MR. JON CAREY (Chairman): Ladies and gentlemen, if we could come to order. This is the first meeting of our Select Committee on Fire Safety. Perhaps we can just quickly go around. I think everybody knows everyone in the MLA aspect; perhaps staff, we could have introductions in that direction. There are several issues, certainly your input for today, we would like to get in, but the two major issues I would like for you to consider and to try to help us get a consensus on today are the timing of going out to collect the information, and the locations. If we could work, keeping those two points as the objective, specifically, for today, along with other things, keeping in mind the staffing and so on, who we have here to help guide us through today. Perhaps if we could just start with you, Ron, and we could go around and the staff could introduce themselves, then we can go from there.
[The committee members and staff introduced themselves.]
MR. CHAIRMAN: Thank you very much. Just for the record, Cecil Clarke is also part of this committee but was unable to be with us today. I think at this time, perhaps, it might be appropriate, if we could open it to the members of the committee to indicate what they feel we should be striving for in this and to have some input in the area that we should be looking at, the information, and again striving for the objectives of where and when we will get this done. Would anyone like to go first? Frank Corbett.
MR. FRANK CORBETT: Mr. Chairman, I guess I am probably looking at you for that direction. This is an initiative coming from the government and it certainly was set out in their Speech from the Throne. The fact that there have been studies about fire safety and revision, that there was a committee, although it was not a Select Committee of the House but there was a committee struck and there were recommendations made from that committee. I guess I am looking for direction from the people on the government side to see why we are here today, I guess is probably my position on it.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Does any other member have any comments? Barry Barnet.
MR. BARRY BARNET: I am not a member of the committee, I am filling in for Kerry Morash, but I have a couple of quick questions. Where did this come from, this particular (Interruptions)
MS. MORA STEVENS (Legislative Committee Clerk): This was a document that is a standard one for an organizational meeting, just to give MLAs information concerning the committee.
MR. BARNET: Okay, I guess what I am referring to, what we have before us, a list of possible locations for the committee to visit to receive public input. I guess we have two lists actually, one that was submitted by Kerry Morash, and I think that has been circulated. Has it been? (Interruptions) Yes, and we have a second list, pretty much similar. Kerry's is a condensed version of the first list. I was just curious. That was just something the staff prepared?
MS. STEVENS: These are all the locations select committees and standing committees have travelled to before.
MR. BARNET: Oh, okay.
MS. STEVENS: We have proven documentation on this, how many people come before committees, just to give the committee members an idea as to where committees have been in the past and then it is up to them to determine where they want to go.
MR. BARNET: The reason I raise it, obviously, if one of the objectives today is to establish a list of where this committee is going to travel, I would point out that Kerry's three week tour, actually, geographically, although it isn't perfect, it hits most of the province in terms of being within a reasonable driving distance for people who want to appear before the committee. I certainly don't have a problem with what he has put forward. He indicates one in Sydney, one in Port Hawkesbury, one in New Glasgow; the following week is Truro, Amherst, Halifax; then Yarmouth, Bridgewater, Wolfville. It groups them together quite well actually.
MR. CHAIRMAN: I had some discussion with Kerry Morash on this, and I think we want to do a job where we gather input from as many as we can, keeping in mind that each day is relatively expensive. It is about $10,000 a day, I am told, to be on the road. Keeping in mind, do the proper job but not be too extravagant, I guess, is what we are looking for. I don't think anyone would object to that. I think we need to, if there aren't other people who have comments, maybe we could, I would suggest, try to answer Frank's question.
Those of you who are familiar with this probably know that the fire service has had questionnaires and had a lot of input over the last five years, it started in 1995. The Fire Officers Association of Nova Scotia, along with other groups, spent a lot of time at this, and I think if you ask any of the Fire Officers Association's members or their spokespeople, they would tell you that this document is okay the way it is.
The questions that might come out of it - as an MLA, when I looked at it, I had questions as to what municipalities would say, because some municipalities do not have fire inspectors. It will mean an outlay of cash for certain municipalities. I think we need to find out what their response is going to be and have their input. Also, in the Act, as it is now, it indicated that, perhaps, the fire marshal could provide assistance or expertise to help out in that area but there would be a cost involved.
I think it is important that we find out what these communities, these municipalities who are going to be footing the bill may have to say about it. The other is that I think we have to be very careful in what we do with the volunteer aspect of the fire service in Nova Scotia. It's an excellent service and I don't think we would want any legislation that would be detrimental and upset something good that we have. I think we have to keep those things in mind.
Dale, would you like to give us an idea of budgeting and where we go, how this will work, and costs?
MR. DALE ROBBINS: Sure, I can answer what I can on that. I guess I can point out that at this time we don't have an existing allocation of funds anywhere. The Select Committee on Fire Safety was not budgeted. I was not aware of this taking place at the time when we prepared our budget. Therefore, there has been no provision of funding anywhere to cover this. It will mean that there will be a requirement for additional funding made available to cover the costs. Based on that, it is something that I would hope that we could work up what a proposal would mean in terms of the financial impact and, traditionally, at least, they are usually reviewed by the Legislature Internal Economy Board for their concurrence.
I think in terms of putting it in perspective, there is no money funded now. I would like to be able to have a budget that could go to the Speaker for presentation to the Legislature Internal Economy Board for their approval. In the course of that, your intentions, where you want to visit, how many meetings, what you anticipate the duration might be, other costs, printing, whatever, from whatever you are proposing here, we can prepare a budget based on those type things and hopefully get the concurrence for that budget.
I would suggest that from the meeting, based on what you intend or want to do, we can prepare a budget based on whatever your parameters are here and take it to the Speaker for his approval through the Internal Economy Board. That would be the normal process.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Thank you. Perhaps if it would be in order to try to arrive at the timing - could we work in that direction? - that would be acceptable for the majority to actually hit the road.
MR. CORBETT: Timing in the perspective of when we hit the road?
MR. CHAIRMAN: Yes. You have in front of you a suggestion from Kerry Morash, but we need to arrive at the number of locations we want to stop at. Do we want to go in September or October, November . . .
MR. GRAHAM STEELE: Mr. Chairman, if I may, maybe I could answer your question with a question. I was wondering if the members of the committee have some idea about when we would like to submit our final report. We don't have a hard and fast deadline, is that correct?
MR. CHAIRMAN: No, not yet.
MR. STEELE: I am just wondering if members of the committee have some idea about when they think our work should be completed, and we can work backwards from there.
MR. CHAIRMAN: I guess I would turn it over to Mora from the standpoint of compiling the information and so on, the time frame.
MS. STEVENS: Once the committee has been on a road show, usually what happens is - in the last couple, like National Unity and Workers' Compensation - staff have gone with them. There has been a communications officer and sometimes a writer, or they are both the same person, so they have been on the road and they are compiling the report as they have been there. Once the road show stops, it usually takes a couple of weeks to get some sort of draft together. There will be a few basic meetings after that in Halifax to say, okay, what have we heard, what changes do you want made and then, depending on how many meetings - Frank was involved in the last set with Workers' Compensation. There was quite a condensed period there, and that committee had to report by a certain time. I don't think this one has that constraint, so it can be condensed into a very short period of time or it can be stretched out. That would depend on what changes the committee actually wants to make.
MR. CORBETT: If I may say, Mora, I think there is a constraint if the government by virtue of putting it in its Speech from the Throne, one would assume then that they would want it answered by the next time they have a Speech from the Throne. That is certainly at the will of government. I don't know if we are looking then at - are we working back from the spring of 2002? I am just bringing that out there.
MR. CHAIRMAN: We haven't been advised by Executive Council, but my personal feeling would be that it will be in the spring session that it would be introduced.
