House of Commons Hansard #43 of the 39th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was water.

Topics

Canadian Wheat Board Act
Private Members' Business

11:50 a.m.

Liberal

Wayne Easter Malpeque, PE

There sure are, but the wrong way.

Canadian Wheat Board Act
Private Members' Business

11:50 a.m.

Conservative

David Anderson Cypress Hills—Grasslands, SK

The member for Malpeque wants to heckle me about that. It is interesting to listen to the people who are not excited about this bill. The first people who stepped forward were the huge grain companies. They were not sure whether they liked it because it was not exactly a level playing field, that producers would be given too much of an opportunity. The member for Malpeque would love to stand up with those grain companies against farmers. However, we will stand up for the producers themselves.

It is interesting, as well, that a lot of producer groups have supported it, except for some of the extreme, radical left-wing groups. Those groups have decided that they will take the bill on. They are going to join with the grain companies in opposing it.

I do not think they have read the legislation, and that is disturbing. Both the member from the Liberals and the member from the NDP have taken that letter, which I do not know if they had a part in writing it, and have decided to use it as their main arguments. There are just a couple of strange arguments in it.

They say that Bill C-300 purports to give an advantage to farmer owned Canadian plants. We would say it certainly does. They are going to try to find some extreme example that might not work to try to prove the whole bill is bad. How about if we take, for example, a corporate controlled joint venture flour mill in Japan? That is something we would not want, so it must be what the bill provides. The argument is we cannot allow corporate controlled joint venture flour mills in Japan to take advantage of this bill. The bill states that any plants have to be owned by a majority of producers. We are not talking about Canadian producers. Nor are not talking about corporate controlled entities.

Then it goes on to say that Bill-300 would create legislated cost advantages for some producers but not others. We say that it would create some advantage for producers, and we are more than willing to do that.

I am a little disturbed that these left-wing farm groups are defending the big companies against the small producers. I am even more disappointed that the member for Malpeque has chosen to join in that and to oppose Canadian farmers. He made an airport tour and came up a small report in which he made some recommendations. I would like to read a couple of things from that. It says in the conclusion:

--Canada 's farmers, who work hard and efficiently, want to make their living from the marketplace, and the policies undertaken by our governments must provide the conditions allowing that to happen.

The bill tries to do that.

We need policies that help farmers earn a decent living and that create economic stability in rural Canada.

The bill also tries to do that.

The first two recommendations of his report are: that all governments place a priority on measures that will enhance farmers' economic returns from the marketplace; and second, that ministers and ministries of agriculture see their primary role as advocating on behalf of primary producers. The bill does that.

He should be supporting it, but he is not and that is unfortunate. I find it ironic that he supports our position on child care, but he will not support our position on farmers to give producers some return in the marketplace. He was the one who suggested we should give child care choice to parents. He also supported our budget, and we thank him for that. However, perhaps he should step forward and support an initiative such as.

I am very disappointed with him. He claims to have been a farm leader for years, wanting to step forward and defend farmers. However, for some reason, he has insisted that his party take a position in opposition to the bill. We think he should reconsider that. He needs to support the bill and to give producers what they need enable them to make the return from the marketplace.

The member for Battlefords—Lloydminster made a very legitimate point when he said that the member did not live in the designated area. He is not from anywhere near there, but he feels he has an obligation to try to interfere with my ability to do business in the part of the world in which I operate. That is a huge concern for me. The last thing we need is people from other areas, who do not understand our systems, explaining to us what they have.

The ball is back in the official opposition's court. We look forward to its support on it.

Canadian Wheat Board Act
Private Members' Business

Noon

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Royal Galipeau

The time provided for the consideration of private members' business has now expired and the order is dropped to the bottom of the order of precedence on the order paper. When the item comes back for debate, there will be two and a half minutes left for the hon. parliamentary secretary.

Opposition Motion—Aboriginal Affairs
Business of Supply
Government Orders

June 19th, 2006 / noon

Liberal

Anita Neville Winnipeg South Centre, MB

moved:

That the House recognize the urgent need to improve the quality of life of Canada’s Aboriginals, First Nations, Inuit and Métis, living both on and off reserve, which requires focused and immediate initiatives by the government in areas such as health, water, housing, education, and economic opportunities and, especially, immediately moving forward with the implementation of the Kelowna Accord with its full funding commitments.

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to present a motion on behalf of the official opposition, a motion that most in the House wish would not have been necessary.

It is a resolution that reflects a course of action that I believe again that most in the House wish was now well underway.

It is a resolution that promises hope and opportunity for a large number of aboriginal Canadians from coast to coast to coast.

It is a resolution that acknowledges the responsibility that flows from historic claims and relationships between aboriginal people and the non-aboriginal majority.

It is a resolution that speaks to the future of our country, to social justice and to economic prosperity.

