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Richard Blackwolf
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Richard Blackwolf
2015-05-27 18:43
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Good evening. I'm Richard Blackwolf, the national president of Canadian Aboriginal Veterans and Serving Members Association. I'm honoured to have with me tonight, Mr. Joseph Burke, the Canadian Aboriginal Veterans national representative from Ottawa, who has an extensive medical background from his service in the military.
Mr. Chairman and honourable members of the committee, thank you for the invitation to appear before the committee and give you our thoughts and opinions on the clauses contained in division 17, part 3 of Bill C-59.
It is our understanding that Canada is one of the countries that do not maintain a large standing armed forces. The often quoted prime minister, Sir Robert Borden, in his speech to the Canadian corps on the eve of the attack on Vimy Ridge is a reflection of the covenant between the Government of Canada and the citizen volunteers of Canada who go to fight in Europe.
The new Veterans Charter is a covenant between the people of Canada and the Government of Canada to the current volunteers serving in the Canadian Armed Forces and to future citizens answering a call to arms when the country needs to fight aggression. Therefore, it is all of our duties to make the best possible charter for the care of our veterans.
Our submission today is the result of a clause-by-clause analysis of division 17, part 3 of Bill C-59, with reference to the committee's previous three questions posed last year in May.
The purpose of the act is centred on the obligation to provide services, assistance, and compensation to Canadian Forces serving members and veterans, who have been injured or die for their service and have benefits extended to their spouse, common-law spouse, children, and orphans.
Mr. Burke will address the other portion of our presentation at this time.
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Bradley K. White
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Bradley K. White
2015-05-26 18:32
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Honourable Chair and members of the committee, good evening, and thank you.
I do agree with you, Chair, that 632 is the friendliest branch in all of Ottawa.
It's a great pleasure to appear once again in front of the committee. I'm pleased to speak on behalf of our Dominion president, Mr. Tom Eagles, and our 300,000 members and their families.
This evening, we will do our presentation in English. However, we have provided a copy of our brief in both official languages.
The legion has been asked to discuss specifically division 17 of part 3, which amends the Canadian Forces Members and Veterans Re-establishment and Compensation Act to add a purpose statement to the act; improve the transition process of Canadian Forces members and veterans to civilian life; establish a retirement income security benefit to provide eligible veterans and their survivors with a continued financial benefit after the age of 65 years; establish the critical injury benefit to provide eligible Canadian Forces members and veterans with lump-sum compensation for severe, sudden, and traumatic injuries or acute diseases that are service related, regardless of whether they result in permanent disability; and finally, to establish the family caregiver relief benefit to provide eligible veterans who require a high level of ongoing care from an informal caregiver with an annual grant to recognize that caregiver's support.
The division also amends portions of the Veterans Review and Appeal Board Act as a consequence of the establishment of the critical injury benefit.
Please note that our comments are directed specifically to this section of Bill C-59 and not to the entire omnibus bill.
The Royal Canadian Legion is the only veteran service organization that assists veterans and their families with representation to Veterans Affairs Canada and the Veterans Review and Appeal Board.
The legion's advocacy program is core to our mission, and we have been assisting veterans since 1926 through our legislated mandate in both the Pension Act and the new Veterans Charter. Please note that veterans do not have to be legion members to receive our assistance; we provide it free of charge.
Our national service bureau network provides representation, starting with their first applications to Veterans Affairs Canada and through all three levels of the Veterans Review and Appeal Board. Through the legislation, the legion has access to service health records and departmental files to provide comprehensive yet independent representation at no cost.
Last year our service officers prepared and represented disability claims on behalf of over 3,000 veterans to VAC and the VRAB. There is no other veterans group with this kind of direct contact and interaction with, provision of support to, and feedback from veterans, their families and, of course, the caregivers.
When it comes to serving veterans and their families, the legion continues to be the only veterans organization in Canada advocating for and providing assistance to all veterans.
The legion recognizes that progress is being made for veterans and their families in this budget and recommends that the NCVA provisions of Bill C-59 be passed as soon as possible. Is it everything we have been advocating for? Does it answer all of the 14 ACVA recommendations? No, it does not, but it is a very positive step forward.
This bill lays out important enhancements that will improve the care and benefits provided to veterans and their families, especially for our veterans who have turned or will be turning 65 in the very near future. We need to ensure that they have financial benefits beyond age 65 for life, including that provision for their survivors as well.
However, we do have many questions on how the retirement income security benefit, the RISB, is calculated, and until we receive and review the complete policies on the RISB, the critical injury benefit, and the family caregiver relief benefit, we will not see how adequate these benefits will be to our veterans and their families.
Our principal concerns remain that the maximum disability award must be increased to be consistent with what is provided to injured civilian workers who receive general damages in law courts. As well, our concern with the family caregiver relief benefit is that it does not adequately compensate a spouse who has to give up a full-time job to become a caregiver. What is proposed is a respite benefit. Most families today are dual-income families and sometimes that service member works two jobs to support the family, so in essence when he gets injured three full-time wages are lost. We would prefer to see something akin to the Pension Act's attendance allowance reinstated.
As I previously stated, Bill C-59, in division 17 of part 3, does not answer all of the 14 ACVA recommendations. The Royal Canadian Legion will not rest until all these recommendations have been addressed and adopted, and we will not cease in our efforts to push the government to honour its obligations.
We have not shied away from making our stance on these issues known. We have shared our position paper, “Veterans Matter”, with all Canadians to encourage an informed debate on veterans' issues in the future.
I want to address the issues of communications and accessibility.
The new Veterans Charter was developed to meet the needs of modern veterans. It is based on modern disability management principles. It focuses on rehabilitation and successful transition.
It must be stated that the legion, while endorsing the new Veterans Charter as it was adopted in 2006, has also been steadfast in our advocacy for its change to better meet the lifelong needs of our veterans and their families. We all have an obligation to understand the complexities and interrelationships, and to inform about and explain the new Veterans Charter for the people who it concerns. Our veterans and their families deserve absolutely nothing less.
The new Veterans Charter and the enhanced new Veterans Charter Act are comprehensive and very complex. Our veterans and their families need to know what programs are available to assist them and how to access them, whether they are financial, rehabilitation, health services, and/or family care programs. The government needs to ensure that resources and programs are in place to meet their needs and to review the accessibility to these programs, while ensuring that front-line staff are available—and knowledgeable—to assist veterans and their families. This can never become a self-serve system.
Most veterans and their families do not have a good understanding of the new Veterans Charter. I would suggest that this highlights the ineffectiveness of the government's communication of the programs and services available under the new Veterans Charter for our injured veterans and their families. What is required is proactive communication to all veterans across this country to ensure that they are aware of the financial compensation, rehabilitation programs, health care services, and the family care programs that are available and of how to access them.
Lastly, it is also time for all of us to understand the new Veterans Charter and the Enhanced New Veterans Charter Act. This should be a priority. Our veterans need to know not only the weaknesses of the programs but the strengths behind the legislation: the programs, the services, and the benefits. We, too, can help our veterans and their families.
Since commencing our advocacy in 1926, the legion's advocacy and programming efforts continue to evolve to meet the changing demographics while supporting our traditional veteran community. However, notwithstanding the capacity of the legion, we certainly believe that the Department of National Defence and Veterans Affairs Canada have a responsibility to ensure that policies, practices, and programs supported through a sustainable research program are accessible and meet the unique needs of all veterans, with a goal of enabling the healthy transition of all our veterans and their families through this very challenging, changing, and sometimes difficult life course.
Finally, I would be remiss if I did not mention our World War II veterans and post-World War II veterans who are now seeking assistance through the legion for access to the veterans independence program. These veterans are often frail, and they are approaching the end of their life. They are a very proud group of people who have never applied to the government for any type of disability benefit assistance, and now, because they want to remain independent in their own homes rather than going into a long-term care facility, they cannot access the VIP and benefits for frailty because they do not have an established eligibility for a disability or a lower income.
Last October, we sent a high-priority list of resolutions to the Minister of Veterans Affairs, including a resolution that all veterans be deemed eligible for VIP benefits based on need, irrespective of their having established disability entitlement or low-income status. We urge the government to action this resolution without delay. We understand that the response to these resolutions will be forthcoming from the department very soon.
We agree that the passage of Bill C-59, and particularly those provisions that affect the new Veterans Charter, is a step in the right direction. Let me thank the committee for the work it does on behalf of our veterans. The legion appreciates the opportunity to come before the committee to brief you on our perspective on issues of concern to Canada's veterans.
I would also at this time like to extend to the committee the opportunity to visit our national headquarters, which we call Legion House. It would be opportunity for us to provide you with a full brief on how the legion is one of Canada's great institutions, and how we support Canadians, our veterans, and our communities.
Once again, thank you. Merci.
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Sean Bruyea
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Sean Bruyea
2015-05-26 20:02
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Okay. Super, Chair.
Thank you, Mr. Chair and honourable members of the committee, for the invitation. We have much to do so I will skip further formalities.
The proposed programs that bring us here today have been accompanied by an inundation of feel-good political announcements. Does the hype match reality? More importantly, do the programs fulfill identified gaps and address the evidence-based recommendations?
The retirement income security benefit claims it will top up to 70% of what the veteran received from government prior to age 65. However, this is based upon the veteran's earnings loss benefit, as already pointed out, which pays 75% of release salary, inadequately adjusted for inflation. The retirement benefit equates to the veteran effectively receiving 52.5% of their military salary, once again inadequately adjusted for inflation.
It is interesting to note that the ombudsman, Guy Parent, was quick to endorse this program during a partisan political announcement, yet Mr. Parent's office clearly recommended a retirement benefit matching 70% of a fully indexed release salary.
The department has been less than forthcoming as to what will be deducted from this income, but we are safe to assume that CPP, OAS, and the CF retirement pension will be deducted. We must know that OAS, a program for all Canadians, is transparent in its legislation as to how OAS is calculated. Do veterans not deserve the same sort of transparency for their benefits?
What we do know is that the calculation for the veteran retirement benefit does not include these other incomes in calculating the 70% benefit, but then will likely deduct these programs at 100%. This hardly meets the smell test, let alone the fact it fails to provide the veteran with even 70% of what he or she received in Government of Canada benefits prior to age 65.
We also must emphatically remember that the majority of veterans groups that are active in advocacy, the ombudsman, VAC's own advisory group, and this committee in 2010 have all repeatedly recommended that the 75% earnings loss benefit be substantively increased to anywhere from 90% to 100% of release salary, matching typical career progression and promotions.
Implementing this universally supported recommendation would result in a dignified income loss program, which would in turn provide a dignified retirement benefit for our most injured veterans. Today we are witnesses to the consequence of government's repeated dismissal of this evidence-based research and recommendation in this paltry payout from this proposed retirement benefit.
The family caregiver benefit is another puzzling creation. No veteran group, parliamentary committee, ombudsman, or advisory group asked for this benefit in this form. What others have asked for is everything from matching the DND caregiver benefit, which pays up to $36,500 in any 365 cumulative days, to providing spouses of TPI veterans with their own earnings loss benefit to compensate for their lost income while they're caring for their disabled veteran spouses.
One of the easiest solutions would be merely to open up attendance allowance to new Veterans Charter recipients. However, the proposed family caregiver benefit pays $7,238 per year, equivalent to the lowest levels of attendance allowance, which pays up to $21,151.44 annually.
New Veterans Charter clients are prevented, under this legislation, from accessing the attendance allowance. Attendance allowance recipients are prevented from accessing the new family caregiver benefit, yet the criteria for each are different. If new Veterans Charter programs are so good, why is this one closed to Pension Act clients? If the Pension Act so inadequate, why are NVC clients prevented from accessing attendance allowance?
The critical injury benefit will provide a one-time payment of $70,000 to eligible Canadian Forces members and veterans “for severe, sudden and traumatic injuries or acute diseases that are service related, regardless of whether they result in permanent disability”. Countless veterans have come forward, telling us that disabling PTSD, traumatic brain injury, and loss of organ function are being low-balled below the approximately $40,000 average disability award payment.
How can government justify to a veteran suffering a lifelong disability that their disabling pain and suffering merits far lower a payment than a veteran who temporarily suffered an injury?
This leads to the obvious question on many Canadians' mind: from what bureaucratic orifice did this benefit originate? Absolutely no one in the veterans community, the ombudsman's office, the committee, or advisory group asked for this benefit. We know little of the criteria, but we can guess.
The criteria will be so stringently defined as to restrict the benefits to only two or three individuals per year out of a totally disabled and permanently incapacitated veteran population of 4,000 veterans, and a CF serving and veteran population of 700,000 individuals.
How is this in any manner fulfilling Canada's obligation to all of our veterans and their families? It is not. Why did government not do what we've all been asking and increase the amount of the lump-sum benefit to at least match court awards for pain and suffering? We are inundated by slick PR campaigns and political photo shoots on the importance of military service and of being a veteran, but when it comes to addressing shortcomings for those most in need, government delays deflect, and unfortunately have been lightly dancing on the suffering of our veterans and their families.
Bill C-59 proposes wording regarding an obligation to our serving members, our veterans, and their families, to provide services, assistance, and compensation. It is more encompassing than the construction clause of the Pension Act. However, both offer little substance and are essentially meaningless.
To what end is the obligation? Is it to rehabilitate, to re-establish or offer opportunity, well-being, employment, quality of life or education, or perhaps provide a clear service standard? An obligation without a goal is meaningless. Why does this obligation recognize assistance to only injured members, veterans, and their families? Is Canada not responsible for all veterans? The duty of the minister under the Department of Veterans Affairs Act is for “the care, treatment or re-establishment in civil life of any person who served in the Canadian Forces”, and “The care of the dependants or survivors”. Is this not what the NVC promised but has so far failed to deliver?
I'm consistently honoured to appear before committee and to have my comments placed on the record. In the past, I have provided over 100 recommendations in original reports with often unprecedented observations, likely more than any other individual or organization. In my last submission, I provided 30 easy and doable recommendations, which would have minimal expenditure and—
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Michel Doiron
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Michel Doiron
2015-05-26 8:48
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Thank you kindly, Mr. Chair.
Good morning, Chair, members, mesdames et messieurs.
As the chair said, my name is Michel Doiron and I am the assistant deputy minister for service delivery at Veterans Affairs. With me today is my colleague Bernard Butler, the acting assistant deputy minister of policy, communications, and commemoration.
I wish to thank you for the opportunity to appear before you today on an issue of importance and great interest to veterans and their families, and that is those elements of the government's response to your committee's report of June 2014, titled “The New Veterans Charter: Moving Forward”, that are contained in economic action plan 2015, or Bill C-59. The legislation, if passed, will amend the Canadian Forces Members and Veterans Re-establishment and Compensation Act, commonly known as the new Veterans Charter, to address a number of the concerns and gaps that have been identified.
There are essentially five legislative amendments/provisions contained within the bill.
The first provision introduces a purpose clause “to recognize and fulfil the obligation of the people and Government of Canada to show just and due appreciation to members and veterans for their service to Canada” and further provides that the “Act shall be liberally interpreted so that the recognized obligation may be fulfilled”.
The second significant provision enhances Veterans Affairs Canada's ability to support transition to civilian life. It authorizes Veterans Affairs Canada to provide information and guidance to Canadian Armed Forces members and veterans on the benefits and services that may be available to them in order to help them transition and to make decisions on applications for benefits and services prior to release.
There are three additional amendments that effectively create new benefits for veterans. These new benefits will strengthen the government's support provided to seriously disabled veterans and their families through the new Veterans Charter.
The first benefit, known as the retirement income security benefit, RISB, would provide moderately to severely disabled veterans—those who need it most—with continued assistance in the form of a monthly income support payment beginning at the age of 65.
The second benefit, the family caregiver relief benefit, would provide eligible veterans with a tax-free annual grant of $7,238 so that their informal caregivers, often their spouses or other devoted family members, will have flexibility or relief when they need it while also ensuring that veterans' care needs are met.
The third benefit, the critical injury benefit, or CIB, would provide a $70,000 tax-free award to support the most severely injured and ill Canadian Armed Forces members and veterans.
These new benefits will complement the existing suite of services and benefits available through the new Veterans Charter and add depth to the supports available both to those injured in service to their country and to their families from the Government of Canada.
As announced in the budget, additional staff will also address delays in service delivery, especially for the most seriously disabled and their families. We will hire more than 100 permanent case managers for improved one-on-one services. More than 100 new disability adjudication staff, temporary and permanent, will improve the processing time for veterans who submit an application for a disability benefit application. This is part of the department's commitment to service excellence.
Thank you for listening.
I will now open the floor, Mr. Chair, to any questions the committee may have for Bernard or for me.
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View Pierre Lemieux Profile
CPC (ON)
Thank you to our guests for being here to talk about this important legislation. I'm very happy it's included in the budget implementation act. I'm glad we have it here in front of the committee so that we're able to discuss the different aspects of it.
The first question I'd like to ask has to do with the purpose clause. You mentioned it in your opening remarks. I think it would be of interest to all members. I think the terminology that's been used in the purpose clause is terminology that all MPs have been seeking. I'm wondering if you could elaborate on that a bit.
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Bernard Butler
View Bernard Butler Profile
Bernard Butler
2015-05-26 8:58
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Thank you for the question.
Mr. Chair, the purpose clause reflects the objective of ensuring, as per the direction of this committee in its report going back to June 2014, that there be some formal statement of recognition of the obligation of the government and the people of Canada to Canada's veterans and their families. Interestingly enough, historically there was a very similar clause contained in the pension legislation, as an example, but when the new Veterans Charter was introduced in 2006, it was omitted. The committee had pointed out that this was a gap, that there was no formal statement in the new Veterans Charter to reflect that obligation.
The purpose clause has two elements. One is to state that there is a recognized obligation to support veterans and their families. The second element is quite important, to the extent that it says that the act shall be liberally construed so that the recognized obligation may be fulfilled. That's a very clear direction to both government administrators and presumably the courts, that if they are faced with interpreting any aspects of the legislation, they should ensure that a very liberal interpretation is applied in order to fulfill the obligation reflected in the statute.
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View Laurie Hawn Profile
CPC (AB)
Okay.
I want to talk about the purpose clause for a bit. That's been a sticking point, because it was, as you said, omitted for whatever reason when the legislation came into effect in 2006. But in de facto terms, has not every government of every stripe since 1917 tried to live up to that clause, whether written or not? In my view, every government—Liberal, Conservative, it doesn't matter—has tried to do the best they can.
I mean, the clause is nice. If it gives people comfort, that's great; it makes it more clear, more specific. But de facto, have governments not been trying to live up to that forever, basically?
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Bernard Butler
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Bernard Butler
2015-05-26 9:15
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I think that's a rather broad question to ask of a witness from Veterans Affairs. I would certainly say, in terms of how the Department of Veterans Affairs endeavours to apply the legislation, that we certainly endeavour to do that really all the time in adjudication of benefits and eligibility for services and so on.
I think you're right to that extent: this has always been the approach of Veterans Affairs. This simply very clearly codifies what that responsibility is.
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Brian Forbes
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Brian Forbes
2015-05-26 9:56
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Thank you, Mr. Chair.
NCVA welcomes this opportunity to speak to this committee this morning on Bill C-59, with particular reference to that portion of the legislation dealing with the new Veterans Charter reform.
I first wish to state that it has become readily apparent over recent months that there have been a number of significant developments positively impacting on the operation of Veterans Affairs Canada and the department's relationship with the veterans community. We would be remiss if we did not commend the minister, Erin O'Toole, and the deputy, Walt Natynczyk, on their proactive engagement in the overall reform of the charter and the enhancement of the administrative culture within VAC.
With specific reference to charter reform, it is fair to say that significant momentum and substantial traction have been developed through the various recommendations brought down by the minister, culminating in the establishment of the current statutory amendments before Parliament, which clearly are the government's attempt to respond to their proposals made by this standing committee, the Veterans Ombudsman, the Veterans Consultation Group, the New Veterans Charter Advisory Group, and our NCVA organizations.
Unfortunately, many of the minister's announcements and proposed legislative amendments reflect, in our judgment, half measures and are clearly not fully responsive to the comprehensive recommendations made by this committee and the aforementioned multiple advisory groups. After years, however, of what I have described as unacceptable inertia within VAC, there are indeed solid indications that the first phase of positive, incremental change is taking place. It remains our mandate, and I might respectfully suggest the responsibility of this committee and veteran stakeholders, to maintain pressure on the government to complete this vital initiative in addressing the outstanding inequities which still remain in the charter.