MR. CORBETT: I think you brought up another point that I was going to bring up Mora, and that was the support staff that would be travelling - I know we are off the topic here a bit about time frame - has support staff been talked about? We talked about the WCB Select Committee, we had much more outside expertise than we would probably need for this one. Are communications people going to travel with us, are Hansard people going to travel with us, and committee people travelling with us? Has that been decided yet? Perhaps it goes more to Dale's budget.
MS. STEVENS: Precisely. It depends on what budget has been set. What we have done - and we find what works - depending on when you are travelling, depends on what actual standing committees are meeting, we put a calendar on the board just so you are aware of what we have scheduled for September and October for standing committee meetings. But what has traditionally happened the last two times committees have been on the road, there have always been two people from Legislative Television who go. There has been someone from this office go as well as someone from Communications Nova Scotia who has been assigned to the committee. Sometimes it has been just the Communications person, other times a Communications writer.
So there is sort of a core staff that do travel and sometimes there's even another person who will come from this office depending on how large the meeting is. When they had to go back out on the road for Workers' Compensation or when they were in Halifax, when there were so many people, there's always been staff to sort of fill in, and because of the budgeting back then we were able to hire someone to just go on the road who coordinated out of this office because there were other meetings going on like there will be this fall. So, again, it depends on the budget and where people want to go and what other meetings are going on.
MR. CORBETT: I was looking at the calendar up there, I think at some point, maybe government has a better insight when the House is going to be recalled, but I mean that certainly is a fact that has to be taken into consideration but, obviously, I think at some point in mid to late September we should hit the road. I am just throwing that out there . . .
MR. CHAIRMAN: Sure, yes.
MR. CORBETT: Someone can start arguing about a start date or an end date. (Interruption) I know the week of September 18th our caucus won't be available. There will be nobody available from our caucus.
MR. CHAIRMAN: I think ours is September 13th and 14th.
MR. STEELE: If I could make a suggestion, just picking up on that, normally the House would go back mid to late October. So I guess we can assume maybe that it would be the same this year. I am a bit reluctant to do anything the first week of September with everybody going back to school and whatnot. Then your caucus is busy the following week and our caucus is busy the week after that. What if we aim to have our hearings the last week of September and the first three weeks of October, somewhere in there, and we should be able then to get our hearings in before the House sits and then perhaps we could aim, you know, with a little bit of back and forth about the writing of the report, maybe aim to have a report by early to mid-December.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Dale, did you have any comment?
MR. ROBBINS: I was just going to make a comment regarding support that you need while on the road and what I would think that you should do is wrestle among yourselves what you think that you feel while you are out there in terms of - we made mention of Legislative TV, if you're having audio service. If that's a requirement, then you will need staff from Legislative TV to set that up if that's the way we go. There was mention made, I believe, of whether there was Hansard. I am not sure if we have done that in the past. I don't think. I think it was taped and then Hansard would use those tapes. I don't see a requirement there. In terms of the Committee's Office, I know in the past, I believe, there has been a provision whereby a person has gone to do administrative acts of setting up and making sure that people are in line for their presentations and so on. I am not sure about Communications Nova Scotia, whether there is a need for that and what purpose that would serve in a function like this.
I think those are issues that you need to, as a committee, determine do we feel that these are vital. If so, we can attempt to cost out what you are suggesting and we take that proposal forward. If somebody tailors it and says, no, we haven't got enough money, we can cut back here, there, or something, then that's another decision that is made outside of this room right at the moment, but that's what I would just like to throw in maybe for your consideration.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Graham has indicated a time frame. Maybe we could start with getting a motion of a time frame and try to fit in and get started with that.
MR. STEELE: I am really just putting this out for discussion for anybody's reaction. I would move, for the reasons I stated, that we aim to start the public hearing schedule the last week of September and complete it by the third week of October, which would be October 19th, and that we aim to have a completed report by December 15th of this year. Then that would be in the nature of a self-imposed deadline, which, of course, the committee could extend if for any reason over the hearings we felt we needed more time. So I put that on the floor for discussion.
MR. CHAIRMAN: We have a motion, do we have a seconder?
MR. CORBETT: I second it. (Interruptions)
MR. CHAIRMAN: We don't need seconders, all right, my inexperience.
Would all those in favour of the motion please say Aye. Contrary minded, Nay.
[The motion is carried.]
MR. CHAIRMAN: How did this happen? It's great to see.
MR. STEELE: Since I was so successful with that one, maybe I could move that we adopt the hearing schedule suggested by Kerry Morash, although I do have one suggestion for change. Perhaps we could just put a motion on the floor to adopt this schedule and then have some debate about whether to amend it.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Graham has made the motion, is there agreement?
It is agreed.
MR. STEELE: Ron, do you want to go ahead?
MR. RONALD CHISHOLM: This pretty well covers all the problems with the exception, as I see it, of the Eastern Shore. There is absolutely nothing from Halifax-Bedford down to Antigonish-Port Hawkesbury. I know from my own area, from Sherbrooke through to Ecum Secum, the Halifax County line, they have three volunteer fire departments in that area. I know up the Shore there are quite a number of volunteer fire departments as well. It would cover probably the Musquodoboit Valley area as well, if there was one, possibly, in the Sheet Harbour area. I don't know how we would do that.
MR. STEELE: Ron, do you think Sheet Harbour would take care of that concern?
MR. RONALD CHISHOLM: That would be my suggestion, that that would be the centre of the Eastern Shore, from Dartmouth down through to Sherbrooke at least, and probably further.
MR. CORBETT: I don't disagree with it wholeheartedly, Ron, but if that geographic area is considered, then there are large spots of Inverness County and Victoria County that don't even - Victoria County isn't even touched, their closest one is Sydney and sections of Inverness County certainly could go towards Port Hawkesbury but anything probably north of Inverness, there would be the same travel problems. I am thinking in the area you are
talking about, the Ecum Secum area, could they travel to Truro and the other area, St. Marys and that, could they travel to . . .
MR. RONALD CHISHOLM: There is no difference to them if they travelled just as far, I should say from Ecum Secum through to Truro as it would be to Port Hawkesbury, it would be very much different, and it's a long drive; from Ecum Secum to Port Hawkesbury is an hour and a half drive one way.
MR. CORBETT: I am not fighting you on it, there are areas where everyone is always going to have a problem, whether it is Parrsboro, because they are in the middle, they are not really close to either one of the areas.
MR. BARNET: It's an hour from everywhere.
MR. CORBETT: Yes. There are volunteer departments in Ingonish Beach, where do they go? I hear what you are saying, and if the committee wants - we are saying $10,000 a day for a meeting. I realize one committee I had been on before, WCB, we made arrangements and we are looking at $10,000, and two people show up. So we get into the argument, is that just the cost of being fair and so on. If it is the will of the committee I will certainly make my best attempt to be there, but I am sure if we get a letter from Ingonish saying that there are people up there having problems in Neils Harbour that's all I am saying, but if we can do it, it is a beautiful spot, and I would love to go, Ron.
MR. RONALD CHISHOLM: I know what you are saying too, Frank, about Victoria County. I mean maybe Baddeck would be an ideal spot to have one in that area. So there are other areas I guess as well.
MR. CORBETT: I don't want to belabour this, but maybe there should be a whole rethinking, maybe we should look at doing these in more rural areas than the more - if you want to take the risk of calling Sydney and Truro urban - urban areas because these are the folks, as you talked about before, Mr. Chairman, the fact that we really want the input of a lot of these municipalities that do not have fire inspectors, certainly where we have large volunteer contingents we don't want to lose sight of. I have no problem with it, I am not arguing from that basis. My only argument is from the logistics of $10,000 a day.
MR. RONALD CHISHOLM: There are a lot of volunteer fire departments in Inverness, Richmond, the rural areas. They are all volunteer fire departments. Like I say, from Ecum Secum there is probably, in a 40-mile distance to Sherbrooke there are three volunteer fire departments that I know of.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Perhaps we could have a little more discussion and try to arrive at a consensus.