It is a resolution that speaks to the potential of loss: the loss of opportunity, the loss of growth and the cost of doing nothing.

It is a resolution that speaks of the loss of international reputation.

It is a resolution that acknowledges the magnitude of an agreement of this kind with so many participants after so many aborted attempts.

It is a resolution that speaks to relationships and trust.

And it is a resolution that speaks to the honour of the Crown, to the integrity of the processes of the negotiations between governments themselves and between governments and aboriginal leadership across this country.

I speak of the Kelowna accord.

This past November, a solidly crafted and visionary agreement was concluded by a committed group of leaders in this country. Those present at that memorable meeting included the leadership of the five aboriginal organizations in the country, the AFN, ITK, Métis National Council, NWAC and the Congress of Aboriginal Peoples, the former Prime Minister of Canada, and the first ministers of all of Canada's provinces and territories.

It is important to reiterate here what the Kelowna accord was about. It was about an integrated, far-reaching plan to achieve a clear set of targets and goals to ensure that aboriginal Canadians throughout this abundant and inclusive country of ours have the prospects and opportunities of all Canadians.

The Kelowna accord was a clear plan to address the historic social and economic disparities that exist between aboriginal Canadians and others.

It was about eradicating the poverty and loss of opportunity that plagues aboriginal peoples.

It was about improving educational outcomes and opportunities for aboriginal young people and sometimes their parents as well.

It was about addressing an enormous housing challenge that haunts so many communities and contributes to profound social unrest. I

It was about providing the resources to improve water systems and train those who maintain them.

It was about ensuring that health care is available for aboriginal people, not just reducing waiting times. What is required is available services, so that infants do not die, so that teenagers do not commit suicide, so that diabetes is addressed, and so that tuberculosis is dealt with and becomes obsolete in this country.

The Kelowna accord was about creating economic opportunities.

It was about a commitment to aboriginal women for a stand alone summit to address their particular issues, including violence and matrimonial real property as addressed by Bill C-31 in 1985.

The Kelowna accord was a recognition that what is required in the far north may be different from what is required on reserve, which may in turn be different from what is required in the cities.

And it was the recognition that the needs of first nations, Inuit and Métis are themselves different, and that within these communities disparities exist.

The Kelowna accord was a plan that was developed by all the partners, very much a ground up approach, based on plans developed by the aboriginal organizations. As National Chief Phil Fontaine said at the aboriginal affairs committee last week:

We were able to convince the 14 jurisdictions of the validity and legitimacy of this plan--a plan that was considered by all as reasonable, doable, and achievable.

There were 18 months of consultation and collaboration that took place. Meetings were held, plans refined, memorandums to cabinet prepared, and memorandums to cabinet approved. Moneys were identified and moneys were allocated. Consultations were held between premiers, with each other and with aboriginal leaders. The consultations were held between aboriginal leaders, and between leaders and their constituent communities.

There were 18 months of discussion and dialogue, of give and take, of compromise and concession.

The agreement was concluded at a full meeting last November 24 and 25 with all the participants and all the players, before the television cameras and the media of the country, and with Canadians from coast to coast to coast observing a truly transparent and open process which all in the House support.

A comprehensive 10 year plan was in place to achieve a clear set of goals and targets, $5.1 billion was provided for the first five years of this plan, and $700 million was allocated under earlier agreements. The remainder was booked and allocated in the unallocated surplus of the economic and fiscal update of November 2005 as confirmed by the finance department officials at the meeting of the Standing Committee on Finance on May 10, 2006 in the sources and uses table.

Public statements and acknowledgments were made of what had been accomplished and handshakes by all the leaders were undertaken.

Yet, we hear from members opposite that either it was written on a napkin, it was a so-called accord, or comments that it was only a single piece of paper, or that there were issues concerning whether it was really an agreement or just a press release.

What has been described by colleagues opposite as a single piece of paper or written on a napkin was understood by all present as a firm agreement, a major achievement, a strong commitment, and a decision to proceed.

Let me advise the House of what the leaders present from all political parties and from all the aboriginal communities said of the agreement at the time and since.

Mr. Campbell, Premier of British Columbia said:

It has taken us 138 years as a nation to arrive at this moment. It has taken decades of dialogue and a tortured path of frustration and failure to bring us to this moment of clarity and commitment.

Conservative Premier Ralph Klein of Alberta said:

To make those improvements happen we need the federal government to live up to its constitutional responsibilities for aboriginal people, and it has been indicated here that you are indeed going to do that.

The NDP premier of my own province of Manitoba said, “This is the most significant contribution to aboriginals made by any Prime Minister in the last 30 years”.

In Ontario, Premier Dalton McGuinty said

For the first time ever, first ministers have agreed to targets and time frames on improving aboriginal lives and there exists a strong consensus to act immediately.

