- MPndpMay 09, 2013 6:45 pm | Ontario, Windsor—Tecumseh
It being 9:47 p.m., pursuant to Standing Order 81(4) all votes are deemed reported. The committee will rise and I will now leave the chair.
- MPndpMay 09, 2013 6:40 pm | Territories (yk, nt, nu), Western Arctic
Mr. Chair, when it comes to capital funding for schools, the minister has indicated $118 million a year. There are 600 reserves across Canada.
We have heard the figure of 48 schools that need to be replaced. The capital cost for replacing a school in a remote and isolated community, as I know very well, coming from the Northwest Territories, is probably in excess of $30 million.
Does the minister think that somehow this $118 million capital replacement budget that he has indicated for reserve schools is going to be adequate to actually catch up to the problem that we have with aboriginal schools being substandard across this country?
- MPndpMay 09, 2013 6:40 pm | Ontario, Windsor—Tecumseh
The hon. member for Peace River. The hon. member is only going to have about four and a half minutes. Time will expire at 9:47 p.m.
- MPconMay 09, 2013 6:40 pm | Alberta, Peace River
Mr. Chair, that is distressing because I have a lot of good news, but I will use the initial portion of my time to speak and then I may or may not have tough but fair questions for the minister.
I am proud of what our government has been doing over the last seven years. Since 2006, when I was first elected, we have made unprecedented investments within first nations communities across the country. We have also seen important reforms to ensure we will see continued support for skills training, education reform, housing on reserve, safe drinking water, new schools, as the minister just talked about, treaty rights and the resolution of land claims. The main estimates for Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada that we are discussing today will provide the department with the necessary funding to continue this great progress.
In addition to what has been tabled in main estimates 2013-14, economic action plan 2013 announced $872 million in total investments in aboriginal peoples in northern communities, which will allow them to participate more fully in Canada's economy and benefit from its growth.
Of the total investments of $872 million, about $618 million are directed directly to aboriginal peoples and their communities, including strategic investments in the following areas: $241 million for training for on-reserve income assistance recipients; $9 million toward supporting the first nation land management regime; $24 million being directed toward renewing the family violence prevention program; $10 million toward supporting post-secondary education for first nation and Inuit students; approximately $5 million toward promoting business studies among aboriginal students; $33.1 million toward supporting first nations fishing enterprises; $155 million toward first nation infrastructure; and $54 million to resolving specific claims.
The list goes on and I am going to continue. There are: $36 million toward expanding first nation policing programs; $11 million toward supporting the aboriginal justice strategy; $48 million toward improving the health services of first nations communities; and $4 million toward enhancing the mental health services in first nations communities.
Economic action plan 2013 confirms our government's commitment to consult with first nations across Canada on the development of a first nations education act to support pathways to education Canada and to continue to provide support under the capital facilities and maintenance program. Today I was speaking with a person in Ottawa named Semhar, who was talking about the importance of this program. What I am hearing from people across the country is that this type of investment is absolutely essential and education will lead to the transformation of first nations communities.
Economic action plan 2013 also provides $254 million for northerners, including support for junior mineral exploration, which goes toward a 15% tax credit, estimated to be worth over $100 million over 2013-14 and 2014-15. The construction of an all-season gravel road will link Inuvik to Tuktoyaktuk in the Northwest Territories is also in budget 2013, an additional $50 million, which builds on our investment of $150 million from budget 2011. I can tell everyone what I am assured of, and that is that the member for Western Arctic understands the necessity of supporting his constituents. That is why he will reflect on his decision to vote against the budget and decide that, in fact, it is better to put his constituents first. That is why he will vote in favour of this budget and answer to his constituents if, in fact, he chooses not to.
I recognize my time is up. I appreciate this opportunity and look forward to continuing to do the good work that our government has done, working together with all the great men and women on this side of the House.
- MPndpMay 09, 2013 6:35 pm | Territories (yk, nt, nu), Western Arctic
Mr. Chair, when the minister talked about housing for reserves, he talked about 1,700 houses built on 620-some reserves. That works out to fewer than three houses per reserve per year. He talked about renovations to housing on reserve. There were 3,000 houses renovated. That works out to fewer than five house per reserve.
Does the minister think that fewer than three houses built per reserve and fewer than five houses renovated per reserve are the numbers that are required to fix the problem of housing on aboriginal reserves across Canada?
- MPndpMay 09, 2013 6:30 pm | Territories (yk, nt, nu), Western Arctic
Mr. Chair, okay, well, I will leave that then.
Will the minister confirm that the cost to the taxpayers to cleanup the Giant Mine is over $900 million and is expected to rise?
- MPndpMay 09, 2013 6:25 pm | Territories (yk, nt, nu), Western Arctic
Mr. Chair, the premier of the Northwest Territories indicated there would be no changes made to the agreement that was signed by the Prime Minister in Yellowknife in March. How can we still be talking about the conditions of the deal if there are no changes to be made to the agreement?
- MPconMay 09, 2013 6:20 pm | Saskatchewan, Palliser
Mr. Chair, lands and natural resources are among the most valuable assets held by first nations. Their sustainable use is critical for economic development, for building partnerships with other governments and the private sector and for maintaining strong relationships with neighbouring communities.
We have heard time and time again at committee how the First Nations Land Management Act opens communications and communities up to a host of new economic opportunities for first nation businesses.
The question for the parliamentary secretary is this. How has the First Nations Land Management Act been a successful vehicle for economic development?
- MPconMay 09, 2013 6:10 pm | Saskatchewan, Palliser
Mr. Chair, before I begin, I would just like to indicate that I will use the first 10 minutes of my time to speak, and the last 5 minutes to pose questions for our minister.
I appreciate the opportunity to speak in today's discussion of the main estimates for 2013-14 of the Department of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development. The funds provided by these estimates will allow the department to continue fulfilling its mandate of improving the lives of aboriginal people and northerners. Our government's top priority is jobs and economic growth for all Canadians. This priority is particularly crucial when it comes to achieving our goal of healthier, more prosperous and self-sufficient aboriginal communities. Our government's strategy has been to focus on finding real solutions to specific economic obstacles, and we remain focused on creating jobs, economic growth and long-term prosperity.
Business owners and operators, entrepreneurs and investors have vital roles to play in spurring Canada's economy by starting new businesses and expanding existing ones, thereby encouraging job creation and economic development. The role of the government is to help foster predictable, consistent and reliable conditions that give Canadian businesses, entrepreneurs and investors the certainty and the incentives they need to take calculated risks to invest, expand and create jobs.
