4.1 Achievement of Expected Outcomes
4.1.1 Program Outcome: Cooperation and collaboration between federal, non-federal partners.
Finding: SPI has resulted in a significant number of partnerships to establish and implement economic development projects, however, clear articulation of what it means to have partnerships within a sector, and why those partnerships are indicative of performance would be useful for performance measurement.
Finding: Partnerships have increased buy-in amongst Aboriginal communities and are thus viewed as a success factor to Aboriginal economic development. From a governance perspective, partnerships have increased communication and an improved ability to both identify opportunities and eliminate potential overlap. There were concerns expressed, however, respecting the sense of "ownership" of projects between AANDC and other partners as well as issues with the communication with partners.
Cooperation and collaboration between federal and non-federal partners was examined using two key indicators as per the SPI Performance Measurement Strategy:
- number of partnerships developed interdepartmental Letters of Agreement and other types of agreements; and
- stakeholder perceptions of changes in understanding, co-operation and collaboration due to partnerships.
SPI has resulted in the cooperation and collaboration amongst 15 federal departments and agencies, including AANDC, involved in the key sectors of the economy targeted by the program:
- Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada
- Industry Canada
- Federal Economic Development Initiative for Northern Ontario
- Natural Resources Canada
- Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada
- Employment and Social Development Canada
- Canadian Northern Economic Development Agency
- Parks Canada
- Federal Economic Development Agency for Southern Ontario
- Status of Women Canada
- Western Economic Diversification Canada
- Fisheries and Oceans Canada
- Environment CanadaFootnote 5
- Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency
- Canada Economic Development for Quebec Regions
SPI, through the Initiatives it supports, has also demonstrated success in the area of cooperation and collaborating through the establishment of partnerships between multiple federal and multiple non-federal partners with the aim of supporting First Nations participation in economic development. In some cases, this collaboration enabled partnerships between organizations that had never existed before. Case study respondents and interviewees indicated, for example, that the SPI initiative Ring of Fire, in 2010-2011, enabled partnerships between the Matawa Tribal Council, the Government of Canada (AANDC, Natural Resources Canada, Federal Economic Development Agency of Northern Ontario and Employment and Social Development Canada), the Government of Ontario (Ministry of Aboriginal Affairs, Ministry of Northern Development and Mines, Ministry of Natural Resources), and industry (Noront Resources, Cliffs Natural Resources, KWG).
The number of partnerships and unique partnerships for each of the sectors and SPI as a whole, based on data reviewed for the period between fiscal year 2010-2011 through to fiscal year 2012-2013 identify that SPI, overall, has resulted in over 100 unique partnerships being established, noting that multiple partnerships with the same entity are only counted once to avoid duplication. The largest share of these new partnerships is in the Forestry and Mining sectors.
In addition to formal partnership arrangements, working partnerships have been established through SPI's governance processes via interdepartmental working groups, regional working groups, and implementation teams established for SPI sectors and projects.
However, while the number of partnerships provides a quantitative value with which to measure the achievement of the Immediate Outcome Cooperation and collaboration between federal and Aboriginal partners, it does not tell us a great deal about the level and value of cooperation and collaboration that occurred. For example, while partnerships may have been formed, it is unclear whether they resulted in full collaboration between the parties, if they resulted in benefits for Aboriginal communities, or if those benefits could have been achieved without the partnership. As a result, SPI could better articulate what it means to have partnerships within a sector, and why those partnerships are indicative of performance.
In addition, the evaluation examined the changes in stakeholder perceptions of understanding, co-operation and collaboration due to the partnerships as an indicator of the level of cooperation and collaboration reached between SPI partners. Stakeholders interviewed during the key informant interview process were nearly unanimous in their agreement that partnerships are necessary for Aboriginal economic development, that SPI has resulted in an increase in the number of partnerships and that more partnerships are necessary in the future. Key informant respondents noted that co-operation and collaboration through leveraging, community engagement, partnerships and agreements have all increased throughout the lifespan of SPI.
