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

6:40 p.m.

President and Chief Executive Officer, First Nations Finance Authority

Ernie Daniels

We do have a credit enhancement fund. As I mentioned at the beginning, certain safeguards under the act anticipated one or two first nations defaulting and going bad. With the pandemic, it could have been all of them, and it just couldn't sustain that. That's what the credit enhancement fund was established for. The emergency fund is something different.

6:40 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Bob Bratina

We need to move on. Thank you very much.

This is a two-and-a-half-minute round.

Ms. Bérubé, you have the floor.

6:40 p.m.

Bloc

Sylvie Bérubé Bloc Abitibi—Baie-James—Nunavik—Eeyou, QC

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

Mr. Huntington, I am going to go back to the question that my colleague Ms. Michaud tried to ask you.

The Prime Minister has said that, in view of the upcoming economic recovery, projects aimed at reducing Canada's dependency on fossil fuels would have priority.

Does your company see this as a great opportunity? Also, in the event of an increase in global demand for nuclear fuels, do you plan to undertake mining projects in Quebec?

6:45 p.m.

Manager, Federal and Provincial Government Relations, Cameco Corporation

Dale Austin

In our industry, the uranium mining industry, we do not see, at this time, any opportunity for uranium mining in Quebec. It's my understanding that the Government of Quebec has a moratorium on uranium mining at this time. In order for us to consider new mining operations in the province of Quebec, the Government of Quebec would have to change its position.

6:45 p.m.

Bloc

Sylvie Bérubé Bloc Abitibi—Baie-James—Nunavik—Eeyou, QC

Thank you.

What should the federal government do to support Indigenous businesses in communities with unreliable Internet connections?

6:45 p.m.

President and Chief Executive Officer, First Nations Finance Authority

Ernie Daniels

I'm not sure if that question was for me, but to me that would be a shovel-ready project. I know that where I was born and raised in the Northwest Territories, they definitely need high-speed Internet up there. I was on a Zoom call like this, and we had to use Zoom for the video and go on the telephone for the audio. It was very difficult to do.

There's a definite need to at least build that across northern Canada and the northern parts of the provinces, because more and more people will be working from home now; that's what I think.

6:45 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Bob Bratina

Ms. McPherson, you have two and a half minutes.

6:45 p.m.

NDP

Heather McPherson NDP Edmonton Strathcona, AB

Thank you so much.

I want to acknowledge what Mr. Daniels just mentioned, about making sure we have accessibility for northern Canada. My colleague is unable to join this committee today because she does not have that capacity.

Mr. Lehr, I want to follow up on a question I'd asked Mr. Huntington. When we look at the recovery from COVID-19, do you feel you've had a meaningful voice as Alberta lays out its reopening plan? Do you have any specific concerns for your communities that you don't think have been addressed by the wider provincial plan? Perhaps you could talk a bit about anything you've heard from other Métis leaders across the country as well, if they have any insight into that.

6:45 p.m.

President, Metis Settlements General Council

Herbert Lehr

We haven't had a lot of collaboration with the province on the plan itself. It's more of a paternalistic approach, to be very honest with you. That is, the act that was set out and that we deal with, the Metis Settlement Act in Alberta, is very paternalistic. The minister tells us exactly what we can and can't do and signs off on absolutely everything.

We really are an afterthought in lots of this, to be straight up. We've received more financial support from Canada than we have from the province, to be honest.

6:45 p.m.

NDP

Heather McPherson NDP Edmonton Strathcona, AB

Have you heard from other leaders across the country?

6:45 p.m.

President, Metis Settlements General Council

Herbert Lehr

We've heard a little, but not a whole lot, to be honest. As I've said before, Heather, we're not part of MNC or MNA. I have had discussions with Audrey, the president of the MNA, to make sure there was no duplication of service so we could ensure that funds were spent appropriately. They haven't had a lot of consultation provincially in Alberta. I'm not sure what other leaders have done in other provinces.

6:45 p.m.

NDP

Heather McPherson NDP Edmonton Strathcona, AB

Okay. Thank you.

I have one last question for the—

6:45 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Bob Bratina

You only have 10 seconds. I'm sorry, Ms. MacPherson.

6:45 p.m.

NDP

Heather McPherson NDP Edmonton Strathcona, AB

Oh, shoot.

New Democrats in the House are still fighting to make sure that Canada fully adopts UNDRIP, the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. Can you talk about the importance of that? That's almost an impossible task to give you at the end.

6:45 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Bob Bratina

It is, yes. We're right out of time, but perhaps we could get a written submission.

