Evidence of meeting #175 for Finance in the 42nd Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament’s site, as are the minutes.) The winning word was funding.

A recording is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

Heidi Marion  As an Individual
Albert Peter  As an Individual
Jonathan Vilness  As an Individual
Kim Rudd  Northumberland—Peterborough South, Lib.
Karen Barnes  President and Vice-Chancellor, Yukon College
Catherine Lafferty  Director, Community Development and Indigenous Education, Dechinta Centre Research & Learning
Kelsey Wrightson  Director, Policy and Programs, Dechinta Centre Research & Learning
Nathan Schultz  Chair, Mental Health Association of Yukon
Scott Northey  Chief Operating Officer, Nunavut Resources Corporation
Patrick Duxbury  Advisor, Nunavut Resources Corporation
Colette Acheson  Executive Director, Whitehorse Chamber of Commerce
Samson Hartland  Executive Director, Yukon Chamber of Mines
Chief Peter Johnston  Council of Yukon First Nations
Jennifer Flanagan  President and Chief Executive Officer, Actua
Jeanne Beaudoin  President, Association franco-yukonnaise
Steve Smith  Champagne and Aishihik First Nations
Robert Dickson  Kluane First Nation
Roberta Joseph  Tr'ondëk Hwëch'in First Nation
Sháade Háni Richard Sidney  Representative, Teslin Tlingit Council
Barbara McInerney  Executive Director, Women's Transition Home
Lisa Badenhorst  Governance Director, Kluane First Nation
Kyle Gasper  As an Individual

8:50 a.m.


The Chair Liberal Wayne Easter

I call the meeting to order. We have an interesting gavel this morning. Our gavel was seized by security at the airport, if you can imagine that.

Welcome, everyone.

Welcome, witnesses. As you know, we're doing pre-budget consultations for the 2019 budget. For the witnesses who are at the table, just before the official start time at 9 o'clock, we allow anybody who registered for the open-mike session, because we never have space to have all the witnesses on. From the floor, there will be three individuals at the open-mike session who will have the opportunity to come forward to make a one-minute statement. There are no questions from the members on those statements, but they do go into the record and they are part of our submissions for the pre-consultations.

We'll start with Heidi Marion.

Welcome. The floor is yours.

8:50 a.m.

Heidi Marion As an Individual

Good morning, everybody. Welcome to Whitehorse.

My name is Heidi Marion. I'm with the ONE campaign. I understand that my T-shirt is now recognized by everyone on the committee, which is great. Thank you.

I'm here today on behalf of all the girls in the world who are not going to school. There are 132 million of them. I'm here for the teenage girls who account for 74% of all new HIV infections. In our world, 766 million people are living in extreme poverty. Women and girls are the most affected. Although Canada is the best-performing country in the G7, we invest 37% less on international assistance than do the other G7 countries. Why have our investments been decreasing since 2010, when we've had the opportunity to meet development goals?

I'm here today to ask our federal government, in budget 2019, to reverse their practice of moving away from our responsibility and to increase the international assistance envelope. In our destabilizing world, we need to change now. The universally recognized target for countries like ours is 70 cents for every $100 of income that Canada makes. Right now, we invest only 26 cents. That's an 18-year low.

Honourable members, if all the gender gaps in work and society were closed, the global economy could be boosted by $25 trillion U.S. Taking part would cost us only $17 each per year. For three years in a row now, Canada's Standing Committee on Finance has recommended a path to increase international assistance so that we are at the official development assistance target by 2030. If we start with this budget and increase our investment by 15% per year, we will be doing our fair share.

Thank you for your time this morning.

8:55 a.m.


The Chair Liberal Wayne Easter

Thank you very much, Heidi.

We now turn to Albert Peter.

8:55 a.m.

Albert Peter As an Individual

[Witness speaks in Kwanlin Dün]

Thank you very much, Mr. Chair.

I want to acknowledge that we are on the shared territories of the Ta'an Kwäch’än and Kwanlin Dün.

My name is Albert Peter. I am a citizen of the Na-Cho Nyak Dun government. We have been involved in the growth of our government jointly with the Government of Canada and the Government of Yukon. My comments are really to encourage the committee to consider the opportunities generated by settlement of land claims and self-government obligations.

