First Nations Financial Transparency Act (Bill C-27)

Elizabeth May: Mr. Speaker, I want to ask my hon. colleague from Bonavista—Gander—Grand Falls—Windsor a question. Earlier today I put the question about the existing level of commitment by first nations to transparency and accountability to the Minister of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development. He directed me to a resolution. However, it was the very resolution the minister mentioned that I was basing my question on, which is Resolution No. 50/2010 of December 2010, endorsed at the Assembly of First Nations Special Chiefs Assembly. The Assembly of First Nations special chiefs themselves are fully committed to transparency and accountability in their financial reporting.

This piece of legislation is described by first nations chiefs as heavy-handed, paternalistic, and some of the commentary has described it as racist. They are asking why Ottawa is imposing this law at this time instead of working with first nations.

My hon. friend is right that we have an obligation in law to work with first nations through consultation and not through the imposition of top-down rule making. I would like his view on why first nations chiefs are caught by surprise by this legislation, when they themselves have already made a commitment to transparency and accountability in their financial dealings.

Scott Simms: Mr. Speaker, my hon. colleague for Saanich—Gulf Islands brought up that which is germane to this debate, the preaching of one thing and the practising of another.

By way of illustration, my colleague who sits in front of me here from (Humber—St. Barbe—Baie Verte and I voted in the last session of Parliament. There was a minority. The majority of the House voted to reject the idea of signing onto a NAFO agreement, the international body that governs fisheries in the Northwest Atlantic. The majority of this House said no by way of votes. The very next day the Conservative government signed on to it. Prior to that, in the campaign, the Conservatives said that they would bring international agreements to the House. What was the point of that? The very next day they turned around and did the exact opposite of what they said they would do. At what point have they practised what they used to preach?

Going back to my friend’s illustration, she brings up the point of the UN declaration. Every indicator in the language within this declaration said that transparency would be there and, certainly when it comes to communication, informed opinion. We get the statistics. It is a cut. We also get the level of transparency that they talk about here going way beyond—to use the term, they have been gobsmacked in this particular situation because they were absolutely surprised because they went counter to what they said.

Here is another illustration. The government stood up in the middle of the Alps of Switzerland and said that it may want to change the age of eligibility for old age security. It was said in a way that led people to believe that it was already known. I do not remember the Conservatives ever talking about that in the campaign. I remember hearing about the extra money they wanted to put in the guaranteed income supplement that was only one-third of the way to alleviating poverty.

Let us go back to that declaration once again. The indicators were definitely there. It was preached about. Back home it was practised in the opposite direction.