Mr. Chair, I would now like to make a number of general comments on the bill and the impact it will have on the new Veterans Charter.
First, the clear focus on seriously disabled veterans is commendable as it has consistently been the position of NCVA that the highest priority of the veterans community and the government must be seriously injured veterans.
Second, it is self-evident upon a review of the substantive provisions of the statutory amendments that the devil will be in the details as there are a number of references in the legislation to regulations and policy guidelines that have yet to be formulated to support the general provisions of the act. It is my opinion that until these regulations are finalized, it will not be possible to evaluate the precise eligibility criteria for the newly proposed major benefits and the “factors to be considered”, which are often mentioned in the bill, in the administration of the new law. It will be incumbent on veteran stakeholders and indeed this standing committee to monitor closely the draft regulations and policy guidelines to ensure that the substantive provisions of the act are not diluted or unduly restricted.
Third, it is also readily apparent that budgetary constraints still exist. It is our opinion, upon a review of the minister's announcements and the statutory amendments, that the proposals have been structured to fit into the budgetary envelope, resulting in proposed benefits that are targeted to specific cohort veterans rather than the veteran population at large. Unfortunately, in our view, the government fixation with balancing the budget in this election year remains a restraint on the complete new Veterans Charter reform at this time.
Fourth, as I stated to the minister through recent correspondence and through my presentation to the veterans summit, much more needs to be done to rectify the voids that have been readily identified in the charter. The present state of development cannot be considered a total fait accompli, but merely a significant first stage of remedial legislation.
Mr. Chair, I know we're under certain time constraints and my brief is fairly lengthy. I've made it available to members of the committee, but I'd like to highlight some of my concerns with regard to the bill and those areas where there are still gaps and inequities in the charter which have yet to be addressed in this legislation.
First, the earnings loss benefit must be elevated from 75% of former military income to 100% in accordance with the long-standing and consistent recommendations of the New Veterans Charter Advisory Group, the Veterans Consultation Group, and NCVA—or at least to 90%, as proposed by my friend, the Veterans Ombudsman. The current reduction of 25% in income is unacceptable, particularly given that this loss of essential revenue is imposed when veterans and their families face a period of rehabilitation as they attempt to re-establish themselves in Canadian society.
This is particularly material to those who are permanently incapacitated. In this regard, the career probable-earnings approach identified by this committee should be implemented to ensure the true impact of the projected career income loss is recognized. This proposal can be implemented by further reform of the PIA or the PIAS, or alternatively by a separate evaluation based on the mechanisms used by the Canadian civil courts to ascertain future loss of income for severely injured plaintiffs
Second, the SISIP long-term disability policy needs to be eliminated from veterans legislation and be applied only to non-service related disability.
Beyond the unnecessary duplication of the programs—SISIP and ELB—the compensation of veterans and their dependants should not be a function of the insurance industry, whose mandate in many situations is to minimize exposure of insurers' policies when applied to injured or disabled individuals. I speak more of that in the paper, and I'll leave that to your reading at a separate time.
Third, disability awards commensurate with civil court general damages should be facilitated by VAC.
It is to be noted that in lieu of implementing this long-standing recommendation, the minister has opted to propose a new critical injury benefit in the amount of $70,000. This CIB is limited to the specific circumstances of a transitionally incapacitated veteran and to high-end disability award recipients. It is noteworthy in this regard that the CIB is fraught with definitional issues as to who is eligible for this benefit and what factors are to be considered by adjudicators in determining the scope and extent of this new provision. Although we support the establishment of the innovative CIB in recognition of the plight that seriously disabled veterans confront, the choice of VAC to compensate only this particular class of veterans, as opposed to incrementally increasing all pensions in the disability award system, is of concern. I might add that this recommendation has been consistently brought forward over the last six or seven years not only by this committee, but by all of the other advisory groups that have looked at the charter.
Fourth, improved access to permanent impairment allowance and entitlement to higher-grade levels of the allowance needs further evaluation. It will be recalled that the Veterans Ombudsman, Mr. Parent, in his empirical study of the charter identified that 50% of seriously disabled veterans were not receiving the PIA, and consequently the PIAS, and that 90% of these veterans receiving the award were only obtaining grade three, the lowest grade. The minister's proposal to widen the regulatory definition of PIA eligibility is commendable, but once again does not fully satisfy all aspects of the reform of this important allowance. This is particularly so for those seriously disabled veterans who fail to satisfy the criteria for PIA, but it is also of great significance when one considers that the amount of the PIA is a major element of the new retirement income security benefit, as was pointed out by Mr. Butler this morning.
We continue to strongly feel that our proposal to the standing committee in this regard is the best approach to improving this access to PIA. That is, once a veteran is deemed to be permanently incapacitated, the disability award received by such a veteran should be the major determinant in assessing his or her grade level of PIA. If you're over 78% disability award, you should be entitled to a grade one PIA. Between 48% and 78%, you should be at grade two. It's simple, straightforward, and triggered by the disability award.
Fifth, the family caregiver relief benefit requires further re-evaluation as it fails to comprehensively provide adequate financial support for the families of seriously disabled veterans where significant needs of attendants must be provided by a caregiver. This benefit, as brought forward by the minister, is commendable insofar as it goes, as a targeted support to allow caregivers appropriate respite or relief, but in my judgment, it represents only one element of the overall concerns confronting the caregivers of seriously disabled veterans in need of attendants. Such families are also facing, in many cases, a significant diminishment in income due to the fact that the caregiver spouse has been forced to give up his or her employment, and when coupled with the veteran's 25% loss of income, through SISIP or ELB, it often results in a financial crisis in the overall family budget.
I'll just be a couple of minutes, Mr. Chair. Thank you.
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View Guy Caron Profile
NDP (QC)
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
The main purpose of the proposed amendment is to give more powers to the minister in situations related to class 1, class 2 and class 3 aerodromes and even private airports. Is that correct?
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Shari Currie
View Shari Currie Profile
Mrs. Shari Currie
2014-11-05 16:27
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The main purpose of the proposed amendment is to provide the minister with the new authority that would relate to all aerodromes, which would include class 1, class 2, class 3, and all others. It would also provide the minister with regulation-making authority for consultations.
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View Guy Caron Profile
NDP (QC)
Okay.
I would like to use as an example the airport in Neuville, a private airport, I believe. In fact, this matter has come up quite regularly in question period. The airport is in a colleague's riding, not my own.
How does the minister's current authority compare to the authority he would have with this amendment?
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Shari Currie
View Shari Currie Profile
Mrs. Shari Currie
2014-11-05 16:28
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Sorry for the delay; I want to make sure that my answer is appropriate.
In terms of the current authorities, the minister does not have the authority to intervene in that particular aerodrome. Under the new authorities, if that aerodrome or any other aerodrome chose to expand or change their operations, then the minister would have the ability to intervene where there is a risk to aviation safety or it would be in the public interest to intervene.
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View Guy Caron Profile
NDP (QC)
Okay.
I would like to make a distinction. Right now, we are talking about the minister's authority, which falls under Transport Canada. The authority over these aerodromes, be they class 1, 2, 3 or private, is still in the hands of the department without necessarily being at the discretion of the minister. Am I mistaken?
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Shari Currie
View Shari Currie Profile
Mrs. Shari Currie
2014-11-05 16:30
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Currently under the authority and the discretion, we don't authorize aerodromes to be built, and we don't have the authority or the discretion to intervene in the development of the aerodrome. This amendment would provide the authority for the minister to intervene.
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View Guy Caron Profile
NDP (QC)
Basically, right now, any decisions related to building or expanding an aerodrome do not need to be approved or authorized by anyone, whether at the provincial or federal level. Is that correct?
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View Guy Caron Profile
NDP (QC)
After the bill is passed, an authorization will be required. The words “at the discretion of the minister” mean that the department itself can provide authorization.
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Shari Currie
View Shari Currie Profile
Mrs. Shari Currie
2014-11-05 16:30
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No.
I would clarify that the department would not be approving the development, expansion, or change in operations of an aerodrome. The department would be able to intervene if there was a fact-based, substantiated complaint brought to it by a concerned party, whether it was the municipality or a member of the Canadian public. The complaint would have to be brought to the department and we would do an evaluation on whether the department or the minister would intervene. That's where the minister's authority would come in to say that you cannot build there because there is a risk to public safety, or you can't build there because it's not in the public interest, or not say anything and the aerodrome could be built.
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View Murray Rankin Profile
NDP (BC)
View Murray Rankin Profile
2014-11-05 16:31
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Thank you.
This is just a quick follow-up. The issue is whether it's likely to adversely affect aviation safety or not in the public interest. Is there any structuring of that wide-open discretion as regards public interest? Is there any documentation or guidance that's provided in how that discretion would be exercised?
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Shari Currie
View Shari Currie Profile
Mrs. Shari Currie
2014-11-05 16:31
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The minister's discretion in terms of public interest is embedded in the Aeronautics Act. The minister would intervene under the four corners of the Aeronautics Act where the principle is embedded in the Aeronautics Act only.
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View Murray Rankin Profile
NDP (BC)
View Murray Rankin Profile
2014-11-05 16:32
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That go beyond simply public safety, obviously, or you wouldn't have put that there. It's something beyond that, yet it must relate to aeronautics policy.
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Jeff Morrison
View Jeff Morrison Profile
Jeff Morrison
2014-06-12 9:52
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Thank you, Mr. Chair, and good morning to the committee. Thank you to the Standing Committee on Health for the invitation to appear this morning. My name is Jeff Morrison. I'm director of government relations and public affairs with the Canadian Pharmacists Association. With me—I'm very happy—is Barry Power, a pharmacy consultant with CPhA, an adjunct assistant professor at the school of pharmacy with the University of Waterloo, and a pharmacist himself.
As you know, CPhA is the national association representing the pharmacist profession in Canada.
Drug safety is a priority for the Canadian Pharmacists Association and for all pharmacists in Canada. Although it is not possible to completely eliminate all risks associated with the use of prescription drugs, pharmacists spend a lot of time counselling patients on the appropriate and safe use of the drugs they are taking. That is why the CPhA supported the general spirit and thrust of Bill C-17, Vanessa's Law, when it was introduced by the minister in December 2013.
In particular, the CPhA supports the bill's intent to increase penalties for unsafe products and to provide Health Canada with new powers to recall unsafe products and to compel companies to do further testing on a product when issues are identified with certain at-risk populations, as well as the requirement for drug companies to revise labels to clearly reflect health risk information, including potential updates for health warnings for children.
However, there are some concerns and outstanding questions we have with regard to the bill. Although these questions and concerns may be addressed during the regulatory development process, we still wish to raise them with the committee this morning.
First, the bill provides a blanket exemption for natural health products. As NHPs are medicinal products and have the ability to cause harm, and given that Health Canada and several provinces state that between 60% to 70% of therapeutic products consumed by Canadians are in fact NHPs, the CPhA feels that NHPs should be included within the scope of the bill.
Second, the bill mandates the need for adverse drug reporting by stating the following, which I'm sure you know:
A prescribed health care institution shall provide the Minister, within the prescribed time and in the prescribed manner, with prescribed information that is in its control about a serious adverse drug reaction that involves a therapeutic product or a medical device incident that involves a therapeutic product.
However, this clause raises several questions that frankly the bill doesn't clarify.
For example, what is a prescribed health care institution? Is a pharmacy a health care institution? Will the downtown community health centre, of which I was the president, be considered a health care institution?
It would be helpful to specify the definition of a prescribed health care institution that is required to provide information.
Also, what is a serious adverse drug reaction? How is that to be defined? For example, is it necessary to report a well-known but serious reaction? All health care professionals know of many of the serious adverse reactions caused by chemotherapy, for example, during cancer treatment. Would they be expected to report these? Where do we draw the line between what is to be reported and what is considered well-established fact? Again, clarification within the bill would be useful.
Also, what will happen with this information? Will it be analyzed? Will all the information that is reported be made publicly available? If so, how so? As pharmacists we believe that Health Canada should be transparent in the provision and aggregation of the information it receives from this mandatory reporting, but at present, the legislation as written is unclear on whether this information will be properly analyzed and shared with health practitioners and with Canadians.
The same issue regarding transparency can also be applied to the bill's requirement that the minister may order the manufacturer to conduct additional assessments and tests of a questionable product or drug in regard to health and safety. The legislation states that the results of these tests will be provided to the minister. However, there is no allowance currently in the bill for providing that information more publicly, including to pharmacists, other practitioners, and Canadians. As you can probably guess, we feel it should.
Last, the bill also states that this reporting requirement “shall take into account existing information management systems, with a view to not recommending the making of regulations that would impose unnecessary administrative burdens”. However, this clause would appear to be at odds with the reality of the situation on the ground.
By its inclusion in the bill, the requirement for prescribed health care institutions to report adverse drug reactions will impose additional administrative burdens. Although technological solutions can and should help, the fact remains that additional human resources will be required to collect and provide this data. If the definition of prescribed health care institution is broad in scope—as I mentioned earlier, we don't have that—then the administrative requirements will likely increase. As a result, we're uncertain about how the bill can reconcile what would appear to be two contradictory goals of, on the one hand, increasing reporting, but on the other hand, without imposing administrative burdens.
In short, Mr. Chair, the Canadian Pharmacists Association is very supportive of Bill C-17. Given pharmacists' preoccupation with safe and effective use of medications, the CPhA believes the legislation is a step in the right direction. However, as I've outlined, we feel that there are clauses within the bill that could benefit from greater clarity and certainty in terms of how they will be applied.
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
We are ready to answer the committee's questions.
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View Eve Adams Profile
Lib. (ON)
Thank you very much.
Thank you all for joining us today.
In the recent CMHA article that all of you co-authored, the subject of clinical trials was the main point that I took away, where you suggested that we really needed to improve this legislation regarding clinical trials.
Can you provide a comprehensive overview of what elements you feel are the most important aspects that we amend in this legislation to get that aspect right?
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Matthew Herder
View Matthew Herder Profile
Matthew Herder
2014-06-10 9:42
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I might defer to Joel and Janice for some of the particulars, but what I can say that I think is helpful is that there's been a lot of work to define the particular elements. The World Health Organization has sort of done some work that has led to a minimal set of information to be included: the number of patients, those who withdrew from the trial, the different kinds of outcomes they are looking for in the trial, the design of the trials. There are ready-made lists that talk about the key pieces of information to be included under any system of clinical trial registration.
Perhaps Joel and Janice can describe some of the more particular pieces of information.
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Joel Lexchin
View Joel Lexchin Profile
Joel Lexchin
2014-06-10 9:43
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First of all, I would say that the clinical study reports would have to be made available. These are comprehensive documents. Sometimes they run into thousands of pages. Not everybody's going to read them, but people who do things like develop guidelines for practitioners, who do systematic reviews, will definitely read these and analyze them.
The other feature we need to make sure comes out, and this is not something that's particularly radical—GlaxoSmithKline has already made a commitment to do this—is that the full reports of all of the trials that have been undertaken will be released to qualified researchers. People will make applications to GlaxoSmithKline. The company is going to set up an independent committee to evaluate those requests to make sure they are legitimate, and if they are legitimate then GlaxoSmithKline will release all of the information. That's the raw data they collected in the conduct of the trials for their drugs.
I think we need two things. One is an unequivocal release of the clinical study reports without any formal requests. Secondly, the companies, on receipt of a valid request from researchers, will release all of the raw data for the clinical trials.
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View Terence Young Profile
CPC (ON)
View Terence Young Profile
2014-06-10 10:01
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Thank you.
I'd like to give my next question to Professor Herder.
Professor, a big issue we have in clinical research is that the drug companies, their game is to start a clinical trial and ask the researcher to sign a contract, essentially a gag order, that if they order the trial to be stopped at any given time they must never talk about it again, that it will never see the light of day. That's because many of their trials will show that their drug is not working better than a placebo or that their new drug is actually harming patients and they want to cover that up.
Your recommendations for transparency, would they address the issue of where a trial is registered and stopped? Are you insisting or asking that even the partial evidence from that trial or the partial clinical data be published as well?
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Matthew Herder
View Matthew Herder Profile
Matthew Herder
2014-06-10 10:02
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That's a great really specific question. I think the amendments I envision would certainly capture negative results, although I think some very careful thinking would have to be done in defining what a negative result is. I'm trying to capture all results, but if you don't have a result per se because they stopped the trial, when does that become reportable?
I think there would probably need to be some kind of specific time period that would have to be surpassed for the results or whatever was done before the trial was stopped to be reported, but I think what would capture the really worrisome examples would be if there was an adverse event of some kind, even in the context of a study. If they stopped it because there were very serious safety concerns, not just for commercial reasons or strategic reasons they didn't want to pursue that particular study, that should be reportable.
I think it can be done. I'm not sure the very specific wording I gave captured it exactly, but hopefully that could be defined by regulations.
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David Brock
View David Brock Profile
David Brock
2014-03-25 12:26
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Great, thank you for that question. Thank you for raising one of the matters that was addressed in my brief that I didn't have time to address in my opening statement.
Perhaps I can say three things about the provision that would require Treasury Board approval to remunerate officials working for Elections Canada to provide technical assistance or other specialized knowledge. One thing is it is difficult to discern from the bill as it's currently written how that might be applied, because we have no cases of implementation to draw upon, so in some ways I'm working from an understanding of what I think the implication of the bill would be, but we would have a better understanding if this were implemented, and my hope is that it won't be, as I've made clear in the brief.
There are two issues here. One is that Elections Canada often engages individuals in the area of research or in specialized technical work within the institution, and they're very good about publishing the results of that work. I, as Chief Electoral Officer in a smaller jurisdiction by number of electors, and in this case even by geography, rely upon that work because Elections NWT has nowhere near the capacity of Elections Canada to produce that kind of what is really world-class research on electoral behaviour and election administration.
In addition to that, I don't believe that university academics would fill that gap because, having spent some time in that area, and Dr. Archer knows this better than anyone, political scientists or others are mandated to respond to gaps in the theoretical literature, not necessarily to address public policy challenges that Elections Canada or the Parliament of Canada may be facing in a very short amount of time.
My final point is one which I think is fundamental to a few provisions in the bill. I think it is important in this country to think carefully about the relationship between officers of Parliament or, in my case, officers of a legislative assembly, and the executive. I think that going back to 1920, the understanding was that we needed to have an impartial body that did not have an accountability or reporting requirement to the government, but rather had that requirement to the legislature, and Elections Canada is perhaps the strongest example of that in the world.
My concern with this provision is perhaps inconsequential as it could be in the long term, depending on how it's implemented, that it fundamentally misunderstands the relationship between Elections Canada and the Parliament of Canada. The office of the Chief Electoral Officer is not an arm of the executive. The office of the Chief Electoral Officer is an agent of Parliament, and the accountability relationship and responsibility is owed to Parliament as a whole.
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View James Bezan Profile
CPC (MB)
View James Bezan Profile
2013-11-26 17:03
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Thank you, Mr. Chair, through you I want to welcome our witnesses and thank them for their testimony today.
To both our witnesses, Mr. Wiebe and Mr. Fraser, under our Westminster style of Parliament and governance system, do you guys believe in the supremacy of Parliament in drafting legislation?
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View James Bezan Profile
CPC (MB)
View James Bezan Profile
2013-11-26 17:04
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And under international conventions such as what we're discussing here today, it takes the Canadian Parliament to actually bring into force the convention under Canadian law through a bill in the House, correct?
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Armine Yalnizyan
View Armine Yalnizyan Profile
Armine Yalnizyan
2013-11-25 19:17
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Thank you very much, Mr. Chair.
First of all, I'll give an introduction and a context for my comments. Thank you very much for the invitation to appear before the committee, as members of Parliament review the second budget implementation bill for the 2013 budget. It's a particular honour to be able to appear as a witness since this committee, I understand, will be restricted to hearing only seven hours of witness testimony in addition to what you just heard from the minister over only two days of hearings.
