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Evidence of meeting #53 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 program.

A recording is available from Parliament.

MPs speaking

Also speaking

Michael Wernick  Deputy Minister, Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development
Michael Nadler  Director General, Policy and Planning, Canadian Northern Economic Development Agency

10:20 a.m.

Conservative

Greg Rickford Conservative Kenora, ON

I hope it's easy enough for somebody like me to go online. I'm not that technologically literate, but I hope it's accessible for folks.

I think Ms. Crowder had a question she wanted to get to.

10:20 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Bruce Stanton

Yes. I have Mr. Lemay, then we'll come back to see if there's anything else, and then we'll come back to Ms. Crowder.

Monsieur Lemay.

March 10th, 2011 / 10:20 a.m.

Bloc

Marc Lemay Bloc Abitibi—Témiscamingue, QC

Mr. Wernick, since your staff is extremely competent, I invite you to get hold of the Saturday, March 5 edition of La Presse. I know you can't engage in politics, but I'm inviting you to read the article by Michel Girard on the Harper government's sense of priorities. It concerns a number of things about Indian affairs that I find very interesting.

I don't need an answer today. You're going to cut $289 million. With all due respect to the parliamentary secretary, he will no longer be able to talk about Canada's Economic Action Plan as of next week. The government created expectations with Canada's Economic Action Plan, particularly among the aboriginal communities, which learned late—and I mean very late—about the possibility that they could request new schools, housing, water mains and sewers.

I don't need the answer today; you can send it to me in writing. I'd like to know, for the Quebec region, how many schools will be built, altered and transformed using funds provided under the 2011-12 Estimates. How many water mains and sewers will be modified and transformed? How many houses will be built and in what communities? I need that information unless you can give it too me right now.

I have a question for you on Bill C-3. I've been told, and I'd like you to confirm for me whether that is the case, to watch out because Bill C-3 should have a specific effect. New people will become status Indians, but those status Indians will be living outside the communities, taking advantage of post-secondary education and education, and also health care. Can you confirm that for me? If so, have you informed your colleague the deputy minister of health? I get the impression he'll be paying the bill. In your case, have you set aside any budgets for, among other things, the post-secondary education of a lot of aboriginal students, who will now become status Indians or become status Indians again?

If you can't answer those questions, you can send me answers in writing.

10:25 a.m.

Deputy Minister, Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development

Michael Wernick

In response to your first question, we can provide the lists of specific projects. For the fiscal year starting on April 1, there will be a list of schools, treatment plants and so on. We can provide you with very specific lists from our budget for next year.

As for housing, there may be a little more flexibility with regard to possibilities for the building season, but we'll do our best to provide you with that kind of list. We had a long list of projects that were ready to start under the Economic Action Plan. There have to be projects, including all the plans, characteristics and sites, which are approved by the community. That adds a little time because these are very important projects. They're going to discuss and decide on the details for each project, and that adds a little time. However, there are still projects that are in an advanced state across the country.

I believe the question you asked me about Bill C-3 is the same as the one raised by Mr. Rickford. We'll see how soon people register as Indians. It's true that, from the moment they're registered, they're eligible for Health Canada's programs and for our post-secondary student support program. We've sent our analysis to our colleagues. They're ready to receive it. These programs will not draw any distinction between a "Bill C-3 Indian" and other Indians.

10:25 a.m.

Bloc

Marc Lemay Bloc Abitibi—Témiscamingue, QC

Is the site bilingual? A lot of aboriginal people live off-reserve or far into the reserves. Obviously, they won't have Internet access. Are there any other ways?

10:25 a.m.

Deputy Minister, Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development

Michael Wernick

When the Government of Canada provides information, it's in both languages. In addition, we often add information in aboriginal languages. If you have any specific suggestions to make regarding the communities and what we can provide, send them to us.

10:30 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Bruce Stanton

All right.

Thank you, Mr. Lemay.

Mr. Rickford, do you have another question?

10:30 a.m.

Conservative

Greg Rickford Conservative Kenora, ON

No.

10:30 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Bruce Stanton

Madam Crowder.

10:30 a.m.

NDP

Jean Crowder NDP Nanaimo—Cowichan, BC

Thank you.

I have one final question. I know that some of the money has been reprofiled into the emergency management assistance program. I assume that was based on the February 2010 evaluation of the emergency and management assistance program. I have a comment, but I'd like you to specifically say where you're going to target the money.

In the community I live in, and I'm sure it's true of many other communities, over the last while we have seen some catastrophic weather events, which have directly impacted reserves. A couple of years ago we had a 200-year flood. People were literally kayaking and canoeing down some of the streets. The event had flooding both on the reserve and off reserve.

In meeting with some of the emergency preparedness officers from reserves, I know they have not had the funds to develop an adequate emergency preparedness plan. They haven't had the resources to do training on reserves. There has been no money around mitigation, and with the flood we had, there was some mitigation that needed to happen around some of the diking and what not.

People fully expect those kinds of weather events will continue. I wonder if you could specifically talk about this $28 million that's been reprofiled and what it will be used for.

I also wonder if it covers fire measures. A lot of the reserves don't have fire equipment. For example, Kuper Island, which is the Penelakut people, are challenged when there's a fire on reserve. They have antiquated equipment, and of course you have to take ferries or emergency vessels to get to the island if there's a catastrophe.

I wonder if you would comment on that.

