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Results: 1 - 60 of 94
View Michael McLeod Profile
Lib. (NT)
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
Thank you to the presenters today. It's very interesting to listen to the wealth of experience and the knowledge you have on taxes and tax evasion.
In the economic statement in the fall of 2020, our government committed to invest $606 million over five years, starting in 2021, to expose the high-net-worth compliance gap, to strengthen technical support for high-risk audits and to enhance the criminal investigations program.
We heard today that the funding commitment by our government is still too low. I listened with real interest as I heard that the previous government, the Harper government, had made cuts to CRA's resources. I'm wondering if you could tell us—and I think Claude and André talked about the cuts—what the impact was of those cuts. If we're putting money into it and there is still not enough, what was the impact when resources were taken away? Are we still trying to play catch-up as a result? Do we not have all the technology we need because of that? Is it that we don't have enough staff, or maybe that the resources we have are inadequate to do the job?
Does somebody want to take a crack at giving me some answers to those questions?
View Michael McLeod Profile
Lib. (NT)
Thank you, Mr. Chair; and thank you to the presenters today.
I thank the CRA for its increased efforts to combat tax avoidance, but I've heard from many constituents over the years of their frustrations about being audited, year after year, by the CRA in regard to the northern residents deductions. These are not aggressive tax planners; they're people who have lived in the north for decades, some for their entire lives, and they are just trying to claim the benefits they're eligible for.
I know there are some measures in budget 2021 to improve the travel component, which will help many northerners who were previously unable to claim it, but can you tell me what the CRA has been doing to fix the issue of targeting some of my constituents with excessive audits?
View Michael McLeod Profile
Lib. (NT)
I hope that works, because I certainly get the calls, but it seems to be that the northern residents tax deductions trigger something in the system that automatically requires an audit.
We've heard a lot about international treaties and about how CRA is already collecting additional tax revenue. Could you comment on how the international treaties could be improved to assist the government in fighting tax evasion?
View Michael McLeod Profile
Lib. (NT)
Do I have time for one more?
View Michael McLeod Profile
Lib. (NT)
Okay. It seems that there are a small number of high-net-worth individuals engaging in complex transactions intended to avoid the collection of tax debt. Budget 2021 proposed introducing an amendment to the Income Tax Act to address this sort of planning. Can you give us some comments on whether or not you think this is a positive direction for the government to take?
View Michael McLeod Profile
Lib. (NT)
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
It's good to see everybody at committee.
Welcome to the minister. As the minister knows, the north is not the same—
View Michael McLeod Profile
Lib. (NT)
[Technical difficulty—Editor] the rest of Canada doesn't face, and we're experiencing climate change impacts like nowhere else in Canada. In the last two weeks, five communities flooded and to an extent we've never seen before. I'm on flood watch right now in a community where the water is going to be over the banks pretty soon.
With changing water levels, temperature change, melting permafrost, shore erosion and forest fires, we have it all, and the sad reality is that we have very little greenhouse gas emissions. It's something that concerns us and we want to see every avenue taken to try to change it.
The announcement of the $2.6 billion for home retrofit grants was very good to see. I think a lot of people in our communities are happy with it. There is a large indigenous population here and we have challenges with housing, so this is going to go a long way.
However, we have other issues: our costs are higher, we have isolation concerns and our construction seasons don't match those in the south. I'm hoping the minister will be able to let us know whether a solution will be tailored to the north so we can be included as part of this. That's my first question.
The second question is about the energy advisers. These positions are going to require people with a high level of education and degrees in the field already, before they're even considered as advisers. We have a small population. We don't have many experts in this field. I'm hoping this portion of the announcement will allow us to tailor the training program so we can have people from the north doing the job of energy adviser.
Those are the two questions I have for the minister.
View Michael McLeod Profile
Lib. (NT)
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
Thank you to all the presenters today.
My question is for Natasha Hope Morano from Startup Canada. Here in the Northwest Territories, we've had a number of small local businesses successfully pivot to e-commerce during the pandemic. We had a coffee company that started marketing online and another restaurant that started selling their salad dressing. However, for northern businesses, one of the biggest hurdles to expanding further in that field or in that area is the reliability and affordability of high-speed Internet.
