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November 9–10, 2010
This report was produced under contract with Indian and Northern Affairs Canada (INAC) by a firm of independent conference content specialists whose responsibility was to capture and synthesize as accurately as possible the discussions from this engagement session. Opinions expressed are those of the individual participants cited and should not be considered as endorsed by INAC.
Released in June 2009, the Federal Framework for Aboriginal Economic Development provides a new and comprehensive approach to Aboriginal economic development that reflects the significant, real and growing opportunities for Aboriginal people in Canada. The Framework provides for a focused, government-wide approach that is responsive to new and changing economic conditions and leverages partnerships to address persistent barriers that impede the full participation of Aboriginal people in the Canadian economy.
While the Framework represents a modern and strategic approach to Aboriginal economic development, several of the economic development programs delivered by Indian and Northern Affairs Canada have been in place for many years and need to be updated in order to be more responsive to the unique needs and opportunities of First Nations, Metis and Inuit.
In keeping with the Government of Canada's commitment to develop meaningful partnerships with stakeholders, Indian and Northern Affairs Canada organized a series of national and regional stakeholder engagement sessions to obtain input on how Aboriginal economic development programs may be renovated to better meet the needs of Aboriginal people across Canada.
These sessions took place from May to December 2010 and focused on obtaining input from individuals and organizations with direct experience in Aboriginal economic development. The process also focused on building and strengthening existing partnerships with all stakeholders and determining the unique needs and goals of First Nations, Metis and Inuit as they relate to economic development. In total, nineteen sessions took place reaching approximately 860 stakeholders.
All of the input obtained during the regional engagement sessions was captured by a firm of independent conference content specialists. The content specialists have carefully synthesized the feedback received from the Manitoba regional stakeholder engagement session and prepared this final report. The report captures the discussions from the Manitoba session including details regarding the aspects of programming that stakeholders consider to be working well, areas requiring improvement and key recommendations regarding priorities for funding and changes to program design and delivery.
The input provided by stakeholders, as detailed in the report, is now being used to inform program renovation options for the lands, business and community economic development programs administered by INAC.
The purpose of the meeting was to seek feedback from First Nations in Manitoba on how programs may be changed to better meet their needs, in line with the strategic objectives of the new Federal Framework for Aboriginal Economic Development.
Over two days, First Nation community economic development representatives were asked for their thoughts on how Indian and Northern Affairs Canada (INAC) programs could be made more useful and relevant to First Nations under the new Federal Framework for Aboriginal Economic Development.
Elder, Thunderbird House
Chief, Brokenhead Ojibway First Nation
Treaty One Territory
Regional Manager, Economic and Business Development
Lands and Economic Development
Indian and Northern Affairs Canada
Beverly O'Neil thanked participants for coming and thanked the Brokenhead Ojibway First Nation for welcoming the group into its territory. She introduced Elder Larry Monkman from Thunderbird House in Winnipeg to offer an opening song and prayer.
Ms. O'Neil said there would be a few presentations to launch discussions, as well as a series of Audience Response System instant-reply questions.
Audience Response System (ARS) Questions 1–4
Q1. Are you
Q2. Is your community located in
Q3. In which area do you primarily work? (You may select more than one response.)
Q4. Do you work for
Ms. O'Neil introduced Chief Deborah Chief, of Brokenhead Ojibway First Nation Treaty One Territory, the first chief in Manitoba to obtain a master's degree in business administration.
Chief Chief said this event was being held in a casino owned by seven First Nations. "It's been an opportunity for our community to benefit by creating businesses of our own, for our people to have more jobs and be able to work in the community." She said her community's goal is to be self-sufficient by 2020. "It's a big challenge, but that's our vision."
Dustin Remillard welcomed participants on behalf of INAC's Manitoba regional office.
ARS Questions 5–7
Q5. How familiar are you with INAC's current community economic development and business development programs?
Q6. How familiar are you with INAC's current lands and environmental management programs?
Q7. How familiar are you with INAC's current business development programs?
