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November 22–23, 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 Saskatchewan regional stakeholder engagement session and prepared this final report. The report captures the discussions from the Saskatchewan 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 and Métis in Saskatchewan on how economic development and lands programs might be changed to better meet their needs, in line with the strategic objectives of the new Federal Framework for Aboriginal Economic Development.
Acting Director, Lands and Economic Development
Saskatchewan Regional Office, Indian and Northern Affairs Canada
Lorne Koback welcomed the participants and introduced Elder Danny Musqua, who led the opening prayer.
Mr. Koback introduced the INAC staff and his fellow facilitators and explained there would be 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
Darren Svedahl welcomed the conference participants and thanked them for coming.
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, Program Renovation and Renewal Directorate
Lands and Economic Development
Indian and Northern Affairs Canada - Headquarters
INAC's program renovation and renewal process has been going on for the past 18 months, focused primarily on dialogue with stakeholders, said Jennifer Cairnie.
In June 2009, the federal government introduced the new Federal Framework for Aboriginal Economic Development, the first new policy framework since the implementation of the Canadian Aboriginal Economic Development Strategy (CAEDS) in 1989. Ms. Cairnie said INAC did not have an updated policy framework to reflect the real changing conditions in economic development across the country for Aboriginal Canadians until last year when this new framework was established.
While CAEDS focused on three primary areas—community economic development, business development, and labour market development—it fell short in one key area: governance of the overall strategy within the federal government. INAC had three "stove-piped" program areas that were not really working together at all, making it quite difficult for communities to access the resources, services, and tools they needed on a timely basis, Ms. Cairnie said.
Within the new Framework, a key priority is developing a solid governance structure that brings willing partners to the table and ensures that they are accountable for making their programs work in a collaborative and co-operative manner.
The end measure for success with CAEDS was employment creation, but with significant changes in Aboriginal communities over the past number of years, communities are now looking beyond simple employment to being partners on projects and owners of projects.
Given this different role communities are playing, they now need access to different tools and services, Ms. Cairnie said. Part of the point of the current engagement process is for INAC to understand how the programs and policies can be made more practical so they will actually have an impact at the community level.
Ms. Cairnie said the new Federal Framework has five strategic priorities:
The federal government announced new funding of $50 million per year for four years as part of the action plan to support the implementation of the new Framework. Most of the new investments will support existing programs that did not have secure, ongoing, year-over-year funding, such as the Procurement Strategy for Aboriginal Business (PSAB), and Additions to Reserve in Saskatchewan and Manitoba.
A new program being supported by the new funding is the Strategic Partnerships Initiative (SPI), which brings federal departments together to align resources in their existing programs to target common priorities in specific sectors of the economy. SPI will function as a catalyst to bring together the federal departments that have a role to play so they can understand the needs of the community and understand what existing programs can do to support the community. If there is a programming gap, SPI has funding that can fill that gap. Under this program, a lead federal agency on a particular initiative will manage all processes on behalf of all the federal agencies and departments involved, for the purpose of streamlining application and reporting processes, Ms. Cairnie said.
There are several other key drivers of change as INAC undertakes the renovation of its programs. These include Treasury Board's new Policy on Transfer Payments, introduced in 2008, which allows for multi-year funding, and the Canadian Northern Economic Development Agency (CanNor), which supports Aboriginal economic development programming for Aboriginal communities and businesses in the territories.
Ms. Cairnie said program audits and evaluations done over the past several years have indicated that INAC's programs are having a positive impact but that there are things that can be done to improve the programs to make them more efficient. Clients' needs are a key driver, as there is a growing recognition that program objectives must reflect changing economic conditions and the unique needs of First Nation, Métis, and Inuit communities.
The Community Economic Development Program (CEDP) is an example of that: it is old and has not been adjusted for a number of years; it is based on outdated population formulas and not on any factors that have to do with economic development. Ms. Cairnie also said INAC wants to get away from the one-size-fits-all delivery model and be able to talk to people about the unique circumstances in their particular province or geographic location in an effort to be as flexible as possible in its program delivery.
