House of Commons Hansard #48 of the 37th Parliament, 3rd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was first.

Topics

Budget Implementation Act, 2004
Government Orders

3:40 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mrs. Hinton)

Call in the members.

At the request of the chief government whip, the vote is deferred until 5:29 p.m. today.

First Nations Fiscal and Statistical Management Act
Government Orders

May 5th, 2004 / 3:45 p.m.

Willowdale
Ontario

Liberal

Jim Peterson for the Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development

moved that Bill C-23, an act to provide for real property taxation powers of first nations, to create a First Nations Tax Commission, First Nations Financial Management Board, First Nations Finance Authority and First Nations Statistical Institute and to make consequential amendments to other Acts, be read the third time and passed.

First Nations Fiscal and Statistical Management Act
Government Orders

3:45 p.m.

Yukon
Yukon

Liberal

Larry Bagnell Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development

Madam Speaker, drin queesy shilakat .

I am delighted to speak to Bill C-23 today. There are different views on different aspects of this legislation and there is some lack of clarity in regard to some areas. I hope to quickly get through my speech and then try to add some light to some of the issues that have been brought up, and make sure that people totally understand them and understand why we see, putting all of those issues together, that this bill would be of benefit to first nations people.

I will begin by saying that the bill was started by a group of first nations people. After working with the financial system's institutions, they approached us years ago because they felt they needed these new institutions. We have been working for a long time to bring this issue forward.

My only interest in any of the initiatives that I support here as parliamentary secretary is that of trying to help in conditions for first nations people. If I can be convinced that an initiative will do that, then I will support it. I look forward to listening to the various views on this issue.

I rise to support Bill C-23, the first nations fiscal and statistical management act. The legislation would provide first nations with access to the financing tools they need to promote investment in their communities. This investment will no doubt lead to improvements in the quality of life for residents of these communities.

I believe my hon. colleagues all agree on the clear and pressing need to bridge the economic and social gaps that exist between Canada's aboriginal and non-aboriginal communities. Nowhere are these gaps more apparent than in the lack of capital infrastructure. Many first nation communities lack adequate water and sewage treatment facilities. Other components of basic capital infrastructure, such as roads and power lines, are crumbling or non-existent.

Capital infrastructure is expensive to build and maintain. That is why most municipal and provincial governments finance their infrastructure projects with special measures such as long term bonds and securities. While these bonds may pay low rates of interest, they offer a level of certainty that investors find attractive and, as a result, they will invest in these projects.

First nation communities, however, do not have ready access to the bond markets. As a result, first nations are forced to raised money locally, usually through short term loans that can be relatively expensive. This results in each dollar generated by first nations buying less.

Due to the higher interest rates and transaction and negotiating fees, these communities pay up to 50% more than municipalities or provinces to finance their capital works projects. Consequently, infrastructure projects are either delayed or dropped. Plans for economic and social development stall, and first nations struggle to move ahead.

Bill C-23 aims to breathe new life into these communities. Simply put, this legislation would enable first nations to access capital needed to finance major infrastructure projects by allowing them to issue investment-grade securities, financial instruments similar to government bonds. The first nations that approached us of course found out after years of trying that they just could not do this under the existing financial systems in place in Canada.

The first nations finance authority will play a central role in this venture by pooling the capital requirements of participating first nation communities. By combining the assets and liabilities of all participants, the authority will be able to issue bonds with a credit rating that will attract investors. Discussions with representatives of bond raters and underwriters have indicated that there is every reason to expect that the authority will earn a single A credit rating, which would yield an attractive return for investors, with minimal risk. That is the advantage of combining first nations together in the system: investors will see that their risk is more secure. This is a commonplace activity in financial markets.

Advice on the structure and operations of the authority has been provided by the Royal Bank, the Dominion Bond Rating Services and Moody's Investors Service of New York, key players in both Canadian and international financial institutions. The Municipal Finance Authority of British Columbia has operated effectively for nearly a decade, enabling numerous smaller communities in British Columbia to access debt capital at affordable rates. The Municipal Finance Authority of B.C. has offered to help the finance authority build on this success and minimize investor risk.

As an independent institution, the authority would pool the capital requirements of member first nations and then issue bonds on their behalf so that the persons holding the bond would have less risk because there would be a number of projects involved. Moneys raised would go back to the participating first nations in the form of loans. This process would be strictly controlled through a series of checks and balances.