From Quebec, Premier Charest said, “Failure is not an option. The time has come to move ahead”.

Assemblies of First Nations Grand Chief Phil Fontaine said:

The country is watching us here. The commitments that are made are significant and it's going to be very, very difficult for any government to retreat from those commitments here.

We heard from Chief Ed John from the First Nations Summit who said, “We're off and running with this agreement. This is a great day”.

Jose Kusugak from the ITK said: “Everything we wanted to achieve, we achieved. We are very happy”.

When the government first brought in its budget, it contained an 80% cut in promised funding for aboriginal Canadians and their leaders were profoundly disappointed.

The Kelowna accord designated $5.1 billion toward issues such as health, education, economic opportunity, housing, accountability and relationships.

The Conservative budget committed $450 million toward on-reserve programs with the money being contingent upon there being a federal surplus. The government did not make a firm commitment. At the same time that it killed the Kelowna accord, it attached an asterisk to the limited amounts that it did commit.

Here are some of the reactions from the aboriginal leaders, the country over, to the budget.

Bev Jacobs, President of the Native Women's Association of Canada said, “I do not believe that the amount in this budget will be able to deal with complex and deep issues that face aboriginal communities and aboriginal women today. The issue of health was not addressed, and that is very discouraging”.

Grand Council Chief Beaucage from the Union of Ontario Indians said: “This budget is a far cry from what was committed by the first ministers. Once again we've been left out in the cold”.

Chief Stewart Phillip of the Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs said:

Our fear, suspicion and mistrust of the [Conservative] government to support the historic Kelowna Accord were well placed. I had hoped, however, that the [Conservative] government would have the integrity and political will to fully implement the historic Kelowna Accord representing a $5.1 billion dollar investment in Aboriginal communities.

Clément Chartier, President of the Métis National Council said:

Despite years of hard work and great progress as we experienced with the previous government, Conservatives have not stood up for the Métis Nation.

David Chartrand from Manitoba said:

The Kelowna Accord would have helped the Métis People educate our youth and provide the necessary financial supports for sustainable housing and to combat diabetes in our communities.

Again we heard from National Chief Phil Fontaine when he said:

The approaches developed in Kelowna were developed with and supported by Aboriginal leaders, provinces and territories. These were not commitments from a particular party, but by the federal and all provincial and territorial governments.

The disingenuous of the minister, whom I have great respect for I might add, speaking on this issue is breathtaking. In reply to the private member's bill introduced by my colleague, the former Prime Minister, he said:

Aboriginal poverty is deep rooted. It is a complex issue. I say, with all due respect, that I do not think anyone can table a single page at the close of a first ministers' meeting as a compilation of numbers, issue a press release and believe aboriginal poverty has been solved.

What a profound lack of respect, courtesy and regard for the processes undertaken to get to that day and an even greater lack of respect for those people involved in getting there. The minister then went on to say:

The problems in this country are much deeper than that. They require a long term commitment, structural reform and renovation in consultation with first nations. Unless that is done, we will not succeed in the eradication of aboriginal poverty.

I believe that everyone that day in November believed that was exactly what Kelowna was about.

Let me tell the House what the loss of Kelowna means in concrete terms. It means that capital projects for education are being delayed for years as moneys are being reallocated or are not available. There are no funds for aboriginal health care identified in the budget while the tuberculosis outbreak continues to grow at Garden Hill First Nation, now 27 identified cases and 86 identified contacts. All perpetuated by many crowded, mouldy houses.

The Elsipogtog First Nation in New Brunswick has a detailed plan to address an ongoing substance abuse problem in their community. There has been no response and no funds.

The Shamattawa First Nation in northern Manitoba has a desperate need for new homes. Often 26 people live in one house. Again there was no response.

A large number of young people I met in Winnipeg will not be able to go on to post-secondary education, and yet we talk about skill shortages in Canada. The list goes on.

We have heard little commitment from the government to aboriginal peoples. We have heard some empty rhetoric, often a deafening silence, a frequent attempt to change the channel, and talk of more studies and little action. But there was a glimmer of hope.

When first appointed to the portfolio, the Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development said:

Aboriginal Canadians are nosk as long as I am the mt going to live at riinister.

I would like to remind the minister and his colleagues of one of the many wise comments by the late Martin Luther King Jr. when he said:

Courage is what it takes to stand up and speak; courage is also what it takes to sit down and listen.

It is indeed time for members of the government to sit down and listen to the aboriginal leadership throughout this country, to listen to their colleagues in the House of Commons, to listen to the provincial and territorial leaders, and most important, to listen to Canadians across this country who understand the loss for them and their neighbours by not proceeding with the Kelowna accord.

It is time for that ray of sunshine to shine on Canada's aboriginal people and it is time to let the wheels of Kelowna move forward.