MR. BARNET: I don't know if it is possible or even something that you would consider. Obviously, there are four or five or six geographic areas in the province that when you look at this list and the other list that are a half hour or 45 minutes or an hour from any major parks, so it would be difficult for people to get there, but what about the possibility of doing some target advertising for presenters in those areas to try to maybe have one meeting that you hold by conference call, where people are lined up to present by conference call? And that could be anywhere at that point in time, it could be here in Halifax and the committee would meet and you would target those areas that are geographically away from where you are going to go in terms of trying to provide an opportunity for them to get on a list to make a phone call and present it by telephone. Would that be something that the committee would consider? Could that resolve the issue of Sheet Harbour, Ingonish, and Parrsboro, and the list goes on? There are all kinds of others as well.
MR. CHAIRMAN: I guess the question would also come up, if they felt that they were unable to attend, whether written submissions would be accepted to give everybody an opportunity to have input that wanted to do it? Russell MacKinnon.
MR. RUSSELL MACKINNON: Just a housekeeping matter, Mr. Chairman, and I do apologize for being a little late, coming from another meeting. Just to address the point that my colleague, the member for Cape Breton Centre has raised in terms of being a little sensitive to make sure we get the maximum bang for our buck in terms of location. I think your point is very well taken. The Grand Lake Road area is the geographic centre of industrial Cape Breton and perhaps that might be a better location at the local fire department there than downtown Sydney.
Sometimes people have problems coming from North Sydney and Sydney Mines, the Northside or from Cape Breton The Lakes, and that is the geographic centre of industrial Cape Breton. It is not in my constituency mind you; I did have it one time, sorry to lose it, but it is attached to the Trans Canada Highway and it would be a good location. If that's not a major difficulty with anybody here, I would suggest that might be a little better and even more user-friendly for the good folks out in New Waterford and Glace Bay.
MR. CORBETT: With that in mind, too - again with the mutual admiration society going here - what we should probably strive to do is to access as many of these community fire halls as we can in doing this in these areas, because if we are going to pay money to rent facilities in a hotel, if that was possible, certainly if we are going to do it, I think we will be showing the right colours by doing that.
MR. STEELE: I was going to make a suggestion about the schedule and that was that my preference would be to see more than one hearing in the HRM area. Now Sheet Harbour being HRM, but I mean the old Halifax-Bedford-Dartmouth, perhaps one on each side of the
harbour. But I do quite like Russell's idea of doing it in slightly non-traditional places. For example, on the Halifax side, rather than doing it here in downtown Halifax, we could do it out by the Bicentennial Highway, which is relatively accessible by people from Bedford, Sackville, and also from the Halifax area. A place like the Holiday Inn Express out beside the BiHi, or Russell's suggestion about where to do it in industrial Cape Breton.
I also like the idea of a conference call, if it is technically feasible. For example, what we could do is in the fourth week we could have a day that was simply a conference call day, where people could call in from wherever they were if they hadn't been able to attend a public hearing but still wanted to make a verbal presentation. We could be here in this room and people could call in from all over Nova Scotia, if need be. So if it is technically feasible and doesn't cost an arm and a leg, it is something that I think really could be considered as an integral part of the hearing schedule.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Yes, we do have e-mail and written submissions by letter and I guess we probably should get a feeling of the committee on whether the conference call would be, we would have to find out the costs involved - as in all things.
MR. STEELE: I wonder if Dale or anybody else in the room has an idea of whether it is technically feasible to do that.
MR. ROBBINS: Probably would, if you have the facilities, that might be possible. Mora might know whether it has been done here before, but it is probably possible to do it.
MS. STEVENS: What we have done is conference called in a number of MLAs for the Human Resources Committee, and I do have the cost of our original one which I can certainly bring forward. What we have is a 1-800 line for people to call in; unfortunately you cannot conference on a 1-800 line, I have been told. But, depending on how many people, if we knew ahead of time it is easy to set up with a conference call operator for as many parties, or you could do it individually, if you were meeting, and then just have one of the staff here call and conference it over and just put it on hands-free. That is a possibility if you are doing it one at a time, or a call can be set up. We just have to know ahead of time the names and the numbers of the people. That can be orchestrated.
MR. STEELE: I was thinking more of the latter option which would be a little more technically simple. So, my suggestion would be when we get to amending the motion on the floor that there be a second hearing for the Halifax-Dartmouth region and that we add in week four - since the hearing schedule that we have adopted does have four weeks in it, in week four we have an open-ended conference call session. Those would be the suggestions I put forward for discussion.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Thank you, Graham. Would it be appropriate to look at the list that we do have that we are discussing and perhaps try to pinpoint more specifically the
locations that we do want to meet in? That will help us arrive at the number of meetings that we will have. We have suggested, in Kerry Morash's submission, the Sydney area and, Russell, you have indicated, is that something that we have any disagreement on?
MR. MACKINNON: Mr. Chairman, just to enlighten members who aren't familiar with the area, it is attached to the Trans Canada. It is very easy to find; it is the geographic centre of industrial Cape Breton. It is near a lot of the amenities such as if you were to break for lunch or whatever, you are across from the mall. There are restaurant facilities there, it is easy access for downtown. It is in the Welton Street area there, which is predominately restaurants and fast food outlets and easy access for the members who are staying from out of town. If they are staying in hotels and motels downtown, it is the main thoroughfare right to their location. It is in a volunteer fire department facility and it makes it easier to appreciate the environment; it reflects the intent of what the committee is all about. I believe it might be a little bit more cost-effective than renting some of the more high-priced facilities.
MR. CHAIRMAN: We are very interested in cost-effective.
MR. MACKINNON: I somehow suspect that in certain areas. We are trying to help that new facilitator in health care, make her job easier. (Laughter) A little levity there.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Perhaps we could choose the locations, if that is agreed with. Are there objections or any further discussion on the Sydney area?
MR. RONALD CHISHOLM: I know exactly where that fire department is, it would be an ideal location. I would also suggest, Mr. Chairman, that in the Port Hawkesbury area, the fire department there, as well, has an excellent facility that they rent out, and they would no doubt be glad to accommodate us for the day or whatever.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Mora, would you like to . . .
MS. STEVENS: There is just one concern that just popped into my head. Is going to a voluntary fire department or a fire department something that would get other fire departments upset - why are you not coming to mine? We have always had to try to keep neutral places, and that might be something that people would want to consider. You have to be very careful of the area that you would choose. You certainly would know the areas a lot better than we would, but we don't want to have it look like the committee would be for one side or the other. We have always tried for very neutral places. So when you are going through this, if we can just keep that in mind. It is difficult enough out on the road, but you don't want to get into something that we couldn't foresee. I would just put that cautionary note out there.
MR. MACKINNON: Mr. Chairman, if that were the case I certainly would have picked one in my own constituency, which is also attached to the Trans Canada, the Mira Road one, which is only about two or three miles away. I looked at what I thought was the best option. I think the volunteer fire departments in the CBRM are very intellectual and very fair-minded individuals, and they appreciate the value of that. I might be wrong, and some people may look at it a little differently. I think anyone who knows the geography of the area knows it is very easy to find, and it is a good facility. That was my only thought.
MR. CHAIRMAN: My experience with the fire service in Nova Scotia has been that there would not be a problem of sharing a facility. The fire services get along extremely well.
MS. STEVENS: They must all be wheelchair accessible. I am assuming they all are, and they are all (Interruptions) Excellent.
MR. RONALD CHISHOLM: I am almost positive they have an elevator; it is an upstairs facility and they have an elevator there, and it is wheelchair accessible. If something happened that it wasn't, Port Hastings is about five, six kilometres from Port Hawkesbury, so either one, it wouldn't make a difference.
