Evidence of meeting #13 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 fnfa.

A recording is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

Ernie Daniels  President and Chief Executive Officer, First Nations Finance Authority
Herbert Lehr  President, Metis Settlements General Council
Jonathan Huntington  Vice-President, Sustainability and Stakeholder Relations, Cameco Corporation
Dale Austin  Manager, Federal and Provincial Government Relations, Cameco Corporation
Steve Berna  Chief Operating Officer, First Nations Finance Authority

5 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Bob Bratina

I'm going to call this meeting to order.

Welcome to meeting number 13 of the House of Commons Standing Committee on Indigenous and Northern Affairs. I would like to start by acknowledging that I am joining you today from the traditional territory of the Haudenosaunee, Anishinabe and Chonnonton nations.

Pursuant to the order of reference of April 20, 2020, the committee is meeting for the purpose of receiving evidence concerning matters related to the government’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Today’s meeting is taking place by video conference, and the proceedings will be made available via the House of Commons website. During this meeting, the webcast will always show the person speaking, rather than the entirety of the committee.

In order to facilitate the work of our interpreters and ensure an orderly meeting, I would like to outline a few rules to follow.

Interpretation in this video conference will work very much like in a regular committee meeting. You have the choice, at the bottom of your screen, of the floor, English or French icon. In order to resolve the sound issues raised in recent virtual committee meetings and ensure clear audio transmission, we ask those who wish to speak during the meeting to set their interpretation language as follows: If speaking in English, please ensure you are on the English channel, and if speaking in French, please ensure you are on the French channel. As you are speaking, if you plan to alternate from one language to the other, you will also need to switch the interpretation channel so it aligns with the language you are speaking. You may want to allow for a short pause when switching languages.

Before speaking, please wait until I recognize you by name. When you are ready to speak, you can either click on the microphone icon to activate your mike, or you can hold down the space bar while you are speaking. When you release the bar, your microphone will mute, just like a walkie-talkie.

This is a reminder that all comments by members and witnesses should be addressed through the chair. Should members need to request the floor outside of their designated time for questions, they should activate their microphone and state that they have a point of order. If a member wishes to intervene on a point of order that has been raised by another member, they should use the “Raise hand” function. This will signal to the chair your interest in speaking. To do so, click on “Participants”, which is to the left at the bottom of the screen, next to the interpretation icon. When the list pops up, you will see next to your name that you can click “Raise hand”.

When speaking, please speak slowly and clearly. When you are not speaking, your mike should be on mute. The use of headsets is strongly encouraged. If you have earbuds with a microphone, please hold the microphone near your mouth when you are speaking to boost the sound quality for our interpreters.

Should any technical challenges arise, for example in relation to interpretation or if you are accidentally disconnected, please advise the chair or the clerk immediately, and the technical team will work [Technical difficulty—Editor]. Please note that we may need to suspend during these times as we need to ensure all members are able to participate fully.

Before we get started, can everyone click on their screen, in the top right-hand corner, and ensure they are on gallery view? With this view, you should be able to see all of the participants in a grid view. It will ensure that all video participants can see one another.

During this meeting, we will follow the same rules that usually apply to opening statements and the rounds for questioning of witnesses during our regular meetings. Each witness will have up to five minutes for an opening statement, followed by the usual rounds of questions from members. I'll be fairly tough on the time limits so we can ensure that our round of questioning goes to its fullest extent and no one is missed.

Now, before we welcome our witnesses, I would like to draw members' attention to a procedural issue arising from the committee’s last meeting. As you'll recall, at the end of the meeting on Friday, May 29, Mr. Schmale moved a motion to invite the Wet’suwet’en elected chiefs to appear before the committee with regard to its study of the government’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The motion was defeated by a show of hands. Pursuant to the order of the House from May 26, 2020, while meeting by video conference, motions should be decided by way of a recorded vote. As the matter was not decided in accordance with the order from the House, I would like to declare now the results of the motion null and void and put the decision before the committee once again, to be decided by way of a recorded vote.

The question is on the motion moved by Jamie Schmale on Friday, May 29:

That, with respect to the Committee’s study of the government’s response to the COVID-19 Pandemic, the committee invite the Wet’suwet’en elected Chiefs, specifically, Chief Rosemarie Skin, Skin Tyee Nation, Chief Dan George, Burns Lake Band (Ts’il Kaz Koh) First Nation, Chief Maureen Luggi, Wet’suwet’en First Nation, Chief Patricia Prince, Nee Tahi Buhn Indian Band, Hereditary Chief Herb Naziel, Hereditary Chief, Gary Naziel, Hereditary Chief Theresa Tait-Day, and others as required to provide testimony on how the COVID-19 pandemic has affected their ability to enter into open and transparent negotiations regarding land rights and title with the federal government.

