Mr. Speaker, I welcome the opportunity to speak at third reading of Bill C-292, the Kelowna accord implementation act.
The so-called Kelowna accord is the product of a meeting held more than a year ago of the former prime minister, the provincial and territorial premiers and several national aboriginal leaders.
The actual document that is represented as the accord, what the right hon. member for LaSalle—Émard purports to be a binding commitment of the Government of Canada, is in fact a news release presented by the government of the day at the close of the meeting. The release lists several proposed investments that total more than $5 billion over a period of five years.
Although the former government says that it meant this to be a statement of the amount of money it wished to spend, there was no consensus among participants regarding how the money was to be disbursed. There was no detailed plan on how the government would allocate this new funding and how it would ensure that these resources would be spent wisely and produce measurable results.
Indeed, the provincial and territorial premiers and national aboriginal leaders who attended the Kelowna meeting clearly indicated in subsequent statements that considerably more work was needed to develop specific policies, programs and implementation plans.
The challenges that face aboriginal peoples in our country are simply too daunting to be overcome through unfocused, unaccountable spending. A more considered approach is required if we hope to improve socio-economic conditions and to ensure that aboriginal peoples have a standard of living comparable to that of other Canadians.
Canada's new government has developed and begun to implement precisely this type of approach. It is based on practical solutions, targeted expenditures, clear roles and responsibilities, measurable results and accountability, all fundamental elements of prudent, effective administration.
In the short time this government has been in office, our pragmatic, results based approach has generated tangible results for aboriginal peoples. In fact, the number of achievements is too vast for me to recount in the time that is available to me this evening.
Instead, to illustrate the success of our approach, let me use the last time that the House debated Bill C-292, on October 18, 2006, as a reference point. Let me share with the House just a few examples since that date of how this government has taken concrete steps to begin to improve the quality of life of aboriginal peoples in Canada.
On October 20, Bearspaw First Nation in Alberta opened a state of the art water treatment plant. This achievement stems directly from the plan of action to ensure safe water supplies for first nation communities announced by the Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development last March.
As the House is no doubt aware, soon after this government came into office we learned that more than 200 first nations communities had drinking water systems that were classified as high risk or worse. To address this crisis, Canada's new government devoted some $450 million to address issues affecting quality of life, including safe drinking water.
In addition to this vital budgetary measure, the minister and the Assembly of First Nations appointed a three member expert panel to provide legislative options for safe drinking water in first nations communities.
On December 7, the minister tabled in the House the expert panel's findings and recommendations, along with a report that outlined progress made on all aspects of the government's plan of action. This includes the removal of several drinking water advisories, improvements to a number of water treatment plants, and increased assistance and training for plant operators. The minister is now considering the panel's recommendations and I expect we will be hearing more on the government's initiative.
Along with helping first nations communities to overcome such crises, this government is working to ensure a brighter long term future for these communities. Indeed, when it comes to land claim settlements, we are living through an extraordinary period of Canadian history, particularly in British Columbia.
In recent months, negotiating teams have achieved a series of unprecedented agreements.
On October 29, federal, provincial and first nations negotiators initialled the Lheidli T'enneh final agreement, the first settlement reached through the British Columbia treaty process.
On December 8, the minister was in Delta, B.C. to attend the initialling of the Tsawwassen First Nation final agreement, the first final agreement for a B.C. first nation whose traditional lands are situated in an urban area.
On December 9, the minister witnessed the initialling of the Maa-nulth First Nations final agreement, the first final agreement in British Columbia that involves more than one first nation community.
I am happy to report that the successful resolution of land claims is not restricted to British Columbia. On December 1, the government signed a land claims agreement with the Inuit of Nunavik resolving a claim over offshore areas in northern Quebec and Labrador that had dragged on for more than 13 years.
Canada's new government has also partnered with first nation groups in Quebec to improve school performance among students from first nations communities in the province.
A landmark memorandum of understanding signed on October 26 will lead to incentives for first nation schools to create stimulating learning environments, enhance teaching quality and improve accountability to parents and students.
Education is also the focus of a historic bill that received royal assent on December 12 of last year. The First Nations Jurisdiction over Education in British Columbia Act will enable first nations communities in B.C. to assume increasingly greater control over on reserve education. It is an important step in ensuring first nation students receive a high quality education that respects their languages, cultures and traditions.
On December 13, our new government introduced in the House another significant piece of legislation: Bill C-44. By repealing section 67 of the Canadian Human Rights Act, the bill would ensure that all members of first nations communities will have the legal authority to defend their human rights, a power that all Canadians should be entitled to enjoy.
Despite these and other significant achievements, I readily concede that much work remains to be done to ensure that aboriginal peoples have living standards comparable to those of other Canadians. Both the Prime Minister and the Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development recognize this fact but action to help aboriginal peoples achieve this objective does not come from legislation based on a news release presented at the close of a meeting.
Genuine progress is difficult. It requires clear thinking, diligent effort, patience and collaboration. Canada's new government will continue to work in concert with our aboriginal, provincial and territorial partners to achieve this progress. Together, we will create practical solutions. We will allocate appropriate funds. We will establish clear roles and responsibilities. We will set goals and we will achieve them.
Accordingly, I will be voting against Bill C-292 and I urge my colleagues to do the same.