MR. STEELE: Mr. Chairman, I wonder, could I try to summarize the discussion in the form of an amendment to the motion that is on the floor?
MR. CHAIRMAN: Certainly.
MR. STEELE: The motion that is on the floor is that we adopt the schedule proposed by Kerry Morash, and I would like to move an amendment to that based on the discussion. The amendment would be that a week four be added, and that in week four there be a hearing scheduled for Sheet Harbour, and also in week four that there be a conference call available for people who choose to make their presentation that way. The amendment would also state that it is the desire of the committee, as much as possible, to hold the hearings in local fire halls or similar facilities, with reference in particular to the suggestions from Russell MacKinnon about the Grand Lake facility for the Sydney area and the Port Hawkesbury-Port Hastings facility, with due regard to disabled access. I would move that amendment to the main motion.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Any discussion on the amendment?
MR. BARNET: You didn't mention anything about a second meeting . . .
MR. STEELE: Oh, I am sorry, thanks very much. That was my own suggestion, which I forgot. The amendment would also include a second meeting to take place some time in week two in the Halifax-Bedford-Dartmouth area.
MR. CHAIRMAN: May I just get some clarification? The days that we can do these are basically Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, is that not correct, from a staffing standpoint?
MR. MACKINNON: Mr. Chairman, I have to be a little sensitive and I believe there are other members here on the committee who have to be sensitive too, the Public Accounts.
MR. CHAIRMAN: That sort of eliminates Wednesdays.
MR. MACKINNON: Well, we could do some alternating, but I know there are at least one, two members here. Who else is on Public Accounts?
MR. BARNET: I am, but I am not on this committee.
MR. MACKINNON: Okay, so it is just me. Rather than hold up the committee, I will just find a replacement for the Public Accounts Committee. I know that will be disappointing to some government members, certainly in the Premier's Office they will be disappointed.
MS. STEVENS: Usually what we do is Monday is a travel day for staff to set up, because Legislative Television certainly goes early and sets up and depending on where it is going, like if you are going to Sydney you have to leave the day before and then you're ripping down at night and going the next day. So we have usually chosen Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, and sometimes there is a spillover to Fridays.
If you need more than one meeting, what happens is we put the 1-800 number out there and the ads go out. We book the time and we start 7:00 p.m. through until 10:00 p.m. and then if we need more time, sometimes depending on the location, you can go into the early afternoon so that sort of extends the hearing a little longer and then we have kept sort of the dates if you need to go back; I know we did with Workers' Compensation. There was so much demand in Sydney that they had to put another day and they travelled back up there at the end of their hearing schedule and sometimes that has happened as well, that it is just sort of a fallback day that you can always re-book. So that might be something the committee wants to keep in mind.
MR. CHAIRMAN: In the amendment that Graham indicated for the Halifax-Bedford area, or Dartmouth area, would there be a possibility of doing two meetings in one day?
MR. BARNET: Mr. Chairman, could I just make a suggestion with respect to the Halifax one? I know that with other initiatives that the province went through that there have been occasions where they have brought information out to the public and they have had six people show up and they have had a meeting in Halifax, a meeting in Sackville and a meeting in Dartmouth within a day period after heavily advertising; in other cases where they have packed the place and then not had, you know you just never can tell. The issues are different.
I wonder would it be wise to put a gap between your first meeting and your second meeting for Halifax, so that you put it as tentative in the event that it is necessary, rather than scheduling it as a permanent meeting that you assess the attendance of your first one to determine whether or not you need a second one? That way you're not spending $10,000 for two people.
MR. CORBETT: I agree with that, too. I would like to put forth that, to be on the safe side, our first meeting in the HRM area should be outside of these confines, not exactly the committee rooms, it could be somewhere out in Bedford, Dartmouth, or some place else, and then if the second one is needed, for the purposes of cost come back here and do them here because there is no setup.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Is there further discussion?
Would all those in favour of the motion please say Aye. Contrary minded, Nay.
[The motion is carried.]
MR. CHAIRMAN: So we pretty well have our locations, and on our list there is the Amherst area. What would the feeling be, for example, of Springhill or something like that, that would bring Oxford and the other . . .
MR. STEELE: For myself, I took that to mean generally the Cumberland County area. To me it doesn't have to be Amherst. It depends what Ernie thinks, I guess.
Mr. Chairman, I wonder if I could raise a different topic and that is what recording services, if any, the committee feels that it needs?
MR. CHAIRMAN: I had one meeting with Mora and she just indicated that Hansard might be available, but I will leave that . . .
MS. STEVENS: Standardly what happens is we have transcripts of the meetings for the members and for all the witnesses who attend. It has been that way since I have been here, because it gives you a good record of what is actually said and what happens. You do have two Legislative TV people out on the road, and then you have Hansard typing the transcripts. It would just be like a transcript of a regular standing committee meeting. That gets distributed to all the witnesses, as well as giving you a record of what was said, that people can fall back on, to say yes this is what I said or this is what the committee heard. It has always been, certainly, very helpful for the committee, as well as going back in the past. It was only a couple of weeks ago we had calls for the Workers' Compensation transcripts that happened a couple of years ago.
I know they certainly seem to be valuable. Again, it does cost a lot of money to have transcripts. That is a major cost, because you have two Legislative Television staff going on the road, all of their expenses, all of their overtime, the van that it takes to rent to go there as well. I know a lot of the costs for Hansard is in-house because they are a service that is available, but there is still, obviously, a cost there. So it is certainly up to the committee, what they would like to do.
MR. CHAIRMAN: What is the feeling of the members, in that area what is necessary to do an adequate job?
MR. CORBETT: It is always good to have transcripts. Again, I think, as most people said, sometimes we may go and they get it transcribed, six hours we are at the meetings, and the next time it is six minutes, and that is the craziness when you do this type of committee work. You don't know until you get out there what is facing you, until we start advertising. While it is a worthwhile piece of support to have, I guess it has to be weighed out.
MR. ROBBINS: Just let me ask a question. Do you always get written submissions from each of the presenters? If you get that, are they logical or do they alter in the course of their discussion or presentation, or is that sufficient to fall back on? The taping provides, I suppose, direct communications back and forth between the members, chairs and so on. Is that important to you? Are the written submissions enough for you to work on as a committee to make your final determination? I guess those are some of the considerations you would want to consider in that.
MR. CHAIRMAN: I will ask some of the members, of course, to have input. I haven't had a great deal of experience. The only other one I have been on, written submissions were given and they seemed to be adequate.
MR. CORBETT: Well, yes. Except Mora's shaking her head.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Some are; some aren't, are they?
MR. CORBETT: I think you have some that are written, and some people are very good, they will make copies right there for the committee to pass around. We just saw it at the Law Amendments Committee, where someone will come in and have copies made for everybody; others will come in with a brief and then go right off it. What you also have there is the questioning from the committee members which can take on a life of its own too, but I don't see that as a problem because we have such an excellent chairman.
MR. GORDON HEBB: Mr. Corbett referred to the Law Amendments Committee, and the practice in the Law Amendments Committee has never been to transcribe, because I guess most of the presentations there have been written briefs, but they are recorded and can always be referred to. There certainly can be a saving by not transcribing unless you need to.
The other thing we have done sometimes in the Law Amendments Committee is merely transcribed those people who have not presented written briefs, and not routinely but where there has been a specific request by the committee that they would like to have a written record of what a particular witness said, we have then transcribed that. Certainly it is less onerous.
MR. MACKINNON: Mr. Chairman, just to follow up on that point. It wasn't until last year when I made an official request to the Speaker that the tapes from the Law Amendments Committee be maintained, the past practice has been that after five years all transcripts of the Law Amendments Committee would be destroyed. Now we have those records being safeguarded. Mr. Kinsman, am I correct in that? Yes.