Director General, Policy and Coordination Branch
Lands and Economic Development
Indian and Northern Affairs Canada - Headquarters
Allan Clarke said he anticipated participants at the session "should be able to provide us with some insight on our suite of programs, how they function, and how they should function ideally."
One participant asked, "Why have the Métis been invited here? I feel out of place."
Mr. Clarke replied that INAC invited a broad cross-section of people to sessions across Canada. From the material INAC has developed, "you can see the broad scope of activities we're responsible for: a constituency on- and off-reserve, remote and urban, a whole suite of different programs."
He said the land development sector addresses the importance of economic development for First Nations, Inuit, and Métis across Canada.
The last time Canada looked at this subject was in 1989 with the Canadian Aboriginal Economic Development Strategy. Since then, needs, opportunities, challenges, and relationships with the Crown have changed considerably. Aboriginal people represent the fastest-growing segment of Canada's population; more land resources are coming under First Nations control; and the private sector is more interested in working with the Aboriginal sector.
In 2008 the government decided a new economic strategy was needed, and it began developing a framework for Aboriginal economic development, meeting with some 40–50 organizations. It found labour, business, community economic development, lands and environmental management operated in discrete silos.
"We wanted to look at the broader implications of economic development—things like the economic base, structure, climate, laws, regulations, fiscal relationships," Mr. Clarke said, adding that appropriate land and environmental management is critical to community economic development. The new Framework is intended to "inspire all departments," he said, noting that 128 departments and agencies have some measure of responsibility for programs affecting First Nations.
There are a number of impediments, he added. "The Indian Act is the most successful piece of anti-business development ever devised." He cited anecdotal stories about First Nation communities that are doing much better than neighbouring municipalities, yet whose cost of capital is much higher.
Ways around those impediments must be found. For example, Human Resources and Skills Development Canada (HRSDC) recently renewed its labour market programming, aligning it with the Framework. Deficit capacity needs to be implemented, and INAC "has to be much more nimble. We are not meeting the bar with the need for speed."
Ways must be found to leverage money more efficiently, enable access to land resources and capital, resolve specific claims, and expand limited financing options. "Clearly, there has to be some give on that," said Mr. Clarke.
He listed strategic priorities:
Mr. Clarke said the new Federal Framework, released in June 2009, supplies about $50 million a year more to build land managers' capacity, certify more Aboriginal businesses, invest in new ways of improving access to capital, and get other federal partners involved with concrete ideas.
Program renovation will align programs and funding with the new Framework and new priorities. Lands management "seems to be a major impediment," he said. "How can we improve or accelerate some of these transactions that are so critical to business development and to attracting investment on reserves?"
Programs must align visions and strategic priorities, and the federal Treasury Board offers "a lot of flexibility which INAC has not pulled down and used." INAC has had audits on all its programs and will use those to help simplify and integrate program processes and make them more responsive. Learning from successes across Canada is important in helping to build capacity into "the best darn Aboriginal financial institution (AFI) network we can have."
Programs must respond to needs and different conditions, Mr. Clarke added. "We tend to get in the way of some of the programs we manage and the delivery functions as well. INAC needs to build capacity internally to provide the services it's supposed to provide in an increasingly complex environment." And INAC must ensure a common understanding of "what we're doing, how well we're doing, and how we're getting there." Sessions like this are part of that effort, as have been themed sessions and acceptance of recommendations and submissions. Once the sessions are completed, INAC will advise the minister on program renovations.
Feedback so far indicates INAC is "not doing a very good job about what's on offer, what we are doing, and why are we doing it,' Mr. Clarke said. However, the department is examining ways of streamlining and simplifying application procedures and reporting requirements and hopes to introduce some changes as soon as April 2011.
Ms. O'Neil recapped some of Mr. Clarke's observations regarding the creation of an economic base, which, she said, takes time. "Aboriginal communities that have made great strides tend to be the ones with solid economic bases," she said. She asked participants to consider what changes in climate, policy, cash flow, feedback, and awareness of programs are required and what tools they need for their people and communities to move forward.