Ms. Cairnie said that over the two-day engagement session, she hoped participants would talk about their experiences with INAC programs, provide their observations on how the programs are working or not working, offer suggestions for what INAC could do to make improvements, and perhaps come up with some ideas that are brand-new.
She briefly reviewed the current suite of INAC economic development programs:
"The renovation process is not about change for the sake of change: it's about building on success and trying to change programs to make them work better for the community; it's about taking the things off the table that are not working, and replacing them with ideas and concepts that will work," Ms. Cairnie said. She added that INAC does not expect to see additional program funding for economic development and will be working with its existing resources of approximately $200 million.
She listed the key achievements INAC is seeking:
Ms. Cairnie said INAC is getting close to the end of the stakeholder engagement process, which began in May 2010 with a pre-engagement session in Ottawa. From May to November there have been nine regional engagement sessions with a focus on First Nations; eight targeted sessions with key stakeholder groups that have a specific focus or mandate with respect to lands, business, and economic development; sector-specific roundtable sessions addressing cross-cutting issues with Aboriginal youth and Aboriginal women; and a remote communities session in early September.
A participant asked about the status of the Aboriginal Business Canada program [now ABDP] and whether it will have a new budget allocation and mandate next spring. Ms. Cairnie replied that everything will be status quo pending renovation, and the program will still be able to do multi-year agreements.
Another participant asked a series of questions related to how the various stakeholders were identified, selected, and invited to take part in the engagement process; why Aboriginal Friendship Centres are being engaged regarding on-reserve programming and land management; whether a list of those taking part in the engagement process would be made available; and why the need for increased funding for economic development and land management does not appear to be a big issue in the engagement discussions.
Ms. Cairnie responded that the identification of stakeholders was handled differently in each region, but it was the INAC regional offices that were tasked with identifying who would be the key individuals to invite to the sessions, with the focus being on having a good cross-section of active people from the economic development community. She noted that the Assembly of First Nations was involved in the pre-engagement session, and the Chiefs Council on Economic Development was involved in a session early this year. She added that some regions had invited their provincial-territorial organizations to the sessions, and others had not.
The Friendship Centres were engaged primarily on the issue of access to capital in the areas of business development and skills development, and they were not involved in discussions of on-reserve economic development or land management. A list of stakeholders attending engagement sessions will be made available at the end of the sessions.
On the funding question, Ms. Cairnie responded that INAC has been told it will be working within the existing funding envelope for now, including the recently announced $1 million to promote Aboriginal women's entrepreneurship.
A participant asked why First Nation institutions have not been included in the engagement process. Ms. Cairnie said if people felt some groups have not been included, they are encouraged to talk to and work with the regional office so that information can be input into the engagement process.
Saying the program changes seem to be already predetermined, another participant asked what the purpose of the engagement sessions is.
Ms. Cairnie replied that these are certainly not token engagement sessions, and the direction has not already been set. She added that INAC would have liked to have had the process much further developed by now, but it was delayed by the desire to have a very solid engagement process in place.
Another participant said too much development is happening in Northern Saskatchewan, and First Nations are not ready with the level of education needed to participate fully in the available developments, from either an employment perspective or a partnering perspective. He said INAC must start putting money where it is needed to properly train Aboriginal people for economic development and land management, and the educational component seems to be missing from the engagement discussions.
Ms. Cairnie acknowledged that the scope of this engagement discussion is focused on a particular group of programs, but said perhaps SPI may have a role to play in answering some of his concerns. She encouraged the participant to discuss his specific concerns with her in more detail.
Executive Director of Economic Development
Federation of Saskatchewan Indian Nations
"The federal government is to be commended for the legislative and policy initiatives and new or enhanced programs introduced in recent years in support of First Nations' economic and employment development, and for seeking further policy and program improvements for a government-wide focused approach in consultation with First Nation leaders and entrepreneurs," said Bernard Shepherd. "The FSIN has and always will consider that the primary responsibility to foster and support economic and employment development for First Nations rests with the federal government, which has constitutional, statutory, and treaty obligations to our nations and peoples."
