Last in Parliament May 2004, as Liberal MP for Churchill River (Saskatchewan)

Lost his last election, in 2004, with 9.88% of the vote.

Statements in the House

National Motto Act May 12th, 2004

moved for leave to introduce Bill C-529, an act respecting the motto of Canada.

Mr. Speaker, I rise today with great honour to introduce an act respecting the motto of Canada, seconded by the hon. member for Vancouver Kingsway.

The current motto is “from sea to sea”, which is based on scripture. It says “He shall have dominion from sea to sea and from the river unto the ends of the earth”.

I propose that the new motto should reflect a vision of who we truly are as Canadians. We are a nation of rivers and a river of nations. As a nation of rivers, we are blessed and responsible for the numerous river basins which are ascertained by founding treaties.

The river of nations celebrates all our ancestors and our multiculturalism, inclusive of the original nations and all the nations that come from the ends of the earth.

Therefore, I hereby declare that the motto of Canada should be “natio fluminum, flumen nationum”, a nation of rivers and a river of nations.

(Motions deemed adopted, bill read the first time and printed)

First Nations Fiscal and Statistical Management Act May 10th, 2004

Mr. Speaker, I want to share some statistics with the hon. member. I know she was a former school trustee, as was I, so borrowing money is not new to either of us.

These statistics come from a recent publication entitled the Finances of the Nation dated 2003. It states, “The consolidated net debt for Canadian governments, federal, provincial and municipal, on March 31 of the year 2000 amounted to an estimated $830.4 billion”. It is up from 20 years ago when it was $130 billion. Imagine what the public debt would be in this country if the first nation governments fell under this category. The ones that stand to gain are the financial institutions that will collect the interest because prime plus interest rates are what the financial institutions are all about.

I want to share one other thing with the hon. member. I was very adamant in defining that the Crown has to declare the proper relationships with the aboriginal nations. We have to be suspicious about governments, regardless of what political stripe. In the province of Saskatchewan, an NDP government instituted tax exemption treaties, which used to be tax exempt right across the province. It was an NDP government without consultation that revoked that tax exemption, so any government could pull this off.

That is why I am adamant that this consultation take place with first nations leaders and their communities and that any financial institution, any fiscal relationship should be based between the Crown and the original nations. That is why I raise that issue.

First Nations Fiscal and Statistical Management Act May 10th, 2004

Mr. Speaker, as I said before, the Prime Minister and the government have an obligation to create new relationships. I think this kind of fiscal relationship could be well improved.

The provisions in Bill C-23 are not adequate. It is a whole new relationship of taxation on reserve, giving tools that are similar to school divisions and municipal power to borrow money. However, it limits it to band council recognition. What about the tribes and the nations?

The tribes and nations have responsibility for huge tracks of land. As per the vision in Treaty No. 6, the riches of the land were to take care of the needs of medicine, housing and health. That is a responsibility of provincial and federal powers. That kind of context is not in Bill C-23. It is only limited to on reserve and sometimes those on reserve resources are not enough to help it climb out of economic and social hardships. It should be revisited in a bigger and better picture.

In large part, it may not be a partisan thing. I think it is the relationship with the Crown. That is why we focus it on treaties. It should be based on the treaties and their obligations under section 35 of the Constitution.

First Nations Fiscal and Statistical Management Act May 10th, 2004

Mr. Speaker, I am not sure there was a question there, but I will search for one. In our work here, our conduct is to give honour as members of Parliament and to create opportunities. Our role is to debate the bill. The parliamentary process has brought the bill to the House and we are here to debate it on its merits. I have debated openly on the merits of the bill, based on my experience as a tax collector in my own community and as a school trustee for the school division in my region.

The bill would create a whole new relationship for first nations in the country. In my experience, with the small powers that we have as members of Parliament, we are able to make amendments. One of those amendments is to not accept the bill at third reading and to have full consultation with first nations leaders and communities on the impacts and benefits of the bill. Maybe the member would like to accept the premise that we are making a bold move to not have this go through the third reading stage. That is what we are debating.

This is my contribution to the bill. That is the message I am sending to our Prime Minister. He is well intended on his vision for a new relationship with aboriginal people of this land, as a new leader and as the new Prime Minister of the country. I am contributing by saying let us revisit Bill C-23. Let us not go forward with it. Let us go back to consultation.