INAC's current suite of programs falls into three categories: Aboriginal entrepreneurship, community opportunities, and lands and environmental management. Ms. O'Neil asked each table in the room to consider which INAC programs work and which do not. One person from each table reported back on the key points raised during the discussion.
Participants at one table said programs "generally worked fairly well for participants who were aware of them. But we felt there was a lack of awareness of programs out there." The Community Economic Development Program (CEDP) is underfunded, and it is feared CEDP funds may be cut because "they were viewed as electoral rewards, and people at the table felt that wasn't a fair comment."
Participants said they felt economic development officers (EDOs) are the only ones who go directly to the community; there is not enough money in equity programs or business development programs; and land in First Nation properties should be considered an asset, not a liability.
Regarding relationships with regional staff, a participant said, "If you took the time to develop them yourself, they're pretty good, but a lot of these EDO positions don't have an EDO or one that's been in place for long enough to develop those relationships." More money, less reporting, and more trained EDOS as well as direct funding for training EDOs are needed.
Participants at another table suggested there is not enough access to resources and that relationship building between INAC, First Nations, economic development corporations, and other off-reserve stakeholders, like provinces and municipalities, must be strengthened. On- and off-reserve environmental processes must be harmonized to avoid duplication of processes at different levels of government. More flexible funding arrangements would make for more realistic working timelines. Flexibility in eligibility for programs, more streamlined reporting, multi-year funding arrangements, and more community economic development planning are needed, so programs respond to community needs, not INAC requirements.
Participants at another table said they do not know much about land management, but "we know there's funding for economic and business plans. Equity is a big, big problem. It doesn't matter how good a businessman you are if you don't have money to invest. There's no seed capital." Different communities have different capacities; ones with seed capital can work with programs, where those with no equity cannot access programs for economic growth.
At one table, the Loan Loss Reserve, major project funding, and the differences between land management officers, business support officers, and EDOs and how they work together were major issues.
At another table, participants said land designation is "a really long process," and economic opportunity programs are not available to individuals. "The Community Economic Opportunities Program (CEOP) no longer fits well with community objectives," said that table's representative. "We don't have too much information about the loan loss program, but we know it's not supportive of Aboriginal financial institutions." There is too much administrative work in applying to programs, and it is "sometimes not worth the burden." The equity program was working well, but "there's very little equity component any more, and reinstating something along those lines might be called for," said the table's representative.
Participants at the last table said a lot of money has been accessed through CEOP, but there have been many problems with the equity side. CEDP needs increased funding. "It certainly does a lot for the community in terms of developing business," said this table's representative. Finally, land designation is not clearly understood. "From what we understand, the land has to be designated in order to lease to individuals or community businesses."
Ms. O'Neil said when people are aware of programs and how to use them, the programs work pretty well, but relationships are the key.
She summarized common themes the tables identified:
ARS Questions 8-11
Q8. Are deficits in infrastructure impeding your community's ability to pursue economic development opportunities?
Q9. Is access to your community by
Q10. Is the type of access to your community a factor when planning and timing infrastructure-related projects?
Q11. What energy service does your community have?
Senior Policy Advisor
Community Infrastructure Branch
Indian and Northern Affairs Canada
Michael Rice said he would speak mostly about increasing the financial envelope by leveraging existing infrastructure to create a "bigger financial pie."
For example, his Kahnawake band has a housing program working with a credit union creating funding pools the band owns and controls, so they "don't have to wait on or rely on government."
Sources of financing are not the sole focus: improving the life cycle of the assets is important. INAC is seeking input to review and develop viable options for financial tools available to First Nations, he said. Currently, "we're stuck with just cash-based government grants." New financial mechanisms and alternative financial sources, including banks and partnerships with financial institutions, must be developed to access capital in the private sector and lever it.
INAC is currently the major source for on-reserve infrastructure, with $1 billion a year available. On First Nations, there is no debt financing; everything is cash-based. Each year, requests total more than $1 billion. Funding allocation is based on health and safety priorities, and leveraging infrastructure is very low priority. This approach for infrastructure "is not working," said Mr. Rice. "It's unsustainable. High-priority capital needs outstrip available budget each year."