Specifically, stakeholders commented that partnerships increased the legitimacy of projects for Aboriginal communities, industry and other levels of government. Businesses and industry were more willing to take part in projects when federal partners were already involved. This increased legitimacy made it easier to leverage funds and increased the chances of success for specific SPI projects. However, it should be noted that despite the positive opinions of stakeholders, no additional evidence was found through the literature or document review to confirm that partnerships increase the success of economic development projects in Aboriginal communities.
Key informant respondents also noted that the increased cooperation and collaboration, particularly through SPI working groups, has resulted in increased communication and an improved ability to both identify opportunities and eliminate potential overlap. Respondents further noted that SPI working groups have shown departments who traditionally have not had a responsibility to promote Aboriginal economic development that there is in fact an important role for them to play. The involvement of a greater number of departments was seen as a positive aspect of SPI as it was noted that the Government cannot continue to work in "silos" and a more coordinated approach to supporting Aboriginal communities is needed. In particular, it was noted that with budget reductions taking place in governments across Canada, partnerships are more important than ever to continue to provide services with reduced resources.
However, while there are positive examples of cooperation and collaboration between federal partners and between federal and non-federal partners, progress has been impeded by weak communication of SPI to federal departments and Aboriginal communities. Specifically, staff, internal and external to AANDC, noted that they spent much of their time educating others about SPI due to a lack of awareness regarding the program and how it operated. In some instances, the lack of communication resulted in missed opportunities for valuable partnerships. In the case of one SPI initiative, the project proponents did not learn the role the new Director General Investment Sub-committee would play until shortly before its 2013-2014 application was due, and as a result, faced challenges.
The challenges relating to communication were also noted in the Governance Review conducted by Patterson Creek Consulting, 2011. The Review noted that at the time, the Federal Coordination Committee had not developed a communications strategy and as a result, the governance review recommended the creation of a communications and marketing director general sub-committee to address the problem, however, some key informant interviewees noted that it took a long time for communications materials to be developed.
Finally, case study interviews identified a challenge relating to ownership as it relates to cooperation and collaboration amongst partners. It was observed in case studies that other federal departments regard SPI as being "owned" by AANDC and not truly horizontal. Further, Aboriginal communities do not regard SPI as offering equal partnership with government and noted the minimal representation of Aboriginal people in the governance structure. Some respondents said there is a lack of true partnership and collaboration in developing annual workplans and it was felt that even when workplans were developed through extensive consultation with communities, they were eventually reduced in scope by the federal government.
4.1.2 Program Outcome: Simplified government application, monitoring and reporting (single-window approach)
Finding: A lack of awareness and understanding regarding the mechanisms for implementing a single window structure, including the use of the common Terms and Conditions, has hindered take-up and use of this funding method. However, in projects where a single window approach has been used, it was successful and seen as an ideal for future projects.
The achievement of the program outcome: simplified government application, monitoring and reporting (ie. The single-window approach) was examined using three key indicators as per the SPI Performance Measurement Strategy:
- number of initiatives where "single window" approach was used;
- stakeholder perceptions of the administrative burden of SPI projects compared to other initiatives involving multiple departments; and
- stakeholder perceptions of the value added of the single window aspect of SPI.
According to the documents reviewed, SPI is intended to be different from the usual application based approval and funding process.
SPI allocates funding based on workplans developed collaboratively with Aboriginal communities, federal departments and other partners with a single window approach for recipient communities to access funds and for reporting requirements. In this way, it is hoped that SPI can employ a more coordinated opportunity identification process to eliminate the need for clients to navigate the many federal departments and programs involved with Aboriginal economic development while pursuing specific projects. This coordinated approach is also expected to provide a mechanism to harmonize monitoring and reporting processes as well as the management of financial agreements among relevant partners.