We are one of the largest employers in every community in Yukon. All our funds are invested in Yukon. We have a tremendous opportunity to work jointly with other industries to maximize the benefits to the people of Yukon and to the governments in Yukon and, indeed, Canada.

We've been engaged with the federal government recently in the development of a new fiscal policy. I'm sure the committee members are aware of that. Some of the initiatives launched by the Prime Minister also give us encouragement. One example is the discussion around the treatment of loans that are used to negotiate treaties and self-government agreements. Currently, the government is considering how future negotiations would be based not on loans but on either contributions or grants. That is a significant investment that Yukon first nations have made in the negotiations of our agreements, and most of us have repaid those loans. Those loans could be used to invest in the economy or in the growth of our governments.

With regard to fiscal policy, one of the issues the Government of Canada is looking at is the treatment of own-source revenues. This is another source of funds that could be used to invest in communities.

I would encourage the committee members to discuss some of these initiatives with their counterparts in Ottawa and discuss how we might be able to work together as governments to advance these initiatives and to bring greater understanding among Canadians and political parties about the opportunities that exist before us as Canadian citizens and governments within Canada.

Mahsi cho.

8:55 a.m.


The Chair Liberal Wayne Easter

Thank you very much, Albert.

Jonathan Vilness is next.

Welcome, Jonathan.

8:55 a.m.

Jonathan Vilness As an Individual

Good morning, committee.

I'm here to represent Engineers Without Borders. I'm a volunteer with the SFU chapter in Vancouver.

In budget 2019, I'm asking that Canada commit to a 10-year timetable of predictable annual increases of 15% to the international assistance envelope. This is in keeping with recommendation 85 that the committee made last year in its report on pre-budget consultations and an OECD report that Canada released in mid-September. I was really encouraged to see that the Government of Canada committed to increasing their ODA in budget 2018, but despite this increase, Canada's ODA spending is still at a near historic low and well below that of many of our global peers. This increase will simply keep the aid budget on track with inflation.

ODA is fundamental to our shared global prosperity, and these investments support vital services such as health care and education in some of the least developed countries. Increasing ODA through a predictable timetable in budget 2019 would show that Canada is a committed global leader helping to create a better world for everyone.

Thank you so much for your time.

8:55 a.m.


The Chair Liberal Wayne Easter

Thank you, Jonathan.

We have heard from Engineers Without Borders at every stop, I think, so you are well organized.

With that, we'll turn to the witnesses. I want to thank any people or organizations that had the opportunity to make a submission prior to August 15. That is on people's iPads or whatever they have for technology here, so they'll be referring to that from time to time.

Before we start with the witnesses, I'd like to go around the room and ask members to introduce themselves so you know whom you are dealing with.

I'm Wayne Easter. I'm a member of Parliament on the government side from Prince Edward Island.

I might say as well that Larry Bagnell was supposed to be here. However, he chairs the Board of Internal Economy in Ottawa, and there is what's known in Ottawa as a filibuster, so he has to be there to chair that meeting. It's too bad for Larry that he is not able to be here.

We'll start with Mr. McLeod.

9 a.m.


Michael McLeod Liberal Northwest Territories, NT

Good morning. My name is Michael McLeod. I'm your neighbour from the Northwest Territories. Welcome.

9 a.m.

Kim Rudd Northumberland—Peterborough South, Lib.

Good morning. Thank you for coming. I'm Kim Rudd, the member of Parliament for Northumberland—Peterborough South. For context, that's in a rural riding in southeastern Ontario.

9 a.m.


Peter Julian NDP New Westminster—Burnaby, BC

My name is Peter Julian. I am vice-chair of the committee and I represent the New Democratic Party of Canada.

My riding of New Westminster—Burnaby is in the traditional territory of the Qayqayt First Nation and the Coast Salish peoples on the coast of British Columbia.

It's always good to be back in the Yukon.

9 a.m.


Matt Jeneroux Conservative Edmonton Riverbend, AB

I'm Matt Jeneroux, member of Parliament from Edmonton.

9 a.m.


Pat Kelly Conservative Calgary Rocky Ridge, AB

I'm Pat Kelly, the member of Parliament for Calgary Rocky Ridge and opposition in the Conservative caucus.

