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Results: 1 - 15 of 52
View Bernard Valcourt Profile
CPC (NB)
Mr. Chair, first of all, I would like to thank you for this opportunity to appear before the committee of the whole to discuss the main estimates for the Department of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development for the fiscal year 2015-16.
Since 2006, our government has been honouring its commitment to foster the emergence of first nations and northern communities that are strong, healthy and self-sufficient. I am pleased to announce that our approach is producing results. By working with our aboriginal and northern partners across our great country, making carefully targeted investments, introducing legislation that enables first nations to overcome the constraints of the Indian Act, settling claims and signing self-government agreements, we are building on the progress we have made over the past nine years to stimulate the full participation of aboriginal peoples in the economy.
We know that increased aboriginal participation in the economy is the key to improving the well-being and quality of life of aboriginal people in Canada. We also know that aboriginal people are the fastest-growing population in Canada, and we simply cannot ignore this immense human resource potential. What is more, I firmly believe that a good job is better than any social program, which is why we are so determined to promote job creation.
That is why the purpose of every measure, every decision and every dollar that our government invests to assist aboriginal people and northerners is to help us reach our ultimate goal of creating jobs and economic opportunities for aboriginal and northern communities. We are getting results. Just this morning, I sent out the first report on the strategic partnership initiative, which the government first announced in 2010 and in which it invested another $61 million as part of economic action plan 2014. Since 2010, this initiative has made it possible to help over 400 aboriginal communities and organizations across the country create economic development opportunities. It has resulted in over 100 partnerships and nearly $100 million in additional funding from other sources.
We are also helping first nations to create tremendous economic opportunities in their communities through the First Nations Land Management Act, which enables first nations to manage their own land rather than be limited by the constraints of the Indian Act. The first nations that are participating in this regime have experienced significant economic growth. In fact, a recent KPMG survey on the advantages of this regime for participating first nations showed that investments in reserves were estimated at $270 million and that thousands of jobs had been created on reserves. That is why, in economic action plan 2015, we allocated an additional $30.3 million over five years to encourage other first nations to join this initiative.
In the north, our vision is embodied in our government's northern strategy and our actions are bringing this vision to life. It is a fact that no one can dispute that no other government in the history of this country has ever done more for northern Canada and northerners.
We are working toward an effective, predictable northern regulatory regime that will attract new investors and foster new economic opportunities for the north. Through the Northwest Territories' devolution and now in Nunavut, we are working with northerners toward greater control of their own land and resources. We are on track to ensure that the Canadian High Arctic Research Station located in Cambridge Bay is operational by July 2017, creating a world-class hub for science and technology in Canada's north.
As everyone can see, in nine years, we have made notable progress, and these are only a few examples.
The means through which this progress, both north and south of 60, can be sustained year over year is, among other things, the funding allocated to Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada through the main estimates. However, my department is not the only way our government is contributing to progress for aboriginal people and northerners. There is also a host of other departments, including the private sector, the provinces and territorial governments. We are but a link in the chain.
The 2015-16 main estimates for my department forecast budgetary and non-budgetary expenditures of approximately $8.3 billion. That is a net increase of $178 million, or 2.2%, above last year's main estimates. This funding will support initiatives that improve social well-being and provide opportunities for economic prosperity in aboriginal and northern communities, vital initiatives such as safe drinking water, access to services and support for claims negotiations.
Healthy, sustainable communities require robust infrastructure and reliable water and waste water systems. That is why we provided $323.4 million over two years in last year's economic plan to implement the first nations water and waste water action plan. In the 2015-16 main estimates, $137.3 million has been allocated for the action plan so it can continue to fund these vital investments in water infrastructure projects in first nations communities.
Since 2006, we have spent roughly $3 billion to help communities manage their water and waste water infrastructure, and related public health activities. The recent passage of the Safe Drinking Water for First Nations Act enabled us to work with first nations to develop federal regulations that would help protect the health and safety of residents on first nations land through much-needed enforceable standards.
The main estimates also show a net increase of $68.7 million to support the negotiation, settlement and implementation of comprehensive claims and self-government agreements across Canada. That is in line with our government's belief that in addition to resolving outstanding specific and special claims, negotiating and implementing comprehensive claims and self-government agreements contribute to stronger, healthier, more self-sufficient communities.
View Bernard Valcourt Profile
CPC (NB)
Mr. Chair, if he has the answers to all the questions, why bother asking them? Is he trying to waste the committee's time?
View Bernard Valcourt Profile
CPC (NB)
Mr. Chair, we will continue to implement our action plan to improve the quality of waste water and drinking water in first nations communities across the country.
As I said earlier, we have invested nearly $3 billion since 2006 in waste water infrastructure. As shown in our recent budget, economic action plan 2015, we will continue pursuing our efforts and improving the situation.
View Bernard Valcourt Profile
CPC (NB)
Mr. Chair, just quickly on the issue of education, I would point out to the hon. member that since we have taken office we have increased funding for education by some 25%, which is an unprecedented amount in this country.
On the issue of water and waste water, from 2006 to 2014 our government has invested approximately $3 billion to support first nations communities in managing their water and waste water infrastructure. We are delivering on our commitment to extend the first nations water and waste water action plan with a further investment of $323 million over two years. That began in the last fiscal year and will continue in 2015-16.
View Bernard Valcourt Profile
CPC (NB)
Mr. Chair, again this is a sunset that was in fact renewed. In terms of progress, I would like the hon. member to know that the latest inspection on the annual performance inspection cycle showed that the number of water systems rated as high risk has decreased by some 9 percentage points, from 206 to 127. Significant progress is being made, and we will continue in that direction with investments that are earmarked in these estimates.
