House of Commons Hansard #144 of the 41st Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was first.

Topics

First Nations Financial Transparency Act
Government Orders

9:35 p.m.

Liberal

John McKay Scarborough—Guildwood, ON

Mr. Speaker, I want to ask the hon. member a few questions about the pathological aversion to consultation that seems to be endemic in the government.

About a year ago we had the biggest consultation that Canadians actually have with their potential government but, to my recollection, there was not any actual conversation about jumping older folks for OAS increases. I must have missed that in the Conservative Party platform. I did look at it but I could not find that. However, apparently as of last night, everybody who is under 54 years of age will now be down about $30,000 in the course of their lifetime in the event they have to draw OAS.

Similarly, I do not ever recollect any consultation about the changes to EI. That did not seem to be part of the platform when we did this.

Here we have a bill, apparently on transparency and accountability, and, as far as I know, there has been absolutely no consultation with aboriginal communities on this matter, and it certainly did not form any part of the platform of the Conservative Party. So EI, OAS and aboriginal consultations, nothing, zero, nil.

First Nations Financial Transparency Act
Government Orders

9:35 p.m.

Liberal

Carolyn Bennett St. Paul's, ON

Mr. Speaker, the member makes a very good point. An election is supposed to be where the parties put their cards on the table and then the people of Canada get to choose.

The people of Canada were not told that the age for receiving a pension would go up by two years. They were not told about the changes to seasonal workers. They were not told about the changes to Parks Canada. They were not told about all of the devastating cuts that were rammed through in that ridiculous omnibus bill that the Prime Minister, about to be former prime minister, has so eloquently spoken against in the past.

It is an attitudinal thing. If the government really wants to consult, if it thinks it will get ideas and that they could come from anywhere, that used to be the beauty of Parliament. That used to be the beauty of parliamentary committees, where smart people could be heard and members would say, “There is a good idea.”

The idea that the government could not even consult on this budget and find one thing to be amended just shows the travesty of the democracy and the weakness of the Conservative members of Parliament on the other side.

First Nations Financial Transparency Act
Government Orders

June 20th, 2012 / 9:40 p.m.

Liberal

Gerry Byrne Humber—St. Barbe—Baie Verte, NL

Mr. Speaker, I would like to pick up on some of the comments that were expressed by my colleague regarding the reduction of red tape and how this particular initiative either feeds into or from the government's propensity to institute red tape. Specifically, I want to talk about the impact this legislation may have on aboriginal businesses.

Bill C-27 would force aboriginal businesses on first nations to disclose financial information related to those businesses to the public, including to the competitors of those aboriginal businesses. I am not simply talking about remuneration paid for out of federal supply, but all activities of those businesses would have to be reported to the public. That is a burden that does not exist for other businesses.

This measure could potentially make band-owned businesses extremely vulnerable to predatory practices and put them at an obvious competitive disadvantage. Non-aboriginal private corporations, for example, are not forced to publicly disclose consolidated financial statements. However, aboriginal businesses, whether attached to the federal government or not, would. Any band-owned business would have to disclose information that would-be or potential competitors in the private sector will not.

It is very interesting, not only because it would be extremely inconsistent with the principle of first nation self-governance, but it is also obviously very inconsistent with the government's much ballooned and ballyhooed referral to the Red Tape Reduction Commission.

At a cost of several million dollars, the Conservative government instituted a Red Tape Reduction Commission to travel all over the country conducting meetings and hearings as to how exactly the federal government could reduce the paper burden on businesses. I guess it did not conduct very many hearings with aboriginal businesses. If it did, it would have a serious problem with this legislation.

I will read directly from the report that the member for Beauce, the Minister of State for Small Business and Tourism, produced. It reads:

...the Commission's first task was to “identify irritants to business that stem from federal regulatory requirements and review how those requirements are administered in order to reduce the compliance burden on businesses, especially small businesses.”

At a cost of several million dollars, this commission had that task in mind.

Somebody was asleep on the front bench on this proposed legislation which would increase the regulatory burden on aboriginal business. In order to allow this bill to proceed without actually considering the impact on aboriginal business, somebody was not taking care of their fiduciary responsibilities to speak up for aboriginal people.

Where was the member for Beauce, who is such a strong believer, at least in theory, of anti-regulation, when this was going through?