In these two days, parliamentarians will not have an opportunity to meaningfully review the impact of all of the measures embedded in this legislation, which run from tax and spending changes, to EI reforms, to conflicts of interest in financial institutions, a brand new system of processing economic immigrants, and new rules for choosing Supreme Court justices. I have left out dozens of additional changes, including more than 60 amendments to the Canada Labour Code and a new restricted definition of “danger”, an appeal of that definition of danger that the Canadian Bar Association says turns the clock back by decades on health and safety concerns for workers.
In 1994, a freshly elected MP Stephen Harper asked the Speaker of the House of Commons to rule a budget bill out of order because of its sweeping scope. It affected public sector pay, it affected EI measures and payroll taxes, and a reduction in federal spending through the Canada assistance plan. It offered an extension of transportation subsidies and the ability for the CBC to borrow money for the first time.
At that time Mr. Harper said, “The subject matter of the bill is so diverse that a single vote on the content would put members in conflict with their own principles”. That omnibus bill, ladies and gentlemen, was 21 pages. This omnibus bill is 308 pages. It amends 50 pieces of legislation on a diverse array of topics, many of which have zero to do with the federal budget of 2013. it makes a mockery of the process of public oversight.
Consequently, and in keeping with the spirit that brought Mr. Harper and his Conservatives to power in 2006 and since on a pledge of accountability and transparency, this committee should split Bill C-4 into fiscal and non-fiscal measures in order to permit sufficient scrutiny of these incredibly important policy changes that are being proposed. Further, this committee should treat as separate and apart the non-fiscal measures that are major policy initiatives. These include the selection of Supreme Court justices, the fundamental changes proposed to the Canada Labour Code, and the selection process for new economic immigrants who will build the Canada of our future.
One simple way of accomplishing this proposal is to defeat these measures in Bill C-4 and invite the government to reintroduce these measures as separate pieces of legislation. This approach can also be used for matters that you view as time-sensitive, with such items put in a separate bill.
The Parliamentary Budget Officer has queried why the federal government has under-spent its budgetary allocations by $10 billion each year for the past three years. Yet the second round of supplementaries that parliamentarians are considering are requesting $5.4 billion more to spend.
The finance minister's economic and fiscal update notes that the deficit is a surprising $7 billion smaller than forecasted just a few months ago.
It is hard not to feel that the public is being somehow gamed, that payments are suppressed in order to be able to declare great fiscal prudence, then picked up through supplementaries for which parliamentarians have even less time for scrutiny than this budget implementation bill.
In 2013, the budget implementation bill was delayed because of prorogation. Supplementary budgets will have to be passed with even less than usual oversight and there is no time to study a request for $5.4 billion. The integrity of the democratic process that assures there are checks and balances on the government's ability is at risk.
Though the Stephen Harper of 1994 has silenced his concerns over these procedural sleights of hand, he has inflamed that same ardour in many other people.
In conclusion, the Supreme Court controversy that led to the measures in this bill did not even arise until after the budget was tabled. The budget is being used as a Trojan horse to rewrite the Canada Labour Code and our immigration policies. These are not add-ons. They turn the workhorse of a budget implementation bill into a Trojan horse. I fear that Bill C-4 is starting to look alarmingly like a Duffy budget bill, stuffed with hidden measures and designed to mislead the public. But it can and should be amended.
Accountability and transparency were great principles in 2006. They are great principles in 2013 as well.
Thank you.
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View Murray Rankin Profile
NDP (BC)
View Murray Rankin Profile
2013-11-25 20:09
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I have to say, though, that I am grateful to you for coming here and putting in context what we are doing as a committee. You will be happy to know you are in good company. The radical organization, the Chartered Professional Accountants of Canada, today also pointed out the inadequate time available to study such a complicated bill.
I'm grateful to you for pointing out that Stephen Harper railed against a 21-page omnibus bill and today we have to deal with a 308-page bill. This is the fifth hour. We will be here for five hours today to do it, as the government prorogued and took a month away from the scrutiny. Your points are very well taken.
I asked the Minister of Finance what the amendments to the health and safety provisions of the Canada Labour Code had to do with a finance bill, and he said something like, “Well, mediators and the like have to take into account financial issues.” The Supreme Court amendments were an example where, really, I couldn't think of anything financial, but they threw that into the omnibus bill as well.
So thank you for bringing to the Canadian public's attention what I call “legislation by exhaustion” and the inadequate way to address these issues.
On a more substantive, not process, side, you talked about the under-spending each year. You talked about how the deficit looks smaller. You used a provocative expression; you said that it may be that the public is being gamed.
Could you explain what you meant by that?
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Armine Yalnizyan
View Armine Yalnizyan Profile
Armine Yalnizyan
2013-11-25 20:10
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It's very difficult to know what is going on. The Parliamentary Budget Officer asked for documentation and failed to receive it. The public is asking and fails to receive good answers to many questions that are being posed of this government. That $10 billion shortfall, consistently in three years—under-spending by $10 billion every year—kind of looks like maybe they want to be telling us a story because the money appears in supplementaries a few months later.
It appears to me that there is a pattern, and the pattern does not offer a lot of reassurance that they want to be open and forthcoming in how the budget is being both articulated, and then allocated and spent. I guess some parliamentarians believe government is better when it's closed and murky rather than open and transparent.
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View Guy Caron Profile
NDP (QC)
Thank you.
I am now going to ask a question of Ms. Yalnizyan.
Your presentation was clear. You referred to the abuse by the government of 500- to 600-page omnibus bills that include just about anything when they should deal with budget measures.
Something else should be noted. Most committees, and the government in general, decided to prevent, to a certain extent, independent members from bringing forward amendments because they are not sitting at the table and they do not have a voice. Only those members who belong to an official party in the House can attend and fully participate in the procedures.
However, they found a way around the system and told them that if they wanted to bring forward amendments, they could do that at the Standing Committee on Finance or other relevant committees. What that means is that if they have an opportunity to propose amendments in a specific committee, then they can no longer table them and speak to them in the House. Were you aware of this measure?
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Armine Yalnizyan
View Armine Yalnizyan Profile
Armine Yalnizyan
2013-11-25 20:22
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I've been listening to this conversation and I am grateful to be part of it. I'm grateful to be part of these very respectful questions of small business and of the unemployed. I'm sitting here thinking that this piece of legislation needs to be split apart between fiscal measures and non-fiscal measures, and the parts that are non-fiscal, that are recreating huge pieces of public policy—huge pieces of public policy—with zero scrutiny, need to themselves be treated separate and apart. There is absolutely no way this process, which is designed to introduce amendments, is going to deliver that sort of thing because of the nature of where we're at.
It really saddens me to watch our democratic institutions, which are here to prevent this kind of railroading of public policy and to permit scrutiny and democratic discussion, not being permitted to anymore. We're in a democracy. We have these tools at our disposal and we can't do it. We're going to talk about small business and the unemployed. With due respect, that isn't what we're here to discuss. We're here to discuss a piece of legislation, a project for implementing a budget, our second budget implementation bill, that stuffs even more things that have got nothing to do with a budget in it, that can actually rewrite Canadian history when it comes to immigration, to selecting a Supreme Court justice, to defining what is health and safety of workers.
That strikes me as improbable, that we are having this discussion about where should we go from here on small business taxes. That isn't what this bill is about.
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View James Rajotte Profile
CPC (AB)
View James Rajotte Profile
2013-11-25 20:28
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Okay.
I'm going to take the final round here, as the chair.
I just want to clarify the process. We are discussing the overall bill, but this panel is largely focused on part 3 of the bill, division 1, which discusses employment insurance, EI hiring credit, EI premium rate, EI fishing regulations. All the questions with respect to EI are completely germane to this division of the bill.
I want to address a larger part of the process. The full briefing given by the Department of Finance is now online, thanks to this committee's work. We're one of the committees that does everything online. We're a very open committee. You can in fact go to our website and see every single study or every single witness who has ever presented on any pre-budget thing.
In regard to this bill: part 1, measures related to income tax; part 2, the Excise Tax Act; part 3, you have employment insurance, financial institutions—two sections on that. It's true, you have the Canada Labour Code, the reorganization of certain crown corporations, the Financial Administration Act, and the Canada Pension Plan Investment Board Act.
But I'd like to take it back to the process. This is the second Budget Implementation Act. The government presents the budget in February or March of each year, following up with one act in the spring and one act in the fall. But the start of this process is actually the pre-budget consultations at this committee.
Ms. Yalnizyan, I'm going to ask you the questions I ask my political opponents. We get submissions on every single topic at this committee every summer and fall. So if we don't want sections on environment or labour in the budget bills, and that's in the budget, do we as a finance committee say no to people who want to present on the environment, on labour, on immigration?
We take submissions at the pre-budget consultations on everything. We accept submissions on everything. The budget is the largest document each year and the budget act is to implement that. So if we're not going to allow it at the Budget Implementation Act process, we should probably cut it out of the pre-budget consultations. I'll tell you, if I did that as the chair, I wouldn't be a very popular person in this country.
Can you respond to that?
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Armine Yalnizyan
View Armine Yalnizyan Profile
Armine Yalnizyan
2013-11-25 20:30
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Absolutely.
I think you're completely correct to say that any pre-budget consultation should be open to discuss anything that the people of Canada want to see in the next federal budget, and that is appropriate.
But when you put out a 308-page document with over 420 clauses, and you give witnesses seven hours to bring testimony before you, how is it going to amend the Canada Labour Code? Why doesn't the Government of Canada just say, “We heard this in the pre-budget consultations. We agree that it is important to change the Canada Labour Code, and we're going to do that in a separate piece of legislation”?
It's the same with choosing a justice for the Supreme Court. It's the same with changing immigration. These are major planks of public policy in our country. Why are they being shoved in a piece of legislation that cannot be scrutinized in a clause-by-clause way? Why can't we reasonably make amendments to these important policy initiatives?
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Dean Vicaire
View Dean Vicaire Profile
Dean Vicaire
2013-11-07 12:04
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Thank you to all in the room for giving us the opportunity to once again express our opinions with regard to Bill C-9.
My name is Chief Dean Vicaire of Listuguj First Nation and the co-chair of the Atlantic Policy Congress of First Nations Chiefs. With me today is my colleague, John G. Paul, who is our executive director, and we are here today to speak on behalf of the Atlantic chiefs regarding our support of Bill C-9.
Our member chiefs do support Bill C-9 as it currently stands. We feel it reflects the recommendations in a resolution we adopted in January of 2011 asking the minister to draft legislation that would present a strong alternative to the Indian Act election system.
One of the reasons we decided to champion electoral reform is because at 75%, Atlantic Canada has the highest percentage of first nations that hold elections under the Indian Act system. We believed that if we could build a better election system, the majority of our first nations would immediately benefit. We first became interested in election reform in October of 2008, when we passed a resolution asking the minister to amend the term of office under the Indian Act election system from two years to four years. As we continued to discuss this change, both amongst ourselves and with what was then the Department of Indian Affairs, we realized that the Indian Act election system had other fundamental weaknesses that needed to be addressed. The department's willingness to support further discussions on this matter presented an opportunity to elaborate a more extensive reform.
At the current time, approximately 40% of first nations in Canada hold their elections pursuant to the Indian Act. Those election provisions are outdated and problematic, to say the least. Not only did we hear this when we were engaging with our own constituents on this question, we also heard it when we were discussing our recommendations with first nations groups in other parts of the country.
Specific issues centre on the following:
The term of office for elected band councils under the Indian Act is two years. This short length of term places first nations communities in an almost continual state of electioneering, and it undermines the band council's stability, as well as their efforts to develop long-term projects.
A weak process for the nomination of candidates can result in the nomination of many candidates. As the Minister of Aboriginal Affairs clearly said earlier, there are sometimes over 100 candidates for one election. That, indeed, happens constantly in my community.
The mail-in ballot system is open to abuse.
The appeal process to the Minister of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development is paternalistic, complicated, and often takes too long to produce findings and a final ruling.
The absence of defined election offences and associated penalties under the Indian Act allows alleged cheating and other related activities, such as the selling and buying of votes, to go unpunished.
As I mentioned earlier, the APC has taken a keen interest in looking at ways to stabilize and improve upon first nations governance through a stronger and more modern election system. With the support of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada, the APC undertook research on the issue of band council elections. After having heard from first nations leaders, governance technicians, and community members in their respective regions, we came forward with our recommendations.
I would like to outline for all of you how we went about developing these recommendations.
We struck a working group to conduct research and develop options. We published articles in a widely circulated first nations newspaper, the Mi'kmaq Maliseet Nations News, and we developed a Facebook page, both of which invited first nations members in the whole region to share their views and complete a survey. The working group presented their research, options, and all the feedback to a group of governance experts and electoral officers and, of course, the chiefs themselves. Based on all the discussions and feedback received, we arrived at the definitive recommendations that we submitted to the minister.
I want to share with you our recommendations that are reflected in Bill C-9.
The APC recommended the development of brand new opt-in first nations election legislation and further provided recommendations for its content. For the most part, these recommendations are reflected in Bill C-9. Bill C-9 contains some of the same rules as the Indian Act election system along with some important differences, which are the following:
The term length is four years, instead of the two-year term that exists under the Indian Act system.
There are defined qualifications for candidates for chief and clear rules around the nomination process.
There are clearly defined offences and penalties that will deter questionable election activities, especially those that take place around mail-in ballots.
Finally, the minister is not involved in election appeals.
I'm going to stop there and share my thoughts, which I shared with some people I spoke with during the suspension.
The minister does indeed have a valid point with regard to leaving that void, having courts get involved in policies. At the same time we all understand that the minister has these overriding powers that are contradictory in terms of a paternalistic viewpoint.
I'm sharing with John and some of my other colleagues around the table. Since it's an opt-in choice for communities, perhaps we can correct the legislation or make an amendment that upon written consent or request from the individual first nation, the minister can step in, for instance if there's wrongdoing in one of the four or five issues that we've talked about.
One of the members here.... I'm sorry I've forgotten your name.
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View Carolyn Bennett Profile
Lib. (ON)
Ron Evans
View Ron Evans Profile
Ron Evans
2013-11-07 12:56
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This bill originated from ourselves. No one from government approached me to ask what I thought about it. It came from ourselves.
In response to your question whether we would support this if that provision were still in there, I would support it because if the bill is not passed that provision is still there.
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Joseph K. Ingram
View Joseph K. Ingram Profile
Joseph K. Ingram
2013-06-13 11:11
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Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
I want to thank you and other members for inviting the NSI to comment on the proposed amendments to this bill. It's an honour for the institute, Canada's oldest independent development think-tank—and, I might add, ranked for the past two years as the world's leading development think-tank by the Global Go-To Think-Tank survey. Despite our annual budget of less than $5 million, we were also ranked in the same survey as Canada's leading development think tank.
In addressing the significance of the bill, I wanted to briefly describe the global context in which the bill is being considered. I don't do it as a lawyer or as an expert on the amendments themselves, but rather as a Canadian development economist concerned about the defining challenges of 21st century global development. I also do it as someone who has worked in international development since 1970, including 30 years with the World Bank, including 14 years living in and managing financial support to some of the most corrupt countries on the planet, according to Transparency International's Corruption Perceptions Index—and I won't name them in this room.
I know first-hand the insidious and devastating effect that corruption, fed by an absence of representativeness, transparency, and accountability—the three pillars of good governance—has on a society's economic and social health. It's not pretty and it's not how Canadian or any other taxpayers' resources should be used.
As noted in the recent “Africa Progress Report 2013”:
Transparency and accountability are the twin pillars of good governance. Taken together, they are the foundation for trust in government and effective management of natural resources—and that foundation needs to be strengthened.
As also suggested by this eminent international panel, the absence of these pillars is especially damaging in resource-rich states where the financial stakes and temptations to maximize personal gains by political and economic elites, including foreign investors, are high. The unprecedented growth in demand for natural resources, particularly extracts coming largely from the emerging economies, is producing both volatility and rising commodity prices, with global competition for resources intensifying, especially in Africa where the potential is as yet relatively unexploited. For Canada, a globally connected resource-rich country whose economic health depends increasingly on its capacity to globalize its trade relations, the intensified competition constitutes a particular challenge. The comfort zone of producing primarily for domestic consumers and the U.S. market is quickly evaporating.
As noted by the Conference Board of Canada in 2012, the past decade has effectively been a lost decade for Canadian exports:
The 2000s were a “lost decade” for Canadian exports of both goods and services, as essentially no growth in volumes occurred—even though the volume of global trade in goods expanded by 68 per cent during this period.... We have lost export market share to emerging markets in a wide variety of products, including Canadian stalwarts like wood and paper products.
During the same period, as noted recently by the former Governor of the Bank of Canada Mark Carney, “We've dampened our [2013] forecast of exports because we're seeing a competitiveness challenge...”. Indeed, among the G-20 countries during the same period of 2000 to 2012 Canada was one of eight economies that lost market share of world exports, by about 37%, just behind the U.K., which had the biggest loss of about 40%. The 12 gainers were led, not surprisingly, by China with a gain of 170%—but Australia also saw a gain of 50%.
This loss of market share in exports at the global level is also consistent with a loss of competitiveness of Canadian extracted investments in Africa. Whereas in 2007 Canada was the leading investor in mining on the continent, notwithstanding an increase in the stock of Canadian investment from just under $3 billion to about $31 billion today, we are now fifth, exceeded by China, Australia, South Africa, and the countries of the European Union.
We recently discussed some of these issues at NSI's Ottawa forum entitled “Governing Natural Resources for Africa's Development”—and here I should add that both Dean Allison and Lois Brown made important contributions to that discussion—and addressed how Canada could elevate itself in that sector to being a leader on the continent in natural resource exploitation and investment.
This is at a time when African governments themselves and members of the G-8 are increasingly concerned about using mineral and energy resources more effectively, thereby ensuring that they become the economic blessing they should be rather than the curse they have tended to be.
Indeed, a senior vice-president of one of Canada's leading mining investors in Africa said during the conference that Canadian mining companies could no longer compete on the basis of cost alone, that we needed other attributes.
Enhancing the Canadian brand is one of them, as is being a policy-maker on dealing with corruption in natural resource exploitation, rather than being a policy-taker. Canada needs to be seen as a leader in setting global best practice standards, especially at a point in history where African governments, many of them democracies, are taking active measures to enhance domestic resource mobilization and stem the illicit outflow of financial resources.
Just to give you an example, it's estimated that the outflow of illicit funds in the form of mispriced trade, transfer pricing, etc., from Africa was about $63 billion in 2012, exceeding the inflow of aid and foreign direct investment of about $62 billion. The new Africa mining vision that was developed by the African Union in collaboration with the UN Economic Commission for Africa sets out a compelling agenda for facilitating such changes by shifting the focus from simple mineral extraction to much broader developmental imperatives in which mineral policy integrates with development policy. This means effective regulations governing extractive companies, the strengthening of institutional capacity, and policies that ensure that resources generated are spent to produce sustainable and more equitable outcomes.
For the international community, this means creating a level playing field where natural resource investors are subject to the same set of rules, building on the U.S. Cardin-Lugar amendment and the EU transparency directive adopted by the Europeans earlier this week, so that companies operating in Africa apply the same accountability principles and the same standards of governance that they are held to in rich countries. They should also recognize that disclosure matters.
In our view, Bill S-14 is an important step in that direction, in that it would strengthen the accountability of Canadian firms operating in developing countries and seek to apply the same standards as applied in Canada. We therefore commend the government for preparing it.
On its own, however, it falls short of what is needed for Canada to be seen as a global leader in stemming corruption in that it only deals with one of the pillars of good governance, namely, accountability. Indeed, China adopted its eighth amendment to its criminal code, a law not dissimilar to the Canadian legislation, in 2011. What is also needed is regulation that requires transparency on the part of Canadian investors. Per the call of Prime Minister David Cameron in the lead-up to the G-8 meeting later this month:
we must lift the veil of secrecy that too often lets corrupt corporations and officials in some countries run rings around the law. The G-8 must move toward a global common standard for resource-extracting companies to report all payments to governments, and in turn for governments to report those revenues. This will encourage more investment in resource-rich countries and level the playing field for business.
