Evidence of meeting #12 for Indigenous and Northern Affairs in the 43rd Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament’s site, as are the minutes.) The winning word was business.

A recording is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

Tabatha Bull  President and Chief Executive Officer, Canadian Council for Aboriginal Business
Shannin Metatawabin  Chief Executive Officer, National Aboriginal Capital Corporations Association
Sébastien Michel  Member, Board of Directors, Northern Air Transport Association

12:05 p.m.

Conservative

Arnold Viersen Conservative Peace River—Westlock, AB

Okay.

I'll move on to Mr. Michel for the air transport association. How have the changes to the carbon tax affected your members? There was an increase in the carbon tax on April 1.

12:05 p.m.

Member, Board of Directors, Northern Air Transport Association

Sébastien Michel

I don't have exact numbers to give you on the immediate impact of the carbon tax at this time. For sure, this is within scope for all of our operators.

12:05 p.m.

Conservative

Arnold Viersen Conservative Peace River—Westlock, AB

Are your members raising that with you at this point?

12:05 p.m.

Member, Board of Directors, Northern Air Transport Association

Sébastien Michel

Not at this point.

12:05 p.m.

Conservative

Arnold Viersen Conservative Peace River—Westlock, AB

They're not flying anybody, so they're not burning any fuel, is what you're telling me. All right.

Are they bringing up any other issues that are tangential to COVID-19? I was having a chat with someone the other day and there was something about a navigational tool that they're changing. There's something different between the United States and Canada and they're waiting for a decision on that. Is that something that your association is bringing up as well?

12:05 p.m.

Member, Board of Directors, Northern Air Transport Association

Sébastien Michel

Navigation-wise, everything right now seems to be stable. Of course, as we all know, the impact of COVID is the same in many industries, with the lack of work and all the new rules that the airlines have to deal with. There have been so many exemptions we need to work with, so this is a bit of a burden to be able to keep operating and be compliant with actual regulations. Plus, of course, inevitably the reduced workload puts the balance in jeopardy, as I was mentioning before.

12:05 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Bob Bratina

We're at time right there, Mr. Viersen. Thank you very much.

Please go ahead, Ms. Zann, for five minutes.

12:10 p.m.

Liberal

Lenore Zann Liberal Cumberland—Colchester, NS

Thank you very much.

Greetings from the unceded territory of the Mi'kmaq here in Nova Scotia. Millbrook First Nation is right nearby. It's really good to hear all of you. Thank you so much for your presentations.

This morning the Prime Minister announced another $650 million to support first nations, Inuit and Métis communities, which I was very excited to hear. In particular, he was talking about health care, income support and new shelters for women, which is another issue that I am very passionate about, especially as the vice-chair of the women's caucus.

He mentioned that $285 million of this new funding would go to public health, and it includes procurement, which, Ms. Bull, you mentioned. Here in Truro, for instance, we have an old factory, the Stanfield's factory. It's a family-owned factory. It's over 100 years old, and it has been making underwear for that long. Stanfield's underwear is pretty famous.

Anyway, it had to close down because of the pandemic. Then it made an offer to government that it could make plastic hospital gowns and that it could work with the plastic factory here, which is also having trouble because of COVID. Now the two factories are working together to make disposable hospital gowns for PPE.

What kinds of businesses do you suggest, Ms. Bull? What kinds of things are there available that we can take forward, and that you can bring forward, and that, as Ms. Damoff mentioned, we would be happy to bring forward to government? It would be great to get first nations indigenous people helping with this very important project.

12:10 p.m.

President and Chief Executive Officer, Canadian Council for Aboriginal Business

Tabatha Bull

We have quite a few businesses that have done the same, that have been able to pivot to start to make hand sanitizer, for example. We have also seen some great partnerships with Shared Value Solutions, a business that works with quite a few communities. It has worked with a number of distillers as well, and other corporate partners, to provide hand sanitizer to a number of northern first nations in Ontario.

I have been working with Marion Crowe at First Nations Health Managers Association to provide our lists to them as well because I know that they really would like to look at indigenous suppliers able to support on-reserve health centres.

We do see businesses in all areas of PPE. Originally, the Buyandsell call came out for IT support. There are indigenous businesses in every sector across Canada, so we could really be moving forward in all of those.

I think there is a real opportunity, through the supply council and through supply for corporations, to partner with smaller indigenous businesses because it is a bit difficult for an indigenous business or some of the smaller businesses to provide 10,000 masks a week. However, I think that there is a real opportunity for funding in order to create those partnerships with large businesses including indigenous businesses in their supply chains, or some type of partnership where we could really ramp up the capability of the smaller businesses.

12:10 p.m.

Liberal

Lenore Zann Liberal Cumberland—Colchester, NS

Absolutely. I totally agree with you. It is the smaller businesses and the community-run businesses that really are the backbone of all of our little communities. I live here in rural Nova Scotia, and they are very important.

It's unfortunate about the taxation issue in the beginning when funding was rolled out, but I believe we were running by the seat of our pants in a way. We were trying to come up with new ideas on the fly to try to help everybody who was falling through the cracks. Every time we heard about someone else who didn't quite fit the mandate, we then rolled it out for them. It has been an emergency situation, as you well know.

I think that we are really trying now to take into consideration everybody across Canada. Not everybody is going to fit every single mandate, but we're trying our very best to help as many people as possible.