Could you talk to us about how important it is that the Government of Canada continue to bring forward measures like the additional $1 billion in this budget for the universal broadband fund to close the digital divide for many people, including northern entrepreneurs.
View Michael McLeod Profile
Lib. (NT)
My next question is for the Quebec tourism organization.
I didn't get the person's name, Mr. Chairman.
View Michael McLeod Profile
Lib. (NT)
I'll just put the question out to whoever wants to answer it.
The NWT has a very well-established and well-renowned tourism sector that makes up a significant portion of our economy. We've probably had tighter restrictions in the north to limit travel to and from our territories, from outside of the country but also from other regions of Canada.
With the budget's announcement of $1 billion in support for the tourism and events sector, including $500 million to the regional development agencies for tourism businesses and $100 million more for Destination Canada, do either of you anticipate that this funding will help your membership through the remainder of the pandemic and help prepare for the eventual reopening of our regions to tourists?
View Michael McLeod Profile
Lib. (NT)
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
Thank you, everyone, for your presentations today.
My question is for the Canadian Cancer Society. First of all, I really appreciate the work you do and everything you've done over the last while on the issue of cancer. I come from a very large family. The issue of cancer has been something that has plagued us, as it has most big families.
It's even more challenging when you come from the north. For us to get a diagnosis or any kind of checkup, we have to go to Alberta. For anybody to get any kind of treatment, they have to go to Alberta. It's not like walking across the street to get a doctor's test. It's expensive, it takes a lot of time and it really puts a lot of burden on the families. It was really good to see what the budget has for support, increasing the time to 26 weeks.
You mentioned that you would have liked to see a 50-week period. Can you explain how you came up with that number? It does make a lot sense for many of us who are in the remote areas, but I'd like to hear your side of it.
View Michael McLeod Profile
Lib. (NT)
Thank you for giving me some time, Mr. Chairman.
First of all, thank you to all the presenters. It's a very interesting discussion.
My question is for the tourism association, Beth Potter.
I represent the Northwest Territories and over half of the Northwest Territories is indigenous, so it was very important to us to see the Indigenous Tourism Association finally set up an office here in the Northwest Territories. I know, by your presentation, that they are part of your organization.
For us, they serve a very important purpose. They play a really important role in the north, and it's a different role from most of the other agencies that deal with tourism, because we have different challenges here in the Northwest Territories—and the Yukon and Nunavut, for that matter—but we have huge potential. Our communities are small. Getting professionals is very difficult, and getting consultants or accountants to deal with the small communities and the people who live there is a real challenge.
I find that a lot of our operators struggle to get even insurance or permits, things of that nature, where you have to go to the regional centre to get them, and the Indigenous Tourism Association plays a big role in helping them and guiding them.
This year we've seen the Indigenous Tourism Association in the budget; it got money. I want to ask you if you feel that is something we should be encouraging to do better, to get more money for indigenous tourism, so they can have more staff on the ground and more people to help things move along and move forward.
View Michael McLeod Profile
Lib. (NT)
Yes. Thank you for that.
I would also like to ask you—and I am not sure if you're aware of this—but there are real challenges when it comes to getting indigenous people formally involved in tourism development. In our communities, and I believe it would be the same in the tribes in the south, it is really important to have things structured in a way that you don't step on somebody's toes when you go into a different area of one tribe's traditional lands or a family's traditional lands. A lot of the communities are working on and have been talking with Indigenous Tourism to develop tourism development plans so that the tourism industry knows where they need to stay away from—important burial grounds, sacred sites or environmentally sensitive areas—and the plans have to fit into land-use plans.
I don't know if you've ever had a chance to talk about a big picture strategy that indigenous people need to have versus everybody else who just gets a licence, a permit and whatever they need to sell their product, but I think it needs more. Maybe you could talk about that.
I also think that a lot of the money that came for tourism relief left indigenous people out. I know many hunters on the northern coast along the Beaufort Sea, the polar bear hunters, the ecotourism operators or single operators like a father and son or a couple, just closed their doors. They didn't bother to try to get some of the money to provide relief because they don't have access to people who can package that stuff.