Our government continues to concentrate action to ensure that the necessary conditions for aboriginal communities to create and take advantage of economic opportunities do indeed exist. Our government is committed to supporting aboriginal businesses through the aboriginal business development program. This program, as we know, had its inception in 1986. The program has provided $730 million in direct non-repayable contributions to support over 11,600 aboriginal businesses. In addition to direct non-repayable contribution support to aboriginal entrepreneurs, the aboriginal business development program also provides operational support and loan capital to a network of aboriginal owners and operators in the financial institutions, also known as AFI.
Since 1986, $232 million of loan capital has been invested into the network, from which over 35,700 business loans totalling $1.49 billion have been made available to aboriginal entrepreneurs. The AFI is one of the most cost-effective Canadian job creation mechanisms available to government. A 2010 analysis revealed a cost to government of $12,479 per job created and maintained. Furthermore, each new AFI loan advance produces and maintains more than three full-time equivalent jobs.
It is also important to note that aboriginal self-employment is on the rise. According to the 2006 census, there are more than 37,000 first nations, Metis and Inuit persons in Canada who have their own businesses and are doing quite well, a significant increase of 85% since 1996.
Our government continues to expand the first nations land management regime, which is a shining example of the concrete steps we are taking to enable first nations to assume greater control over their day-to-day affairs and economic development. The first nations land management regime provides the opportunity for first nations to opt out of the 34 land-related sections of the Indian Act, and assume greater control over their resources. Communities assume greater control over their reserve lands and their natural resources, which is an important stepping stone to economic development.
There has been significant progress made under the first nations land management regime over the past few years. I am very proud of what our government has accomplished, and extremely impressed with what some first nations have achieved. Many first nations have shown great interest in opting in to the first nations land management regime.
To date, the regime includes a total of 69 first nations that are either developing land codes or have ratified and are operating under their own first nation land management land code.
We have invested in the first nations land management regime so that more first nations can take advantage of the economic opportunities it creates. In economic action plan 2011, our government reallocated $20 million over two years to respond to the growing interest from first nation leaders who recognized the benefit to their communities by participating in the first nations land management regime.
Through economic action plan 2013, we will invest a further $9 million over two years into the first nations land management regime. Last spring, we welcomed 18 new entrants into the first nations land management regime, and just this past March, we welcomed another 8 new entrants. These 26 first nations are now positioned to assume greater control over their reserve lands and natural resources. This leads to new investments and jobs and opens the path to greater prosperity and self-sufficiency for their communities.
With these recent entrants, there are now 32 first nations developing their own land codes and 35 first nations now fully operational under this regime, and 2 first nations have since moved into further self-government positioning. While there are many first nations across the country that have achieved success under the first nations land management regime, I will raise two success stories as examples.
First, Westbank First Nation in British Columbia has attracted investment to its lands since its self-government agreement of 2005. In 2010, investments generated annual tax revenues of $80 million, $50 million of which goes to the federal government. Over the past decade, the Westbank First Nation's GDP has grown from some $100 million to $458 million. A sizable success.
Since 2005, Westbank First Nation created 3,300 working opportunities, raised over $300 million in building permits and attracted $245 million in construction investment. This first nation has become a recognized entity in the Okanagan Valley and works with governments and partners to sustain profitable, sustainable and culturally appropriate development within and beyond its borders.
Second, also in British Columbia, the T'Sou-ke First Nation on Vancouver Island has become the largest solar energy-producing community in B.C. Its participation in the first nations land management regime opened the door to this opportunity, which has become a thriving business venture. FNLM is a powerful tool for first nations seeking greater control over not just their land and resources but economic futures as well.
We have also taken some steps to help unlock the economic potential of lands for those first nations that remain under the Indian Act.
In December of last year, the Jobs and Economic Growth Act received royal assent. The act included amendments to the land designation sections of the Indian Act. First nation designated lands are reserve lands that a first nation has agreed to release for commercial, agricultural, recreational or other purposes. Similar to how municipalities would zone land for a specific purpose off a reserve, first nations that operate under the Indian Act identify lands on their reserve for specific purposes, following a land designation process. The land remains reserve land.
I see I am running out of time. Let me just conclude this by saying, for first nations operating under the Indian Act, land designation is a prerequisite for economic development on reserve and is a legal instrument that permits leasing of first nations land.
It is also critical to Canada's future economic prosperity. Our vision is one of a future in which first nations are self-sufficient and prosperous, managing their own affairs and being full participants in Canada's strong economy. All Canadians benefit from strong, healthy, self-sufficient aboriginal peoples and communities.
Thank you, Mr. Chair, and I have a couple of questions for the minister. Since the minister is absent, I will ask the parliamentary secretary.
Mr. Chair, budget 2013 will expand the first nation land management regime by investing $9 million over two years to create further opportunities for economic development on reserve. This would add 33 first nations to the regime, including the 8 announced earlier this year.
What does budget 2013 announce for additional investments into first nation land management regimes for first nations?
- MPndpMay 09, 2013 6:05 pm | Ontario, Windsor—Tecumseh
The member for Manicouagan has just one minute.
- MPndpMay 09, 2013 5:50 pm | Ontario, Beaches—East York
Mr. Chair, as the minister mentioned, in economic action plan 2012 our government committed to exploring mechanisms to ensure stable, predictable and sustainable funding for first nations elementary and secondary education. Despite the scale of investments in K-12 education, we know more work needs to be done to improve education literacy, graduation rates and post-secondary completion, and to ensure students have a safe and secure learning environment.
Economic action plan 2013 confirmed our government's commitment to consult with first nations on the development of a first nation education act, and we are determined to follow through on this commitment.
What does the government hope to achieve with first nations education legislation, and how will this improve first nations education and graduation rates?
- MPndpMay 09, 2013 5:40 pm | Ontario, Beaches—East York
Mr. Chair, before I begin, I would like to indicate that I will be speaking for 10 minutes and then posing tough but fair questions for the remaining five minutes.
Education represents our hopes and aspirations for the future of our children and their ability to succeed and make their mark in this world. First nations leaders, parents, educators and our government all share the same overarching goal, and that is to provide first nations students with quality education that allows them to acquire the skills they need to enter the labour market and be full participants in a strong Canadian economy.
Our government continues to invest in initiatives and programs that will improve literacy and math skills, teaching and on-reserve school infrastructure. Between April 2006 and March 2012, our government has provided funding to support the completion of 429 school projects, including the building of 36 new schools and 393 renovations and other school-related projects.