Current funding models also cannot respond to the diversity of First Nation communities. And, he added, "How can you make a community plan when your funding only comes on a year-by-year basis?"
Needs are diverse, and how infrastructure is funded must reflect that. "Not all tools will work for all communities." Alternative sources of funds, like market financing, partnerships, user fees, alternative financial institutions, the First Nations Finance Authority, and public-private partnerships (P3s) should be explored. Stable funding streams could lever access to market-based financing, called public financing. "Then people could put aside money each year to build up assets, handle repairs. If you know what your long-term financing is, you can plan."
Accessing private financing is difficult, but INAC is working with a number of First Nations looking at the P3 approach to supply not only their needs but the needs of neighbouring municipalities as well.
Small or remote First Nations can lack capacity for infrastructure construction, and there are still too many instances where "we don't have enough social capital among ourselves. And that's what's killing us in some respects."
INAC is now looking at innovative pilot project ideas. "For change to work, it has to be driven by First Nation groups at the ground level," said Mr. Rice. "From my experience, I can tell you people may be scared, but financial literacy develops; you develop a trust relationship with financiers; and it has its benefits. You can get on the phone with the financier. It's something we have to do among ourselves, too, with our financial institutions."
A participant asked, "You mentioned pilot projects. In what capacity?"
Mr. Rice replied that INAC would help with support and guidance and "making sure you're on the right path, accessing soft costs. Dealing with financiers—that's my bag. It's like coaching support." Projects could include water, sewer, roads, bridges, buildings, and so on. He said there are different types and layers of infrastructure. A community plan would entail all types, and with each, envelopes exist for cash-based or market-based financing. Most municipalities borrow and service loans by either taxes or user fees. "I'm looking at First Nations maybe doing that."
One participant suggested focusing on a "parcel of treaty land entitlement" project in Manitoba, where reserves are usually surrounded by municipal infrastructures, to which the reserves add on to service their own properties. "Sometimes municipalities are providing services we feel should be paid for by INAC, but in any case, we're paying someone for these services."
Another participant pointed out a sewer and water facility in his community that was outdated by 40 years, and INAC "was trying to say it was good for another 20." He asked how to accommodate those needs without INAC.
Mr. Rice took note of the concern.
Ms. O'Neil said the challenge for participants at this session was to identify ways to improve the financing of infrastructure. She said, "Trust relationships are very important."
Audience Response System (ARS) Question 12
Q12. How familiar are you with INAC's community infrastructure program?
Participants in one group reported little experience with infrastructure borrowing but thought pilot projects would be a good way of getting experience. Some said housing, water, and sewer infrastructure, technology, and schools need financing. Regarding borrowing, they said a plan must be in place and people need to know what they want to talk about to a financier.
Participants identified a need for stronger relationships with funding agencies and a need to acquire financing tools; there is lack of experience with innovative tools, but keen interest in learning. The focus still seems to be on process, not outcomes and outputs, when community development projects are implemented.
The Reserve Land and Environment Management Program (RLEMP) could be used for project partnerships. The more partners, the more risk is spread. The scale of projects can be increased, and the private sector can be approached for funding and partnerships. Pilot projects would help seed change, and INAC could provide marketing and materials to help. More money is needed for planning, and knowledge exchange about concepts of financing and debt management would be helpful, as would diversifying communications methods.
Another group noted that projects undertaken with debt financing were almost entirely commercial infrastructure, not community infrastructure. Financing sources were banks, private equity, Community Futures funds, AFIs, and credit unions.
This group made several recommendations:
Participants in another group said reserve projects like community buildings, water treatment, and, in one community, a police station built for the RCMP all required debt financing. They proposed the difference between social and commercial infrastructures could be defined broadly: social infrastructure enhances the quality of life in communities and provides services—power, water, electricity, recreation center and facilities, schools, cultural opportunities, transport (water, air, and ground), and housing.