We will now proceed to the taking of the recorded division.

(Motion negatived: nays 7; yeas 4)

In light of that, I declare the motion defeated.

It's time to welcome the witnesses on our panel today: from First Nations Finance Authority, Ernie Daniels, president and chief executive officer, and Steve Berna, chief operating officer; from Metis Settlements General Council, Herbert Wayne Lehr, president; and from Cameco Corporation, Jonathan Huntington, vice-president of sustainability and stakeholder relations, and Dale Austin, manager, federal and provincial government relations.

Mr. Daniels, you are up first. You have five minutes to present testimony. Please go ahead.

5:10 p.m.

Ernie Daniels President and Chief Executive Officer, First Nations Finance Authority

Thank you for the invitation. We are calling you from the Westbank First Nation Reserve.

The FNFA was created in 2005 under the First Nations Fiscal Management Act, with all-party support. We are a not-for-profit Canada-wide pooled borrowing institution with direct access to the institutional capital markets. We have two investment-grade credit ratings with Moody's and S&P, and we were recently upgraded two notches by Moody's to Aa3 stable. FNFA's rates now parallel Toronto's low rates, meaning that FNFA loan dollars go farther.

FNFA is mandated to issue loans to qualifying first nation governments, not individuals, who choose to support these loans by using their own sourced revenue, including business revenues. Loan terms can match asset life of up to 30 years.

Since 2012, the FNFA has had 103 borrowing members across eight provinces and one territory. Sixty-three first nations have obtained $900 million in long-term financing, resulting in 9,000 jobs created and a money multiplier effect of $1.8 billion. FNFA loans have translated into new housing units, schools, energy projects, wellness centres, infrastructure and economic development.

These are unprecedented times. The induced economic coma of COVID-19 is affecting all FNFA borrowers. Clearly, the risk management and credit enhancement features of the FNFA did not contemplate an economic crisis as potentially catastrophic as COVID-19. Most important, it did not contemplate a substantial number of borrowing members being in financial stress all at the same time, with material changes to revenue streams. For example, one first nation reported a loss of $200 million in revenue and laid off 890 employees. A second first nation's business has lost $2 million and laid off 45 workers. For some first nations, there will be a delayed impact, meaning that they will not feel the negative revenue impact until fiscal year 2021-22, when their revenue-sharing agreements are recalculated based on usage in 2020.

Today we are proposing that Canada support our recommendations, which focus on the needed financial relief options and economic rebound. FNFA, through its member first nations, can be a part of this rebound.

Number one is to establish an emergency fund. The FNFA was modelled after the Municipal Finance Authority of British Columbia, which has a special fund to manage unplanned emergencies. This emergency fund would allow ongoing liquidity of the FNFA, including short-term financing to borrowing members to meet immediate borrowing obligations through the FNFA that cannot be met because of the COVID-19 crisis.

Number two is to implement a commercial paper program. The Canadian commercial paper market is a key source of short-term financing to support the ongoing needs of a wide range of firms and public authorities. Ideally, for the FNFA to raise money to meet first nations' financing requirements, the FNFA would have to have its own commercial paper program. This could tie into the recently announced COVID-19 commercial paper purchase program. The Bank of Canada would buy FNFA paper and earn the stipulated interest rate to act as a buyer of last resort. This would ensure access to funding and economic growth in communities.

Number three is to support monetization. We would also propose that Canada work with FNFA to create an alternative financing program with a long-term commitment that supports the acceleration of community infrastructure on first nation lands and increases economic community development. FNFA's role would be to raise financing to help fund these projects. Repayment of such financing would be by Canada, through an agreement. The advantages of this innovative approach to financing housing and infrastructure are obvious: more housing and infrastructure can be built to meet today's needs. Monetization allows financing to be spread over and to support all phases of the assets' life cycles, which currently does not occur. Also, first nations capacity, institutions and accountability would be strengthened through certification by the First Nations Financial Management Board and the requirements of FNFA's borrowing structure, the rating agencies and capital markets.

Number four is to support shovel-ready projects that would support the implementation of monetization and further kick-start Canada's economy. Through stimulus funding, the FNFA has compiled a list of shovel-ready infrastructure projects from 28 first nations in the amount of $540 million, which would create approximately 5,800 jobs. We expect more projects to be submitted.