In 2011-12, our government provided $1.55 billion to support approximately 116,400 first nations elementary and secondary students. In addition, approximately $200 million was provided to first nations for the construction and maintenance of education facilities on reserve.
Economic action plan 2012 included an additional $275 million over three years to improve school infrastructure and education outcomes of first nations students. This investment includes $100 million to provide early literacy programming and other supports and services to first nations schools and students, and $175 million to build and renovate schools on reserve, providing first nations youth with better learning environments.
These additional funds are helping more first nations students get the education they need so that they can graduate and pursue the same opportunities available to all Canadian students. In economic action plan 2012, our government committed to exploring mechanisms to ensure stable, predictable and sustainable funding for first nations elementary and secondary education.
Despite the scale of these investments, more work needs to be done to improve education, literacy, graduation rates and post-secondary completion and to ensure that students have safe and secure learning environments.
For more than 40 years, first nations have requested greater control over first nation education, more parental involvement in decisions about their children's education, and better support for the promotion of first nations languages and culture.
At the same time, the call for legislation has been repeated in years of studies, audits and reports, including three major reports to Parliament: the 2011 report from the Office of the Auditor General; the Senate Standing Committee on Aboriginal Peoples 2011 report, “Reforming First Nations Education: From Crisis to Hope”; and the 2012 report of the National Panel on First Nations Elementary and Secondary Education.
What rings true in all of these studies is that first nations children deserve an education system that is transparent and accountable and that achieves results. We all agree that the current system is not working. We recognize that there are challenges. For example, on-reserve schools are the only ones that do not benefit from overarching legislation. The current first nations education system does not include accountability requirements for educational outcomes. First nations are not legally required to spend federal education funding on education. Federal funding for first nations education is divided into many different programs, making the system bureaucratic and complex.
The moment has come to provide the foundation for the development of a strong first nation education system with enough flexibility to accommodate the needs and diversity of first nations communities.
Our government is working with first nations partners on a concrete agenda to improve graduation rates of first nations students. Our government has committed to work with first nations partners and other stakeholders to introduce a first nation education act and have it in place for September 2014, which would put into place standards and structures to improve accountability and educational outcomes for first nations children on reserve.
Of that $250 million announced in economic action plan 2012 for school infrastructure and programming, $115 million will be allocated in 2013-14. This includes $40 million to support early literacy and partnership activities. The strong schools, successful students initiative launched in October 2012 provides funding to education organizations to conduct self-assessments and to develop plans to improve their organization's capacity to deliver education services.
The 2013-14 main estimates allocation also includes $75 million in funding to support the commencement and continuation of priority school construction projects in selected communities. Economic action plan 2013 confirmed our government's commitment to consult with first nations on the development of a first nation education act, and we are determined to follow through on this commitment.
Over the last four months, our government has held intensive consultations on this proposed approach. Officials have been speaking with first nations chiefs, parents, teachers, principals, elders and community members across the country about the government's proposed legislative approach to first nation elementary and secondary education. Potential legislation would provide the modern framework necessary to build standards and structures, strengthen governance and accountability, and provide the mechanism for stable, predictable and sustainable funding, key ingredients to education success.
The proposed legislative approach would respect the historic treaties and current modern land claims and self-government agreements and legislation. Our government has held eight regional consultation sessions across the country and more than 30 video and/or teleconference sessions with first nations chiefs, educators, parents, teachers, elders, students and other community members. In addition, the department's website hosted an online survey and provided opportunities for individuals or organizations to submit comments online. We have received hundreds of responses.
During this phase of consultations, we heard about the importance of treaty rights, funding, and language and culture in the development of education legislation. We were given suggestions about the proposed legislative approach. Our government will also continue to have discussions with any first nation individual, organization or other stakeholder that wishes to receive further information on the proposed legislative approach.
Education is a shared responsibility. Parents, teachers and leaders all have roles. We must work together to help ensure that all first nations students have access to a strong, accountable education system in their communities. The result will be better outcomes for students at all grade levels so that all students have the skills and knowledge to reach their full potential and make positive contributions to their communities. That is why we remain committed to developing a first nation education act that allows first nation students to pursue the opportunities and prosperity they seek to succeed and make their mark in this world.
Now for the tough but fair questions.
I mentioned at the beginning of my speech that education represents our hopes and aspirations for the future of our children and their ability to succeed and make their mark in this world. First nations leaders, parents, educators and our government all share the same overarching goal: to provide first nations students with quality education that allows them to acquire the skills they need to enter the labour market and to be full participants in a strong Canadian economy.
Our government's economic action plan 2012 included an additional $275 million over the span of three years to improve infrastructure and the overall educational prospects of first nations youth. The main estimates have identified this increase in funding for education in 2013 and 2014.
Could the minister update the committee on how much we currently invest in kindergarten to grade 12 education for first nations youth?
- MPlibMay 09, 2013 5:35 pm | Ontario, St. Paul's
Mr. Chair, it is quite clear that the need is not being met. The boil water advisories are up 20%.
I would like to move to the issue housing. What happened to the $295 million of additional funding that was allocated in 2005 for on-reserve housing to build even more than the 13,800 units that should have been built every year if the government had stayed at 2005 funding levels?
- MPlibMay 09, 2013 5:30 pm | Ontario, St. Paul's
Mr. Chair, what is the department's goal this year for the number of first nations and Inuit students graduating with a post-secondary certificate?
- MPndpMay 09, 2013 5:25 pm | Ontario, Windsor—Tecumseh
Would the hon. member indicate how much time she is going to use in the way of a speech and how much in the way of questions?
- MPndpMay 09, 2013 5:20 pm | Ontario, Windsor—Tecumseh
Questions and comments, the hon. Parliamentary Secretary for Status of Women.
- MPndpMay 09, 2013 5:15 pm | Ontario, Windsor—Tecumseh
I am sure the member is aware that the range of debate is extremely wide, I think even more so when we are in the committee of the whole.
The parliamentary secretary.
- MPndpMay 09, 2013 5:05 pm | Manitoba, Nelligan
Mr. Chair, what percentage of funding for aboriginal economic development is going to women or organizations that serve and employ aboriginal women?
- MPndpMay 09, 2013 5:00 pm | Manitoba, Nelligan
Mr. Chair, how does the funding for emergency shelters on reserve compare to funding for those off reserve?
