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View Michael McLeod Profile
Lib. (NT)
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
I think it's important to remember that this program came about out of a need to assist the students. When the pandemic hit, there were so many concerns raised about not being able to help the students as they work towards saving some money to go back to school in the fall. We also heard a lot from not-for-profit organizations that wanted to provide services and didn't have a lot of people to call on. That includes some of the indigenous governments in the communities.
I think this was a good program. The idea behind it was great: to deal with two issues that were challenging us. As an MP, I certainly raised a lot of concerns with the ministers. It's unfortunate and regrettable that these placements are now on hold. We're at July 21 and there's a possibility that we may not see either these programs or these concerns dealt with.
I certainly agree with Mr. Cumming that we're running out of time. I really share that concern. To this day, I am still getting calls from the communities in my riding or for help to access some of the programs that we have announced. We are very limited in terms of public service in the northern communities. We have Service Canada offices, but a lot of times they're very busy. Our territories are still in the lockdown. We don't have offices for the federal government in every community. There are limits on travel. It's very difficult to access programs.
I'm hearing from municipalities and I'm hearing from community leaders that we need to create more positions to deliver these programs. I also heard very clearly from Gina Wilson, the deputy minister who presented at an earlier committee meeting, about how public servants were working around the clock to implement the programs. She listed a whole slew of programs that we've announced. There is a concern about members of her staff facing concerns about health. As people work from home we're starting to see a backlog on the delivery of programs, and I think outsourcing is a way to get it resolved. I see programs that were announced and are being delivered by the United Way and the Red Cross. They're out there. It's happening.
I'd like to ask Mr. Aylward if he agrees and if he knows what Gina Wilson was talking about and how public servants are being challenged to deliver the many programs that were announced. That's my first question.
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View Michael McLeod Profile
Lib. (NT)
Yes, thank you for that response.
Maybe you could come and visit us in the north and see what our reality is. We have a great public service in the north, but the north is big. There are quite a few communities, and they're spread out and they're remote, so it takes a lot of effort a lot of times to make sure everybody's able to access programs.
I know many leaders in communities are raising the concern that they can't access some of the programs, and I've heard, including from you, that people have stepped up to volunteer to answer phones and more. I'm not sure what training has happened in light of that need for people to help this public service to evolve and for people to move into different positions.
Can you elaborate on how that's happening and how that's taking place?
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View Michael McLeod Profile
Lib. (NT)
Can I just ask you, before I run out of time, is it your expectation that the public service will deliver the program now as it was expected to be delivered by the WE Charity with a full range of services to promote, to match people with services and to create partnerships with other organizations? Can the public service provide the level that we were expecting?
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View Michael McLeod Profile
Lib. (NT)
All right, thank you.
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View Michael McLeod Profile
Lib. (NT)
Thank you, Mr. Chair, and thank you to the presenters here. There have been some very tough questions indeed.
I want to start by thanking Gina Wilson for using the word meegwetch. We hear a lot of French and we hear a lot of English, but it's not very often we hear indigenous words. Thank you for that.
I want to also say that I think we're in a very difficult situation with a lot of unknowns. The pandemic has caused a lot of issues to come forward. I heard a lot from the students in my riding initially, so I was very happy to see some very important measures come forward: the moratorium on Canada student loan repayments, the doubling of the student loans program, the increased student loan program funding and the work placement program. I think they were all well received across the country. Our young people are certainly facing their share of challenges.
We've also seen a lot of other programs that are helping young people, especially in my riding. I think a lot of indigenous communities would say the same, with the indigenous community support and the on-the-land program. Everybody wants to get involved; they want to play a role.
I was quite happy that these placements were coming forward. It's really unfortunate that it looks like these placements are going to be on hold for a bit now. I'm hoping that our government's objective remains the same, to continue to try to connect the skills and abilities of young people who are looking to improve their skills with service opportunities to help in our communities, especially when it comes to healing.
I understand there was a lot of uptake of the program. I think the minister mentioned there were 35,000 applications.
As we move forward, as the government moves forward with administering the Canada student service grant, what steps are being taken to ensure that indigenous youth in rural and remote northern communities are able to access this program? That's my first question.
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View Michael McLeod Profile
Lib. (NT)
I always struggle when it comes to decision-making and forming an opinion on a lot of things, because the north never seems to get included in some of the tracking mechanisms of the government and other agencies. I'm wondering what other demographic information on the CSSG applicants the government will be tracking.
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View Michael McLeod Profile
Lib. (NT)
We're not talking about WE Charity anymore. I'm talking about going forward.
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View Michael McLeod Profile
Lib. (NT)
As the government moves forward with the administering of this, I want to make sure, first of all, that indigenous youth have the opportunity we expected with WE Charity. Are we going to continue with that? Are we going to track some of this?
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View Michael McLeod Profile
Lib. (NT)
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
Thank you to the presenters today, and everybody, for their questions.
It was a very interesting discussion. COVID-19 has certainly changed our world in a short period of time, especially for the people who are in very fragile financial situations.
I think our federal government has done a really good job, along with the Government of the Northwest Territories, our communities and band councils, the Métis locals, the friendship centres and the food banks. All have really made sure that our people are okay. We live in an area in the north where there's a high cost of living, and food security has always concerned us.
I'm curious, and perhaps I could ask a question about if and how COVID-19 has affected the financial protection of the potentially vulnerable consumer population, such as the elders, the seniors and people in remote communities. These are the ones who may, for the most part, have difficulty accessing financial institutions in their communities. I know that in the north we don't have a lot of banks, and people may not be able to securely or comfortably access online banking. That's my first question.
