Kamloops & District Chamber of Commerce News

Policy Tracker: Establishment of the First Nations Infrastructure Institute

Business Issue
High quality public infrastructure is critical to the health and sustainability of all communities, including Indigenous communities. Unfortunately, Indigenous infrastructure outcomes are very poor under the current approach. The literature, studies and media reports demonstrate that Indigenous infrastructure assets take longer to develop, cost more, and have shorter operational lifecycles than comparable infrastructure developed by other governments.

Studies estimate that First Nations are facing an infrastructure gap in the tens of billions of dollars and the current approach will take far too long to close this gap, if ever. Interested First Nations should have the option to follow a different approach –one that applies standards and processes based on national and international best practices and ensures value for money.

Where is this Policy/Position currently at?

The infrastructure gap in many First Nations communities contributes to a series of poor health, social and economic outcomes. Unfortunately, the COVID-19 pandemic has further highlighted the negative impacts First Nations are suffering as a result of missing and substandard infrastructure within their communities. The current approach is unsustainable and First Nations expect and deserve better results.
In response, the institutions established under the First Nations Fiscal Management Act(FMA) have proposed the creation of the First Nations Infrastructure Institute (FNII); a new institution that will support First Nations in the planning, development, procurement, design, construction, implementation, operation and maintenance, and management of their infrastructure projects. In 2017, First Nations leaders from across the country stepped forward to form a Development Board to provide advice and guide the creation of this optional, First Nations-led institution focused on designing a more innovative infrastructure system and achieving better infrastructure outcomes.

The First Nations Infrastructure Institute (FNII) will support those First Nations that choose to work with it to develop their infrastructure projects in a faster, more cost-effective, and sustainable manner. FNII will offer a menu of capacity support services, based on national and international best practices, to meet First Nations where they are at. Depending on their existing capacities and expertise, interested First Nations may utilize any or all of the FNII tools, skills, and processes to efficiently and effectively plan, develop, procure, implement, operate, maintain, and manage their infrastructure projects.
The Development Board has defined a comprehensive risk management framework and service delivery model through which FNII will implement a number of infrastructure innovations, including at least:

  • Project identification and planning processes that respond to the First Nation’s objectives, priorities and vision;
  • Project definition and optimization processes that support the development of infrastructure projects that serve both community and economic purposes, where appropriate;
  • Project development processes that utilize procurement options currently only available to other governments that more appropriately distributes risks;
  • First Nations law-making processes that will enable First Nations to exercise their jurisdiction to regulate infrastructure for the provision of local services;
  • Project financial planning processes that utilize whole-of-life costing from identification and planning to decommissioning or replacement for all expected capital, operations and maintenance, and lifecycle renewal costs; and
  • Project fiscal planning and modeling processes that identify sufficient funding sources and revenues streams to ensure long-term asset sustainability, and utilizes financing options where appropriate to ensure optimal timing of revenues and project expenditures.

Beyond providing capacity support services on specific individual projects, the Development Board is also proposing that FNII perform a number of other functions, including at least:

  • Collect, analyze, and distribute statistical data and information related to infrastructure to facilitate research, improve capacity support services, and support better decision-making;
  • Function as a centre of excellence and repository of information on sustainable Indigenous infrastructure development;
  • Provide advice to the federal government on the development and implementation of systems to support sustainable infrastructure development;
  • Conduct policy research and evaluative services on the development of fiscal frameworks to support sustainable infrastructure development;
  • Provide support to develop and assist in the implementation of new approaches to stable, effective, and efficient long-term infrastructure funding and financing;
  • Establish and maintain a roster of trusted contractors by area of professional expertise, asset type experience, operating region, and familiarity with FNII processes and standards; and
  • Provide public education and training respecting different aspects of infrastructure and sustainable infrastructure development.

The Development Board has been working collaboratively with the Government of Canada since 2017 to advance FNII. The Development Board is anticipating stimulus spending in the form of significant investments in infrastructure projects in the coming months and years as a component of Canada’s economic recovery strategy. Some First Nations already have shovel-ready projects. But, the Development Board believes that many other First Nations may be able to use FNII capacity support services to ensure their projects are well-planned, supported by sound businesses cases, and backed by effective risk management strategies; thereby ensuring these Indigenous projects are positioned as well as or better than any other infrastructure project planned by any other government.

The Chamber Recommends
That the Federal Government continue to collaborate with the First Nations Infrastructure Institute Development Board in developing a legislative amendment to the First Nations Fiscal Management Act to establish the First Nations Infrastructure Institute as soon as possible to support the effective implementation of infrastructure development innovations and achieve improved Indigenous infrastructure outcomes.

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The Kamloops Chamber of Commerce is situated on the traditional and unceded lands of the Tk'emlups Te Secwepemc within Secwepemc'ulucw, the traditional territory of the Secwepemc people. We are honored to live and work and play on this land and acknowledge the complicated history and humbly move forward in a spirit of collaboration and gratitude.