The group members agreed INAC cannot use this exercise as an opportunity to "ignore fiduciary responsibility in funding infrastructure" that flows back to historic treaties still not being honoured. Social infrastructure must continue, and commercial infrastructure should be there as well. Financing should be provided and facilitated, and INAC must pay the principal and interest, provide government guarantees, and pay those guarantees.
Projects where communities received debt financing were not perceived as INAC projects. Resulting infrastructures were independent assets and did not require reporting to INAC.
INAC projects must consider long-term community needs. Currently, for example, if a school for 800 is needed, INAC may say 600 is enough capacity, and the school is already too small when it opens and must be expanded immediately, or another one built.
Government must pay operating and management costs and must recognize that in isolated communities, skilled people will not have enough work to sustain them. Expertise costs money, whether on a permanent basis or as needed. Funding should be by position, not per capita.
As well, INAC must recognize technological change; infrastructure systems must evolve and be supported—for example, broadband. Business cannot be done today without the Internet, and it saves money in the long term. Provinces should be more involved with First Nations infrastructure in areas like energy. INAC has ignored mid- and long-term community needs. Government should also recognize Aboriginal-developed infrastructure in an area and not duplicate it—for example, an Aboriginal-developed Internet system already existed in one location, and the government funded a second system.
One participant commented that the facilitator's use of the word "archaic" in reference to treaties "undermined what our treaties mean to us as treaty people. Our treaties are living documents passed down to us from our ancestors. These are treaties we are still trying to get government to live up to and honour. If government honoured treaty systems as they were written, many of our First Nations would not be in the boat that they are today. I did not appreciate our treaties being referred to as archaic."
The facilitator apologized, saying, "I did not mean to offend. It was a poor choice of words on my part and I apologize to anyone I offended. It was not my intent."
Audience Response System (ARS) Question 13
Q13. Does your community currently have infrastructure projects that are awaiting INAC funding to proceed?
The new federal Framework represents a fundamental change in how government supports economic development, but some programs are more than 20 years old, "so let's look at them and think what they could and should be like, and how they could work for you and your communities," said Mr. Clarke.
Treaties "are a very important part of what we do," he said, and the regional engagement sessions have heard "consistently across Canada that the current state of implementation of these rights and treaties continues to be of concern."
Participants in one group said even with programs that do work, "there's room for improvement." The Community Support Services Program (CSSP), currently capped at $100,000 with headquarters required to approve higher amounts, needs a funding increase. This group also recommended simplifying the application and shortening the wait for approvals.
An equity program is needed, along with a pool of funds "that could be used to support any project." Regarding INAC staff, trained EDOs or business people with the skills to broker with other government departments and with private industry should evaluate projects, and the review approach should "focus on how to make this project work instead of how to make it fit the program."
The skills and expertise needed to make a project happen should be identified, and projects should be linked to HRSDC to identify gaps and capacity needs.
Aboriginal Business Canada (ABC) once had an aftercare component providing financial support to projects or businesses already developed but needing specific expertise to move forward. If that component "doesn't currently exist, reinstate it and enhance it. If it does exist, enhance it and make sure it links with HRSDC."
More business development officers could foster new entrepreneurial skills, sometimes as simple as invoice preparation, and provide aftercare.
Linkage to the Canadian Executive Service Organization (CESO) could help explore and identify emerging opportunities in existing or new sectors or opportunities external to homelands.
Barriers this group identified include remote locations, lack of money, and capacity issues. Under capacity issues, they said the following are needed:
Participants in another group listed programs that "need fixing in many cases" but that "in principle shouldn't be thrown out":
Barriers to progress currently include the following:
Participants said capacity development must be defined at community levels, not from the top down, and comprehensive community planning must be funded. Both would "begin to address differences in capacity" between larger, better-off First Nations and those "that lack the capacity to even get started."
Participants in another group said they felt a number of programs work well: the Manitoba Economic Development Advisory Committee (MEDAC) and regional INAC offices; monies from CSSP that allow flexibility with regional authorities; business development officer funding, which should be expanded; and CEDP, which provides direct funds to communities.
