Mr. Chair, I feel short-changed. I have only been here for three hours and fifty-five minutes.
I appreciate the opportunity to speak briefly this evening about first nations governance and in particular to highlight the recent significant initiatives our government has undertaken to strengthen governance in first nations communities.
In broad terms, the role of our government where aboriginal relations is concerned is to support and encourage healthy, prosperous and self-sufficient aboriginal communities. We recognize that a large part of this involves supporting first nations communities in the implementation of strong, effective and sustainable governments. This is a role we take very seriously.
Research has shown that good governance is the single greatest determinant of a community's socio-economic progress and its overall well-being. In other words, the better the governance, the better positioned the community is for its success. Strong governance in institutions helps first nations communities to take greater control over the decisions that affect their lives, take advantage of economic opportunities, improve programs and services, and enhance their social and economic well-being.
The initiatives I wish to discuss this evening speak directly to these points. The first of these is the First Nations Financial Transparency Act, or FNFTA. Receiving royal assent in March 2013, the FNFTA was part of the government's 2011 Speech From the Throne commitment to support democratic, transparent and accountable first nations governments by requiring the public disclosure of the salaries and expenses of chiefs and councillors, as well as first nations audited consolidated financial statements.
We strongly believe that first nations, like all Canadians, deserve transparency and accountability from their elected officials. The FNFTA accomplishes just that. Effective July 29, 2014, under the terms of the act, first nations were required to post their audited consolidated financial statements and their schedules of remuneration and expenses of chief and councillors on the Internet.
With increased access to this basic financial information, first nations members are now in a position to make better informed decisions about the financial management of their communities and hold their leaders to account. There can be no question that increased transparency and accountability empower first nations. The disclosure of this information is merely sound management practice and is no more than is required from other levels of government in Canada. The act applies the same principles of transparency and accountability to first nations governments that already exist for other governments in Canada.
Accountable and transparent governments provide reassurance to investors, whose confidence in a community as a potential site for business investment may be shaken by an absence of reliable financial information. Conversely, clear and timely provision of this kind of data can bolster economic development opportunities, as well as the potential for growth and business partnerships. Chief Darcy Bear of the Whitecap Dakota First Nation in Saskatchewan said:
The FNFTA will mean more accountability of First Nation leaders to our people. Transparent and accountable First Nation governments support a strong environment for investment leading to greater economic development.
Chief Bear is not the only first nations member who supports this legislation. In fact, as of last week, 97% of all first nations that were required to submit information under the act have done so. This sort of buy-in from first nations is encouraging as it assures band members and potential investors alike that the first nations leadership is responsible, transparent and accountable to band members.
Moreover, it should be noted that the act does not require any additional paperwork for most first nations governments. It simply makes sure that financial information that is already provided to Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada as part of a first nations funding agreement is made available to the community members. Nothing new is required, only transparency and accountability to first nations members.
Another initiative I would like to discuss this evening that will have a positive effect on first nations governance is the First Nations Election Act. As part of our government's long-standing commitment to support stronger, more stable and effective first nations governments, the legislation allows for the necessary political stability for first nations to make strong business investments, carry out long-term planning and build relationships, all of which will lead to more robust economic development and job creation in first nations communities.
It is an opt-in piece of legislation. It allows for longer terms of office for band members. It allows for accountability. It removes the Minister of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development from certain processes under the Indian Act that happen with elections right now. It is a good piece of legislation, one I was proud to help pass through the committee.
Accountability and transparency on first nations reserves is something we believe those members who live on those reserves deserve, and we are happy to help deliver that.