Evidence of meeting #50 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 communities.

A recording is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

Clarence T. Jules  Chief Commissioner and Chief Executive Officer, First Nations Tax Commission
Harold Calla  Executive Chair, First Nations Financial Management Board
Steve Berna  Chief Operating Officer, First Nations Finance Authority
Suzanne Trottier  Director, Capacity Development and Intervention, First Nations Financial Management Board
Harry Lake  Partner, Consulting, BDO Canada
Jacques Marion  Partner, Consulting, BDO Canada
Clayton Norris  Vice-President, Aboriginal Services, MNP LLP
Robert Campbell  Director, Aboriginal Services, MNP LLP

10:25 a.m.

Voices

Oh, oh!

10:25 a.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal MaryAnn Mihychuk

That was a good wrap-up.

We're now moving to Pierre-Luc Dusseault.

10:25 a.m.

NDP

Pierre-Luc Dusseault NDP Sherbrooke, QC

Thank you, Madam Chair.

I have a quick follow-up for you, Mr. Marion. In the end, who pays for your services? Is it the first nation community or the federal government?

10:25 a.m.

Partner, Consulting, BDO Canada

Jacques Marion

It's taken out of the band support funding from the community resources, as both firms indicated in our presentations today. We find that quite punitive, because it disseminates the capacity at the local level, which you're trying to bolster with your involvement, right?

10:25 a.m.

NDP

Pierre-Luc Dusseault NDP Sherbrooke, QC

Yes. They are in financial difficulty and—

10:25 a.m.

Partner, Consulting, BDO Canada

Jacques Marion

It creates—

10:25 a.m.

NDP

Pierre-Luc Dusseault NDP Sherbrooke, QC

Even more difficulties?

10:25 a.m.

Partner, Consulting, BDO Canada

Jacques Marion

Yes. It creates even more of an obstacle for building capacity that's going to have a sustainable effect on the intervention process.

10:25 a.m.

NDP

Pierre-Luc Dusseault NDP Sherbrooke, QC

What would be the solution to that?

10:25 a.m.

Partner, Consulting, BDO Canada

Jacques Marion

It would be to have funding outside of the band support provided for the intervention services of an expert resource, so that it's not punitive, you're able to collectively work with the first nation administration in finance to build the capacity, and there would be a residual basis of knowledge that's developed before your exit.

10:25 a.m.

Partner, Consulting, BDO Canada

Harry Lake

To add to Jacques' point, there is a concern. The counter-argument to that is that bands will voluntarily go into default management so they can get expert support. Probably the likely longer-term solution is some type of cost-sharing, I would have thought.

10:25 a.m.

NDP

Pierre-Luc Dusseault NDP Sherbrooke, QC

Thank you for that.

We were talking about the expertise to manage complex financial questions in the first nation community. If we give more power for taxation or for capacity development or wealth management, as we spoke of earlier today, do you see the expertise there to do that, to leverage more, and to maybe pay for MNP? Is there the expertise inside the first nations communities to leverage taxes, manage wealth, and those kinds of things?

10:25 a.m.

Director, Aboriginal Services, MNP LLP

Robert Campbell

Certainly when we talk about first nations as a whole, we see a lot of examples where absolutely tremendous capacity is available. When we're talking specifically about those who are in a third-party condition, obviously they have a variety of limitations right now.

I believe in my heart that the communities do have it. It's a matter of being able to draw it out of them and/or attracting people back from the community who were part of the community, but who—to Michael's part earlier—don't find a role for themselves now. I think if more innovative activities are occurring and more opportunity is being presented through those kinds of channels, then you'll find more of us heading home to be part of those exciting new developments.

10:25 a.m.

NDP

Pierre-Luc Dusseault NDP Sherbrooke, QC

Maybe from each of you, what would be the one best solution to avoid being in default management and third-party management?

10:25 a.m.

Director, Aboriginal Services, MNP LLP

Robert Campbell

It is purely a matter of knowledge.

There are many factors, but if there were one thing.... You know, if you have limited resources—and you see lots of examples—if someone just doesn't have the knowledge right now to be able handle that condition, it's very difficult. Another person could have a lot of knowledge and have the same level of resources and eke by. There's certainly not enough funding at all for first nations. Knowledge is the key.

10:30 a.m.

Vice-President, Aboriginal Services, MNP LLP

Clayton Norris

I'll just add to Robert's comment.

I think the foundational piece to that is a healthy, safe community. There's nothing we can do as accountants or financial providers without a healthy, safe community.

10:30 a.m.

Partner, Consulting, BDO Canada

Harry Lake

I would echo what Mr. Campbell said on the capacity side. These first nations operate, we tend to say, one of the most complex financial ecosystems in the world. We take experienced CPAs with 10 years' experience, and it takes them two years to get trained on how to do this stuff. It is well beyond what you would expect in terms of complexity in other industries.

I think it's trying to reduce that complexity and increase the capacity. As well, a lot of these first nations don't have enough own-source revenue to survive. It doesn't matter how good your accountant is, if the business is not viable, you're going to continually struggle.

I think you have all three things happening.

10:30 a.m.

NDP

Pierre-Luc Dusseault NDP Sherbrooke, QC

Have you at some point recommended some changes to the 2005 First Nations Fiscal Management Act? Are you in any way recommending some changes or tweaking to that act, or entirely reforming it?

10:30 a.m.

Director, Aboriginal Services, MNP LLP

Robert Campbell

If the opportunity is there to reform it, that's what I think would be the best thing to do.

To Harold Calla's points earlier, I think we have to build up from scratch now. However, that's a monumental task. I think there are some modifications that can be made now that would be the path of least resistance, perhaps in the early days, to address the very difficult situation out there. For those of us who spend time in those environments on a regular basis, it saddens us tremendously. We see this all day long. It breaks my heart to witness it.

I think there are actions that can be taken quickly, but are not being taken. It's not complex; it's just hard to implement. The answer is easy; the implementation is hard.

10:30 a.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal MaryAnn Mihychuk

You have 40 seconds.

10:30 a.m.

NDP

Pierre-Luc Dusseault NDP Sherbrooke, QC

Have you published any ideas or recommendations to change the act?

10:30 a.m.

Director, Aboriginal Services, MNP LLP

Robert Campbell

As far as the act is concerned, there are so many pieces in there. I referenced a few pieces throughout my presentation. I referenced the work we did with a particular tribal council in looking at intervention. Very simple steps take you into the situation, and the counter-steps to get you out are sort of right there.

I guess it's available; we just have to do it.

10:30 a.m.

NDP

Pierre-Luc Dusseault NDP Sherbrooke, QC

Yes, is there—

10:30 a.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal MaryAnn Mihychuk

We only have three seconds.

Questioning is moving to MP Don Rusnak.

March 23rd, 2017 / 10:30 a.m.

Liberal

Don Rusnak Liberal Thunder Bay—Rainy River, ON

Thank you for coming today. I'm going to echo my colleague Michael McLeod.

Seeing indigenous professionals, I think we need to encourage that more. It's going to be one of my first questions.

I know you started to answer, but I will ask both firms. What are your firms doing in terms of indigenous recruitment and helping indigenous students get into the field?