But one of the good points about having Hansard is that perhaps, when we get into a "question and answer" after a presentation, sometimes we are able to elicit more clarity on exactly what a particular individual or interest group has in mind in terms of a particular aspect of improving the Fire Prevention Act, as we are proposing in that regard.
To be able to help to ensure conciseness and clarity we should have some form of a transcript/record, whether we would need it on a daily basis or perhaps at the end of the every week, or something like that at least so members, particularly the members for the respective caucuses will be able to refer when they are making recommendations back to the committee or the Liberal, NDP or Conservative caucuses, you will have something there that you could refer to, to make sure you are not second-guessing or that you may not have transcribed something using the number two instead of the number three, for lack of a better example.
It is just to ensure that concise, clear reflection of what happened at that particular point in time and what the position is of a particular individual or a group of individuals. I would think it would be important to have transcripts, not necessarily at the end of every day, but at the end of the hearings we should have a transcript that we can refer to.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Mora, you have had experience in this field, would you like to . . .
MS. STEVENS: I think . . .
MR. STEELE: I have a question about costs, if I might. I don't know who the best person is to ask the question of, but it seems like there are roughly four options here: one is to have no recording or transcript at all; the other extreme is to have recording, virtually an immediate transcript, within 24 hours; and in between those options are recording but no transcript unless requested; and then recording and, as Russell has suggested, you have it not immediately but available by the end of the week. I wonder if anybody could give us even a ballpark about the relative cost of those various options.
MR. ROBBINS: Right on the spot it would probably be difficult to do. Bob, I am not sure if you can comment on the costs. We have a fixed staff, we have some staff. We often would have to bring in possibly additional staff, if you were on a time-frame crunch, to get things out. It depends on how long the hearings are. If you had hearings that lasted a couple of hours, well that is not a major thing, but if you have hearings that last all day, 9 days, 10 days, 11 days, then it is a lot of transcription. Those options, I know on the Legislative TV, the recording component, that is probably more costly because you have people on the road, and your travelling costs, overtime costs and the set-ups and so on, that can be costly. It could be done, it could be factored out what that would cost per day, we could do that, but I can't tell you right on the spot, and I am not sure whether anyone here would be able to do that right now.
MR. STEELE: I just have a follow-up question. If I am understanding correctly you are saying the major part of the cost is actually sending people on the road and recording, that the actual transcription by Hansard staff, probably here in this building, would not be so much a major component compared to that. Am I understanding that right?
MR. ROBBINS: I can ask for Bob's comments, but I would think that in terms of it is a small amount of transcription we could accommodate that with existing staff, without adding an additional cost factor, depending on whether you get into a lot of hours. Then, given the fact that we are backlogged a bit anyhow because of the recent sitting of the House and the transcription of the Supply debate and so on, when we add more to that, it can give a crunch. I can let Bob comment on that; he would be knowledgeable.
MR. ROBERT KINSMAN: I am not used to being on this side of the mike. (Laughter)
The main problem for us would be the deadline. If you wanted it within 24 hours it would be much more costly because we would have to hire casual staff. If you were doing it, say a week or two lag, then that is really not a big problem. The cost that has usually been given by Hansard is $30 a page, that is how we figure out what it costs. That works about to, every five minute tape, which is a page, page and a half, so you are talking $350 to $375 an hour, but if we have regular staff then it is not nearly as expensive, of course.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Mora, would you have any suggestions or guidance?
MS. STEVENS: I know, certainly, that Hansard transcripts seem to be very important to the public because they are the ones who are giving you their input and for them to get something back, to say yes, this is what I said, it is a record for them. I know we have had that contact with the public, and they are very pleased. Not only do the ones who present get it, but I can pretty much assure that basically every volunteer fire department would ask and receive copies of those transcripts. We had that with Workers' Compensation, one group would say I want not just the transcript from our area, we would like copies of every
transcript. Now they are available on the Web, so that makes it much easier for those types of costs. We can send them a copy and they can get the rest on the Web.
I know that for the public, those transcripts are very good. Also for that permanent record, it is very nice. With Workers' Compensation, we went back to some of the things that had happened in other Select Committees on Workers' Compensation. They seem to be a very useful tool. We have never had a 24 hour turnover with a select committee out on the road or even a standing committee out on the road, like the House has. It has always been a couple of weeks, because what happens is you come back from a week on the road, then you give Hansard the tapes. Then they are working on those tapes while you are out for another week on the road.
I know some have actually been couriered to make it faster but, of course, you are doing 5 minute, 10 minute tapes, so even the cost of the tapes alone can get extreme if you are not able to reuse them. There was also the talk about keeping those tapes, especially if you don't transcribe them, because people really like to know what they have said. The committee certainly might want to have a section - if they don't have it typed - at least to say remember John Smith who said this in Port Hawkesbury, we would really like to use that, it was a great idea. That is the sort of thing that only comes out when you are dealing with your reports and afterwards.
Having the transcript also enables the members to relax, because they know it is being recorded and they can think, oh, I will catch that later. Instead of writing notes furiously, you can really concentrate on what people are saying. Those would be my comments.
MR. STEELE: Mr. Chairman, I would like to move, to give us something to vote on if need be, that Legislative TV be asked to record the proceedings of the committee, and that Hansard be asked to transcribe the proceedings, with the understanding that as far as possible it would be within normal staffing and scheduling. Is that an appropriate way of putting it?
MR. CHAIRMAN: We have a motion. Discussion? The question is being called for.
Is it agreed?
It is agreed.
[The motion is carried.]
MR. CHAIRMAN: I am sure this committee won't operate this well, but it is wonderful today. It is wonderful today, Frank. (Interruptions) We do have locations; we do have time frames.
MR. MACKINNON: Mr. Chairman, one slightly different issue I think may be very helpful to committee members is the fact, as you may or may not be aware, that there was a Fire Prevention Act prepared after a two year consultative process which kind of died of natural causes after July 1999. But there are rather substantive records within the Department of Labour, a list of all the briefs and the presentations that were made by various stakeholders that would be affected by any Fire Prevention Act. That file is there, with a list of a lot of those briefs and presentations that were made by volunteer fire departments, paid fire service, municipalities, fire chiefs, and on and on and on.
I think it would be helpful if the Department of Labour would be willing to provide a copy of those briefs. I think it would be very helpful for all members to at least read them and prepare for when the hearings come up. Not that we are not capable, but certainly we would be able to ask better informed questions, we would have a better understanding of some of the issues. There are some issues that become quite technical, particularly with the sprinkler systems, fire alarms and the relationships of the various lines of responsibility within the technical aspects, particularly with decisions of the fire chief delegating responsibilities and occupational health and safety and so on.
There is a lot of very good and interesting material that is available. I have had the good fortune of reading some of them when I was minister, and I think it would be very helpful to members. I don't see there would be any difficulty with the Department of Labour. I am sure the minister and the deputy minister would be quite supportive in providing whatever they can, copies of those briefs. It would be very helpful. There is a Fire Prevention Advisory Council that is made up of a cross-representation of all stakeholders in the province; they oversaw that as well. It would be very helpful.
MR. CHAIRMAN: I am sure that this information would be readily available to us. I think maybe just prior to your getting here, I have had some consultation, over the five years since 1995 when they started working on this, that this document that is there now, the Nova Scotia Firefighters Association and the officers association are very supportive of and actually think it is just about it the way it is, I could be wrong, but I think most of our input will come from the municipalities and other stakeholders that it is going to affect, from finances and so on. I think the fire service is relatively, in general, pretty happy with this legislation.
