Thank you for the opportunity.
First of all, I want to thank all of you for your efforts during this crisis. The COVID-19 pandemic is a worldwide challenge that is going to create something we define as the “new normal”. The roles of government, the private sector and international relationships, both at a political level and an economic level, are under a microscope.
Let us take this opportunity to recognize that this is an opportunity for Canada as a federation to reinvent itself, to move beyond the status quo and create a more inclusive, stable and representative society, a society that recognizes that a pandemic has existed in our communities since contact and not just with the COVID-19 crisis, a society that recognizes this pandemic existed and will not end until there are systemic changes in our relationship with Canada.
We are here today to discuss how we can support the recovery from the effects of COVID-19 while moving forward with a plan to bring life to UNDRIP. I hope we come to understand how linked these two matters are.
I will remind you that the Fiscal Management Act was passed in 2005, with all-party support, during a time when Canada had a minority government. It is designed as optional legislation, with indigenous governments declaring their interest to participate. The optional approach, I believe, does respond to the spirit and intent of UNDRIP. We agreed at the time the legislation was passed that it was time not only to focus on social issues, but also to focus on indigenous economic inclusion and recovery.
In some of the materials we have provided today—and some that we unfortunately couldn't get translated but will send to you—you'll find a letter that was sent by the First Nations Tax Commission, the First Nations Finance Authority and the Financial Management Board to the ministers of Finance, Indigenous Services and Crown-Indigenous Relations. It lays out a series of opportunities for Canada to consider that will not only respond to indigenous community COVID-19 needs, but also see our communities contribute to the overall recovery efforts.
The Financial Management Board has recently undertaken some analysis of the overall economic activity that shows what our communities currently contribute to Canada's gross national product. You have been provided with this analysis in French and English. For the 75 communities that are clients of the FMA, which we picked at random, you may be surprised to learn that the contribution annually is in the billions.
It is always best when we consider decisions where accurate data is available. We hope that our suggestion that a first nations statistical institute be established under the FMA, as it once was, is accepted.
There is an overwhelming infrastructure deficit in our communities. This deficit has not been and will not be addressed under the current government policy and approaches. We are proposing the creation of an optional first nations infrastructure institute that can support communities in the design, development, financing and maintenance of infrastructure. We propose a model that includes public-private partnerships that can design, build, operate and create economies of scale through aggregation at a regional level.
Over the last 20 years, I have observed that governments like to invest in infrastructure as a vehicle to support economic recovery. Indigenous communities could benefit from being included in these initiatives.
You have also been provided with a paper, in English, from B.C. first nations on what they see as a foundational building block to a new fiscal relationship. The cornerstone of this is increasing the fiscal powers available to become more self-reliant and to be able to address their own community needs.
Communities that have opted into the FMA are already doing some of this, but we need a seat at the fiscal table with Canada and the provinces. We have demonstrated, through the Fiscal Management Act framework, that we have the capacity to support communities and effectively manage increased fiscal powers. Those communities are using these to gain access to capital markets and secure private investment in our communities to meet the challenges we are facing as a result of the pandemic, including COVID-19.
We need to support building capacity in our indigenous governments, and FMB can help with financial administrative governance through our financial management system certification. This system was developed by the Financial Management Board, which aligned its approach with the international control framework known as COSO, a framework that was established after the economic and capital markets collapsed in 2008.
We also believe that an optional shared services platform, as proposed by FMB, would support capacity and create economies of scale that would reduce the cost of and to government of doing business. These investments would support economic recovery and reduce risks, and this would benefit all Canadians.
Canada is using its fiscal capacity during the COVID-19 pandemic to support Canada and Canadians and making enormous investments not seen in my lifetime. Canada did something similar in 2008. It worked then, and it's going to work again.
Let us be sure that when history looks back at how we responded to this crisis, history will see that indigenous people and their governments were not left behind. We can and should continue to move forward with rights recognition and reconciliation, and allow these initiatives to contribute to the recovery that we are all looking for.