In my discussions with members of the Mining Association of Canada, some of whom participated in our recent forum, I've heard the same desire expressed, along with concerns that rising resource nationalism in Africa and elsewhere will first target the firms from those countries seen as being less rigorous in their application of laws to stem corporate corruption by their own firms. Indeed, the Africa Progress Panel report explicitly cited Canada, stating: “Not all the opposition [to stronger regulation] emanates from industry. The Canadian government has opposed the introduction of mandatory standards.”
Canada being perceived by African governments and civil society as one of those recalcitrants is neither good for our brand nor for our competitiveness in the medium term. The statement, therefore, by Prime Minister Harper yesterday in London that Canada “will establish new, mandatory reporting standards for payments made to foreign and domestic governments by Canadian extractive companies” is a welcome development, and the government is to be warmly applauded for this step.
This new policy will help change perceptions and enhance our brand, and should it include compliance with the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative, Canada would align itself with 23 countries that are currently compliant with this initiative. An additional 16 are candidate countries, including Australia and the United States. France and the U.K. will apparently announce their compliance during the G-8 summit, while Germany recently informed EITI's former chairman—who's a German—that it too is on the verge of joining.
Canada's compliance would demonstrate our full commitment to transparency and provide comfort to Africa's governments and civil society that Canadian extractive firms investing in Africa are being subject to the same standards they would be in Canada.
This would contribute both to Africa's economic development and Canada's economic prosperity. It would also move Canada, once again, into a position of global leadership in the area of natural resource governance.
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
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View Dave Van Kesteren Profile
CPC (ON)
That raises an important issue. I suppose on the one hand you may have corrupt governments. On the other hand, you may have governments that really want to participate and make this a reality.
Ultimately, first of all, I think corruption has to cease for a number of reasons, but one of the most important reasons, I suppose, is that these countries where development is taking place are able to reap the benefits.
Will this legislation force those governments that possibly aren't too interested in participating in getting on board themselves so that we reach our desired objective?
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Joseph K. Ingram
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Joseph K. Ingram
2013-06-13 12:26
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It may or it may not. I think the absence.... What you don't want is a situation where they can point to Canada, for example, or to other G-8 countries, and say “We're going to follow their example”.
In other words, if there is no legislation—and that's why we welcome this legislation—you don't want them to point to a G-8 government and say, “They're not adopting this kind of legislation. They're not prepared to require mandatory reporting requirements. Why should we? Why should we move in that direction?” You don't want that.
To answer more directly your question, the answer is that in some instances, yes, it is a question of political will. I think you hit the nail on the head.
That said, I've worked in countries where the political will is there but there's a lack of resources, and the government is not prepared to finance the building up of that capacity.
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Ramani Nadarajah
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Ramani Nadarajah
2013-05-28 10:17
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Thank you, Mr. Chair and members of the committee.
My name is Ramani Nadarajah, and I am counsel with the Canadian Environmental Law Association.
CELA is a non-profit, public interest organization that was founded in 1970. It's an environmental law clinic that provides legal services to low-income people and disadvantaged communities by undertaking litigation and law reform to strengthen environmental protection.
We agree that improved access to safe drinking water is urgently needed in many first nations communities. The need for an appropriate regulatory regime for water and waste water in first nation communities has been highlighted in numerous reports, which I believe have been alluded to by previous speakers.
CELA has reviewed the bill and we believe that for the bill to achieve its goal of ensuring safe drinking water for first nations communities while protecting aboriginal and constitutional and treaty rights, three key issues need to be addressed.
First, constitutionally protected aboriginal and treaty rights need to be afforded protection under the bill. Second, a multi-barrier approach for first nations water resource management should be incorporated in the bill. Third, first nations governance structures need to be respected.
I am going to deal with the first issue now, which I think the Bar Association has already addressed, the issue of non-derogation in clause 3. CELA notes that the Supreme Court of Canada has already established the test for infringement of protected aboriginal and treaty rights for legitimate legislative objectives under the Sparrow decision. Given the existing jurisprudence on this issue, the limiting section in clause 3 of the bill is unnecessary, in our view.
Consequently, as we noted in our brief that was submitted earlier, our position on this issue is similar to what was addressed before. We don't think that particular section is necessary, but we also note that if there is a non-derogation clause, we submit that the one included in Ontario's Clean Water Act, which was designed for the protection of the sources of drinking water, is the most appropriate provision.
That provision simply reads as follows in section 82 of the Clean Water Act:
For greater certainty, nothing in this Act shall be construed so as to abrogate or derogate from the protection provided for the existing aboriginal and treaty rights of the aboriginal peoples of Canada as recognized and affirmed in section 35 of the Constitution Act....
The second issue the bill needs to address is to provide a more detailed provision about how to improve water resource management on first nation land. To a great extent, the bill's implementation will be dictated by the content of its regulations. However, we note that the list of regulation-making powers provided in clauses 4 and 5 of the bill fail to clearly ensure a multi-barrier approach for first nation drinking water systems, as recommended by the Walkerton and North Battleford inquiry reports.
A multi-barrier approach would require the following: reliable certification of labs; clear oversight and reporting responsibilities; clear delineation of the roles of health and environment water officials, including first nation officials and their governments; reporting of adverse events; delineating responsibility for responding to adverse events, and clear protocols; public involvement of community members, disclosure and transparency; means of receiving expert third-party advice, such as in Ontario through the Ontario Drinking Water Advisory Council; and outlining of resources and funding mechanisms, including for remote and small systems; and providing for infrastructure planning over time. CELA admits that a multi-barrier approach needs to be incorporated into the bill, otherwise it will remain simply as vague enabling legislation.
Finally, CELA admits that there needs to be recognition and protection of first nations' rights over the governance of water on reserve lands. In this regard, we have concerns about paragraph 5(1)(b) of the bill. That paragraph states that the regulations may “confer on any person or body any legislative, administrative, judicial or other power that the Governor in Council considers necessary to effectively regulate drinking water systems and waste water systems”.
The generic nature of this clause is a concern, given that the expertise and professional qualification of “any person” is undefined. That provision has the potential to result in possible loss of first nations' ability to control and manage their lands and water systems.
In addition, we note that clause 7, which is the conflict clause in Bill S-8 , provides that regulations may prevail over laws or by-laws made by a first nations to the extent of the conflict in respect of protection of drinking water.
Both of these clauses, in addition to clause 3 that I discussed earlier, have the potential to undermine the right of first nations to self-govern. Therefore, the committee should consider revisions to these provisions to ensure that this is not the case. Those are all my submissions, subject to any questions you may have.
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View Dan Harris Profile
NDP (ON)
View Dan Harris Profile
2013-05-23 17:04
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That was a very political answer.
Now, Mr. Rowlinson, thank you for proposing some amendments, but are you aware that this committee actually has no ability to make any amendments to this bill?
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Mark Rowlinson
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Mark Rowlinson
2013-05-23 17:04
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I am now.
What we're proposing is a broad review of the Investment Canada Act. If I can echo what Jim Stanford has said, we don't disagree that the test for foreign investments should ultimately be of the net benefit to Canada and to Canadian communities. The problem we have is with the manner in which that has been enforced and the lack of transparency with respect to the process. What needs to happen, in our view, is a broad review of the operation and implementation of the Investment Canada Act. Clearly, that is not what is contemplated by the very modest amendments found in this legislation.
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Paul Chapin
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Paul Chapin
2013-05-23 11:05
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Thank you very much, Mr. Chair and honourable members.
It's an honour to be here before you today. My background is 30 years or so in the Department of Foreign Affairs, largely in the international security field, but I've also spent time in other government departments. I was a consultant for quite a few years. I was vice-president of the Pearson Peacekeeping Centre. Recently I've been associated with the Conference of Defence Associations Institute. So I hope I bring a broad perspective, both from the public and the private sector, to what I think is a very interesting issue.
My reading of the situation allows me to draw five conclusions. Let me go through them very briefly, and then I'll elaborate.
The first conclusion I draw is that the government intends henceforth that the priority for Canadian aid policy be international development rather than poverty alleviation. International development is a larger concept and it incorporates poverty alleviation, but I think the adjustment is consequential.
Second, we're talking about a construct here that is one department with three business lines, not three departments under a common roof.
Third, if it's to work, they need a common script of some kind. The Government of Canada needs to articulate an international affairs strategy that explains the larger context in which these three business lines are to operate individually and collectively.
Fourth, I know this has been argued, but there's no reason to believe we're talking about a hostile takeover of CIDA by Foreign Affairs. I think there's a great deal for everybody in this, and I don't think that taking an unnecessarily negative view of it is particularly constructive.
Finally, in the final analysis, and this comes from my consulting experience, people are going to make this work. Structure and reorganization are not going to cut it by itself.
Let me go over those five points very briefly. The transition arrangements outlined in Bill C-60 are pretty straightforward, and there's no reason for me to outline those to you today.
What I see, though, in the language is an important refocusing of the aid effort, or at least the $4 billion that has traditionally been CIDA's budget, being cast into a broader international development framework, rather than the more traditional poverty alleviation/poverty reduction vocation that CIDA has aspired to. If you read the CIDA mission statement, if you look at the ODA Accountability Act, you'll see a very strong bias toward poverty alleviation. In this draft bill I see a raising of the issue beyond poverty alleviation to put the focus on a broader international development agenda.
The second point is that what's proposed fundamentally is a repositioning of an important federal asset. CIDA and its highly efficient staff and its very large budget are to be put more at the service of a broader federal international strategy to pursue the foreign relations of Canadians in a broader context.
Let me explain why I think some of the suggestions that I have read about the previous testimony might be just a little off base. As I read the draft legislation, the duties of the Minister of Foreign Affairs have expanded from what they were under the previous Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade Act. In those previous iterations, the minister's responsibility was to control and supervise CIDA. He or she is now responsible for fostering international development, poverty reduction in developing countries, and humanitarian assistance.
The functions of the minister have gone from supervision and control of an outside entity or an agency to being directly involved in policy and programming. I think these same duties that are now assigned to the Minister of Foreign Affairs are also assigned to the new Minister for International Development, not International Cooperation.
The plain language of the text also indicates that the Minister for International Development and the Minister for International Trade are to assist the Minister of Foreign Affairs and to operate in concurrence with the Minister of Foreign Affairs. So there's no question in my mind of three ministers with equal status. That's reinforced by looking at the duties assigned to the deputies—the same hierarchy emerges from that discussion. So the net effect is one department with one minister and one deputy minister, assisted by other ministers and other deputy ministers.
The third point is, if this is to work, that the government needs to articulate, at least in broad terms, what it's hoping to achieve, not necessarily through the restructuring, but in its international agenda. That articulation has yet to appear in any form other than periodic presentations the Prime Minister might make in a speech to an international gathering.
I don't think this articulation should be a one-time thing. On arriving in office, democratically elected governments are entitled, indeed expected, to lay out their vision for the future. This vision may well differ, in degree or in kind, from that of the predecessor. I think in a democracy that is a good thing. The genius of the democratic process is that the people get to change their mind and change the direction of their country as they wish.
So I'm not advocating one international policy statement forever. I'm advocating the commencement of a practice where new governments lay out their policies. They don't have to do a big policy review every time, but they should at least lay out what they're planning to do.
Why do I not think this is a hostile takeover? First, I don't think CIDA has ever belonged to anybody but the government and the people of Canada. It doesn't belong to the people who work there. Second, I think CIDA has a great deal to gain from this merger. Its budget has grown, but I'm not sure its standing in this country has grown very much over the years, even in Parliament. I think one reason for this has been its tendency to take a view that is rather detached from other things that are going on.
As our colleague Scott Gilmore reported in, I think, Maclean's magazine, he once had a discussion with a CIDA staffer who made the comment: “It may be a government of Canada priority, but it is not a CIDA priority.” It's that kind of mindset that has imbued a lot of CIDA thinking about its place in the larger system.
I think as it moves into the new structure, CIDA rejoins the mainstream. That means it can play in a bigger game and aspire to having a dramatically greater impact in the field that is its business line. I think also the government as a whole wins. We've talked a great deal about 3-D and whole-of-government operations. This proposal helps to knock down the bureaucratic silos that have prevented those aspirations from being realized.
Let me make one point about CIDA's branding and CIDA's persona. I think it would be unfortunate if it disappeared from view. It's brought a lot of credit to Canada over the years. So notwithstanding the restructuring and the merger, I think there's a requirement to look at a way in which CIDA can be branded internationally. At least two examples come to mind: one is USAID, and the other is AusAID. Maybe we should be considering CanAID. It could certainly live under the structure that we're talking about.
Finally, reorganizations are dangerous. They aspire to improving matters, but the disruption they produce and the productivity losses they cause make a shambles of the great majority of reorganizations. In my experience, it's better to give good people licence to get around bad structure than to try to fix the structure. That said, we're proposing a new structure, and I think you have to make sure you have the right people to get the transition completed, and then you have to get the right people committed to working the new structure.
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
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Colin Robertson
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Colin Robertson
2013-05-23 11:16
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Thank you.
My name is Colin Robertson. I served in the Canadian foreign service for more than 32 years. I am currently vice-president of the Canadian Defence and Foreign Affairs Institute and a senior advisor with McKenna Long & Aldridge, a Washington law firm. I work through them with the Canadian Council of Chief Executives. My volunteer activities include sitting on the board of Canada World Youth, which is funded by CIDA.
That said, my remarks are personal and do not represent any of these organizations.
I support reintegration of CIDA and Foreign Affairs into International Trade because I believe by linking the three critical policy levers of diplomacy, trade, and development, we'll get better policy coherence in advancing Canadian interests abroad and advancing our development outcomes. I think the nexus of development, diplomacy, and trade works very well, and that's how we try to do policy back in Canada, but in the field my observation was that sometimes CIDA operated separately. In my view, this did not serve our international interests, and it often confused, particularly those with whom we were dealing.
The short-term problem, and Paul addressed this, is how we deal successfully with the integration of CIDA into DFAIT.
Past experience with reorganization is not encouraging. The severing and then reintegrating of the trade part of the department in the early 2000s sapped energy. The best talent was devoted not to advancing the national interest but to moving boxes around in what was a rather painful and draining bureaucratic odyssey.
Development that creates the conditions where development assistance is no longer needed is the outcome we seek to achieve. Closer collaboration with the private sector, always a central theme of our international policy objectives, should be reinforced with the reintegration of CIDA into DFAIT.
I'm going to put my questions to you around four baskets: accountability, foreign policy, trade, and values and interests.
In terms of accountability, will DFAIT be ready to administer a fivefold increase in its budget? That's significant. I would refer you to work by Barry Carin and Gordon Smith, both formerly of the department and now working with CIGI at the University of Victoria, on the millennium development fund. They are looking at accountability standards as to how you ensure that you're getting full value for aid broadly, and I think that's something we need to pay attention to.
With an extra $4 billion of the people's money in its wallets, will the new foreign affairs and international trade and development department's culture be up to the task?
CIDA has embraced results-based reporting and open data. Will the new department embrace this approach?
The challenge of integration is getting it done without handicapping operations or shortchanging policy development, always a problem with any kind of integration. You, as members, need to get from the department a timetable, with benchmarks, for reintegration and clear communication as to who, what, when, and, most importantly, why this is all going to take place.
The second basket is foreign policy. It's one thing to say we're going to align development to foreign policy interests, but in doing so, are you de facto reviewing your foreign policy? An example is the information technology shops in the merging of the DFAIT system. In the DFAIT system, Africa missions are put at the bottom of the priority list in terms of upgrades and modernizations. For CIDA, the place is at the top, and appropriately so. So how do you fix that?
At the level of foreign policy, will integrating CIDA transform Canada's foreign policy priorities geographically? Will Africa, for example, be at the centre of Canada's next generation of global relationships? How, for example, do we now deal with China? China ceases to receive Canadian development, becoming a player itself. How are we going to work with China, having helped it to achieve a certain degree of development?
On the trade front, how will the new department handle private sector and capital flows? Will integration allow trade deals that enable people to earn more money and create new jobs by exporting to Canada?
Canada is an exporting nation, so three vital policies are necessary: trade promotion, trade policy aimed at trade liberalization, and trade negotiation.
We are underresourced on trade negotiation, just when the world is awash in trade negotiations, bilaterally, regionally, and globally. The Prime Minister, of course, is down in Cali today looking at a new trade negotiation, a Pacific alliance. Again, I think that's a good thing, but we don't have the capacity. Trade negotiating teams need constant input from the private sector, and this remains weak, unlike the free trade agreement and the NAFTA, which I worked on, where we had a very strong system of consultations with various sectors. The private sector, for its part, truly has to step up. It could do more on public-private partnerships. Bringing new ideas and best practices to the table in a practical sense is something the business community should be able to help us with, and I would encourage you to look, for example, at the work on the Pacific Century that's being done right now by the Canadian Council of Chief Executives.
As we proceed with trade negotiations, our foreign aid should strengthen our industry position internationally, including the rights of local youth, women, and local governance. The case of Bangladesh and the garment industry is a case in point.
As for values and interests, which I think are important, but I put them last in my set of questions, the integration of CIDA tests whether our values are in fact interests in disguise. Take, for example, the condition of women and girls. Any state that does not address the condition of women and girls can be neither prosperous nor secure. Does the integration propel our non-geographic foreign policy interests more firmly in this direction? Does Canada now have any choice except to increase development assistance?
Look, for example, to Britain and Japan. Despite government cutbacks, each has increased foreign aid and support, particularly for youth organizations. Japan has developed new youth exchanges with 41 countries, including Canada. In my view, youth exchanges are the best form of soft power because they build a global brand for Canada among young people. We are, after all, a young country. It constitutes the front end, in my view, of building Canadian corporate trends and brands. To do this, I think we need to apply the “can do, own the podium” spirit that we saw exemplified during the 2010 Olympics.
The CIDA of the past perhaps relied too heavily on the voluntary sector to reflect Canadian values in the effort to reduce poverty worldwide. Their collaboration, however, particularly with the mining industry, proved that public-private sector projects can be a win-win for all sides.
Again, I think you need to task the new department to develop a branding approach so that these initiatives are not only coordinated at an execution level, but are also easily perceived and understood by and within the Canadian system. It is important that Canadians understand what we're doing on aid. The Swedes do this well; Australia does this well; so do the Americans.
I think partnering with national companies and countries where we work makes sense. Look at the German model. We can and also should look to the EDC financing. It's creatively Canadian.
In conclusion, the reintegration of CIDA into DFAIT makes sense in terms of better administrative coherence, but the sooner it is achieved, the sooner we can get on to policy development, which is the core purpose of Foreign Affairs. For now the focus needs to be on the administrative efficiency of the new department, and then on the effective delivery of programs that advance our values and reflect our national interests.
On foreign policy itself, that's an issue for another day.
Thank you, sir.
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Lucien Bradet
View Lucien Bradet Profile
Lucien Bradet
2013-05-23 11:24
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Mr. Chair and members of the committee, thank you very much for having invited us.
The Canadian Council on Africa, for those who don't know, was created about 12 years ago. We recruit members who have a clear common objective: economic development in Africa. These members are large and small companies, universities, colleges, the Association of Canadian Community Colleges, provincial governments—Quebec, Alberta, Ontario—and federal agencies—EDC, CIDA, DFAIT. You name them, they're all around the table because they believe very strongly in economic development.
ODA, diplomacy, and trade are the three pillars of our place in the world. Canada ranks well on ODA—maybe not well enough for some, but we still rank quite well. On the diplomatic front, we are not a superpower, and will never be, I guess, but our role in the G-8 and G-20 has made us a significant country. Without trade we'd have to say that we would be in deep trouble.
One might argue that we don't need the merger if we are that successful. We have seen in the last decade a new paradigm evolving in the world that dictates that governments act strategically and develop coherent policies.
A few years ago Canada could count on a major market without fear for its income and so forth—the U.S.A. That's no longer the situation, at least not to the same degree. Canada could count on a regulatory budget increase to be devoted to ODA. The succeeding economic crises have changed that to a certain extent.
The African countries were dependent more on aid than investments to grow and prosper. This is not true anymore. In fact, since 2006, there's more investment than ODA.
A few years ago, Canada at the United Nations had no problem being elected to the Security Council. No more, for whatever reason.
A few years ago, China, Brazil, India, and Turkey were not really present in Africa.
Ten years ago China had less than $10 billion of trade; this year they're going to reach $200 billion—in ten years $200 billion of trade with Africa. In fact, last year China gave as much aid to Africa, $75 billion, as the U.S. Maybe the terms aren't the same, but still it's a reality.