The compliance burden on small business would be huge. We have already heard in the chamber that there are already 60,000 reports that must be filed with Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada on an annual basis. Can members imagine the compliance burden that would be placed on aboriginal businesses, a burden that does not exist on any other business? Can members imagine the regulatory red tape that would be imposed upon that important section of our economy, our aboriginal businesses, that does not apply anywhere else?

Let me put this into perspective. Federal crown corporations on lists specifically included in the Access to Information Act do not have to comply. They are not under the jurisdiction of the Access to Information Act. If a band-owned business, however, wants to establish itself and promote the economic best interests of the band, it has to do something a federal crown corporation does not have to do.

During the course of its multi-million dollar discussions, the Red Tape Reduction Commission—which I guess might have been actually for the purpose of creating more red tape instead of reducing it, but the actual title of the commission was the “Red Tape Reduction Commission”, so I guess that would not necessarily apply—gave specific direction to the Government of Canada. It gave specific recommendations to individual government departments. It even made recommendations to Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada as to how it could participate in reducing the red tape burden.

Do members know what it recommended to the minister and to the department? It made two main suggestions specifically for this department. One was this:

To improve service standards and streamline program requirements, we recommend that Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada establish streamlined application and review processes to support small business growth and development.

I do not think anywhere did the red tape commission say, “By the way, we should also impose the equivalent to the Access to Information Act on every aboriginal band-owned business”. They said, quite frankly, the opposite.

It further recommended:

To facilitate service standard improvements, streamlined processes and the integration of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada programs with those of other federal regulators, we recommend that the department develop a simplified approach for land processes and economic development projects.

That was not a recommendation for an expanded approach, not one for the regulatory burden to be exponentially increased to the point that every minute of every day that the band-owned business operates, its lead managers must be filing compliance reports. That was not the recommendation of the Red Tape Reduction Commission.

However, if we look at this, that is what the government is suggesting.

Now, the MP for Beauce went even further. In his final recommendation report, he said again and again,

...to deal with the long-term aspect of regulatory growth

—which he viewed as a serious negative—

we are recommending that a substantial part of the bonuses of senior public servants be directly related to their success

—or, conversely, their failure—

in implementing the decisions that ministers make on the One-for-One Rule.

What is the one-for-one rule? I will tell members what the one-for-one rule is. It is a commitment that the Conservatives made in their 2006 election platform, just above their commitment to make the Parliamentary Budget Officer an independent officer who could get whatever material he or she needed in order to perform his or her function as the Parliamentary Budget Officer.

In the Conservative platform for election in 2006, entitled “Here for Canada”—I guess not all Canadians, just some Canadians—the would-be Prime Minister's low-tax plan for jobs and economic growth promised to implement a new standard for regulation:

We will legislate a One-for-One Rule—every time the government proposes a new regulation, it must eliminate an existing one.

If we look at what is happening at Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada, we see there are a lot of new regulations coming into play. There do not seem to be very many reductions. If we are to judge this based on bonuses paid to senior bureaucrats as to whether they are complying with the one-for-one rule, the government just saved an awful lot of money because there will not be one dime in bonus paid out to the minister's senior mandarins, not a dime. I guess the government is saving a few bucks there, is it not, unless of course it is going to circumvent that rule and pay out bonuses without any compliance or consideration of its own rules.

The government would never do that, though, would it? It would never actually ignore its own rules. Okay, it probably will. That is what is happening right now. We have a government that is absolutely intent on saying to everybody else, “Do as we say, but just do not do as we do”, because that is exactly what is being asked. People are being told, “Do as we say, but not as we do”.

There was also some discussion about the Auditor General and whether there should be a first nations auditor general, a proposal that received widespread support, not universal but widespread support. It was a key proposal within the Kelowna accord. When the government was proposing its Red Tape Reduction Commission, except for aboriginal communities, it suggested in its report that the Office of the Auditor General of Canada should be mandated with reviewing and reporting on the government's progress. The Auditor General should be mandated to review the government's progress in reducing regulatory administrative burden through its one-for-one rule aimed at cutting costs to businesses, as well as implementing its overall red tape reduction plan.

That was a suggestion of the government. It has never actually done it or tasked the Auditor General to do that, even though there were recent amendments to the Auditor General Act. I am wondering, since it does indeed believe that the Auditor General should be involved in red tape reduction, whether it would allow the Auditor General to come in and see whether Bill C-27 complies with the red tape reduction recommendations, as adopted by the government. Will it allow the Auditor General of Canada to do an assessment before or during second reading of whether the government is consistent with its red tape reduction promises and do so in a very public way? Will it have the Auditor General do an assessment as to whether Bill C-27 is consistent with that? Is it a do as I say government and not a do as I do government? There is one way to find out, is there not?