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View Michael McLeod Profile
Lib. (NT)
I'm also very curious; you talked about the financial consumer trends and the survey that you've done. I ask this question of everybody who talks about trying to assess what people are doing in terms of their habits and all kinds of measures that we seem to want to track, because these never seem to include the north. Does your survey include the Northwest Territories or Nunavut? We really have a hard time getting information to.... A lot of times, this is very important information that everybody else in the country is using to make decisions and base their decisions on. Do you do some of your work in the Northwest Territories?
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View Michael McLeod Profile
Lib. (NT)
Does that mean you sample in the north, or do you just sample other parts of the country and use it to try to...?
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View Michael McLeod Profile
Lib. (NT)
I have just one more question.
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View Michael McLeod Profile
Lib. (NT)
It's really surprising to see the increasing use of payday loans. I know that when the service moved into the Northwest Territories, we saw a lot of resistance but it still happened. The service is only available in the capital city of the NWT, so I would be really curious as to...if that's happening here in the Northwest Territories. The people who are using these loans are the ones who are falling between the cracks and ending up in the cities. They're the least able to afford it, actually.
I'm curious; how do these companies collect if the people who borrow default? How do they collect? Most people don't have the security to...or even a promissary note. What do they do? I don't know if you'd be able to answer that, but I'm pretty curious to know what happens there.
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View Michael McLeod Profile
Lib. (NT)
Thank you, Mr. Chair, and thank you to the superintendent for the presentation.
I have one quick question regarding the number of bankruptcies in the indigenous population. I'm not sure if that's data that you collect, but I'm curious to hear what is the percentage of bankruptcies amongst indigenous people versus what the rest of the population is facing.
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View Michael McLeod Profile
Lib. (NT)
When are the forms supposed to be updated?
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View Michael McLeod Profile
Lib. (NT)
Okay, so you don't collect the data for indigenous corporations or the personal information.
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View Michael McLeod Profile
Lib. (NT)
All right. Thank you very much.
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View Michael McLeod Profile
Lib. (NT)
Thank you, Mr. Chairman, and thank you to everyone who presented today. I want to ask the Independent Broadcast Group a couple of questions.
I represent the north. I've had a lot of opportunities to talk with the media in the north. More specifically, I have had many chats with the indigenous media in the north. I can still turn the radio on in the Northwest Territories and hear indigenous languages spoken on a regular basis. We have 11 official languages, nine of which are indigenous. I can turn on my TV and listen to people and watch them speak their language.
It's very important to have indigenous language shared and promoted through the use of media. I can also hear messages being passed on to people who are out on outpost camps, traplines and hunting. It's still a tradition that we use.
We've seen many challenges with radio stations. A number of smaller community radio stations have shut down. We had 33 community radio stations. We got to the point where half of them have closed because of new technology, and the cost is unaffordable.
I believe you have members in your broadcast group that are indigenous.
What challenges have you seen with the COVID outbreak? What has it brought in terms of new challenges to indigenous media that they've faced in the last little while?
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View Michael McLeod Profile
Lib. (NT)
Would that be your recommendation? I'm asking because my next question was going to be on how some of these challenges can be addressed by the indigenous media.
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View Michael McLeod Profile
Lib. (NT)
Thank you very much.
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View Michael McLeod Profile
Lib. (NT)
Yes, I hear that concern all the time.
Thank you very much.
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View Michael McLeod Profile
Lib. (NT)
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Thank you to the witnesses for appearing and for their very interesting information. I also want to thank them for their engagement with northern governments. I think that's really good to see. People are quite happy to have that discussion with them and their making themselves available.
On indigenous hiring, I'm not satisfied that the numbers are where they should be, but you're working at it, you have good programs in place, and that's all I can ask.
I guess the biggest piece everybody wants to hear about is that the fund is sound and secure. It was interesting to see how well the fund was doing in December and then to watch how things affected investment during the pandemic and the ability to bounce back. Has the employment situation, with the great employment numbers that we were seeing, helped? Has that impacted how the investment has been doing—before and now?
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View Michael McLeod Profile
Lib. (NT)
My main question was around the employment numbers and how they helped.
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View Michael McLeod Profile
Lib. (NT)
Can I just ask one more quick question?
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View Michael McLeod Profile
Lib. (NT)
You mentioned that the fund was doing well in December. That was a record high, right? I thought it was the best in 20 years.
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View Michael McLeod Profile
Lib. (NT)
Thank you.
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View Michael McLeod Profile
Lib. (NT)
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
Thank you to the minister for appearing in front of us once again. I also want to say thank you to the minister and his cabinet colleagues for providing very good communication with the Government of the Northwest Territories and other northern governments.
I'm also very happy to report that we've had no cases of COVID-19 for over a month now, and our territories are beginning to safely reopen. However, the economic picture is not as positive; there's a lot of uncertainty about jobs. I've joined my three northern colleagues in the Senate, as well as many municipal, territorial and business leaders in supporting greater flexibility for programs like the wage subsidy to reflect the unique nature of our region.
Is the government prepared to make much-needed improvements to ensure that northern businesses are able to access these emergency programs?
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View Michael McLeod Profile
Lib. (NT)
In the north I think we have a number of challenges that the rest of the country doesn't face. I'm hoping that as the government rolls out its recovery supports, like the $14 billion announced last week to help reopen the provincial and territorial economies safely and carefully, the government and you would consider delivering these funds on a base-plus per capita allocation, which is a lot better for us. We have small populations; we have a significantly higher cost of living and doing business than the rest of Canada. Would you look at that? It's been done historically with other programs.