Mr. Schmale, you have five minutes.

6:45 p.m.

Conservative

Jamie Schmale Conservative Haliburton—Kawartha Lakes—Brock, ON

Thank you very much, Chair. I appreciate that.

Mr. Austin, I believe you were talking about resource development with my friend from the Bloc. I know it's specifically uranium. Do you see the regulatory environment in Canada, in regard to mining, able to secure investment and confidence within the regulatory process?

6:50 p.m.

Manager, Federal and Provincial Government Relations, Cameco Corporation

Dale Austin

Yes, one benefit of operating in a country like Canada is that we have well-known regulatory systems governed by the rule of law. People understand the rules and the processes that need to be engaged for projects to get off the ground and come to fruition. That's not to say it is an easy regulatory process, but it is certainly stable, and one that I believe most companies can operate within.

6:50 p.m.

Conservative

Jamie Schmale Conservative Haliburton—Kawartha Lakes—Brock, ON

When you start the process, if you follow the steps from the beginning, you can see light at the end of the tunnel.

6:50 p.m.

Manager, Federal and Provincial Government Relations, Cameco Corporation

Dale Austin

We haven't tried to open a project under the new regulatory system, but we certainly believe it operates as it should. We think there is a path there. Again, there are always bumps along the road, and some of those bumps might be quite high, but yes, we think there is a well-known and well-understood regulatory process in Canada.

6:50 p.m.

Conservative

Jamie Schmale Conservative Haliburton—Kawartha Lakes—Brock, ON

Okay. Thank you very much.

I want to jump back quickly to the FNFA.

We talked about the investment dollars and how they multiply because of the effect they have on investment and business, on income and that type of thing. What models are you using to look forward into attracting...?

I'm trying to word it properly. You touched earlier on the ability to secure a good credit rating so you are able to borrow at a good rate. Tell us about the portfolio and how that allows you to do that, and what your plans are in the future.

6:50 p.m.

President and Chief Executive Officer, First Nations Finance Authority

Ernie Daniels

It's a very good question.

I'll start, and then I'll turn it over quickly to Mr. Berna.

Again, we use existing revenue streams. Every time we get an increase in a rating as our borrowers increase, the amount we borrow increases also, and from there, with a good track record, we get an increase in rating, which allows us to leverage more. For instance, if a first nation is looking into a resource project, it pays a certain rate of return, and every time we reduce our credit rating, it's more of a return for them.

6:50 p.m.

Chief Operating Officer, First Nations Finance Authority

Steve Berna

There are 300 first nations, which are half of the communities in all of Canada that are attached to our act. Of those 300, 103 have been awarded FNFA membership. There are another 197 to go, so the amount of monies we will likely be borrowing in the future will be increasing, which means that the impact on their economies and the towns and cities around them will also increase.

Part of our credit rating of Aa3 with Moody's and A+ with Standard and Poor's is followed by a word. The word in both cases right now is “stable”, which is a future indicator of where the rating agencies think we will be next year, the following year and the following year. In order to keep that “stable” word, we're going to have to make sure that we have the safeguards and our clients have the revenue streams in place to ensure that their coverage of the loan payments continues into the future.

As we grow, we want to make sure our safeguards are solid and stable to allow that growth to continue, which should help the Canadian economy in general.

6:50 p.m.

Conservative

Jamie Schmale Conservative Haliburton—Kawartha Lakes—Brock, ON

As you choose to attract other communities into your management system, that's just an ongoing measure that your organization is working on, and I've talked to many within your organization. It continues to keep it rolling so that you are able to leverage those dollars.

6:55 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Bob Bratina

We'll leave it there, Mr. Schmale. We're beyond time. Perhaps the answer will still come up.

To conclude, we have Mr. Battiste, who will take us to time.

6:55 p.m.

Liberal

Jaime Battiste Liberal Sydney—Victoria, NS

I'd like to thank the witnesses for joining us today. Their knowledge was great. It's sometimes difficult to understand the complexities of finance, but I thought all the witnesses did an excellent job.

I have a recommendation that I'd like to put to the committee for consideration. One of the oversights, I think, is that in all of the witnesses we've called, we haven't called any indigenous youth. I think they're a large part of the population, the indigenous youth of Canada, and I know that many of the organizations out there have youth councils attached to them.

I'm wondering if at some point we could hear from some of the youth about COVID and some of the issues they're dealing with, to see if it's something that's worthwhile listening to and to have our committee, maybe for the first time, hear from these youth councils about what they're going through. I just wanted to put that out there for discussion.