Mr. Shepherd explained that when considering further actions and initiatives the federal government can undertake, the Federation of Saskatchewan Indian Nations (FSIN) bases its recommendations on one simple question: what is the purpose of economic development? The answer to that question is threefold: economic development must provide prosperity for First Nation people and communities; it must create jobs and employment opportunities for young people; and it must generate wealth to reinvest in business, social, cultural, and recreational programs and community improvements. He said FSIN's suggestions and recommendations to the engagement session are based on those objectives.
First Nations, FSIN, and INAC can all agree what the federal government's currently well-defined role is supporting First Nations' economic and employment development but must also recognize that there is an ongoing role for the federal government in providing program support for First Nation corporations and entrepreneurs, Mr. Shepherd said. He noted that previous programs that provided comprehensive start-up and operating funds with little or no First Nation equity requirements should be re-examined because today's program requirements to provide significant upfront cash equity are a major impediment to economic development projects. He pointed to the Special Agricultural and Rural Development Agreements and the Native Economic Development Program as examples of programs that should be mined for useful elements to implement in new programs.
Mr. Shepherd also suggested on behalf of the FSIN that it would be very helpful if the federal government could consolidate its First Nation funding and support resources into a single-delivery, one-stop-shop style of administration to simplify the application and reporting process for First Nations. He said many of the old Indian Act impediments to on-reserve or reserve-based businesses have been addressed, opening up options for commercial borrowing by First Nations, and he noted the LLR program as a potential benefit that might support higher-risk commercial lending. However, the program has not resulted in changes to the eligibility criteria that financial institutions employ when assessing First Nations' loan applications. He said FSIN would like to see INAC develop and mandate specific First Nation loan assessment criteria that require financial institutions to take into account the greater degree of security that the LLR program offers.
Mr. Shepherd said FSIN does not disagree with the requirement for a detailed business plan but does argue for changes to the cash equity requirements. It recommends waiving the cash equity requirement if the applicant has assets or backing equivalent to the current required equity percentage, establishing a business planning rate scale based on the size and complexity of projects, and having the business plan cost funded by the program.
Regarding funding availability, Mr. Shepherd said FSIN has designed a new First Nation investment fund program for INAC's consideration. The new program would be dedicated to providing access to investment sources for First Nation economic development projects that have difficulty accessing other sources of financing.
Another area of concern for FSIN is the procurement policies of federal and provincial Crown corporations. Mr. Shepherd said many of these corporations profess to have tendering policies that favour First Nation bidders, but there is little evidence to show that these so-called favourable policies are actually being applied in the awarding of contracts. He said governments should strengthen these policies by setting mandatory limits stipulating that when a First Nation bid price falls within a stated percentage range of the winning bid, the tender must be awarded to the First Nation company.
Commenting on INAC's process for converting validated land claims land to reserve status, Mr. Shepherd said FSIN feels the process takes too long. The situation is further complicated if the land requires an additional designation process to make it eligible for commercial or industrial purposes, and a referendum is costly and complicated for First Nations, especially if a large percentage of their population lives off-reserve. These two processes should be targeted for streamlining and for funding to expedite them.
Regardless of whether INAC's program renovation exercise results in program losses, consolidation, or new programs, FSIN feels three particular issues must be addressed:
Mr. Shepherd said FSIN is looking for ways to engage industry, as it plays a big part in Aboriginal economic development. Industry should be investing in Aboriginal communities and in projects such as businesses or skills development because such investment gives industry a stake in the success of those developments since it helps their companies and it helps Aboriginal communities.
No matter how First Nations look at such opportunities, they still need some measure of skill when they get involved. Therefore, investing in First Nation institutions is very important. Mr. Shepherd called for investment in skills training through the Saskatchewan Indian Institute of Technologies, investment in First Nation children through the First Nations University of Canada, and investment in the newly created Saskatchewan First Nations Natural Resource Centre of Excellence. "These institutions play a very important role in our emerging economy," he concluded.