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View Michael McLeod Profile
Lib. (NT)
A lot of what happens in the area of job creation is going to be what we announce in the next while. We've made significant announcements in the north; a lot of these projects have not hit the ground yet. We've also announced budgets that we have not seen moved forward, for example, the northern trade corridors. The money's been announced for the north, there has been no call; we don't have a call; we don't have projects identified. Because of our seasonal construction season and winter roads and all these things that impact the ability to do construction, we need the calls to come out early. We still haven't seen anything on the northern trade corridors. Could we see that move forward fairly quickly?
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View Michael McLeod Profile
Lib. (NT)
Thank you.
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View Michael McLeod Profile
Lib. (NT)
Mr. Chair, Canada has been awarded its first-ever Equator Prize from the United Nations Development Programme. Congratulations go to Lutsël K'é Dene First Nation and the Northwest Territory Métis Nation, with support from Deninu K'ue First Nation and the Yellowknives Dene First Nation, for the establishment of the Thaidene Nëné territorial protected area. It's 14,000 square kilometres of the most beautiful land and waters you'll find anywhere on earth.
I would also like to thank the previous minister of the environment for securing Canada's $7.9-million commitment, along with our visit to celebrate the new park last year. The award is given to groups that have exemplified actions to protect critical ecosystems and biodiversity for generations to come and to show how indigenous peoples and local communities have confronted legacies of disadvantage and discrimination in support of their communities and the world at large.
Congratulations to Lutsël K'é.
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View Michael McLeod Profile
Lib. (NT)
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
I want to thank the presenters for the information provided to us today. I really appreciate it.
I represent the Northwest Territories. Right now we have no COVID cases in the Northwest Territories. That's largely because we've closed all our borders to Yukon and Alberta. We've done a pretty good job of keeping ourselves locked in. It has really had an impact on our economy, though.
The government has done a pretty good job of supporting the different businesses, as we saw with the introduction of the northern business relief fund. That really helped us when we focused on the companies that fell through the cracks, but we're still hearing from companies that are very worried. Even though they have been able to access funding, loans and contributions, they still feel that in the long term they're going to struggle, because other parts of the world are opening up.
I'm referring to the tourism industry and the hotel industry. We're seeing destinations in Alaska, Iceland, Greenland, Sweden and Norway all opening up for travellers. We're going to see that in our country too, in Canada, and we need flexibility. We've seen some flexibility in the CEBA program that made sole proprietors and those with a payroll less than $20,000 eligible. I'm assuming there's been a big uptake on that.
Has there been any kind of recommendation, or any position, or any kind of thought on what will be needed as we go forward? Some jurisdictions and some regions will be closed for a longer period than others. I'm thinking that the north will probably be closed a lot longer than the southern part of Canada. I'm wondering if you could provide me with any kind of comment or thoughts on that.
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View Michael McLeod Profile
Lib. (NT)
That's it. Thank you.
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View Michael McLeod Profile
Lib. (NT)
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
I have a couple of quick questions. I was very happy to hear some of the information that was provided, especially on the concern levels across the country going from 83% in March down to 63%. I expect that information is different depending on what region of the country you come from. I'm just wondering, in light of the extensive surveys that were done, what the concern levels are in the north.
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View Michael McLeod Profile
Lib. (NT)
It can't be extensive if you're leaving a good part of the country out. I'd appreciate it if you could provide me with that.
I'm also very curious to see if there are applications and participation from indigenous companies.
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View Michael McLeod Profile
Lib. (NT)
That's very exciting news.
I'll ask my last question, if I have time.
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View Michael McLeod Profile
Lib. (NT)
Are we seeing applications from the north in general and, more specifically, the Northwest Territories?
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View Michael McLeod Profile
Lib. (NT)
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
Thank you to all the presenters today. This is a very interesting discussion, for sure.
I am the member of Parliament for the Northwest Territories. I represent a large indigenous population; over half of my constituency is indigenous. When word of the pandemic started to surface, we were all very concerned. The history of epidemics and pandemics shows that indigenous people always pay the highest price. A lot of times—almost all the time—we've been left to fend for ourselves, with very little government support.
We've been quite happy, then, to see the investment made by this government. It's very significant. It's actually historic. Over 500 shelters and sexual assault centres have been funded. Money is flowing to the north. We have many people who are unemployed, and we've seen some really significant and new types of investment in the north. We've seen it across the country, for that matter.
In terms of indigenous community support, we've seen money for on the land programs, which has really helped us out. Our friendship centres got support. That really helped us out. This is the first time we're seeing that type of support. It's bringing communities together. At the same time, more people are venturing out into the wilderness and back on the land than I've ever seen. It's been a long, long time. It's allowed our communities to do different things. It's allowed our communities to restrict alcohol sales. It's allowed our communities to put more security on our highways. It's stopped a lot of the bootleggers and drug dealers. Of course, we're able to do that because we're fairly isolated. We've also been able to set up on the land counselling camps, where people who are traumatized, people who are having a difficult time, can go and talk to elders and talk to some of the knowledge-keepers. It's working really well for us.
I don't think it's the same in the south. Different issues challenge people in urban centres versus rural. I know that there are differences when it comes to how indigenous women are dealing with the pandemic versus non-indigenous.
To SheEO, is there any information pointing to the fact that indigenous women and non-indigenous women are affected differently by the pandemic?
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View Michael McLeod Profile
Lib. (NT)
I just wanted to ask—
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View Michael McLeod Profile
Lib. (NT)
Yes.
When I got elected in 2015, I met with a lot of women's organizations, the Native Women's Association and many others in my riding, and the money was practically non-existent. I know that in every budget we've had more and more investment. In 2019, we had $160 million over five years for women's programs, but at the same time, now that COVID has set in, I hear from our elders and some of the people in our communities that there seems to be an anxiety in the air. There seems to be a level of stress.