View Bernard Valcourt Profile
CPC (NB)
Mr. Chair, the fact of the matter is that many first nations communities face the same challenges in providing access to safe drinking water as do other small, remote or isolated communities, such as difficulties in finding and retaining qualified water treatment plant operators. The aboriginal demographics from the 2011 national household survey showed that 70% of first nations reserves had a population of fewer than 500 people and that 285 first nations reserves had fewer than 100 inhabitants.
That is why, being reasonable, we have this long-term action plan that is in effect. The amount of funds invested in water and waste water is unprecedented. It is close to $3 billion since we took office. As indicated in these estimates, we continue in the same direction to execute our action plan.
View Bernard Valcourt Profile
CPC (NB)
Indeed, Mr. Speaker, we have made significant progress in recent years because of the investments of this government. As to that particular application, the member will understand that without prior notice, I cannot comment on the status, but I will surely look into the matter and advise him as I can.
View Bernard Valcourt Profile
CPC (NB)
Mr. Speaker, that statement by the hon. member is totally false. She knows that this government passed the Safe Drinking Water for First Nations Act, which aims to provide first nation communities with drinking water and wastewater standards comparable to provincial and territorial standards off reserve.
On the issue of funding, I recall that economic action plan 2014 proposes to continue implementing our action plan with $323 million for the next two years.
View Bernard Valcourt Profile
CPC (NB)
Mr. Speaker, I want to reassure the hon. member that indeed we are working with the first nation to address the problem of safe drinking water on this reserve.
I want to point out to the House that we take action for first nations across Canada so that they have the same quality of drinking water as all Canadians. It is surprising that the hon. member questions this. In the last budget, we planned on investing over $300 million for safe water on reserves, and he voted against it.
View Bernard Valcourt Profile
CPC (NB)
Mr. Speaker, it is clear that the member is not very much concerned about the substance of the subject matter of this motion.
The motion is about Bill S-8, safe drinking water for first nations. This bill is crucial to ensure that first nations have the same health and safety protections concerning drinking water and waste water treatment as are currently enjoyed by other Canadians.
It has taken seven years for us to get to this point. It has taken seven years of continuous dialogue with first nations, including formal engagement sessions and implementing measures to accommodate the concerns of first nations.
The proposed legislation before Parliament today is the result of hard work and collaboration. It is time to move forward.
View Bernard Valcourt Profile
CPC (NB)
Mr. Speaker, the member's claims are completely untrue and are not based on the facts.
If she looked at the facts, she would see that, as part of the strategy the government has adopted in this bill to fix the situation, nearly $3 billion has been allocated between 2006 and 2014 to improve infrastructure on first nations reserves.
Furthermore, more than $300 million was announced in budget 2012—and is being invested as we speak—to upgrade infrastructure on first nations reserves.
View Bernard Valcourt Profile
CPC (NB)
Mr. Speaker, we know that members of the New Democratic Party like to spin their wheels and waste time by talking instead of acting.
This issue has been before Parliament in one form or another for seven years. First nations across the country are the only communities that do not have a regulatory system that sets standards for clean water and sewage treatment that are similar to standards in neighbouring communities.
I understand that the NDP does not want to take action, which is why the motion is before the House. This country needs legislation that will treat first nations members like other Canadian citizens who enjoy rights that those living on reserve do not.
View Bernard Valcourt Profile
CPC (NB)
Mr. Speaker, not to disagree with the member, but we think enough time has been allocated to discuss and debate views and concerns about this bill.
The fact is that over 50 witnesses spoke on Bill S-11, the previous version, and on Bill S-8, the current version. Members heard from many organizations, including the Assembly of First Nations, the Atlantic Policy Congress of First Nation Chiefs, the Assembly of First Nations of Quebec and Labrador, the Institute on Governance and the Indigenous Bar Association.
Bill S-8 was introduced only after many hours of discussion. There has been enough debate. It is time to act.
View Bernard Valcourt Profile
CPC (NB)
Mr. Speaker, in response to the 2011 national assessment, our government worked with first nations to build a long-term plan to improve on-reserve water and waste water. This is founded on three pillars, as the hon. member referred to. We are talking about enhanced capacity building and operating training, infrastructure investment and enforceable standards and protocols. When we say enforceable standards and protocols, this is what this enabling legislation would allow. We cannot move seriously, effectively and efficiently in addressing this gap on reserves throughout Canada without the proper legislative framework that would put the regulations in place to protect first nations members.
I just cannot understand why the NDP and Liberals would oppose such a legislative framework. It is required and has been recommended by committee after committee. The first nations have called for it, yet they oppose it.
View Bernard Valcourt Profile
CPC (NB)
Mr. Speaker, I am always amazed to hear members of the New Democratic Party lamenting the lack of democracy in our great and beautiful country. I have a bit of experience in the House, and I had the privilege of seeing the Constitution repatriated. I have seen and I am seeing—every week and every month, in every community—peoples' representatives, elected by Canadians, who are living up to their responsibilities.
Here today, we have a mandate from Canadians. Improving the lives of first nations people is one of the objectives of that mandate. We know that there is a gap for first nations reserves in terms of the quality of drinking water and waste water treatment, yet when faced with a bill that all elected members are asked to vote on, they are voting no. We are asking them, urging them, to think for once about what is effective and best for the country, for first nations, and to vote in favour of this bill.
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