- MPconMay 09, 2013 4:50 pm | Saskatchewan, Saskatoon—Rosetown—Biggar
Mr. Chair, two years ago, after hearing complaints from first nation community members, I introduced my private member's bill, Bill C-575, to increase financial transparency and accountability for first nations across Canada. My bill died on the order paper, but this government introduced Bill C-27, the First Nations Financial Transparency Act, to deliver more effective, transparent and accountable governments. I am proud to have contributed to this legislation becoming law so that first nation communities can benefit from the investment, economic development and greater certainty that accompanies enhanced accountability and transparency.
I would like to take this opportunity to acknowledge the time the minister spent in Winnipeg in celebrating this legislation coming into force and the many meetings we held that day to celebrate with many of the members who had been calling for this legislation for quite some time.
My question to the parliamentary secretary is: Why did the government bring in a piece of legislation on first nation financial transparency?
- MPconMay 09, 2013 4:40 pm | Ontario, Haliburton—Kawartha Lakes—Brock
Before we resume debate with the hon. member from Saskatoon—Rosetown—Biggar, I just want to remind all hon. members that references to colleagues by their given names is not acceptable in the House.
The hon. member for Saskatoon—Rosetown—Biggar. Could the member tell the Chair how she will be using her 15-minute time slot?
- MPconMay 09, 2013 4:40 pm | Saskatchewan, Saskatoon—Rosetown—Biggar
Mr. Chair, I rise to speak to Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada's main estimates for 2013-14. Before I begin, I would like to indicate that I will use the first 10 minutes of my time to speak and the last 5 minutes to pose questions.
These main estimates reflect the Government of Canada's continued commitment to improving the quality of life for aboriginal people and northerners. Through targeted investments, this government is helping build the strong foundations of governance, human capital and infrastructure, which are the basis for healthy and prosperous communities.
Bill C-27, First Nations Financial Transparency Act, which received royal assent this past March, is one such example of our government's efforts to promote greater transparency and accountability. This, in turn, will create the conditions that encourage investment, economic development and growth, building a foundation for long-term prosperity in first nation communities across the country.
The passage of this legislation into law represents a milestone for those first nation communities, members and leaders who have been calling for this change. As I have said before, all Canadians, including first nations, want and deserve transparency and accountability from their governments. I am proud of our work with grassroots first nation members to have this legislation passed into law.
Until this legislation was passed, first nation governments were the only level of government in Canada that did not have some form of legislation to enhance or ensure accountability and transparency. Now the roughly 580 first nations operating under the Indian Act can benefit from more accountable, transparent governments.
Phyllis Sutherland, member of the Peguis First Nation and president of the Peguis Accountability Coalition, has said:
Bill C-27 will lead to big changes in accountability and transparency in First Nation communities...People at the grassroots level will be able to access information about their community without fear of intimidation or reprisal.
Colin Craig, prairie director of the Canadian Taxpayers Federation, said:
We pushed for this new law for over three years so we're ecstatic it has passed. We commend the government for acting on concerns raised by taxpayers and whistleblowers living on reserves...Plain and simple, this new law will improve accountability and especially help the grassroots hold their elected officials accountable.
The First Nations Financial Transparency Act ensures first nation citizens have the same democratic rights and protections as all other Canadians. First nations are already required as a condition of funding agreements to provide government officials with audited financial statements and a schedule of salary, honoraria and travel expenses for chiefs and councillors.
That is not always shared with local residents, even when they ask for the information. In fact, during committee hearings for Bill C-27, we heard stories of people being intimidated in their home community, just for asking for that information.
This act ensures these statements will now be made available to first nation members, as well as to the public through posting on a website. This change will not lead to an increased reporting burden. These documents are already being prepared in accordance with the same accounting principles that apply to all levels of government right across the country, using a consistent format that was put in place in 2012-13.
Our ultimate goal is one recipient, one agreement and one report. Work toward this goal has already begun through a pilot project in which several first nations across Canada are taking part. The participating first nations prepare an annual report to their community and Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada will now draw the performance information it needs from these reports to satisfy its own requirements to report to the Treasury Board and Parliament.
The results of this pilot project have been encouraging and as an added benefit, the participating first nations are in an excellent position to meet the requirements under the First Nations Financial Transparency Act.
In parallel with financial transparency created by the First Nations Financial Transparency Act, our government is reducing the reporting burden on first nations created by funding agreements. The year-end reporting handbook has been streamlined by 60% from previous years. This means that we are reducing the number of reports recipients must submit, including eliminating those that duplicate information we can now get from the audited financial statements that will be online.
All first nations will now be completing fewer reports each year, beginning this year. We intend to go even further to weed out unnecessary reporting, while ensuring Parliament, Canadians and first nations community members can evaluate the results achieved with taxpayer dollars.
Consistency and transparency will help voters in first nations make decisions at election time. They will be able to make comparisons from year to year and from community to community. They can ask questions about spending and about revenues. Some first nations governments already post financial information on their communities' websites. Some already table comprehensive annual reports to their communities. We commend them for this. The First Nations Financial Transparency Act will encourage this kind of progress right across the country. Legislation like Bill C-27 is an essential step forward on that path.
We have worked with first nations partners to develop legislation that would replace the defective election provisions of the Indian Act with a clear, consistent, reliable framework that communities can use to elect strong, stable, effective governments. I am pleased to report that our creative and collaborative work has borne fruit and the result of that creative collaboration is Bill S-6, the first nations election act.
The Indian Act elections system has significant flaws. For instance, the Indian Act requires that first nations communities hold elections every two years. This requirement deters first nations chiefs and councils from initiating long-term projects, from working closely with investors, business owners and partners in other governments and from taking full advantage of emerging opportunities to improve the lives of people in their communities.
There is more. The Indian Act does not prevent any person from running and being elected chief and to a councillor position at the same time. The current system's loose nomination process also enables the names of candidates who are neither dedicated to running nor serious about serving to be placed on the ballot without their approval and, in some instances, without their knowledge. Because of this omission in the law, some first nations elections have had more than 100 candidates vie for as few as 13 positions.
Finally, the Indian Act elections system does not contain offence and penalty provisions, leaving it open to abuse and questionable activities.
Bill S-6 would enable first nations people to shut a piece of the Indian Act by providing an alternative to its flawed election provisions. Bill S-6 would present an open, transparent and accountable election system that first nations people expect and deserve. We only have to consider some key provisions of the bill and what these provisions would set in motion to understand its value.
Significantly, Bill S-6 would provide for terms of office of four years. With this time horizon, band councils are well positioned to advance important initiatives for the well-being of their communities. As well, Bill S-6 would provide: more rigour to the nomination of candidates; offence and penalty provisions that would allow courts to impose penalties for activities such as vote buying and obstructing the electoral process; and remove the paternalistic role of the minister in reviewing and deciding upon election appeals.