I'll just leave that with you to comment on. It's a different world when it comes to indigenous tourism, and I think you're aware of some of that.
View Michael McLeod Profile
Lib. (NT)
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
Thanks to everybody who made presentations. It's a very interesting discussion.
My first question is to the Ontario Real Estate Association and Brian Santos.
I found the presentation very interesting. The comment about encouraging housing repair and energy efficiency being part of that is something we're really focused on here in the Northwest Territories. We see it as an easy way to create employment. A lot of people could use the upgrades on their houses and even build new ones. I really support that.
The one comment that caught my attention was the issue of Internet availability. I've sat on a number of studies that took place in the north because the issue of isolation is a big factor for our youth. I had opportunity to travel around and talk to youth about their mental health and depression. Internet availability was pointed to as an area that was really impacting them. It also had an impact on distance learning and education. It really resulted on a lot of out-migration from our smaller communities to larger centres.
Mr. Santos, you said that it also has an impact on the housing market and on the decision people make when they want to buy a house. How much of a factor is it in the the decision to buy a house in areas with low Internet availability? That really impacts me in the north. We still don't have high-speed Internet in some of our communities.
View Michael McLeod Profile
Lib. (NT)
Thank you for that.
My next question is for the Tourism Association of P.E.I. I listened with interest to how much the CEWS and CERS have supported your industry. It's the same in the north. The backbone of our economy is mining, but tourism was a growing industry, and we had companies and operators popping up. Every year we were seeing more and more of them. Now that a number of them have reduced their operations, it's really hurting the rest of the population. The closure of a tourism business really has a spin-off effect in the hospitality sector, for sure, but it does in other areas, too.
In the north we've been trying to look at doing things differently. Most of the people in the north have had their second vaccine, so there are a number of exemptions that are being made for ecotourism for people who are operating in very remote areas. Sport hunters and ecotourist operators are allowed to bring in people. It seems to be helping a good percentage of our operators, but it still doesn't help everybody.
Yukon, for example, has now lifted a restriction so that anybody coming to Yukon who has had both their vaccines doesn't have to self-isolate; they can travel back and forth, and that means a lot more travel within the territories.
If people with both vaccine shots were able to travel freely within our country, within Canada, how much would that help your industry when it comes to enough businesses staying afloat?
View Michael McLeod Profile
Lib. (NT)
View Michael McLeod Profile
Lib. (NT)
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
Thank you for the presentation.
I have a question on the First Nation Fiscal Management Act and the amendments, and who it applies to. I represent the Northwest Territories and we have a different system in the north, and that's pretty much the same in the Yukon and Nunavut. Do these amendments have any implications for the north, or I guess the question is, is the north part of it or not part of it?
View Michael McLeod Profile
Lib. (NT)
Okay.
I have one more question. It's good to hear that the modern treaty holder self-governing nations are going to be included. I'm assuming it's going to be through the self-governing fiscal policy that is being negotiated, or the terms are being negotiated that will allow this.
I still am a little bit curious to see how it's going to work in the north on indigenous lands. The Government of Northwest Territories collects all GST and everything else, so it's a different ball game in the north.
I'm just wondering how that will apply.
View Michael McLeod Profile
Lib. (NT)
View Michael McLeod Profile
Lib. (NT)
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
Thank you to the minister for joining us.
I want to ask the minister the following question. When it comes to fiscal flexibility, the Government of Canada has significantly more capacity than its provincial-territorial and municipal counterparts. This is certainly the case in the area I come from, the Northwest Territories. How will the measures in Bill C-30 help ensure that these other orders of government are able to provide the services and infrastructure that their residents rely on?
View Michael McLeod Profile
Lib. (NT)
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
Thank you to all the presenters today.
My question is for the self-governing indigenous governments.
Whenever we talk about indigenous governments and refer to indigenous organizations and indigenous there are the NIOs, the national indigenous organizations, and there's the LCC, the land claims coalition, and now the SGIGs. Everybody has a difficult time understanding the difference.
You pointed out, Bertha, that there was a huge challenge for housing. However, recently, a few years ago, there was $1.5 billion announced for the national indigenous organizations to provide housing to indigenous people. How does that work with the self-governing nations? Could you maybe give us a quick explanation?
