Speech for The Honourable Jane Philpott, Minister of Indigenous Services - Canadian Council for Public-Private Partnerships


at the
National Conference on Public-Private Partnerships

November 6, 2017
Sheraton Centre Toronto Hotel
Toronto, Ontario

Good morning.
I’m pleased to be here with you today.

I want to acknowledge that we are gathered on the traditional territory of the Haudenosaunee, the Métis, and most recently, the territory of the Mississaugas of the New Credit First Nation. Today, Toronto is still home to many Indigenous people and I am grateful for our opportunity to meet here.

Let’s get to the question many of you are asking. Why is Jane Philpott, Minister of Indigenous Services, delivering a keynote address at a conference on public private partnerships?

At face value it may seem like an odd pairing. But I’m hoping that, very quickly, you’ll see the connection – and that you’ll also begin to see how you fit into the critical objectives of delivering better Indigenous services across the country.

Let’s start with a story - about a girl who died in Ottawa in January of this year. She was 15 years old, from the small community of Qikiqtarjuaq, Nunavut. She had been ill for at least two years. But it was not until hours before her death, that she received a diagnosis of tuberculosis. In 2017, young Canadians are dying from tuberculosis – a treatable infectious disease. Bacteria are only part of the problem. Tuberculosis in Canada is driven by overcrowded housing, nursing shortages, language barriers, and delayed diagnoses. It’s an epidemic that has persisted among Canada’s Inuit for more than a century.

But this is not just a story about Nunavut and the North.

I want you to picture 17 people living in a home built for 4. Picture another community where the roads were so bad that fire trucks couldn’t reach it in time, causing the deaths of nine people, including a baby. Picture your home in Canada without an indoor bathroom or running water. Picture a suicide pact among children as young as 10 in a community where children doubt that there is hope for a brighter future.

These situations are happening today, in Canada.
This is unacceptable.

Basic infrastructure needs that most Canadians take for granted are missing in far too many Indigenous communities. From reliable access to safe drinking water, to basic medical care, all-season roads, quality housing and schools, shelters, broadband connectivity, cultural and recreational spaces... What most of us consider essential for our quality of life is absent from the daily reality for thousands of Canadians.

This status quo is not an option. Waiting for a more convenient time to address these gaps is not an option.

I’m here today to talk about my role in this… and to challenge you to find yours.

I am Canada’s first Minister of Indigenous Services.  Let me tell you a little bit about what that means.

On August 28th, the Prime Minister announced the dismantling of the Department of Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada and in its place to create two new departments: Indigenous Services, and Crown-Indigenous Relations and Northern Affairs.

Indigenous Services will improve the delivery of programs and services to Indigenous peoples and will help close the socio-economic gaps. Over time, more and more programs and services will be delivered by Indigenous peoples themselves as they progress towards true self-government. This transformative change is an important step towards national reconciliation. It will provide us with the necessary tools to work more efficiently and more wisely to better serve Indigenous peoples.

For the Department of Indigenous Services, this may be the first government department ever created specifically with its own obsolescence as its eventual goal. This is because our overarching vision is to support the self-determination of Indigenous peoples – who rightfully want to and need to control service delivery for their own people.

Until such time as that is a reality, the Prime Minister expects my department to enable the services that affect the day-to-day realities for Indigenous peoples. This includes the successful delivery of the significant investments made in Indigenous services with Budget 2016 and Budget 2017.

In Budget 2016 we committed $8.4 billion over five years toward building a better future for Indigenous peoples. Budget 2017 followed with an additional investment of $3.4 billion.

Let me talk about progress on the infrastructure deficit in Indigenous communities, specifically:

1.    On water infrastructure, we have funded 348 projects in 275 communities. We’ve lifted 26 drinking water advisories. We still have 70 to go, but we have action plans for all of them and are on track to have every long-term drinking water advisory lifted by 2021.

2.    On housing, we have built or renovated over 8800 units since November 2015 in 362 communities. We are developing more long-term housing plans with our Indigenous partners.

3.    143 education infrastructure projects are underway or completed in 120 communities; and,

4.    121 health infrastructure projects are completed or underway in 109 communities.

I’ve seen several of these projects myself.

I visited Dakota Plains and Long Plain First Nations in southern Manitoba near Winnipeg early in October. In both communities, successful housing projects were underway.

In Dakota Plains First Nation, the community recently completed new duplexes, and tenants were moving in to their new homes. These new homes allow families to reunite. They bring pride, stability and hope to the community.

In Long Plain First Nation, their community arena has been converted into a construction workshop with a dozen mini-homes being built, and then sent off to their final destinations. On the tour, I met a woman who was proudly helping in the construction of her own new home.

So we’re seeing progress. Critical infrastructure is being built.

But there is much more to do.

-    While 26 drinking water advisories were lifted, 19 have been added. Too many communities lack the resources or expertise to build, maintain and operate water systems.

-    On the personal level, we’re facing a crisis in the child welfare system – with a severe over-representation of Indigenous children taken into care. The reason they are taken from their homes is not infrequently because of a lack of proper housing or access to health services.

-    And as I described earlier, overcrowded housing is one of the reasons why Canada’s Inuit have tuberculosis rates 270 times that of the Canadian-born, non-Indigenous population.

