Evidence of meeting #12 for Indigenous and Northern Affairs in the 42nd Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament’s site, as are the minutes.) The winning word was money.

A video is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

Hélène Laurendeau  Deputy Minister, Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development

4:10 p.m.

Liberal

Carolyn Bennett Liberal Toronto—St. Paul's, ON

There are tons of money in that other budget, and we want to be able to shape the program so that first nations kids can apply and get into school.

4:10 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Andy Fillmore

Okay. Thanks to both of you.

The next question comes from Michael McLeod, please.

4:10 p.m.

Liberal

Michael McLeod Liberal Northwest Territories, NT

I want to say thank you to the minister and her staff for the presentation today. Reviewing this budget is a very interesting process.

I do want to first of all thank the minister for all the hard work and effort on the many files that are in this department. We're starting to see some movement in many areas. I think we were in deadlock for many years, and I really appreciate all the effort that's being put into some of these difficult challenges.

That said, though, every time we seem to scratch the surface of an issue we uncover a whole bunch of other things that we have to work towards. We have done a lot with this department, but there is a lot to do.

Out of the $726-million to be decreased, I noticed that $403 million of that was in the area of claims and specific claims. I'm assuming that it was a bit ambitious if that was targeted to be spent in the year for which it was allocated. I'm assuming that we're going to see it come back in the supplementaries or that we're going to carry it over, but what I really want to hear is that claims, comprehensive claims and specific claims, are a high priority for this department. I want to hear that we're going to budget even more than this and that we're going to try to resolve a couple of the big ones in the Northwest Territories.

4:10 p.m.

Liberal

Carolyn Bennett Liberal Toronto—St. Paul's, ON

I thank the member for all his hard work and his deep understanding of how important claims are and how we really do have to move these things along, almost to Mike Bossio's point about how you get stable funding and just certainty in being able to plan your life.

As you know, we are very excited about the treaties and aboriginal government part of our department, led by the amazing Joe Wild, who is mandated to take creative and innovative approaches to get these things done. It is going to be with creativity and innovation that this happens. Even in the B.C. process, some people don't want a full treaty; they want something a little short of a treaty.

The way forward is to go out and ask people what they need and for us to try to help them get it, so that we can end up with a final agreement that is good for the first nations and is exactly what they know they need.

4:10 p.m.

Liberal

Michael McLeod Liberal Northwest Territories, NT

Thank you. I'm hoping that we are going to see some resolution to some of the claims that are outstanding in the north. I would certainly offer any assistance I can.

In the budget, you also mention that there is $25 million for Métis through the Métis National Council. Not everybody belongs to the Métis National Council. I am Métis, and I don't belong to the Métis National Council. I have a lot of relatives in the Northwest Territories who are Métis. There is a population there that doesn't belong to the Métis National Council, and there are some members who do. How can we be reassured that there is going to be money for the Métis in the Northwest Territories?

4:10 p.m.

Liberal

Carolyn Bennett Liberal Toronto—St. Paul's, ON

That's an excellent question. Because it is part of the Métis economic development strategy for the Métis nation, I think it is Métis communities and Métis financial institutions that are setting up the ability for entrepreneurs and businesses to tap into economic development.

We can get back to you as to how that would apply in the Northwest Territories. It is a success story, as you know, with Métis across Canada.

4:10 p.m.

Liberal

Michael McLeod Liberal Northwest Territories, NT

I appreciate that. However, I have some concerns. We are left out in the Northwest Territories. There is $8.4 billion earmarked for aboriginal programs, indigenous programs. The north is going to get very little of that. We do not fall under the category of Indigenous Affairs responsibilities, even though 50% of our population is indigenous.

Is there a way in this budget...? You've said that the system is unclear and archaic. How do I carve out budgets going to the Northwest Territories from your budget? How can I tell the people in my riding who are aboriginal that they are getting treated fairly? There is no earmarked money, really, unless there is a carve-out for housing.

I want to say that it is the first time we have had housing investment in many, many years, and we really appreciate it, but there is a real responsibility on my part, and I think on this government's part, to be able to reassure the people in the Northwest Territories that they are getting fair funding. The studies show that it is not happening that way.

4:15 p.m.

Liberal

Carolyn Bennett Liberal Toronto—St. Paul's, ON

It works in a couple of ways. As you know, there's the transfer to the territory, and that money is negotiated with the territory on certain aspects. If you take housing, for example, the Northwest Territories itself was given $12 million, but there was also $15 million over two years to the Inuvialuit settlement region, to the Inuit. As you know, some of the Inuit housing situations are really disastrous.