10:30 a.m.

Deputy Minister, Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development

Michael Wernick

There are quite a few facets to this area, as you've identified.

The way we have dealt with the basic financing is that you cannot know where acts of God will land, where the floods and fires and evacuations will be. We have a system in place that works very closely with the first nations and with provincial and local emergency management. They deal with the situation. They don't worry about who's going to pay the bills. And then we advance the funds as required.

There were quite a few instances last year of fires and floods. We've had both. We go to Treasury Board somewhere towards the end of the year to say this is what we've spent. And we do get the money back. That's why you're seeing it in supplementary estimates, because--

10:30 a.m.

NDP

Jean Crowder NDP Nanaimo—Cowichan, BC

What about the more proactive thing with the planning and the mitigation? I mean, it's one thing once an event occurs, but what I'm hearing from the emergency officers, who often wear many hats, is that they don't want to be in the position of having to deal with it when the event occurs. They want to be able to plan ahead.

10:30 a.m.

Deputy Minister, Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development

Michael Wernick

We always work with the first nations or the tribal councils of the authorities on identifying their needs and doing emergency management response plans, integrating them as closely as possible with the local response and alert sorts of things.

There is a lot more to be done, but I assure you there is work that goes on. We work really hard every time something happens, like the Red River flooding last year, or the fires in Quebec. It draws attention to this and more focus is put on it.

The whole exercise we went through with Health Canada and the communities on H1N1 accelerated the process of emergency management planning. We have very solid agreements with all of the provinces. They would like us to pay for everything, including all of their costs, but we don't let that get in the way of actually dealing with it.

I think there's more to be done on prevention, and there certainly are communities that have issues. They need more equipment or more training, and we'll do our best to meet as many of those as we can.

10:30 a.m.

NDP

Jean Crowder NDP Nanaimo—Cowichan, BC

What about mitigation? Certainly up north we're seeing issues around permafrost. In British Columbia, where we have the pine beetle kill, there are some serious concerns about potential fire because this is all dead wood. I know UBCIC and the First Nations Summit have both raised the issues of mitigation around the pine beetle kill.

10:30 a.m.

Deputy Minister, Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development

Michael Wernick

Well, we do work with the provincial authorities on diking and prevention and all those sorts of things. What we're trying to do is avoid what happened in the past, when sometimes the province would invest in diking and forget about the reserve, because it was--

10:35 a.m.

NDP

Jean Crowder NDP Nanaimo—Cowichan, BC

In fact we've seen problems where I live with--

10:35 a.m.

Deputy Minister, Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development

Michael Wernick

Yes, and there are too many examples of that. We have a lot more cooperation from the provinces now. If they're going to deal with a watershed or a river system, they are very open now to including the first nation communities in that planning.

I can think of examples, and we could provide details, of when we've done cost-sharing and have thrown in dollars from each level of government to deal with mitigation. There's a lot more to be done, for sure.

10:35 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Bruce Stanton

Thank you, Ms. Crowder.

Mr. Bagnell, you have three minutes.

10:35 a.m.

Liberal

Larry Bagnell Liberal Yukon, YT

I think it's Mr. Rickford first, isn't it?

10:35 a.m.

Conservative

Greg Rickford Conservative Kenora, ON

Have we gone from two to one?

10:35 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Bruce Stanton

It doesn't matter. Go ahead, Mr. Bagnell. Then we'll go to Mr. Rickford.

10:35 a.m.

Liberal

Larry Bagnell Liberal Yukon, YT

You have a program for climate change adaptation, for $14 million, that's expiring on March 31. Is that program going to be renewed?

10:35 a.m.

Deputy Minister, Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development

Michael Wernick

I don't know what's in the budget. I don't know if the budget's going to be approved, and apparently we don't know if it's even going to be delivered. So maybe I should answer that question in April, when we come back.

10:35 a.m.

Liberal

Larry Bagnell Liberal Yukon, YT

I know that you don't have a lot of say in the design of the new program for food mail, so it's not you I'm mad at. It's been made clear that the direction came from the top down.

As Mr. Lévesque said, it's going to cost more money. You talk about a business case, Deputy, for food mail, but as Mr. Lévesque said, there's a lot less business-case buying power for these individual retailers.

You said that you weren't interested in fully sponsoring the storage needed by these northern stores, which you're forcing them to have. You're forcing these stores to have 52 times the storage capacity, which the all-party committee recommended, because instead of getting it every week, they have to have a whole year's supply, unless you expect people to have their houses 52 times bigger for food storage.

They have to put that food and all the stuff you want to go on the boat now somewhere. How are they going to know before their one shipment how many babies there are, so how many diapers they'll need, and the quantities of food they'll need? As soon as that runs out, the costs are going to go up. There are just a lot of things that don't add up in this program.

When I was asking before, you said that there's $53 million for this year for the subsidy part and then the other $7 million, forgetting about the new announcement that was made. Last year the estimates show that we spent $60 million. For a program that's supposed to be increasing costs to help people, there's already a $7-million cut that would have gone to subsidies. As you said, there's actually going to be more now, because of this re-announcement. But had there not been a re-announcement, a new program that was supposed to help people and give them more nutritious foods and everything was actually cutting $7 million off the money northerners were getting for food. That comes from the estimates we've been given.

10:35 a.m.

Deputy Minister, Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development

Michael Wernick

There are a couple of things I can help clarify.