Evidence of meeting #26 for Indigenous and Northern Affairs in the 41st Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament’s site, as are the minutes.) The winning word was million.

A recording is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

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

4:15 p.m.

NDP

Jonathan Genest-Jourdain NDP Manicouagan, QC

I would like to know what portion of the $53 million earmarked for access to healthy food in isolated northern communities is allocated for traditional food.

4:15 p.m.

Conservative

Bernard Valcourt Conservative Madawaska—Restigouche, NB

As you know, traditional food is eligible under the program, but I can't tell you how much money will be available. Nutrition North Canada and its advisory board make recommendations on the use of those funds.

4:15 p.m.

NDP

Jonathan Genest-Jourdain NDP Manicouagan, QC

Very well. You can answer me in writing.

Thank you, Minister.

The supplementary estimates (A) allocate $127 million for the assessment, management and remediation of federal contaminated sites. That money will mostly be invested in the remediation of abandoned mines.

In the same vein, could we have an idea of the amounts invested in the remediation of smaller scale sites, such as those involved in oil spills?

4:15 p.m.

Conservative

Bernard Valcourt Conservative Madawaska—Restigouche, NB

I can give you the following details.

In the supplementary estimates (A), the Northern Contaminated Sites Program will receive $70,341,737 under vote 1 and $48,995,063 under vote 10, as part of the Federal Contaminated Sites Action Plan. That's the funding for the north. For contaminated sites on reserve lands, the funding will be $720,000 under vote 1 and $7,623,646 under vote 10, once again as part of the Federal Contaminated Sites Action Plan.

4:15 p.m.

NDP

Jonathan Genest-Jourdain NDP Manicouagan, QC

Thank you.

I will turn over the rest of my time to my colleague, Ms. Crowder.

4:15 p.m.

NDP

Jean Crowder NDP Nanaimo—Cowichan, BC

Thank you.

Minister, I want to touch on emergency management for a moment.

I think you're aware that the Auditor General found that the department knew the emergency program money was not sufficient and pointed out that, as we're well aware, the reallocation of funds to other programs results in delays or cancellations of community infrastructure projects.

As well, he found that most of the department's attention goes to response and recovery activities rather than to prevention and mitigation. I noticed that the plans and priorities document indicated on page 66 that there are four pillars of emergency management: mitigation, preparedness, response, and recovery.

Could you tell the committee specifically what steps the department is taking to improve the mitigation and the preparedness activities? The goal, of course, should be to prevent communities from being flooded rather than to always be spending money on recovery operations.

4:20 p.m.

Conservative

Bernard Valcourt Conservative Madawaska—Restigouche, NB

As you may remember, until the November 19, 2013, ministerial announcement that the Government of Canada is implementing a new comprehensive approach to emergency management on-reserve.... We had said that we all accepted the Auditor General's recommendation. What we announced was a new approach to emergency management that would feature a single window whereby first nations—or the provinces, wherever they provide services on reserves—will now not have to go through the Public Safety program but will come directly to AANDC.

One of the findings of the Auditor General was regarding the need for mitigation. In the last budget, as you may recall, the government committed $40 million over five years for mitigation projects on reserve, $3 million of which will be sought in supplementary estimates this year, 2014-15, to support on-reserve mitigation programming in an effort to proceed with value for money mitigation investment that will better protect first nations from such costly hazards as flooding.

4:20 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Chris Warkentin

Thank you.

We'll turn now to Mr. Boughen for the next questions.

4:20 p.m.

Conservative

Ray Boughen Conservative Palliser, SK

I'd like to extend a welcome to the panel for taking time out of their busy day to share thoughts with us.

I have a couple of questions. First of all, looking at first nations land management, Minister, already a number of first nations who are under the first nations land management regime are managing their land and resources under their own community laws and are no longer operating under the outdated and paternalistic Indian Act land management.

This committee has extensively studied first nations land management, and we agree with the vital support of the first nations option to rid themselves of the confines and limitations of the Indian Act.

I see that in supplementary estimates (A) nearly $6 million is allocated for the expansion of the first nations land management regime. Can you explain the benefits of giving first nations more control over their reserves?

4:20 p.m.