Mr. Koback asked the delegates to discuss the programs they are familiar with among INAC's current suite of economic development programs and to consider what is working and what is not working. One person from each table reported back on the key points raised during the discussions.
Participants identified the following positive issues:
Participants identified the following problems:
Recapping the responses, Mr. Koback said he heard some recurring themes, including the need for capacity building, for strategic planning, for more funding, and for more flexible funding models. He also noted the repeated negative comments about the LLR program.
ARS Questions 8-11
Q8. Are deficits in infrastructure impeding your community's ability to pursue economic development opportunities?
Q9. How familiar are you with INAC's community infrastructure program?
Q10. Does your community currently have infrastructure projects that are waiting for INAC to proceed?
Q11. Has your community used debt financing to finance infrastructure projects?
Director, Policy, Programs and Procedures Directorate
Community Infrastructure Branch
Indian and Northern Affairs Canada - Headquarters
Sébastien Labelle told participants his unit manages INAC's $1.4 billion national infrastructure funding. Priorities are a focus on health and safety; getting sustainable resources for the program from the Department of Finance Canada and Treasury Board; and reshaping the program going into the future, by working with stakeholders to find ways to make better use of existing funding to help more First Nation communities meet their infrastructure needs. Renovation requires a First Nation focus on program design, especially reforming the old one-size-fits-all style of programming, and capacity building.
Mr. Labelle said INAC is looking for First Nations' input in several specific areas:
Mr. Labelle said the engagement process is looking to tap into things that First Nations have already done successfully and to adapt to those processes.
He said INAC provides approximately $1 billion annually to assist First Nations in acquiring, constructing, operating, and maintaining community infrastructure, including water systems, schools, roads, bridges, and housing. As new infrastructure is added, more funding is used for operations, maintenance, and repair of existing assets, leaving little for new capital investment. Most capital funding is provided on a cash basis up front rather than financed over many years.
This approach to financing infrastructure is not used anywhere else, and INAC knows it is not ideal, he said. It would be much better to pay for infrastructure over the life of the asset. The current on-reserve infrastructure backlog is estimated at $3 billion to $5 billion and is much bigger than that if one considers all other infrastructure that is needed, including band offices, recreational facilities, and economic development projects.
From feedback heard so far, INAC knows what is not working, Mr. Labelle said. It is unsustainable to build new infrastructure each year; as operations and maintenance spending needs increase, less funding is available each year for new assets. Also, on-reserve assets are not lasting as long as they should. The root cause of that is a capacity gap, and INAC's funding formulas are unable to respond to the wide range of need and capacity among First Nation communities. INAC has to move away from the one-size-fits-all funding model, because different communities have different needs at different times, and that kind of funding model cannot respond.
Mr. Labelle said INAC knows its responses can be slow, and projects can be delayed for years waiting for available funding. INAC wants to move to a situation where First Nations know what funding they will get so they can plan for it and match the planning with the resources.
INAC is open to all kinds of things in this exploratory engagement session, and everything is on the table for discussion, Mr. Labelle said. He listed a number of questions for participants to consider:
Mr. Labelle said these are some of the types of ideas INAC is looking for so it can do much more focused engagement around detailed program design.
ARS Question 12
Q12. How likely is it that your community would consider alternative financing approaches for infrastructure?
Participants were divided into four discussion groups and asked to focus their discussions around three key points: what challenges does your community face in infrastructure financing and asset management; are these challenges impacting your community's ability to pursue economic development, and if so, what are those impacts; and what support would help your community improve management of infrastructure, and what would be the best way for INAC to provide this support. One person from each group reported back on the key points raised during discussions.
One group discussed infrastructure financing examples around land development costs for a large housing development complex, and the future of financing communicationstechnology.