For example, in my little community, we've had three funerals in the last 10 days—not COVID-related—and that's unusual for us. There's something going on. I'm not sure what factors related to COVID-19 might contribute to an increase in some of the social issues, including gender-based violence and intimate partner violence.
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View Michael McLeod Profile
Lib. (NT)
Mr. Chairman, I couldn't hear for a minute there.
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View Michael McLeod Profile
Lib. (NT)
Yes.
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View Michael McLeod Profile
Lib. (NT)
Mr. Chair, there's no interpretation.
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View Michael McLeod Profile
Lib. (NT)
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
Thank you to the presenters.
I have a quick question for Mr. Marshall from the Mining Association of Canada.
I was very happy to hear you talk about the safety of the workers and community safety as top priorities. In the north, people want to work, but they're worried about transit workers coming in to the projects and the virus spreading. The mining operations had to adapt to a very new and very challenging working environment.
I want you to share a little bit about how your sector has responded and adapted to ensure that safety is there for everyone. I see Agnico Eagle piloted an on-site rapid-testing centre at its mine in Nunavut. COVID-19 is happening in the Gahcho Kué mine, the Snap Lake mine, the Diavik mine.
How is this, and is this something that mining camps across the country should be considering?
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View Michael McLeod Profile
Lib. (NT)
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
Thank you, Minister, for joining us today. I also want to thank you for the work that you and the cabinet have done to help us through this pandemic.
Much like this pandemic is affecting all regions of the country differently, I believe the federal government's economic recovery should also reflect the existing distinctions that we have across the country. Our territorial governments have been very vocal in voicing and pointing to some of the gaps.
In the north, we've been very fortunate and have had limited health impacts as a result of COVID-19. In the last couple of months, however, this issue has compounded our existing already high cost of living and our large service and infrastructure gaps. I wanted to ask whether the government is prepared to assist in addressing these unique recovery challenges faced by the territories in Canada.
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View Michael McLeod Profile
Lib. (NT)
As we move to economic recovery, we in the north are going to need more flexibility on cost-sharing of projects. We're going to need allocation of recovery programs that are focused on a base-plus type of per capita formula.
Are those things something that you would consider?
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View Michael McLeod Profile
Lib. (NT)
Thank you very much.
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View Larry Bagnell Profile
Lib. (YT)
View Larry Bagnell Profile
2020-05-28 12:16
Expand
Mr. Chair, it is a great honour to speak to the House of Commons today from Whitehorse, Yukon, here on the traditional territory of the Kwanlin Dün First Nation and the Ta'an Kwäch'än Council.
As a great historic Canadian event last week, Yukon became home to Canada's first university north of 60. Yukon University will provide Yukoners with educational opportunities closer to home, expand our research capabilities and expertise on the Arctic and climate change and allow those who want to study northern and first nations governance to do so in the north. I encourage all students living in the northern half of Canada to look at the many programs and degrees at Yukon University to continue their studies—in some cases this year, virtually—by remaining in the north.
I want to congratulate the staff of Yukon College, who spent the last decade working towards this transition, and especially the outgoing president, Karen Barnes. I wish her all the best in her retirement.
Thank you, merci, mahsi cho and sóga senlá.
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View Michael McLeod Profile
Lib. (NT)
Thank you, Mr. Chair, and thank you to all the presenters today.
I was very happy to see Air Tindi and Chris Reynolds make a presentation. I'd like to ask Mr. Reynolds a question.
As he mentioned in his presentation, in the north, air carriers are the lifeline of our communities. They're essential for the health of our people, and they're essential for the safety of our people and our economy. Last month, the government provided the three territories with $17.3 million for the northern carriers, which is a very good first step, but more is clearly needed, as I'm hearing from other companies, from other air carriers such as Landa Aviation.
In Mr. Reynolds' presentation, he mentioned a number of reports. I'd like him to maybe spell out the steps that he would like to see to ensure that northern aviation can weather the health and economic impacts of COVID-19 and keep northerners and northern goods moving.
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View Michael McLeod Profile
Lib. (NT)
My next question is on the point you made about the wage subsidy. I'm very curious about your perspective on how your company can transition off the wage subsidy without compromising your ability to survive.
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View Michael McLeod Profile
Lib. (NT)
I have one last question, Mr. Chair.
Prior to COVID-19, we had some real challenges when it came to pilots and getting pilots to the north. Everybody was trying to figure out how to do that.
What impact is this virus going to have on that? How much is it going to compound that issue?
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View Michael McLeod Profile
Lib. (NT)
Thank you.
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View Michael McLeod Profile
Lib. (NT)
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
Thank you to the presenters from OSFI. It was very interesting and very educational. We seem to have such good witnesses at our committee. We had a presentation from the PBO the other day and it really helped us to understand the fiscal situation in Canada.
As your organization has the sole oversight on banks, and now that we're in these unprecedented times, I want to ask about what indicators you are watching for when it comes to the economy. If the conditions continue to deteriorate, if the banks start to report losses, what will your organization do, and how should we react to that?
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View Michael McLeod Profile
Lib. (NT)
Thank you very much.
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View Michael McLeod Profile
Lib. (NT)
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
Thank you to all the presenters today. These were very interesting presentations.
My first question is for the National Association of Friendship Centres. I'm a founding member of the friendship centre in my community. I live in an indigenous community, and I really see the benefit of having friendship centres. I think every indigenous community should have a friendship centre—and an aboriginal head start program, for that matter.
One of our challenges in the north is to have good information. We don't seem to get the same level of tracking that the southern provinces get. Indigenous communities are always looking for better data. If you're going to make good decisions, you need good information.