9 a.m.


The Chair Liberal Wayne Easter

Thank you, all.

Again, welcome. I believe the first one up is Karen Barnes with Yukon College. Peter Johnston is in a “supporting role”, as it says here, with the Council of Yukon First Nations.

The floor is yours, Karen.

9 a.m.

Dr. Karen Barnes President and Vice-Chancellor, Yukon College

Thank you, Mr. Chair and committee members.

I want to open by acknowledging that we are convening on the traditional territories of the Kwanlin Dün First Nation and the Ta'an Kwäch'än Council. I'd like to thank the committee members for coming to Whitehorse to hear our story and the stories of all Yukoners as you help to construct the next federal budget.

My name is Karen Barnes. I am president and vice-chancellor of Yukon College, soon to be Yukon University, or, as we like to call it, “Yukon U”. I'm honoured to introduce Grand Chief Peter Johnston, who leads the Council of Yukon First Nations, the organization that set in motion the modern treaty process with the delivery of the landmark report “Together Today for Our Children Tomorrow” to Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau more than 45 years ago. Chief Johnston is here to demonstrate support for Yukon U and is available to answer any questions.

To get straight to the point, we are here today to request that you, the finance committee, recommend to the Minister of Finance and the Prime Minister that budget 2019 include $21.5 million for the construction of a science building at Yukon University, Canada's first university north of 60.

Here's why this federal funding matters. The new Yukon University will be a hybrid institution that will offer students made-in-the-north degrees, diplomas, certificates, trades, and academic upgrading, all designed to offer a pathway for northerners and all Canadians to pursue an education that is relevant to the place we call home. The people of the north and the businesses that employ northerners simply can't wait any longer.

Yukon College has been educating students for 50 years with an award-winning track record of success that reflects three pillars: indigenous self-determination, climate change research and sustainable resource development. We offer students an education that is consistent with our local and national values. Becoming a university does not just happen overnight, but we are ready. Yukon College has spent the last decade establishing the capacity, governance structures and external accreditations to enable our transition to a university. We have met the same rigorous quality assurance standards that every other university in Canada meets. We have developed curriculum and degrees built on northern values, and we are part of the University of the Arctic, in fact a founding member. I am very proud to say that this fall the first cohort of students entered the Bachelor of Arts in indigenous governance program, which is the first stand-alone degree program at Yukon U. Next year, we will launch a Bachelor of Arts in northern business administration, which will offer a uniquely northern perspective on business and entrepreneurship.

The final step in the governance process is charter legislation from the territorial government. The Yukon government has begun consultation on this legislation, with the commitment that it will be passed by spring 2020, in time for our first Yukon U graduates to receive their degrees, and marking the moment Canada joins every other circumpolar nation in the world with its own truly northern university.

Of course, as we all know, growing from a college to a university takes more than establishing governance structures. You also need to have the physical structures and facilities to foster learning. Yukon University requires significant investment in capital construction, upgrades, and student-centred investment. Through our foundation, we have launched a $65-million fundraising campaign targeted largely at private sector donors, but we also need federal funding to meet our goals.

As I mentioned at the outset, and as outlined in our pre-budget submission, we are seeking a $21.5-million investment from the Government of Canada in budget 2019 to help us build a new science building. We call it the “Knowledge Building”, where traditional knowledge and scientific research will come together. This investment by the Government of Canada would provide a permanent demonstration of Canada's commitment to reconciliation, competitiveness, inclusive economic growth, responsible resource development, climate change adaptation, fostering innovation, and Arctic strategy.

Our overall fundraising campaign will be focused on other facilities: a new gateway building to create culturally appropriate gathering spaces for students and visitors, and to provide classroom space for our new Institute of Indigenous Self-Determination. A third building, the student hub, will serve students while celebrating and acknowledging the cultures of the two first nations whose land this campus sits on. Given our northern reality and the changing face of post-secondary education delivery in this country, we will also be raising funds to implement a robust distance-learning infrastructure to connect students living across the north. Every Yukon U capital project will create short- and medium-term jobs in the Yukon, offering local businesses procurement and business development opportunities and establishing legacy buildings that all Canadians can take pride in.