This is very serious. It is very serious because we are actually imposing a higher standard on a core of small businesses, band-owned aboriginal businesses. Not only would the government not impose it on other sectors of the economy, other types of privately held non-aboriginal owned businesses, but it is a standard that the government will not even impose upon itself for its federal crown corporations. Why? Because if we suggest that certain federal crown corporations should be liable and held accountable under the Access to Information Act, the very first thing the ministers responsible will say is that it could put the crown corporation in jeopardy and expose the federal crown corporation, which benefits from federal tax dollars and federal oversight, to potential competitive impacts.

The competitors of the federal crown corporation might actually know what the crown corporation was doing, and that could jeopardize the revenue stream of that federal crown corporation.

No problem, though, for band-owned aboriginal businesses. Their competitors will have a great way to find out about what they are up to and where they are going. They would just have to apply under Bill C-27. The provisions of Bill C-27 would lay their business dealings out bare. That is reason enough, if for nothing else, to want to have this bill go before committee to have witnesses come forward to establish what the impact would be, because there has been no consultation whatsoever.

There has been no consultation with the aboriginal community on this issue, because if there were, there would be a lot of senior mandarins, a lot of highly paid executives within the Department of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development, who would not be getting a bonus for an awfully long time. If they tie a substantial part of the bonuses paid to senior public servants directly to their success or failure in implementing the decisions that ministers make on the one-for-one rule, the government just saved an awful lot of money. There will not be a darn bonus paid out in Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada for a long, long time if Bill C-27 gets passed.

That is a relatively snide way to tell the government to think through what it is doing. There are checks and balances that do exist and there are checks and balances that can be improved. There is no doubt about it.

First nations are embracing those changes. There is not always universal support. I do not think anyone should expect or assume that there will be. However, there is a solid core of support within our first nations. They have nothing to hide. They are prepared to engage in full accountability. They want to be participants. They do not want to be spoken to and they do not want to be spoken at; they want to be spoken with.

In this chamber right now, instead of talking to first nations, we are simply talking about them. Why did the government not just take the time to talk with first nations, to realize the consequences and the legal ramifications of its actions.

Some might consider it another snide way for the government to play it tough. Sometimes tough actions are required, obviously, but sometimes toughness is also the sign of a bully, and bullies need to understand that what they say and do can hurt. It can hurt self-esteem and it can also hurt the economic well-being of first nations and aboriginal businesses owned by bands.

The government is sticking its nose in a place where it really does not belong. Tighter accountability rules are always something we strive for. The aboriginal community is no stranger to that. It is not a reluctant witness to that. It is creating its own higher accountability standard without the Big Brother approach from the Government of Canada. It is acting on its own behalf and increasing its accountability standards.

The government here seems to want to take a parochial approach, saying that it is “us” and them”, and that it is going to tell “them” how to run their businesses.

Why? The member for Beauce, the junior minister, spent millions of dollars on a Red Tape Reduction Commission. Why did the Minister of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development sit in cabinet and allow Bill C-27 to pass through cabinet without any examination as to the consequence to this important community?

First Nations Financial Transparency Act
Government Orders

10 p.m.

Vancouver Island North
B.C.

Conservative

John Duncan Minister of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development

Mr. Speaker, the member's speech reminds me of that saying “this animal has four legs, therefore it is a cow”. Suggesting that we are imposing a larger burden of red tape on first nations is a ridiculous notion.

In fact, it is very obvious that the member did not listen to my speech. It is very obvious the member has no idea what is in the legislation. It is very obvious that the member does not know we made an announcement within the last few days about a single reporting mechanism for first nations that actually created less paperwork. That is without the bill. With the bill, it is the very same paperwork as they do now.

The other thing I wanted to mention is that in December 2010 the Assembly of First Nations endorsed the accountability and transparency measures that were implicit in Bill C-575. That is adopted within this bill. There is first nations support for the bill, contrary to the member's statements.

First Nations Financial Transparency Act
Government Orders

10 p.m.