To become a member of the finance authority, the first nation must have a property tax regime established under this bill and approved by the first nations tax commission. It must also have in place a sound and effective management system certified by the financial management board. Participating first nations must have unutilized borrowing capacity and have a capital infrastructure project approved by the band council and reviewed by the tax commission.

Of course, there is a purpose for all these checks. If we are to convince these Canadian and international investors to invest in these projects, they need to be assured that these checks have taken place, and of course it is great that they would be done by a first nation institution.

I would like to be clear. Bonds issued by the finance authority are based on property tax revenues. There are no provisions in Bill C-23 that would require first nations to use reserve lands as collateral. This is an exciting part of the bill, because anywhere else, including the banks and the financial institutions, they usually would be required to place their land forward. This system is set up very wisely by the first nations, so that it is based only on their future property taxes. They do not have to, under any circumstances, give up their land.

Further, to ensure even greater protection for investors, a minimum of 5% of the value of each bond issue will be kept in a debt reserve fund established by the finance authority. That is just another way of securing things for the investors and it would have a minimum impact on any one first nation that decided to use this mechanism to borrow funds.

In addition, the Government of Canada is committed to contribute up to $10 million to a separate credit enhancement fund, the same fund that was the subject of one of the report stage motions previously before Parliament. The combination of these funds will further support the achievement of the desired single A rating. So once again the federal government will help backstop it, the deposit will help backstop it and, in the long run, the tax regime will help backstop it so that there is no other draw on any first nations assets or land.

All of these measures address only one aspect of the problems facing first nations: that of limited access to capital. To improve the quality of life in first nation communities, aboriginal leaders must also have access to the tools they need to be able to plan effectively. This brings me to the importance of the first nations statistical institute.

Sound planning decisions are always informed by accurate, current statistics. Information on population growth, income levels and property values helps establish government plans and priorities. At present, the quality of first nations social and economic statistics is inadequate. Even such basic statistics as population counts for communities are not reliable. Currently first nations do not have access to the kinds of statistical information available to the majority of Canadians: information on housing, justice, natural resource management, culture, education, employment rates, and health.

The lack of reliable and comprehensive data on first nation communities hinders planning and access to essential economic and social tools. Without reliable comparative material, making accurate assessments of the relative health of any first nation community becomes extremely difficult. Of course these statistics will help first nations when they are applying for program funding. They will have a much better case to make with the availability of these statistics, and we would not be able to say, “no, that is not true”, because the statistics would then be available.

To address this issue, Bill C-23 would establish the first nations statistical institute. The institute would provide first nations with the statistical information needed to plan successfully. It would work directly with aboriginal organizations and government agencies to help first nations identify and meet their information needs. The institute would also play a vital role in assisting first nations to build their capacity to understand and utilize statistics. Thus, first nations would be able to improve their accountability and decision making capacity.

It is important to note the valuable contributions that the statistical institute would make to the property tax and borrowing regimes established by this bill. First nations would benefit from statistics on residents and commercial enterprises on reserve in determining whether to proceed with the implementation of a property tax regime, which of course is totally optional. No one has to get into property taxes if they do not want to. I think there are about 98 first nations to date that have chosen to have a property tax regime and another 14 or so are waiting for this bill. No one has to if they are not interested in doing so. The statistical institute will certainly help those who choose to do it.

First nations would benefit from stats on residents and commercial enterprises on reserve in determining how to proceed with this property tax system. Further statistical information is a required element in the development of the capital projects which underlie the issuing of first nations bonds by the finance authority.

By encouraging first nations to use and thus understand the value of stats, the institute will also encourage first nations to participate more fully in national statistics programs. This will help ensure that the Government of Canada has the statistical information needed to develop and implement efficient policies. In this way the statistical institute will complement the role of Statistics Canada. For me it will be very helpful in lobbying for first nations programs and the resources required if I have these more detailed statistics.

I am convinced that Bill C-23 contains the checks and balances needed to protect the investors, to convince them to invest in first nations and to ensure that first nations can develop their economies. By establishing effective statistical and fiscal institutions, Bill C-23 will lead to significant improvements in the quality of life of residents of first nations communities. I am speaking of the ones that have asked for this bill. Of course other first nations communities are working on other initiatives in other areas and lots of other work is being done by the department in those areas. By providing the community leaders with the tools they need, the legislation will draw more first nation communities into the economic mainstream and clearly all Canadians stand to benefit.

As I said at the beginning, I have tried to dialogue with people to understand some of the concerns they might have had about this and I want to speak informally to try to address some of those concerns.