Change is needed in equity funding, where an option for no-equity clients could help bridge equity gaps, as could interest-free loans with moratoriums on repayment for a year. The latter should go through an institution like Community Futures to help diversify the flow of money. More clearly defined criteria for training applications would be useful, as would bringing back equity funding for individual projects and entrepreneurs, with support for existing small-business owners who need more assets for things like marketing.
EDOs need to be supported with dedicated funding to access programs, support for economic planning in communities, and help accessing available portfolios and programs. Capacity gaps between various First Nations and regions and access for those in need must be addressed. As well, there should be organized forms of mentorship and more programs targeting research and community analysis.
"The primary intent of program renovation is to make sure the programs work for the client, that they're useful, relevant, and align with the priorities of the Framework" and with local conditions in affected communities, said Mr. Clarke.
He said this discussion would revolve around a number of questions:
As well, he asked the groups to discuss administrative and service standards—how programs are managed. "Ultimately, we're trying to support the functions a local government needs, to maintain conditions for economic development. How we manage programs doesn't align with stimulating investment in the community," Mr. Clarke said.
Finally, he asked, what service standards should be expected of INAC?
Participants listed several priorities for economic funding:
Participants in one group mentioned numerous concerns over program management, citing insufficient money for Métis groups, inconsistent levels of access to funding in various communities, and competition for funding, which creates a "spirit of non-cooperation." They said the federal government should conduct an internal reassessment of all programs, and EDOs should receive base funding.
Participants in another group said their overriding concern is the question of whether the entire engagement session process is "just to justify decisions already made." They cited the example of the Loan Loss Reserve where, even as INAC was talking to Aboriginal capital corporations about the shape of the LLR, "it already had an RFP out to 22 financial institutions. So is this a real process, or is it to justify decisions already made?"
First Nations are INAC's only partners; without First Nations, INAC would not exist, participants said. When will First Nation economic development be stated as a federal economic priority, they asked.
The group recommended base funding for qualified, professional EDOs for every community, covering attractive salaries and benefits and operating, marketing, and travel funding over and above base. Premium funding should be based on factors like geography and the need of a particular community for capacity building, not on population as the prime driver.
Participants in another group said funding has to be responsive to community needs. Every community should have a trained EDO who fills one role, not multi-tasking. Base funding should be $150,000—with $70,000 for salary and the balance for travel, employer burdens like operations and marketing, and training.
The group noted MEDAC has been looking at developing a tool kit and funding programs.
INAC needs staff skilled and knowledgeable in business, with no high turnover. Their approach should not be "how does the project fit in the program," but they should "look at the project and say how can we do it?" Multi-year funding should be implemented. Program applications and reports are being lost at INAC. "Improve the filing system," participants said.
Once economic plans are in place, equity funding is needed, as are training dollars. "Priorities need to be responsive." Land designation should be done up front. Community plans require funding for implementation, and strong, stable, skilled governance and financial policies should be in place, along with good management processes and reporting, basic infrastructure, qualified staff, and program support for community development.
There are roughly seven First Nations in Manitoba involved in the pilot program RLEMP, where a community must qualify by having land transactions. More First Nations need information about this program, and perhaps components of it could be accessible to communities that do not quality for the whole program. The lands designation process is far too slow to enable economic development, participants added.
Contact information for Stacy Czarecki, regional coordinator for RLEMP, is 204-983-3655. Manitoba's co-chair is Gordon Bluesky.
ARS Questions 22–27
Q22. What type of economic opportunities primarily exist in your community? Please rank them in the order from the most prevalent to the least prevalent.
Q23. The following five issues are often described as important obstacles to accessing INAC's lands and economic development programming. Please rank them in the order in which you consider they impede access, from the most important obstacle to the least important.
Q24. Has your community generally been successful when applying for and accessing funding from INAC's Community Economic Opportunities Program?
Q25. Has your community or individuals in your community generally been successful applying and accessing funding from INAC's Aboriginal Business Development Program (ABDP)?
Q26. Please rank the following types of programming in order of importance to your community, from most important to least important.
Q27a. As a current or potential recipient of lands and economic development program funding, what method of receiving funding would you prefer?