Conservative

Bernard Valcourt Conservative Madawaska—Restigouche, NB

A recent study of the benefits of the first nations land management regime indicated that first nations small business creation has increased significantly, and also community members are benefiting from increased job opportunities within the communities.

As an example, the 32 first nations respondents reported that approximately 4,000 jobs have been created for community members as well as for individuals living off reserve.

In my own corner of the world, in Madawaska—Restigouche, I have the Madawaska Maliseet First Nation who are just entering this.

The entrepreneurial spirit that these initiatives create is incredible. As you know, on March 31, I was pleased to welcome an additional 19 first nations into the land management regime. This results in more business opportunities, better incomes, jobs. It creates hope and optimism in those communities. We have to keep on investing, to incorporate even more first nations into the regime and free them from the Indian Act.

4:20 p.m.

Conservative

Ray Boughen Conservative Palliser, SK

As we look at the development of land, the Canadian high Arctic research station—the acronym for it is CHARS, I guess—as briefly alluded to by my colleague when speaking about the Northwest Territories devolution agreement, our government is committed to development of the north as Canada's greatest asset, something which you yourself alluded to, Minister. The Canadian high Arctic research station at Cambridge Bay, Nunavut, is an important part of the government's integral north strategy and will strengthen Canada's leadership in Arctic science, research, and innovation.

The 2007 Speech from the Throne talked about this facility coming to fruition. I'm wondering where we sit now with our commitment to keep the promise of that facility coming on stream.

4:25 p.m.

Conservative

Bernard Valcourt Conservative Madawaska—Restigouche, NB

We are on stream, and we are on target. In May, this month, we were able to award the contract to manage the conception of the Canadian high Arctic research station as a result of an open, fair, transparent competitive process. You are correct in saying that the funding decrease is planned as part of the project cycle. Initial construction should be well under way over the course of 2014. Construction will take three construction seasons, because of where it is, as we all know. Construction will include the building of a main research building, a field and maintenance building, and a triplex for accommodations for visiting researchers. Community members of Cambridge Bay continue to be involved in, and are excited about, the establishment of the infrastructure, and the science and technology program, for CHARS.

4:25 p.m.

Conservative

Ray Boughen Conservative Palliser, SK

Thank you.

Thank you, Chair.

4:25 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Chris Warkentin

Thank you, Mr. Boughen.

Minister, thank you so much or being here. We know that you have a flight to catch. We do appreciate your taking the time out of your busy schedule to be here.

We will suspend for a few moments. When we come back, we will have representatives joining us from the Canadian Northern Economic Development Agency.

The meeting is suspended.

4:30 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Chris Warkentin

We'll call the meeting back to order.

Colleagues, joining us from the Canadian Northern Economic Development Agency is Mr. Borbey, the president.

Thank you for being here.

I believe that you have an opening statement, before we continue with questions, so we'll turn it over to you.

4:30 p.m.

Patrick Borbey President, Canadian Northern Economic Development Agency

Thank you.

Mr. Chair, members of the committee, my name is Patrick Borbey, and I am President of the Canadian Northern Economic Development Agency, or CanNor. Joining me today is CanNor's Chief Financial Officer, Yves Robineau.

I am pleased to be here today to discuss CanNor's main estimates and supplementary estimates (A). I appreciate the opportunity to provide the committee with a short overview of the agency's work and priorities.

The Prime Minister created CanNor in August 2009, and we are approaching the five-year mark in our mandate to foster a diversified, sustainable and dynamic economy across Canada's three northern territories.

I will divide my remarks into three broad themes, Mr. Chairman: the impact of our programs and services in the north; the work of the northern projects management office; and our efforts to build a strong, skilled, and diversified workforce.

Mr. Chair, this year CanNor will deliver about $40 million in contribution programs and services to foster economic development in the north. Since 2009, CanNor has invested over $185 million in 910 projects. Many of these projects are funded through CanNor's two key contribution programs: first, the strategic investments in northern economic development, or SINED, program; and, second, the new northern aboriginal economic opportunities program, or NAEOP.