It is important that we all understand that the proposed act would not be mandatory. A first nation could simply remain under its current election system, whether that is the Indian Act or its own community-based system. To opt into the new law, a band council must adopt a resolution asking the minister to add its name to the schedule of first nations to which the new election system would apply. At a later time, a first nation could remove itself from the first nations election act by developing its own community election code, submitting that code to a community vote and receiving a favourable outcome. More than that, the fact that Bill S-6 is the product of collaborative efforts among government and first nations organizations is testament to its validity as an important step forward for first nations.
As members can see from our work on the First Nations Financial Transparency Act and on Bill S-6, the first nations election act, our government is committed to helping deliver more effective, more transparent and accountable governments.
- MPconMay 09, 2013 4:20 pm | Ontario, Haliburton—Kawartha Lakes—Brock
That concludes the time for the hon. member for Brampton West.
Next, the hon. member for Abitibi—Baie-James—Nunavik—Eeyou.
- MPconMay 09, 2013 4:15 pm | Ontario, Haliburton—Kawartha Lakes—Brock
Does the hon. member have a question for the minister or the parliamentary secretary?
- MPndpMay 09, 2013 4:05 pm | Ontario, Timmins—James Bay
Mr. Chair, the question was on the government's own report that these children are being left in a dire situation under this minister's watch.
I would like to carry on, though. Many of our first nations children have to leave their reserves and end up in a provincial system. What standards does the minister have for the children under his watch who are under the provincial system? What methodologies and what accounting do they have to ensure that the provinces are providing the kind of support they need?
- MPconMay 09, 2013 4:05 pm | Ontario, Haliburton—Kawartha Lakes—Brock
The time for the member for Timmins—James Bay is expired.
Next is the member for Brampton West. How will he be splitting his time?
- MPndpMay 09, 2013 4:00 pm | Ontario, Timmins—James Bay
Mr. Chair, I am not trying to be rude here, but he did not answer my question. I wanted to know if he knew how many students who were eligible for post-secondary education were unable to receive it. He does not seem to know that either, so I will ask him another question.
Will he confirm that money that should have been used for students to go to post-secondary education under the first nation funding envelope was reallocated for internal use by INAC and Indian Affairs? Will he confirm that?
- MPconMay 09, 2013 4:00 pm | Ontario, Haliburton—Kawartha Lakes—Brock
Order. The hon. member for Timmins—James Bay.
- MPndpMay 09, 2013 3:55 pm | Ontario, Timmins—James Bay
Mr. Chair, then the minister does not know how many schools need to be replaced. Again, we are talking about children here. This is an issue on which he has a responsibility to understand the importance of protecting the health and safety of children. I am surprised that he does not know the number. I could give him the number 48. Maybe that would help him.
I would ask him how many schools on reserve have been listed as substandard or condemned.
- MPconMay 09, 2013 3:55 pm | Ontario, Haliburton—Kawartha Lakes—Brock
Order. Once again, the member for Timmins—James Bay is asking questions in the range of about 20 to 35 seconds. I appreciate they are complicated, but I would ask the minister respectfully to try to keep his answers to something similar to that.
The hon. member for Timmins—James Bay.
- MPconMay 09, 2013 3:50 pm | Ontario, Haliburton—Kawartha Lakes—Brock
Resuming debate with the hon. member for Timmins—James Bay. Would he like to tell the Chair how he would like to spend his time?
- MPconMay 09, 2013 3:45 pm | Ontario, Haliburton—Kawartha Lakes—Brock
Does the hon. member for Yukon have a question for the minister?
- MPconMay 09, 2013 3:25 pm | Ontario, Haliburton—Kawartha Lakes—Brock
Before I go to the minister, I would just remind all hon. members to direct their comments, questions and responses through the Chair.
The hon. minister.
- MPconMay 09, 2013 3:20 pm | Ontario, Haliburton—Kawartha Lakes—Brock
Resuming debate, the hon. member for St. Paul's. I would appreciate it if the member could inform the Chair how she would like to apportion her 15 minutes in terms of questions and answers or a speech.
- MPndpMay 09, 2013 3:05 pm | British Columbia, Nanaimo—Cowichan
Mr. Chair, did the department recommend or undertake consultations with aboriginal peoples regarding the Canada-China FIPA agreement? There is a court challenge pending.
- MPndpMay 09, 2013 3:00 pm | British Columbia, Nanaimo—Cowichan
Mr. Chair, how much time do I have left?
- MPndpMay 09, 2013 2:10 pm | Nova Scotia, Halifax
Mr. Speaker, for clarification, we are not debating the motion with the amendment. We are debating the main motion.
- MPlibMay 09, 2013 1:50 pm | Nova Scotia, Sydney—Victoria
Mr. Speaker, I would remind the House that it was not $1 billion, it was not $1 million, but at the end of the day it was in the thousands, and that was rectified.
However, my question is on what this $3 billion, when it is spread out, could do for health care. Right now we are seeing many of the hospitals having to charge more and more for parking to pay their bills. How could that money, which could be allocated to health care, help people who cannot afford to pay for parking when they visit their loved ones when they are sick?
- MPndpMay 09, 2013 1:20 pm | Alberta, Edmonton—Strathcona
It is like a youth Parliament. I am getting reprehensible comments over here.
Every single one of us elected to this office has a main responsibility in this place to hold the government accountable for spending. What we are asking today is reasonable. What the Auditor General has asked for is reasonable. We can only hope that the government will finally respond with respect.
- MPndpMay 09, 2013 1:10 pm | Alberta, Edmonton—Strathcona
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak today to the motion by the member for Pontiac asking for action to be taken to address the missing, remarkably, $3.1 billion.
Canadians expect their government to be good public administrators of the public purse. They expect their elected representatives, regardless of party affiliation, to carefully scrutinize spending and to hold the government accountable. Canadians expect responsible and sound fiscal management. In turn, Canadian taxpayers expect their government to use their money to provide the critical services we all rely upon.
In every circumstance, it is unthinkable that a government would be irresponsible in tracking and reporting 100% of its spending. This is all the more the case when it involves the commitment to spend $12.9 billion on public security and anti-terrorism. I feel confident in saying that Canadian taxpayers share the concerns raised by the Auditor General in his spring 2013 audit report regarding $3.1 billion of that amount not yet accounted for. This will, in all likelihood, be of concern to Canadians, as the very services they rely upon are hindered by the cuts to front-line services, including pensions and the tracking of tax fraud, for example. This is particularly galling when the government is asking Canadians to do more with less.
