Remove Two Per Cent Cap on Annual Increases in Funding Says Senate Aboriginal Peoples Committee ReportPublished on 23 June 2015 News & Photos by Senator Lillian Eva Dyck
Ottawa – (June 23, 2015) The Standing Senate Committee on Aboriginal Peoples is calling on Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada (AANDC) to remove the two percent cap on annual increases in funding for on-reserve programs and services effective Budget 2016-17. The recommendation aims to ensure that funding takes into account population growth and inflation in First Nations communities. The Committee is also calling for the creation of a new ministerial loan guarantee program to help finance infrastructure on-reserve. These are two of the thirteen recommendations outlined in the Committee’s report which was tabled today.
On-Reserve Housing and Infrastructure: Recommendations for Change is the final report of a two-phase study which the Committee began in November 2013. Other recommendations in the report include consulting with First Nations communities and organizations to address capacity concerns prior to developing legislation for the application of building codes on-reserve and consulting with First Nations to explore the possibility of creating a new ministerial loan guarantee program for First Nations governments to fund housing and infrastructure on reserve. The report also calls for the development of a housing strategy for remote and isolated First Nations communities.
“Infrastructure is not just about bricks and mortar. Ageing, inadequate and poor infrastructure can have significant negative effects on the social and economic outcomes of communities. We visited several remote First Nations and saw first-hand the challenges they faced and heard the concerns of community members. While AANDC takes into account the increased costs of northern and remote communities through a remote and isolation index in their funding formula, the Committee heard from witnesses that this index is not reflective of the needs of these communities and that the amount allocated for the remoteness factor should be increased. That is why our report is recommending the development of a housing strategy for remote and isolated First Nations communities, which would include a review of the adequacy of the remote and isolation index to ensure that it reflects actual costs.”
Senator Dennis Patterson, Chair of the Committee
“First Nations communities are diverse, so the tools to address their requirements must reflect this diversity. The Committee’s recommendations reflect this diversity, ranging from removing the 2% cap on annual increases in funding from AANDC, building First Nations capacity to manage housing, facilitating the ability of First Nations to prepare comprehensive community plans which facilitate economic development and introducing mechanisms to allow First Nations to leverage financing. All of these recommendations are derived from the testimony, but some, such as removing the 2% cap on annual increases in funding from AANDC, were solutions proposed by numerous witnesses. ”
Senator Lillian E. Dyck, Deputy Chair of the Committee
“One of the goals we set out to achieve with this report was developing innovative financing options. By recommending the creation of a new Ministerial Loan Guarantee program to help finance infrastructure on-reserve, the Committee has proposed a solution that would empower First Nations to meet the long-term needs of their communities. The Committee recommends changes to the current Ministerial Loan Guarantee Program for Housing on-reserve in order to improve the efficiency of the approval process. Additionally, we are recommending the expansion of the current Ministerial Loan Guarantee Program for housing on-reserve to grant First Nations governments access to the program, rather than just individual First Nations members. The purpose of these recommendations is to provide a new funding option to enable the construction of more infrastructure on First Nations reserves across the country. ”
Senator Scott Tannas, Committee Member
Summary of Recommendations
- Removing the 2% cap on annual increases on funding for on-reserve programs and services from Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada (AANDC);
- Providing adequate funding and greater flexibility in the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation’s On-Reserve Non-Profit Housing Program (also known as the Section 95 program);
- Making it possible for First Nations to hire qualified housing managers through designated funding as part of AANDC’s Band Support Funding Program ;
- Moving toward the implementation and enforcement of building codes in First Nation communities;
- Assessing the adequacy of the shelter allowance component of the Income Assistance Program and addressing the regional discrepancies in the application of that program;
- Developing a housing strategy for remote and isolated First Nation communities; including a review the adequacy of the remote and isolation index;
- Simplifying the process for First Nations members to access mortgages backed by a Ministerial Loan Guarantee and expanding the program to allow First Nations governments to access a Ministerial Loan Guarantee;
- Evaluating the First Nations Market Housing Fund (FNMHF) and reinforcing its capacity development component;
- Simplifying the process for First Nations to be scheduled to the First Nations Land Management Act (FNLMA);
- Exploring the possibility, in consultation with First Nations, of developing opt-in legislation which could facilitate private property ownership for First Nations members living on reserve;
- Creating a new ministerial loan guarantee program to help finance infrastructure on-reserve;
- Facilitating First Nations’ access to “Indian Moneys” which, as currently required by the Indian Act, are held in trust for First Nations in the Consolidated Revenue Fund;
- Providing support for First Nations to develop long term comprehensive community plans which could help them plan for the future.
- Over the course of the study, the Committee heard from over 80 witnesses representing individual First Nations, tribal councils, First Nations organizations, financial institutions, private sector organizations, and federal government departments and agencies.
- The Committee visited 16 First Nations communities from Nova Scotia, Quebec, Ontario and British Columbia.
- In February 2015, the Committee tabled an interim report on housing which identified key issues related to housing on reserve.
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