We have heard much about accountability from the government. We all support accountability, but accountability is not just about dollars. It is also about a government's accountability, or lack thereof, to its citizens and its partners in Confederation. Accountability is indeed a two-way street.

This is the opportunity to ensure that the Kelowna agreement is not added to the record of injustices and failures that have plagued aboriginal peoples over the decades in this country.

Let me close with a statement by Richard Paton from ITK when he appeared before the aboriginal affairs committee on June 7, 2006. His statement sums up the feelings of many across this great land. He said:

In my view, and as stated by our president recently in Gimli at the western premiers meeting, acting honourably means at a minimum keeping your word. The word that was pledged to the first ministers meeting on the federal side was not the word of a particular individual or political party; it was the word of the Prime Minister of Canada, the highest-level servant of the Crown and the people and an important custodian of the honour of the Crown and, by extension, the honour of the people of Canada. We cannot run federalism, indeed we cannot run Canada, on the basis that high-level multi-governmental commitments to tackle fundamental societal ills that are the product of mature deliberation can be summarily discarded because one of the signatories doesn't find it expedient on partisan grounds.

I implore colleagues opposite to listen to the speakers here today, to reconsider and to look at the far-reaching impact of the Kelowna accord across this land of ours. I urge all in this House to unanimously adopt the motion.

Opposition Motion—Aboriginal Affairs
Business of Supply
Government Orders

12:15 p.m.

Winnipeg South
Manitoba

Conservative

Rod Bruinooge Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development and Federal Interlocutor for Métis and Non-Status Indians

Mr. Speaker, I have had the pleasure of serving with my hon. colleague on the aboriginal affairs committee. I believe she is genuinely interested in moving forward on the issues concerning aboriginal Canadians.

I would like to ask her about one area that was not involved in the Kelowna process, and that is in relation to structural reform. It is quite clear based on the commentary of many of the people who were at the table at the first ministers meeting, that was not an item that was unanimously agreed upon.

More important, how can she refer to empty rhetoric when we look back at the 13 years of inaction, where opportunities were missed and aboriginal Canadians saw the outcomes continue to be deplorable? How can she say that empty rhetoric is not most reflective upon her and her party?

Opposition Motion—Aboriginal Affairs
Business of Supply
Government Orders

12:20 p.m.

Liberal

Anita Neville Winnipeg South Centre, MB

Mr. Speaker, I was anticipating the member's comment on structural reform. There is no question that structural reform is required. Legislative changes must be made and we have to move forward. To wait for structural reform is to do a huge disservice to the communities that we are speaking about. Structural reform has to move forward incrementally in consultation with first nation communities across the land. The member knows as well as I do that structural reform is a substantial undertaking. It will take years to move forward. While I acknowledge the necessity of it, I do not believe it is in any way an impediment to implementing the Kelowna accord.

I speak of empty rhetoric because we see very little happening from members opposite, while I know that many of them are committed to this issue. The previous government had moved on this agenda. The Kelowna accord came about as a result of this agenda.

It is really important that the previous government built relationships with aboriginal communities. This is not a situation where one tells; rather, one asks. One works with; one does not dictate. Relationship building is the essence of Kelowna and what the previous government was about. With respect to the successes and failures that were there, the successes came about by working together and the failures of the past came about by not listening to and not working with.

While I accept my colleague's comments about structural reform, I believe that the previous government made tremendous strides in dealing with first nations, aboriginal peoples, Inuit peoples, Métis peoples, and we are very proud of it.

Opposition Motion—Aboriginal Affairs
Business of Supply
Government Orders

12:20 p.m.

Bloc

Marc Lemay Abitibi—Témiscamingue, QC

Mr. Speaker, I listened carefully to my hon. colleague. I will have the opportunity a little later today to explain the Bloc Québécois' position regarding the motion proposed by the Liberal Party. However, I can say right away that we will support this motion.

Later today, I will hold a press conference along with my hon. colleague from Abitibi—Baie-James—Nunavik—Eeyou, who will rise in a few minutes, to denounce the current government's attitude regarding discussions on the draft declaration on the rights of indigenous peoples currently taking place in New York.

That said, I would like to ask my hon. colleague a question. The members of this House must understand that the Kelowna agreement was not negotiated between the Liberal government and aboriginal peoples or between the Conservative government and aboriginal peoples. It was negotiated nation to nation—it is on this particular topic that I would like my hon. colleague to address the House. The hon. member for LaSalle—Émard, who was Prime Minister at the time, signed as the leader of a nation, just as Phil Fontaine signed as the leader of a nation.

I would like to ask my hon. colleague the following questions: What happens when two nations that have signed an agreement do not respect that agreement? What will happen in the years to come?

Opposition Motion—Aboriginal Affairs
Business of Supply
Government Orders

12:20 p.m.

Liberal

Anita Neville Winnipeg South Centre, MB

Mr. Speaker, if I understood the question correctly, the previous government understood, recognized and acknowledged the nationhood of aboriginal peoples in this country. As such, we worked with them on a nation to nation basis acknowledging, listening, cooperating and collaborating so that there was not fragmentation, so that we were able to come in with a holistic response.

The key to the success of the previous government's dealings with aboriginal peoples was its willingness and ability to listen, to operate as equals, to understand the relationship and the historic context in which we were operating to ensure that aboriginal peoples have the best opportunities as they move forward.

Opposition Motion—Aboriginal Affairs
Business of Supply
Government Orders

12:25 p.m.

NDP

Jean Crowder Nanaimo—Cowichan, BC

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the hon. member for her comments and certainly her commitment to this very important issue. However, I have to say that the current government has not demonstrated a commitment to solve some of the serious problems facing aboriginal communities. The previous government had an opportunity and the Kelowna accord also failed to meet its commitments. There have been decades of neglect.

I want to specifically ask the member about the amount of money that was in the Kelowna accord. My understanding is that part of that money was not new money. It was actually funding that came partially through Bill C-48 to do with housing and education and other money had already been committed around health care. I would like the member to comment specifically on the exact amount of new money that was in the Kelowna agreement.

Opposition Motion—Aboriginal Affairs
Business of Supply
Government Orders

12:25 p.m.

Liberal

Anita Neville Winnipeg South Centre, MB

Mr. Speaker, I look forward to the member's support of this motion.

The money from Bill C-48 was not part of the money established under the Kelowna accord. Some $700 million was allocated under previous agreements leading up to Kelowna and $4.5 billion was new money allocated under the agreement. The money was booked, available and documented by the government in a fashion that only the Prime Minister or the Minister of Finance could remove the funds.

Opposition Motion—Aboriginal Affairs
Business of Supply
Government Orders

12:25 p.m.

Conservative

Ron Cannan Kelowna—Lake Country, BC

Mr. Speaker, I come from Kelowna—Lake Country. Kelowna has been referred to on numerous occasions during this session of the House. It is obviously of great concern to the Conservative government. I am proud that the Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development has done a great job of addressing the issues in the short period that he has been in the position of minister compared to the Liberals who were in government for 13 years.

I was a member of Kelowna city council at the time. I was in Kelowna standing outside the Grand Hotel while the talks were taking place and watched the protesters. The off reserve members were absolutely frustrated. They were shut out from the accord, as it is called.

As recently as Friday afternoon I had a face to face meeting with Premier Campbell and discussed this specific issue. There are all kinds of flaws in the proposal. Since I was elected on January 23 I have been trying to get a hold of the Kelowna accord, the document everyone keeps referring to. If the member opposite has such a document, I would like her to table it because it is a real mystery.

I asked Premier Campbell, as I mentioned, and I have spoken with all kinds of other people who were at the event. There are a lot of laudable goals in the discussion paper, as we have referred to it, and principles that we agreed to as a government and acted on. I would ask the member opposite to please table the Kelowna accord if she has such a document.

Opposition Motion—Aboriginal Affairs
Business of Supply
Government Orders

12:25 p.m.

Liberal

Anita Neville Winnipeg South Centre, MB

Mr. Speaker, I am astounded by a question like that. Leadership takes courage. When one speaks of the Kelowna accord, there is not one member who would say it is perfect. It was a series of concessions, compromises, discussions, negotiations and it was important.

I am very surprised that the member opposite has not seen the transformative change accord between the government and the province of British Columbia that has been signed. If he says that he has spoken to Gordon Campbell and the minister responsible for aboriginal affairs, he will know that it was Mr. Campbell who indeed led the charge across this country to ensure that the Kelowna accord was ratified. It was massaged to ensure that it was agreed to by all involved.

Opposition Motion—Aboriginal Affairs
Business of Supply
Government Orders

12:30 p.m.

Calgary Centre-North
Alberta

Conservative

Jim Prentice Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development and Federal Interlocutor for Métis and Non-Status Indians

Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to rise today to tell the House how the current government is working to improve the quality of life of first nations, the Inuit and the Métis.

I agree with many of the things that have been said in the House and some of the comments put forward by the member for Winnipeg South Centre. I do not doubt her sincerity and I acknowledge the work she has done in the past on behalf of aboriginal people in the area of education. I do, however, disagree quite vehemently with her in terms of the way forward and I intend to speak to that without, in any way, disparaging her as a member of Parliament.

The approach we have tried to follow involves working together with other parties in the House. We have had good dialogue with the member for Nanaimo—Cowichan and the member for Abitibi—Témiscamingue. We will continue to approach this in a constructive and thoughtful way.

I would also like to speak definitively in the House to the fine work that has been carried out by the member for Winnipeg South, who is my parliamentary secretary. He is one of the youngest parliamentary secretaries in the new Government of Canada. He has done an extraordinary job. He is a Canadian of aboriginal ancestry. I can say unequivocally in the House that I am proud to have him as a colleague. I think the people of Winnipeg should be extraordinarily proud to have a young Canadian of this quality in the government.

The motion put forward speaks to the need for action in the areas of health, water, education and economic opportunities. Each and every one of us in the House recognizes the importance of moving forward on an agenda that deals with aboriginal issues and addresses the real issues of aboriginal poverty.

I worked on land claims for many years. My work gave me the opportunity to visit a number of aboriginal communities long before I came to Parliament. As a member of the opposition, I was my party's critic for Indian Affairs and Northern Development.

I have come face to face with the conditions aboriginal Canadians experience. I have been to many of the Indian reserves in this country, perhaps as many as half of the Indian reserves across Canada. It has led me to believe that the eradication of aboriginal poverty is one of the greatest social issues that the country faces. There is a willingness on my part to proceed, to be thoughtful and to work in collaboration with aboriginal Canadians to deal with these difficult issues.

While I agree with the member opposite that we need to work together to improve the quality of life for aboriginal Canadians, we disagree on the methodology.

The first speech I gave in the House of Commons 18 months ago related to what we see inscribed in stone on the front portal of the House of Commons as we come through the door. It is inscribed, “Where there is no vision, the people perish”. I use that inscription on the front door of the House of Commons, which can be seen several stories up in large letters, to talk about the Liberal record in dealing with aboriginal issues in this country. It is a record that is shameful. History will judge the Liberal government harshly on what it has done on aboriginal policy and how it has dealt with aboriginal poverty. It will be judged on a 13 year period of empty promises and dark poverty for aboriginal Canadians.

This government is committed to taking real steps to deal with these issues. We are committed to dealing with some of the tough questions, the structural issues which underlie aboriginal poverty and we are committed to moving forward in a way that the Liberal government did not and never would.

Where we differ with the Liberals is in how to approach these problems. Over the last 13 years, Canadians have seen one approach, the Liberal approach. This approach was recently judged harshly by the Auditor General of Canada, who said essentially that on every major indicator of the quality of life of aboriginal Canadians, 13 years of Liberal government had been a failure. That is shameful. What Canadians have seen is rhetoric and what Canadians no longer want to see, whether aboriginal or non-aboriginal Canadians, is a continuation of that kind of approach to dealing with aboriginal poverty.

Does anybody in this House still remember the promises put forward by the Liberals in the 1993 campaign platform, the famous red book? There were promises regarding unemployment, health problems, poor housing, unequal education opportunities and unsafe drinking water. I have been through all the Liberal throne speeches and all of the Liberal red books during the time we were in opposition and they contained more and more Liberal empty rhetoric to aboriginal Canadians.

Finally, in 2004, after 12 years, the last Liberal throne speech admitted that “The conditions in far too many aboriginal communities can only be described as shameful”, an epitaph offered to 12 years of Liberal government by the Liberal government itself. That is the situation the new Government of Canada, a Conservative government, has inherited.

My friend spoke about the issue of water. This government took action within 45 days of coming into office to deal with the water situation. What were we left with by the members opposite, by the Liberal government? We were left with a situation where 21 communities in this country were living as communities at risk in terms of their water system, situations such as Kashechewan where e-coli was migrating into drinking water. Beyond that, 170 communities were living at high risk, which is a lower standard than a community at risk.

We took action. We instituted a system to get to the bottom of it. We introduced a certain amount of science. We have empowered a water panel to take the national standards, which this government announced, and implement them in law. That is the kind of approach this government will follow. We will take real action. We will deal with national standards. We will advance funds to deal with issues, with the assurance that there will be accountability and action. We are not interested in a continuation of Liberal rhetoric.

My friend spoke about the $700 million that the Liberals promised for aboriginal health care. I am astounded that the member would come to this chamber and have the audacity to even raise the Liberal record of this $700 million. The $700 million was promised to aboriginal Canadians during the fix for a generation, the 2003 health care discussions. At that meeting the previous prime minister of Canada said that he had fixed health care for a generation and part of the fix was that $700 million would be paid to aboriginal Canadians to deal with health issues.

The premiers met again in 2004. Not one penny of the $700 million had ever been spent, not a cent, not a farthing. The Liberals repromised the $700 million in the 2004 June election. Still none of the money had been spent. After the election they promised the money again in the House of Commons in the context of the minority Parliament.

When the Conservative government took office two years after those promises were put on the table, none of the $700 million had ever been spent. It was fiction. It was rhetoric. It was nonsense. The money was never advanced to deal with the difficult issues of aboriginal Canadians. It is one of the most shameful records that exists in recent years in the House of Commons.

Finally, in the last days of the last government there was another grand gesture, another grand promise.