View Michael McLeod Profile
Lib. (NT)
Can I interrupt you, Matt?
I would note that $4.3 billion over four years was identified in the budget for the indigenous community infrastructure fund. We expect that it's from there that the request your organization has submitted will receive funding from—pending approval, of course.
Is that something you expect will help meet the housing challenge the self-governing nations are experiencing?
View Michael McLeod Profile
Lib. (NT)
Why is it important that the funding be direct? Bertha stated in her presentation that the funding should be direct—not through CMHC, but funded directly through indigenous governments such as Tlicho.
View Michael McLeod Profile
Lib. (NT)
I have one more question.
View Michael McLeod Profile
Lib. (NT)
Okay. I'll be quick.
In the budget there was $25 million for the Government of the Northwest Territories and $25 million for Nunavut. For a lot of us, it was an important immediate step. We expect that there will be further discussions on the urban, rural and northern indigenous housing strategy. I'm wondering if that is different and separate from what you're talking about.
View Michael McLeod Profile
Lib. (NT)
View Michael McLeod Profile
Lib. (NT)
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
Thank you to everybody for their presentations today, which were very interesting.
I want to start by responding to Mike Reimer from Churchill Wild.
In the Northwest Territories, we are opening up some of the tourism operations under some very strict guidelines. It's not going to cover everybody, but it's going to cover quite a few operators, so there's a lot of excitement about that.
We'd like to see the national parks consider doing the same. We're having some discussions on that front. In the Northwest Territories we are probably going to be at an 85% vaccination rate by the end of June. We have some flexibility. We're putting some very strict conditions on it. We're hoping we're going to save some of the operators, some of their businesses, and get things at least partially running.
My question, though, is to the National Association of Friendship Centres. It's around the comment that Chris made, I think, on distinctions-based funding impacts. I know that the new model of funding national organizations doesn't take in the urban indigenous, but it doesn't take in the northern indigenous either. It is an issue in the Northwest Territories. The reality is, however, that indigenous governments want to see funding flowing directly to them. In the Northwest Territories it doesn't matter which way the money flows, as long as it flows to us in the Northwest Territories. I want to ask how serious that impact is. Will it threaten the operations of the friendship centres on an ongoing basis?
I want to also point out that I am a founding member of the friendship centre in my community. I was so happy to see somebody come knocking on my door to see if I was all right. They wanted to know if I needed anything. They wanted to encourage me to get my vaccine, which I had already done.
Friendship centres do a lot of good work. I'm concerned that this issue of distinctions-based funding may impact the operations.
View Michael McLeod Profile
Lib. (NT)
While we're talking about a shift on how money has flowed, I want to point to one of the pillars of the friendship centres. Friendship centres run independent of political organizations. That was the beauty. It's what attracted me as an individual to work with the friendship centres, to try to set up an operation in a community that focused on people rather than on whether they're Inuit or Indian or Métis.
If the money is run through one of the national organizations, then you fall under their guidelines or under that umbrella, and it moves away from the intention of friendship centres to run independently, outside political organizations, political bodies. How would that affect the friendship centres?
I could see it in some of the communities, where the chief or the Métis president would then be in charge of the friendship centres and steer money. It would go towards their membership, not necessarily towards the people who need it or the people who come into the community who don't belong to a band or a Métis council or an Inuit organization.
View Michael McLeod Profile
Lib. (NT)
Thank you, and thank you to the presenter today.
I have two quick questions I want to ask. First, the IMF estimates that we would face much higher unemployment and debt costs of about the same amount as has been spent but with much worse economic scarring. Can you comment on their analysis and whether you agree with the notion that the economy would have been worse off without government intervention?
View Michael McLeod Profile
Lib. (NT)
My second question is regarding the national guaranteed basic income. Earlier this month, your office released an analysis of the national guaranteed basic income and your office noted that because of the lack of data included in the Stats Canada database and the model that was used for this analysis, the report does not show how such a potential program could affect the people in the Yukon or the Northwest Territories or Nunavut.
Given how different our three economies are from those in the rest of Canada, could you speak to how useful it would be, not only for analysis but also for policy-makers and for the public at large, if Stats Canada were able to provide data that truly reflects the whole of Canada?
