Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to advise this House that Bill C-35, the Miscellaneous Statute Law Amendments Act 1990, was given Royal Assent on February 28, 1992. Included in this act is an amendment to the Municipal Grants Act (Canada) which will provide the authority for Public Works Canada to pay grants in lieu of property taxes for certain federal property.
This amendment will provide partial relief to tax-based municipalities and this government on the long-standing issue of unpaid federal grants in lieu of taxes. Since 1986, the Department of Public Works Canada had suspended payment of grants in lieu of taxes on certain federal properties, pending amendment of the Municipal Grants Act.
Mr. Speaker, while the payment of grants in lieu is at the discretion of the Government of Canada, we do expect payments will be made now that the amendment is law. The Department of Municipal and Community Affairs has estimated, based on the applications submitted to Public Works Canada for grants in lieu, that the municipalities will receive a total of approximately $2.7 million. These payments will be for vacant federal lands reserved for Indian use and for federal lands and improvements reserved for other federal departments.
Unfortunately, Mr. Speaker, the federal government's opinion is that this amendment does not authorize the payment of grants in lieu of taxes on federal lands reserved for Indian use that contain improvements, and therefore they will not pay on these lands and improvements. The Government of Canada
Hon. Michael Ballantyne, Hon. Nellie Cournoyea, Mr. Dent, Mr. John Ningark, Hon. Dennis Patterson, Hon. John Pollard, Mr.
is of the opinion that these improved properties reserved for Indian use no longer fall under their management and control and therefore are not subject to the payment of federal grants in lieu. The Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development claim that federal funding for the payment of grants in lieu was earmarked and transferred to the Government of the Northwest Territories as part of the 1969 agreement for the transfer of housing.
In the opinion of this government's legal counsel, the amendment to the Municipal Grants Act (Canada) gives the Government of Canada the authority to pay all of the outstanding grants in lieu of taxes, including those lands with improvements for which the Government of Canada has stated they will not pay.
The position of the Government of the Northwest Territories, Mr. Speaker, is that grants in lieu were clearly not part of the housing transfer agreement entered into between the Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development and the Commissioner of the Northwest Territories in 1969. The fact the federal government continued to make payments on these properties from 1969 to 1985 supports this view. In addition, while management responsibilities for the lands were transferred to the Government of the Northwest Territories, legal land title transfer did not occur, showing continued federal interest in the land. The fact, the federal government specifically states, in the agreement, their continued ownership of the properties. In the opinion of the Government of the Northwest Territories, this ownership indicates that the federal government continues to have a degree of management and control interest in the properties.
Mr. Speaker, we understand that Public Works Canada, western region, will be issuing cheques to the tax-based municipalities to cover grants in lieu of taxes that have been held back since 1985 pending amendment of the Municipal Grants Act. It has been estimated that Fort Simpson will receive $37,000; Fort Smith $136,000; Hay River $176,000; Inuvik, $825,00; lqaluit, $697,000; Norman Wells, $100,000; and Yellowknife, $785,000. The amounts are to cover those federal grants held back during the period 1985 to 1991, pending the approval of the amendment to the Municipal Grants Act (Canada). These amounts are estimates only, as Public Works Canada, western region, is still in the process of reviewing the assessments done on these eligible federal properties, and these amounts do not include still-disputed payments on certain federal properties or payments made in the normal manner by Public Works Canada.
While this is no doubt welcome news, Mr. Speaker, it is, unfortunately, not a total solution to this long-outstanding issue. These payments will cover only a portion of what we believe is owed to the tax-based municipalities and this government. While these payments will alleviate some of the problems that are being experienced due to the failure of the Government of Canada to meet its obligations, it will not result in municipalities getting all that is owed.
Mr. Speaker, your government fully intends to vigorously pursue this issue until the Government of Canada accepts its full responsibility to pay grants in lieu on those properties still in dispute. Thank you.