Evidence of meeting #140 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 funding.

A video is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

Seamus O'Regan  Minister of Indigenous Services
Yves Robillard  Marc-Aurèle-Fortin, Lib.
Jean-François Tremblay  Deputy Minister, Department of Indigenous Services Canada
Paul Thoppil  Chief Finances, Results and Delivery Officer, Department of Indigenous Services Canada
Alex Lakroni  Chief Finances, Results and Delivery Officer, Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development
Diane Lafleur  Associate Deputy Minister, Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development

9:20 a.m.

Minister of Indigenous Services

Seamus O'Regan

I would add he's borne witness to a lot over the years and he's pleased, I think, with the work that is in progress.

9:25 a.m.

Liberal

William Amos Liberal Pontiac, QC

Thank you.

9:25 a.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal MaryAnn Mihychuk

Questioning now moves to the five-minute round.

We begin with MP Cathy McLeod.

9:25 a.m.

Conservative

Cathy McLeod Conservative Kamloops—Thompson—Cariboo, BC

Thank you, Madam Chair.

I'm going to start by reading an email that came directly me. It's way too common in terms of what comes to my door.

It's someone who is very concerned in terms of her band and in terms of how they're spending their money. This is a band that's non-compliant with the transparency act. It's a very lengthy email. I can't get into it all, but what at the end she says, “I trust that you will use this information for the betterment of all members under the Indian Act”. She says that the Assembly of First Nations is useless in promoting transparency and accountability.

I looked at your department reports in 2015-16. There were 97% of the bands in compliance. In your departmental results report for Indigenous Services, your target is now 75%. It used to be that 97 out of 100 bands would have access to the basic information that every other Canadian gets—whether it's federal, provincial or municipal. You're now saying a quarter will not have access to basic information. Your new fiscal relationship is fine, but it is the people who have had a proven track record.... It is not dealing with the communities that have had challenges.

She is listening today to the proceedings at this committee. What have you to say to her and all those people who come to me regularly and say that they cannot have access to this basic information that they deserve access to? This government doesn't have the guts to repeal this transparency act and put something else in place. They are just letting it happen.

9:25 a.m.

Minister of Indigenous Services

Seamus O'Regan

I'll let Paul begin, and then I'll finish.

9:25 a.m.

Paul Thoppil Chief Finances, Results and Delivery Officer, Department of Indigenous Services Canada

While that's the target, over 92% to 93% of first nations across this country actually comply with that.

9:25 a.m.

Conservative

Cathy McLeod Conservative Kamloops—Thompson—Cariboo, BC

The target's 75%. You're dropping it every year.

9:25 a.m.

Chief Finances, Results and Delivery Officer, Department of Indigenous Services Canada

Paul Thoppil

That's the target, but the reality is different. There will always be anomalies in a large population. We need to emphasize that the majority of first nations are complying with and respect the principles of transparency and accountability.

9:25 a.m.

Conservative

Cathy McLeod Conservative Kamloops—Thompson—Cariboo, BC

Madam Chair, I'd like to ask why your department has not had the guts to repeal it? If you're not going to enforce a piece of legislation that needs to be enforced, why do you not have the guts to repeal it and replace it with something?

9:25 a.m.

Chief Finances, Results and Delivery Officer, Department of Indigenous Services Canada

Paul Thoppil

The government has committed to—

9:25 a.m.

Conservative

Cathy McLeod Conservative Kamloops—Thompson—Cariboo, BC

The new fiscal relationship does not do it. You have the people who have good records over the years that you've entered into long-term.... I am talking about the communities that are struggling, where people who I get emails from are having a challenge.

9:25 a.m.

Chief Finances, Results and Delivery Officer, Department of Indigenous Services Canada

Paul Thoppil

We are codeveloping.... The government is committed to a repeal of the First Nations Financial Transparency Act, but we're doing it in a respectful, reconciliation-oriented way with first nation communities across the country.