View Michael McLeod Profile
Lib. (NT)
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
I want to welcome Donna Lee Demarcke from NWT Tourism. I want to ask her a few questions, but first of all, I will say congratulations to her on her new position with NWT Tourism. I believe this is her first time in front of the finance committee.
We have talked several times about tourism in the Northwest Territories. I know there's a lot of concern from the operators, as the pandemic has had a great impact, as Donna Lee has presented. In the north, we have a wide variety of tourism operators, from large operations, especially in Yellowknife and regional centres, to one-person operations in our smaller communities.
I want to ask Donna Lee Demarcke if she has noticed any of the government supports that may be working well for some of the operators but maybe could be improved to help more of her members. That's my first question.
View Michael McLeod Profile
Lib. (NT)
Do I still have some time?
View Michael McLeod Profile
Lib. (NT)
Across all three territories, we're on pace to have vaccines administered to everyone who wants one in the coming weeks, and at least by the end of April. There's also some good news of late in terms of getting more vaccines delivered to the rest of the country.
It will still be months before the provinces reach herd immunity. Do you have any suggestions on measures? I think you've just brought up one, but how can the industry be best supported during this period of varying provincial and territorial vaccine levels?
View Michael McLeod Profile
Lib. (NT)
I have a final question.
View Michael McLeod Profile
Lib. (NT)
I want to ask about how Northwest Territories Tourism is preparing for a post-pandemic season in tourism. Many people are saying that we're going to see everything come back to normal, but that might take a while. Is your organization doing anything to try to plan around that? How can the federal government help?
View Michael McLeod Profile
Lib. (NT)
Thank you, Mr. Chair. I have just a couple of short questions.
First of all, thank you to the presenters today for the very good information.
One question is for the First West Credit Union. For Canadian credit unions, how much of an increase have you seen in the number of individuals or businesses defaulting on their loan payments relative to 2019?
The second question is, have the credit unions been affected differently than the larger financial institutions, and how did the credit unions address these differences, if they were there?
View Michael McLeod Profile
Lib. (NT)
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
My question is for the Tourism Industry Association of Canada. I represent the Northwest Territories, and up until the pandemic hit, tourism was the sector that was growing by leaps and bounds. We had aurora borealis viewing. People were coming from all over the world. Our hotels were full. Sometimes you couldn't get a room in any of the hotels. New hotels were being built. The airlines were full, totally booked. Restaurants were full. Then the pandemic hit and it really took its toll.
In our discussions with the tourism sector, what we talked about was the vaccine being the key to unlocking travel and getting tourism back to the Northwest Territories, and to the north for that matter.
Now, in this part of the country, in the Northwest Territories, Yukon and Nunavut, everybody who wants to be vaccinated is going to be by the end of April. However, now we're realizing that it's really not going to make much of a difference for the tourism industry because our borders are still going to stay locked and restrictions will still be in place for travel because of what's going on in the south.
Would you agree that the recovery of the tourism industry is going to be based largely on the rollout of the vaccine, getting everybody vaccinated in Canada, and for us especially up in the western provinces? It's really going to be a challenge to get tourism going until the last province gets everybody vaccinated.
View Michael McLeod Profile
Lib. (NT)
I think you touched on what was going to be my next question. Our tourism industry, especially in aurora viewing, was largely the Asian market. We had a lot of people coming from Japan, China and Korea. Even if we had herd immunity in Canada, I don't know how many people will be travelling very soon. I don't know how many people will be coming from other countries—or travelling anywhere, for that matter. I think that will be a challenge.
I didn't hear you talk about indigenous tourism. I'm curious to know whether you have any information on what the impact has been for indigenous tourism. I know that in my riding, I've talked to a lot of operators living in small and remote communities who are just closing their doors because they're mom-and-pop or one-person operations. It's just easier for them to do nothing and not try to chase programs and dollars.
I think we may be seeing a greater impact on indigenous tourism than the other markets in the tourism sector.
View Michael McLeod Profile
Lib. (NT)
Thank you, Mr. Chair, and thank you to the minister for appearing in front of us and having an open discussion on so many things over the last while.
