Mr. Speaker, sometimes I feel like we are a bit of a broken record in this House, because we constantly come back to the issues that Canadians are facing every single day. Those are, of course, the cost of living and its challenges. The ineffectiveness of the Liberal government makes life more difficult.
I have to say Bill C-29 is just another example of a government that is interested in window dressing. It is interested in the photo ops. It is interested in sounding good. However, we have already heard from some of its coalition partners about how long this is taking. This was talked about seven years ago and we are just now finally getting to it.
There are a number of first nations organizations that certainly our side has encouraged the government to include in this process that were not included. Here we are, debating yet another example of a Liberal government that has come up with half-measures, a day late and a dollar short.
When I speak to issues of the Liberal government, I think back to my own experience when I was a mayor. I, like many Canadians, did not really know a lot about the Truth and Reconciliation report at that time. It was brand new and fresh. During the process of getting ready to take over the new administration, at the inaugural one of the staff came to me said that she would like me to read something at the beginning of my speech. I read it, and I did not understand it. I asked what it was. She explained to me that it was a land acknowledgement statement. I asked her to tell me more about it. She said it was from the Truth and Reconciliation report and some of its recommendations. I said that I needed to learn more about it.
I, of course, read lots. I read about all of the recommendations. I was so moved by it, frankly, I realized that in her effort to encourage me to adopt these recommendations, I felt like we had missed an opportunity. I went back to her and said that I thought maybe, if we were going to have a land acknowledgement statement for the Corporation of the Town of Huntsville, we should try to write that collaboratively with the first peoples who live on this land.
We reached out to the Chief of Wasauksing First Nation in Parry Sound and the Chief of Shawanaga First Nation, both on Georgian Bay, and the Chief of Rama First Nation. We invited them to come and meet with us. We arranged that, and it was an amazing visit. We had lunch. I basically sat there as a new mayor and learned. It was incredible, probably one of the most incredible lessons I have ever had. Those three chiefs have become friends, and we continue to talk today. In fact Chief Tabobondung from Wasauksing First Nation and I chat most frequently. I see him here in Ottawa regularly.
The reason I tell that story is because reconciliation is about relationships. It is about listening, hearing and understanding. My sense is that, once again, we have a government that says it is listening. It promised the moon. We see all kinds of examples where it has failed, because it just keeps adding to the bureaucracy. It keeps adding and spending more and achieving less. There are lots of examples of it.
We look back to when the government first came in and said it was going to eliminate all boil water advisories, and it has made some progress. However, we have found out that the departments are actually not very effective at it. In fact, in 2017, when the Liberal government made that promise, the Parliamentary Budget Officer actually laid out a plan to get the job done by 2020. Of course the Liberals ignored the plan and came up with their own. As we all know, it has not eliminated all boil water advisories. There are still many first nations that do not have potable drinking water.
Instead of working with indigenous leaders to tackle these systemic inequalities that hold first nations back from achieving prosperity and their own destiny, the Liberals continue down this “Ottawa knows best” approach. This is something that has gone on forever in this country, the “Ottawa knows best”, top-down approach. As a case in point, there are 6,600 employees in Indigenous Services. The government divided it up into two ministries, and now, of course, we have even more bureaucrats. That is about 10 bureaucrats for every first nation in the country, and we are still not listening.
Even the Auditor General has reported that these departments are ineffective and we have a Liberal government that just keeps spending money and keeps coming up with its “Ottawa knows best” approach and not listening to all first nations.
Maybe one of the reasons that the government changed the agenda today and put this up is that its members are aware of a pretty intelligent idea that first nations themselves came up with and presented to the Conservative Party and to the leader of the Conservative Party, and that is true reconciliation in action: economic reconciliation. Just yesterday, the leader of the Conservative Party announced a new program where we would take the situation of the Indian Act that handed over all reserve land and money to the federal government to be dealt with, and when first nations wanted their money they had to come to Ottawa and ask for it. This outdated system put power in the hands of bureaucrats, politicians and lobbyists here in Ottawa, not in the hands of first nations. The direct result of this “Ottawa knows best” approach, as we know, is continued poverty, substandard infrastructure, substandard housing, unsafe drinking water and continued despair in too many first nations.
Therefore, the leader announced support for a first nations resource charge. It is a great idea that first nations themselves came up with that would enable first nations to take back control of their resources and their money. Putting first nations in control of their money instead of this “Ottawa knows best” approach, this top-down approach from Ottawa, lets the first nations keep that resource money. It allows them to master their destiny and take control of their own lives. This is an example of how a Conservative government would actually achieve reconciliation, by listening and by giving control and power back to first nations as opposed to building bigger and bigger bureaucracies here in Ottawa that have this “Ottawa knows best”, paternalistic, top-down approach to how it deals with everything, including first nations and the housing crisis.
The current government has generally believed that the bigger the bureaucracy, the better the solution. What we have learned, of course, is that while the Liberals have grown the bureaucracy some 30%, they have spent $20 billion on consultants and outside consulting firms and the results continue to be worse and worse. It is no different in first nations. It is no different in any first nations community. The Conservative Party believes that this is just more window dressing from a party that is out of ideas. Frankly, every idea the Liberals have come up with has just made the situation worse, from dealing with the true need for reconciliation with first nations to the housing crisis to the opioid epidemic. We hear it all over the country.
I know that the minister was offended to hear about the carbon tax, but there are a number of first nations that are suing the government over the carbon tax because they recognize that this “Ottawa knows best”, top-down approach of bigger government and tax-more government thinks that is going to solve the climate crisis. However, it is a tax plan; it is not an environmental plan. First nations know this. Conservatives know this. We believe in listening, working collaboratively, building relationships and getting Ottawa out of the way. We wish the Liberal government understood that too.