5:15 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Bob Bratina

You're out of time, Mr. Daniels. Hold the rest of your information. If we don't get it in by the end of our rounds of questioning, you can certainly submit by letter to our clerks anything that you feel was missed.

Right now we'll move on to a five-minute presentation by Mr. Herb Lehr from the Metis Settlements General Council.

5:15 p.m.

Herbert Lehr President, Metis Settlements General Council

[Witness spoke in Cree]

[English]

I call on my father God to guide me.

Thank you, Honourable Chair Bratina and members of the standing committee.

I'm honoured to testify today on behalf of the Metis Settlements and the MSGC regarding our response to COVID-19 and its impacts on our communities and businesses. It is my pleasure to see many familiar faces here today.

Many of you may know already a bit about our hidden treasures, our beautiful Metis Settlements, but for those who do not, allow me a moment to explain. In 1938, His Majesty King George VI set lands aside for Métis people in Alberta by an act of the provincial legislature. Eight of these parcels of land remain and are today the only collectively held Métis lands in Canada. They are represented by the Metis Settlement General Council, of which I am the elected president. It is important to note that the MSGC is not a member of the Métis National Council or the Métis Nation of Alberta.

COVID-19 has challenged our Metis Settlements as it has the entire country. We acted quickly to ensure that the Metis Settlements had resources on the ground to enact local emergency plans to keep settlement members safe at home and physically distant. Sadly, we've had three elders pass from COVID-19 so far.

We've been able to obtain personal protective equipment, including masks, face shields, gloves and gowns from Alberta Health Services, with additional federal support received from the COVID-19 indigenous community support fund. We are grateful for this support, and it will help save lives. I was pleased that Minister Bennett reached out personally to ensure that our Metis Settlements would be included in the indigenous community support fund and not forgotten.

At the same time, our settlements are confronted with exceptionally difficult economic circumstances in Alberta, including the collapse of the price of oil. This has resulted in an approximately 80% unemployment rate in our communities.

The current economic situation in Alberta has required settlements to increase the mill rates over the past two years by an average of 130% to 250%, driving companies away while our communities struggle to keep the lights on. Additionally, approximately 75% of resource development businesses in Metis Settlements have become or will become financially insolvent. The problem is only getting worse. Recently, Alberta has also placed an acquisition moratorium on oil and gas.

Regarding our Metis Settlements' businesses experience with the recent COVID-19 federal supports, they are currently accessing the Canada emergency business account and are eagerly awaiting a response. Additionally, we are hearing reports that most settlement business owners do not qualify for the other COVID-19 business programs announced, such as the Canada emergency wage subsidy or the Canada emergency commercial rent assistance. As well, our communities have a very low Metis Settlements participation in the new federal-provincial site rehabilitation program at this time.

While our intent is to always have financial sustainability, we find ourselves with a dwindling economy, depleted revenues from our resource sector and a province that is financially unable to assist.

Mr. Chair and members, the bottom line for the Metis Settlements is this: Should economic instability and lack of stable revenue sources continue, insolvency will darken our doorway in less than 24 months.

In order to ensure that we can continue delivering essential services across all of our settlements, MSGC requires immediate and longer-term support. We are currently working with the Government of Canada and Minister Bennett on a three-year stopgap measure of approximately $50 million per year, but the process has been delayed due to COVID-19.

We have prepared and submitted an appropriate business case to support this ask, but time is extremely short, and the twelfth hour of financial crisis is upon us. We do not want to fall between the cracks, and we need your support.

Mr. Chair, I would be pleased to take any questions the members of this committee have.

Thank you again, honourable members, for listening to our testimony, and thank you in advance for your support and understanding.

[Witness spoke in Cree]

[English]

Any remaining time I yield to Chair Bratina.

5:20 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Bob Bratina

Thank you very much. That was a great presentation.

We now move on to our third presenter. From the Cameco Corporation, we have vice-president of sustainability and stakeholder relations, Mr. Jonathan Huntington.

Please go ahead for five minutes.

5:20 p.m.

Jonathan Huntington Vice-President, Sustainability and Stakeholder Relations, Cameco Corporation

Thank you.

Good afternoon. We appreciate the opportunity to speak with you today.

Cameco is headquartered in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan and is one of the world's largest producers of uranium for nuclear energy. The vast majority of this uranium, of course, comes from our extensive mining and milling operations in northern Saskatchewan. Cameco also owns refining, conversion and fuel fabrication facilities in Ontario that are part of the global nuclear fuel cycle. Uranium powers one in every 10 homes in Canada and one in every 23 homes in the United States.