We're lucky in the Northwest Territories that we have no COVID-19 cases. However, we continue to talk about what kind of data collection would be helpful, so I'd like to ask Chris if he could talk a little about what he would need in terms of information and what his approach would be.
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View Michael McLeod Profile
Lib. (NT)
Thank you for that. As a former member of the friendship centres, I'm very aware of the history of all the programs they deliver and, certainly, of some of the challenges. I've always appreciated the fact that friendship centres don't fall under a political structure. They don't fall under the band council, the Métis council or any of the indigenous governments, so they really can speak openly about the real challenges in the community.
However, there have been real challenges with the whole association. I want to ask you about how COVID-19 has exasperated the structural challenges that friendship centres were dealing with pre-pandemic and what steps we can take to help the friendship centres not only survive these challenges times, but ultimately come out of this with greater certainty.
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View Michael McLeod Profile
Lib. (NT)
Thank you, Mr. Chair. I was hoping to get a question in to the minister, but it looks like we've lost that opportunity again.
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View Michael McLeod Profile
Lib. (NT)
I did want to ask a couple of questions.
First of all, I wanted to know from anybody who is presenting today how we can get information as to the update that is happening for the different programs by region, It would be interesting for me, as an MP, to know what the uptake is for different programs for businesses that are applying for the north.
I know that everybody is working a hundred miles an hour and 24 hours a day, but is there anybody who can provide me with that information? I'm concerned that there may be pockets or areas that may not be utilizing the programs. I'm hearing that in the north a lot of businesses in our communities are not applying for the programs. What I'm hearing is that because there are no banks in our communities, a lot of times they can't go through any kind of financial institution, so there's a small uptake. Can anybody speak to that?
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View Michael McLeod Profile
Lib. (NT)
Would that same kind of information be available for the indigenous business support? A lot of our indigenous companies are large development corporations, and there start to be challenges when you're dealing with companies that have over 20 people. Up to now, it has been difficult for them to prove that there has been a reduction in revenue, because they have so many branches and subsidiaries. A lot of them were not able to access some of this program funding that was designated for indigenous businesses, but I don't know if that's information that I could get my hands on in a quick fashion.
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View Michael McLeod Profile
Lib. (NT)
Okay. I'm not sure if you can answer this, but I want to talk about how the different regions are impacted by COVID. I think the federal government's economic recovery approach has to reflect existing regional distinctions.
In the north we've been very fortunate, especially in health impacts; right now we have no cases, but we do have existing costs of living, a large service area and infrastructure gaps.
I'm very keen to know whether the government is prepared to assist us in addressing some of these unique recovery challenges faced by all our northern territories. We've talked lots about greater flexibility and doing things differently, especially with cost-sharing projects or allocating recovery programs. We focused on a base plus per capita formula. That's not something we do across the board with all departments.
Should that be considered, in your opinion?
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View Michael McLeod Profile
Lib. (NT)
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
I'll be splitting my time with the member for Davenport.
My question is for the Minister of Finance. Our government has rolled out a historic number of supports to help those experiencing significant financial burdens during this pandemic, supports for individuals, businesses, NGOs and governments. Some of these have been amended and adjusted to improve their impacts as time has brought us more knowledge and greater awareness of those who are falling through the gaps. This flexibility continues to be needed in the north.
While I know the Government of Northwest Territories welcomes Canada's strong and targeted economic response to the COVID-19 pandemic, it has asked for an increase to its federally imposed borrowing limit. Whether a temporary increase or a more permanent one, it needs this flexibility to address the dual COVID-19 related own-source revenue and expenditure shocks. This limit increase will help territorial governments with short-term needs, but also ensure a more successful and robust economic recovery over the longer term.
I hope the finance minister has taken this request under advisement and has some good news to announce very soon.
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View Michael McLeod Profile
Lib. (NT)
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
Thank you to the Parliamentary Budget Officer. It's a very interesting discussion we have going on today.
My question is to the Parliamentary Budget Officer. When you were before committee in early March, I had asked you about the worrying fiscal sustainability issues with the northern territorial governments and the situations they were facing.
I can only imagine your next fiscal sustainability report will show that the pandemic has made the situation far worse. Given our small tax base, high service and infrastructure gaps, and the very limited fiscal levers the territories have relative to the larger orders of government, would you agree that the north is in a particularly precarious situation now?
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View Michael McLeod Profile
Lib. (NT)
Would certain steps by the federal government assist in addressing this situation? For example, there could be greater flexibility and cost-sharing for big infrastructure projects, greater usage of base plus per capita allocations of federal programming, and, last, increasing the debt limit, which is something we've been asking to have for a while and is an issue that is of greater urgency now. At the start of 2020, the Government of the Northwest Territories was about $300 million away from hitting its $1.3-billion debt limit.
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View Michael McLeod Profile
Lib. (NT)
I wanted to ask one more question regarding the fiscal sustainability report, which I think the Parliamentary Budget Officer said won't be happening until next year. Is there a way to get a fiscal snapshot through your office of where all the provinces and territories are at and where they rank on an interim basis?
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View Michael McLeod Profile
Lib. (NT)
Thank you, Mr. Chair, and thank you to all the presenters today.
Like all of you, we expected 2020 to be a big year for festivals and events up in Canada's north. We were very excited for the 50th anniversaries of both the Arctic Winter Games and the Northern Games that were going to be held in Inuvik and Tuktoyaktuk. Yellowknifers were going to be celebrating the 40th anniversary of Folk on the Rocks and the silver jubilee of the Snowking winter festival. Of course, all of these were cancelled and closed due to the pandemic. It was heartbreaking to see the many athletes and performers, who worked so hard getting into top form, having to go through this news.
