Evidence of meeting #17 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 miller.

A recording is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

Daniel Quan-Watson  Deputy Minister, Department of Crown-Indigenous Relations and Northern Affairs
Serge Beaudoin  Assistant Deputy Minister, Northern Affairs Organization, Department of Crown-Indigenous Relations and Northern Affairs
Valerie Gideon  Senior Assistant Deputy Minister, First Nations and Inuit Health Branch, Department of Indigenous Services
Jean-François Tremblay  Deputy Minister, Department of Indigenous Services
Annie Boudreau  Chief Finances, Results and Delivery Officer, Department of Crown-Indigenous Relations and Northern Affairs

7:05 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Bob Bratina

That brings us to five minutes.

Next up is Jamie Schmale, for five minutes.

June 16th, 2020 / 7:05 p.m.

Conservative

Jamie Schmale Conservative Haliburton—Kawartha Lakes—Brock, ON

Thank you very much, Chair.

I appreciate the testimony from all our witnesses.

Minister Bennett, according to your last departmental report, which I have here, spending at CIRNAC was estimated to drop by $1.5 billion by 2022-23. Obviously, that was pre-COVID.

Can you tell us the estimates for spending over the next two years?

7:05 p.m.

Liberal

Carolyn Bennett Liberal Toronto—St. Paul's, ON

As you know, as we move in nation rebuilding with the kinds of investments we're making, some of the money we have is also for settling land claims and these various court cases and lawsuits, so I'll ask the deputy to let us know what he thinks is coming in those obligations Canada has.

7:10 p.m.

Deputy Minister, Department of Crown-Indigenous Relations and Northern Affairs

Daniel Quan-Watson

Sure. I'll give a quick visit to the CFO, but obviously we will continue to pay out on the treaty obligations we have.

As the minister has noted, the work on MMIWG will be absolutely critical, as well as the continuation of the conversations in reference to some of the points that Minister Miller made. Listening to first nations, engaging and hearing what they want and crafting solutions that they see are appropriate for the particular priorities they have will be the most critical pieces.

Perhaps for a more technical look at it, I'll ask our chief financial officer, Annie Boudreau.

7:10 p.m.

Annie Boudreau Chief Finances, Results and Delivery Officer, Department of Crown-Indigenous Relations and Northern Affairs

Good evening.

Thank you.

You will remember that when we went to present the supplementary estimates (B), we had a big amount of about $1 billion for loan forgiveness. It was one amount for one time, so you cannot find that this time around in the total main estimates, because the amount was only for one year. That will explain a big reduction from last year to this year.

7:10 p.m.

Conservative

Jamie Schmale Conservative Haliburton—Kawartha Lakes—Brock, ON

Minister, in your latest departmental report we see that a number of targets weren't hit. I will refer specifically to the indigenous entrepreneurship and business development program. It is described as a dollar value of federal procurement contracts set aside for indigenous businesses. Your target was 5%, but your actual result was 1.4%. The target date was as of April 2019.

Do you have an update on that?

7:10 p.m.

Liberal

Carolyn Bennett Liberal Toronto—St. Paul's, ON

I would have to defer to the deputy or the chief financial officer.

7:10 p.m.

Deputy Minister, Department of Crown-Indigenous Relations and Northern Affairs

Daniel Quan-Watson

Following up on the question you last asked on this front, we have some further information. Some of these pieces have transferred to Indigenous Services Canada as part of the work we are doing. I'll let our chief financial and results delivery officer explain that in a little more detail.

7:10 p.m.

Chief Finances, Results and Delivery Officer, Department of Crown-Indigenous Relations and Northern Affairs

Annie Boudreau

Thank you very much for the question.

Indeed, there was an order in council last year, and that transferred two programs from Crown-Indigenous Relations to Indigenous Services Canada. Those two programs were land and economic development. I think your result that you're referring to has now been transferred to Indigenous Services Canada as part of the order in council of July 2019.

7:10 p.m.

Conservative

Jamie Schmale Conservative Haliburton—Kawartha Lakes—Brock, ON

Chair, how much time do I have left?

7:10 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Bob Bratina

You have one minute.

7:10 p.m.

Conservative

Jamie Schmale Conservative Haliburton—Kawartha Lakes—Brock, ON

Thank you.

Minister, we've been told through Treasury Board that there is a new leave associated for public servants with COVID-19. Can you tell us how many in your department have taken advantage of this new leave and, on average, what justification was given for these requests?