MR. MACKINNON: Mr. Chairman, if I may, I believe you are absolutely correct, that will be one of the more contentious issues, as well as the concern that there are certain stakeholders in Nova Scotia who would much prefer a decision of the fire marshal be appealed to the political level rather than through the judicial form. I think that's something that I would alert all members to be very cautious of, because any attempt to politicize fire
safety in Nova Scotia will be to the detriment of everyone sitting in this room and well beyond. I agree with you, Mr. Chairman, there are two major issues.
Most of the issues, I feel, have already been covered, but this is a process that has been decided and I think we owe due respect. I think that information would be very helpful to all committee members and I think we would be remiss if it wasn't provided. Perhaps, maybe in the form of a motion or a general consensus, we would ask you, as chairman, to request that the department provide it.
MR. STEELE: I have two questions for Russell, if I might. The first one was, in that previous process were there public hearings (Interruptions) Or was it written submissions? So, there were public hearings?
MR. MACKINNON: There were invitations for people through the stakeholders. It took place over a two and a half year period, if my memory serves me correctly.
MR. STEELE: But in the form of written submissions?
MR. MACKINNON: Written and oral submissions.
MR. STEELE: The oral submissions were submitted to who?
MR. MACKINNON: To the Department of Labour, to this Fire Prevention Advisory Council.
MR. STEELE: Are there transcripts of those meetings?
MR. MACKINNON: I would be incorrect to say yes or no.
MS. MARGARET MURPHY: There was a final report, and there was a discussion paper that was put out by the Fire Prevention Advisory Council. That, unfortunately, is not on the Internet anymore, but we have copies. I am sure they would be able to supply copies.
MR. MACKINNON: There is a rather large file of all the presentations that were submitted from municipalities, the paid fire service, the volunteer service, you can go on and on. I believe once we see those reports and once presenters start coming, there will be a lot of repetition.
MR. STEELE: Perhaps the best way to deal with it then would be to ask the Legislative Library to coordinate with the Department of Labour and make sure that those are available to any member of the committee who wants to view them, or are you suggesting that every member of the committee should get a copy of everything in that file?
MR. MACKINNON: Well, it should be made available. If committee members don't want to bother to read all the material or to have it, I think it should be available so that . . .
MR. CHAIRMAN: Perhaps we could request Mora to check on it and see if it could be made available, and anyone who wants it could contact Mora.
MS. STEVENS: Precisely. Standardly what we do is we don't just throw you out in the road unprepared. We usually, about a week before a road show, have people in like the fire marshal or the Department of Labour or groups that have been there. Especially where there is a bill, like we did with the Workers' Compensation Select Committee, we sort of went through all of these things a week or two before so you had a really good background before you were put out on the road.
That is one of the reasons why Gordon was asked here today. Since there already was a previous piece of legislation and there is previous work done, what Workers' Compensation did is actually have someone from Gordon's office - it was Gordon Johnson - travel with the committee because they would be the ones or he was the one working on the Workers' Compensation Act that would go in that report. That might be something you would want to consider for this road show. It was very important to know the legal aspects; of course we have a lawyer on the committee which is always good. (Interruptions)
MR. STEELE: As long as everybody would just listen to my opinions. (Laughter)
MS. STEVENS: But what happens is the witnesses, Bill No. 58 was out there or they have the Act in front of them, and they say okay, what are you doing with this and this and this, and then the committee is like, hmm, how do we answer? That happened a number of times at the beginning of the Workers' Compensation hearings. That might be something you consider as well.
We never throw you there without having a series of meetings beforehand. That could be something, we could bring in people and certainly get all that background and put together a binder for you.
MR. CHAIRMAN: If you look at Kerry Morash's recommendation, at the bottom he did suggest that time be spent with the fire marshal or his people, the appropriate people, prior to our hitting the road.
MR. MACKINNON: Perhaps, Mr. Chairman, if I may, just to summarize. Maybe you as chairman of the committee would make a request to the minister and/or the deputy minister and/or the fire marshal asking for any and all available presentations or reports, submissions that have been made in the past that they are able to release, it would certainly be appreciated by the members of the committee.
MR. CHAIRMAN: I will do that. Mora, we can . . .
MR. MACKINNON: Would that be agreed?
MR. CHAIRMAN: That is agreed. I will check on that.
MR. STEELE: Mr. Chairman, now that we are halfway into the topic of staffing, maybe we could just talk about staffing. I am sure that Carla and Nicole are just dying to know what the committee's desires are in terms of staffing, and also the Legislative Counsel's office. I am not sure that it is the best use of Legislative Counsel's time to have somebody on the road with us - others may not agree - although I do like the idea of having somebody from Communications Nova Scotia given the task of doing the actual writing of the report. Then, if they are going to do the actual writing, I think it wouldn't be a bad idea at all for them to accompany the committee on its travels.
My suggestion, which I can put in the form of a motion if you like, is that Communications Nova Scotia be requested to send a staff member with the committee, but that Legislative Counsel's office not be asked to send a member on the road with the committee. I would put that forward for discussion.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Graham has brought forth the motion. Any discussion on that?
Is it agreed?
It is agreed.
The motion is carried.
MR. STEELE: We will let Carla and Nicole fight over which one gets to go on the road.
MR. CHAIRMAN: At this point, is there other staffing that we should be looking at, Mora?
MS. STEVENS: Usually what we've done with the last couple is we have been lucky enough to have been able to hire someone who actually goes on the road with the committee. It was Kim Sheppard the last couple of times but, of course, it all depends on budget restraints and what is happening. The one thing, Kim having been on the road with a couple of committees already and familiar with the system, she also works at Hansard. So it sort of goes back and forth and it is only if there is money to do that because, as you can see, depending on the weeks that you're travelling, we have got Public Accounts and all the other committees that we have to staff as well and be here. So that has happened the last couple of times but, again, it is budget restraints.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Dale, how would you say we're doing?
MR. ROBBINS: I was just wondering about that, just a comment, I don't know, the administrative aspects. The person who goes more or less, I think, handles the administrative, I am just commenting to myself here, whether if somebody was attending from Communications, whether they would be able to make a linkage there just to look after anything like that or if that is out of the question, or if there is any other provision, or if any of the existing staff, as opposed to hiring somebody, dedicated during that period.
It is only a comment that I will just throw out and while I am talking maybe a couple of other aspects before you finish, I would just like to get your feedback on, and that will be the advertising, what you feel are requirements there. That is an expensive item and it depends on how widely you do that, whether it is just the dailies, a couple of dailies, or whether it goes into other forms and the other aspect, I think I hear you saying they were going to attempt to use fire halls for hearings possibly, where possible, so I want to keep the costs - they probably will do this free of charge to us and I assume that's the direction I am hearing here. We will try to eliminate rented facilities per se in building up our costs here, what this might lead to.
MR. MACKINNON: Mr. Chairman, on Dale's point, I think it would be remiss if the committee didn't offer at least a nominal fee to cover their overhead expenses, something like that. I mean you're . . .
MR. ROBBINS: Yes, it would certainly be cheaper than using . . .
MR. MACKINNON: Well, yes, I mean, it is just common courtesy I think. Although I appreciate our money man over there in the corner, he is vigilant in all corners I can assure you.
MR. CHAIRMAN: I do know that the red tape committee advertised quite extensively, yet we heard some criticism that no one ever - and we would have a whole page, like a side of a page with a red line down it and yet people said they never saw it. So I don't know what you do to make sure people are aware that you're coming to town, but . . .
MR. CORBETT: That is what happens when you have a partisan committee.
MR. CHAIRMAN: We did use red.
MR. STEELE: Let's finish this question about staffing if we can before we get into advertising which is obviously an important issue too, but let's . . .
MR. CHAIRMAN: Let's clear up the staffing.
MR. STEELE: I mean I quite like the idea of one staff person kind of looking after everything, but how does Communications Nova Scotia feel about that?