I represent the Northwest Territories. A year ago we were very nervous. We didn't know what the outlook was. The pandemic was declared, and we spent a very difficult year trying to make sure everybody was looked after. We're now starting to see light at the end of the tunnel. Vaccines are being rolled out, and here in the north it looks like we'll have everybody vaccinated by at least April.
The combined work of the Government of the Northwest Territories and the Government of Canada can only be described as a success in keeping the cases down and the death numbers low. The low numbers in the north have allowed us to do more than what our southern neighbours were able to do. For us in the north, we were able to keep all our schools open. We allowed businesses to stay open. I think for that we should all give ourselves a collective pat on the back.
The Government of the Northwest Territories just announced fairly recently that of the $156 million that was spent in the Northwest Territories to address COVID, $123 million of that was covered by the Government of Canada. That's the reason we were successful. The assistance that the territories received from the federal government is the major reason we were able to operate the way we have.
Our economy varies by degree. We have some people who did well all through the pandemic and others who have struggled, and then there are some who are really in trouble.
Back in June, the Government of Canada increased the borrowing limit for all three territorial governments to ensure that they could continue to have the fiscal flexibility to manage the economic pressures caused by COVID. I'd like to ask if the minister could explain how Bill C-14 similarly seeks to make sure the Government of Canada has the fiscal flexibility it will require.
View Michael McLeod Profile
Lib. (NT)
No, keep going.
View Michael McLeod Profile
Lib. (NT)
Yes. I think the minister is aware that the different regions of the country are emerging from the pandemic at different rates. I'd like to know how the government is giving the necessary resources to regional development agencies so that they can meet the changing needs of local economies across this country.
View Michael McLeod Profile
Lib. (NT)
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
Thank you to all our witnesses for a very interesting discussion on a very concerning issue.
I'm in the same boat as Pat Kelly; I don't have a whole lot of farms in my riding. We do have some hobby farms and some community gardens and things of that nature.
I have a number of questions. I think I'll start with Mr. Harpe. He made a very good presentation, but I'm not clear on some things he said, maybe because of my lack of exposure to farming. He mentioned that his farm was a corporate farm, but it's not a real corporate farm. I can understand the difference between an unincorporated farm and an incorporated farm, but maybe he could explain to me what he meant. I think his farm is considered a corporate farm, but it's not the same as a real corporate farm. I didn't follow that.
View Michael McLeod Profile
Lib. (NT)
You referred to the big farms getting bigger, which you were concerned about.
Is there a difference in definition?
View Michael McLeod Profile
Lib. (NT)
I have another question, just for clarity. Mr. Harpe pointed to the fact that if he sold his farm to his children versus to an entity outside of the family, the difference could be $100,000 or hundreds of thousands of dollars. The financial difference would be large. Would this bill change that fact? Would this change how much of a difference in money there would be in selling to his family versus selling to a company or selling to somebody else?
Would you be able to give me an example of what that means?
View Michael McLeod Profile
Lib. (NT)
Thank you, Mr. Chair. I'll be quick.
Bill C-208 was brought in by Larry Maguire, who is a Conservative member. He made a lot of good arguments in his presentation. We hear a lot of people supporting this. It seems like a logical thing to have families being able to transfer their businesses to their children.
The last time it was raised, in 2017, lots of issues hadn't been resolved. I hear from a lot of people who have been working on this for quite some time. It looks like it's been a thorn in the side of many people on this panel.
Why didn't it happen when the Conservatives were in power? They're now bringing it forward. What stopped it before?
Maybe that's for Dan or Brian.
View Michael McLeod Profile
Lib. (NT)
Mr. Chair, I have one more quick question.
I wanted to hear from everybody that they all agree that this is going to reverse the trend that's been happening for some time, where farms are being sold to large corporations. We're now going to see farms sold to families and businesses sold to families. Businesses will stay on that parents and grandparents worked so hard to build up.
View Michael McLeod Profile
Lib. (NT)
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
I want to thank our witness for appearing in front of us today on this bill.
I come from the north. We don't have a whole lot of farms. We have people who are interested in farming and we have some small hobby-type farms, but this applies to more than just farms. We've talked about the fishing industry and small businesses.