Liberal

Gerry Byrne Humber—St. Barbe—Baie Verte, NL

Mr. Speaker, if I were back home and said, “If animal has four legs and a cow has four legs, well you know that the animal must be a cow”. There is another animal that has four legs, and I will let people draw their own conclusion. That is probably what they would say to me back home.

The fact is that this is a government that regularly does not read its own legislation and believes its own press releases, such as when it came to spying on citizens, when all of a sudden government ministers had an epiphany. They did not know the legislation would allow the government to spy on Canadians and said that they would try to fix it.

Quite frankly, the government does not read its own legislation very often. I do not take a whole lot of comfort in the minister saying that I did not listen to his speech. I am not interested in his speech per se. I am more interested in the actual legislation, which will become law if the government allows it to do so.

The legislation would force band-owned first nations businesses to expose their financial dealings. I cannot make it any simpler or clear than that. The minister needs to read his own legislation.

First Nations Financial Transparency Act
Government Orders

10 p.m.

Liberal

Carolyn Bennett St. Paul's, ON

Mr. Speaker, I wanted to ask the hon. member about the cynicism from a lot of first nations surrounding the bill. Unlike the minister, we have been to many first nations and most of them find this legislation very troubling, especially in the area to which the hon. member has referred.

With the release of the information and data of band-owned businesses, does the member think the cynicism is well-founded? Does it inflate the numbers people think the Government of Canada is giving to first nations and therefore somehow gives the government permission to give less? Is it a way of conflating the numbers?

As a physician, I know that when my billings were calculated, people did not understand that out of my billings I paid a nurse, a receptionist, my rent and for all of the supplies. Those gross numbers are sometimes quite disturbing to people at first glance.

The way that these disclosures may be interpreted feeds this ongoing plan of the government to blame first nations and making it look like they are rolling in money and doing badly with the money they have been given.

First Nations Financial Transparency Act
Government Orders

10:05 p.m.

Liberal

Gerry Byrne Humber—St. Barbe—Baie Verte, NL

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the comments made by my colleague. She is absolutely correct. The government has already done that, not just through aboriginal business but also with what happened at Attawapiskat. The government engaged in a public relations smear campaign against the band council at Attawapiskat to enforce an opinion or point of view that money spent on education was in solution to a housing crisis. It compiled and aggregated all the funds that were given to a particular band and displayed that to the entire nation and to the world press to make a sleazy suggestion that this band was rich and was abusing its funds, when in actual fact the money that was appropriated and dispersed was for health care and education. The money was spent on health care and education.

Therefore, the government already has a track record of doing exactly what the hon. member has just suggested. It integrates these incidents into a communications strategy.

In my home province of Newfoundland and Labrador, there are aboriginal communities and first nations, the Innu and Inuit, who are involved in multi-million dollar business enterprises that are benefiting the community at large. They are engaged in those businesses for the benefit of the community at large.

If I were a competitor, I would want Bill C-27 because I would find out all about those businesses and actually move in and hone in on that because they would be unable to do the same for me, which is a shame.

First Nations Financial Transparency Act
Government Orders

10:05 p.m.

Green

Elizabeth May Saanich—Gulf Islands, BC

Mr. Speaker, it seems that we are in a rather circular argument. Members, including myself, have stood and pointed out that first nations' leadership, including the national chief of the Assembly of First Nations, a number of first nations chiefs and a resolution passed in 2010 by first nations, have said that they are prepared to provide, and want to see, accountability and financial transparency.

When we make that point as an argument against heavy-handed top-down legislation, the minister says that first nations support this legislation because of the 2010 resolution. It is clear that the first nations do not, as a body, as the Assembly of First Nations, support the legislation. They do want to move to financial transparency and accountability. Therefore, we are in something of a dialogue of the death going on here.

I ask my hon. colleague for Humber—St. Barbe—Baie Verte this. Does he not think we need to be clear that while everyone wants to see transparency and financial accountability, we will not get to it by ignoring the inherent rights of first nations in our country, granted under treaty obligations and constitutional protection?

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10:05 p.m.

Liberal

Gerry Byrne Humber—St. Barbe—Baie Verte, NL

Mr. Speaker, I applaud and thank the hon. member for Saanich—Gulf Islands because she underscores the fact that there is a strong potential, probability even, that much of this act will be subject to judicial review after the fact.