The evaluation found that take-up of the SPI's single-window approach is very limited. Based on the data reviewed and case studies examined, only two of the fourteen SPI Initiatives are currently using the single window approach - the only Northwest Territories Forest Industry and Biomass Initiative and the Atlantic Commercial Fisheries Diversification Initiative. In the case of the Northwest Territories Forest Industry and Biomass Initiative, funding from SPI allocated to AANDC and Natural Resources Canada, along with funding from the regional development agency Canadian Northern Economic Development Agency, all flowed through one contribution agreement between Canadian Northern Economic Development Agency and the Government of the Northwest Territories, due in large part to the persistence of staff in two federal departments.
Overall, respondents felt that in instances where a single window approach had been implemented, it was very beneficial to clients and overall represented an ideal model. In situations where project proponents were not able to fully implement a single window approach, they were able to incorporate some aspects, such as use of the common Terms and Conditions. Many respondents noted that, through SPI, they worked more closely with clients and other departments and this increased collaboration had benefits. Despite the challenges in implementing the single window approach, respondents commented that they believed it would result in a decreased administrative burden and that the decrease would primarily be seen on the client side of the projects.
There are also some examples where simplified reporting and administration have been achieved. For example, the Government of the Northwest Territories provides one annual report to the three federal departments (Canadian Northern Economic Development Agency, Natural Resources Canada, and AANDC), which support the Forest Industry and Biomass Initiative. Additionally, in SPI's tripartite agreement with Ontario as part of the Ring of Fire initiative, the province is using the SPI forms for applications and reporting. But the outcome of a reduced reporting and administrative burden has not been achieved on a large scale. In fact, some partner organizations say that the administrative burden is still significant and consumes the time of their program staff.
While case study and key informant interview respondents generally had positive comments regarding the goal of a single window approach, they identified some challenges.
One hindering factor is the short-term and unpredictable nature of funding for SPI projects. In some cases, projects have been given multi-year funding agreements yet, must have their annual workplans approved each year. In regards to one case study project, respondents from the organization, the federal government and First Nations said the lack of access to stable funding is an impediment. An example provided by one respondent is the difficulty of building a sustainable organization when staff members are all on short-term contracts.
Restrictions on how SPI funding can be used, and the lack of flexibility for re-profiling allocations, are also hindering factors because there is little latitude given for communities and organizations to respond to changing circumstances. Financial planning for complex regional developments requires flexibility since it is impossible to anticipate all contingencies in an annual workplan. For example, multiple interviewees commented that they underestimated the time needed for the community engagement portions of their projects. The time needed to properly engage with communities and gain their support for the project was longer than they expected and as a result, their projects fell behind schedule, which created challenges regarding the re-profiling of funds. Interviewees felt that additional flexibility regarding re-profiling would allow them to adapt to unexpected issues such as these and ensure they continue to effectively deliver their project.
Specifically, the single window approach requires a change in the culture of government and a change in how departments work together. It was noted by respondents that the current culture of governments is one of silos, wherein each department is focused on its own mandate and resources when undertaking a project. While SPI offers a broader and more collaborative approach, there is hesitancy within departments to merge human and financial resources with other organizations and unfamiliarity with the mechanisms to do so. The skepticism within departments regarding the use of collective resources and the confusion around the collaborative mechanisms of SPI are contributing factors to the slow progress in moving towards a single window approach.
A general lack of understanding and knowledge was also noted as a challenge, and may be the root of the skepticism mentioned above. Departments are reluctant to transfer their own funds through the SPI authorities for a range of reasons. The legal and contractual mechanisms for other departments to use the SPI authorities appear to have been poorly communicated. Specifically, interview respondents reported that there is frequently confusion between and within departments regarding how single window financing could work, how it would be reported, the results and measurements that would be required, the Terms and Conditions, and how the project would adhere to the different departmental mandates. Some departments have tried to ensure their work is consistent with the collaborative intent of SPI by delivering projects or programs in close consultation with others; however, they are not willing to commit to the single window approach. Departments interested in taking part in SPI generally have a positive intent to come together to fund projects, yet, acquiring the necessary information regarding the single window approach can be challenging and obtaining approval for such a funding mechanism can be met with resistance. Further, in an environment of deficit reduction departments are wary of signing over funds to another department.