Participants noted there can be two types of development corporations, band or external, so the question was reformulated and re-asked:
Q27a. As a current or potential recipient of lands and economic development program funding, what method of receiving funding would you prefer?
The groups were asked to consider questions defining the speed of business, how programs and processes can be made to respond in a more timely way, and what processing times should be.
Participants in one group stressed the need for aligning decision making and approvals with project life cycles, fewer control mechanisms, getting rid of the word "program" in favour of "fund" or "investment," and multi-year commitments.
Service standards should see 30-day approval times and revisit the last-in rule where INAC is the last funder, because that impedes leverage and increases risk. INAC needs a service orientation, "not a gatekeeping orientation"; should visit and build relationships with communities; should stop duplicating due diligence that has already been done by lending institutions; should stop micro-managing; and should get a database to house "tombstone data" so it does not have to be re-entered every time an application or report is made. Economic and lands development programs need better alignment; block funding across programs would support harmonization. Finally, equity funding must be revived.
Participants in another group noted changes in technology have changed the speed of business, making it even more incompatible with bureaucracy. Approvals should have 14- to 30-day turnaround times, be more flexible and responsive, enable multi-year funding, and allow regional authority spending level increases, from $100,000 to a range of $250,000–$500,000. Application templates and how-to guides would help, as would an understanding of INAC's internal processes for applications.
Land transactions should be completed within one to two years, not five to 10 years. Real estate law must be understood; multiple governments must work together in strategic partnerships; and INAC must have a better response system, resourced to service demand. Communities must have tools to better understand the reserve creation process.
Participants in another group said Aboriginal business development programs are often avoided because they are too slow, with unclear program criteria open to varying interpretations. Banks are clear, and take one to two weeks for approvals. ABDP can fund only up to $1 million dollars, regardless of the size of a project, but size should not matter, participants said. Approval should require only a week. Regional authorities need allowable spending limits increased to a minimum of $250,000.
Business planning services and workshops and business plan tool kits are needed, as are explanations of what defines qualified applicants. If needed, assistance to prepare plans should be provided. Programs must make dollars accessible to communities facing financial challenges.
ABDP should provide 50% funding to applicants, whether or not they have equity. The $1 million cap in cash contributions should be removed, and ABDP should invest in going concerns, which is currently not allowed. ABC needs qualified staff and must increase its accountability to First Nations. CEOP contribution dollars are working okay. Financial planning software should be made freely available, as should aftercare services, including mentors.
AFIs should be enabled to achieve capital bases, so they can be sustainable themselves. Aboriginal business development programs and criteria need to be adjusted so GST is covered as an expense.
Consulting fee amount limits should be reviewed to become industry-driven and in line with the sizes of planned projects. Core staff funding and multi-year funding are needed to implement projects, and carry-over funding should be possible.
Mr. Clarke said one of the goals of the current program renovation is to integrate more fully the lands and environmental management function with economic development. That could have implications for the nature and types of funding, as well as "operations on the ground in the department, on how we manage the program." Some changes have been made; regional directors have been created who are responsible for lands and economic development. Local government must support economic development, bringing land development together with EDOs.
INAC is "also cognizant of the need for a basic level of support funding, finance, and economic development," he added. And officers from the Council for the Advancement of Native Development Officers could probably improve capacity development initiatives.
Most people agree qualified EDOs and economic development planners are needed, Mr. Clarke said.
A participant asked about things that had not been mentioned, like loan loss and private ownership of property, which Manitoba bands are opposed to.
Mr. Clarke replied there is a distinction between local government functions, business development functions, and capital corporations. AFIs are now a credible group of institutions, and INAC should work with the National Aboriginal Capital Corporations Association and AFIs "to make them the best they can be," he said.
Regarding matters like private ownership on reserve land, Mr. Clarke said, "That's a very big issue and requires an incredible amount of work to understand what it means, ramifications, whether it is possible legally, or even desirable."
The government has indicated it thinks economic development is a priority, and "it's up to us to put the wheels under that thing and make it as robust as we can," he said.