I hope you’ve figured out what this has to do with P3s.
Some of you will view a role for P3s in addressing the infrastructure gaps for Indigenous peoples as a matter of corporate social responsibility.  Others may view it from the perspective of enlightened self-interest. Either way, you’ve figured out that it’s smart to invest in Indigenous infrastructure, Indigenous communities and Indigenous people.

First Nations, Inuit and Metis peoples are the youngest, fastest-growing segments of the Canadian population. Their economic and social achievements can drive Canada’s prosperous future.

Last year the National Aboriginal Economic Development Board analyzed what Canada loses from the gaps in employment and economic outcomes between Indigenous peoples and the non-Indigenous population. They determined that closing that productivity gap would mean an estimated increase in GDP of $28 billion annually, about a 1.5% boost to Canada’s economy.

For another measure of the magnitude of the opportunities, it is estimated that First Nations infrastructure deficit alone may be as high as $30 to $40 billion – not to mention the infrastructure needs of Canada’s Inuit in the far north.

I hope you see the potential for P3s in Indigenous communities.

I don’t need to convince you of the success of the P3 model. Canada is a global leader, in no small part because of the work of the Council and leadership from entities like Infrastructure Ontario, Partnerships BC, and the leaders in this room.

The P3 model can be a great tool to build schools, water and wastewater facilities, all-season roads, broadband connectivity, and energy infrastructure.

Where I see tremendous potential for P3s to have an impact in Indigenous communities is through their ability to bring design innovation, risk transfer, and full costing of assets, in particular operations and maintenance.

We have seen some early P3 successes such as:

-    In the Northwest Territories, the Tlicho are part of a P3 project to build an all-season road to Whati – a First Nations community 160 km northwest of Yellowknife. The year-round road will connect the community, allow for increased economic development and reduce costs to transport goods and services in and out of Whati.

-    You may know about the P3 that enabled the building of Iqaluit’s beautiful new airport that just opened this summer. The project had an Inuit benefits package that provided for a number of jobs related to construction and ongoing benefits to the community. The agreement requires 60% of employees to be Inuit by the end of the contract.

-    The Atlantic Policy Congress aims to create a single water authority to oversee water and wastewater facilities and services for all Atlantic First Nations. The APC is interested in procuring infrastructure in a bundled P3 approach.

These examples demonstrate opportunities that the corporate sector should not miss. Therefore, we recognize that this innovation spirit has to underlie the implementation of infrastructure projects in Indigenous communities. And more significantly, our Indigenous partners see these specific projects’ potential as well as the capacity of the communities themselves to actively engage in these projects.

You will know from the experience with Infrastructure Ontario, Partnerships BC and other examples, that the creation of intermediary institutions is critical in supporting communities’ involvement in P3 projects.

Fortunately we have some terrific leaders in Indigenous communities who see this potential and are driving forward with the development of supportive institutions.

I would like to call out in particular Manny Jules, who is here today. Manny is the CEO of the First Nations Tax Commission, an organization that builds capacity in First Nations communities to move to more sustainable revenue platforms. He has been working with other Indigenous leaders to explore ways of bringing P3s and other financial innovations into the First Nations infrastructure space. Our government is proud to support the work he does.

The work of the Tax Commission, along with that of the First Nations Financial Management Board and the First Nations Finance Authority, are building the foundations upon which we will move this work forward.

Just last week the First Nations Finance Authority completed their fourth successful debenture issuance on the financial markets, raising $126 million in new funding that will benefit Indigenous communities. And I should add that the demand from investors was twice that which was available.

To the extent that we see challenges across the country, we also see opportunities.  I hope you can see yourselves as part of the solutions in addressing critical infrastructure gaps.

Here are some steps you could take right now:
•    Learn about successful projects in Indigenous communities.
•    Consider partnering with Indigenous communities in ways that benefit both parties, creating opportunities for you along with jobs and economic growth for the communities.
•    Consider policies now to promote the hiring of Indigenous employees in your companies.
•    Explore new models to finance, design, build, operate and maintain infrastructure in Indigenous communities.

If there are additional steps that our government could take to unleash the potential of P3s in this space, let us know. We will continue to work closely with Mark and his team at CCPPP to ensure that we capitalize on your expertise.

More than 10 years ago, I heard Bill Clinton give a speech. A few sentences in that speech are still stuck in my brain. He said: “The longer I live and the more I travel, the more I realize that intelligence and effort and ability and dreams are evenly distributed across all of humanity in every country across all races, and religions and cultures. What is not evenly distributed are the mechanisms to give life to all those things. The opportunities, the investment, the systematic capacity that establishes a link between a person's intelligence, ability, effort and dreams, and the picture of life that emerges.”

That’s what success looks like for our new department. We should ensure that a First Nations, Inuit or Metis child born in Canada in 2017 will grow up in a country that enables the opportunities, the investment, and the systematic capacity to breathe life into their dreams. They should expect the basic necessities that every Canadian child expects – clean water to drink, nutritious food, a well-equipped school, a sturdy home, surrounded by their family and culture to nurture them until they’re ready to launch into the world, take on meaningful employment and contribute to making our country even better.

I believe you can help us work toward such a future. Thanks for doing all you can to provide hope and justice for all.

Report a problem or mistake on this page
Please select all that apply:

Thank you for your help!

You will not receive a reply. For enquiries, contact us.

Date modified: