Interventions in Committee
 
 
 
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View Hunter Tootoo Profile
Ind. (NU)
Thank you, Madam Minister.
Another big issue up north, and you touched on it with nutrition north.... We all know that program was like a scrambled egg before it even came out of the chicken.
You touched, too, on the old program meeting basic needs. You asked how come it's more expensive now. It's because basic needs, things that were covered and subsidized in the past, came off the list. They're no longer subsidized, so they've gone up substantially. They narrowed down the items that were subsidized so greatly that everything else just went up. That's the problem there.
I know the last government said that they boosted the funding to nutrition north. They boosted the budgeted amount. As far as I'm aware, that program probably cost the government about $140 million a year, which is well over the budgeted amount.
Would you be able to provide some historical data as to how much was actually spent on the program, not just budgeted?
View Hunter Tootoo Profile
Ind. (NU)
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
Thank you, Mike.
Thank you for the presentation. I have just one question I can think of.
You talked about a multipronged approach and the importance of long-term prevention and basic health services. If you've worked in northern Quebec and in Makivik, you've seen first-hand the challenges with being able to deliver those services there. How important do you feel it is to be able to have and provide those services, and to be able to help address this crisis in those communities? What are some of the barriers or obstacles you see to being able to deliver those services in those more rural and remote areas?
View Hunter Tootoo Profile
Ind. (NU)
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
Thank you for coming. I guess you've figured out what we from the Nunavut area all know, because you saved the best for last in your visit.
Voices: Oh, oh!
Hon. Hunter Tootoo: Thank you for coming to Iqaluit.
I guess there's just one question. I know that what I've heard from just about everyone today is that whatever changes are made to our electoral system, we all feel that Nunavut and any jurisdiction with a large area and a small population shouldn't be penalized for it. This needs to take into account the geographics of it, and the three territories, for example, should not lose out on anything through any changes that are made. If anything, they should be strengthened, given this government's commitment to a new relationship with the first people of this country.
The Chair: Go ahead, Mr. Buscemi.
View Hunter Tootoo Profile
Ind. (NU)
Thank you, Mr. Chair, and thanks again to everyone for coming here.
What you've heard this afternoon and tonight are a lot of the same things that Maatalii pointed out and that the indigenous affairs committee heard when they were here. It's true and it's recognized here that it's hard for Inuit to move forward. Basically, we're living in third world conditions. You have to have your basic needs met in order to move on.
As one of the guys asked, “What's more important: what I am going to eat, whether I am going to be safe, where I am going to sleep, or electoral reform and the date of the next election?”
Look at the idea of proportional representation. I think it was pointed out that no one from here is too supportive of that idea. If you look at the way funding has been doled out in the past, you'll see that it's on a per capita basis.
We have such a huge infrastructure deficit. We're very far behind as a result of that already. Per capita funding is something you can look at to see how it has affected us here. It would basically end up being the same in the electoral system.
From what I know in my previous capacity as a member of the Legislative Assembly, there were a couple of electoral reform and electoral boundaries committees struck to look at that. It may be a suggestion for your research staff to contact the Legislative Assembly to get those reports, as well as some previous amendments that speak to our Elections Act.
The goal of any election is 100% turnout. I think in my first one I had 101% turnout. That's when they had those old outdated lists that nobody wanted to go on.
There's been some really good stuff here. If you're able to get hold of someone at the Legislative Assembly, that could be helpful to you, especially given the unique challenges that we face here. That should be helpful to you in looking at some modifications to try, such as mobile polls. It might make it a little bit easier for you.
I'd like to thank everyone for coming and participating.
View Hunter Tootoo Profile
Ind. (NU)
Thank you, Madam Chair, and thank you, members.
I won't use all the time. I have just a quick question for the minister.
Thank you for coming this morning.
On this issue of the Navigable Waters Protection Act and the cuts that were made, it's something that a lot of aboriginal groups across the country were rather upset about, to put it mildly. Unlike some people who say a stream is just a stream, that stream feeds aboriginal people and sustains them.
My quick question for the minister is, since being in, I wonder if he can highlight any concerns that he has heard from different aboriginal groups across the country from coast to coast to coast with regard to the changes that were made.
Thank you, Madam Chair.
View Hunter Tootoo Profile
Ind. (NU)
Thank you, Madam Chair.
Thank you, Ken.
It's been brought up that subsection 29(3) allows the minister the discretion to add or not. I think one of the concerns that I've heard is that in some governments the ministers will talk to you, while in other governments they won't. I guess even though that mechanism is there, the fact is that it's at the whim of whoever is the minister. Is one of the things you've heard from an indigenous group or the public as a whole that they want something a little more certain than the whim of the minister of the day?
View Hunter Tootoo Profile
Ind. (NU)
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Welcome, everybody.
I would especially like to welcome my colleagues from the standing committee to Iqaluit for this very important issue that we deal with here in Nunavut and across the north. I think it's an important issue that has been called a crisis here in Nunavut, and hopefully you will have some very good discussions and presentations here today, and I look forward to the report you come out with. Hopefully there will be some strong recommendations for the minister to come up with some programs and some funding to be able to help alleviate this issue we face here in Nunavut.
I look forward to presenting to you in Ottawa at a meeting there.
Welcome to Nunavut. I wish the weather were a little better but the hospitality is always warm here, so I hope you have a great visit, and thank you very much for coming.
View Hunter Tootoo Profile
Ind. (NU)
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
It's a pleasure to be here today to discuss the main estimates and talk a little about my mandate letter and what it means for Canadians. Following my remarks, my chief financial officer, Marty Muldoon, will provide a brief presentation on these estimates, which I think will be useful for the committee.
As Minister of Fisheries, Oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard, I am responsible for managing Canada's fisheries and aquaculture, protecting mariners, and safeguarding our waters. A big part of my job is making strategic investments and ensuring strong financial management within my portfolio. Marty will go into a bit more detail on what's in DFO's and the Coast Guard's 2016-17 main estimates, which total $2.2 billion. This figure represents a 19% increase over last year, and is mainly due to funding for infrastructure projects and acquiring Coast Guard vessels.
To be more specific, I'm seeking $809.7 million in capital, mostly for the procurement of fleet, machinery, and equipment; $65.5 million in grants and contributions, mostly to support our aboriginal strategies and governance program as well as our fisheries protection program; and $1.2 billion in operating, for salaries and other operating expenditures. Additional funding that's related to the recently tabled budget will be sought through supplementary estimates.
While I have your attention, I want to speak about what budget 2016 means for my department and how it relates to my mandate. Over $197 million was set aside for ocean and freshwater science, monitoring, and research activities. This represents the fulfillment of a key commitment and the largest investment of its kind in fisheries and oceans science in a generation. This funding will allow us to hire new research scientists, biologists, and technicians; invest in new technology; and build important partnerships. Taken together, it will help us make more informed decisions about our oceans, waterways, and fisheries.
DFO, along with Natural Resources Canada, will receive over $81 million for important marine conservation activities, including designating new marine protected areas under the Oceans Act. We will also receive funding to maintain and upgrade federal infrastructure properties, such as Canadian Coast Guard bases. An additional $149 million will help improve infrastructure at federally owned small craft harbours.
DFO is one of seven departments and agencies that will share over $129 million to help our infrastructure adapt to a changing climate and help communities become more resilient to the impacts of climate change.
In terms of investments for indigenous peoples, DFO will receive over $33 million to extend the Atlantic and Pacific integrated commercial fisheries initiatives. This program will help first nations access commercial fisheries and build sustainable commercial fishing enterprises. Northerners, including Inuit, will also receive $40 million in federal funding to help build strong, diversified, and sustainable economies across the three territories. One area that will benefit from this investment is the fisheries sector.
In terms of Coast Guard investments, reopening the Kitsilano Coast Guard facility in Vancouver is a top priority. Over $23 million was set aside in the budget to reopen Kitsilano and expand its search and rescue services to include marine emergency response. The facility will also provide emergency response training to our partners, including indigenous groups, and serve as a regional incident command post in the event of a significant marine incident.
The Coast Guard will also receive $6 million to carry out technical assessment of the Manolis L, a shipwreck off of Newfoundland and Labrador, which began leaking fuel in 2013. Funding for this assessment will help us to find a permanent solution to this issue.
The Coast Guard was identified as one of several departments requiring additional funding to carry out critical mission services. A $500-million fund managed by Treasury Board will help us address things like acid rust-out. Once funding decisions are made, amounts will be submitted for parliamentary approval through the estimates process.
I sincerely believe that the funding I'm seeking through the main estimates, along with the funding laid out in the budget, will help me achieve my mandate and put Canada on the path to shared prosperity and a cleaner and greener economy.
Before I turn the floor over to Mr. Muldoon, I just want to say I appreciate everyone running down here after votes today. I know it took some scheduling challenges to finally get here, but I'm glad I'm here and look forward to hearing from you.
Thank you.
View Hunter Tootoo Profile
Ind. (NU)
The Fisheries Act, I think we all know, is an essential tool to support conservation and the protection of fish and fish habitat and the sustainability of our fisheries. I take very seriously my mandate to restore the Fisheries Act protections that were lost, and look forward to consulting with scientists, environmentalists, indigenous peoples, and all stakeholders in finding the best path forward to safeguard our oceans and waterways. For now, I intend to focus the Fisheries Act review on these lost protections.
Since my appointment as minister, I've travelled across the country and listened to a whole range of Canadians on their views of this review. They were constructive discussions and very informative for me and my departmental officials. I felt that it was important for me to go out and hear first-hand from stakeholders what their concerns and their issues were, to help me better understand the file. I will continue to engage with indigenous people and other Canadians throughout the review process, to hear what they like and what needs to be changed in the act to restore those strong protections for our fisheries.
Currently my officials are reviewing options to undertake this review. I can say at this time, though, that we will hold consultations with indigenous peoples, other Canadians, and all stakeholders. The specific processes and timelines will be announced before the summer commences. That's something I know is important. I've heard it from everybody from coast to coast to coast. I look forward to not only bringing back these lost protections, but also modernizing. As we all know, it's quite an old act, and I've heard from all kinds of users of the act that it does need to be modernized as well.
View Hunter Tootoo Profile
Ind. (NU)
Absolutely. Again, I think I've met with more aquaculture industry stakeholders since I've taken office, because they seem to follow me around everywhere I go, but that's fine. I totally understand the issues and concerns they have.
Like I said, look at modernizing the act. I don't think aquaculture is even mentioned in the Fisheries Act. They've made it very clear that we need to modernize it and to recognize that industry.
I've been travelling on both the east and the west coasts, and those jurisdictions are very eager to promote growth in that industry. Finding ways to modernize the act to reflect this new industry as far as the act goes is going to be important. Whether it's creating a separate aquaculture act, or finding a way to modernize the existing act to include those concerns and those issues they have, is yet to be determined.
View Hunter Tootoo Profile
Ind. (NU)
That's again something I've heard in my travels that's quite near and dear to everybody's heart, whether it be the fishing industry, the aquaculture industry, or all the stakeholders. I certainly recognize the important role that small craft harbours and commercial fishing and aquaculture play in many communities on our coasts.
The amount, in my understanding, is $148.6 million that was recently announced in the budget for small craft harbour improvements, which I think clearly demonstrates our commitment to ensure that our harbours are safe and accessible for commercial fish harvesters across Canada. We also value the significant contributions to.... As I said, I've met with a number of these harbour authorities in my travels, and they're very dedicated. A lot of them dedicate their own personal time to ensure harbours are safe and well managed—
View Hunter Tootoo Profile
Ind. (NU)
Thank you for your question, and I'm glad I'm finally here as well.
I think there were some amendments that people were concerned about—the lost protections—but there were also some positive amendments that were made in there. As I said, I met with Canadians from all three coasts, and some of them I've heard say that we should just revert back to how it was before. We're looking at options to restore lost protections in the near future, and that balances with our engagement to proceed with an open and conclusive process. I don't want to just jump and say, okay, we're going to revert back to the old, because not all the changes took away some protections. There are also some positive things in there, too. I think if I just went and changed it back to what it was, it takes that away. As I said, I've committed to consult with Canadians on this, so if we're having consultations and those people in your riding want to come and make those observations and recommendations for the review panel, they'd be more than welcome to.
View Hunter Tootoo Profile
Ind. (NU)
As I said, it was an important decision that was handed down last week. The government's going to be taking a look at it and going through it and determining exactly what our obligations are under that. It would be a little premature for me to say right now one way or the other until it's been thoroughly reviewed by the government. We will be taking a close look at and determining what their obligations are as a result of that.
View Hunter Tootoo Profile
Ind. (NU)
I don't have a problem sitting down and discussing issues with other stakeholders. I know this is an issue with the province, and I've met with all stakeholders. Whether they be recreational fishers, anglers, indigenous groups, I've committed to open to dialogue with everyone.
Actually, I met with a group this morning who said they'd been trying to get in the door with a request. No one has talked to them, and I told them—just as I did when I was in New Brunswick with a first nations group over there—that our officials are here to work with them on whatever the issues are and to do anything we can to help make progress on certain issues. Basically, we're all in this together. Having that dialogue is important to being able to make progress. That's the only way it's going to happen.
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