Some have suggested metaphorically that the Conservatives could take another look between the sofa cushions to find the misplaced $3.1 billion. All joking aside, the failure to account for this amount of taxpayers' money is a very serious matter. Contrary to what the government has alleged, the Auditor General has expressed concerns.
First, this is what he and the Assistant Auditor General had to say at the public accounts committee a week back, after determining that $3.1 billion was missing between 2001 and 2009. When asked what happened in 2010, he advised, “Our audit only went up in this time period and at the end of this time period this method of reporting was stopped”.
The Assistant Auditor General then added that “the Treasury Board Secretariat has stopped collecting data from the departments in terms of the annual reports and are in the process of putting together another framework that they hope to have in place by, I think, some time in 2014”.
That is an incredible gap in accountability.
In the text of the Auditor General's report, he stated, at point 8.24:
In 2010, the Treasury Board approved the Secretariat’s request to end the government-wide reporting requirements on Initiative spending. The last reports entered into the database are those related to the 2008–09 fiscal year. The Secretariat stated that it would develop a new mechanism for managing and collecting performance information on the Public Security Initiatives. At the time of the audit, a project was in the pilot stage, but a new mechanism was not yet in place.
That is not terribly reassuring.
Treasury Board has allowed a gap of four years in tracking spending by departments, and in such a serious and important area. The President of the Treasury Board has tried to pass the buck to the departments, saying that it is their duty to report, and besides, reports can be found in the public accounts. Perhaps he could show Canadians where, since neither we nor the Auditor General can find the $3.1 billion reported as spent or for what purpose. He has alleged that the Auditor General found no fault in the monitoring and reporting of this total committed $12.9 billion for public security spending. Yet the Auditor General's report is quite clear. The Auditor General did find problems. Let me share this quote from his news release on his report. He stated:
The Treasury Board Secretariat was required to prepare summary reports for Treasury Board. The audit found that these reports were not provided. Though the Secretariat was the only department collecting detailed performance information on public security investments, it did not use this information to generate a government-wide perspective of PSAT spending and results, nor did any other federal department or agency. In the absence of any sort of overall monitoring and reporting, information to explain the difference of $3.1 billion between the funding allocated to departments and agencies and the amount reported spent was not available.
He further stated:
We believe that the government missed an opportunity to use the information it collected to generate a picture of spending and results under the Public Security and Anti-Terrorism Initiative across departments.
He then added:
The government recognizes that it needs to improve the way it reports financial and non-financial information for future government-wide initiatives.
Why is the apparent loss somewhere, possibly, of these billions an issue? As my colleagues have mentioned, there are many ways these moneys could have been spent to benefit Canadians and protect our security.
There is no suggestion that addressing terrorism or ensuring national security is not important. It is important, as elected officials, that we are responsible for ensuring that once dollars are committed for that purpose, they are used for that purpose.
The government does have the power to redirect budget allocations, which they regularly do through supplementary estimates. However, there is no evidence that this has occurred in this instance.
Even more troubling is the apparent lack of policy supporting revenue sources. For instance, perhaps thought could be given to reversing the staffing cuts to the Canada Revenue Agency. As my colleague has raised numerous times in the House, we have been seriously concerned that there is $29 billion missing in uncollected taxes. Just a fraction of the missing $3.1 billion could restore the Conservatives' cuts to that agency.
We are reassured that finally, after our raising this concern several weeks in a row, the minister has agreed to restore some dollars to the agency. We are not totally sure yet whether the Conservatives have restored the audit and compliance staff. Certainly it is an important matter. Where is the action and accountability on that?
The Conservatives do not seem to be worried about money that slips through the cracks. They are more interested in cutting from programs that support the vulnerable in our society. For example, my colleague from Laval—Les Îles has brought forward Bill C-480, which would allow seniors to withdraw money from their RRSPs to advance pay their funeral expenses. The government claws that back from the GIS payments. We are talking about seniors who are living on the poverty line. That is why they need to receive a GIS. We have been proposing that at a mere $132,000, all seniors would be covered.
The government shows very little concern when it says that it is only $3.1 billion. We are very concerned about the lack of tracking of the spending of this money in the same way we are concerned that it gives short shrift to the potential for revenue generation, such as collecting taxes that have not been paid and putting proper charges on those who exploit our resources.
One area we are particularly concerned about is aboriginal affairs. In thinking that it would increase accountability, the government decided to pick on two segments of our society. They are picking on unions and first nations by telling them that they have to be more accountable and report over and over again to be accountable for every cent they spend. Yet here is the government saying that it is only $3.1 billion and it is not a big deal. We might eventually find it if we pore through the public accounts.
There just seems to be an incredible degree of hypocrisy. Nowhere is that hypocrisy greater than when we come to youth.
Every member of Parliament has the privilege of taking a look at what the government will allocate for summer jobs. I have to say that it was painful this year, because more than half of those Canadians who offered jobs to students were turned down, and the government cannot be bothered to find $3.1 billion. It broke my heart to sign off on a report saying which groups would get student jobs, and all these fantastic organizations that would like to hire students, such as aboriginal organizations, the University of Alberta, and I could go on, would not. That is a whole lot of students in my riding who will not get summer employment and may not be able to continue their education.
Just in closing, I find this issue absolutely critical to our job as members of Parliament. All of us in this House, whatever our partisan affiliation, are elected to hold the government accountable for spending. I expect the Conservative members to be equally astonished and upset with the apparent lack of care and attention to $3.1 billion.
- MPndpMay 09, 2013 1:05 pm | Ontario, Parkdale—High Park
Mr. Speaker, there are far too many parents in the city of Toronto who have seen their children murdered by illegal guns. The fact that border security services that could track down those guns are being cut is shocking. Even more shocking is to think that money that should have been allocated to track those guns down and stop them in their tracks at the border may have been spent elsewhere and could have, perhaps, saved some of those young lives. That is shocking.
- MPndpMay 09, 2013 1:05 pm | Nova Scotia, Sackville—Eastern Shore
Mr. Speaker, when the Conservatives quote something, they take only a little sample of the quote. The rest of the Auditor General's quote was: “It's important for there to be a way for people to understand how this money was spent. And that summary reporting was not done”.
I was here during the days when Jane Stewart was the minister of HRDC, and many Conservatives were sitting right where I am now, yelling out ”boondoggle”, right across the country, over the so-called billion dollar boondoggle. In fact, the member for Calgary—Nose Hillwas on her feet literally every day for months on end over an issue that ended up being not much at all. However, now we have $3.1 billion and another $2.4 billion gone off to numbered companies without proper phones and stuff, from what we are hearing.