As national organizations, have any of your organizations heard from northern or indigenous organizers? What measures should be considered to support these types of festivals and events?
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View Michael McLeod Profile
Lib. (NT)
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
Thank you to all who took the time to present today.
I want to put my question to Robert Bertrand from CAP. I used to be a member of CAP way back when I was the president of our Métis council, so I certainly can share the concern that the Government of Canada needs to ensure that indigenous supports are inclusive of all indigenous populations.
Too often federal programs are inaccessible to many of the communities, especially in my riding. They don't seem to be able to access the money that is allocated to the NIOs, the national indigenous organizations. Money going to the AFN or Métis Nation does not come to the Northwest Territories, so I was very glad to see the indigenous community support fund flow to the Northwest Territories.
It's been a long time since I've seen so many people out on the land. We have people fishing, hunting, camping and tanning moose hides. They are opening up cabins that haven't been used for years. People are going back to their traditional family hunting areas. It's really good to see, and it's the first time we've been included.
Having said that, the money that went to Dene Nation in the Northwest Territories and the money that went to Inuvialuit flowed directly, and the Métis had to go a different route. They had to apply through the urban and off-reserve stream, and the money they got was certainly not on par with what the other indigenous governments got.
I want to ask if you could speak on the importance of an inclusive federal indigenous programming design and, specifically, if you think the urban, rural and northern streams are where these programs should be adopted. That's my first question.
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View Michael McLeod Profile
Lib. (NT)
Thank you for that.
I have one more question. It's for the National Airlines Council of Canada.
I've been hearing a lot from the airlines in my riding. Up in the north, our carriers are the lifelines of our fly-in communities. They are our ambulances. They are the ones that bring the groceries. They are essential for the health and safety of our people and of our economy. Last month the government provided the three territories with $17.3 million in support for the northern carriers, which is a very good first step. However, we know that we're going to need more. I know those carriers are not members of your council, but at the same time, many northerners also depend on your airlines while travelling to southern Canada.
Could you speak a little on how your member operations in northern Canada have been impacted by COVID-19, and have you any recommendations specific to these operations?
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View Michael McLeod Profile
Lib. (NT)
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
Thank you to all the mayors for their presentations and to everybody who has presented today. I did five terms as the mayor of my small hometown in the Northwest Territories, so I appreciate all the concerns that have been raised and the recommendations.
I also want to welcome Minister Wawzonek and Shaleen Woodward. Thank you for joining us today. I thought the presentation was very informative, and I appreciate it.
l have a couple of questions.
As the minister knows, we in the north are living through some very uncertain times. The last thing that people in NWT wanted was greater uncertainty, but unfortunately we now have the issue that Dominion Diamond Mines is filing for insolvency protection.
Minister, could you talk about some of the measures—I think you flagged the debt limit—the GNWT would like to see the Government of Canada provide greater certainty on, in the immediate future? What does the north need right now? That's my first question.
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View Michael McLeod Profile
Lib. (NT)
You mentioned that the GNWT had paused on regular business because of COVID-19. I think the federal government, for the most part, has done the same in terms of the budget that was supposed to have come forward on March 30. It has now been deferred.
As the NWT economy emerges from this pandemic and starts to look at next steps, I want you to talk a little more about what the federal government can do to assist in this recovery.
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View Michael McLeod Profile
Lib. (NT)
Thank you.
Thank you to the presenters today. It was very interesting to hear everybody's presentations.
I am very happy to see Rami Kassem from Javaroma joining us here today, somebody from the north. It's good to hear that northern perspective. The north, of course, has different challenges. Our costs are higher and the issues that the pandemic is causing us are different in every jurisdiction.
Rami, the government has introduced a number of programs over the last while, programs to help businesses of all different sizes. They've tried to make them flexible and available to as many people and as many businesses as possible.
Could you tell me from your point of view what aspects of the federal emergency response plan are helpful to you, helpful to other businesses in Yellowknife, and how and where the federal response can be improved?
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View Michael McLeod Profile
Lib. (NT)
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
Thank you to the presenters. It is a very interesting discussion today. Housing is a very important issue in my riding. It's probably one of the biggest issues we are challenged with.
I'm the MP for the Northwest Territories. In the north so far we've been very fortunate that COVID-19 has had very little presence in our communities, especially our smaller communities, because not only do these communities have limited health resources, but with our overcrowding problem, it can be almost impossible for many to practice physical distancing within their own homes.
I have two questions.
First, would you agree that this pandemic has proven the need for greater support in addressing the social determinants of health, like housing? I know that nobody here has talked about the north or remote or indigenous communities, but I want your opinion on that.
Second, I'm hearing a lot of suggestions about building houses as part of economic recovery, because it's going to create jobs in every community we build houses in. Can you talk about those two things?
I'm just going to throw it out to whoever is interested in responding. Maybe all of you can respond, if we have the time.
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View Michael McLeod Profile
Lib. (NT)
Mr. Chairman, I'm just checking to see whether the NWT Association of Communities has signed on.
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View Michael McLeod Profile
Lib. (NT)
Thank you, and thank you to all the presenters today. I really appreciate the discussion.
I want to pay a special welcome to somebody from the Northwest Territories, Mayor Napier from the Northwest Territories Association of Communities. I really enjoyed your presentation. I thought it was very informative and very well presented.
I wanted to ask, Mayor Napier, for your point of view about the different aspects of the federal emergency response plan being presented. We've had quite a few. We've had programs that were announced for the unemployed and programs for companies that saw lost revenue. We saw loan programs for small businesses and non-profits. We saw an indigenous business fund set up for indigenous governments and indigenous community corporations. We announced On the Land programs in the Northwest Territories, and I see people out there at their cabins and setting up tents all over the place. Then this week we announced a northern COVID-19 package, and we announced an indigenous community support.
Can you tell us how that's being received in the communities? Maybe you could tell us where the federal response could be improved.
That's my first question, and I have one more.
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View Michael McLeod Profile
Lib. (NT)
I have one more question for you. I want to talk about the economic recovery that you talked about. What kind of measures will the NWT communities want to see from the federal government when it comes to that recovery phase, when the worst of this is behind us?
I heard you say housing construction is an economic stimulus. I totally agree. Are there other things? What do you think needs to be in place?
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View Michael McLeod Profile
Lib. (NT)
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
I want to say, first of all, that the north was very glad to see the package of support announced earlier this week, specifically the health, transportation and business supports. I've heard quite a bit of feedback from the chambers of commerce and the chambers of mines in my riding, as well as the northern senators, who had expressed some concerns about the flexibility of some of the programs, like the wage subsidy.
First, could somebody could talk about the response to assist the territories and a little about further steps to address our unique needs?
Second, the Government of the Northwest Territories has been waiting quite a while now for a response to its request for an increased borrowing limit. That limit is set by the federal government. It's kind of time. The Government of the Northwest Territories plans to do a number of initiatives.
I'm just wondering if somebody could respond to those two issues.
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View Michael McLeod Profile
Lib. (NT)
Yes. Some of the feedback I'm getting I will bring forward, but we're looking for some flexibility on some of the existing programs that have been announced.
My final question is in regard to the airlines. We have some serious concerns.
We have 22 communities that are fly-in only. We have a number of airlines, especially on the Beaufort Sea and the coast, that are talking about not being able to operate and that may shut down entirely. If that happens, there will be no service that will be able to go in there unless there's a charter service from the south or we get the military. Is there a backup plan in the event that we have some communities in Canada that could become totally isolated? What do we do?
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View Michael McLeod Profile
Lib. (NT)
My name is Michael McLeod, the MP for the Northwest Territories.
I want to say thank you to all the panellists who presented.
My question is for Norman Yakeleya from Dene Nation, somebody I know well.
First of all, I want to say thank you to Norman for advocating for the indigenous support funding that landed here in the Northwest Territories. I've been hearing it's very well received. The Dene people were able to get money, Inuvialuit, the self-governing nations, and we're working on the Métis, to get money through the urban and other funding pots.
I live in an indigenous community. I'm probably one of the few MPs who live in an indigenous community. I see the money being put to good use. I look out my window and I see elders getting extra firewood and some of the disabled people getting firewood also. Some of the elders are receiving food packs. We are also seeing a lot of people appreciating all the money that was provided. A lot of people are returning to their traditional hunting areas, which they hadn't been to in a long time.
I want to run a question by Norman Yakeleya, the regional chief for the Dene Nation. Could you tell the committee about the significance of this distinction-based indigenous funding going directly to territorial first nations in the context of other federal programs?
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View Michael McLeod Profile
Lib. (NT)
Okay. I want to get one more question in, Norman.
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View Michael McLeod Profile
Lib. (NT)
It's a quick one.
I'm watching a lot of the program money landing and a lot of people out spring hunting. There are people setting fishnets, hunting geese, returning to traditional hunting areas. Some people are out there repairing their parents' or grandparents' cabins. Although it's a crisis, it seems that the federal support enabled first nations, the Métis and Inuvialuit to turn the COVID-19 crisis into an opportunity to reconnect with their culture.
Do you also see that, Grand Chief Norman?
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View Michael McLeod Profile
Lib. (NT)
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
My question is for Cathie Bolstad from NWT Tourism.
I heard your presentation. Thank you for that. It really paints a good picture of where we are at in the north. We were all proud to see the level of growth and tourism in the last while. It's very difficult to watch all this start to crash. We've always known we have huge potential in the north, and we were doing fairly well on the indigenous tourism side. That's another area that has a huge potential also.
What are some of the elements of the government's response, whether it's the CERB or the wage subsidy, that have been received well by the northern operators? Are there ways in which the response could be improved?
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View Michael McLeod Profile
Lib. (NT)
That's why we're having this discussion, so that we could hear from the industry and hear your recommendations.
Quickly, I also wanted to ask about the types of support that you would need to see from the government to support northern and indigenous tourism to recover once we're all through this pandemic.
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View Michael McLeod Profile
Lib. (NT)
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
Thank you to everybody who presented here.
I have a quick question on the issue of setting up a plant in Texas. You said the policies in Texas were better than what was happening here in Canada. Could you explain why or what you mean by that?
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View Michael McLeod Profile
Lib. (NT)
I'm the member of Parliament for Northwest Territories, and in the north we know there's incredible potential for clean air innovation. We need it to improve our economy and our environment. We also know that the much-needed transition away from diesel towards clean, renewable energy will not happen without federal investment.
Last year our government announced $2 million in support for an exciting UBC research project on carbon capture in mine waste. It included field trials at the Gahcho Kué mine in the Northwest Territories. These trials will allow for testing of new technologies that could result in the world's first greenhouse gas-neutral mine.
Could you speak to the scalability of your company's technology and especially if it would help serve the energy needs of the far north?
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View Michael McLeod Profile
Lib. (NT)
I wanted to ask you a question on the fuel that you produce. I'm very curious, because all kinds of new technology has come out and different kinds of fuels and mixtures are being tried. Almost none of them work in the north. I wonder if what you're talking about would be able to work in cold weather.
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View Larry Bagnell Profile
Lib. (YT)
View Larry Bagnell Profile
2020-03-11 16:18
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Madam Chair, thank you.