Several misconceptions limit the ability of the single window approach to be used on a wider scale and illustrate the lack of understanding regarding the funding approach. As a result, the departments that do demonstrate some form of cooperation with SPI typically use their own authorities to support Aboriginal organizations and communities instead of the more flexible SPI common authorities. Many respondents spoke of specific departmental funding criteria that must be met, which prevent them from undertaking a single window approach. Specifically, with the exception of the Forest Industry and Biomass Initiative, the regional development agencies, interviewed through case studies, said it would be difficult, if not impossible, for them to use the SPI authorities to flow their funds through another department. A respondent from one of these agencies noted that they still must apply their agency's criteria to Aboriginal economic development, which restricts opportunities. Further, respondents noted that funds cannot be provided without knowledge that they would be used as defined by departmental grants and contributions requirements. However, as the departments and agencies have signed on to the SPI common Terms and Conditions, they do, in fact, have the ability to fund projects using the single window approach even if it does not comply with their regular departmental authorities. This information does not seem to be widely known among departments participating in SPI.
Finally, the evaluation found that it has been challenging to get some federal departments to engage, and participate in, SPI. Interviewees noted that in some instances, departments are fearful that someone else will get the "credit" for collaborative projects undertaken through SPI. The success of SPI partnerships is also hindered by structural impediments that exist in departments. Specifically, respondents noted that some departments were "stuck in their ways" and were unwilling to fund projects that fell outside of their usual funding scope. Further, constricting the ability for departments to partner are the different decision making structures that exist in federal departments. For example, some departments have decision making and funding authorities residing with the Deputy Minister or Minister while others have placed the authority with director generals. As a result, decisions are made by different departments at different times resulting in delays and other challenges to partnerships.
Related to this lack of information is a concern expressed by respondents regarding the high turnover of assistant deputy ministers, director generals and directors involved in SPI, as this often requires a renewed effort in "converting" new people to the value of the SPI single window approach. Respondents commented that there was still an education process to be completed, which would address these misconceptions and knowledge gaps. Additionally, in order to address the perception that SPI is "owned" by AANDC, respondents noted a need for increased support from the Treasury Board of Canada Secretariat to encourage the use of the single window approach and a more coordinated effort at the federal level.
4.1.3 Aboriginal communities engage members/partners and stakeholders on complex regional development initiatives.
Finding: SPI has made progress towards supporting Aboriginal communities in engaging members, partners and stakeholders on complex regional development initiatives.
The evaluation examined the extent to which the program achieved the following outcome: Aboriginal communities engage members/partners and stakeholders on complex regional development initiatives were examined using two key indicators as per the SPI Performance Measurement Strategy:
- number of Memoranda of Understanding/Impact Benefit Agreements, contractual or other agreements established or in the process of negotiation, between Aboriginal communities and public or private sector partners; and
- stakeholder perceptions of Aboriginal community and private sector engagement in economic development initiatives.
Based on data available for fiscal year 2010-2011 through to fiscal year 2012-2013, the following 14 initiatives have been reviewedFootnote 6:
Aboriginal Commercial Fisheries Diversification Initiative
British Columbia mining
Alberta Oil sands
First Nations Energy Mining Council
Northwest Territories Biomass Energy Strategy
North Vancouver Island Exploration Geosciences – First Nation engagement project
First Nation Power Authority (Saskatchewan)
Quebec mining Matimékush Lac-John
Lower Churchill Hydroelectric project (Atlantic)
Ontario Ring of Fire
Ontario off-grid initiative
Aboriginal Forestry Initiative
British Columbia Remote communities electrification initiative
Aboriginal Agriculture Initiative
Modest progress has been made towards supporting Aboriginal communities in engaging members, partners and stakeholders on complex regional development initiatives, specifically through contractual agreements such as Memoranda of Understanding and Impact Benefit Agreements.