The reality is that this is fiscal mismanagement at its very worst. Therefore, I would like my hon. colleague, the finance critic for the NDP, to elaborate and elucidate just a bit more on why this is so bad for Canadian taxpayers and how we in the NDP, when we are in government in 2015, would change everything.
- MPndpMay 09, 2013 1:05 pm | Ontario, Thunder Bay—Rainy River
Mr. Speaker, I listened intently when the member was talking about illegal guns in Toronto. I read a statistic the other day that 70% of those guns come through the United States. Of course, border security money goes missing and is spent on other things. I wonder if she would like to comment on the $45 million, give or take a couple of dollars, that the President of the Treasury Board used from border infrastructure money in his riding, when it could have been used to patrol the border and stop some of those illegal guns.
- MPndpMay 09, 2013 12:55 pm | Ontario, Parkdale—High Park
Mr. Speaker, I rise to speak to the opposition day motion with really a sense of sadness, sadness because as the finance critic for the official opposition, I have sadly had a front row seat in watching the greater opacity, the greater lack of information by the government when it comes to financial matters. From its omnibus bills to its time allocations to its silencing of opposition testimony, it has become frankly a bit of a chill in Ottawa.
Now I think we get a sense of why some of that is. What we are debating now with this opposition day motion by our party, the NDP, is the misplacing of $3.1 billion contributed to the coffers of Ottawa by Canadians across the country. It is not just any amount of money. This money was put in the hands of the government in trust to be spent on public security and anti-terrorism measures. The fact that the government cannot account for this money, as witnessed by the Auditor General in his recent report, is frankly shocking, but it is in keeping with the general lack of reporting, the lack of transparency by the government.
It is a government that forced the Parliamentary Budget Officer, which was a position created in fact by the Conservatives and an officer who was put in place by them, Kevin Page, to go to court to try to get some of the information from budget 2012 in terms of how government was spending and which departments, programs and services were being cut by the government. Now we find that even the government does not seem to understand, or know, or be able to find monies that were put in its trust and for which it would be responsible.
Before I continue, I will be sharing my time with the member for Edmonton—Strathcona.
The motion we are debating today is really calling on the government to issue documents from 2001 to the present, to account for this money on natural security. That is when these funds were initially allocated and that this public security initiative was created. What we are calling for is all of the public security and anti-terrorism annual reports that were submitted to the Treasury Board Secretariat, all the Treasury Board submissions made as part of the anti-terrorism initiative, all the departmental evaluations of the initiative, all the Treasury Board database information established to monitor the funding, all of these records be public and made available to the House, in both official languages, by June 17.
That is all we are asking for, that this basic information about the dollars given to Ottawa by Canadians across the country for a very serious purpose, the anti-terrorism public safety initiative, that this money be made available and that the Auditor General be given the necessary resources to perform an in-depth forensic audit to find the $3.1 billion that is unaccounted for by the government.
At the same time as this money has gone astray, no one can find out where it is. Under budget 2012, the government has made significant cuts to public safety. A total of $687.9 million will be cut from public safety by 2015. To outline some of these cuts, $143 million to the Canada Border Services Agency, the CBSA, will mean the elimination of 626 full-time equivalents, including about 325 front line officers. A further 100 positions may be affected in the CBSA.
To put this into perspective, I come from the city of Toronto, the largest city in the country. Like other communities across the country, we have concerns about handguns that are illegally smuggled into our country and fall into the hands of youth, especially, as well as others. Far too many young people in our communities have died because of the illegal use of handguns that were smuggled into the country.
To think that the Conservative government would cut over 600 border security guards from patrolling our borders and at the same time it cannot account for if, whether or how it spent $3.1 billion is frankly shocking and I know it is unacceptable to the constituents in my riding of Parkdale—High Park and to Canadians right across the country.
The government is also cutting intelligence agents from the CBSA and sniffer dog units. Under budget 2012, it scrapped the Inspector General of CSIS, who was put in place to ensure accountability there. The government is also cutting almost $200 million from the RCMP. While it is making what I would call reckless cuts to public safety measures, at the same time it seems to have misplaced over $3 billion that was allocated to protect our public safety.
While we are hearing a lot of stonewalling from the other side on this issue, what we are calling for with this motion is for the government to stop playing politics with our public safety and our hard-earned tax dollars and just give the Auditor General the information that he needs to fully account for where this money has gone.
Was it properly spent or improperly spent? Let the Conservatives give us the documents so all Canadians can find out what happened to the money. That is all we are asking for. It is very simple and straightforward.
We are hearing a lot of stonewalling on the other side of the House. We are hearing that the Auditor General did not find that any money was misappropriated. He did not find that any money was misappropriated because there were no documents saying where the money was. There were no documents to tell if it had been spent, not been spent, if it had been turned back into a previous budget, put forward into a future budget or spent on public security. Did it go to the President of the Treasury Board's gazebo? Did it go to a fake lake in Toronto?
We do not know where this money went. It could be lost in loose change down sofas across the country. We have no idea. However, there are clearly some serious spending problems with the government and with the public safety and anti-terrorism initiative because the money was not monitored properly, may not have been spent properly and clearly has not been properly accounted for.
The Auditor General needs the documents to be able to track the money and to find out on behalf of hard-working Canadians. They do not get to say "I just lost a third of the money I was supposed to report" when it comes to tax time. They have to account for every penny. Therefore, the Auditor General has to get the documents he needs to properly account for $3.1 billion in missing funds.
We urge the government and all members in the House to support this New Democrat opposition day motion to give the Auditor General the information he needs and do the job we were elected to do on behalf of all Canadians.
- MPconMay 09, 2013 12:50 pm | Ontario, Northumberland—Quinte West
Mr. Speaker, I will not comment on the across-the-bow shots that may occur here because to my constituents and to me personally, and as the member has just said, to his constituents and to him, we want a government that has the accounting practices that the Auditor General says that are sufficient so he feels secure in telling Canadians that on viewing the government operations, they are being done in a manner that he thinks is appropriate.
In this case, the Auditor General has said that there is no money that cannot be accounted for and that there has been no funnelling off to any enterprise. In fact, we have repeated in the House ad nauseam, that the Auditor General said, “We didn't find anything that gave us cause for concern that the money was used in any way that it should not have been”.
What am I saying? I would agree with the Auditor General that he needs to be satisfied in order to satisfy my constituents and that we need to be a little more diligent and in some cases perhaps much more diligent in identifying specifically. Therefore, we have agreed as a government to take his suggestions and recommendations and we will implement them.