Cameco is also one of the largest employers of indigenous people in Canada. Our success depends on the long-term positive partnerships we have built with first nation and Métis communities where we operate, particularly in the northern part of our province of Saskatchewan. Our indigenous partnerships are examples of the win-win benefits that can be achieved when a company and communities work together. These strong relationships and this trust, built over decades, help us respond with communities in times of crisis.

Our response to the pandemic was guided by ongoing dialogue with indigenous chiefs, along with community leaders and public health officials. It became very clear early in the pandemic that our partner communities in northern Saskatchewan were in need of significant assistance, so in April we established a $1-million COVID-19 relief fund to provide assistance in Saskatoon and northern Saskatchewan. We granted money to more than 67 different community projects in more than 40 different communities, totalling $1 million. We also shipped more than 1,000 care packages and PPE to northern indigenous communities in our province. Unfortunately, it did not come close to meeting the demand. We received an overwhelming number of requests: 581 applications for more than $17 million in funding.

To be clear, COVID-19 has also hit us at Cameco. We put our Cigar Lake mine, our only and last remaining uranium mining facility in Saskatchewan, and a portion of our Ontario operations into care and maintenance. This action was taken in collaboration with our partner communities to protect the health and safety of both our employees and those in our neighbouring communities. Unfortunately, production remains suspended at Cigar Lake.

Despite these incredibly difficult operating decisions, which have essentially resulted in zero Canadian production for us, Cameco has not laid off any employees during this shutdown. The majority of the Cigar Lake employees sit at home right now receiving 75% pay, entirely paid for by Cameco. We have hundreds of corporate office employees who are also at home receiving 100% pay from Cameco.

Our mines and mills require a healthy supply chain in order to operate. Roughly 80% of the goods and services used at Cameco's operations, which total almost $4 billion over the last decade or so, are procured from northern and indigenous businesses. This supply chain includes airline partners to shuttle contractors and employees to site, contractors to deliver goods and services to our sites, and communities to draw workers from.

Even though our operations in the north are in care and maintenance, our northern business partners need to remain financially and operationally viable in order to be available when this pandemic subsides and we return to uranium production. Governments can help ensure that the supply chain is active by investing in northern infrastructure projects to keep these businesses going and their workers employed.

We're really happy to see the federal and provincial governments come together to fund phase 1 of the Wollaston Lake road, but the transition to full economic recovery is going to take a lot more. We are therefore supporting three shovel-ready infrastructure projects put forward by our northern indigenous communities. They include Hatchet Lake first nation, which is proposing phase 1(b), phase 2 and phase 3 of the Wollaston Lake road; Fond du Lac first nation, which is proposing widening and lengthening its airstrip; and English River First Nation, which is proposing a recreation complex near Saskatoon.

Our northern air carriers have also been hit hard through this, yet they are vital to our industry and to the communities they serve. We are therefore asking the federal government to consider extending the $17 million in funding it is giving to air carriers north of 60 to also include those air carriers that are primarily operating in the northern parts of provinces.

In conclusion, we're making three recommendations to this committee. Number one, we recommend that the committee recognize the opportunities that exist in northern and indigenous businesses and consider the economic impacts to our business if these northern businesses fail during COVID-19. We also ask the committee to advocate for infrastructure investments that support northern and indigenous-owned businesses, including the three shovel-ready projects we just mentioned. Finally, we recommend that the committee support expanding federal assistance to air carriers operating in the northern parts of provinces.

Thank you, Mr. Chair. We look forward to your questions.

5:25 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Bob Bratina

Thank you very much, Mr. Huntington.

Thanks to all our witnesses.

We'll go to the first round of questioning, which is six minutes. On my list for the first round I have Mr. Vidal, Mr. Battiste, Madame Bérubé and Ms. McPherson.

Gary Vidal, you have the floor for six minutes.

5:25 p.m.

Conservative

Gary Vidal Conservative Desnethé—Missinippi—Churchill River, SK

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

As usual, I want to thank all our witnesses for appearing today. We have a tremendous panel of witnesses today. I was going to ask the chair if he would grant me six minutes for each of the witnesses this afternoon as I start out, instead of just one six-minute round, but I'm thinking he probably won't give me that privilege. I'd better get going here.