For example, the case studies found that SPI had resulted in the following agreements:
- The Forest Industry and Biomass Initiative, undertaken by the Government of the Northwest Territories, has led to a 2014 Forest Management Agreement between the Territorial government and a joint venture company owned by First Nations and Métis;
- The First Nations Power Authority has reached agreements with SaskPower to supply a total of 30 MW of power generation (one agreement is still to be finalized);
- In the Ring of Fire, respondents said that SPI support allowed community chiefs to move ahead on negotiations with the Ontario Government regarding infrastructure for remote communities and some communities have also made significant progress toward Impact Benefit Agreements; and
- In Quebec, the True North Treasure Initiative supported two Aboriginal communities in negotiating successful Impact Benefit Agreements. Other communities are being supported in negotiations underway with mining companies on two other projects.
Case study respondents highlighted specific instances where SPI successfully increased engagement between Aboriginal communities and the private sector regarding economic development:
- In one such instance, it was noted that SPI was successful in addressing conflicts between an Aboriginal community and a local mine regarding an existing Impact Benefit Agreement, which led to a renewed partnership going forward.
- The First Nation Power Authority has also signed an agreement with SaskPower that defines a process for establishing power generation opportunities for First Nations in order to ensure communities, with varying levels of capacity, reach an effective agreement with the provincial utility.
- In the Ring of Fire Initiative, SPI funding has enabled one tribal council to obtain legal advice and training in developing exploration agreements.
Additionally, SPI has focused on laying the groundwork for Aboriginal communities to effectively negotiate future agreements. For example, a current SPI initiative is focused on community planning with the aim of clearly defining community needs in order to form the basis of future negotiations. It is hoped that, by doing so, communities will be better positioned to negotiate Impact Benefit Agreements that truly represent the identified needs of the community rather than focusing on a few specific benefits.
Several interviewees felt, however, that a greater emphasis should be placed on developing partnerships with the private sector going forward. It was felt that a main focus of SPI so far has been partnerships between federal departments and, while that is important, effort should be made to increase the number of private sector partners involved in SPI projects.
4.1.4 Program Outcome: Aboriginal communities are ready to participate in economic development opportunities
Finding: By addressing community readiness through strategic and targeted investment, SPI is achieving progress towards Aboriginal communities being ready to participate in economic development opportunities. However, the concept of community readiness is vaguely defined, which may prove challenging in assessing progress toward this outcome and therefore, may necessitate further consideration of performance information being collected.
The achievement of the program outcome was examined, as per the SPI Performance Measurement Strategy, by:
- evidence of increased community capacity to participate (e.g. Aboriginal people trained or mentored, new business partnerships created, business plans produced and implemented and procurement strategies developed).
Overall, the evidence indicates that by addressing capacity development and community readiness through strategic and targeted investment, SPI has made progress towards this outcome.
Documents reviewed cited a key challenge to ensuring the readiness of Aboriginal communities is the general lack of capacity in the communities, including a need for skilled workers, management capacity, technical capacity of community leaders, and a more thorough knowledge and understanding of the process involved in the developmental projects and their long-term benefits. The Energy Sector Reference Paper from March 2011 noted that few communities had the required skill set in trades, leadership and technical capacity in relation to renewable energy, sustainable development, engagement and project planningFootnote 7.
In case studies as well as interviews, respondents continued to note that capacity building efforts related to engagement and skill and leadership development were required to allow Aboriginal communities to participate more fully in economic development. This increased capacity would allow communities to manage the economic processes themselves, as opposed to letting a developer manage projects for them, and potentially not take the communities' interests into consideration.
A review of data indicates that the majority of reported activities undertaken by initiatives were related to the development and implementation of partnerships, business plans, and procurement strategies, followed by engagement and training activities for both trades and management.