Ten years ago Brazil was exactly the same as Canada, with 17 embassies and $2 billion in business. Brazil now has 32 of them—Canada has a little bit less than that—and they almost tripled their business with Africa. Canada has doubled its ODA in Africa but has reduced the number of countries, and you know that in the last couple of decades—and I say in the last couple of decades, not in the last few years—it has declared a number of times that there should be more coherence between the different elements of its international activities, but none of these has ever taken off. It's a reality. I remember two or three governments back, it was, yes, we're going to do a better job, and, yes, we want to do a better job, but it never took off, for whatever reason.
These new circumstances require Canada to take a hard look at how it makes its decisions and how it develops its strategies on the world stage and ensures that poverty reduction and human rights remain a top priority.
There are a number of reasons why I believe strongly in the merger. One, time has come for the Minister of International Development, the Minister of Foreign Affairs, and the Minister of Trade to be at the same table. We will never be able to do what we are looking for if those three persons don't sit together on a weekly basis and discuss policy. The time has come also for the senior officials from those three organizations to work together and, again, have their management meeting every week to discuss those things. And you know how important it is. If one is absent, it's generally speaking the loser, and in this case CIDA was a loser in many of those instances.
You don't know how many times—and these people will confirm that because they were ambassadors before—I have heard, “We didn't know about this new approach or policy.” I had senior officials saying that to me, or other people, or, “It's not easy to work with them because they don't understand the bigger picture.” One was going to the left, one was going to the right, not purposely, but the way the structure was in place didn't help. How many times did I hear Canadian ambassadors tell me, “ODA is very important, but I have very limited say on establishing the priorities and managing them. It is difficult, nearly impossible, to explain it to Canadians, but even more so to African countries that are recipients.”
The time has come to involve all Canadians in the economic development of Africa, and other developing countries are doing that. Governments, NGOs, and the private sector have responsibilities, but also opportunities to create a better living situation for the people.
In the proposed legislation, we applaud the provision that spells out clearly that the Minister of Foreign Affairs is also responsible for international development, in proposed subsection 10(2). I won't repeat this, because you said that at the beginning. In fact, we will have two ministers responsible for that instead of one, which I think is a win for everyone. This provision is a very positive step to ensure that ODA does not take a back seat in the new department.
However, we believe the proposed act has a couple of weaknesses. My colleagues didn't talk about that. They almost talked about it, but I want to be very precise about this. It's a question of appropriation and budgetary allocations. I'm nervous about that. Many critics have claimed over the years that it's kind of difficult to find out how the money is spent at CIDA. I know there is a blue book and I know there is a budget and all of that, but we have to talk about the reality. With regard to the reality of it, people are saying this, and maybe it's right and maybe it's wrong, but it's a reality.
To start with, the large number of programs and the large numbers of developing countries and multilateral organizations make the reporting exercise quite complex. However, we know that the budgetary allocations of CIDA are spent by CIDA for the CIDA mission. This is a very serious potential issue. I think Canadians will want to be assured that in the new department there are no grey zones when it comes to the use of funds for international development.
I'm sure that some of the people who were here before me made similar comments and arguments. I would not be surprised to see that the largest number of objections are also on that topic. Will there be some fence around ODA money? That is the question. This bill does not provide an answer to this. Yes, the minister needs some flexibility to properly manage the department, the human resource programs, and, as was mentioned, the trade and everything. We do not have a solution to this potential problem, but I think the committee should look at it very carefully.
The second aspect of the financial issue that I'm a little bit concerned about is the policy coherence—and my colleague talked about that—not only within the department but outside the department. I don't know if you realize that 69% of ODA is spent by CIDA, but 31% is spent by others. In fact, there are six other departments and agencies spending ODA money. It's going to be diminished a little bit because about 8% to 9% is spent by DFAIT, so it would be about 75%.
The minister should, in the act, and I'm talking about the Minister with the big “M” and also the Minister of International Development, so I should say the “ministers”.... The ministers should, in the act, be clearly responsible for developing the overall annual plan. You can talk about strategy, plan, and policy, but I think it's important to do that.
I would recommend to the committee to ask CIDA for the changes over the years in the numbers. Many are claiming that the CIDA portion has also been declining; that's something I cannot verify, but maybe the committee can ask the questions of the officials. That 69% was higher before and has been declining steadily. This is a worry that we should be concerned with.
In closing, Mr. Chair, I think my message from CC Africa is that if we are vigilant in the design—and people are very important, because structure is not enough—and the implementation of the merger, and if everyone cares about poverty reduction and human rights, and I do, and about Canada's future, as we've talked about, the quality of the diplomatic agenda will be enhanced, I think.
Our expanded trade will also be good for Africa and Canada in that case. Canada's international help, or ODA, will gain significant influence—that's what we need here—on the development of government policy. Poverty reduction and human rights will still be very important for Canada. It's one of our very important business cards in the world, but business cards also mean private sector involvement and other people involved in Canada.
Thank you very much.
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View Mark Eyking Profile
Lib. (NS)
Thank you, Chair, and my thanks to you gentlemen for coming.
I'm going to start off with what has been mentioned. I think you talked previously, Paul, about these logjams and inefficiencies, and how you had to go through different ministers. We're talking about this new super department and one minister is in charge, and you have deputy ministers. Why wouldn't we just get rid of the CIDA minister? We could save the limo and save all the staff. The parliamentary secretaries could cut the ribbons, and you have department heads there already. Do we really need a CIDA minister? We could save taxpayers a lot of money and we could have even more efficiencies.
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Paul Chapin
View Paul Chapin Profile
Paul Chapin
2013-05-23 11:50
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The short answer is that you need a CIDA minister, a minister for international development. I'd argue that one of the failings of the legislation is that it doesn't leave open the possibility of a lot more ministers. In the British system, they have six or seven or eight in their Foreign and Commonwealth Office portfolio in addition to DFID.
My sense is that if you're talking about a $2 billion program for Foreign Affairs, and a $4 billion program for CIDA, the more political sensitivity and political control you have over that, the better.
I don't know about the limos, but I would argue for lots of aircraft to have people go to see what's going on all over the world, free and clear. With the political control, you have the prospect of adjusting really quickly. The Minister of Foreign Affairs may not always be available. There are so many standard fixtures on the international agenda every year that you'd better have a whole bunch of other ministers who can go to do things at the ministerial level—to speak for the government, to speak for the cabinet in other countries.
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View Richard Harris Profile
CPC (BC)
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
Gentlemen, thank you for your presentations.
Mr. Chapin, you made the statement just a little while ago that Canadians want to know what's in it for Canada, and certainly they deserve to know how their taxpayers' dollars are doing. Unfortunately, over the past years, when we've been talking about international foreign aid, the only news that seems to make it into the media is when funding has been hijacked by militia, or goods that were destined for some stricken area have disappeared. That's just a very small part of the total package, but that seems to make it to the media, and Canadians hear that.
I know there's oversight in place, of course. I'm wondering how the effectiveness of the delivery of funds, goods, and services to the people who need it most may be improved with the merging of CIDA into DFAIT. Given the larger body, could we maybe make better use of their communications department to make sure that Canadians know that we are in fact getting a bang for the bucks we're sending overseas?
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Lucien Bradet
View Lucien Bradet Profile
Lucien Bradet
2013-05-23 12:11
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I want to say a couple of things about that. The first one is that, as I said in my exposé, you're going to have two ministers responsible for it now. They will have to talk the same language, because they're going to be in trouble if they don't.
Second, ambassadors will be in a better position to communicate to the countries and better manage the delivery. You go to certain embassies and the ambassador says, “Lucien, CIDA is there, I'm here, and Immigration is there”—and there is some disconnect there. That should help.
Now, the pronouncement from the Minister of Foreign Affairs should also be in big support of international development. I think the government will win if it does it well, and I have no reason not to believe they will do it well. But it's a plus for development, a plus for trade. The Department of Foreign Affairs, and Trade, Minister Fast, work very closely with Baird, and when I travel I see that all the time now. I see there is a connection that I didn't see before, and Minister Fantino also goes before or after, or whatever. I can assure you that our reputation is going up in Africa because of that exposure. The merger will help Africa to better understand Canada, because sometimes they tell me, “We don't understand. There's something wrong here.” This will fix issues of communication. Philosophy, I don't know, but definitely communication.
We talked about women. Next week, we're going to have a conference with 13 delegations from Africa—business women in Toronto talking about the development of business between African women in business and Canadians. This is all part of it. One of the big sponsors is CIDA, and Minister Fantino will be there. You see the convergence there: trade, business women, and development. That's what we have to do more and more in the future.
Sorry, it's a commercial.
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View Paul Dewar Profile
NDP (ON)
View Paul Dewar Profile
2013-05-23 12:20
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Thank you. I'm going to share my time with Madame Péclet.
I just wanted to nail something down. Mr. Robertson, I think I'll put it to you.
We had witness testimony at the last committee hearing about the concerns right now of the concentration of power within the Minister of Foreign Affairs' office, and we've certainly seen that in announcements, etc.
The concern you've mentioned around making sure we still have that voice for international development is certainly aligned, and we all get that with our foreign policy. But in the legislation as you see it, we have “the minister”, and that's the foreign affairs minister, and then “additional duties”. I certainly get and agree with this idea of putting people together and thrashing things out, but my concern is right now what we have is a very concentrated office, and we have a structure that's going to bring in another office.
You were underlining the concern around development dollars and where are they going to go. How do you see managing...we'll call it creative tension? Some others might have other words for it, but how do you ensure that things aren't going to be swallowed up by one minister? I think that's a fair concern, and certainly when you see the legislation structured the way it is, how is this going to happen? Who's wagging the dog, so to speak?
We had someone else who said trade could learn a lot from those in CIDA who are doing good CSR work.
The Kofi Annan report just on Africa, which I'm sure gained a lot of attention for you, is something that is a lesson. You can't just look at GDP and exports; look at results. And that usually comes from a sensibility of those who are in international development. How do we make sure we're not, within the structure, losing that important voice?
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Colin Robertson
View Colin Robertson Profile
Colin Robertson
2013-05-23 12:22
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Leaving personalities aside, the legislation as I read it now makes this a significant part of the portfolio of the Minister of Foreign Affairs, who has overall responsibility, which I think is a good thing. You do need a single point of contact.
I think in adding that to the minister's portfolio, that minister, by definition, with responsibility to cabinet and to you as members of Parliament, has to take that into account. That becomes an additional part. In the past, when I go back to the eighties and the nineties, when we jiggled the chair slightly and added to the Minister of Foreign Affairs...there was no question in the early eighties, for example, when we did this that the then Minister of External Affairs, Allan MacEachen, spoke with greater authority because that was part of his portfolio.
I have no doubt that the current minister, Mr. Baird, should take.... He has, not entirely elaborated as yet, a dignity agenda, which goes into a lot of the things that are absolutely vital to development—women, girls, the disadvantaged groups.
I think the CIDA addition should play a major role, because it needs to be remembered—and I go back to Lloyd Axworthy, who also had things changed when he was there, and his whole sort of soft power. He took into account all of the facets of foreign affairs. In a sense you're arming the foreign minister. Again, to use the example of other countries, the foreign minister in Britain, the foreign minister in many of the European countries, Hillary Clinton, what she did—you added aid to Hillary Clinton and she significantly increased what she was able to do and with devotion to a couple of areas, in particular women, as you know, as a key piece of it.
So my argument would be that the foreign minister will have this because it is now part of their responsibility, and in a sense we're going to get a better—
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Ernie Daykin
View Ernie Daykin Profile
Ernie Daykin
2013-05-23 9:50
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Thank you, Mr. Chair.
Committee members, we appreciate the opportunity to speak to you this morning.
My name is Ernie Daykin. I'm the mayor of the District of Maple Ridge in British Columbia. I'm also a director on the Metro Vancouver board and chair of the Vancouver Aboriginal Relations Committee.
As you mentioned, Mr. MacIsaac is with us from the Union of B.C. Municipalities, and Mr. Ralph Hildebrand, general manager of corporate services and corporate counsel and manager of Vancouver's Aboriginal Relations Committee.
At the local government level we fully recognize and support the need for all Canadians, aboriginal and non-aboriginal, to have access to clean, safe drinking water, and the proper disposal of waste water.
We're here today to present a local government perspective on Bill S-8, An Act respecting the safety of drinking water on First Nation lands, and represent some issues that are common to local governments not only in Metro Vancouver and British Columbia, but, we believe, across the country. In this regard I want to acknowledge the Federation of Canadian Municipalities, which supports Metro Vancouver's views on Bill S-8. FCM's comments are reflected in some of the statements that are made in this presentation to the standing committee.
For everyone's benefit, I'll give an overview of Metro Vancouver. It's a federation of 24 local authorities, including one unincorporated area and one treaty first nation, the Tsawwassen First Nation. Tsawwassen First Nation reached the first modern urban treaty with the governments of Canada and British Columbia in 2009, under the B.C. treaty process.
Metro Vancouver works well together and collaboratively as we deliver plans and regional services, including drinking water, wastewater treatment, and solid waste management. Metro Vancouver also regulates air quality, plans for urban growth, manages a regional parks system, and provides affordable housing for our residents.
Metro Vancouver's population is currently 2.3 million, and over 50% of B.C.'s population live within the Metro Vancouver area. It's also home to 52,000 aboriginals, according to the 2011 census.
As I mentioned, I'm the chair of the Aboriginal Relations Committee, which is a standing committee of the Metro Vancouver board. It's been established to provide advice on treaty negotiations and aboriginal relations within Metro Vancouver to the board and to individual municipalities.
A key part of the committee's scope of work is strengthening relationships with first nations. We are participating actively in two tables with Katzie and Tsleil-Waututh as part of the provincial negotiation team's monitoring of emerging aboriginal treaty and non-treaty related issues, and assessing their impact on regional and municipal governments.
The relationship building and day-to-day interaction between municipalities and first nations that's taking place in our urban setting presents a number of challenges that we feel are unique, including higher population densities, competing private interests, unique land use considerations, rapidly growing servicing needs, and limited available crown land for treaty settlements.
Faced with these complex realities, Metro Vancouver has committed to building effective, positive working relationships with our first nations. This will ensure alignment and achievement of our common interests.
The regional district has been successful in communicating regional interests on a number of emerging policies and legislation that have been developed by the senior levels of government, and ensuring its continued involvement in the B.C. treaty process.
With respect to Bill S-8, Metro Vancouver has been concerned about the proposed legislation and its potential impact and implications for local governments since it passed first reading in the House of Commons in June 2012. Metro Vancouver has significant concerns about how Bill S-8 will affect its delivery of services in the Metro Vancouver area.
In response to Metro Vancouver's invitation in October 2012, staff representatives from the Vancouver offices of the Department of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada attended an Aboriginal Relations Committee meeting and made a presentation on Bill S-8. The federal representatives outlined a legislative framework for managing drinking water and waste water on first nations lands, and encouraged Metro Vancouver to submit its input into the parliamentary process by appearing before your committee.
Given the commitment on the part of the federal government—as expressed by the federal delegations—to consider and address local concerns as providers of water services to local communities, including first nations, we're pleased to be here today and provide you with our perspective.
To clearly formulate our interests and concerns with respect to Bill S-8, Metro Vancouver drafted a position paper on that bill, the safe drinking water for first nations act. That was drafted and presented to the board in November 2012. Based on the interest articulated and the issues identified in the position paper, local governments believe that it is at the community level that the effectiveness of this bill will be tested—including funding, improvements, and the need to execute and sign servicing agreements.
As such, the Metro Vancouver position paper identifies the following issues with respect to Bill S-8. One of the primary concerns expressed in the position paper is the transfer of responsibilities. From our interpretation of Bill S-8, an obligation to provide utility services and enforcement regulations could be imposed upon local governments if the federal government and respective provincial governments enter into an agreement under which the provincial governments are obliged to compel local governments to provide water and wastewater treatment services to first nation communities. Provincial governments may create or amend legislation to impose duties and responsibilities on local government as provincial bodies established by a provincial act.
Local governments do not want to be put in this position. There's a long history in B.C. of reaching agreements for services between local governments and first nations, as evidenced by the 550 servicing agreements between local governments and nearly 200 first nations.
Level of service is another concern. It's not clear whether Bill S-8 and the regulations passed pursuant to Bill S-8 will impose new requirements on local governments, and whether a regional authority such as Metro Vancouver will be required to provide water services to all municipalities to meet the obligations imposed, or whether Metro Vancouver will be required to increase its level of service to accommodate all growth and development within first nation lands.
Local governments in Metro Vancouver are compelled to comply with a regional growth plan. The projections for population growth and development are coordinated within the planning and development of regional services, such for the supply of drinking water and disposal of waste water. The imposition of requirements to provide drinking water and wastewater services to first nation lands that are developed outside of our regional planning principles could create, or will create, an imbalance between water and sewage plans and the regional growth plan.
Another concern that was expressed is bylaw regulation and enforcement. It is our understanding that Bill S-8 would permit local governments to apply their bylaws and regulations to first nations' lands to enforce and regulate the use of water and wastewater services to first nation communities. However it is not clear how the federal government will facilitate the enforcement of local government bylaws on reserve lands regarding the provision of utilities and other services to first nations. This includes first nation lands that are subject to future applications for additions to reserves.
Another closely related concern is regulatory authority. Bill S-8 is not clear on how the federal government proposes to protect local governments regarding environmental and public health liabilities related to servicing agreements for first nation lands when local governments have no regulatory authority over reserve lands and Indian bands do not have natural persons powers to enter into contractual agreements with local governments.
The financial liabilities are another concern that have been highlighted in the position paper. Regulating drinking water on Indian reserves would have significant capacity and resource related implications for local governments. It is not immediately clear how Bill S-8 will protect local governments that provide utility services to first nations against financial liabilities when local governments do not have taxation authority over first nation lands that are serviced.
In addition to undefined financial liabilities, there are also undefined legal liabilities presented by Bill S-8. For example, with section 13, the bill appears to remove the Government of Canada from legal liabilities associated with the regulations to be developed and implemented under the act.
In this regard, the Federation of Canadian Municipalities has asked us to seek clarification from the standing committee as to what person or body the legal liability will reside with for the regulations developed and implemented under the act.
In addition, there is a concern with funding capacity. It is not clear whether the federal government and first nations across Canada have the proper funding capacity for the proposed infrastructure improvements on Indian reserves under Bill S-8.
The national assessment report, released in July 2011, estimates that over the next 10 years the combined projected capital and operating costs to meet the water and wastewater servicing needs of the communities of the 618 individual first nations across Canada will be approximately $4.7 billion, plus a projected operating and maintenance budget of $419 million annually.
The report further notes that in 2009 the water and/or wastewater systems of 153 of B.C.'s 203 first nations were considered to be high-risk systems. As indicated in the 2012 Canadian Infrastructure Report Card, released by the Federation of Canadian Municipalities, local governments across Canada also face major challenges while maintaining and managing decaying water and wastewater infrastructure to meet current public needs and minimum performance standards. The substantial infrastructure deficit is of great concern to municipal and local governments.
The upgrading and replacement of drinking water and wastewater systems will require considerable investments in many communities across Canada. Consequently, the capacity of local governments to expand the provision of water and wastewater systems and services may be limited. The infrastructure capacity gap for both local government and first nations must be closed to ensure that all Canadians have access to clean and safe drinking water.
We agree that the process needs increased funding to be successfully implemented. Bill S-8 outlines a legislative framework for managing drinking water and waste water on Indian reserves, but still lacks an adequate implementation plan, such as detail and substance required to improve water resource management on first nations' lands.
The issues I have just mentioned outline the difficulties that will be faced as a result of Bill S-8. At the local government level, when enacting plans, bylaws, and regulations that affect residents and businesses in the region, we seek input and consultation, and have other processes to ensure that we obtain a broad vision of ramifications of our actions and to ensure that we can practically address the concerns and avoid the law of unintended consequences.
Here, unfortunately, local government input in the enabling legislation is lacking. With Bill S-8, local government interests were not considered in the drafting of the legislation. Adequate communications and meaningful consultation with local governments are necessary, as local governments, we believe, will be impacted by Bill S-8.