Supplementary estimates (A) provide $40 million over two years to renew SINED as a program to promote economic diversification and to strengthen the driver sectors of the northern economy. As examples of past SINED initiatives, I would cite the $16 million that we've invested since 2009 to obtain geoscience data in the three territories. This encourages exploration and helps foster further private sector investments in the tremendous natural resource potential of Canada's north. Last month, some $350,000 of SINED money helped the City of Iqaluit build a micro auto gasification system as an innovative solution to waste management that also addresses the challenges northerners face in finding affordable energy.

In the Northwest Territories, earlier this month, Minister Aglukkaq announced an investment of $600,000 to help Denendeh Investments Incorporated undertake multiple planning activities related to opportunities in the mining, energy and transportation sectors. That initiative will help increase ownership and benefits for aboriginal companies and communities in the territory.

In the Yukon, we supported the Adäka Cultural Festival, which not only brings tourism revenues to Whitehorse but also increases awareness and demand for Yukon first nations' arts, crafts and cultural experiences.

Indeed, many investments CanNor has made in small business in the north are linked to the tourism industry in the territories.

In Nunavut, we have helped build the fishing industry, which currently employs 300 seasonal fisherpersons and was estimated to be worth approximately $79 million in 2012-2013. We helped sponsor the territory's fisheries strategy. We have funded studies to explore the turbot fishery in the Arctic Ocean and a training simulator to help Inuit prepare for a career in the fishing sector, and helped Nunavut-based companies purchase fishing vessels.

To better align with the federal framework for aboriginal economic development, CanNor has streamlined and harmonized its aboriginal economic development programming under a northern aboriginal economic opportunities program. This was launched on April 1, 2014. NAEOP is opportunities-driven, focused on results, and geared towards maximizing economic opportunities for aboriginal communities and businesses.

Over the years, CanNor's support to aboriginal economic development can point to many successes, including supporting communities to negotiate impact benefit agreements with resource development companies, helping start and grow aboriginal small businesses, and developing community capacity so that northerners can participate in and benefit from economic activity in the region.

These investments may be modest relative to the budgets of some of the major resource initiatives currently under development, but they have an important impact on the economy of the north. Of the northern and aboriginal individual or community-owned businesses supported by the agency's aboriginal economic development programs, 88% were still in operation after their third year.

Mr. Chairman, resource development is a key driver for broader economic development in Canada's north. At this time there are 33 major projects in the north that are either in or preparing to enter into the regulatory process. These projects represent more than $26.9 billion in capital investment and more than 11,600 jobs, should the projects go forward.

CanNor is unique among regional development agencies in that our mandate includes the northern projects management office, or NPMO. NPMO plays a key role in working with both industry and communities to advance responsible resource development in the three territories. The NPMO shepherds resource projects through the regulatory process in a way that anticipates and addresses challenges. It coordinates all federal regulators to ensure the timeliness, transparency, and predictability of regulatory efforts, while overseeing the crown's aboriginal consultation requirements.

While we are helping major resource project proponents through the regulatory process, we also bring them together with communities to help build local capacity and readiness to take advantage of this economic activity. Through our community readiness initiative, CanNor promotes the full involvement of aboriginal people in resource development projects taking place near their communities. We also seek ways in which local people can contribute their skills and training to resource projects. For the companies and the communities, this is a win-win situation.

Mr. Chairman, the third theme I would like to touch on briefly today involves the agency's efforts to build a strong, skilled, and representative workforce in the north, which is a key factor in ensuring strong and sustainable economic development throughout the north.

In 2012 we launched the northern adult basic education program, a five-year program to give northerners access to training that will position them to participate in the labour market as the economy grows. This program is delivered through the territorial colleges, and in its first year of operation offered more than 60 programs to more than 800 adult learners.

We are also investing in a number of training projects. I have mentioned training in Nunavut for people who wish to enter the fisheries industry. We are also investing $5.6 million over four years to help establish a centre for northern innovation in mining in Yukon to deliver the education and training required for skilled local jobs in the mining and exploration sector.

Another project, the Inuit learning and development pilot project, is a joint project between the federal government, the Government of Nunavut, and Nunavut Tunngavik Incorporated. This pilot project involves four, four-month, paid work assignments in different public service positions for up to 16 participants. It also includes a suite of culturally adapted training modules and one-on-one mentorship. It's already showing signs of success as a means to increase the number of Inuit working in the public sector in Nunavut. It is initiatives like this that will help the agency create a more representative skilled workforce over the long term.