Efforts and progress towards engaging partners and developing relationships were continuously noted in internal progress reports, speaking to the ongoing nature of this particular activity – a pillar of all SPI initiatives. To date, 103 unique partnerships have been established across all initiatives. The collaboration of stakeholders, including Aboriginal organizations, has helped identify a variety of capacity needs at different levels and provided training and engagement activities to target areas, including trade skills development, management skills and training, cultural sensitivity training, negotiations training, and support and guidance in development and implementing business plans.
Across all 19 SPI Initiatives, there were close to 300 reports of activities related to determining needs and increasing the capacity of Aboriginal organizations to benefit from SPI.
The collaborative efforts of the partnerships have resulted in an increased capacity for management as well as skilled workers in the communities. Interviewees and case studies from initiatives that have been concluded indicate that increased capacity has been seen. For example, the Atlantic Commercial Fisheries Diversification Initiative established business development teams to provide technical business development capacity to interested Aboriginal communities. These in turn helped communities to develop proposals, establish business and procurement strategies, as well as establish several new businesses, expand others and create 250 new jobs for the communities involved. The First Nation Power Authority also reflects positive results, particularly noted by interviewees as a successful example of capacity building. Communities that could benefit from the First Nation Power Authority originally did not know how to get involved in the power generation opportunity. However, First Nation Power Authority created a vehicle for agreement negotiation and community education about the power generation industry. This gave the communities the information and capacity to take part in larger economic development opportunities.
Such positive outcomes from earlier initiatives seem to be an encouraging indication for newer initiatives that are just beginning their capacity building and engagement strategies. The British Columbia Liquid Natural Gas project is currently undergoing an engagement strategy that will increase awareness about the Liquid Natural Gas industry and inform communities about the employment opportunities. Similar to earlier initiatives, this will be followed up with feasibility and needs assessments to determine capacity gaps and inform training and business strategies. Another initiative, the Ring of Fire, has also focused on building capacity to increase the communities' ability to participate in discussions with mining companies and the provincial government, as well as increasing environmental capacity and engagement.
However, while planning and implementing business plans and strategies are essential to develop economic business, identifying these factors as indicators of community readiness may be an over extension. Identifying business plans as an indicator may also be problematic as each initiative would involve a business plan of some sort to identify skills and areas of interest. Most initiatives were able to discuss business plans and some others were able to discuss and implement procurement strategies, yet, these tended to revolve around skill development and engagement. As such, a more valid indicator may be required.
The majority of initiatives have demonstrated the considerable effort required before many communities are ready to even start planning for businesses and procurement. Such activities require a healthy community that is willing to engage in the development activities for the longer term, have certain skills within the workforce and management, and have considerable buy-in and understanding from the communities of how the process works and that it will work for them. In light of this, it may be more accurate to determine community readiness via the previously noted factors, and build on them as initiatives have done, as opposed to developing business plans and procurement strategies.
Finally, it was noted during case studies that for unhealthy communities, economic development can be challenging. Sudden increases in economic development and incomes can increase substance abuse, resulting in lost employment, as well as have detrimental impacts on child-rearingFootnote 8 Footnote 9. Further, increased availability of employment can result in decreases in school attendance, as well as a variety in career preparation outside of skills related to the sector-related economic development (i.e. fishing, mining, forestry, etc.)Footnote 10. Other research has indicated that Aboriginal community leaders, due to a lack of understanding in financial management, may struggle with adequately managing an influx of economic resources, resulting in more long-term harm to the community and a loss of investmentFootnote 11.
In light of this, a finding from the case studies suggests that an assessment of current social concerns be considered when assessing economic prosperity, and to potentially put in place programs and/or measures to ensure negative impacts are minimized. This in turn may assist the community to maintain ongoing economic prosperity after SPI is no longer investing in and guiding the economic development of the Aboriginal communities involved.