In summary, I'd like to reiterate that local government recognizes and fully supports the need for all Canadians, aboriginal and non-aboriginal, to have access to clean water and to wastewater disposal. To achieve this goal, senior governments must first make provisions for appropriate funding to first nation communities.
As local governments, we feel we have a unique perspective on this issue, its implementation, and potential implications. We remain hopeful that the regulations to be drafted for Bill S-8 will address the following requirements: reliable certification of water and wastewater treatment operators; binding and consistent water standards; clear oversight and reporting responsibilities; clear delineation of the roles of health, environment, and water officials, including first nations officials and their governments; clear and comprehensive monitoring and testing of drinking water; clear delineation of responsibility for responding to adverse events; opportunities for public involvement, disclosure, and transparency; opportunities for receiving expert third-party advice; available resources and funding mechanisms; and proper capital and infrastructure planning over time.
The tasks at hand are very large and challenging for any level of government, including first nations; therefore, all parties need to work together. There are significant investments that the federal government and first nations have made on this issue.
I think it's important to note that at the local government level we have also made significant investments. That needs to be acknowledged. Local governments request some clarity on cost recovery and the liability issues identified earlier, and which appear in Metro Vancouver's position paper.
Bill S-8 has potential implications for local governments. Given these issues identified, local government seeks a commitment from the federal government that Bill S-8 will be amended in consultation with local government and first nations.
Further, local government would like acknowledgement from the Government of Canada that local governments will not be affected by Bill S-8, and further, a commitment from the Government of Canada that local governments will be kept apprised and engaged in the process of developing the regulations for Bill S-8.
That concludes my remarks.
Thank you.
I'm going to pass it off to Mr. MacIsaac.
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View Stella Ambler Profile
CPC (ON)
View Stella Ambler Profile
2013-05-23 10:27
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Sure. That I think can take place, too, after the legislation is passed as well.
Also, in Minister Duncan's letter, a little further back in February, he did specifically say that “Bill S-8 will not affect municipalities’ ability to choose to pursue or not to pursue municipal service agreements with First Nations. As well, S-8 will not delegate powers or costs to provinces or municipalities with respect to First Nations drinking water — jurisdiction will remain with the federal government.”
In the spirit of alleviating your concerns, did that help as well? I know that both you and Mr. MacIsaac talked about financial and legal liabilities, but municipalities can choose or not choose to enter into a service agreement and include these issues in it. So I guess I just....
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Ernie Daykin
View Ernie Daykin Profile
Ernie Daykin
2013-05-23 10:28
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We would like an assurance on that. I think there's still the feeling or understanding that we could be required to do that.
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View Carolyn Bennett Profile
Lib. (ON)
View Carolyn Bennett Profile
2013-05-23 10:34
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But Mayor Daykin, what would your concerns with the way the bill is drafted right now? What areas would you like to see amended?
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Ernie Daykin
View Ernie Daykin Profile
Ernie Daykin
2013-05-23 10:34
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Again, we want a clarity on what is required of us and what the potential liabilities are and how those can be alleviated at our level. I think that's one of the uncertainties we're faced with.
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View Brent Rathgeber Profile
Ind. (AB)
And my friend Ms. Ambler, I think, referred to the letter, where the minister indicated unequivocally that Bill S-8 would not affect the municipality's ability to choose to pursue or not pursue municipal agreements with first nations.
You indicated in one of your answers that you're concerned about liability and you're concerned about off-loading. In your own brief you indicate in concern number two that the transfer of responsibilities is unknown. You, or whoever wrote this, states that Bill S-8 does not explicitly download duties and responsibilities onto local governments.
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Lauchlan Munro
View Lauchlan Munro Profile
Lauchlan Munro
2013-05-21 12:05
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Mr. Chair, members of the committee, thank you.
I will make my presentation in English, but if you have any questions, it will be a pleasure for me to answer in the official language of your choice.
First of all, like many others I welcome the legislation's clear commitment to a Canadian aid program whose objectives focus on sustainable international development, poverty reduction, and humanitarian assistance. Such clarity of mandate is a good thing, and I support it. Sustainable international development, poverty reduction, and humanitarian assistance are objectives around which all Canadians can and should rally. I hope that all political parties in Parliament support these objectives as the cornerstone of Canada's aid program.
I do, however, have a few concerns about a couple of issues, and I'll bring these to the committee's attention.
I have a few concerns about proposed paragraph 14(d) in clause 74, which says that humanitarian assistance should be delivered “in line with Canadian values and priorities”. The phrase “Canadian values” is presumably an allusion to section 3 of the Official Development Assistance Accountability Act. “[G]lobal citizenship, equity and environmental sustainability” are the defined Canadian values in that act. But the statement is vague, and it misses the essential point, namely that humanitarian assistance must be allocated impartially on the basis of objective need.
I believe the legislation should rather require that Canadian humanitarian assistance be delivered in line with internationally accepted humanitarian principles and humanitarian law.
I am a little dismayed that this important piece of legislation is part of a larger budget implementation bill. I believe that clauses 174 through 199 of the budget implementation bill are important enough that they merit consideration by Parliament as part of a stand-alone piece of legislation. As I said recently in an article in the Ottawa Citizen, we now have the opportunity to refound Canada's aid program for a generation or more. I think that all-party consensus on the refounding of Canada's aid program is possible. It is certainly highly desirable, in my view. It would be a pity, if the refounding of Canada's aid program did not receive all-party support simply because the law refounding it is encased in a larger budget bill that has provisions that prove unacceptable to one or more of the opposition parties.
While the bill's emphasis on poverty reduction and humanitarian assistance are welcome and appropriate, they come with certain risks, which need to be acknowledged.
The objective of poverty reduction lends itself to an interpretation as short-term interventions, such as building schools, digging wells, and providing emergency relief supplies. These have been part of my career. They are certainly part of Canada's current aid portfolio and should continue to be so. But if we are to take seriously Canada's commitment to pursue sustainable international development, our aid program must pursue its objectives over the short, medium, and long run. Our aid program must help build capacities and systems so that developing countries can increasingly help themselves. The success of such efforts cannot be judged by the usual short-term management metrics. We are fighting 20-year problems with five-year projects and annual budget cycles.
Furthermore, in order to work well in the long run, Canada's aid program must include strong research, policy analysis, and evaluation components, so that it is always learning and improving. Our aid program must build the capacities of our partners in the developing world to do such research, policy analysis, and evaluation, so that they too can constantly learn, improve, and develop their own skills, capacities, and systems. This is the key to truly sustainable poverty reduction over the long run.
Let me add a word about the private sector and our aid program. The private sector is a big part of what has made Canada the rich and pluralistic country it is today. Canada's aid program can and should include the private sector when it promotes the objectives of poverty reduction, sustainable development, and the promotion of democracy, human rights, and the rule of law. We can find win-win-win solutions whereby Canada's image abroad is burnished, Canadian companies make a decent profit, and private investment reduces poverty, protects the environment, and respects human rights.
It is not in our national interest to have Canadian companies engage in corrupt and illegal practices abroad, nor is such misbehaviour consistent with Canadian values. Canadian policy, whether through trade promotion or aid, should never encourage such misbehaviour.
I have a word on aid effectiveness.
Legislation is important for setting objectives and principles to be followed, but legislation cannot and should not try to cover everything. Some things are very important for the effectiveness of Canada's aid program but do not appear in this legislation. To name two pressing issues that are hurting the effectiveness of our aid program one can cite the excessive centralization of control in the minister's office and the related apparently ever-reducing speed of decision-making at CIDA. I hasten to add this is not the fault of our good public servants.
The result has been that large amounts of the aid budget are unspent at the end of the fiscal year, large needs are unmet among our aid recipients, and many very good small Canadian charitable organizations are experiencing cashflow difficulties since they depend on speed and clarity of decision-making when they choose to compete for government funds in competitive calls for proposals. This slowness due to increasing centralization in recent years comes on top of already existing administrative and financial processes that can only be described as cumbersome to begin with. If we are truly interested in aid effectiveness this is the first frontier.
Finally, donor countries have been merging and demerging their aid and foreign affairs ministries off and on for decades now. The evidence from several studies suggests that neither the merger of the aid and foreign ministries nor their demerger is inherently a superior model. What matters for the quality of the aid program is the clarity of the mandate, the political will to make the aid program work—and that often means letting the managers manage—and pressure from civil society, the media, and parliamentarians to make it work and to keep it working.
With this legislation we will have gone a long way forward in getting clarity of mandate. The task ahead is to ensure that the other two elements, political will and political pressure, are present as well.
Thank you for your attention.
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View Hélène Laverdière Profile
NDP (QC)
Thank you very much, Mr. Chair.
Thank you ever so much to you both for two extraordinary presentations. Really, I am nearly speechless, and it doesn't happen that often.
To start with, we are in general agreement that what is at issue here is not so much the merger. To merge or not to merge is not the question here.
I hear, again, a common point in both of your presentations with which I fully agree. In particular, regarding humanitarian assistance, we need to keep that separate from Canadian priorities. It has to be based on international standards, humanitarian principles, and international humanitarian law. I fully agree with that.
On a number of issues you've mentioned, I could go on and on. Also, on the need for a full discussion, this is so important. It's such a rare opportunity to discuss the whole mandate of the minister and the department. As you will guess, we fully agree that this shouldn't have been done through a budget implementation bill. We need long consultations to do things properly.
I have so many questions. I'm sorry, I'm losing track of them.
One point, Mr. Munro, that you made was about the very slow process in the approval of projects and programs due to the centralization in the minister's office. What we seem to note is that as centralization is increasing, as you were saying, the speed is slowing, and it also presents a problem of transparency because a lot of people are saying that they don't know what the criteria are any more. It's very difficult to evaluate on which basis a project is or is not approved.
Could both of you expand a bit on this?
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Lauchlan Munro
View Lauchlan Munro Profile
Lauchlan Munro
2013-05-21 12:25
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I'd say a couple of things. Number one, when I made that remark, it was not a pointed remark at this government. Similar trends were visible under previous governments. I'd like that to be understood.
Development and international development cooperation is a risky business. It's a business. It's full of risks and uncertainties. The two risks are different. You know the probabilities; the uncertainties, you don't. It is time that parliamentarians had an adult conversation with Canadians about risks and uncertainties, and international development.
I know the international development business. I have been in that my whole career and love to sell it as a series of easy wins. Give to us and we'll feed this child, and the child will become well nourished magically. I have worked in east Congo and South Sudan, and places like that. It doesn't work that easily.
At the same time, we've had a series of public management measures under this and other governments, and not just in Canada, where basically we've been telling public servants to be ever more risk-averse. We're not letting the managers manage, as we did a decade or two ago. We're piling layers and layers of governance and risk management terms, and extra approvals on top of a layer of political oversight, which is normal and natural in our parliamentary system.
Maybe we should look at it the way the private sector might look at this. Look at the venture capital industry. Venture capitalists invest in between 10 and 20 companies and expect maybe one or two of them to work out. They expect 18 or 19 failures, but the two that work, work so big, that the venture capitalist makes money.
Maybe Canadians aren't quite ready for that high failure rate, but let's have an honest discussion about doing some things in a difficult and risky terrain, where not all of them will work, but we'll take appropriate measures to safeguard public money, learn our lessons systematically as we go through, and improve. That is the way to make bigger returns in the long run. That might be an interesting way of refounding our aid program, and I hope would be one that would find wide, all-party support.
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Jim Cornelius
View Jim Cornelius Profile
Jim Cornelius
2013-05-21 12:28
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I think anyone involved in this work needs reasonably speedy and clear decision-making processes because it's difficult to plan, if it's unclear, when approvals might be coming forward. So anything that can increase the predictability and speed with which decisions can be made will certainly lead to better results. It's very difficult to operate in an environment where it's unclear when approvals might be granted and how long the process is going to be.
These I understand. I think Lauchlan does a good job of explaining why it's more complex with all these layers on top of it, but efforts to improve that would go a long way to enhancing and improving results.
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View Wayne Easter Profile
Lib. (PE)
View Wayne Easter Profile
2013-05-21 12:42
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So we have those words on the record if somebody wants to pull them up.
There is a second thing that there seemed to be agreement on, and I might not have the words quite right. Either I never wrote them down or I can't make out my own writing. I believe Mr. Munro said that the principle of adherence to commonly accepted principles of aid and development needs to be in there so that the minister is held to account on matters of international aid. Is that what you're saying?
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Lauchlan Munro
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Lauchlan Munro
2013-05-21 12:43
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I believe that was what Jim Cornelius was saying.
My own view is that such reference—and there is a similar reference in the Official Development Assistance Accountability Act—is inadvisable. That's my view. What's good aid practice is a moving target. We learn all the time. We learn from our mistakes. We learn from our successes. We study what other people are doing, and hopefully we get better. But legislation tends to last years and years and years, and it tends to last longer than the things we learn.
So if you enshrine a particular set of learning, and ones that are contested—and I'm on record as being a skeptic about the Paris declaration, which is referenced in the Official Development Assistance Accountability Act—if we enshrine those in legislation, we risk requiring ministers to adhere to a set of principles that may become obsolete in the light of what we learn. I don't think that's a good thing.
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Jim Cornelius
View Jim Cornelius Profile
Jim Cornelius
2013-05-21 12:44
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Yes, I think I would agree that I wouldn't want us to list all the principles in the act, but some reference to a statement like “commonly accepted principles of aid and development effectiveness” would allow for the constant evolution of those.
There are some standards out there that get developed, they evolve over time, and those would be something that you would draw on. But you don't list them right now in an act, because I would agree those principles evolve over time as we learn more.
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Laurie A. Henderson
View Laurie A. Henderson Profile
Laurie A. Henderson
2012-12-12 15:38
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Thank you.
Thank you for providing the Yukon government the opportunity to comment on these changes.
By way of background, I will note for you that the Yukon Surface Rights Board Act has its origins in the Umbrella Final Agreement and the 11 Yukon first nation final agreements that have been signed into effect by the Government of Canada, the Yukon government, and 11 Yukon first nations.
Chapter 8 of these agreements established the framework for the Surface Rights Board legislation, and the Yukon Surface Rights Board Act came into force on February 14, 1995. Additional responsibilities of the board are established in other pieces of legislation, including two Yukon statutes: the Quartz Mining Act and the Placer Mining Act.
The amendments to the Yukon Surface Rights Board Act that are contained in Bill C-47 have been under discussion for some time. The Yukon government was first contacted about the amendments in the fall of 2011 by officials from Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development.
In January of 2012 there was a meeting between federal officials and Yukon government representatives to discuss the proposed changes. That meeting was followed up a number of months later in August with a letter, wherein the federal government was actually seeking views on the specific changes that are now in the bill.
In September of this year, Yukon advised those federal officials that it had no substantive comments on the proposed changes. That continues to be the case today; the Yukon supports the changes and believes they will make board operations more efficient and cost-effective.
Two of the changes in Bill C-47, particularly the amendment of section 10 and the amendment of section 11, which authorize a member whose term has been terminated or expired to continue to act as a member until a decision has been made on the matter before the board, will ensure efficiency in resolving disputes. Without this provision—and we have certainly run into this situation with other boards and committees in the Yukon—if a member's term does expire or is terminated prior to rendering a decision, the hearing may have to be restarted, and that obviously would incur additional costs for both the proponents and the board officials. The Yukon government sees this change as quite positive, and it is welcomed.
The third change in Bill C-47 involves the amendment to section 23 of the Yukon Surface Rights Board Act. This one requires the auditor of the board to audit the accounts, financial statements, and financial transactions of the board each year and to report on the same to the board and the minister. In the Yukon's view, this change again will help ensure financial accountability and transparency in the board's financial management. As it does for the other amendments, the Yukon supports this change and sees it as an improvement over the past arrangement, whereby the financial statements were actually audited by the Auditor General of Canada.
In conclusion, we would like to reaffirm the Yukon government's support for these three changes. Thank you for the opportunity to appear today.
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View Jean Crowder Profile
NDP (BC)
View Jean Crowder Profile
2012-12-12 16:17
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With regard to the Auditor General, my understanding is that it's now going to be an independent auditor.
Will that have the same level of transparency that an Auditor General does for Canadians? I'm sure citizens of Yukon hold auditors general in very high esteem. Will an independent auditor have the same effect in terms of transparency and availability of the reporting to the general public?
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Laurie A. Henderson
View Laurie A. Henderson Profile
Laurie A. Henderson
2012-12-12 16:17
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I believe so. The requirement is that the auditor, of course, will be required to operate under the generally accepted principles of accounting, as does the Auditor General, and that the report be made available to the board and to the minister. The practice of the board has been to release those reports publicly, generally as part of its annual report.
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Udloriak Hanson
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Udloriak Hanson
2012-12-10 15:33
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[Witness speaks in Inuktitut]
Thank you very much for asking us to present today. My name is Udloriak Hanson. As you mentioned, I have John and Dick with me. They're both with NTI as legal counsel. It's nice to see some familiar faces here. We have Nunavut Sivuniksavut students, our college students, all from Nunavut. It's great to have that support. We have people from NTI and my son here, so I'm very pleased to be here. Thank you.
First, I'd like to give thanks to the committee again for the invitation for NTI to appear today. NTI, Nunavut Tunngavik Inc., represents more than 25,000 Inuit of Nunavut for the purpose of asserting and defending the rights of Inuit under the 1993 Nunavut Land Claims Agreement.
Part 1 of the bill before you today arises directly from the Nunavut agreement. It is our job as representatives of Inuit, as we believe it is yours as legislators, to ensure that the bill fully respects and implements the treaty promises made by the crown to Inuit. We take that responsibility very seriously.
NTI is a not-for-profit, non-partisan organization incorporated under federal law. We have a board of directors headed by a slate of executive officers who are popularly elected by Inuit across Nunavut. Actually, today is our election day for presidents. The Nunavut agreement covers some 20% of Canada and a larger portion of Canada's marine areas. Our agreement is the bedrock of Canadian sovereignty in much of the Arctic. It is a treaty under section 35 of the Constitution Act, 1982.
The Nunavut agreement requires that legislation set forth the powers and functions of the resource management bodies created under the agreement, in this case the Nunavut Impact Review Board and the Nunavut Planning Commission,but there is an obvious risk to the aboriginal party in this legislative exercise. A land claims agreement is a contract. All its provisions, both large features and small details, are the outcome of negotiation and compromise. Neither side gets everything it wants.
The wording of many provisions reflects a careful balancing of interests. Implementation legislation proceeds differently. One of the parties to the agreement gets to draft the legislation. Recognizing that imbalance and reflecting the crown's duty to act honourably, the Nunavut agreement expressly requires that implementation legislation be prepared in close consultation with the designated Inuit organization, in this case, NTI.
There must be fair and sufficient collaboration and accommodation. Inuit cannot just be stakeholders in such a process. We have to be partners in the bill's design and wording. The Supreme Court of Canada has held that the crown is under a duty to consult and accommodate aboriginal peoples and to act honourably when aboriginal rights are involved. This duty logistically extends to the crown acting as part of Parliament, so that these principles should also be respected and applied by this committee.
Between 2002 and late 2009, the Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development, NTI, and the Government of Nunavut worked together on the development of this bill. The Nunavut Planning Commission and the Nunavut Impact Review Board also participated in that work. The working group operated on the basis of consensus, building on the practical experience of the Planning Commission and the impact review board since they came into existence in 1996. The strength of the bill is the result of that consensus-based process. It is a credit to the federal officials with whom we worked that at this concluding stage of the process, NTI can say that it has been a partner in the bill's development. This is the first time NTI can say that about a federal legislative project.
Having said that, NTI did not draft this bill, nor did it instruct the legislative drafters directly. Therefore, NTI cannot warrant that this bill complies in all respects with the Nunavut agreement. As provided in the agreement, in the event of any conflict, the Nunavut agreement will prevail.
In fact, NTI will be proposing today a number of changes to the bill. While relatively minor, many of these changes are needed to ensure clearer compliance of the bill with the Nunavut agreement.
It is important to note that due to the limited time available, and the length and complexity of the bill, NTI has not been able to conduct a review of the French language version. Parliament must look to the Department of Justice and its own staff to ensure that the two official language versions are consistent.