7:10 p.m.

Liberal

Carolyn Bennett Liberal Toronto—St. Paul's, ON

I first want to thank all of the public servants for how hard they've been working. As we say, there's a difference between working from home and being at home trying to work, and it has been extraordinary what departments have been able to do.

In terms of those who have requested leave, I would defer to the deputy.

7:10 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Bob Bratina

You have just a few seconds.

7:10 p.m.

Deputy Minister, Department of Crown-Indigenous Relations and Northern Affairs

Daniel Quan-Watson

In fact, our CFRDO has those specific numbers.

7:10 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Bob Bratina

Ms. Boudreau, give a very quick answer, please.

7:10 p.m.

Chief Finances, Results and Delivery Officer, Department of Crown-Indigenous Relations and Northern Affairs

Annie Boudreau

Thank you for the question.

As of today, it is 3% of our workforce, and we are approximately 1,800 employees. It's only 3%, and the reasons will be to take care of kids at home or to take care of a sick person, a sick family member.

7:10 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Bob Bratina

Thank you very much.

Mr. van Koeverden, you have five minutes.

7:10 p.m.

Liberal

Adam van Koeverden Liberal Milton, ON

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

My question is for Minister Vandal.

Surprisingly, there are connectivity issues in my riding, just 30 minutes from the Toronto airport, so I can't imagine how some of the connectivity issues have impacted people in your riding and certainly the people you represent across the north.

How will the investments that are in these supplementary estimates go to connecting people living in the north and remote communities across Canada so that they can achieve better outcomes in health and education through telehealth and telelearning?

7:15 p.m.

Liberal

Dan Vandal Liberal Saint Boniface—Saint Vital, MB

Thank you so much for that very important question.

If there's anything that we've learned through these difficult times, I think it's that we need to do a better job of making sure that we are constructing more Internet communications and fibre optics throughout the north. I know that's a priority. Since I've been minister—for about six months now—I've heard that quite often in my consultations.

I can tell you that our government is spending billions of dollars over a 10-year period to improve connectivity in the north, in the Arctic and in northern provinces. It's something that's absolutely essential. We're doing it in partnership with first nations, with Inuit, with Métis communities and with rural municipalities.

As I stated earlier, the benefit has really become apparent through these difficult times. When you look at the opportunities for education and the opportunities for provision of health services to isolated communities, this can't happen fast enough. I know that several ministries within our government have prioritized this, and there are literally billions of dollars over a prolonged period that are going to be invested in this service.

7:15 p.m.

Liberal

Adam van Koeverden Liberal Milton, ON

Thank you.

Mr. Chair, how much time do I have remaining?

7:15 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Bob Bratina

You have two and a half minutes.

7:15 p.m.

Liberal

Adam van Koeverden Liberal Milton, ON

Thank you.

I would ask the same of somebody from the department, perhaps. Recognizing that there are connectivity issues in other indigenous communities that are not in the north, could Minister Miller or Minister Bennett or somebody from the department shed a little light on how these connectivity issues are having an impact on education outcomes for kids?

7:15 p.m.

Liberal

Marc Miller Liberal Ville-Marie—Le Sud-Ouest—Île-des-Soeurs, QC

I could say a few things.

You're right, Adam, that it isn't necessarily a remoteness issue. We've seen that in the Six Nations, and Pam has been instrumental in making sure we're aware of that and that there is a response.

This isn't necessarily for our ministries. Minister Monsef is in charge of ensuring that we move forward on connectivity. Clearly, when it comes to education, and being able to study at home and have more people connected at the same time, the needs are more acute and the disparities are greater the further north you go, but it isn't limited simply to more northern areas, although that need is acute as well.

There are reflections that we need to have as we deploy, as part of our governmental undertaking in prior budgets, connectivity solutions to communities and get people wired, particularly in a COVID environment, where there are issues with making sure contractors are observing the proper protocols. That will be largely insufficient, and as we move forward, we have to continue having that reflection and making sure that people do have access to connectivity solutions.

7:15 p.m.

Liberal

Adam van Koeverden Liberal Milton, ON

When I've had the chance to engage with youth through the Canada We Want project or with the Prime Minister's Youth Council, mental health has been one of the number one issues. That ability to connect, that ability to stay connected and to develop that sense of connection to people across the country has been something they've pointed out, so I'm happy to hear it's on everybody's agenda.

Mr. Chair, am I at time? If not, I'll concede the rest of my time to the NDP.

You're on mute, Chair.