To the Cameco folks, I'll start my questions with you. You are directly in my riding and are doing a lot of great work in my riding. As your presentation today identified, you initiated a $1-million COVID relief fund. Your commitment to making the right decisions for the people you serve, for the people you employ, for the contractors and the impact on their communities—that's quite a great show of corporate social responsibility that you've done in northern Saskatchewan. On behalf of our people, I want to, first of all, thank you for that.

I do have a few questions for you. You talked about the level of indigenous employment engaged by your company in northern Saskatchewan. I'm wondering if you would just expand on that a little bit. You said it's very significant. Give me some numbers. Give me a sense of the impact of that in my riding in northern Saskatchewan. How many people are we talking about, first of all?

5:25 p.m.

Vice-President, Sustainability and Stakeholder Relations, Cameco Corporation

Jonathan Huntington

Thanks, Gary, for your question.

When we're fully operating, we are Canada's largest industrial employer of indigenous people. The last yearly stats we have show that the uranium mining industry in Saskatchewan employed, through full-time employees and contractors, more than 1,800 people. Salaries total more than $290 million for one year. That gives a sense of our employment scope.

In terms of goods and services and procurement, as we mentioned in our presentation, we procured more that $4 billion in goods and services over the last decade or so. The last yearly stats we have show that $378 million in goods and services were procured by the uranium mining industry in northern Saskatchewan. That gives a sense of the scope you're looking at in northern Saskatchewan.

Obviously, we're very proud of our partnerships with our northern communities. It's a win-win.

5:25 p.m.

Conservative

Gary Vidal Conservative Desnethé—Missinippi—Churchill River, SK

Based on your knowledge of the magnitude of the numbers you're talking about, can I get you to speak a little bit on the impact you think this has on some of those northern communities? As the MP for that riding, I guess I would preface that by saying that there aren't hundreds of employers in the far north creating those kind of job opportunities and having that kind of impact in northern ridings like mine. Perhaps you could speak briefly to the impact that has in those remote communities in northern Saskatchewan.

5:30 p.m.

Vice-President, Sustainability and Stakeholder Relations, Cameco Corporation

Jonathan Huntington

Certainly, the uranium mining industry is a big player in northern Saskatchewan. We're fortunate to have those great partnerships with the northern communities. We've been operating for more than 30 years.

I can give you what is a clear example, I hope, of the importance of both the uranium mining industry and the partnership back and forth. The Athabasca basin, which of course is in your riding, just yesterday started to open itself for business in Fond du Lac, Black Lake, Stony Rapids, etc., and already we're hearing from northern chiefs who want to have an open dialogue with us on what restarting Cigar Lake might look like. We don't have a firm timeline yet of when Cigar Lake will reopen for uranium mining, but it shows that those leaders, in their first day of carefully reopening their communities, want to speak with us about what that restart might look like.

It's gone a further step today, Gary, because now Prince Albert Grand Council wants to have a conversation with us about it. I think we're all partners in this together, but the biggest thing we want to look at is making sure that we protect these communities.

5:30 p.m.

Conservative

Gary Vidal Conservative Desnethé—Missinippi—Churchill River, SK

I think it speaks volumes that those community leaders are reaching out to you. It speaks volumes about the impact you're having in those communities. Thank you for that.

Mr. Austin, you reached out to me in early April about the struggle Cameco was having in accessing the CEWS program. I would like you to explain to this committee, if you did qualify.... I don't think you did, but explain why you didn't and the impact that's having on Cameco as a company. Obviously, you've done some great things, but I would like you to speak about your inability to maybe access some of those programs, such as the CEWS program.

5:30 p.m.

Dale Austin Manager, Federal and Provincial Government Relations, Cameco Corporation

Thank you very much.

Yes, that is true. We have been looking very carefully at whether or not we can access the emergency wage subsidy program, and it looks like in some months we qualify and in others we don't. We're waiting for clarification from the Canada Revenue Agency on exactly what the eligibility requirements look like.

In effect, the 30% revenue drop year over year is a pretty large hurdle to meet, and the cliff you fall off in terms of a yes/no decision is also a very steep one. We are in conversation with Department of Finance officials and others about the potential for graduated or proportional access to that program so that it is not a yes/no decision.

As Mr. Huntington described in his presentation, Cameco is currently keeping all of our employees on the payroll. We will do that for as long as we can. However, there may come a time when we need to access the emergency wage subsidy program. We're hoping that because of the nature of our business and our need to deliver into contracts for nuclear power worldwide, which keeps our revenue stream fairly stable, we'll be able to find a way to access that program.

5:30 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Bob Bratina

We're at time there. Thank you very much.