MS. CARLA BURNS: We are not familiar with select committee meetings and the set-up and the administrative side of it. Mora, I don't know if you have anything to add to that. I mean most certainly we will help where possible and with past select committees and public hearings, if we did not have a staff person available, then depending on the budget, you know, we may have hired somebody to do that, but in this case we more than likely would have somebody to go. I don't want to commit to handling the whole meeting. I am not sure if we could.
MR. CORBETT: I would just like to go back and I know it doesn't make you a veteran because you're on one committee, but the way it worked before, there was a contract person from CNS.
MS. BURNS: Yes.
MR. CORBETT: And there was a contract person, I think, from your office, Mora, and there were two people from LTV and that was the staff. There were other people with the committee which we wouldn't encumber - I shouldn't say encumber because they were very helpful - that I don't perceive to be on this committee, but people stemming out from that. That's what I found were four people because especially with the constant recording, the LTV people spelled each other off and the person from the Committees Office acted as basically the person who welcomed you and helped the flow and so on. The CNS person helped us, actually helped a lot, they worked in conjunction with the person from the Committees Office, plus were working on the file and, as you say, shortened up the writing aspect. That is what we found, four people.
MS. STEVENS: Precisely. We have done it with one, and it doesn't really work well. If someone is going there from Communications who is also doing the writing, they need to have that time to be able to concentrate on the meeting. When you are running a meeting, you have a list of people who are going to appear but the changes that happen, even from the running around to do the photocopying, especially if you are not in facilities that have photocopying facilities, then you are running after people, you are getting names, spellings, there is a lot in the coordination of that meeting, and not just at the meeting time, it is all the things that happen beforehand.
I really would suggest, even in some meetings, that we had extra staff go down because it was just too much to do. At the big meetings in Halifax, we had two committee people plus another Communications person because it was so big. If you have a lot of names then you sub in people because you want to have a meeting that runs smoothly. If you don't, you may find that it may be recorded but then you have all the problems that would take
place in Hansard, there were no correct names, and that just adds to the cost because you are calling, you are finding out names, spellings.
If you have something, you are really eliminating other costs that could happen because the Communications person, the last time, also set up interviews. They were working on different aspects of communications that when you are coordinating a committee meeting you are not really working on. That is sort of the aspect, I know with Workers' Compensation, Doug handled. He was dealing with the reporters who were there who wanted to line up stories and interviews and dealing with getting the chairman and some of the Opposition members on the radio, doing interviews, and he was writing the report as he was there. Then somebody was coordinating.
I would suggest that there would be somebody that comes from this office, whether it is Darlene or myself. We have to also keep in mind what is happening with the committees that traditionally meet, because they will still be meeting.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Are you suggesting possibly four people?
MS. STEVENS: That would be my suggestion. Legislative TV will not go with less than two. The labour laws, things like that, and the equipment they are lugging, they just cannot do it with less than two. They are lugging more equipment in and out - you have seen it - and the set-up, there is at least two from there. I would suggest that four go.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Would someone like to move that?
MR. BARNET: So moved.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Is it agreed?
It is agreed.
[The motion is carried.]
MR. STEELE: Could we move on to the question of advertising.
Mora, perhaps you could lead us down the advertising road here.
MS. STEVENS: Standardly, an ad goes in the paper. This was the Workers' Compensation ad. Standardly, we put it in every daily and weekly paper, plus it is faxed to the various interest groups so they know when we are going. There are very many complaints that we didn't see the ad, we didn't see this, we didn't see that. It's really difficult to sort of determine where you want to put those ads, if second advertisements are required. I have a costing from Communications on what it costs to insert ads, one insert versus two inserts,
and I would think it would be putting it out to them, because they talked about possible radio ads might be a less expensive way to go. If you wanted to do the daily papers and then radio ads or doing select things on the cable stations, they have all those costings.
Depending on where the committee wants to go and what their budget is, they can mock up something. I have what would be the largest budget, they just based it on the figures they had for Workers' Compensation. They said just for the committee to get back to them on where they are going and give them a budget, and they can work something out for that. This budget, for total coverage, I think we have been budgeting at least $30,000 to $35,000 the last couple of times. Then we have added on top of that when we have had extra hearings and things. It is a very big expense, and you will still hear, I didn't know about it.
MR. BARNET: I just want to suggest that it is my opinion that the vast majority of the presenters who are going to come and want to present are the people who have an interest in the fire service, or the municipalities. I wonder if it might be wise to use some of your advertising money to send direct invitations, somehow, to those people, to circulate through the UNSM, through the fire services, the different variety of volunteer fire services and those interest groups, notification of all the meetings and then simply do an ad in the big three or the big four, whatever, a substantial ad in the big four. You are going to find that the people are going to come because they heard about it through the network, you just have to make sure the network is aware of it.
MR. CORBETT: My only disagreement with that, Barry, is going back to an earlier conversation Ron and I were having, is the rural areas and the weekly newspapers for the rural areas. I think you mentioned it earlier too, Mr. Chairman, about some of the changes and how it will affect some of these rural people. Politics being politics maybe certain groups will tell some people about the meetings and won't tell others. If we say, look, I gave that information to Frank Corbett, if he didn't dispense it as it was supposed to be, then it is his fault, and then we get back, that is not right.
It is one of those costs that when you get into it you have to do it. It seems reasonable, and I agree with it, but if one person comes to us and says I was Chief of the Ecum Secum Fire Department and I didn't get information, and the reason I didn't get it was because I am on the outs with these five guys and they kept it from me. We can go back and say look, here it is, here is the ad from the Herald, here is the ad from whatever weekly may reach in there. We have done it, and other than going up and knocking on your door - or go see Ron Chisholm, it is his fault. (Interruptions)
But that is what I am saying, there is a responsibility on us too to get our own people. I wish it could be done by word of mouth and trust, but I don't know.
MR. BARNET: That is what I was saying, provide notice to however many volunteer fire departments, 700 or whatever there are.
MR. MACKINNON: It's 350.
MR. BARNET: Well, 300-something and the 50-some municipalities, direct notice, and then instead of having a whole bunch of small ads in the local or weekly papers, you have one larger ad that is going to get the attention of all of Nova Scotia or at least as many people as possible, in the Mail-Star or The Daily News, the Cape Breton Post, and I guess that would be . . .
MR. CHAIRMAN: We can get most of the fire service through the Atlantic Firefighter, every fire department gets a copy of that and almost every member gets it. Certainly to get it to the fire people themselves, I think that would be a good method and it is very inexpensive.
MR. STEELE: Is that a monthly?
MR. CHAIRMAN: Yes. (Interruptions)
MR. STEELE: So we would have to get our ad in pretty fast.
MR. BARNET: The other thing you can do too is contact the various departments where you are going to appear, often they have bulletin boards out front, where they stick the letters in, and maybe you can ask them, as part of the booking package to book their hall, that they put it on their illuminated sign at the same time. That might help as well. I just think that $35,000 seems to be an awful lot of money to spend when you can go out there and directly approach the people who are going to come anyway and notify them directly. If you spend the $35,000, you may only end up with a dozen or so ordinary citizens who weren't approachable by that method of directly getting to the members of the fire departments and the municipalities.
MR. CORBETT: Not to belabour it but I think the cost differences in advertising in those weeklies, I don't think are prohibitive. I bet you if we went from a quarter page ad to a half page in the Cape Breton Post, The Daily News and the Chronicle-Herald, you would see a substantive piece of change there that would probably equal what it would cost you in those small weekly newspapers.
I am a fan of those. I think people read them and, you know, Barry, if we only get 12 "ordinary citizens" then at least they have their say. That's part of why, I guess, again, I will go back to the opening remarks by the chairman, the piece of legislation seems to be fire-department friendly and maybe there are municipalities and other people that see that this isn't the most efficient way of spending tax dollars. I agree with you, but there would be a comfort level with me that would just as soon go with that same type of blanket advertising. And not to eliminate one . . .