- MPconMay 09, 2013 12:50 pm | Ontario, Haliburton—Kawartha Lakes—Brock
Order. The hon. member for Northumberland—Quinte West.
- MPndpMay 09, 2013 12:50 pm | Ontario, Thunder Bay—Rainy River
Mr. Speaker, I am getting to my question.
My accounting comes to a little bit over $45 million. I wonder if the member would say whether or not he is concerned that $45 million of public safety money was spent—
- MPndpMay 09, 2013 12:45 pm | Ontario, Thunder Bay—Rainy River
Mr. Speaker, I listened with interest to my colleague's comments, and I have to say before I begin my question that I know this member from the public safety committee. I know him to be diligent and I know he is very concerned about how money is spent, so I know he would be concerned about the accounting behind this particular issue.
My office spent a number of days and weeks trying to find out exactly how public safety money was spent. In this particular case, it was money from the border infrastructure fund that the President of the Treasury Board used on some projects in his riding during the G8 summit. By the way, none was spent in my riding, and no one showed up at my door either.
My final accounting, and there might even be more, is all listed, and with the unanimous consent of the House I would be happy to table my findings today.
- MPconMay 09, 2013 12:40 pm | Ontario, Chatham-Kent—Essex
Mr. Speaker, I would agree that as a Parliament it is our job to do these things. It is our job to look for problems and collectively look for solutions. We might not agree on what that solution should be, but that is how Parliament works, and I would agree with the member that looking for solutions should be the focus of this whole exercise.
We recognize we could have done things better, and we state that as well. The government's response to the Auditor General is that we recognize the recommendations that were made and that we will endeavour to improve. I think it is incumbent upon us all to work toward a way to make this situation better and subsequently make government that much better.
- MPconMay 09, 2013 12:40 pm | Ontario, Northumberland—Quinte West
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak today on the subject of the funding for Canada's public safety and anti-terrorism initiative.
As we know, the hon. opposition is calling into question the government's accounting for the money used to fight terrorism both at home and abroad. We have indicated that all funds in question have been accounted for in public accounts, and those are available to Parliament.
What is more, there is no indication that any money is missing or that any money has been poorly used or wasted, and that is also the opinion of the Auditor General of Canada. He gave the government's accounting for these expenses a clean bill of health. He did so after reviewing all available documents during the course of his audit. In fact, he confirmed at committee that the anti-terrorism funding he was reviewing was purely an internal government reporting process. The Auditor General clearly said that his office did not find anything to indicate that the money was used in any way it should not have been.
We understand the priorities of Canadians, and our priorities are aligned with theirs. We understand that there is no duty more fundamental than protecting the personal safety of our citizens and defending them against threats to our national security. That has been our objective with regard to spending on anti-terrorism measures at home and abroad. To this end, the Canadian Forces have played an essential role in recent years.
We continue to face a wide range of complex and unpredictable threats that, as we know, can emanate from anywhere from down the street to the other side of the globe. These threats can take on many forms, and the government bears the responsibility to protect and defend the individuals, institutions and infrastructure of our nation against all dangers.
Now, as our defence community shifts its focus away from Afghanistan, it is looking closely at that environment, an environment that poses challenges ranging from cyberthreats, piracy, illicit trafficking and arms proliferation to fiscal crises that persist around the globe to changing regional dynamics in Asia and the Arab world. These challenges, paired with the end of our long mission in Afghanistan, give us clear impetus to make sure that the Canadian Forces are ready to meet today's needs.
Indeed, the readiness of the Canadian Armed Forces to react to any eventuality will be an area of continued effort in the post-Afghanistan era. The Canada first defence strategy outlines the government's commitment to give the forces the resources they need to carry out their work on behalf of Canadians in a volatile world.
In keeping with this commitment, we have increased defence spending by about a third since 2006. We have invested in critical military capabilities by acquiring transport aircraft, upgrading armoured vehicles, modernizing warships, and launching Canada's first military satellite.
The government has made significant investments since 2008 in reviewing military infrastructure across the country. We have provided new resources to care for our troops and their families.
I would like to mention at this point that at 8 Wing in Northumberland—Quinte West, this commitment has never been greater. Hundreds of millions of dollars are being invested in the infrastructure there so that we can accommodate Canada's elite anti-terrorism squad.
The results are clear. The Canadian Armed Forces have been able to maintain the highest operational tempo since the Korean War, ranging from Afghanistan and Libya to floods and fires across Canada. All these investments and others like them will leave the forces well equipped to handle their current and future operations, including protecting us at home right here in Canada.
Other investments are being made to ensure that firefighters, police, medical professionals and military personnel are supported with the right resources, knowledge, tools and training to stay ahead of the curve. To support this vital work, the Minister of National Defence announced the establishment of the Canadian safety and security program in 2012.
With an annual investment of some $43.5 million, this comprehensive program identifies and funds innovative scientific and technological solutions to address the full array of public safety and security challenges. It promotes collaborative efforts because no single department, agency or organization is equipped to tackle all of the desperate dangers in today's world.
In March, the Minister of National Defence announced an additional $20 million for 26 science and technology projects that aim to make Canada more safe and more secure. These projects help address Canadian vulnerabilities in the face of some of the most pressing threats to public safety and security today. For example, Transport Canada will work with the Canada Border Services Agency, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and industry partners to enhance the X-ray capabilities used at airports and border crossings for baggage and cargo screening.
Natural Resources Canada will lead an effort with Parks Canada, the B.C. Ministry of Environment, and the University of British Columbia to develop a better system to predict and track smoke from forest fires to assist with emergency evacuation decisions.
Defence Research and Development Canada, partnering with Laval University and the University of Western Ontario, will lead a project to develop critical technical capabilities to identify, locate and mitigate potential wireless security threats and enhance the resiliency of digital infrastructure and response effectiveness. The examples go on.
As recent events in Canada and the United States have shown, Canada must continue to be on guard against terrorism. Terrorism threats are real problems that have to be dealt with, and we are getting the job done with continued investments.
I urge the members of this House to focus their energies and their efforts on the real problems we face and to work together to defend our citizens against terrorism.
The Auditor General found that the deficiencies in the PSAT reporting process did not prevent the programs from achieving their objective, which is keeping Canadians safe and secure.
The Auditor General reviewed all available documents and concluded, “We didn't find anything that gave us cause for concern that the money...was used in any way it should not have been”.
With a conclusion like that from the Auditor General himself, I cannot support this motion.
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