4:15 p.m.

Liberal

Michael McLeod Liberal Northwest Territories, NT

I have another question before we end. Why is the review of the friendship centres happening? Can you just tell me that? Why is it needed?

4:15 p.m.

Liberal

Carolyn Bennett Liberal Toronto—St. Paul's, ON

Why is there a review? Over the past two years, the whole of the urban aboriginal strategy was delivered through the National Association of Friendship Centres. There have been some concerns in terms of urban Inuit, urban Métis, and youth, in that they wanted a more collaborative approach to where that money goes into communities.

The friendship centres will get exactly the same amount of money for this year coming up, but we do believe we need a review. I did a round table on urban aboriginals on Friday in Montreal. There are all these organizations that have been put into a competitive atmosphere instead of a collaborative one, and we want to know how we could do this better.

4:15 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Andy Fillmore

Thank you.

We'll move now into the five-minute questions.

The next questions will come from Arnold Viersen, please.

May 5th, 2016 / 4:15 p.m.

Conservative

Arnold Viersen Conservative Peace River—Westlock, AB

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

Thank you, Minister, for being here today. I'll add my voice to the chorus of thanks for your time today.

Charlie has already talked to some degree about the apparent cuts to the funding for post-secondary education. What was interesting as well is that the number of full-time employees also seems to have been reduced. I was wondering if you could address that a bit.

4:15 p.m.

Liberal

Carolyn Bennett Liberal Toronto—St. Paul's, ON

I'm having trouble hearing you.

4:15 p.m.

Conservative

Arnold Viersen Conservative Peace River—Westlock, AB

I can speak up. It's not a problem.

Charlie addressed the apparent drop in funding for post-secondary education. I was wondering if you could address the reduction of the full-time employees from 19 to 17.

4:15 p.m.

Liberal

Carolyn Bennett Liberal Toronto—St. Paul's, ON

So the...?

4:15 p.m.

Conservative

Arnold Viersen Conservative Peace River—Westlock, AB

The human resources have been reduced as well on the post-secondary side. We were just looking at it. For post-secondary education, on page 29, there are now 17 full-time employees. It's a significant reduction in full-time employees. I was wondering if you could address that.

4:15 p.m.

Deputy Minister, Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development

Hélène Laurendeau

I'm sorry. I'm not sure where you're seeing that. You said which page...?

4:15 p.m.

Conservative

Arnold Viersen Conservative Peace River—Westlock, AB

It's page 29. When we compare it to the last budget, it's a significant reduction in numbers.

4:15 p.m.

Deputy Minister, Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development

Hélène Laurendeau

We would have to check into that. I cannot give you an answer.

4:15 p.m.

Conservative

Arnold Viersen Conservative Peace River—Westlock, AB

Okay. Thank you.

Access to safe drinking water and effective treatment of waste water is critical to the health and safety of our first nations peoples. One of your government's promises was to ensure clean water availability in 93 communities on reserve currently affected by poor water quality.

In your plan to ensure clean water availability, has your department developed and implemented any of the regulatory components of that?

4:15 p.m.

Liberal

Carolyn Bennett Liberal Toronto—St. Paul's, ON

At the moment, the regulatory has to be in collaboration with the provinces and territories. The safe drinking water act caused some consternation in certain communities such as Akwesasne, which is in Ontario, Quebec, and the U.S.

As we go forward, the regulatory piece is one thing. The infrastructure is another. Training is huge in terms of the plants. You can build all the plants, but if you don't have people who can run them and who won't be poached by the local town to run theirs.... I think that's why we have to work in regions: to figure out how we do this collaboratively both on the regulatory side and also on infrastructure and training.

4:20 p.m.

Conservative

Arnold Viersen Conservative Peace River—Westlock, AB

Thank you.

Under the previous government, we spent nearly $400 million per year on water and waste water. Under budget 2016, the government announced $360 million in annual funding for clean water on reserves. Why the decrease in this waste water funding?

4:20 p.m.

Liberal

Carolyn Bennett Liberal Toronto—St. Paul's, ON

The increases?

4:20 p.m.

Conservative

Arnold Viersen Conservative Peace River—Westlock, AB

Decrease.

4:20 p.m.

Liberal

Carolyn Bennett Liberal Toronto—St. Paul's, ON

For what looks like a decrease there, if you go to what's added in budget 2016, it actually ends up for 2016-17 at $294.8 million, so it more than makes up for the $137.3 million that looks like a decrease.