9:25 a.m.

Conservative

Cathy McLeod Conservative Kamloops—Thompson—Cariboo, BC

It's been over three years.

9:25 a.m.

Chief Finances, Results and Delivery Officer, Department of Indigenous Services Canada

Paul Thoppil

Through the codevelopment, we are looking at the development of a mutual accountability framework that has as its underpinnings the transparency and accountability that all first nation communities desire.

9:25 a.m.

Conservative

Cathy McLeod Conservative Kamloops—Thompson—Cariboo, BC

It's been over three years and we have nothing. There's nothing for these people who are writing me. I bet she's listening to this answer right now and is just flabbergasted in terms of access to basic information.

I'm going to go on to my next question.

We know there was an infrastructure bank, which was, I think, a $7-billion slush fund. It funded one project. We know there's a media fund that's perhaps going to be looking at friendly op-eds. That's half a billion bucks. We know that you created the vote 40 slush fund.

There was over $100 million in vote 40 slush funds that didn't go out to the communities.

9:25 a.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal MaryAnn Mihychuk

How does it relate to indigenous purposes?

9:25 a.m.

Conservative

Cathy McLeod Conservative Kamloops—Thompson—Cariboo, BC

Was vote 40 indigenous? Because it's a slush fund, it doesn't go through the normal channels of being able to look at what's in vote 40. You created a slush fund that doesn't normally come through us. This is important stuff. This is $100 million that Treasury Board said, “Oh, I'm not sure”....

I can tell you what it is. It was for the reprofiling of indigenous infrastructure allocation, support for distinctions-based housing—$25 million; the first one was $75 million—and renewing the matrimonial real property rights implementation support program. These are Indigenous Services programs, put in through a slush fund. The money didn't go out. Why?

9:25 a.m.

Chief Finances, Results and Delivery Officer, Department of Indigenous Services Canada

Paul Thoppil

As part of main estimates reform, to ensure that main estimates are tabled with information that includes items that are in the federal budget...for the first time that has transpired through main estimates reform. As a result of trying to provide increased transparency to parliamentarians, they've created a central vote to put the budget items inside that vote and—

9:30 a.m.

Conservative

Cathy McLeod Conservative Kamloops—Thompson—Cariboo, BC

It's a slush fund, though, and it has no accountability.

9:30 a.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal MaryAnn Mihychuk

Please let the answer continue.

9:30 a.m.

Conservative

Cathy McLeod Conservative Kamloops—Thompson—Cariboo, BC

Madam Chair, it's my time.

9:30 a.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal MaryAnn Mihychuk

It's over.

9:30 a.m.

Chief Finances, Results and Delivery Officer, Department of Indigenous Services Canada

Paul Thoppil

Through the TBS website, parliamentarians as well as Canadians can monitor the access to the money that is drawn down from that vote 40.

9:30 a.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal MaryAnn Mihychuk

That ends your opportunity, Ms. McLeod. Your five minutes is over.

We're moving on to MP Mike Bossio.

9:30 a.m.

Liberal

Mike Bossio Liberal Hastings—Lennox and Addington, ON

Thank you so much, Minister and staff, for being here today. We really appreciate your presence. Especially being so new in the job—I'm sure you came in still trying to get your feet under you, so we really appreciate your making the effort to be here and provide these answers.

I have a number of questions. First, the same as Will was saying, my Mohawk community, Mohawks of the Bay of Quinte, is very grateful for the expanded services and infrastructure for eliminating boil water advisories. Our community has benefited directly from that. They are very appreciative. They have also received exceptional training; you highlighted that in your report. It sounds as if this has been a common theme, that wherever we're ending the boil water advisories, we're training people on how to operate these systems in a very effective and efficient way.

Are you seeing opportunities to use the same model of training for that—we're doing a study right now on capacity-building—to see if there are other areas where we can increase capacity around human resources in indigenous communities?