One thing that has to happen around INAC programs is that success stories must be told, facilitator Terence Wade said. That requires defining and measuring successes. Some, like quality of life, are considered soft data. He asked the table groups to discuss their thoughts about what constitutes success.
ARS Question 28
Q28. The following five issues are often described as significant contributors to the reporting burden faced by INAC program funding recipients. Please rank them in the order in which you consider they increase the reporting burden, from the most burdensome to the least burdensome contributor.
Participants at the first table said many community members measure business profitability, the number of jobs created, and the number of businesses getting developed. One reserve has information fairs where programs set up booths in a hall, and about 200 people generally come through. "We find them more successful than community meetings," the participant said. Performance indicators include the amount of money that goes out, the number of businesses started, leverage of dollars, equity, and success in getting EDOs in each community.
This participant also said downloadable forms on the INAC website are not the ones INAC actually uses. "And the website needs work," he concluded.
Participants at another table were mostly from the Manitoba Métis Federation (MMF), so, noted their representative, "we may be too Métis-specific in our answer." Their key measures of success are the financial stability and sustainability of the MMF itself, which would enable it to measure the income of Métis people and track business growth and start-up and larger job numbers. The MMF reports to its community annually at its AGM and by regular communication vehicles. To make INAC more user-friendly, "outcomes should be the focus, not the process," he said.
Participants at the next table said success measures include progress on a strategic plan for achieving economic development, tracking retained earnings by actual dollars, improvements in roads, sewers, asset growth in buildings and other hard assets, increasing quality of life, and jobs. Land management success would be measured by the number of commercial and land leases, "and maybe having a land management plan."
The group representative said he reports annually to the community's economic development organization.
Performance indicators measuring program impacts would include closing the Human Development Index gap between average Canadians and people on reserves. He also said INAC should eliminate micro-management in some of its compliance reporting.
Participants at another table said they measure success in employment created, profits, and land leased to generate revenue. Written quarterly reports inform the community, as does a joint report to council. At community workshops, plans being developed are outlined and displayed, along with audits for businesses. Increased activities within programs are the way to assess performance of renovated INAC programs, said this table's representative.
Reporting to INAC could be made more useful with less paperwork, more accurate statistics, and less duplication of information filing—although, he noted, "you can put outrageous things in your reports and nobody gets back to you. We don't know if anybody's checking them."
Participants at the final table said their community has a community plan and an economic development plan setting goals and objectives; among the most important of them are employment and generation of new businesses. An annual general meeting and local media enable reporting back to the community, and a performance indicator brochure has been developed that "outlines it pretty well." Regarding INAC, a database with online data entry and information from the INAC departments would enable more efficient pulling together of required information, cut down duplication, and speed up the release of funding.
ARS Questions 29–30
Q29. What was the best thing about this engagement session?
Q30. When do you think INAC will have finished implementing the recommendations from this session?
Mr. Clarke summarized some major observations made by participants:
Mr. Clarke said the current round of program renovation should be able to address these points. Other observations he noted during the sessions include the following:
Mr. Clarke said planning is essential for major economic projects, and INAC should support community economic capacity development with knowledge building, expertise, and response to the growing complexity of economic requests. Each community should have an EDO.
Regarding service standards, "it would be nice to have some," he observed, including an up-to-date information tracking system.
INAC should get out of its activity-based reporting model and into performance-based reporting. It should ensure reporting and application procedures make sense, reduce the reporting burden, use existing tools and not create new ones, and not require repeated reporting of information that is already available—tombstone information.
"Some things we can do in the short term, and over the medium term we can find ways to adjust how programs are working," said Mr. Clarke, adding that written submissions from anyone interested in offering them are welcome. Changes to programs will "probably be incremental so people can adjust, but we'd certainly like to get a few things under way as soon as possible."
Finally, he said, these engagement sessions are not events: they are processes that should be ongoing and continuing. "Why not bring all the different parties together once a year or every two years and share information about what's working and what's not?"
One participant said Winnipeg has an annual economic development program called Vision Quest. The 15th conference will be in May 2011.
Elder Larry Monkman thanked the participants and gave the closing prayer.