First, as we know, the Prime Minister held a summit a couple of weeks ago to talk about a new way of doing business. In particular he emphasized the fact that first nations ideas were not just coming from the various parties in Ottawa, but from first nations people. That is what is very exciting about this bill.

We were approached by certain first nations people. Lots of others do not have an interest in this and it is of course totally optional. This idea has come from first nations people. When the first nations people presented the major concerns, as per the Prime Minister's relationship with them, he has taken those concerns and put them in the amendments.

There are two major concerns. First, some people suggested that they are collecting property taxes now and they do not want to change that. They want to keep the Indian Act the way it is. They do not want to be forced into the new regime and some of the elements about which I have talked today. Those provisions were left in the Indian Act. People who want to continue collecting property taxes under the Indian Act may continue to do so. It is staying the same. The new first nations that decide they want to collect property taxes can do so under the Indian Act, if they so choose. As I have said, it is totally voluntary.

The other thing we did in response to the feedback from some first nations was made it totally optional. First nations do not have to participate in this under any circumstances if they do not want. It is not a requirement. Some first nations came to a spot where certain financial institutions in the modern world economy of financing would help them. They asked us to put institutions in place that they could use and anyone who wanted to could use.

Under a new relationship, when first nations people bring something forward, and many first nations have supported this, it is hard to tell them no, we cannot give them this tool, if it is totally optional.

I want to clarify that the $10 million, which I spoke of earlier, from the Government of Canada is not a guarantee. It is a one time contribution. The government does not backstop this institution. I explained in my speech the number of items it would backstop.

This is just one of many bills we have brought forward since the summit. As the House knows, from my perspective land claims and self-government are ultimate goals. They are very successful in my area. We have tremendous efforts going on in that area to complete those as quickly as possible. There is $226 million of extra money in this year's estimates so we can keep moving ahead as quickly as we can on land claims and self-government and the ultimate goal for those first nations that want to move ahead in that manner.

The estimate is that this could take many decades to cover everyone. Some first nations have chosen to have these institutes so they can move ahead in this area. That is why the bill goes along with all the others. We have just passed the Westbank self-government and we are in the process of debating the Tlicho self-government and land claim, which of course is a high priority.

For other first nations, property taxes may be the last of their problems at the moment. They want clean water, sewers and food. They need economic development. They want to get the governing and basic needs in their community taken care of.

There are many programs in the department for those first nations. In the estimates there is an increase of $400 million for other programs to provide for those basic services. That is obviously not forgotten. It is a very big need for which I will continue to push.

There is some suggestion that there are no other options. People have to get their lands assessed if they want to get loans. Nothing could be farther from the truth. This is totally voluntary. First nations have different ways to get loans. They can go to the bank. First nations can set up their own institutions. They can do what everyone else does to get loans. They would not have to do anything under the bill because it is totally optional.

However, the first nations that have come forward have financial institutions, have property tax bases and want to move ahead in managing them themselves. They want institutions governed by first nations people. Those first nations found that they could not get the type of bonding they wanted at a certain level. Therefore, they asked the government to put this process in place. That is why we are proceeding this way today.

The last thing is this is not only for a select few. It is not just for big cities. There are many first nations in rural areas with very little assets. They would like to or are participating in tax collection. If there is any way we could improve it, we would, but we have had improvements since the 1990s in development with advisory boards. These institutions are not in place now, but there are advisory boards of first nations people to help advise on each institution.

That is why there has been so many years of work on this. In my opinion this is why it would be great if we could proceed at this time. Massi cho ;

Gunalchese

First Nations Fiscal and Statistical Management Act
Government Orders

4:05 p.m.

NDP

Bev Desjarlais Churchill, MB

Madam Speaker, I listened to the comments of my colleague from Yukon. I will ask a couple of questions and hopefully he can give me the answers.

The first question is whether my colleague is aware that the Assembly of First Nations passed a resolution last year not to support this and other bills that the government had put forward. To my knowledge, it has not changed that position. The Assembly of First Nations, which the government does give resources to, is the representing body of first nations throughout Canada, not just 30 or 40 or 50 that might want this. It represents over 600 first nations in Canada. How does he get around suggesting that first nations want this when there is an Assembly of First Nations resolution, which is still in place, indicating that they do not support the legislation?