Participants identified a number of challenges and problems:
Participants in this group said First Nations need more support to help navigate jurisdictional obstacles; more assistance with environmental assessments of land at the front end, rather than at the back end of the process; help building institutional capacity so business can be separated from politics; and help building capacity to deal with large developments.
The next group to report also listed several challenges:
Another group said First Nations cannot easily access conventional or traditional financing and do not have access to financing tools such as bonds or debentures or raising money through taxation. When conventional funding is accessed, banks impose a much shorter repayment schedule (12–15 years) than the life cycle of the asset (25–30 years).
Participants concluded that a huge infrastructure investment is needed to attract investments on reserves or near reserve lands.
Smaller communities also need to actively consider aggregating their resources for the development of their public works, and they need access to different funding mechanisms and different kinds of financing.
The final group said the ability of a community to maintain infrastructure assets is a huge challenge. When financing is limited, the focus shifts from preserving those assets for the long term to fixing and repairing for the short term, as available money allows. It is impossible for communities to maintain assets when they do not have own-source revenues. Sustainability plans are a necessity. As communities use more and more of their dollars to maintain infrastructure, there is less and less money for new capital developments. Moreover, jurisdictional issues affect the ability of communities to finance infrastructure.
Changes to CMHC regulations have resulted in the construction of lower-quality housing; however, the life expectancy of the housing remains the same as that of higher-quality housing. Infrastructure projects are difficult to manage through development and financing when they are done in separate stages rather than as one complete project financed up front.
Participants made the following additional comments:
ARS Question 13
Q13. The following five issues are often described as barriers to Aboriginal economic development. Please rank them in the order in which you consider they impede economic development, from the most important obstacle to the least important.
Ms. Cairnie told participants they should approach this discussion thinking about what a new suite of INAC programs might look like, what makes the most sense, and what might work for their communities. She said program renovation is not about starting from scratch; it is about fixing the programs that are working to make them work better, getting rid of the things that are not working at all, and coming up with innovative options to move forward. Many of the existing programs are out of step with the new Framework and with the complexities of the opportunities that many communities are exploring. Ms. Cairnie asked participants to focus not only on what is working and not working but also on what some creative solutions might look like and what outcomes they would like to see.
Participants in one group said some economic development programs are good in principle, even though they may need significant improvement. The list includes the CEDP, CEOP, ABD, and ATC. These programs are important to keep in some kind of improved form going forward.
Participants identified a number of issues and ideas that must be addressed:
One innovative idea was "turning the single-window idea on its head" and assigning a proactive, client-oriented, service-oriented case officer to each First Nation to support it and be part of the planning process and be more accountable. This would reduce the reporting burden on individual First Nations and help move away from the one-size-fits-all program mentality.
Funding must be flexible and considered on a case-by-case basis. Equity dollars should be available for capacity building because some small Nations do not even know where to start.
Participants said linkages to focused training, both from INAC and from other federal departments, are needed. Communities must develop the skills to promote and manage change from within. It is also important to build governance and community capacity that help sustain projects that are being funded. Finally, they said community planning is extremely important, along with all its elements: legal entities, due diligence processes, separation of business and politics, and creating boards of directors and networks.
Participants in another group said FIP is working okay but needs some adjustments. They suggested looking at risk-adjusted return on capital.
This group offered a number of recommendations:
Participants in the next group identified business support programming as an area that is working well, as evidenced by the level of demand and successful access. Program funds that, in general, support partnerships and capacity development are also continuing to work well. In the past, equity programs were seen as successful, and those should be reinstated in order to allow First Nations to be players in the local economy. The growing ability of First Nations to do self-directed economic development is recognized as a positive development of INAC's work to date.
Participants also identified several needs:
Participants said First Nations' awareness of available programs must be expanded, and this could be done through social networking media, such as Facebook, and more face-to-face contact by INAC in First Nation communities, where INAC staff should be promoting program offerings. In order to support differing capacity development needs, INAC must continue to support First Nation institutions so they can build governance capacity. First Nations not quite so far along in economic development activity must be provided a base level of economic capacity. New pilot projects could be used to build capacity, but INAC must also continue supporting those already in place.