There is nothing else I can do. That is the message. It is plain and simple. I am not hiding or mincing words. This is very clear. It is not easy to tell a prime minister that his or her act is not correct. That is what we are doing.

First Nations Fiscal and Statistical Management Act May 10th, 2004

Mr. Speaker, as I mentioned, in December a new government was formed with a new cabinet and a new Prime Minister. The bill, because of the legislative procedure that had taken place last fall, was reintroduced in January. The chronology is that in January the bill was introduced. However, a new throne speech was declared in February and an aboriginal round table took place in April.

The Prime Minister has a vision of creating a new relationship. We have to commend him for that. This is short-circuiting that vision. The bill should be revisited in light of the new statements and new vision that the Prime Minister has stated. He has stated that he wants a new working relationship. He challenges that changes have to happen in government, but changes have to happen within the first nations as well. It takes both sides to make this relationship work.

The capacity building has to have transparency, accountability and self-government. The whole capacity building of first nations is to meet the challenge in view of the socio-economic disparities that have taken place. However, we need to allow this to take place. We need to allow first nations to come together and come to terms with this new challenge.

That is why I ask for the member's support and the support of all members on the subamendment. Let us allow the government and the Prime Minister to have a full consultation with first nations leaders and communities and to bring forward a revitalized fiscal relationship. It may not be taxes on land. It may be a whole new different kind of fiscal relationship.

However, I am seeking support to approve the subamendment. It is time that the government moved forward under the new statements from the throne speech and the new statements by the Prime Minister. Let us not blame him for anything else. He wants to move forward. With the bill, maybe it is time for reconsideration and a new consultation with first nations.

First Nations Fiscal and Statistical Management Act May 10th, 2004

Mr. Speaker, I have another opportunity to speak to Bill C-23, but more importantly I would like to speak on the subamendment that has been brought forward.

Being a partial author and seconder of the subamendment, I would like to give the House an opportunity and an understanding of why we should enter into consultation with the first nations leaders and the communities on the impacts and benefits of Bill C-23.

In large part, we would be following the leadership and the vision of our Prime Minister. The Prime Minister, just a few weeks ago, hosted the Canada aboriginal people's round table, and said:

Canada would not be Canada without the Aboriginal peoples.

What that means is that Canada entered into a treaty to create this country. The Crown ascertained these territories by a treaty negotiation, and that process is not finished. There are huge tracts of land in British Columbia and northern Canada that are under negotiation. In light of this, new relationships and opportunities have been negotiated in the interim, but on the understanding that these treaty negotiations will come to a conclusion at some point in time in the future.

However, the Prime Minister understands and recognizes that under section 35 of the Constitution there are the Indians, the first nations of this land, the Métis and the Inuit. At this round table there was full participation of that leadership right across the country. He also mentioned in his speech a premise to ensure success and he set out clear goals: health care, housing, education, business, economic development, accountability, transparency, and capacity building.

Those are very bold and clear goals. In order to succeed, he also said that there has to be a political will. The Prime Minister stated the commitment of his government. This is a new Prime Minister and a new government, with a new agenda, working on a new relationship with the aboriginal leaders. The aboriginal communities and the aboriginal leaders also have an obligation for this new commitment.

The Prime Minister went on to state:

From our vantage point, we will ensure a full seat at the table... No longer will we in Ottawa develop policies first and discuss them with you later.

That statement is probably the most profound reason why this subamendment is being debated in the House now. Bill C-23 is a new fiscal relationship. At no time in the history of Canada, when reserves were created and lands were set aside for Indians, for first nations people, was there taxation of that land. The Crown and the government never intended to put assessment of value on their lands. That was land set aside for Indians. This bill now revisits that fiscal relationship.

There was a fiduciary responsibility defined for the government's responsibility. A lot of it is fiscal responsibility but more importantly, in my studies of the treaty books and the letters of the treaty commissioners in their reports to the Crown and their officials, a fiduciary responsibility of the Crown meant to respect the sovereign nations with which these treaties were being entered into.

The aboriginal nations as nations have to be respected. There is no evidence in Bill C-23 that these nations would be represented or respected. None. It does not even refer to section 35 of the Constitution. In our Canadian Constitution those historic and treaty rights are recognized and respected. This bill does not even base its policies on section 35 of the Constitution.

Let me go back to this. I say that in January Bill C-23 was brought in. There was a throne speech and I want it recognized that in that throne speech, the House of Commons, this Parliament, said it would recognize a relationship with aboriginal people based on historic agreements. Those historic agreements are the treaties. If that happened in February, this bill came before that statement.

Also, on the round table took place in the past month of April, I say this bill should go back; it should go back in consultation with the first nation leaders of this land. They should look at what relationship it is creating, at what is happening here in relation to borrowing money, to borrowing capital.

Municipal governments and school boards know very well about these borrowing powers. They can borrow money for a new school. They can borrow money for a hospital. They can borrow money for water and sewers for new subdivisions. I dare say our government will also push the housing issue to this. If one wants to set up a whole new subdivision with new housing for development, the government will open up an opportunity for first nations to borrow from the financial institutions. These financial institutions are stated in this bill, but one thing that everyone will understand is that municipal governments and school boards they can borrow money: debentures, securities and bonds. They can go to international markets.

There are limitations in the bill: for Canadian and United States markets. Does that mean the Canadian and United States financial institutions are the lobby behind this? Why is the European financial market is not included in this? How come the Asian markets are not included in this? Some day maybe the United States economy will fall away, as it did in 1930. Maybe the European market will be the only one that is secure. Why was that not considered? Why were European and Asian markets not considered as part of this bill? Why limit this to only the Canadian and United States markets? Is it because that is where the lobby came from?

I want to raise this issue because there are a lot of issues and a lot of explaining to do to first nations. This opens up a whole new relationship, a whole new reality of ascertaining a better quality of life on reserve and also off reserve because some of these investments may well include off reserve development. However, this is very limited in the definition of what a financial institution can do and what a tax commission can do. What it is very clear is that the powers are well defined in this bill, and those powers are the powers of the band council.

The powers of the band council were never defined as clearly in the Indian Act or even in the former Bill C-7. Both were very vague on the powers of band councils and chiefs. However, this bill quickly highlights the powers of these chiefs and councils, because those powers will be delegated to the tax commission, to the finance institute and also, I guess, in large part to the tax collector, so to speak, to the financial institution one is going to borrow money from. There will be a delegation of these powers.

In large part, these powers will be creating a property taxation law. That is first and foremost. These are not independent institutions standing on their own. All of them are connected. Even for the statistical institute, it states the reason it is being contemplated is that “accurate, timely and credible” information is “a key element of sound financial planning, management and reporting”.

This all has to do with finances. I would say that statistical institutes should be for cultural knowledge, health knowledge, social knowledge, and education knowledge, so that we would be teaching kindergarten to grade 12 with a curriculum based on a statistical institution, an atlas of knowledge and a traditional land use knowledge. It should be that kind of statistical base.

No, this statistical institute is deemed designed for financial planning, financial management and financial reporting. Money talks. That is what scares me about this bill. Money is dictating the reason for Bill C-23 happening now. It is based on the premise that in regard to the socio-economic disparities of on reserve existence, those opportunities should be equal to other opportunities in other communities in Canada.

However, the municipal and school board structure of this country may not be the panacea for on reserve development. There may be other alternatives. Maybe the alternative is the borrowing powers that a province or a federal government has. Maybe those borrowing powers should be entrenched in this so that the recognition of the nations and the tribes can make the borrowing powers and the credibility to secure those amounts, whatever amount they decide to borrow.

We were told by a speaker earlier this morning that it costs five to six times more for on reserve development. A lot of these communities are isolated, fly-in communities. Hon. members who represent the north know the reality of living there regardless of being on reserve or off reserve. Let us look at the Inuit in Nunavut. Not one permanent all weather road connects that territory, and their costs are 20 times higher than the costs in downtown Ottawa. It costs 20 times more to buy a piece of two-by-four to build their homes, not because they are aboriginal but because of the geographic reality of this country.

As a country we have to address this issue, and not on the finance or the mortgaging of the future of aboriginal children. Why should aboriginal people be paid for the high cost of existence in a country for infrastructure when this country collectively should take that responsibility? This country should be fair and equitable for development in downtown Toronto and also way up in Old Crow, in Inuvik, in Black Lake, and in Ahtahkakoop, a reserve in Saskatchewan.

I want to raise another issue. When the treaty negotiations took place with Treaty No. 6, one of the provisions was a medicine chest. A lot of people say that Tommy Douglas was the father of medicare, but let us correct that. The grandfathers of medicare were the chiefs of Treaty No. 6. They saw a public policy: that the riches of the land would take care of the children of the future. When they secured their treaty by the sacred pipes, they prayed to all four directions and all four races of this country and the nations of this land.

They were not looking at only the children of the Crees, the Dene and the Lakota. They were looking at all the children of this land, and the newcomers' children as well, the children of the settlers. That medicine chest should be afforded to everybody, but in no way did Treaty No. 6 negotiate that there would be land assessment at Ahtahkakoop. At that reserve if we go back and try to push a tax revenue law, I swear that those challenges will take us to the Supreme Court.

I will warn the House that although in the bill there may be an opt-in clause, I know that the opt-in clause is a political ploy. A while back it was used on us as parliamentarians on the issue of pensions. Pensions were “opt in” for certain members, but if we take a measure now of all the members in the House who have full pensions, all of us have signed on, even the ones who resisted. They were challenged on the point that it was an opting in issue. That is what is going to happen to the first nations of this land.

They may not join in. They may resist because of their obligations by treaty or for other reasons, perhaps because of the value of the land or because of their leadership and their vision. But at some point in time, they will be dragged into Bill C-23 and the reference to Bill C-23.

The other issue I raised before was that of consultation. I say that consultation should be with first nation leaders and first nation communities of this land. Proposed section 143 states that a review and evaluation of the bill will take place in seven years. A seven year parliamentary review will come into play. Upon reviewing the bill, the Indian affairs minister will be in consultation with the tax commission, the finance management board, the finance authority, and the statistical institute. Bill C-23 does not provide for any consultation at all with first nations and their communities. So seven years from now when the bill is reviewed, that review will be just a self-analysis of the institutes it has created.

Also, some hon. members have said that substantial amendments have been made to the bill. One of the most substantial amendments brought in by the minister was the inclusion of other aboriginal organizations and aboriginal groups under the statistical institute and the records and data it would keep. Under section 35 of the Constitution, the Inuit and Métis are the only other organizations. There are first nations and then Métis and Inuit. If we are going to have statistical information about the Inuit and Métis included, then why are they not part of the consultation after seven years?

Why can we not consult with the aboriginal groups if we are going to be using this data about them? The data, as pointed out, will be used for financial planning and financial management and reporting. It will not be used for cultural preservation, curriculum development, social analysis or economic comparisons among different communities. It will be specifically for the use and benefit of the financial institutions.

The “national aboriginal institutions” that would be created by the bill “will assist first nations that choose to exercise real property taxation jurisdiction on reserve lands”. That is the bottom line. It is open only to people in first nations who want to exercise real property taxation. It means that they are the ones who will be able to borrow money. That taxation will be for the provision of services, and there will be taxation of business activities happening on reserve. It will also impose development costs happening on reserve and provide laws respecting outstanding taxes. A tax revolt is taking place in Saskatchewan with regard to outstanding taxes. Outstanding taxes are a big part of a school board or of the collectible taxes of a municipal council of a rural municipality. There is also enforcement of charges for outstanding taxes.

This will also create liens. A lien is something foreign on a reserve. Tax liens and property liens are incredible tools that are being provided. They did not exist on reserve before now. Also, there will be interest and penalties. If someone does not pay their taxes, interest and penalties will be added on.

There also will be the powers of “seizure, forfeiture and assignment of interests or rights”. Along with seizure is the sale of personal property. If someone cannot pay their taxes, powers are included in the bill that would give someone the power to seize personal property for taxes they owe.

These are all new financial relationships and new fiscal powers that do not necessarily exist on reserves right now. There is going to be disparity about the value of land on different first nations reserves from northern Quebec, southern Quebec, northern Canada, B.C., and isolated communities. There will be different classes of first nations based on the value of their land.

Today I submit my support for the subamendment and the amendment. We should not pass the bill at this third reading stage. We should be consulting with first nations leaders and communities. Bill C-23, through the standing committee or through the government, should go back for consultation to set up a fiscal relationship that is equal and fair for all on reserve development in this country. My time has come to a close, but I welcome any questions members may have.