I am also quite curious as to where he would expect a good number of those first nation members to get the taxes to pay on their property? I never cease to be amazed. I listened to the former minister Nault talk about how first nations people wanted mortgages. My God, I went into communities and they wanted enough food to eat. They wanted enough money to pay for the heat in their homes. They sure did not need a mortgage on top of it. That is where the government is. It has no idea how first nations live in the country.

I want my colleague to tell me where the members of Bloodvein, Paungassi, Little Grand Rapids, Shamattawa, Poplar River, Pukatawagan, Brochet, Lac Brochet, Tadoule Lake, and I could go on and on, are supposed to get those wonderful property tax dollars to get an investment down so they can get a loan?

First Nations Fiscal and Statistical Management Act
Government Orders

4:05 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mrs. Hinton)

The hon. parliamentary secretary in response. Before he responds, just a caution to the member not to use the real names of members. Be aware of that. The hon. parliamentary secretary.

First Nations Fiscal and Statistical Management Act
Government Orders

4:10 p.m.

Liberal

Larry Bagnell Yukon, YT

Madam Speaker, it is too bad that the members from the NDP and the Bloc know so little about this bill. First, in relation to the Assembly of First Nations, if the member were listening, she would have heard that we took those concerns and placed them in the amendments. Now the bill is totally optional, and the eligible items are still in the Indian Act. I will read a passage from the website of the Assembly of First Nations. It states:

We also raised with the Minister our concerns about Bill C-23 (formerly Bill C-19), the First Nations Fiscal and Statistical Institutions Act, which was re-introduced on March 10, 2004. Our preference was that the Bill not be re-introduced until the concerns of First Nations were addressed.

The indications I received were to the effect that the government will introduce amendments to the Bill--

We have done that.

--to clarify that the legislation will be optional. Once the information is received it will be shared with First Nations as soon as it is available. We will keep First Nations informed on this and any and all developments related to Bill C-23. We also recognize that some First Nation communities are interested in participating in one or more of the institutions created under the Act.

If the proposed amendments achieve optionality, in accordance with the principles of the AFN Charter, the AFN should not stand in the way.

In relation to the number of first nations, she suggested 50 or 60. First, even if we were only helping one first nation of people, I would be pushing for this bill, just like I did for Westbank, just like I did for Tlicho. If I talk--

First Nations Fiscal and Statistical Management Act
Government Orders

4:10 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mrs. Hinton)

I do hate to interrupt, but I do have to make it very clear that the audience in the House of Commons are all Canadians and are all very much welcome here, but there cannot be any response. That includes clapping. So if it continues, I am afraid we will have to remove people from here and I do not want to do that.

The hon. parliamentary secretary.

First Nations Fiscal and Statistical Management Act
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4:10 p.m.

Liberal

Larry Bagnell Yukon, YT

Madam Speaker, the House of Commons is dealing with two different bills that will help one single first nation. If I could help one first nation, in fact one first nation person, and if it were optional and it did not hurt the others, then I would be happy to do that.

Even though I do it for only one, the member suggested 50 or 60. There were resolutions from the British Columbia summit of 138 first nations, the Union of Ontario Indians of 43, and the Atlantic Policy Congress of 35 to 216.

With respect to her last question, once again showing a total lack of understanding of the bill, she asked where are we going to get the taxes to pay? First of all, this bill is not designed for those people who do not have money to pay taxes. In fact, most of the people paying taxes on first nations taxable authorities right now are non-first nations people living on first nations land.

Members know that we just had the Westbank bill where there are 7,500 people and only 400 or so are from the first nation. This provides authorities with the ability to attract commerce if people want to do taxes, and to tax people that have the ability to pay taxes. I do not know why she would want to hold back successful first nations when it is totally optional.

The first nations that she mentioned, as I said earlier, if they do not want to collect property taxes, if they do not have a rationale that will help their first nation to do that, and if they do not have the capacity to pay, then they do not have to get involved in this bill. The bill is to help those who have asked for it.

First Nations Fiscal and Statistical Management Act
Government Orders

4:10 p.m.

Bloc

Yvan Loubier Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot, QC

Madam Speaker, I have a question for the parliamentary secretary. He talks about this being optional and says that the legislation will not apply to first nations who are not interested.

Can he tell me precisely where in the bill it says that first nations not wanting to comply with the provisions of this legislation will be protected? Also, how can we protect first nations from officials at the Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development who might say to them, “If you want this money, you have to comply with the requirements of this legislation”?

We saw cases during our tours and meetings with first nations representatives where officials from the Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development—like the former minister of that department—were incredibly arrogant. They pointed the finger at the first nations and made them comply with their requirements.