Mr. Chair, I have only touched on a few examples of how CanNor helps foster a strong, diverse and sustainable economy across the three territories. Our programs and services help create jobs, prosperity and long-term growth in the north. We are a key player in the government's commitment to providing a foundation for a prosperous economic future for those who live, work and support their families in the north.

I would be pleased to answer the committee's questions.

Thank you very much.

4:40 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Chris Warkentin

Thank you so much, Mr. Borbey. We appreciate your opening comments.

Colleagues, we'll be doing a round of questions. We'll get, I think, one from every party and then we'll go to voting on the estimates.

Ms. Hughes, we'll begin with you.

4:40 p.m.

NDP

Carol Hughes NDP Algoma—Manitoulin—Kapuskasing, ON

Thank you very much.

I have a list of questions. One of them I'll ask that you respond to now, and the rest you can respond to in writing.

The ones that I actually have here pertain to the Indian residential schools. Now that the funding is winding down on the Indian residential school crisis line, I'm trying to get some sense as to whether or not it is being used by survivors. Has the rate of use changed over the years, and if so how, and what is the trend in usage? If I can get those answers at some point in writing, that would be great.

This question is with respect to the Indian residential schools resolution health support program. It has a budget of $59.9 million. What services and supports are available through that program? Are these services and supports being utilized? Has the number of individuals gaining access to the program increased, decreased, or maintained a steady rate? I would like that answer in writing as well.

My next question is whether there are there any information campaigns being undertaken to ensure that individuals who may require support, but have not sought it out yet, are made aware that there is an end to the program.

I think those are issues that would be pertinent for the members of first nations to know about. We know there has been a lot going on right now with respect to people indicating that they would like to be paid some of the Indian residential schools dollars because they're not able to use them up. Anyhow I would like to have those questions answered.

This question is with respect to cuts to early childhood intervention programs that help children on reserve with developmental delays prepare for school. Can you tell me how much the cuts are? What impact would you see coming forward on that? Are there any other alternatives that you're looking at to assist?

4:40 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Chris Warkentin

We'll turn it to you, Mr. Wernick.

For those questions, some of them may fall under Health Canada; I'm not sure.

4:40 p.m.

Deputy Minister, Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development

Michael Wernick

Yes, I was just going to say the health supports to people going through the adjudication process are provided by Health Canada. I'm happy to make inquiries as to this data on the crisis line and the health supports for people.

Just to indicate where we are, the common experience payment closed some time ago and it is essentially all done and all paid out. There are just a handful of cases still to be resolved. The adjudication of serious claims is handled by an independent secretariat; it's not actually part of my department. There were 39,000 applications to that process. They are about halfway through the adjudication process. It'll be at least another two years before the adjudicators have finished the last case, so we're probably going to be dealing with the adjudication of residential schools claims for another four years.

4:45 p.m.

NDP

Carol Hughes NDP Algoma—Manitoulin—Kapuskasing, ON

I'm going to pass my time over to Ms. Crowder.

4:45 p.m.

NDP

Jean Crowder NDP Nanaimo—Cowichan, BC

Mr. Wernick, when the minister was here he indicated—I asked about additional money into education—that it was a statutory obligation, but my understanding is that departments and governments can make budget allocations without a statute requiring them to spend money. For example, if the government or the department wanted to recommend putting additional money in school facilities, you wouldn't need a piece of legislation to do that. Therefore, there is no reason that additional moneys could not be invested in schools and education without legislation.

May 29th, 2014 / 4:45 p.m.

Deputy Minister, Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development

Michael Wernick

That is essentially the model that we've been working on for the last 30 years. You will be aware of the Auditor General's report of May 2011 that pointed to the deficiencies in that as a way of getting results. You'll be aware that the Senate committee recommended legislation. You'll be aware that the national panel that we worked on for three years with the AFN recommended legislation—

4:45 p.m.

NDP

Jean Crowder NDP Nanaimo—Cowichan, BC

I don't disagree about the legislation.

4:45 p.m.

Deputy Minister, Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development

Michael Wernick

—and you cannot have, to answer Ms. Sgro's comment, long-term, permanent funding commitments without a statute. It is much better to have statutory funding than not.