The committee began this week by discussing the main and supplementary estimates in order to vote on them. The Minister presented an update on the department, citing commitments to pursuing improvements to First Nations education, better lands management, and reliable access to clean water. Members of the government asked the Minister to expand on some specific developments, whereas members of the opposition posed questions regarding budget reductions, which the Minister and Deputy Minister characterized as due to programs that had recently finished and no longer required funding.
The second meeting of the week was a continuation of the study of land use and sustainable development. Three different groups, representing a range of perspectives, gave witness, including delegates from the Office of the Auditor General, the National Aboriginal Forestry Association, and the National Aboriginal Capital Corporations Association. They stated, respectively, that the federal government (through HRSDC and AANDC) had failed to sufficiently foster and support training programs and economic development; that the aboriginal forestry sector must be better enabled to fully realize its potential production capacity, in turn creating prospects for aboriginal youth; and that increased funding arrangements with the private sector were necessary in order to expand Small and Medium Enterprise loans for aboriginal entrepreneurs. Committee members showed broad support for the recommendations of each group, seeing value in all proposals.