 10. Also with this $55,000 contribution, seven new partnerships were created and three others were maintained. We expect more economic impacts in the months ahead. More recently, under another of its programs, FedNor approved a $605,000 contribution to RDÉE Ontario to make a similar and yet enhanced export development initiative available to all northern Ontario SMEs.

Futurallia is a success story for FedNor, and there are others like it. Industry Canada, through FedNor, since its implementation, has invested close to $4 million in 50 economic development initiative projects that aim at fostering sustainable economic growth in northern Ontario's francophone community.

Finally, I'd like to discuss our fourth area of focus: evaluation. Industry Canada carries responsibility for the overall evaluation of the economic development initiative. Using a common set of performance objectives, Industry Canada coordinates with the regional development agencies' evaluation and reporting for the initiative, which in turn feeds into Canadian Heritage's evaluation of the road map. We are in the midst of conducting the summative evaluation, the results of which will be made available shortly to Canadian Heritage.

The results of the economic development initiative evaluation and the overall evaluation of the road map will be instrumental in helping us develop options for the future. FedNor's economic development initiative activities have been evaluated recently and show that FedNor delivers the initiative efficiently and effectively, and that 50 projects funded through the economic development initiative meet the needs of official language minority communities. The evaluation report was published in February 2012.

In conclusion, Industry Canada believes that its involvement in the economic development initiative is making a real and positive contribution to improving the initiatives and activities that have an impact on the development and vitality of official language minority communities.

Thank you.

9:05 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair Michael Chong

Thank you very much.

I'd like to welcome Mr. Zimmer to our committee for today. He is the member for Peace River—Prince George.

We'll have about an hour and a half of questions and comments today, beginning with Monsieur Godin.

9:05 a.m.

NDP

Yvon Godin Acadie—Bathurst, NB

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

I would like to welcome our witnesses.

My questions are for the Industry Canada representatives. What is Industry Canada's official languages budget, excluding the roadmap?

9:05 a.m.

Lisa Setlakwe Director General, Regional Policy and Coordination Branch, Department of Industry

Could you repeat the question, please?

9:05 a.m.

NDP

Yvon Godin Acadie—Bathurst, NB

What is Industry Canada's official languages budget, excluding funding for the roadmap? Industry Canada must have budgets for that. What are they?

9:05 a.m.

Director General, Regional Policy and Coordination Branch, Department of Industry

Lisa Setlakwe

Yes.

I can speak specifically about section 41. We also have budgets for the other parts, except for part VI. We have a budget of approximately $500,000 to $600,000 for that part.

9:05 a.m.

NDP

Yvon Godin Acadie—Bathurst, NB

You say $600,000.

9:05 a.m.

Director General, Regional Policy and Coordination Branch, Department of Industry

Lisa Setlakwe

Yes, because five officers are dedicated to section 41 and part VII. We also have an annual operating budget.

9:05 a.m.

NDP

Yvon Godin Acadie—Bathurst, NB

It's all well and good to have officers, but there have to be funds earmarked for official languages in the communities.

Does the roadmap represent all funding for official languages?

9:05 a.m.

Director General, Regional Policy and Coordination Branch, Department of Industry

Lisa Setlakwe

The $600,000 figure is in addition to the roadmap amount, which is $400,000 a year.

9:05 a.m.

NDP

Yvon Godin Acadie—Bathurst, NB

The roadmap gives you $400,000 a year in addition to the $600,000 amount.

9:05 a.m.

sous-ministre adjoint intérimaire, Opérations régionales, ministère de l'Industrie

Mitch Davies

We have employees who are specifically assigned to official languages. That is the budget that my colleague is referring to. You want to know what the impact is, what influence that has on people. You want to know what our official language obligations are. You want to know whether that influences all the department's programs.

Our influence goes beyond the budget allocated to our staff because they are only public servants. The question is whether we have programs that address the communities and whether they are having an effect. That is not something that I can specifically identify, apart from the fact that we have funding for the economic development initiative.