Thank you so much for your work. If you do want to reach out to either Ms. Damoff or myself, we would be happy to help you take forward ideas to the government about procurement or anything else.

12:10 p.m.

President and Chief Executive Officer, Canadian Council for Aboriginal Business

Tabatha Bull

Thank you.

12:10 p.m.

Liberal

Lenore Zann Liberal Cumberland—Colchester, NS

Is that—

12:10 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Bob Bratina

You're just about out of time. You have 10 seconds.

12:10 p.m.

Liberal

Lenore Zann Liberal Cumberland—Colchester, NS

I will just leave it at that for now. If any of the other gentlemen would like to reach out to us, please find my email. It's very easy to find. I would be happy to take forward your suggestions.

Thank you.

12:15 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Bob Bratina

Thanks, Ms. Zann.

Next we have a two-and-a-half-minute round of questions. The speakers I have are Ms. Michaud and Ms. Qaqqaq.

Ms. Michaud, for two and a half minutes, please go ahead.

12:15 p.m.

Bloc

Kristina Michaud Bloc Avignon—La Mitis—Matane—Matapédia, QC

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

I thank the witnesses for their testimony.

I will follow the lead of my Bloc Québécois colleague and discuss what she covered earlier with Mr. Michel.

Mr. Michel, you are saying that your operations are currently reduced by about 50%, and that it is difficult to keep your head above the water and maintain the morale. I would like to know how the federal government can help you. You say that the priority is determining how you can survive over the next few months.

How can the federal government help you?

12:15 p.m.

Member, Board of Directors, Northern Air Transport Association

Sébastien Michel

To clarify matters, I would say that the 50% reduction I talked about applies to Air Inuit, but that reduction is 100% for some of our members.

The government must slowly bring everyone back to work. Exploration and economic development projects must be brought back to the table as quickly as possible, so as to provide profitable sectors for aviation, and to support the rest of essential services and the frequency of flights in communities.

It is clear that communities' social and economic development goes through aerial work. More ad hoc aerial work will lead to more opportunities for economic and social growth in each community. Economic and social development must be maintained and stimulated on an ongoing basis. So governments must take the initiative to submit as many projects as possible.

12:15 p.m.

Bloc

Kristina Michaud Bloc Avignon—La Mitis—Matane—Matapédia, QC

Of course, service in Nunavik and the North Shore is an essential service. You are talking about the percentage decrease in your operations. Are you not worried that, following the crisis, operations will not go back to 100%?

12:15 p.m.

Member, Board of Directors, Northern Air Transport Association

Sébastien Michel

We are already afraid that they will not get back to normal. Passenger transportation will not get back to 100% after the crisis. It will take years for passenger transportation to return to its pre-COVID-19 levels.

Let's take the example of mining exploration. When there is a slowdown in that sector, or even in the tourism industry, without deconfinement in those sectors, operators will not have access to the profit margins required to provide a network that is at the same level as it used to be and to continue to develop it.

12:15 p.m.

Bloc

Kristina Michaud Bloc Avignon—La Mitis—Matane—Matapédia, QC

Does the—

12:15 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Bob Bratina

Okay, we're at the time. Thank you.

Ms. Qaqqaq, for two and a half minutes, please go ahead.

May 29th, 2020 / 12:15 p.m.

NDP

Mumilaaq Qaqqaq NDP Nunavut, NU

Thank you, Chair.

As always, a shout-out to the IT team and the interpreters. I know it's hard sometimes to make that sure we're all staying on track.

Thank you to the witnesses for being here and sharing your valuable knowledge.

I'm going to ask that the responses be kept to about a minute just because I have that time limit.

My first question concerns an area that I've had to focus on the most during COVID, namely air services to Nunavut. The airlines that serve us are our highways and ambulances, and so much more.

Mr. Michel, can you talk about why, unlike air carriers in the south, it is impossible for our air carriers to reduce their schedule when they're transporting things like fresh food and sometimes even COVID-19 tests?

12:15 p.m.

Member, Board of Directors, Northern Air Transport Association

Sébastien Michel

It would be possible to reduce the schedules, but we are working in a positive manner with our partnership and our sense of loyalty to our partners. We're trying, as much as possible, to be able to keep the frequency so that we can deliver the food. There are a lot of fresh fruits and vegetables going in every two weeks or every month.

That's part of the balance I was talking about earlier where we need to relieve the burden on the carriers by initiatives and bringing in the money margin needed to sustain the network.

12:15 p.m.

NDP

Mumilaaq Qaqqaq NDP Nunavut, NU

Thank you, Mr. Michel.

My next question is for Ms. Bull.

In Nunavut I know that the summer months are really the most profitable time of year for the tourism industry and from other travellers coming from the south to the north.

Can you talk about the long-term prospects for the industry if this summer's tourism season is lost?

12:20 p.m.

President and Chief Executive Officer, Canadian Council for Aboriginal Business

Tabatha Bull

Yes, I think we're going to lose significant businesses. As was said, this is a new opportunity in tourism for indigenous businesses and a real growth area.

I do believe that we need to find some type of stimulus to inject into those businesses to ensure that they can survive. We want to make sure that we're not going backwards due to COVID. Indigenous businesses have made great strides, including tourism, and we need to make sure they can continue. Without some type of stimulus, I don't know that they will.