I think some people have raised the issue about the concern and the rationale as to why the legislation is the way it is. I hear that the largest concern in adopting the proposed changes to section 84.1 is that it could open the door to new tax avoidance opportunities. Would the witness like to comment on that? Is this something that he sees as realistic or is it something that is not quite correct?
View Michael McLeod Profile
Lib. (NT)
Thank you.
I thought you were going to give me a yes-or-no answer. You made it clear that you don't think this is going to open the door to further tax-avoidance opportunities.
I want to go back a little bit. I have been following some of the history on this. You mentioned that this is a private member's bill that you picked up but that somebody else had drafted and that you're carrying it forward. Can you tell me where the previous member went with this bill and what happened? Why didn't it get—
View Michael McLeod Profile
Lib. (NT)
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
Thank you to all the witnesses.
It's a very interesting discussion. I'm from the Northwest Territories, which is a long ways from Quebec, but I think we can all appreciate that having two separate tax systems to collect income tax is more costly. It's the same group of taxpayers. There are issues of administration and compliance. It would be cheaper to do it under one system.
I think we're talking about two different things. At least, that's the understanding that I'm getting. I don't understand why it isn't all part and parcel of the same discussion. We're talking about the collection of taxes, but I don't hear any desire to move towards a harmonization of taxes. I don't think the Quebec government's proposal, the proposal that we're talking about, includes any harmonization with the federal law. To me, that means that there are still going to be two sets of calculations happening even though they may be sent to the same address. I would say that that's still a duplication in the same form.
My question, first of all, is for whoever wants to answer it: Why isn't harmonization on the table as we discuss solutions to this issue?
View Michael McLeod Profile
Lib. (NT)
I have one quick question. I'm listening, trying to understand everything that's going on, and I hear the number of employees, in the thousands, who are involved and could be affected, or would have to transfer if there was agreement to go to one system. Two unions are involved. I'm curious. Are the unions in agreement that one would represent the other in case one of the governments decided to allow the other one to take over? Would there possibly be some conflict between the unions and resistance regarding job losses, transferring from one union to another?
View Michael McLeod Profile
Lib. (NT)
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
First of all, I also want to say thanks to everybody who did all the hard work or who continues to do all the hard work on the pandemic. I'm quite happy with the response from the government. I think when we compare the government's response here in Canada to the United States', we also have to look at the rate of infection, and of course we're quite a bit lower. We also have to look at the number of deaths that happened in the States and compare it with Canada.
Here in the Northwest Territories we've been very lucky. The Government of Canada and the Government of Northwest Territories have worked very well together, and they've managed to keep the number of cases low in the Northwest Territories. We've not had anyone die from the virus, and it's given us more freedom. We can travel a little more within the territories. We've been able to keep our schools open. We've allowed some businesses to stay open. I think everybody has to have a little bit of a pat on the back when it comes to this. It's because we worked so hard to support businesses and people and marginalized groups. We certainly acknowledge that the north was recognized as an area that needed attention.
Recently, the Government of Northwest Territories' finance minister announced in her chambers that the government spent $156 million trying to address COVID. Out of that, $123 million came from the Government of Canada. For us, I think we are seeing very good unemployment rates here in the north. I was really surprised when I looked at the numbers. Under the Canada emergency business account, we put out about 4,400 loans worth $24 million. Under the Canada emergency wage subsidy, there were 1,490 applications for $40 million in subsidies, paid out to protect 2,960 jobs. As for the Canada emergency response benefit, 12,000 residents claimed it. There were 2,380 people who claimed the Canada recovery benefit. For the sickness benefit, there were 760 people, so the numbers have been really good. On top of that, we received indigenous community support.
The implementation of the seven new programs I just mentioned certainly saw an increase in calls to the centres. Can the people here talk about how much of an increase they've seen and what steps they have taken to address this extraordinary situation?
View Michael McLeod Profile
Lib. (NT)
There's a question that's always being asked to me as a member of Parliament, and one of you touched a bit on how the CERB program had to kind of fill in for the EI system, which couldn't handle an emergency such as this.
Could you maybe walk us through the decision process behind the creation of the CERB? I think it's important for everybody to understand what was going on.