The Kelowna agreement never really reflected reality. The Kelowna process did not include all of Canada.

The province of Quebec, represented by Ghislain Picard, regional chief of the Assembly of First Nations of Quebec and Labrador, did not participate in the process or in the Kelowna conference. Therefore, there was no Canada-wide consensus as such.

Mr. Picard was not even there and the aboriginal people of Quebec did not even participate in the process of Kelowna. In that sense a national consensus was not captured at all.

I was in Kelowna. There was no signed agreement. There was no consensus on funding. There was no shared financial commitment binding all the governments. If there were, I would say so in the House of Commons.

In the closing moments after the Kelowna accord conference finished, I met with the aboriginal leaders and I talked to many of the premiers. There was no consensus. There was confusion on what the prime minister had tabled, the single page compilation of numbers totalling $5.085 billion. There was no understanding on how that money would be spent, who would receive it, how much of it would be advanced to the provinces, how much would be advanced to the territories, what portion would go to the Inuit, what portion would go to the public governments in the north, what portion would go to go to the Assembly of First Nations and how much the Native Women's Association would get. None of those questions was answered.

Some of the first nation leaders, about which my friend speaks, had never seen those numbers. Anyone who stands in the House of Commons and tells Canadians that there was an 18 month negotiation process, leading to that single page compilation of numbers, is facetious. It never happened. If we asked the aboriginal people, who were there, they had never seen the numbers when they were tabled.

My friend from the riding of Kelowna—Lake Country properly mentions this. If there is a motion in the House to implement the Kelowna accord, perhaps someone at least could table the accord, put it in front of us so we could consider it. The point is they cannot because it does not exist. There is no such document.

Prior to the conference, a 20 page document described the circumstances of aboriginal poverty. It talked about targets, about the importance of five and ten year plans. I have never disagreed that it is a useful document and provides some guidance on the way forward, but there was no financial plan built around that document at Kelowna. It just did not happen.

Today we are discussing what was essentially a unilateral press release with the pre-campaign promise of money, no point by point plan, no budget for the year ahead, something that was tabled essentially three days before an election was called. As the Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development, I am talking about a different approach. We have to seriously address the underlying issues of aboriginal poverty and it will take more than a press release.

I said this previously, when the former prime minister tabled his private member's bill in the House, and I say it again today. Anyone who believes we can deal with the most pressing social justice issue in our country, namely aboriginal poverty, by tabling a one page document at the close of a meeting, does not appreciate the scope and the nature of the problem.

I believe everyone in the House is well-meaning in terms of tackling the problem and dealing with the issue, but this is not the way to do it. It reflects the lack of understanding, which the Liberals have shown for 13 years, about what the fundamental problems are. For 13 years, the Liberals never took any action to provide water standards. Why were registered status Indian people the only Canadians living without water standards until the Conservative government arrived? It has nothing to do with Kelowna. It has everything to do with a government that was not prepared to act.

Why are aboriginal first nation children the only kids who do not have the protection of an education statute that defines curriculum, classroom sizes, certification, teacher-student ratios? The only children in Canada who do not have that protection are Indian registered status Indian children. This is after 13 years of Liberal ineptitude. This is the situation that we inherited.

It is said that a goal without a plan is just a wish, just a promise in the case of the Liberals.

I said before that I supported the targets discussed by the first ministers and the national aboriginal leaders. However, we will have a different approach to getting there. We are setting goals. We are taking concrete steps to meet them. We are budgeting properly and we are bringing financial plans before Parliament. We will deal with the structural issues.

Again, we have rhetoric from the Liberals. Why, after 13 years of Liberal government, is there still no matrimonial property rights for aboriginal women? How can the Liberals stand in the House of Commons and seriously argue, on behalf of aboriginal people, when for 13 years they were not prepared to deal with one of the most fundamental wrongs that exists in Canada today? That is the fact that aboriginal women do not have matrimonial property rights. Promises, rhetoric, red books, throne speeches, all of that, but never any action, just a continuation of rhetoric.

One of the other issues we need to discuss is how we will make the system work better for aboriginal Canadians. What do we have to do to give individuals a better sense of empowerment? How do we match job training to take advantage of the changing economy and the opportunities so some of our economic growth stories benefit aboriginal people?

How do we move beyond the Indian Act, the most outdated piece of legislation in Canada? How do we give first nations the tools to get beyond the Indian Act? The Indian Act was a compilation of pre-confederation statutes. It should be no wonder to the Liberals why many things are not working for aboriginal Canadians when the basic governance structure, which applies to everything that happens on reserve, is legislation that was developed 150 years ago. There was no action from the former government to deal with that reality.

These are tough, fundamental questions and they have gone unanswered for too long. The government intends to move forward. We intend to deal with these issues and we will work in collaboration and in consultation with national and regional organizations to do so.

