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The Estimates, 2014-15

I would like to elaborate on some of the things my esteemed colleague Senator Day has spoken about in his report on the 2014-15 report on Supplementary Estimates (B) and, specifically, on the nature and extent of supplemental funding for the Indian Affairs and Northern Development Canada.

Honourable senators, we learned, through the study of these supplementary estimates by the Standing Senate Committee on National Finance, that total funding for Aboriginal programs and services across the federal government, including both main and supplementary estimates, will be $11.3 billion for the fiscal year 2014-15.

This amount constitutes an increase of approximately $500 million over this year's Main Estimates and is earmarked primarily for Indian Affairs and Northern Development Canada. More than $400 million in that department's budget, again from Main Estimates, will fund activities like the First Nations Water and Wastewater Action Plan, negotiations involving land claims and self-government across Canada and Aboriginal participation in West Coast energy development, amongst other things.

Departmental officials from Indian Affairs and Northern Development Canada reported that their department's Supplementary Estimates (B) included initiatives of $153.9 million, composed of $30.9 million in net transfers received from other departments and $123 million to support certain initiatives that I will outline in some detail.

In total, they bring requested authorities to $8.6 billion for the fiscal year 2014-15.

Let us now examine some of the larger initiatives included in the department's supplementary estimates:

Number 1, the impact of flooding in Manitoba's Interlake region, due to which over $40 million was requested to help residents of 18 First Nations communities, who were evacuated because of flooding in 2011, to return home or to go to alternative long-term accommodation.

Number 2, the construction of the new Canadian High Arctic Research Station and the implementation of the associated science and technology program: The station, to be constructed in Cambridge Bay, Nunavut, will be a world-class facility for science and technology and will link the network of regional facilities across the North.

Number 3, the continuing impacts and costs of the Indian Residential Schools Settlement Agreement, resulting in the transfer of almost $12 million, from last fiscal year to this one, to continue the implementation of the Indian Residential Schools Settlement Agreement, as well as nearly $10 million to digitize the equivalent of more than 60,000 boxes of documents currently stored at Library and Archives Canada before being forwarded to the Indian residential schools Truth and Reconciliation Commission.

Number 4, the participation of the Aboriginal community in West Coast energy development, through which the investment of $10.5 million will see roughly half of British Columbia's Aboriginal groups, as well as number of Aboriginal communities in Alberta, participate in energy development projects in four key activity areas: Early and ongoing engagement, creating jobs and growth, environmental action and fish habitat restoration.

The purpose of this funding is to promote greater participation of First Nations in various projects to diversify Canada's energy export markets by penetrating emerging Asia-Pacific markets. With respect to the ongoing implementation of comprehensive land claim agreements, nearly $5 million this year will fund implementation of the Yukon Umbrella Final Agreement Implementation Plan, the Yukon Environmental and Socio-economic Assessment plan, the Yukon regional land planning and support for the operations of the Cree-Naskapi Commission in Quebec.

Honourable senators, as I mentioned at the beginning, we were also informed of various transfers between the Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development and other federal departments.

For example, a transfer of $28 million was made from the Department of National Defence to support remediation activities under the Federal Contaminated Sites Action Plan.

There are a number of other transfers from various departments, such as Canadian Heritage, Fisheries and Oceans, Health, and Public Works and Government Services, all of which are outlined in detail in the supplementary estimates.

Several other organizations, such as Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation, Employment and Social Development Canada, and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, will also receive funding, in 2014-15, as part of their Canadian-wide programs for First Nations and Inuit communities.

Honourable senators, as I believe these figures attest, our government's undertakings with respect to Aboriginal affairs are not inconsequential. As I have indicated, for this fiscal year, they amount to $11.3 billion. No one can deny the need for or the wisdom in making such investments in support of our First Peoples. These investments are worthy of our support and deserving of our continued oversight for the longer term, something to which we, here in this chamber, pay particular attention, not just with respect to applying sober second thought but also in considering their impact and implication over time.

As we move forward and support the Main Estimates, we must also commit to looking at these investments carefully.

We must make certain that these investments yield their intended results; reach their intended audiences; and measurably achieve their intended purpose.

Thank you. Merci.