View Michael McLeod Profile
Lib. (NT)
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
I'll try to be quick.
Mayor Napier, I want you to speak a little about infrastructure. You mentioned it as your first pillar. While we know that a lot of progress has been made on infrastructure in the north over the last five years, we know there's still a long way to go.
Could you speak on the importance of having infrastructure funding programs that are able not only to address the costs of construction in the north but also flexible enough to be effective?
View Michael McLeod Profile
Lib. (NT)
View Michael McLeod Profile
Lib. (NT)
—is about connectivity. You know that the Prime Minister last month announced $750 million in new funding to get 98% of Canadians connected to high-speed Internet by 2026.
What recommendations would you have to make sure that northern communities are able to benefit as much as possible from this funding?
View Michael McLeod Profile
Lib. (NT)
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
My question is for Jeff from CHRA.
First of all, I really appreciated hearing his comments on housing and the piece on urban, rural and northern housing.
I was involved in making a request to the HUMA committee to study the issue of urban and rural indigenous housing in northern communities. I represent the Northwest Territories, and over half the people I represent are indigenous. However, the indigenous housing announcements don't apply to us in the Northwest Territories for the most part because we don't have national indigenous organizations that represent us, so we don't fit anywhere. It was certainly a missing piece, as you stated.
Even though we are looking at urban, rural and northern funding, we're still a little bit nervous because we're packaged up with a lot of the big municipalities or a lot of the big cities. We think we probably would still need a carve-out to ensure that we get a share of the money.
Mr. Morrison, I want you to talk about the urban, rural and northern program we need, and I also want you to talk a bit about the SGIGs, the self-governing indigenous governments, that also didn't fit anywhere in the funding for indigenous housing.
View Michael McLeod Profile
Lib. (NT)
Thank you, Mr. Chair, and to all of the presenters here today. It's a very interesting discussion.
I'd like to say welcome to Mayor Alty from Yellowknife. It's good to have somebody from the north in the mix once in awhile.
I listened closely to your recommendations. The recommendation on the gas tax.... In budget 2019, our government did do a one-time doubling of the gas tax transfer. I wonder if you could tell us how that helped Yellowknife. Would a similar top-up in budget 2021 assist with the city's infrastructure plans?
View Michael McLeod Profile
Lib. (NT)
Thank you for that.
I really appreciate hearing somebody recommend that resources should be ramped up for the federal government side of indigenous land claims and negotiations for self-government. Maybe even adding to that is the need for a recognition or rights framework. I think Yellowknife is really in a land-locked situation, being surrounded by land claims on all sides. It would really help if we could move that forward. That's good to hear. Hopefully, people are listening.
I did want to ask about how the City of Yellowknife envisions having the call to action number 21 met, which you mentioned. Would that be through a larger central healing centre, several smaller facilities throughout the north, an on the land program in the communities, or a combination of all these? What is your city's vision?
View Michael McLeod Profile
Lib. (NT)
I don't know how much time I have left, but I want to ask you a final question on the rapid housing initiative that you mentioned.
I know that many organizations in the Northwest Territories are interested in accessing the rapid housing initiative. Could you tell the committee how the City of Yellowknife has considered using and accessing these funds, and if you have any recommendations for improving the program?
I just got a call today from the Sahtu. They're saying that we need to extend some of the time frames. These are tight. They have winter road schedules and everything else. Maybe you can talk about that a little bit.
View Michael McLeod Profile
Lib. (NT)
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
Thank you to all of the presenters here today.
I have to be quick because I don't have a lot of time, so I'll just jump right into it.
Mr. Nitah, thank you for your presentation. I'm very familiar with the indigenous guardians program. I was very excited to see what's going on with the Thaidene Nëné park agreement. There's lots of good stuff happening. If it were up to me, there'd be an indigenous guardian program, an aboriginal head start program and a friendship centre in every one of our indigenous communities. That would really help a lot and go a long way.
It's clear that the indigenous guardians program and the indigenous protected conservation areas are key to addressing Canada's reconciliation. I think you said that. It also helps us with our environmental goals. Could you also speak to the socio-economic benefits for indigenous people that these programs provide?
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