First, there is a duty to consult. There is also a duty to respect the inherent right of first nations to engage in business practices in a way that is not arbitrary and not subject to uniquely them and not to anyone else in terms of the conduct of regular business. Quite frankly, I am not a lawyer, but I think there is a more than probable reality that there will be a legal challenge under an arbitrary provision of law that actually imposes a different standard on a band-owned business than any other type of business.

In return, I ask the government this question. Before we get into any sort of judicial or legal review, since it is the one that suggests the Auditor General of Canada should review its performance on red tape reduction, will it allow the Auditor General to review whether Bill C-27 is consistent or contrary to its own expectations of itself before passage of the legislation? I think we already know the answer.

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10:10 p.m.

NDP

Niki Ashton Churchill, MB

Mr. Speaker, I usually say it is an honour to stand in the House and speak to certain bills, but today I am ashamed. I am ashamed to stand here and speak to a bill that is so offensive to Canada's aboriginal people. It is pretty unbelievable, and today of all days, the day before National Aboriginal Day.

Tomorrow the government will send its representatives out to wish aboriginal people a happy National Aboriginal Day instead of saying that they are there to work with aboriginal people, instead of saying they want to listen to aboriginal people, instead of saying that not only will they work with them but they will refrain from playing the nasty, dirty politics of division that this very legislation is all about.

I will take it one step further. Let us flip Bill C-27 around. Maybe we should be talking about a federal government fiscal transparency act. What would it look like with that crew? Would we talk about the F-35s and how that was bungled? Would we talk about the orange juice that cost $16 in London? Would we talk about the helicopters that have flown ministers around? Would we talk about the Senate appointments, the kickbacks, the breaks for friends who have given the Conservatives money?

That is what we are talking about. We are talking about a government that is so eager to change the channel and play the politics of division with some of the most marginalized people in our country instead of looking at its own complete disrespect for, frankly, legislation that governs this place and also the ethics that the Conservatives seem to be following.

If we talk about an accountability act when it comes to the Conservative government, then let us talk about aboriginal people and how the government has broken that accountability time and time again.

Some years ago the Conservatives apologized to first nations when it came to the residential school tragedy. Some months after that they cut the Aboriginal Healing Foundation, the only decentralized program so successful that it was a world model. It provided cultural healing for aboriginal people across the country. Report after report and accolade after accolade indicated how important it was. However, the government cared so little about its own commitment to residential school survivors that it got rid of that program.

How about the deadline that is approaching on the IAP? The IAP, as many aboriginal people know, is the application people, those who were abused so badly in residential schools, have made that requires to go to another level. Where is the accountability when so few supports have been put in place to support the healing of those people who are applying for the IAP? Where is the work that needs to be done to talk to people like those in my own constituency, in places like Tadoule Lake and Lac Brochet? People of the generation who were abused at residential school do not speak English in the way that may be needed in this process. They need the support for translation and for healing. It is nowhere to be found.

Let us talk about health and how out of the 33 first nations that I represent only 1 of them with a community of 6,000 has a hospital.

Let us talk about the fact that I represent four communities in Island Lake. Over 10,000 people do not have running water, that in Canada in 2012. These communities were among the hardest hit with H1N1. Many health professionals said that it had nothing to do with some sort of genetic predisposition. It had to do with the fact that people did not have running water.

Let us talk about education and the lack of accountability we see in the government in funding first nations education. Aboriginal children, because they are aboriginal, are systematically underfunded because of who they are. They receive less than half in some cases of what provinces will pay for that same aboriginal child to study off reserve. We know that means generation after generation are being left with the legacy of inadequate support and failure when it comes to the federal government.

We could talk about the mould in schools. We could talk about trailers. We could talk about the fastest growing population in Canada having a government that not only is not there to support them, but with a bill like this, insults them.

Let us talk about housing, third world living conditions. I represent communities that have a waiting list of 500 houses, not 5, not 50, but 500.

Let us talk about the way the government has lost its accountability when it comes to the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. Many people came together and said it is right for Canada to show leadership, to stand up for aboriginal people at the United Nations, to maybe join other countries that are leaders around the world when it comes to working with their aboriginal people. After months of pushing and prodding, and I am proud that our party was at the forefront of saying Canada should do this, yes, the government signed the declaration. It boasted about it, but it has broken the commitments it has made every step of the way.

Most recently, where it is most apparent, is in Bill C-38. The national chief came to the committee and said, “Where is the duty to consult?” By eliminating all of the legislation, the environmental legislation, the lack of protection for fish habitat, the first nations treaty right to fishing is at risk and first nations territorial lands are at risk.