Participants said building more partnerships, promoting success stories, and pursuing more multi-year funding are all important.
The final group focused its discussion on the need for more dollars at the community level to facilitate community economic development. Participants raised the following issues:
ARS Questions 14-18
Q14. Does your community have a full-time Economic Development Officer?
Q15. Does your community have a full-time Lands Management Officer?
Q16. Does your community have an economic development plan?
Q17. Does your community have a land-use plan?
Q18. Are you familiar with the Reserve Land and Environment Management Program (RLEMP)?
Mr. Koback challenged participants to frame their discussions and thinking in terms of desired outcomes: What do we really want to achieve, from a national or a regional perspective?
Ms. Cairnie said one of the primary objectives of the program renovation process is simply to ensure that INAC's programs are working for the people they are designed to serve. Whether it is the design and delivery of the programs, service standards, communications, or other issues, INAC wants feedback on all aspects, particularly the funding formula for CEDP, as well as how the department funds communities for land management and how it can best fund core services on a multi-year basis, she said.
She asked participants what they think is reasonable for service standards and timelines around processing of applications and approvals, how they want to interact with the department, what it means to operate at the speed of business, and what INAC can do to streamline things. She asked for feedback on issues like program harmonization, where there might be a single-window opportunity for application processes and what First Nations might expect to see as results.
The participants were asked to structure their discussions and recommendations around two main points:
Participants in the first group flagged capacity funding as a high priority to help build expertise in individual entrepreneurs and in project management.
They said INAC should fund a business support officer or an EDO position and target training and mentorship. More entrepreneurship training, perhaps even on-line training, with industry involvement from a financial perspective would be helpful. This training should be module-based for quick access and quick skill building. To develop future entrepreneurs, youth entrepreneurship must be targeted from the elementary school level through to the 18–24 years age group. Finally, off-reserve support should be considered for those entrepreneurs who do business off-reserve.
Participants said the current funding formulae allow larger First Nations to apply for and access funding to the disadvantage of smaller First Nations, and that inequity must be addressed. Smaller First Nations should have a minimum of $80,000 funding for an EDO as well as base funding to do economic development planning.
Too much money is going to outside consultants, and more of those dollars should be kept in the communities.
Bringing back equity contributions was also identified as a priority. Participants said case-by-case contributions should be provided on projects in the range of $150,000 to $1 million.
Participants in another group said when there is a lack of funding, priorities may have to be shifted, and that may end up taking money away from a good program that is working. They asked for more accountability from INAC to explain why in some cases funding has been returned to the department.
Participants said capacity building is needed to improve First Nation governance. As well, employment readiness and skills readiness are basic concerns, not only in the position of an EDO, but also for First Nation members interested in employment with a project or wanting to start their own business. There should be a particular emphasis on supporting individuals and women interested in business development because this results in empowerment and positive role models.
Métis entrepreneurs would like to see new dollars allocated for Métis economic development. Greater economic development support is needed for developing industry sectors: agriculture, fisheries, forestry, trapping, oil and gas, energy and mining. All of these sectors are largely provincially controlled, regulated, and supported, and First Nations do not traditionally have strong access to these sectors. Participants said they would like to see a better relationship with provinces to enable First Nations to access programs and become a part of those industry sectors. The federal programs also must be partners in this process.
There should be base funding, plus tiered funding based on community readiness for economic development. Readiness would be defined by compliance reporting. It must also be recognized that communities that have not had access to funding because of the existing formulae have essentially been penalized, and as such there should be flexibility in providing access to program funding.
Participants in the next group said priorities for capacity building must be set in CEOP and CEDP.
There is a need for comprehensive community planning using community-based resources, and this would address the issue of a lot of money being spent on sometimes questionable external consulting services.
There is an overriding need for increased funding levels for economic development, particularly when the gap is considered between the amount of money budgeted for social assistance compared to that budgeted for economic development. In one case cited by a participant, it was $1.8 million for social assistance and $80,000 for economic development.