To the minister and everyone at the table who has served in the military, thank you very much for your service.
Normally I would ask one question after another, but I have two questions. I don't want you to use all the time on my first question, because I want to hear an answer to the second question.
The first one is about COVID-19. The military has had a great role and I'm sure it's very appreciated by some Canadians. Maybe you could update Canadians on your role in that.
Second, you mentioned recent interactions in the Arctic. I think it was yesterday that Canadian and American jets intercepted a Russian one 50 miles off Alaska. Maybe you could comment on that.
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View Larry Bagnell Profile
Lib. (YT)
View Larry Bagnell Profile
2020-03-11 16:21
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Perhaps you could give us some of the resources available to Canadians and Canadian businesses with respect to cybersecurity, thanks to the establishment of the Canadian Centre for Cyber Security.
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View Michael McLeod Profile
Lib. (NT)
Mr. Chair, I want to ask a question to CanNor.
I want to first of all say that it was good to see that we finally locked in the CanNor program as an ongoing program. Very recently, we've started seeing a little more money trickling into the coffers there, too. I think we're at about $46 million for the three territories.
I also hear a lot from people who are applying for projects and looking for investment. A lot of times, the money is no longer there. It has been spent or has all been allocated. Could you provide the committee with information, with data, on how oversubscribed CanNor is and has been? If you can't do it today, then maybe you could give it to us later in writing.
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View Michael McLeod Profile
Lib. (NT)
Thank you for that.
I also wanted to ask how the effectiveness of the agency's grants and contributions is evaluated. What are the performance indicators that are used to measure program outcomes?
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View Michael McLeod Profile
Lib. (NT)
I wanted to point out, and I'm sure you know this, that doing business in the north is a lot different from doing business in the south. It's a lot more expensive.
Can you quickly tell us what your agency is doing to support economic growth and diversification, both in our regional centres and also in our smaller communities?
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View Michael McLeod Profile
Lib. (NT)
Thank you, Mr. Chair, and thank you to the presenters.
I want to ask a question regarding the 2020 fiscal sustainability report. I'm from the Northwest Territories, so my interest is in the north.
On page 27 of your “Fiscal Sustainability Report 2020”, tabled last month, you determined that policy actions equivalent to 11.4% of territorial GDP are required for territories to achieve fiscal sustainability ranges. Given the limited tools that territorial governments have, what actions could they take to address that gap?
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View Michael McLeod Profile
Lib. (NT)
The Northwest Territories and the other territories have a different type of relationship with the federal government. The federal government still has certain responsibilities that they have control over and are responsible for.
Would significant federal investment in nation building, transportation or hydroelectric infrastructure projects that create jobs, that lower the cost of doing business and spur investment opportunity, be one way that we could look at addressing this gap?
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View Michael McLeod Profile
Lib. (NT)
The TFF, the territorial formula financing agreement, has been an issue for some time now. It's a very small pot of money. The numbers that are accumulated in that fund are our housing corporation, Deh Cho Bridge and the power corporation. All these projects have revenue generators. Would you agree that something that could be looked at is moving it out of what is considered debt into a different category so that they can make more room?
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View Larry Bagnell Profile
Lib. (YT)
View Larry Bagnell Profile
2020-03-09 16:33
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Thank you very much.
As all the other members have said, thank you very much for your service. I was on the defence committee about a dozen years ago, and it has been tremendous what you have done for our country.
Just before I ask my question, you said we don't talk about what we do in Lebanon and Jordan, so go ahead.
Voices: Oh, oh!
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View Larry Bagnell Profile
Lib. (YT)
View Larry Bagnell Profile
2020-02-24 15:41
Expand
Is that a change from what is normally presented?
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View Larry Bagnell Profile
Lib. (YT)
View Larry Bagnell Profile
2020-02-24 15:45
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We have to remember the spirit of this. If our witnesses come from all across Canada, and not too many people are interested, you still want to hear them, as long as you have at least one person from each side, but I'm flexible.
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View Larry Bagnell Profile
Lib. (YT)
View Larry Bagnell Profile
2020-02-24 15:48
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Could I ask whether this has occurred in any other committee?
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View Larry Bagnell Profile
Lib. (YT)
View Larry Bagnell Profile
2020-02-24 15:48
Expand
Okay. I ask because I know that you in the NDP, and the Bloc too, are sometimes so overstretched between committees that you can't make it. We just wouldn't want a witness to....
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View Larry Bagnell Profile
Lib. (YT)
View Larry Bagnell Profile
2020-02-24 15:57
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I have some sympathy with Mr. Boudrias, being fair.
Mr. Garrison said that this was negotiated, but we've just changed it. Mr. Garrison made an amendment that we change this. It's different in all of the other committees, so we have our own destiny to decide at this committee.
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View Larry Bagnell Profile
Lib. (YT)
View Larry Bagnell Profile
2020-02-24 16:10
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I'm not sure about that, since the start of this Parliament. I thought we got a memo saying that anyone now in our offices had to go through that new screening, the same level of screening. I think we should probably know that before we decide on this.
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View Larry Bagnell Profile
Lib. (YT)
View Larry Bagnell Profile
2020-02-24 16:19
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Yes, I was chair of PROC in the last Parliament. We had a lengthy discussion with the parliamentary experts from each party for quite a number of weeks. We had Scott Reid from the Conservatives, and David Christopherson from your party. I forget who was from our party, but we discussed it at length and we came up with a list. Do you have copies to distribute just so we could compare?
Once you get a chance to look at it, this has some of the same things that yours does. You've added a couple of things, because it's on national security and for protection of witnesses. I don't think we had those in our motion, in the one that's coming around. I think those would be good additions.
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