Bill C-38 also proposed changes to employment insurance that would have a disproportionate impact on aboriginal people. Where is the accountability there, when so many aboriginal communities depend entirely on seasonal work? This is not a question of moving on where there is something else.

The Conservatives know very well because they know the statistics and have tried to prevent the rest of us from seeing them. They know that people will turn to provincial welfare. People will turn to the increased social turmoil that unfortunately government after government, and this government is right along with them, not only turns a blind eye to, but frankly encourages. This kind of societal breakdown is unfortunately the legacy of government after government, and this government is no different.

The bill is absurd. It is offensive and it speaks to the government's approach. We have heard about the backward policy of the Conservatives when it comes to refugees and the comment that “Canadians want this”, as though refugees who come to Canada are not Canadian.

Aboriginal people were the first Canadians. The bill seeks to divide people and to pit people against each other and their communities. It seeks to change the channel from the government's failure to live up to its fiduciary obligation, not “it would be great if it did”, but a fiduciary obligation, an understanding that there is a commitment in the Constitution to first nations.

The Conservatives loves to talk about the War of 1812. Let us talk about who allowed us to build a country like Canada. It was first nations people, aboriginal people. In their relationship with the Crown, aboriginal people have always been at the other side with an attitude of respect and an attitude of co-operation and they have only been spat in the face. They have been subjected to third world living conditions in a country as wealthy as ours, followed with legislation like this.

I have a prediction here. I am sure I will be digging this quote out in the next few days. The government has its press releases and robocalls ready to go. There are issues around the robocalls. However, the Conservatives have their lines about what side they are on and what side everybody else is on.

Canadians see through this. Canadians are increasingly sick and tired, and frankly disgusted, with the politics of division, these games the Conservatives seek to play with people in our own country, pitting us one against the other. Somehow because we are of this background, we have to have an issue with aboriginal people in aboriginal communities. It is not like that.

I am proud to come from a part of the country and to represent a part of the country where people know that we have to work together, where people know that the legacy of residential schools and of colonialism impacts all of us. People know that it would be nice to have a federal government that stood on the side of eradicating the third world conditions people in Canada face.

I wish I could say there was a good chance of that prediction not becoming true, but I have seen it before. I saw it in the last election.

The government brought up a private member's bill, which again speaks to its two-sided approach. The government says that just one member brought it up so it is not where the government is at. It is a similar story with the private member's Motion No. 312, which seeks to reopen the abortion debate. We hear all sorts of stories from the government. On this one, there is no hiding the fact that the government has been behind it all the way. We might be able to say that for Motion No. 312 too. I certainly would.

After its commitments to sit down with the first nations gathering in January to continue that conversation, the government's wish is to leave this Parliament as one of its lasting legacies one of the most offensive, absurd bills that seeks nothing more than to divide Canadians, to pit Canadians against each other, and most importantly, to pit people against aboriginal people.

This is not fitting of our Canada. This is not in line with the kinds of values that we seek to realize. I am proud to be part of a party that has been at the forefront of standing with aboriginal people: first nations, Métis and Inuit. I am proud to belong to a party that so many people in my part of the country see as the party that has stood for them. I know that is the case among so many aboriginal people across the country. Many of them are looking to us tonight and will be looking to us tomorrow on National Aboriginal Day, to hear that we are willing to work with them; willing to respect our Constitution, the historical framework that is based on a relationship of respect between the Crown and first nations; and that we are willing to say that we can build a better Canada.

I say these words, thinking about the elders who have supported me on a personal level, about the leaders who support their communities, about the young people who are looking to us to show leadership. They are not seeing this from the government, but that is another sign of where the government is at.

I am proud to be part of a party that believes that our Canada means working with aboriginal people every step of the way, that our Canada is one in which third world conditions for anyone, including for aboriginal people, will not be tolerated and that our Canada lives on this side of the House and will continue to live on as we fight for it.

[Member spoke in aboriginal language]

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10:20 p.m.

Liberal

Hedy Fry Vancouver Centre, BC

Mr. Speaker, it is obvious the member's heart is in the right place and that she understands the constituents she serves, many of whom are aboriginal people.

She made some very important points about the duplicity of the government. She pointed out the fact that it says one thing and does another. We have to go back to what my colleague, the member for St. Paul's said about the deep-felt apology in the House many years ago, followed within a few months by the cancelling of the aboriginal healing fund. It was one of the most successful funds. The government was taking money from the table while apologizing.

We now see this concept that a government should be responsible for the least of its citizens, for the most vulnerable of its citizens, that it should seek to rise them up and allow them to have the opportunity to live lives in which they participate fully in everything that the nation has to offer. This is an ethical duty and responsibility of a government.

How does the hon. member explain the fact that the government has all its talking points all set out to say how great it is and then it fails every time and actually sticks a shiv into the backs of the people it says it is supporting? It turns them down and leaves them suffering and vulnerable, in an even worse position than they were in before.

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10:25 p.m.

NDP

Niki Ashton Churchill, MB

Mr. Speaker, it is quite clear that aboriginal people see through this kind of legislation. A number of my colleagues in the House have spoken about how opposed they are and they have raised concerns.

What is so absurd, and that is the word that keeps coming to mind, is how consistent the government is in ignoring and insulting aboriginal people, trying to pit people against one another and change the channel instead of talking about its own failure to live up to its obligations and the kinds of financial commitments that need to be made. I would note that just a few short weeks ago, the Minister of Health was very insulting to the UN rapporteur who visited communities that I represent. The minister did not visit the communities I represent. The rapporteur saw how expensive vegetables and milk were, and made the commitment to the health challenges people experience, including the high cost of foods. Instead of saying it was going to do something, the government insulted the UN and aboriginal communities and continues to do so with this bill tonight.

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10:25 p.m.

NDP

Nathan Cullen Skeena—Bulkley Valley, BC

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague from Churchill for her continued passion and commitment to the people, not just in her part of the world but right across this country.

I was at a recent aboriginal business function. Mixed with hope and opportunity between the business community and the aboriginal community about what could be done, there was a recognition of the lack of partnership in the government. One elder went to the microphone and made a very good point, and I will ask for my friend's thoughts on this. He said the Government of Canada will put a native band into third-party management under two specific conditions. First, if it feels money has been misappropriated or spent in the wrong field, such as money that was meant for housing and went instead to schooling, which has occurred periodically. Second, if there is the potential of a fraudulent election. In both of those conditions, the federal government will impose control on the band.

His point was this. After having watched the Conservatives in government for a number of months with allegations of having potentially stolen various elections around the country and certainly misspent money on gazebos that was meant for borders and F-35 purchases that never existed, should the federal government not be put into third-party management? Then there could be some discretion and accountability for Canadians who are footing the bill for these guys. I wonder if she could comment on that particular perspective.

First Nations Financial Transparency Act
Government Orders

10:25 p.m.

NDP

Niki Ashton Churchill, MB

Mr. Speaker, absolutely, they should be put in third-party management. This is the kind of stuff that throws bands into third-party management. Yet somehow the government is able to shove it all aside and, instead put the target on aboriginal people and rile people up on the issue as well.

I know that constituents of many members have been speaking out. They are speaking out even louder about financial irregularities, the lack of transparency and the way they would fail miserably when living up to an act like this. I have no doubt that will continue to happen. Aboriginal people's voices will continue to be at the forefront of saying that the government does not represent them, does not represent us and it is time to focus on building a Canada that represents all of us.

First Nations Financial Transparency Act
Government Orders

10:30 p.m.

Liberal

John McKay Scarborough—Guildwood, ON

Mr. Speaker, I do actually like the idea of putting the government into third-party management. That has a certain appeal.

Personally, I would be quite prepared to have management by the Parliamentary Budget Officer until the books are straightened and we, in this House, actually know what the government spends in a timely sort of fashion.

However, assuming that is a bit beyond the reach of tonight's debate, I want to ask the hon. member about this repeated layering of filings that must go with the bill.

The Auditor General's latest report was in June 2011. He has repeated time and again that the government has made no progress whatsoever with the reduction of the filings burdens for first nations, and here we have a bill that effectively goes in the opposite direction.

We had the minister up just a few minutes ago, saying that we could not possibly have read the bill, that we could not possibly understand what is going on here. When I have a choice between believing the Auditor General versus the minister, I think I am going to go with the Auditor General most times.

The question, therefore, for the hon. member is this. In her community, are the regulatory filings so burdensome as to make it extraordinarily difficult just to achieve compliance as of now?