In NTI's view, the strengths of the bill include: a requirement that public hearings and reviews be conducted in Inuktitut in addition to French and English, at the request of a board member, proponent or intervenor; specific direction to regulators not to issue permits unless the land use planning and environmental assessment processes authorize the granting of a permit; and direction to regulators to include in their permits applicable terms and conditions of land use plans and project assessment certificates. Another strength is offence provisions that backstop the duties of regulators in relation to land use plans and project certificates.
As well, other strengths include: a requirement for Inuit approval of land use plans, which is consistent with the unique Inuit role in the land management system in Nunavut and the Inuit ownership of much of the land; instructions for how projects will be scoped in advance, so as to avoid problems such as project splitting; and provisions to facilitate commission and board operations, such as recognition of their legal capacity to hold property and sign contracts.
Notwithstanding these positive features, a number of aspects of the bill should be corrected.
Contrary to the Nunavut agreement, the bill fails to identify cabinet as a body responsible in all cases to implement land use plans and project certificates. The result is a gap; where cabinet has exclusive authority for land-related functions, plan or project certificate requirements will be without anybody responsible to implement them.
The bill expressly requires that in exercising their functions with respect to land use plans, the Planning Commission, ministers, and Inuit must give specific attention to “existing rights and interests”. However, existing patterns of natural resource use and“economic opportunities and needs are already factors that must be considered. The introduction of another factor emphasizing the same or similar points improperly skews the delicate negotiated balance of the agreement.
There are some areas of the bill where process should be improved. For example, under clauses 141 and 142, proponents are the only source of notice to the Planning Commission and the Impact Review Board of modifications to a project during assessment. Regulators should also be required to notify the Planning Commission or Impact Review Board if they receive an application with a project description that differs from the project under assessment or that has been assessed by the Planning Commission or Impact Review Board.
In a number of places, the wording of the bill varies from the wording of the agreement for no good or agreed reason. This is unsound in principle and in law and is likely to create confusion and uncertainty in the day-to-day operation of the new act.
Draft amendments for these and other proposed changes are included in NTI's written submission, and I've been told you all have a copy of it. NTI requests the committee to make these amendments.
Finally, NTI reminds the committee that a law is only as good as its day-to-day administration. The bill gives the Planning Commission and the impact review board a number of new or expanded functions. For example, both bodies will have an extensive public registry responsibility that exceeds current federal record-keeping requirements. Functions such as these naturally require the allocation of appropriate levels of new funding.
Another funding need relates to the increase in the number of existing and anticipated mines and other resource development activities in Nunavut. Land and water inspection in Nunavut is already overtaxed. Adequate funding for these functions is long overdue.
The bill appropriately contains strengthened monitoring, inspection, and enforcement provisions. However, we have had no assurances whatsoever that sufficient funds will be allocated to implement the bill.
Arctic ecosystems are fragile, and this is an urgent priority. NTI invites you to ask federal government witnesses to identify specifically how and when the necessary additional funding to implement this bill will be made available to the boards and to relevant federal offices.
Nakurmiik. Thank you for your attention.
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View Jean Crowder Profile
NDP (BC)
View Jean Crowder Profile
2012-12-10 15:48
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Great.
One of the things you pointed out was that there could be some confusion and uncertainty if the legislation proceeds as is. Could you highlight key areas where there would be confusion or uncertainty?
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Richard Spaulding
View Richard Spaulding Profile
Richard Spaulding
2012-12-10 15:49
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We've suggested a number of kinds of amendments.
One kind could be considered a design feature of the act, and that's the first amendment put forward. There would be significant confusion if the bill were enacted without providing that an implementation body would be responsible for planning in relation to conservation areas and parks. Right now the bill is silent as to what body is responsible for implementing plans in that sphere. The body that tends to have responsibility is cabinet, and the definitions of “department” and “agency” in the bill, which are the closest candidates to include the bodies I'm referring to, exclude them by defining these entities essentially as the public service.
Another source of confusion that's been highlighted has to do with the provision for what happens when a project changes in the course of assessment, which is a very practical, typical concern in an environmental assessment process. It happens more often than not when a project goes to review that at some point the description is going to change for reasons of financing, changes in plans, or changes in conditions on the ground having been encountered. NTI's submission is that the bill is overly confusing on that point. It's overly cumbersome. It could be simplified.
Funding is obviously, as Ms. Hanson mentioned, a key area.
Another one is that there are a number of language points in the bill that depart from the agreement in such a way that an NTI submission can only lead to less certainty rather than more certainty. To cite a simple example, in several places where the agreement says that a body has a judgment or a decision to make, the bill says that there's an opinion to be expressed. In ordinary parlance, those are different things. They lead to questions rather than to clarity. Those are some examples.
In general, the 12 amendments that Ms. Hanson has alluded to are intended to provide more clarity, more effectiveness.
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View Blake Richards Profile
CPC (AB)
View Blake Richards Profile
2012-12-10 15:57
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Can you give us any examples of how the legislation may have been adapted or changed during the consultation process to reflect some of the interests of Inuit for sustainable economic development in Nunavut? Can you give us some examples of that?
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John Merritt
View John Merritt Profile
John Merritt
2012-12-10 15:58
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One feature of the bill that you'll notice is that there are time limits in relation to decision-making, and not just time limits for management bodies but also government officials, which is an important feature. It's important that public sector participants play by the clock, as well as private sector investors and organizations and other people. That's a feature of the bill that you won't see in the land claims agreement. The land claims agreement doesn't have that level of detail.
There was consensus in our working group that it would be useful for everybody to have some time limits, in terms of making sure that everybody can make management decisions within a rational world. I don't think that's just a gain for Inuit, for developers, for government. I think that's a gain for the people of Canada, having a system that's going to be more effective. Insofar as that makes economic development easier, that's a benefit coming out of a creative process where two parties themselves try to add value to the bare minimum set of rights that the land claims agreement entails.
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View Dennis Bevington Profile
NDP (NT)
To get on with looking more at the variety of amendments you've proposed, you talk about the need for the authority structure in approving a number of the pieces that are taking place here. Could you explain in a little more depth why you've made that an amendment, with the role of the Governor in Council versus the minister?
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Richard Spaulding
View Richard Spaulding Profile
Richard Spaulding
2012-12-10 16:24
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Sure. I'll try to summarize what I said earlier.
If the general rule of the agreement is that where government has a power relating to a term of a land use plan, government must use that power in accordance with the land use plan. That's after the plan has been approved, and it's subject to powers to grant minor variances and exemptions and so on, but that's the general rule.
There are terms of land use plans that the agreement provides for where the only power to implement them rests with cabinet, yet the bill defines the bodies that are responsible to implement those kinds of terms in a way that excludes cabinet. The matters I'm referring to here are mainly the establishment of parks or marine conservation areas, and also a list of conservation areas, which include protected marine areas under the Canada Wildlife Act, marine protected areas under the Oceans Act, and a number of other instances. The only body that can implement the plan there is excluded from the definition of bodies having responsibility under the bill.
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View John Duncan Profile
CPC (BC)
Thank you very much once again.
As you all know, Canada's north is home to world-class reserves of natural resources representing tremendous economic opportunities for northerners and for all Canadians. Since forming government in 2006 our government has consistently demonstrated its commitment to equipping northerners with the tools they need to take advantage of those opportunities. I cannot emphasize enough how important Bill C-47 will be in allowing northerners to unlock these opportunities. Bill C-47 fulfills the Government of Canada's last legislative obligations flowing from negotiated land claims in both Nunavut and the Northwest Territories, and proposes mechanisms to improve regulatory processes, encourage investment, and allow resources to be developed in a sustainable manner. This will lead to jobs and benefits for future generations of Canadians.
I understand my officials were here on Monday last week to speak to some of the technical elements of Bill C-47, but their appearance was cut short due to votes. They're here again with me today and can answer some of your more technical questions. I understand they'll be coming again before committee soon.
The first part of this bill is the Nunavut planning and project assessment act. This bill sets out clear, consistent, reliable, regulatory processes that the people of Nunavut can use to manage development of their land and resources that will promote economic development by boosting investor confidence. Not only does this bill implement Canada's legislative obligations under the Nunavut Land Claims Agreement, it also fills existing gaps in the Nunavut regime for project approval. These improvements are not just necessary, they are urgent. They are needed in order to put in place a state-of-the-art planning and assessment regime to meet the surging tide of resource development opportunity in Nunavut.
The fact that the bill establishes the Nunavut Planning Commission as the single entry for project proponents will provide the clarity and certainty that has been called for and supported in various other jurisdictions across Canada, and will no doubt prove to be equally successful in Nunavut. For example, the bill assigns clear roles and responsibilities to the Nunavut Planning Commission, the Nunavut Impact Review Board, departments and agencies, responsible ministers, regulatory authorities, and project proponents. It allows the development and implementation of critical timelines for key decision points in the process, ensures that all parties to the process do not act until the appropriate approvals have been received, and establishes the critical inspection, enforcement, and monitoring regimes to backstop all decisions taken.
Mr. Chairman, there have been questions raised in the House of Commons about the adequacy of our consultations on this bill. Work on the Nunavut planning and project assessment act began in 2002, and the resulting bill before you today reflects almost a decade of negotiation and close consultation. This bill is a direct result of the government's strong partnership with the Government of Nunavut and Inuit leadership, as well as extensive consultation with the resource industries that will be affected. This bill, produced in partnership, includes valuable input from the Nunavut Legislative Working Group, a group of representatives from the federal government, the Government of Nunavut, and Nunavut Tunngavik Inc.
Representatives from the Nunavut Planning Commission and the Nunavut Impact Review Board also acted as advisers. Their technical expertise and experience were great assets to the working group.
Representatives of the mining and oil and gas industries also provided useful suggestions related to maximizing regulatory efficiency and avoiding duplication, achieving clarity and certainty through specific timelines, and consolidating roles and responsibilities among institutions of government.
Other groups raised additional concerns. Certain roles and responsibilities outlined in the draft bill required further clarification; monitoring and enforcement provisions needed to be strengthened; and questions over the bill's application to development projects that cross geographic boundaries and political jurisdictions called for further clarity.
I'm proud to say that these consultations have resulted in legislation that will truly serve the needs of the people of Nunavut today and in the future.
The second part of Bill C-47 will establish the Northwest Territories surface rights board. This fulfills obligations in the Northwest Territories under the Gwich'in Comprehensive Land Claim Agreement and the Sahtu Dene and Métis Comprehensive Land Claim Agreement. Both agreements refer specifically to the need for a surface rights board.
The establishment of the board is also consistent with the terms and the spirit of the Inuvialuit Final Agreement and the Tlicho Land Claims and Self-Government Agreement, the other two comprehensive land claims in the Northwest Territories. The Tlicho agreement allows for the establishment of a surface rights board. The Inuvialuit Final Agreement specifies that any interim measures related to access across Inuvialuit lands to reach adjacent lands will be replaced when a law of general application, such as this bill, is enacted.
The board will, on application, make orders related to terms, conditions, and compensation only where they have been requested to do so and only after such rights have been previously issued. In so doing, this board will contribute to greater certainty and predictability for long-term economic growth and job creation in the territory.
I want to emphasize that this board does not, nor will it ever, issue any kind of right to surface or subsurface resources. To be absolutely clear, this board does not have any jurisdiction in the realm of resource development decision-making. This board does one thing only: if asked by one or both of the parties, it will settle disputes about access to land.
Consultations on the development of the Northwest Territories surface rights board act were also extensive. As I mentioned earlier, this bill responds to our last legislative obligation from the Gwich'in and Sahtu land claim agreements, and completes the regulatory regime that was originally envisioned in the Northwest Territories land claim agreements.
In total, over 35 consultation sessions were held with 13 aboriginal groups and governments, the Government of the Northwest Territories, and industry organizations. These sessions included groups within and outside settled land claims in the Northwest Territories, and groups outside of the Northwest Territories with transboundary claims. That was the comprehensive consultation, negotiation, and collaboration that went into developing the bill. That was the degree of partnership that went into putting together this very important legislation.
The bill before this committee today is a product that reflects the work, the opinions, and the positions of many interests and groups across two territories. All sides contributed to produce a bill that meets the needs of the people of Nunavut and the Northwest Territories.
As you can see, Bill C-47 responds to a chorus of other groups calling for action. Territorial governments have asked for better coordination and clearly defined time periods for project reviews. Resource companies have urged us to make the review process more streamlined and predictable. All Canadians want to make sure that promising opportunities will no longer be delayed or lost due to complex, unpredictable, and time-consuming regulatory processes. Bill C-47 will help make this a reality.
Thank you, Chair.
I look forward to the committee's review, and my officials and I will be pleased to respond to any questions.
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View Greg Rickford Profile
CPC (ON)
View Greg Rickford Profile
2012-12-10 16:54
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Thank you, Mr. Chair. Thank you to the minister and the officials for joining us today in what so far has been a very positive discussion about this piece of legislation.
I was looking through my notes. So far we've heard things like certainty, predictability, clarity, streamlining, single point of entry, one-stop shop, and clear guidelines. These are the kinds of descriptors that have been used so far by our witnesses, including our friends from NTI today.
Minister, it appears the bill contains a number of improvements that were laid out in the agreement. I'm wondering if you could cite specific examples of that, any definitions, or what the roles of different proponents would be under this legislation. Then I'll segue into a question about economic development.
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View John Duncan Profile
CPC (BC)
Thank you for the question.
In terms of definitions, there are a number of improvements to the process described in the agreement.
For example, the definition of “project” has been clarified. It establishes the Nunavut Planning Commission as the single entry point for all project proposals. It clarifies the duty of all government departments, including those with regulatory duties, to implement their activities in accordance with land use plans. It affirms the power of governments and Inuit organizations to nominate members to the Nunavut Impact Review Board and the Nunavut Planning Commission.
It makes it possible for territorial and federal governments and Inuit organizations to manage northern resources and lands wisely. It provides legal certainty and predictability for resource managers. And as I mentioned a couple of times, it fulfills our legislative obligations under the land claims agreements by legislating roles and responsibilities for the Nunavut Planning Commission and the Nunavut Impact Review Board and clearly defining the powers, duties, and functions of those bodies.
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View David Wilks Profile
CPC (BC)
View David Wilks Profile
2012-11-19 16:05
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Thanks, Mr. Chair.
Thanks to the witnesses for being here today.
I heard you refer in your introduction to the elimination of the Governor in Council process and to allowing the minister to authorize land designation. I wonder if you could tell me about the opportunities in regard to time efficiency for first nations to move forward with economic development in that process, as well as whether you see anything that would hinder first nations from having the minister make that land designation as opposed to Governor in Council.
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Andrew Beynon
View Andrew Beynon Profile
Andrew Beynon
2012-11-19 16:06
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I'll turn to the second part of your question first.
The existing system of federal approval for a designation is through the Governor in Council. The change in the legislation is only to make that federal approval through the minister. Quite frankly, I think that is seen as, and is, internal to the federal government.
To put a specific answer to your question, I can't think of any downside to first nations, to businesses, or to individual first nation members in the change from Governor in Council to the minister.
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Kathleen Lickers
View Kathleen Lickers Profile
Kathleen Lickers
2012-11-19 16:18
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Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Good afternoon to the honourable members of the committee, and thank you for the invitation to appear before you. I'll keep my remarks brief in the interests of my colleagues sharing our time.
I am an external adviser to the Assembly of First Nations. I have been providing them with legal counsel on the issue of additions to reserve and the reform of that process, as well as the specific claims reform.
I appear before you today to share the view of the Assembly of First Nations on the amendments. Our view is tempered by the process under which the amendments have come forward, but let me first share with you the view of the amendments themselves.
On the technical amendments to the Indian Act, we've read through the transcripts and the appearance of the minister before the Senate standing committee introducing the bill and the amendments in division 8 that are intended to streamline the designation process. It is a lengthy, costly, and oftentimes complex process to designate land, which is not the surrender of land, but the leasing of land. By all accounts, at the time at which it was introduced in 1988 it was, and is, commonly referred to as the Kamloops amendment, after the first nation that actually advocated for the change back in 1988. It is a process by to make lands for leasing purposes available to non-band members.
The amendments in the bill that speak to the separation of “designation” from “surrender” are a change that would do two things. First, it would improve the high threshold vote that is required by the provisions as they are currently written. Our colleagues who spoke from the department prior to this panel explained the two-tiered threshold of a majority of a majority on a first ballot, and if first nations are unsuccessful in securing that majority of a majority, that triggers a second vote. The separation of “designation” from that threshold would, in all likelihood, bring some efficiency and cost-effectiveness, frankly, to what is, as I say, an otherwise complex process.
The other elements that are far more technical in nature in this division 8 of Bill C-45 relate to the recommendation of the minister upon the vote having taken place.
Voting under the Indian Act must take place in accordance with its regulations. In the course of those regulations, there is the appointment of an electoral officer. The duties of an electoral officer are explained and detailed in the regulations themselves and include the giving of notice and the overseeing of the entire referendum process. It is after the results of the vote are known that the electoral officer is to sign a statement as to the validity of the vote, and that statement must also be signed by a representative of the first nation. What's technically changing in this amendment is that after that process the community must recommend to the minister to accept the results of the vote.
It was explained by our colleague, Mr. Kris Johnson, when he appeared before the Senate committee on November 7, that the amendment is intended to introduce a stopgap measure in terms of the community being in a position to signal to the minister that they are not prepared to recommend the designation result.
What's interesting about that, and I'm not suggesting anything hinges on it in this amendment, is that there are no amendments being introduced to the regulations themselves, so there is no displacement of the electoral officer in the process.
In fact, the referendum regulations do provide a review process that can be initiated by any community member who wants to challenge the referendum. They have seven days to do so. None of that process is being displaced in this amendment, but the minister can still disregard the designation vote, as it were, even by a simple majority.
The final change introduced by this amendment, again technical in nature, is the replacement of the Governor in Council approval of a designation vote by a ministerial order. We have seen this tool, the use of a ministerial approval in a designation process, through the use of pre-reserve designation in the claim settlements implementation acts that are available in the Prairie provinces of Alberta, Saskatchewan, and Manitoba. Those pieces of legislation were introduced purely to address the number of outstanding treaty land entitlement claim settlements that were occurring in those provinces in 2002.
The Auditor General of Canada has reviewed many elements of the implementation of those settlement agreements, but in the context of the use of designation under that legislation, it incorporates by reference the designation procedures of the Union Act, so in consequence that legislation will be equally impacted by the amendments that are introduced by Bill C-45.
What's important about that, which leads me directly into my remarks about the process—
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View Hedy Fry Profile
Lib. (BC)
View Hedy Fry Profile
2012-11-06 12:22
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Thank you very much, Madam Chair.
I want to echo some of Ms. Davies' concerns about this administrative change.
Possibly the thing that concerns me most is the lack of a requirement to report, both the financial reporting issue and the reporting of what has gone on in that year. These are important ways of being transparent and accountable not only to the public but to Parliament, to everyone, through a report. That will be gone.
I am concerned about the watering down of accountability and transparency that seems to be occurring in every part of government and in every department of government in the name of cost savings. Sometimes it's necessary to incur costs in order to keep things clearly transparent and clearly accountable. The accountability and the transparency is a big piece for me.
When you answered Ms. Davies' question on a couple of the issues that she brought forward, you said that in 1988, when this was brought about, there had been concerns even then about industry security, etc. That was 24 years ago. Can you give me examples during those 24 years where industry security has been compromised, where there is reason to believe that over the 24 years this did not work well and that there was a huge risk for industry during that time? I have to tell you, this is the first I have heard of this.
I always think that you can look for cost savings in many ways, but sometimes cost savings don't make sense. We now have an advisory committee that is going to be decided on, it says, by the department, but the minister has to rubber-stamp those. It isn't free of ministerial interference or ministerial oversight. Everything in a department has ministerial oversight. To suggest the minister will no longer be involved in it and that it will really be a department working on its own, means that people don't understand or aren't aware of how departments work, and what the minister's role is vis-à-vis a department, and what cabinet's role is vis-à-vis departments.
My concern is that the minister has had advisory boards in the past, on sodium, on issues such as high-energy drinks and trans fats. In every instance going back to 2007, ministers have completely ignored their advisory boards. My concern here is about the teeth. It's one thing to suggest that the process is going to shift and that's all, but what about the teeth that come with an independent body? This is something I am concerned about. I would like to get some answers on how you are going to put teeth in this when we've seen from past experience with this particular ministry there have been no teeth as far as ministers are concerned, and they've ignored advisory boards any time they wished.
