Evidence of meeting #19 for Indigenous and Northern Affairs in the 40th Parliament, 3rd Session. (The original version is on Parliament’s site, as are the minutes.) The winning word was know.

A recording is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

Michael Wernick  Deputy Minister, Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development
Nicole Jauvin  Deputy Minister and President, Canadian Northern Economic Development Agency

3:50 p.m.

Bloc

Marc Lemay Bloc Abitibi—Témiscamingue, QC

I also read the bill, whose number I forget, that was introduced in the Senate regarding the implementation of the water quality improvement program. I think you know what I am referring to. A significant amount of money would be spent under that bill. I do not see that money either. Did I read the estimates incorrectly, once again? Has anything been allocated in that regard?

3:50 p.m.

Conservative

Chuck Strahl Conservative Chilliwack—Fraser Canyon, BC

As you know, we renewed the special funding specifically for water and waste water in the last budget. That was a two-year expenditure, built on the previous two years, of I think $330 million over two years; then we renewed it again at $330 million over the two years. As well, some of the money that went from the economic action plan on infrastructure specifically also was spent on water and waste water.

I think this is helping quite a bit. We've been able to reduce the number of high-risk water systems across the country from 193 down to 46, I think it is, so there's been some considerable improvement.

But again, we can't in the estimates put a dollar number any further, because the bill has to go through in some form, and until that form is nailed down, we'd be really guessing at what the next step might be.

3:50 p.m.

Bloc

Marc Lemay Bloc Abitibi—Témiscamingue, QC

Education is one of National Chief Shawn Atleo's priorities. You said it, and I believe he repeated it. Is there anything in the Main Estimates 2010-2011 or the supplementary estimates to build more schools or repair existing ones? As we know, a number of communities have been waiting a long time. I know announcements have already been made, but will there be others in the 2010-2011 budget?

3:50 p.m.

Conservative

Chuck Strahl Conservative Chilliwack—Fraser Canyon, BC

Well, what you see is what's in the estimates. Certainly we're following through on the economic action plan funding that is going to—

3:50 p.m.

Bloc

Marc Lemay Bloc Abitibi—Témiscamingue, QC

Forgive me, but I want to say that Greg will be happy about the economic action plan, because he talks about it at every meeting.

Please continue. I apologize, Mr. Minister.

3:50 p.m.

Conservative

Chuck Strahl Conservative Chilliwack—Fraser Canyon, BC

He's a very wise member of the committee, I'm sure. Of course, it didn't hurt that he has a couple of first nations in his riding that are going to benefit from this and that there are a couple of schools that we were able to announce in northern Ontario. I don't know the total number of schools that will be... It seems to me there were 17 or 18 either constructions or major renovations.

We were also able to announce this year that we've identified funding in our longer-term funding—because there's ongoing funding besides this special funding—for example, to proceed with the school at Attawapiskat, which has been a high-profile issue, and it's expensive, a big school. The design work for it is started this year, and we're working with first nations to determine the next steps on it. That one now is also on our regional plan; it will go ahead as well.

Between renovations and new construction, there are 113 schools that are either being built or undergoing major renovations. That's a significant number, but there's a significant need too, and there will be more need next year again.

3:55 p.m.

Liberal

The Vice-Chair Liberal Todd Russell

Okay, thank you very much. I've been very liberal with my time with Mr. Lemay.

Ms. Crowder, you have seven minutes.

3:55 p.m.

NDP

Jean Crowder NDP Nanaimo—Cowichan, BC

Thanks, Mr. Chair, and I hope you're as liberal with the New Democrats.

3:55 p.m.

Bloc

Marc Lemay Bloc Abitibi—Témiscamingue, QC

Don't ask any questions.

May 27th, 2010 / 3:55 p.m.

NDP

Jean Crowder NDP Nanaimo—Cowichan, BC

Thank you, Mr. Minister, for coming before us today. It's probably no surprise to you that I have a number of questions.

Just around Jordan's Principle, on pages 11 and 25 in the plans and priorities your department mentions its ongoing commitment to implementing Jordan's Principle, but I can't tell how much money is earmarked for it. You may not be able to tell me that today; I just wondered whether somebody could tell me how much money is earmarked for the implementation of Jordan's Principle.

I want to follow up on the status piece that Mr. Lemay asked about. Page 26 of the report on plans and priorities—and it may be that I'm not understanding this—talks under “Managing Individual Affairs” about the process around status. There is a significant increase in that line item over last fiscal year on page 15-8 in the main estimates. There is a substantial difference from last year, a substantial increase.

I know that the fate of Bill C-3 is unknown, but it's not only the money for people who may increase the number with status; it's also money for the department in terms of dealing with a potential increased registration process.

3:55 p.m.

Conservative

Chuck Strahl Conservative Chilliwack—Fraser Canyon, BC

Also, there has been a significant backlog, and other work is being done, including such things as the secure status card and so on, but we put more human resources in there to deal with some of the backlog issues we had in the actual managing of the status for first nations. There are some—whatever you want to call it—“management” or more human resources put in, to deal with that backlog.