How can we protect the first nations from such behaviour that I am sure will take place? Tell me exactly where I can find the optional aspect of this bill. Where exactly?

First Nations Fiscal and Statistical Management Act
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4:10 p.m.

Liberal

Larry Bagnell Yukon, YT

Madam Speaker, the member knows quite well that the bill is totally optional. The amendments made them optional. The first nations sign up on a schedule.

The point the member has raised, which is definitely a good point even if it has nothing to do with the bill, about the workings of bureaucrats, of course, unacceptable behaviour should be dealt with.

We as a government have great confidence in civil servants in general, the civil servants who work for the Province of Quebec, and the civil servants who work for the Government of Canada. If the member has examples, as he described, of civil servants dealing arrogantly with any of our Canadian citizens then he should take that through the proper channels to have it corrected. I agree with the member that it is totally unacceptable for people to act that way.

We should not hold back any particular legislation in this country because it will be abused by some bureaucrat. We should deal with individuals and, as I said, I think they are very few and far between. When they are identified, then such their actions should be held to task and be accountable. I am hoping that everyone in the Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development is there to help advance the cause of first nations in this country that have such a great disparity with the rest of Canadians.

Different first nations are in different stages and so they need different solutions. Some require the basic services. Some first nations are ready for land claims and we are in negotiations with them in bills. Some of them have asked for this. We should be flexible.

If our employees are not being flexible and open, then please let us know and I agree that we should fix the problem.

First Nations Fiscal and Statistical Management Act
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4:15 p.m.

Bloc

Yvan Loubier Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot, QC

Madam Speaker, I think the parliamentary secretary misunderstood my question. I am not saying that there are isolated cases involving public servants. What I am saying is that the government wants so much for this law to apply that it might give directives to its officials to make it totally mandatory to meet the requirements of the law.

The federal government has found a backdoor method of setting aside its fiduciary duties, by passing this bill and making the first nations responsible—against their wishes—for applying the provisions of the law.

These are not isolated cases. They might be directives from the government, which has an incredible desire to apply the provisions of this law. My fear is that the federal government will throw its fiduciary responsibilities out the back door.

First Nations Fiscal and Statistical Management Act
Government Orders

4:15 p.m.

Liberal

Larry Bagnell Yukon, YT

Madam Speaker, we cannot speak about hypothetical situations. The bill makes it totally optional at this time. If, as the member says, in the future some government were to be in place that were to set policy directives, regulations, policy, and give directions that this should be mandatory, then I would expect that member and those members to stand up and fight against that policy to ensure it does not apply.

We brought this in good faith to the first nations people of this country saying that it is totally optional. They brought this to us. We are putting this tool in place for those who want it. If they do not want it, they do not have to use it. We are not going to force it upon them.

First Nations Fiscal and Statistical Management Act
Government Orders

4:15 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mrs. Hinton)

It is my duty pursuant to Standing Order 38 to inform the House that the questions to be raised tonight at the time of adjournment are as follows: the hon. member for Davenport, Agriculture; the hon. member for Cumberland—Colchester, Sponsorship Program.

First Nations Fiscal and Statistical Management Act
Government Orders

4:15 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

John Duncan Vancouver Island North, BC

Madam Speaker, it gives me great pleasure to speak once again to Bill C-23, the first nations fiscal and statistical management act, which has been before Parliament for a long time under other monikers. It was previously Bill C-19. This was a bill that was tied very closely to Bill C-7, the first nations governance act. The government tied those two together so tightly that when Bill C-7 was finally buried by the minister, Bill C-19, now C-23, wore a lot of that.

There was a great attempt by the government to try to address concerns that were brought forward in terms of making C-19, now C-23, more palatable. There were a series of amendments tabled and discussed with the opposition critics. The opposition critics, including myself, agreed that tabling could occur.

One of the difficulties that all of the opposition parties are having is that those amendments were amendments that improved the bill. However, for all of us, those amendments did not improve the bill to the point where we are willing to support the bill.

My single biggest complaint with the bill, which I discussed with the previous minister, was the fact that the statistical institute was not decoupled from the fiscal institutes. Everyone agrees that the statistical institute is not essential to the workings of the other three institutes or boards that are enabled by this legislation.

I was expecting those amendments that would decouple the statistical side to be tabled. It did not happen. What we now have is a contradiction in the legislation. I do not see how a statistical institute for first nations can operate on an optional basis. I do not really want it to either because all of this is basically duplicating what Statistics Canada already does.