I am optimistic. As Winston Churchill once said, “For myself, I am an optimist, because I don't see much use in being anything else”. We can move forward on these issues and we have already in the budget.

My friend said, I think quite unfairly, and I want the record of the House of Commons corrected on this, that the government had put forward a budget that cut 80% of the funding to aboriginal Canadians. The budget put forward by the Conservative government contains more dollar expenditures for aboriginal Canadians than any budget that has ever been put forward in the history of the House of Commons and, for sure, more money than the Liberals ever put forward.

At this point, the Government of Canada is spending something close to $9 billion on aboriginal programs and services. Our budget contained a number of extraordinary measures, totalling $3.7 billion. We budgeted $2.2 billion to deal with the residential school agreement. We included $300 million for northern housing; $300 million for off reserve housing, $125 million additional in the budget this year, $450 million in the budget in the following; and a $325 million increase in the department's estimates. The total additional funds in that sense are $1.075 billion. When we add that to the $2.2 billion set aside for the residential school agreement, this is a very generous budget. As aboriginal leaders across Canada have said, it does more for aboriginal Canadians than the Liberals ever did.

Yet what we hear is a continuation from the other side of the House about Liberal rhetoric, about promises and about moving forward. All of this disrespects the House of Commons. The money in terms of Kelowna was never budgeted for by the House of Commons. It was open to the Liberals, as a government, to bring forward a budget that included that money, to have it approved by the Parliament of Canada and to move forward. They never did. They are carrying on today with the same approach. The private member's bill that has been put forward, again, provides no money. There are more promises or regurgitation of previous promises, but no money.

What aboriginal Canadians have come to believe and come to see is that for real results they are going to see action from our government. The government has the courage to move forward and bring forward a vision that is different from where we have been.

Opposition Motion—Aboriginal Affairs
Business of Supply
Government Orders

12:50 p.m.

Liberal

Gary Merasty Desnethé—Missinippi—Churchill River, SK

Mr. Speaker, I have a very quick question. He talks about the over $1.2 billion. I find that hard to believe when $300 million of it will go to provinces and $300 million to northern territories. It is not going to aboriginal people. We have $150 million this year going to aboriginal people, period.

Very clearly, I see the rubber hitting the road with the lack of understanding the Conservatives have with what the aboriginal people of Canada want. Their criticism that the Kelowna accord was a one page document is absurd. Do they not understand that the plans were to be developed jointly with the aboriginal people of Canada? The government is being prescriptive and telling them that it knows what is good for them.

What process of consultation will be utilized? Is it the one where there was none when the accountability act was introduced? Is it one where the aboriginal procurement provision in contracts was cut? Is it one where school projects were cut without consultation or where the Deh Cho negotiations were short-circuited by being told that they would not block this Supreme Court of Canada recognition of the duty to consult. Therefore, what is the consultation process, hit and run?

Opposition Motion—Aboriginal Affairs
Business of Supply
Government Orders

12:50 p.m.

Conservative

Jim Prentice Calgary Centre-North, AB

Mr. Speaker, the member is a new member. Therefore, at the risk of repetition, I would like to take him back to how the budget process works. When he talks about the dollars being an illusion, he needs to look at the budget. These are real dollars.

The Government of Canada this year will spend $9 billion on programs and services for aboriginal Canadians, primarily on approximately 600,000 status Indian Canadians. There will be $300 million for northern housing, which will be real money leading to real results. That is $300 million for off reserve housing. Surely the member does not contend that those moneys are not moneys from which aboriginal Canadians will see no benefit. There are $475 million of additional increases in terms of the budgetary allocation to the department and $2.2 billion for the residential school agreement. These are real funds.

On the consultation process, I think I have made it very clear that we will continue to consult with first nations and with the leaders of the Inuit and the Métis organizations. I have had meetings with every one of the national aboriginal organizations. In fact, I have had extensive meetings with all of them. We work very closely with the Native Women's Association of Canada, with the Assembly of First Nations, ITK on behalf of the Inuit people, with the National Métis Council and with the Congress of Aboriginal People. These are all groups with which we have a very solid relationship and we are developing a constructive way forward. No one should suggest in the House that it does not exist.

If we listen to the comments, which the aboriginal leaders have put on the public record, they say that they have a respectful and a positive working relationship with the new government.

We will be mindful of Haida v. Taku and the sorts of decisions that have been issued previously by the Supreme Court of Canada. We are mindful of the obligation to consult.

I have been around long enough to know that imposed solutions do not work. At the same time, there is a fundamental difference between the Conservative approach and the Liberal approach on consultation. For the Liberals, consultation was a gridlock because it essentially amounted to a process where they would consult endlessly and they would never take any action.

In the case of the Conservative Party, we will consult on the road to results. We will consult on the road to making decisions. Consultation will be part of a decision making process. It will not be a dead end route, the way it was with the Liberals.