3:55 p.m.

NDP

Jean Crowder NDP Nanaimo—Cowichan, BC

Is that the bulk of the increase in that particular line? It's a significant jump. I assume this is in the millions. It goes from $30-some million to $261 million. Am I reading that correctly?

3:55 p.m.

Deputy Minister, Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development

Michael Wernick

Oh, okay; I'm sorry. I think, if I understand the line, Ms. Crowder, that most of that $230 million is related to the residential schools agreement and the processing of CEP, common experience payments, and the independent settlement processes.

3:55 p.m.

NDP

Jean Crowder NDP Nanaimo—Cowichan, BC

Okay, so that's where the bulk of that goes.

So there is some additional funding around this registration fee?

3:55 p.m.

Deputy Minister, Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development

Michael Wernick

Yes, about $20 million is what the minister was describing: we tried to clear the backlog out, which is pre-McIvor. There was a lot of caseload to do on life events, and a little bit of it has to do with the management of estates and wills.

3:55 p.m.

NDP

Jean Crowder NDP Nanaimo—Cowichan, BC

Okay.

I know you already touched on this, but I also wonder, with regard to the specific claims, whether there's money earmarked for claims greater than $250 million.

3:55 p.m.

Conservative

Chuck Strahl Conservative Chilliwack—Fraser Canyon, BC

It's $150 million.

3:55 p.m.

NDP

Jean Crowder NDP Nanaimo—Cowichan, BC

I'm sorry, $150 million. We know there are a number of large claims out there, such as that of the Six Nations, for example. Has that process been established yet? Are there funds earmarked for claims beyond $150 million?

3:55 p.m.

Conservative

Chuck Strahl Conservative Chilliwack—Fraser Canyon, BC

There isn't a formal process, although we were able, for example, to settle the Mississauga—at least I hope so... I'm not sure whether it's been—

3:55 p.m.

NDP

Jean Crowder NDP Nanaimo—Cowichan, BC

Is this the Mississauga Credit?

3:55 p.m.

Conservative

Chuck Strahl Conservative Chilliwack—Fraser Canyon, BC

It's the Mississaugas of New Credit, which was outside the specific claims process because of the size of that settlement.

There aren't actually very many of these. They're big and they're significant, and because of that they're very complex. So far, I think we've been able to handle them. Each one has been so different and the requests on the first nations side have been so unique that I'm not sure how we're going to do it in a formula. The specific claims process is quite formulaic. It allows us to put in place the process and procedures to deal with it, because the claims are of a certain nature and of a certain size, and we have a process.

With the other ones, when someone talks about $1 billion, then the research required, the capacity of the first nation to handle it, whether they want to take out loans to do it, or how it's going to be done... Each one has proven to be quite unique.

That being said, as I said, we did the Mississaugas of New Credit. It's bigger than $150 million, so it's showing that these can be done. The James Bay project settlement that we negotiated was over $1 billion. So it can be done, but they're treated as one-offs and they go into cabinet as one-offs. I go in, make a presentation, and say “Here's what I think we'll get a settlement for.”

They're so complex and big that I'm not sure how we could standardize them. I'm not sure how we can improve the process.

4 p.m.

NDP

Jean Crowder NDP Nanaimo—Cowichan, BC

Has there been some sort of agreement at least on timeframes for some of them? Some of these claims have been outstanding for decades.

4 p.m.

Conservative

Chuck Strahl Conservative Chilliwack—Fraser Canyon, BC

Yes, I agree. We always want to do it more quickly, but it takes two to tango, so quite often if you say to somebody that you want this settled by the end of the year, what comes back is that the first nation will say, “It's going to take us two years just to do our research; we can't be rushed”, because there are thousands of pages of documents or archeological research or whatever. And so you work with them, each case being different, to ask, as in James Bay, whether this is an implementation issue, which is one thing—or is it a self-government issue? Is it a treaty-based thing?

It has proven to be....

4 p.m.

NDP

Jean Crowder NDP Nanaimo—Cowichan, BC

I understand it can be complex. I'm sure other members also have been approached by nations that simply aren't seeing any movement.

I just want to leave that, because I only have seven minutes.

On the claims settlements, there is a significant drop of almost 50% in planned spending, on page 6. It is referenced again on page 15, saying that “future settlements of claims and litigation will be added to planned spending levels through subsequent appropriations” in supplementary estimates. I am surprised that there is such a large drop in the claims settlement, given that there are significant claims outstanding in the budgeted amounts. It's just a comment more than anything else, because we know there are significant problems out there.

I just want to touch on this. You said in your presentation concerning the economic action plan that numbers were on the website, but I got my legislative assistant to run the stuff down, and what is on the website isn't particularly helpful in terms of numbers. It has dollar amounts, but it doesn't actually have the details.

For example, when we're talking about water, on page—

4 p.m.

Liberal

The Vice-Chair Liberal Todd Russell

We're over the seven minutes. Just close off, if you want, and we'll get a quick response.