I want to know what complaints you've had since 1988, over the last 24 years, that have told you that this system does not work and that industry security has been compromised by it.
I would really like to know how the minister's fine hand will not be seen to be apparent in all of her appointments that she is rubber-stamping, or not. There is absolutely no way that will go before a committee, as Ms. Davies pointed out, that would suggest these appointees have to be vetted etc.
One could quite easily have the fox watching the henhouse because of certain appointments. It's a case of saying, “Trust me, I'm the department. Trust me, I'm the minister.” That is not an acceptable way for a government to be run. This is not a private sector enterprise. This is a government enterprise, and therefore government has to continually be accountable. This has to be done in a way that is not only seen to be transparent, but accountability has to be real.
Those are my concerns. I'd like those pieces commented on and answered, please.
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Suzy McDonald
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Suzy McDonald
2012-11-06 12:26
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Thank you very much, Madam Chair.
Let me start with the question of accountability. I know I mentioned previously there would no longer be a requirement for an annual report, but that certainly doesn't mean there is not a requirement for public reporting on what's happening within the commission.
As you all know, government departments are required to report on the program activity architecture, for example. Therefore, in a new program within Health Canada there would be reporting requirements through the Department of Health's annual report, through the Department of Health's annual DPRs and RPPs. It would be included in those. Certainly there would be an ability to indicate the dollars spent on this. Certainly, there would be an ability to look at the types of confidential business information that's been—
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Jennifer Stoddart
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Jennifer Stoddart
2012-10-31 15:51
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Thank you, Mr. Chair, and thank you for inviting me.
Honourable members of the committee, I am here today to speak to you regarding Bill C-27, an act to enhance the financial accountability and transparency of first nations.
As you know, Bill C-27 will require that first nations chiefs and councillors provide an audited schedule of remuneration every year to the Minister of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development. This schedule will underline moneys paid by the first nation, or any entity it controls, to its chief and each of its councillors, acting in either their official or their personal capacity. The bill would require that first nations publish this schedule on their websites and make copies available to anyone upon request. Additionally, the minister would be required to publish this schedule on the Department of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development's website.
While I understand that there are existing reporting arrangements in place for many first nations, C-27 would effectively harmonize all reporting to the department and provide a legislative basis for proactively disclosing this information publicly on the Internet.
Our office's own mandate is the Privacy Act, which applies to federal public sector organizations. While the Privacy Act has been considered quasi-constitutional, some of its provisions may be superseded by other acts of Parliament. For instance, as a general rule, personal information under the control of a government institution cannot be disclosed without the consent of the individual to whom it relates. As the law stands today, specific salaries are considered personal information within the meaning of the Privacy Act, and they cannot be publicly disclosed by the Minister of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development without consent. However, the Privacy Act does exceptionally allow for disclosure of personal information without consent where authorized to do so by another act of Parliament. In other words, if the bill before you were to pass, the minister would be allowed to disclose specific salaries for the purposes set out in Bill C-27.
The privacy issue before you is therefore not one of lawfulness, but one of principle. Bill C-27 invokes two equally important democratic principles—accountability and privacy. The question is, how should these two values interplay to minimize adverse impacts and maximize democratic capital for Canadians?
I will now discuss existing salary disclosure regimes.
Transparency and accountability are principles that my office takes very seriously. I have, along with Canada's other federal, provincial and territorial Access to Information and Privacy Commissioners, signed a joint resolution endorsing and promoting open government as a means to enhance transparency and accountability. These are essential features of good governance and critical elements of an effective and robust democracy.
In considering this bill, I note that there is a distinct trend in Canada towards publicly disclosing the salaries of elected officials along with other senior officials paid from the public purse. When money comes from taxpayers, the expectation of transparency increases as the level of responsibility or salary associated with a position increases.
At the federal level, the precise salaries of elected officials such as the Prime Minister, ministers, members of Parliament and other positions are disclosed every year by the Parliament of Canada on its Indemnities, Salaries and Allowances Internet page. Furthermore, pay ranges for public service positions are also made public.
Similarly, in Quebec, the salaries of elected officials are published by the National Assembly. The specific salaries of Quebec's public servants, by contrast, are not disclosed to the public although those of high-ranking officials can be made available through access request.
In Ontario, the specific salaries of elected provincial officials are made publicly available; while only public servants paid $100,000 or more per year have their name, salary and amount of taxable benefits disclosed in yearly reports. Other provinces, including British Columbia and Manitoba, also use salary thresholds as a basis for triggering public disclosure requirements of senior elected officials.
There are no comparable regimes that currently cover all first nations across Canada. Bill C-27 would put in place a uniform standard for publicly disclosing remuneration of elected officials, among other public reporting requirements, in more than 600 first nations. Its impact on the privacy of these officials therefore requires careful analysis and consideration.
In the final part of my presentation I will speak about the appropriate privacy analysis framework.
Along these lines, my office has a long-standing practice of examining the privacy risks posed by a particular initiative by applying a privacy analysis framework, and its elements can be summarized by four key questions: One, is the measure demonstrably necessary to meet a specific need? Two, is it likely to be effective in meeting that need? Three, is the loss of privacy proportional to the need? And four, is there a less privacy-invasive way of achieving the same end?
The first question evaluates whether the proposed measure is required to achieve a particular policy object. In most cases, the answer to this question is positive, and the current case is, at first sight, no exception to the rule. Financial transparency of public moneys paid to elected officials and senior government officials is an important objective that may very well warrant a legislative measure to ensure more uniform reporting requirements than is currently the case and ultimately enhance public accountability and transparency.
The second question considers whether the proposed measure will be successful in achieving the stated policy goal. There may be instances where the proposed measure may not be particularly effective in achieving the objectives for which it was designed. Given the complexity of the native governance architecture, I would respectfully submit to this committee that I may not be the right person to answer this question. In this instance, I would rather defer to the discerning assessments of experts well versed in aboriginal issues.
The third question, which focuses on proportionality, is critical to assessing the privacy impact of a proposed measure. It essentially functions as a sort of balancing test to help determine whether the potentially harmful effects on privacy of individuals is outweighed by the salutary effects of the proposed measures. At this step it is important to identify all the potential privacy implications of the proposed measures, the number of affected individuals, and the extent of the privacy laws. Then one can make a more enlightened determination as to whether or not the public policy benefits of the proposed measure, in this case greater and more uniform public disclosure requirements of first nations, outweigh the adverse privacy impacts on individual chiefs and councillors.
As parliamentarians, you may find that proactive disclosure of exact salaries, in addition to all of the other public reporting requirements, exceeds the incremental benefits this may yield in terms of enhanced public accountability and transparency. On the other hand, if disclosing salaries of elected officials is becoming a widely adopted trend in Canada, as appears to be the case, it may well be considered reasonably in line with public expectations and proportionate to disclose the salaries of chiefs and councillors as well.
The fourth and final step seeks to determine whether the proposed measure can be substituted by another measure that might have a less adverse effect on privacy. This is a time to consider whether there are different options that could yield similar results, but in a less privacy-intrusive way. For instance, disclosing salary ranges or aggregate salary amounts for relevant groups, as opposed to specific salaries of individuals, could prove just as effective in achieving enhanced transparency and accountability without incurring the corresponding loss of individual privacy.
To conclude, Mr. Chair and members of the committee, I'd like to thank you again for the opportunity to comment on the importance of these considerations in the proposed legislation. Finding the right balance between achieving stated policy objectives and the protection of privacy can be a complex and difficult undertaking. I hope this analytical framework I have presented is useful to you in your deliberations.
I and my senior general counsel will be happy to try to answer your questions.
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
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Jerome Berthelette
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Jerome Berthelette
2012-10-29 15:34
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Good afternoon, Mr. Chairman
I would like to thank you for inviting the office to speak about Bill C-27, an Act to Enhance the Financial Accountability and Transparency of First Nations.
With me is Ronnie Campbell, Assistant Auditor General, who was formerly responsible for first nations' audits.
Since 2000, the office has tabled 16 chapters that address first nations and Inuit issues directly, and another 15 chapters that deal with issues of importance to first nations people.
In 1996, we tabled a study entitled “Study of accountability practices from the perspective of first nations”. We noted that the relationship between the first nations and the federal government had evolved from direct service delivery by the department to service delivery by first nations. As a result of this evolution, the issue of accountability presented difficulties for both parties. In particular, the accountability of that government to Parliament became more complicated as departments were no longer directly responsible for the delivery of programs at the community level.
At that time, we met with first nations and were told that they were willing to explore ways to ensure that the information needs of Parliament were met, and they stressed the importance of internal accountability. From their perspective, accountability is non-hierarchical and is based on shared objectives.They stated that the reporting framework was of limited value to them, was onerous, and did little to enhance accountability to the community.
In 2002, based in part on what we had learned from the 1996 study, we proposed our definition of accountability: a relationship based on obligations to demonstrate, review, and take responsibility for performance, both the results achieved in light of agreed expectations and the means used. We defined five principles that support an effective accountability relationship: clear roles and responsibilities; clear performance expectations; balanced expectations and capacities; credible reporting; and reasonable review and adjustment.
We noted that delivery of programs through partners creates new and complex accountability relationships. In these arrangements, accountability is shared. With respect to reporting, we suggested the need to be clear about the measurement strategy as well as the required information and how it is to be collected, verified, and analyzed, and by whom and when.
In this work, we also stated that transparency is the sustaining element of accountability; transparency implies that one can see clearly into the activities of government. Transparency and accountability mean stronger institutions and more credible government.
Also in 2002, we tabled a study on first nations reporting. We stated that reporting needs to provide meaningful information to first nations and to the federal government and that fundamental change was required to reduce the burden on first nations.
In 2011, we identified four structural impediments that limit the delivery of public services to the first nations and hinder improvements in living conditions on reserves: lack of clarity about service levels; lack of a legislative base; lack of an appropriate funding mechanism; and lack of organizations to support local service delivery.
We strongly support the principles of accountability and transparency. We hope this background on accountability will be useful to the committee as it reviews the proposed legislation.
Mr. Chair, we do not feel that our office can comment on the merits of Bill C-27. That being said, we would like to make a few remarks on some technical aspects of the bill.
First, subclause 5(1), on how first nations are to maintain their accounts, contains the expression “generally accepted accounting principles” and a reference to the Canadian Institute of Chartered Accountants handbooks. There are currently no accounting standards in Canada that explicitly mention first nations. Although the handbooks referred to in subclause 5(1) are generally pertinent to the activities of first nations governments, they have not been designed or amended to take those particularities of the first nations situation into account.
Second, under subclause 5(2), when auditing the accounts of first nations having transactions that do not easily fit a particular standard, the auditors must assess the acceptability of the accounting framework, including the reasonableness of the accounting policies adopted by these first nations. Different auditors may come to different conclusions for similar transactions.
Third, in clause 6, the requirement for an audited or reviewed schedule of remuneration is unique. This information is normally provided as a note to the financial statements or as supplemental information in an annual report. There are no accounting standards made applicable to the preparation of this schedule of remuneration or to the auditor's report or review engagement report. Also, it is not clear who would decide, and on what basis, whether the schedule is to be audited or reviewed. This ambiguity increases the risk of confusion and inconsistent practices.
Finally, the definition of remuneration in clause 2 combines both salary and reimbursement of expenses. When other levels of government report salary and reimbursement of expenses, they do so separately. Among other things, this ensures a clear distinction between official salaries and wages and the reimbursement of travel and other expenses. For example, at the federal level, there are separate disclosure requirements for salaries and for travel and hospitality expenses.
Mr. Chair, this completes my opening remarks. We would be glad to answer any questions the committee members may have.
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View Blake Richards Profile
CPC (AB)
View Blake Richards Profile
2012-10-29 15:51
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I'm sorry. I don't want to interrupt you. I wanted to just clarify my question.
Mr. Jerome Berthelette: Sure.
Mr. Blake Richards: I think it may have been misunderstood.
What I'm asking for specifically now is just a basic overview. When we look at government in general in Canada, what are some of the basic principles or practices in terms of accountability that would be expected of governments in Canada?
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Jerome Berthelette
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Jerome Berthelette
2012-10-29 15:51
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I'll take the federal perspective. It's the one I'm most knowledgeable about.
First we look at it from a department's point of view. Departments develop reports on plans and priorities. They develop DPRs, the departmental program reports. They are responsible for maintaining their books of accounts. The books of accounts get rolled up into the Public Accounts of Canada and are audited by our office. These are available on the website to anybody who wants to take a look at them.
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View Kyle Seeback Profile
CPC (ON)
View Kyle Seeback Profile
2012-10-29 16:46
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Thank you, Mr. Chair, and thank you, witnesses.
I was pleased to hear you say at the outset that you certainly agree with the goals of this legislation. We heard earlier today—I don't know if you were here—the parliamentary secretary say we're interested in looking at ways to improve the legislation. Of course, some of your comments today are helpful, and I thank you for those.
I have a few questions. First, when you talk about the standards that are set out for disclosure in the legislation, how do you think those compare with the standards of disclosure for other governments here in Canada? Are they the same? Are they different?
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Terry Goodtrack
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Terry Goodtrack
2012-10-29 16:47
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What I tried to convey here is that it has to be something comparable. The question becomes what the like entity is. I recognize we're comparing this to other levels of government, but at the same time, we're not recognizing first nations as a government. What would be a like entity to pursue? That's really what I'm trying to convey.
I outlined in my testimony that there are many different models across Canada. Why is this one, which is very detailed, the model chosen? I don't know why.
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View Carolyn Bennett Profile
Lib. (ON)
View Carolyn Bennett Profile
2012-10-29 16:55
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Thank you very much.
Thank you, too, to our witnesses.
Like many members of the committee, I think we are quite astounded that this is the first time you're getting to comment on this bill. You are the people who have exactly the expertise that would be required to get the bill right or to answer the question of whether this bill is necessary at all, which is I think where you were coming from, and again, who the accountability is to.
When the minister was before us, he did admit that he hadn't consulted between the private member's bill of Ms. Block and this other bill that seems to be much broader, with many unintended consequences around own-source revenue. Again, on the accountability, I think even Darcy Bear, in his testimony here, said that the accountability should be to the members of the band, particularly on own-source revenue, not to Canadians writ large.
I guess I'm just astounded that people like you and your organization weren't consulted before this was tabled. I hope you will be consulted on what it seems will be proposed government amendments, but have you looked at the proposed amendments that the Whitecap Dakota chief and council have put forward? Would those amendments deal with some of the concerns that you've highlighted today?
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Terry Goodtrack
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Terry Goodtrack
2012-10-29 16:57
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Yes, I've reviewed Chief Bear's amendments. This is where we're trying to say at AFOA Canada that those are very important issues and amendments that Chief Bear has outlined—definitely.
One thing you have to do with this legislation is step back and look at it through different lenses, one of those lenses being accountability, as you mentioned—accountability to whom and for what. The notion of consolidated audits gets very clear when you look at it through that end.
On the notion of comparability, as we've mentioned, comparability to like entities is what we're asking: not to do anything more, not to do anything else, but to like entities. If that comparability is to governments, then why aren't we putting in the bill the word “government”?
You can take a look at the Public Sector Accounting Handbook, as mentioned earlier by the Auditor General's office. He said that there are definitional issues, which is right. First nations aren't part of the common government reporting handbook, but the year-end reporting handbook states that for the purposes of accounting, first nations are government. It doesn't even say that in the CICA handbook, but it says it through this secondary document.
Keep in mind that at AFOA Canada we did recommend that. We recommended that, but it's still not a definition, because in this legislation first nations aren't considered governments.
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Colin Craig
View Colin Craig Profile
Colin Craig
2012-10-22 15:31
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Good afternoon.
Thank you for the opportunity to speak here today on behalf of the Canadian Taxpayers Federation and our 79,000 supporters nationwide. I'm also pleased to speak here on behalf of the dozens of whistleblowers from aboriginal reserves across Canada who have sought help from our offices over the years and who support this legislation.
On behalf of both groups, I would like to begin with two words: thank you.
Thank you to the Conservative and Liberal MPs who voted in favour of MP Kelly Block's first iteration of this legislation, her private member’s bill, Bill C-575. We appreciate her efforts, as well as the federal government's, for tabling this legislation, and those who voted in favour of sending it to this committee.
Thank you for not turning a blind eye to corruption on reserves. Yes, “corruption” is a strong word, but when a public official takes advantage of the ability to set his or her own pay and to keep it hidden from the public while many band members suffer, there's no better word for it.
Anyone who has spent even a few hours studying this issue will know that reserves are already required to disclose their chiefs' and councils’ pay information to band members. Some chiefs and councillors in Canada are really good about disclosure, but we know from speaking with many grassroots band members that there are plenty of communities that simply keep people in the dark.
We've heard of communities that give audit documents to band members, but the chief and council pay pages are mysteriously missing. In other cases, band members are told to get lost when they ask for the information. Some have even been threatened for having the audacity to ask how much their elected officials are being paid.
Consider a message we received from a whistleblower from the Enoch reserve, just outside of Edmonton. The individual somehow got a hold of their chief's and council’s pay information, which showed that the small community’s chief made more than the Prime Minister.
The note reads as follows:
I am writing this letter out of pure frustration. I live on the Enoch Cree Nation and we should have no problem providing for our people. The problem is the greed of our leadership and the lack of motivation.... The government is far away and state you have to go through the local INAC office, where they refer you back to the leadership. I have requested copies of the budgets for several years from both INAC and Chief and Council and have never received anything.
If you think this is an isolated case, sadly, it is not. The number one concern our offices hear about from grassroots band members is the lack of transparency on reserves.
In 2010 we set up a website—ReserveTransparency.ca—and that site specifically helps to inform band members about their right to information. The site also explains how band members can get chief and council pay information, as well as audit documentation from the federal government, if their bands refuse to provide it.
When we held a press conference to launch the site, I invited Albert Taylor, an 84-year-old elder from the Sioux Valley Dakota First Nation. On the morning of the press conference, Albert mentioned to me that he drove in from Brandon the night before—a two-hour drive—and then spent the night sleeping in his car.
Think about that: why would an 84-year-old man drive for two hours and then sleep in his car to attend a press conference about an issue that some people say doesn’t exist?
Albert, along with many other band members, gave us quotes for the website, talking about transparency problems from their perspective. This is Albert's quote:
In the past I have been threatened and attacked for speaking out and asking questions.
Norman Martell, from the Waterhen Lake First Nation in Saskatchewan, noted the following:
My Band keeps its members in ignorance, no meetings, no committees and no information on band budgets or expenditures. Keeps them in power and free spending for themselves and their supporters.
After news of our website spread, we began getting copies of dozens of e-mails to Ottawa from band members across Canada. They were following the instructions on the site that laid out how they could get pay information from Ottawa if their band office wouldn’t provide it.
Not surprisingly, the only people in Canada who seem to oppose this bill are politicians, but the bottom line is that this is Canada and it’s 2012. Politicians, regardless of race and level of government, should have to disclose their pay to the public. Full disclosure will help everyone sort out the bad apples from the good ones.
Placing the information on the Internet will especially help band members, as it saves them the awkward conversation that comes when they walk into a band office and have to talk to the chief’s relative or friend who works there and ask them for the chief's pay information. Allowing them to access this information on the website will be in their best interests. Disclosure will help taxpayers off reserve know more about how public funds are being spent on reserves as well.
In terms of amendments to this bill, we recommend four for implementation.
First, post the audit and salary information for reserves going back five years. Ottawa already has this information, so it would be easy to do.
Second, put all audit documents online, not just annual audits. When audits are conducted for flood funding and other purposes, people often want to see that information too.
Third, clarify with reserves that totals reported in the travel column should reflect travel expenses, such as hotel bills and air fare, not paying people to attend meetings off reserve.
Fourth, ensure that the funds chiefs and councillors receive for sitting on tribal councils, provincial bodies, and other band partnership entities are reflected in pay amounts disclosed to band members.
In conclusion, we are pleased that Parliament is no longer turning a blind eye to these issues.
Thank you for considering our input.
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