What would make an investment in Yukon University unique is that we will also be investing in the next generation of leaders who will help the north transition to a truly self-sustaining region of this country, because that's really what our transition is about: building a future that northerners and all Canadians can be proud of.

As you prepare your report on these hearings, we hope that you will recommend this $21.5-million federal investment into Yukon U. It would be a lasting and concrete example of the Government of Canada's belief in the future of our northern people and of the Yukon.

While you are here in Whitehorse, I'd like to invite you to take a short drive down the road and tour our campus, meet our students, see the amazing research, and experience first-hand the success that will soon be Yukon University.

With that, I would like to close my comments. Thank you.

9:05 a.m.


The Chair Liberal Wayne Easter

Thank you very much.

We'll turn to the Dechinta Centre for Research and Learning, with Ms. Lafferty and Ms. Wrightson.

9:05 a.m.

Catherine Lafferty Director, Community Development and Indigenous Education, Dechinta Centre Research & Learning


Thank you for having us here today.

Dechinta has been filling the post-secondary education gap in the NWT for the past decade. Dechinta offers quality-assured accreditation in indigenous studies taught by elder professors, indigenous faculty and community bush guides. Dechinta is the only fully accredited land-based program in Canada and the world. Dechinta offers accessible admission for individuals who need it most.

The NWT has one of the highest dropout rates in the country. Dechinta is able to provide a solution to this problem by implementing transition programs for students. The majority of our students are women. This is largely because women are able to bring their children with them to Dechinta. This reduces barriers to education for single mothers who are unable to afford child care. It is proven that when indigenous women hold degrees, unemployment rates decrease drastically. Supporting women who are actively pursuing higher education supports everyone in the community.

At this time, we are able to host two semesters per year, with an average of 12 students per semester, not including the children who attend our KidsU Chekoa program, which provides children with confidence in the classroom and on the land. Dechinta would like to offer multiple concurrent semesters in all regions of the NWT year-round, but it is difficult for us to do this important work because we do not have the funds available to us. To offer continuity for our students, we require funding.

Dechinta has unanimous support from the indigenous leaders of the north. Also, we recently conducted a poll asking whether or not residents of the north felt that a land-based university was an important component of education in the NWT, and 100% of respondents agreed that it was crucial to the north.

Dechinta is not just a job for me. It is something that I strongly believe in. I was once a young single mother wanting to go back to school, but I had to leave the north, and that was a very hard choice for me to make. I almost didn't go. If Dechinta had been around when I first set out on my educational pursuits, there is no doubt that I would have been a student there. I wouldn't have had to uproot my children and my life to go down south for higher education, which was very difficult to do, with very little support.

Dechinta is life-changing. Every student I've seen come through this program has transformed into the best version of themselves. It needs this government's support now more than ever.

9:10 a.m.

Kelsey Wrightson Director, Policy and Programs, Dechinta Centre Research & Learning

In the last three years, Dechinta received funding from INAC as part of the post-secondary partnerships program. With this support, Dechinta was able to develop and deliver programming in the Dehcho and Peel river basins in the Sahtu region and to begin conversations about the regional implementation of program development.

This also allowed Dechinta to develop and deliver the first certificate in land and community-based research, in partnership with the University of British Columbia. Both the University of British Columbia and the University of Alberta are our long-term partners, and they have contributed significant in-kind contributions to our programming, demonstrating that there is national interest in supporting indigenous education that is rooted in a commitment to lands and to communities.

After 10 years of successful program delivery, Dechinta is positioning to expand both our research and our programming. However, changes in our funding have threatened our ability to continue to support our students.

With only $5 million annually for the next five years, Dechinta can create over 150 northern jobs, the majority of which will be in rural and small communities. This would also allow us to continue expansion of programming to meet the demands of northern students across the region, increase student enrolment across Canada, and respond to increasing demands across sectors for indigenous-led research and innovation, leveraging further funds for economic growth.

Indigenous knowledge systems are increasingly leading in the fields of environmental studies, geography, sustainable economies and climate-based science, while also innovating in the fields of law, philosophy, education and health. The potential is right here to build an economy that reflects the strength of northern peoples and provides communities and individuals diverse employment opportunities to support indigenous innovation and their connection to culture and communities.

Without stable funding, it's impossible for students to plan for their future and for post-secondary success.