The evaluation recognizes however that as many of these SPI initiatives are in the developmental stages, there is a great deal of groundwork that needs to be completed before communities are fully prepared to participate in the variety of potential economic opportunities that are available. Overall, however, the evidence indicates that SPI has made progress towards Aboriginal communities being ready to participate in economic development opportunities but more consideration of the performance information being collected is required.
4.1.5 Program Outcome: Federal investments in Aboriginal economic development opportunities are aligned
Finding: There is some evidence that federal investments in Aboriginal economic development opportunities are aligned, however, it is difficult to assess the degree to which investments are aligned.
The achievement of this program outcome was examined, as per the SPI Performance Measurement Strategy, by:
- Evidence of alignment (e.g. development /implementation of comprehensive workplans)
Proposals available for 12 of the initiatives include the articulation of overarching goals, current partners, funding received from SPI, estimated allotment of SPI funds for each planned activity, and the independent initiative governance structure, either planned or in existence.
A review of the process indicates that once proposals are approved, a comprehensive workplan is developed which identifies key players – including federal and non-federal organizations – as well as start up activities (i.e. engagement, training, procurement strategies, and negotiations), which were to be aligned with the overall goal (i.e. new and expanded Aboriginal businesses or other economic development opportunities realized).
Progress reports and summaries reflected the considerable investment and progress made on the beginning stages of workplans. Workplans for those initiatives, approved in 2013, were frequently broken down into their component parts, identified as activities, however, concrete numbers on how many workplans and projects existed are not available. Project summary and expenditure tables provided information for 15 initiatives from 2010-2011 until 2012-2013, two of which were renewed and renamed the following year, and two of which were funded for one year exploratory efforts only.
It is important to note that projects did not have a singular "type", and some incorporated a number of objectives that had some degree of interrelation (i.e. one project may identify any combination of engagement, feasibility analysis, capacity building, research, and procurement activities). Further, as the progress reports and project summaries are reported differently, the following values should be viewed as estimates.
The governance structures developed by the initiatives are designed to help alignment and include interdepartmental working groups and steering committees. Working groups bring together federal and provincial departments, private industry and Aboriginal organizations and help ensure that the actions of these partners are aligned with the objectives for SPI. For example, a document review of Ring of Fire indicates that that the governance structure coordinates the actions and investments of 12 partnering departments and agencies. The Aboriginal Business Development Teams by the Aboriginal Aquaculture Initiative are also a good example. These teams provided ongoing support for investments, and provide business development services to those Aboriginal business people who are interested in using the expertise of the Business Development Teams to improve or build their business. The Labrador Trough initiative also identifies a steering committee comprised of three sub-committees, each with a singular focus related to the end goal of Aboriginal Economic Development. Other initiatives identify that a governance structure has been developed or is being planned and will address and coordinate workplan related activities such as infrastructure-related negotiations, workshops and forums for input on skills and training programs related to the sector.
Generally, document review, interviews, and progress reports suggest that federal investments are aligned; however, there is limited quantitative data available to augment the qualitative and largely anecdotal evidence. While workplans provided some information (including the monies supplied by partners, the estimated SPI monies spent on activities, working group details regarding purpose and focus, and the areas of concentration for departments), this information was not available consistently or with the same level of detail for all initiatives. As such, a thorough analysis that would more clearly identify the degree of alignment with Aboriginal economic development was not available at this time.
Ideally, detailed information regarding the funds transferred from departments and where actual funds were spent (related to activity), should be articulated to have an ongoing measure of alignment.
At this stage, using the development or implementation of comprehensive workplan as an indicator of alignment with departmental objectives may not be appropriate. Specific workplans are reported infrequently, and instead, general details are provided regarding efforts made to increase capacity related to the initiative. Alternatively, reporting requirements may need to be altered in order to address this indicator. Specific details identifying a workplan, with its related activities listed, the roles of each partner, the funding contributed to it, and what needs the activities would address would provide more clear information on the project activities, as well as provide more relevant data on multiple lines of questioning for later assessment.