First Nations Fiscal and Statistical Management Act May 10th, 2004

Mr. Speaker, I know that a lot of hon. members in the House have served not only in federal politics, in large part, but some have experienced provincial politics and some of us have experienced municipal local governments, and also school boards, health boards or library boards.

I raise this because I come from Saskatchewan which in large part is a have not province when we look at the transfer payments that come from the federal government. Equalization is a high priority for my province, but at present there is a huge debate on school taxes in the Province of Saskatchewan.

Farmers have huge tracts of land and it is assessed for local improvements in rural municipalities but a tax is also levied from school boards based on the assessments.

Basically, everybody knows that in the national debates of the sorry state of the agricultural community, that the family farm has been hit enormously by world trade, the price of fuel, energy and feed. There is now a tax revolt in the Province of Saskatchewan. It is based on school taxes. This is where Bill C-23 is heading.

I would like the hon. member to comment, perhaps share with the aboriginal leaders of the country, on the fact that the municipal type of tax collection on value of land may not be the perfect way of gaining social and economic certainty in the first nations. Perhaps there should be other models that should be investigated. That is why I think the amendment and subamendment would have Bill C-23 go through a consultation process with the first nation leaders and first nation communities equally.

Hon. members here who have school trustee experience will realize that certain communities are not assessed the same as other communities. In large part, a lot of our aboriginal communities are isolated. The property value of an isolated northern community is not the same as an urban reserve in southern Canada. This will create huge differences between definitions of reserves and the fiscal value of land of those reserves.

Could the hon. member speak about the issue of land taxes for local and school improvements, but also the huge disparity of the value of land all across the geographic regions of the country?

First Nations Fiscal and Statistical Management Act May 10th, 2004

Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order. Given that the amendment I proposed earlier today was ruled out of order, because we are debating an existing amendment, I would like to seek unanimous consent of the House to propose the following subamendment.

I would like to move that the amendment be amended by adding after the words, “The needs of most first nations”, the following: In particular the need to enter into full consultation with first nations leaders and communities on the benefits and impacts of the new fiscal relationship.

First Nations Fiscal and Statistical Management Act May 10th, 2004

Mr. Speaker, in a recent study by the United Nations on the International Decade of the World's Indigenous People, there was a summit on the treaty relationships that the indigenous nations of the world have with nation state members of the United Nations.

The bill does not refer to any of the treaties that created this country. Canada has adopted a policy of self-government. It does not refer to anything in section 35, the inherent or historical rights and privileges of the first nations. Could the member comment on this?

In my reference to reconsidering the bill, perhaps the bill would be better founded if it referred to the original treaties and to the first nations as the real nations of this land as opposed to just band councils under the Indian Act or just the policy of government? Perhaps the foundation of this relationship should be treaty based. Perhaps that is the appropriate way to approach the bill.

First Nations Fiscal and Statistical Management Act May 10th, 2004

Mr. Speaker, unfortunately I cannot answer the question about where the financial obligations are. Maybe it is in the estimates. Perhaps people in the department could answer that question.

The member is right. There is an existing commission. Advisory boards have been created over the years. The preamble of the legislation recognizes that these boards have already been created.

In 1995 the First Nations Finance Authority was created. In 1999 the first nations and the government recognized the benefits of establishing statutory institutes and the fiscal statistical management system. The Indian Taxation Advisory Board was created in 1988.

There is a grandfathering clause in Bill C-23 as well. The existing organizations and institutes will retain their commissioners, boards of directors and employees until the renewal process takes place.

With regard to the opt-in situation, the bill provides for a seven year review. After royal assent and after consultation, not with first nations members or leaders, but after consultation with the tax commission, the management board, the finance authority, and the statistical institute, the minister will make amendments, including any changes the minister recommends relating to the evolution of this mandate and the operation of the institutions.

That is why Bill C-23 should be sent back to committee. Amendments should be made so that after seven years, the minister, when making changes, should not only consult with the financial institutions created by the bill but also with first nations and first nations leaders.

I would ask the government, under the fiduciary responsibility of the Crown, to please respect the tribes and first nations under royal proclamation that have been identified. There are nations in this country that need that respect.