Thank you, Chair. I'm happy to speak to the Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada supplementary estimates (B) for fiscal year 2012-13. The investments included in the supplementary estimates are part of the Government of Canada's overall strategy to address the needs of first nations, northerners, Métis, and non-status Indians. Essentially they reflect decisions taken in the March budget that could not be reflected in the main estimates.
I'd like to share with you details about a very few items listed in the supplementary estimates (B).
Overall, they provide the department with an additional $468.9 million. Safe and clean drinking water is vital to the health and safety of every Canadian, and that is why improving access to safe drinking water on-reserve is a priority for our government.
Through these estimates we are investing an additional $136.5 million this year to continue to support the implementation of the first nations water and waste water action plan, as announced in Budget 2012.
These funds are part of our government's comprehensive long-term plan to improve on-reserve water and waste water systems. This plan is based on three pillars: enhanced capacity building and operator training, enforceable standards and protocols, and infrastructure investments. These funds contribute directly to this long-term plan by reducing risk levels and improving access to safe, clean water on reserve.
More specifically, these funds will go towards operations and maintenance of water and waste water systems, training of first nations water and waste water operators, water and waste water infrastructure projects, and program operations.
The second-largest item included in these estimates, $125.6 million, will support the continued implementation of the 2007 Indian Residential Schools Settlement Agreement. This agreement is a court-administered settlement agreed to by multiple parties, including legal counsel for former residential school students and the Assembly of First Nations. It is intending to bring a fair and lasting resolution to the legacy of the Indian residential schools.
These funds were used to address the higher than anticipated number of applications and the complexity of cases. This money was used to process applications for both the common experience payment and claims for the independent assessment process.
An additional $124 million will be invested this year for the Indian residential schools settlement allotment for independent assessment process compensation payments. This was largely due to our very successful outreach effort, through which 98% of former residential school survivors, including individuals in remote communities, were contacted about this settlement process. The government will continue to honour its obligations under this historic agreement.
These estimates also include $7.4 million to support commemoration initiatives under the agreement.
I was honoured to dedicate a stained glass window in the Centre Block just last week, here on Parliament Hill, above the House of Commons members' entrance. The window is a visible reminder of the legacy of Indian residential schools. It's also a window to a future founded on reconciliation and respect.
In the past few months, by working in partnership with first nations, we have made significant investments and progress on policy and legislative initiatives that clearly demonstrate this government's commitment to making real progress on issues that matter to aboriginal peoples and northerners.
One of these issues is education. Budget 2012 committed to fund, over three years, $100 million for early literacy programming and other education supports and services, and $175 million to build and renovate on-reserve schools.
Building on these commitments, a total of $45 million for 2012-13 is included in supplementary estimates (B) and is allocated towards the development of systems and supports to ensure readiness for first nation education legislation and the construction or renovation of schools on-reserve.
Of this amount, $20 million went towards the 2012-13 call for proposals for the first nation student success program and the education partnerships program. The first nation student success program funds special projects for schools that enhance first nations students' K-12 education on-reserve. Special projects can include funding for early literacy programming, special math training, and so on.
The education partnership program supports tripartite partnerships between the province, first nation schools, and educational organizations.
Another $25 million will be applied to accelerate the construction and renovation of schools on-reserve, including funds for the feasibility study for new schools in Fort Severn, Pikangikum, and Tl'etinqox-t'in first nations.
Turning to the north, meeting the needs of northerners remains a high priority for this government and that is why with these estimates we are investing $5.9 million to continue the diamond valuation and royalty assessment program. It ensures northerners continue to benefit from the royalties associated with diamond production in their region.
Recently we launched the Nutrition North Canada food retail subsidy program on April 1, 2011, which is intended to improve access to healthy, perishable foods for the residents of eligible northern communities. Subsequently northerners asked for changes to be made to the non-perishable list so that this subsidy could go directly toward perishable items such as fresh bread, vegetables, milk, and meat. We responded to these requests, and in October of 2012 the final list of commodities eligible for subsidies was fully implemented.
We've also implemented accountability measures for retailers and suppliers, and audits confirm that they are complying with the program. Data gathered from retailers registered with the program shows that prices have dropped by as much as 37% on some products, and there's been an 8% drop in the cost of the northern food basket.
Ongoing communication, outreach, and nutrition education activities are key components of the program, and through the Nutrition North Canada advisory board we are continuing to engage with northerners in an ongoing dialogue about Nutrition North Canada. The supplementary estimates (B) includes $2.5 million to support the operations of the Nutrition North Canada program. These funds will be used in 2012-13 to meet the demand for subsidized healthy foods.
These initiatives are but a few examples of the concrete actions that support the government's goal of improving the quality of life for aboriginal peoples and northerners. I am confident that the investments included in the supplementary estimates (B) will lead to further progress for aboriginal people, northerners, and all Canadians.
Thank you, chair, and with that I'll do my best to answer any questions on the supplementary estimates that members of the committee might have.