The United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, the final report from the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples from 1996, and numerous articles in the TRC calls to action support education, language and cultural programming that are led by indigenous people. If we are to uphold these obligations, it's imperative that the government support indigenous peoples to develop and deliver their own programming.

Dechinta supports indigenous students to connect to their communities, culture and law, and enables non-indigenous students to learn how to effectively and respectfully live, work and collaborate with indigenous nations and communities.

Dechinta is truly reconciliation put into action.


9:10 a.m.


The Chair Liberal Wayne Easter

Thanks very much, both of you.

From the Mental Health Association of Yukon, we have Mr. Schultz and Ms. Tasane.

9:10 a.m.

Nathan Schultz Chair, Mental Health Association of Yukon

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

I'd like to start by acknowledging that we're meeting on the traditional territory of the Ta'an Kwäch'än and Kwanlin Dün first nations.

I'm here today with Tiffanie Tasane.

The Mental Health Association is a Yukon not-for-profit organization dedicated to reducing the stigma of mental illness, increasing partnership and collaboration among stakeholders engaged in promoting mental health, and providing education, awareness, advocacy and support services. We aim to support the specific mental health needs of Yukoners, so that all Yukoners have opportunities to enhance their ability to embrace life and deal with day-to-day challenges.

In partnership with first nations, the Yukon government, and national organizations such as the Canadian Mental Health Association and the Mental Health Commission of Canada, we have positioned ourselves to support capacity-building throughout the territory. Through the delivery of programs such as Living Life to the Full and Mental Health Works, MHAY has both enhanced the map of available services in the territory and further contributed to the mental health literacy of Yukoners.

We're pleased to observe the growing national awareness of the ubiquity of mental illness and the significant impact it can have at the individual family and community level. Corporate initiatives such as the Bell Let's Talk program, provincial and territorial mental health strategies, and recent federal—

9:10 a.m.


The Chair Liberal Wayne Easter

Could I ask you to slow down a bit? They're trying to keep up with you in the interpretation booth.

9:10 a.m.

Chair, Mental Health Association of Yukon

Nathan Schultz

Can you tell I'm nervous?

9:10 a.m.


Oh, oh!

9:10 a.m.


The Chair Liberal Wayne Easter

We're not so pressed for time today because we have only five members on the panel instead of six.

9:10 a.m.

Chair, Mental Health Association of Yukon

Nathan Schultz

Corporate initiatives such as Bell Let's Talk, provincial and territorial mental health strategies, and recent federal funding commitments have signalled that Canadians are paddling together in the right direction when it comes to improving health outcomes.

As we meet today to discuss Canada's economic competitiveness, we'd like to draw upon that awareness and emphasize that at the family and individual level, it's indisputable that mental wellness is a foundation upon which most measures of individual success are built. As is the case with physical illness, the burden of mental illness on individual functioning, especially mental illness couched in traumatic experience, is well documented. On these grounds, we believe that the federal government's obligation to budget for mental health funding priorities is a moral one.

That said, there's a lot of evidence to make a strong economic case for supporting mental health as well. The Mental Health Commission of Canada estimates that the economic cost of mental health problems in 2011 was nearly $50 billion. Further, they estimate that mental health issues have a $6-billion impact on productivity through absenteeism and presenteeism.

Therefore, we urge the committee to give strong consideration to the recommendations that have been put forth by the Canadian Alliance on Mental Illness and Mental Health, specifically the recommendation to increase mental health funding so that it accounts for 9% of public health spending. That would be up from 7.2% in the previous commitment, and it equates to $777.5 million annually.

Further, the Mental Health Association recognizes that Canada's indigenous population is one of the fastest-growing demographic groups, which saw a 42.5% increase from 2006 to 2016. The indigenous population accounts for nearly 5% of the total population, and indigenous people tend to have significantly lower socio-economic well-being than other Canadians. Therefore, MHAY encourages the committee to give consideration to the aboriginal education funding priorities that were outlined in the brief presented by the Assembly of First Nations.

Thank you.

9:15 a.m.


The Chair Liberal Wayne Easter

Thank you very much, Nathan.

We now turn to Nunavut Resources Corporation, with Mr. Northey, chief operating officer; and Mr. Duxbury, adviser.