Hon. Lillian Eva Dyck:
Welcome, minister. As you know, on May 1, seven months ago, the Standing Senate Committee on Aboriginal Peoples tabled our report on Bill C-45, the Cannabis Act, which recommended that the Department of Finance immediately work with interested First Nations and First Nations institutions to allow them to collect cannabis excise tax revenues by, first, amending the First Nations Fiscal Management Act to provide for a First Nations law-making power to levy cannabis excise tax on its reserve lands; second, amending the Excise Tax Act and the First Nations Fiscal Management Act to enable First Nations to collect tax efficiently; third, enabling First Nations to retain local cannabis revenue for their own infrastructure, health care and education, among other things; and fourth, recognizing First Nations’ authority to enact their own regulatory frameworks, including business licensing, zoning and enforcement.
Bill C-45 came into effect on October 17, and First Nations are still being disadvantaged because legislation to allow them to share in the excise tax revenues has not yet been tabled.
The committee heard from Manny Jules, the Chief Commissioner of the First Nations Tax Commission, on October 23 and November 27, where he indicated that he has had preliminary meetings with department officials but that further meetings on this issue have been postponed until the new year. Chief Commissioner Jules has indicated to the committee that changes should be reflected in the upcoming budget so First Nations can benefit from excise tax revenue, as do the provinces and the territories. Clearly it was an oversight to leave First Nations out of the framework for excise tax sharing last May.
So my question to you, minister, is: Can you update the Senate on the actions the Department of Finance has taken on this issue? When will the necessary amendments to the First Nations Fiscal Management Act and the other acts be tabled in Parliament?
Hon. Bill Morneau, P.C., M.P., Minister of Finance: I’d like to thank you for that question.
As you know, we have been working towards a new fiscal arrangement with First Nations in the broader sense of ensuring that we have an approach that moves forward, recognizing the important place of First Nations in our country.
You gave some detail about meetings that have been held. We’ll continue to work with First Nations groups to get to a broader new fiscal arrangement. This specific issue would be underneath that broader arrangement.
We’ll continue to think about this as an overall approach as opposed to a specific tax issue.