4.1.6 Program Outcome: Aboriginal communities benefit from federal strategic partnerships and investments
Finding: There is some indication that, communities have benefitted from federal strategic partnerships and investments. However, it is difficult to assess the relative impact of SPI due to both the newness of the initiative, and the fact that its contributions need to be assessed alongside the incremental contributions of other funders and initiatives. SPI programming performance should include performance measures that are laid out in specific projects to provide for a better assessment of economic impacts that are attributable to SPI-supported projects.
Due to the existing capacity of many Aboriginal communities, many initiatives had to "start from scratch" in terms of preparing Aboriginal communities to be ready to engage in economic development. As such, many communities have benefited from involvement with SPI, although perhaps not yet in terms of specific economic opportunities being realized or in businesses being started or expanded. Rather, for many communities, the benefit is in terms of the development that has occurred to make the community ready to engage in economic development opportunities.
Data review indicates that, in total, 489 individual communities have engaged in the initiatives from fiscal year 2010-2011 to fiscal year 2013-2014. In this time, 103 individual partnerships between communities and private, federal, and non-federal organizations have been established. As of yet, the exact number and value of economic development opportunities realized during this timeframe is unavailable, particularly due to SPI still being in its early stages.
Overall, there are 310 reports of progress towards new or expanded Aboriginal Business and other opportunities in Aboriginal communities. This includes feasibility analyses, negotiations and collaboration for business opportunities, inventory assessments, equipment procurement, supply and opportunity assessments, as well as the development of proposals and business plans, resource development specific to business opportunities, and guidance and support supplied to Aboriginal communities to be competitive in a variety of business opportunities. Each of these activities can be translated into benefits for the Aboriginal communities, as they allow greater knowledge sharing and add to the skills and abilities of the people in these communities, which can be applied to community development or with other opportunities.
Due to many of the communities still being in the early stages of initiative development, specific details on opportunities actualized are not yet available. However, one initiative was able to provide more specific details on new or expanded businesses. The Atlantic Commercial Fisheries Diversification Initiative identified 27 businesses that have been impacted by their initiative, either through expansion or creation. Further, there have also been 250 new jobs created, with 31 existing positions maintained. Other SPI Initiatives would do well to establish information collecting mechanisms that allow for this type of meaningful reporting.
As SPI has contributed a portion of the overall investment in these projects, the exact return on investment for SPI cannot be clearly calculated. However, collectively, the Atlantic Commercial Fisheries Diversification Initiative, the British Columbia Tourism Initiative, British Columbia Mining Initiative, Lower Churchill Hydro Initiative, and the First Nation Power Authority, anticipate combined revenues of an estimated $2.2 billion by 2016.
As discussed above, broader impacts, whether economic or social, are very difficult to measure for a number of reasons. Perhaps the most significant limitation is the ability to attribute any observed changes to the incremental contribution of SPI funding. Presumably, social impacts could be measured using time series measures from the National Household Survey to compare changes over time between "like" communities on economic and social indicators. Specifically, one could examine community-level data on income and labour force at multiple census years (i.e., 1996 to 2015) to see whether any increase is above the trends of other communities (controlling for isolation, region and population) and regressing any changes against the relative size of projects supported by SPI. However, with a myriad of other projects related or unrelated to government economic development investments, and other factors that may impact social and economic development, it is likely that impacts of SPI would be lost in measurement error and the measure of its relative impact obscured.
It is therefore essential for SPI investments to include, in Terms and Conditions or Contribution Agreements, some protocols for the measure of economic and social impacts. Specifically, when a project is funded it should have measures in place to assess job growth; proxy measures of economic growth and measures of long-term viability of business opportunities that are spun off of SPI-supported initiatives. It is also important to do this strategically and purposefully so as not to increase the reporting burden to recipients or participants. Thus, consideration should be given to emphasising reporting requirements for performance and reducing other compliance or administrative reporting requirements that may not be necessary.