Although INAC keeps acknowledging that the one-size-fits-all approach does not work, it must also acknowledge that no formula-based process can adequately address the varying needs of multiple communities, this group said. The solution is to do capacity audits to establish a benchmark, and then provide base funding according to the benchmark. INAC should assign a program officer to specific communities to ensure that the differing needs of the communities are understood and accounted for in the funding allocations.
Funding must take into account the positive financial impacts on communities around the First Nations that result from economic development in First Nation communities. In many if not most cases, money generated on-reserve is spent mostly off-reserve, and that reality should be recognized when funding is being allocated.
Participants in the next group said internal strategies and adjustments must be employed to more effectively stretch the available dollars; however, the reality that moving the agenda forward will require more money must be addressed.
They said First Nations must work to eliminate or rebalance their reliance on third parties and outside consultants and must focus on developing internal capacity from within the community.
CSSP is of low priority, and RLEMP is a disincentive to economic development because funding is largely based on the number of land transactions (leases and permits). As a result, RLEMP causes a community to overuse its lands and to chase funding based on land transactions as opposed to implementing an informed approach to land use. Participants said programs typically delivered by INAC could be out-sourced to other delivery agents.
Having the capacity to effectively coordinate labour participation with industry is critical. Top-notch economic development officers are needed at the community level.
This group made the following recommendations:
ARS Questions 19-23
Q19. What type of economic opportunities primarily exist in your community? Please rank them in the order from the most prevalent to the least prevalent.
Q20. 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.
Q21. Has your community generally been successful when applying for and accessing funding from INAC's Community Economic Opportunities Program?
Q22. Has your community or individuals in your community generally been successful applying and accessing funding from INAC's Aboriginal Business Development Program (ABDP)?
Q23. Please rank the following types of programming in order of importance to your community, from most important to least important.
Participants were asked to structure their discussions and recommendations around three main questions:
One group discussed the timeliness of business and how the Internet has changed the speed of information exchange and decision making and has therefore made operating at the speed of business more critical.
Participants said INAC should meet more frequently with communities to help approve applications in a shorter time period. The flow of money for planning should take about two weeks, and for project contributions it should be from seven to 30 days. Not all projects are equally complex in process and scale, so the application and approval process timeline should reflect the scale and complexity of the project itself. Also, spending should be allocated from the regional level rather than from Ottawa for all types of projects.
This group made several recommendations:
Participants in the second group recommended the following:
Participants in the third group said lengthy time frames for application approvals and often misplaced application forms at INAC's end are common problems. The only consistency is the inconsistency of the process.
The type and nature of the project should determine the processing time once an application is received. For business plan programs, once a complete application is submitted, Aboriginal financial institutions will approve it within two to five days; banks will give an indication of their ability to approve an application on the same or next day and will have a decision within 10 days; and with CEOP, within one week of applying, the applicant should receive a letter acknowledging receipt of the application and indicating whether INAC felt the application has a chance of succeeding. After that it should be a minimum of one month for approval to be received.
Funding should be provided to initiate a project and to help with the initial application phase. There should be more decision-making authority for large economic development projects at the regional level. Interest costs resulting from delays at the INAC level should be eligible for reimbursement.
Participants also offered other suggestions:
The final group commented that the concept of operating at the speed of business is important when comparing industry and the federal government. For example, a First Nation may have exclusive rights for a business acquisition that expire in 60 days, but INAC's four months or longer approval process will result in a lost opportunity.
Many of the required steps are necessary, but processes must be streamlined. For example, a one-portal concept for applications and a structure of project review teams both within the department and across federal departments and agencies would facilitate coordination and improve processing times. Also, reporting must be reduced.
Participants recommended the following:
ARS Question 24
Q24. 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.
Ms. Cairnie said good feedback has been received from this particular discussion topic at previous engagement sessions.