I have a message from the clerk that Mr. van Koeverden is next.

I have Mr. Battiste on the line.

5:30 p.m.

Liberal

Adam van Koeverden Liberal Milton, ON

It is Mr. Battiste.

5:30 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Bob Bratina

Jaime, please go ahead. You have six minutes.

5:30 p.m.

Liberal

Jaime Battiste Liberal Sydney—Victoria, NS

I want to give Mr. Daniels a chance to finish his speech. He ran out of time.

If you could just conclude in a minute or less, so I can get to the questions, that would be appreciated.

5:30 p.m.

President and Chief Executive Officer, First Nations Finance Authority

Ernie Daniels

Thank you.

I was about to say thank you because I was pretty well finished.

I just had a sentence about projecting that if more first nations came forward with shovel-ready projects.... Of the 63 borrowing members, we estimated that 60 would come forward, and we estimate about $1.1 billion in projects that would create 12,500 jobs.

Thank you.

5:35 p.m.

Liberal

Jaime Battiste Liberal Sydney—Victoria, NS

Okay.

I was pleased to see the announcement today that as part of our government's COVID-19 response, we will be supporting FNFA with $17.1 million for interest payment relief.

I'd like to get a sense of FNFA's role since this crisis began, the opportunities it had with funding, and what opportunities exist that we need to be looking at into the recovery phase.

5:35 p.m.

President and Chief Executive Officer, First Nations Finance Authority

Ernie Daniels

That's a very good question. Thank you, Mr. Battiste.

When COVID-19 started, it became very clear to us that a lot of our borrowing members were going to have revenue streams interrupted because of social distancing. A lot of them operate VLT lounges in their communities right across the country or are involved in some type of usage revenue streams—tobacco, gas—and with not a lot of people travelling and the rebate, this was all going to be interrupted. We took immediate action, went to our board and gave a few options to our board. By the way, our board is made up of our borrowing members. They are chiefs or councillors from each first nation that is a borrower with us, so we have strong leadership at that level.

We brought forward a plan that would help us get through this time. The board actually agreed to that and gave us the direction to deal with it as emergencies came up. What really happened was that a lot of the revenues that first nations had from their own-source revenues to service different loans were being redirected to community emergencies as needed. We worked with them carefully through that.

Now, going forward, what we see is that our borrowing members are ready to participate in kick-starting the economy. We know that Canada is going to need to do that and that there's going to be stimulus coming. The infrastructure gap in our communities is about $35 billion. This addresses a lot of things like the overcrowding and adequate water and sewer infrastructure. We see these types of projects that need to be funded immediately in the next few years should we ever come across a pandemic like this again in the future.

We feel that with the First Nations Finance Authority we have the machinery in place to utilize annual government infrastructure dollars through appropriations and to leverage that into the capital markets, thereby really making a big dent in this infrastructure gap. That's sort of what we see.

I'm going to ask my colleague Steve Berna if he wants to add anything else to that.

5:35 p.m.

Steve Berna Chief Operating Officer, First Nations Finance Authority

Thank you, Ernie.

With our 63 members having about $940 million, we've had a pretty good [Technical difficulty—Editor]. The communities are able not only to manage projects well but to plan, maintain and look after them. Part of what we're looking at is not free handouts but putting infrastructure in place that will be maintained for the useful life of the asset.

If you take a look at our loans since 2012, you can see that there are no loan defaults and no late payments. They're properly managed and there are no overruns on costs. You don't always hear the good stories, but there are many communities out there that are ready to start putting shovels in the ground now.

Thank you.

5:35 p.m.

Liberal

Jaime Battiste Liberal Sydney—Victoria, NS

How much time do I have, Mr. Chair?

5:35 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Bob Bratina

You have less than a minute—about 45 seconds.

5:35 p.m.

Liberal

Jaime Battiste Liberal Sydney—Victoria, NS

If you had 30 seconds to make your pitch on behalf of your organization for why to invest in the FNFA with some of the recovery money, what would be your best pitch?

5:35 p.m.

President and Chief Executive Officer, First Nations Finance Authority

Ernie Daniels

Well, this would allow those first nations to continue to be in good standing, and to continue to access future borrowings as they need them, to really build their economy. You have to remember that they are using their own-source revenues right now to build all this infrastructure that's going in. That $900 million is a lot of money that's gone into first nations to build that.

With our track record of success, we've issued six successive bonds, each time increasing the investor pool that is buying our debentures right now. It's international. We have investors from the U.S., Europe and Canada buying our debentures—