We already have a report from the Auditor General from December 2002 which clearly states that the amount of paperwork that the federal government demands of first nations at the administrative level far exceeds what is realistic or reasonable. Most of that information is never used by the federal government in any case. Therefore, it seems to me we are piling a problem on top of a problem for no rational purpose.

Even the president of the first nations finance authority agreed with the statement that the statistical institute is not essential to the workings of the other three institutions.

There has never been any attempt on the part of the non-government proponents to say that this is essential or necessary, yet the government, for whatever reason, has made a conscious decision that it is going to keep this in an omnibus fashion within the bill rather than let that other institution stand or fail on its own merits. I fail to understand that. I empathize very much with the criticisms that here is an institution to collect first nations statistics, but if it is not being done on anything more than an optional basis, the statistics are going to be meaningless in any case. This seems like some kind of swamp country that we just as well might avoid. That is my single biggest criticism of the bill.

This has brought a great deal of polarization to the first nations community, and a lot of it is unnecessary. A great deal of it relates to the fact that it was tied so closely to the first nations governance act. We do have about 25% subscription within the province of British Columbia to taxation by the bands in British Columbia and they have endorsed this. However, many of the other groups certainly have not, in a very strong sense of the word.

The parliamentary secretary talked at great length about the endeavours within the House of Commons since the aboriginal summit that was held in Ottawa not too long ago. That hastily prepared $350,000 summit excluded some native leadership. It certainly excluded the Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs and I am sure it excluded others.

The parliamentary secretary was putting great focus on the amount of aboriginal legislation that has been in the House since that moment. I have quite a different point of view in that really there has been almost no agenda from the government in this place on any subject.

The aboriginal agenda included Westbank, which the government side ended up filibustering, and there is Bill C-23, and not much else has happened in this place. I think one of the reasons even these two bills have progressed along the path to the extent that they have is that the government does not have any other legislation on the agenda that it wishes to pursue.

We can look at this many ways, but the way the government is choosing to look at it is certainly very constructed. It is certainly not the way those of us who have been in this place for many years are viewing the current goings on in the House of Commons.

Unfortunately, some of the difficulties that are inherent in this legislation, and I have given the background, ended up being worn by the proponents of, for example, the Westbank legislation. The Westbank legislation creates the strongest individual property rights on reserve anywhere in Canada, yet it took a lot of heavy criticism. I think a lot of that criticism would have been avoidable had it not been for the baggage that was brought forward as a consequence of the first nations governance act, this bill, and other goings on with the government.

Westbank is a band with significant taxation revenues, revenues that it has been collecting since the early 1990s. It has a strong record on taxation and it has a legitimate ability to use this suite of legislation in a very constructive and productive way.

We know that the bands that are in a good financial situation or have the ability to be there quite readily are very supportive of this legislation. I think it is unfortunate that the government delivered a package that was not much more straightforward and clear right from the beginning. The major criticisms it hastily tried to address after the fact could have been addressed months earlier, but they were not. To this date, all of the criticisms have not been addressed.

I think that covers most of my points. The parliamentary secretary is busy looking through his notes. I will give him the opportunity to ask me questions or to make comments.

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4:30 p.m.

Yukon
Yukon

Liberal

Larry Bagnell Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development

Madam Speaker, the member will be happy that I did not find what I was looking for in my notes so I will have to wing it.

I agree with the member that there are different views on different aspects of the bill from a number of first nations people. I applaud the different views. They have approached me and I have tried to answer many of the concerns.

Of the first nations people who approached me, there was not one who had a concern about having the statistical institute in this bill. From what I understood from the member's speech, the only major concern he had related to leaving the fourth institution, the statistical institute, in the bill.

This institution does not duplicate Statistics Canada. It does not do what Statistics Canada does. It is to collect statistics that are not collected and to take statistics if Statistics Canada is collecting them. Statistics is a fairly detailed mathematical science involving a lot of procedures. We have a first nations institute that can do this when first nations people are looking to extract statistics from Statistics Canada, to embellish them with more statistics.

Having worked on the census once, I can say that collecting stats is a very sensitive activity. All people, including first nations people, can be quite sensitive to being asked different types of questions. I think they would be more open if they were being asked questions to help their first nation by a first nations statistical institute.

On that basis, I do not understand the member's only objection to the bill, which is basically the statistical institute being in the same piece of legislation.