For this discussion, participants were asked to focus on what they think should be the short-, medium-, and long-term goals that programs must achieve and how those should be measured.
Ms. Cairnie acknowledged that INAC funding recipients are overburdened with reporting; yet INAC has not been able to take that reporting input and make effective use of it in justifying and enhancing its program offerings. She said INAC has a strong internal mandate to reduce the reporting burden for its clients, and the department will need to demonstrate that it has done that going forward. INAC wants to move away from activities-based reporting to outcomes-based reporting, she said. The goal is to come up with a few really solid performance indicators that will be useful.
She said perhaps the department can learn from how First Nations report to their communities.
The table groups were asked to focus their discussions around the following questions:
The first table to report back said success in economic development is measured through the following:
Participants said they report on economic development to their communities by reviewing what the situation was like before development, what has taken place, what the successes and challenges have been, and what more needs to be done and where they are in relation to the community plan.
To measure the impact of renovated programs, participants proposed using an historical perspective to see whether the changes have been positive or negative; using historical data to back up the report; looking at the level of reinvestment of re-profiled dollars into the community, as opposed to program investment dollars; and looking at the Community Well-Being Index.
Regarding reporting to INAC, participants said the reporting templates should be revamped so they can be filled out online; there should be a centralized reporting portal; and audit statements should be streamlined, standardized and made more timely.
Participants at another table said community reporting is also done via newsletters, annual community meetings, distribution of profits, feasts, and dances.
For performance indicators, this group added that INAC must also report back to First Nations, and the regions can report back on how they feel programs are doing. A participant said a social assistance benchmark could be a performance indicator.
A table comprised mainly of representatives of First Nations financial institutions said performance measures are the standard financial performance indicators, including number of businesses started, number of jobs created, number of loan disbursements, and number of job placements. Participants noted that baseline data is important to have in some cases to measure performance, and institutions often rely on long-form census data for that information.
Participants at the next table highlighted some performance measures not already covered: quality of life indicators; gross domestic product measurements; cultural indicators, such as a decrease in negative social issues, as identified by Elders; community unity; the retention of language and culture; the rate of return on investment.
In land management, they said sustainable land use is measured, as is the preservation of natural habitat.
Participants said that their reporting to community is done via website and Facebook.
First Nations should identify and develop their own performance measures, based on community diversity, and statistical information, participants said, adding that rigour should not be placed on the reporting phase but on the implementation phase. A system of random audits should replace the overly rigorous reporting requirements.
The representative for the final table group said the measurement of success in economic development depends on the goals and objectives set out in the strategic plan or the economic development plan. Reporting requirements can be established in band laws. Performance indicators can include things other than economic indicators: they can include how development has integrated with education, sports, culture and recreation, housing, and health. INAC reporting requirements tend to be oriented toward the quantitative side of things, while First Nations are generally more interested in the qualitative outcomes. Reporting expectations should be clearly defined at the outset of a project.
Ms. Cairnie thanked the participants for their input. She noted that some things were unique to the Saskatchewan region, and some were consistent with comments heard across the country.
She said one standout point from the two days of discussion is the importance of the critical role played by EDOs in communities; they must be adequately resourced. She said capacity development was also a major theme, and the idea of aggregation of services was an idea expressed only at the Saskatchewan engagement sessions.
Ms. Cairnie said INAC is very interested in pursuing more multi-year funding programs and will be pushing for that in the new suite of programs. She said many of the suggestions and concerns will be taken into account as program renovation and renewal proceeds.
In terms of next steps, Ms. Cairnie said that following the last regional engagement session and meetings with the National Association of Friendship Centres, INAC will meet again with the National Aboriginal Economic Development Board to tell them what was heard through the engagement sessions. She said the Board is very interested in seeing that the new programming reflects the issues and concerns heard through the engagement sessions.
INAC's target is early spring for first approvals from Treasury Board on new programming, and following that there will be a year of transitioning and implementation to the new programming, working closely with regions in that process.
Elder Danny Musqua closed the session with a prayer.