MR. BARNET: One more comment. I see what you're saying, but having spent thousands of my own dollars advertising and marketing my own products and stuff in the past, I just know that the best way to approach people, your customers, is you go direct to them, and often what you have to do is evaluate whether or not you're getting good value for the dollar, whether or not that ad is going to actually attract people, customers, in this case constituents to a meeting. I am just wondering if it would be good use of the $35,000 to blanket the province in every single newspaper and whether or not you'll actually attract more people to those meetings by doing that, or by simply some form of direct access, be it through associations like the fire departments and different groups and maybe at the same time on a smaller degree so that you at least provide the opportunity for people to see it who otherwise wouldn't have an opportunity, you know, provide an ad in each of the major papers.
MR. MACKINNON: Mr. Chairman, I have to disagree with my colleague, the member for Sackville-Beaver Bank . . .
MR. BARNET: Why would that not surprise me?
MR. MACKINNON: . . . for the simple reason if we were to take the approach that he is suggesting then we don't have to continue with these hearings. All those reports are now on file with the Department of Labour from the interest groups he has just suggested. We went through a two-and-a-half-year consultative process and the stakeholders he is referring to are the exact same ones that have already made submission on the same issue. So if we're going to broaden the net and broaden the scope so as to reflect the intent of what the government is trying to do, then I think what our colleague, the member for Cape Breton Centre, has suggested is fair and reasonable. You reach out to those outreaches of the province, otherwise this is an exercise in futility because what you've suggested is already on file I can assure you.
MR. STEELE: I have a question. The 350 or so volunteer fire departments, is there a mailing list for them readily available to us?
MR. MACKINNON: Yes, there is.
MR. STEELE: With the Office of the Fire Marshal?
MR. MACKINNON: About 325 volunteers and then when you take in the paid service, it brings it to between 350 and 355.
MR. STEELE: So, Mr. Chairman, I would like to move that for the purposes of advertising that an ad be placed in each provincial newspaper as per the outline here of the standard procedure, and that an ad also be placed in the Atlantic Firefighter as soon as possible - given it is a monthly, I assume we want to get it in sooner rather than later - and
that a letter be sent directly to each of the 55 municipalities and to each of the other firefighting bodies, the volunteer fire departments, and that that be the advertising for the purposes of this committee.
MR. RONALD CHISHOLM: I say the municipality should be included. I am not sure, did you say that?
MR. STEELE: I said that.
MR. RONALD CHISHOLM: Okay, I didn't pick that up.
MR. STEELE: One to each of the 55 municipal units, yes.
MR. RONALD CHISHOLM: Each member.
MR. STEELE: Each member and the units then as well, if need be.
MR. RONALD CHISHOLM: Maybe the chambers of commerce in each area too; if you have a list of those, it wouldn't hurt to notify them as well.
MR. MACKINNON: Mr. Chairman, on that point, you see the focus I am trying to reflect is if it is the government's intent to kind of expand out and kind of reach beyond the scope of what has already been achieved with the articulation of the legislation, it was ready for the Legislature back in 1999, then we're dealing with average everyday Nova Scotians who are now required under the National Building Code to meet certain fire safety standards and specs when they build a home or construct a commercial building or any type of a complex, let's say it is a warehouse for the storage of dry goods, or whatever, and these individuals should be given an opportunity as well, just everyday Nova Scotians.
The additional costs to the everyday Nova Scotian, when constructing their own home, has increased quite substantially because of these increased demands that have been imposed through the National Building Code, i.e. in conjunction with fire safety standards. So just limiting it to what we would generally perceive as the traditional stakeholders, I think we would be remiss and I think the government would miss its target on what it's trying to achieve.
MR. CHAIRMAN: I think the fire service is pretty well aware of what they want, and are familiar. I believe most municipalities are, but we want to make sure of that. It is the so-called everyday person, that's contractors and that type of thing, who may want to have input in this, and I think we need to try to reach them.
MR. STEELE: I just want to make sure I understand what you're saying, Russell. So what follows from that in terms of advertising, are you agreeing with what I have proposed or are you suggesting something different?
MR. MACKINNON: I guess I am not clear. It seemed like you were suggesting limited advertising scope. So I think what your colleague, the member for Cape Breton Centre, has suggested there are some weekly newspapers out there, whether it be in Port Hawkesbury, or wherever, up in Cumberland County, I am not sure of all the weeklies, but certainly an opportunity to reach out to every Nova Scotian you can possibly reach out to because I emphasize from experience in my other life as a surveyor, and I am dealing with individuals who have a lot of concerns about the costs of home construction, and the issue of fire safety and the additional requirements for certain fire safety initiatives in the construction of a home are paramount.
Also, like in the insurance industry if you live in an area that's serviced by central water services, then that will be reflected on a certain insurance premium on your home and it goes on and on and on. I can go on but, without belabouring it, I think your colleague, the member for Cape Breton Centre, has kind of focused that we really should make sure that we meet the mandate of what the government is trying to say, and that is to reach out to as many Nova Scotians as possible. Whether you have done that, and I apologize if I haven't listened attentively on what you have suggested, but . . .
MR. STEELE: I know you hang on my every word.
MR. MACKINNON: Well, I know I could be hung on every word, but I don't know about hanging.
MR. STEELE: I think I must have mumbled because I know Frank asked me the same question. What I was proposing was exactly what he was proposing. Just to be clear, in this item that has been handed to us, the first sentence under Advertisements says, "Standard procedure dictates that advertisements of all public hearings are placed in every provincial newspaper." So what I am suggesting is, in this case we follow that standard procedure, that an ad be placed in every provincial newspaper and, in addition to that, an ad be placed in the Atlantic Firefighter and, in addition to that, a direct mailing be sent to each municipality and the UNSM, and to each of the volunteer fire departments. So that's the motion that I have put on the floor. So I think you and I agree. It sounds like it.
MR. MACKINNON: Essentially. Are there any weekly newspapers out . . .
MR. STEELE: I am including weekly newspapers.
MR. MACKINNON: Is that covered under (Interruptions)
MS. STEVENS: Under provincial newspapers we have the dailies, the weeklies, sometimes there's even the monthlies, depending on what the deadlines are. There's also the matter since there is such a large network, and we usually do two inserts, we could just do the one in the weeklies because, again, there is a large network and that would cut a lot of that in half. If you have two inserts in some papers, you're not getting a deal because you're putting in two. You're getting just double the cost. So there is that factor which could cut quite a substantial amount out of that budget and be used in other areas.
MR. STEELE: Do you have any costs there, Mora, between two versus one?
MS. STEVENS: I do actually but, again, this was tentatively put together . . .
MR. STEELE: Even roughly.
MS. STEVENS: The Kentville Advertiser has one here. One insert is $616; two are $1,232. So I mean, that is double the cost. If you are doing it in a weekly, and depending on - usually what happens, it is the two weeks preceding the meeting that that would happen, depending on where we are going. The Bridgewater Bulletin and The Progress Enterprise, you have got $728 for one insert and $1,456 for two.
MR. STEELE: That is a lot of money.
MR. MACKINNON: On the other hand, Mr. Chairman, at the risk of sounding a bit too verbose, these weeklies are sometimes very effective and have a greater readership at the community level because they are generally considered to be of local community interest and they generate a lot more discussion around the kitchen table and down at the coffee shop and fire halls and so on. Although it may seem like a lot of money - we don't have one in my constituency, but I know there are certain outreaches of the province, like down in the Kentville area. It may seem like a lot of money, that second ad, not that I am doing some advertising for Cameron, for the former Premier or anything, that is promotionalist, but I would think that it would be good value for dollar. You make a value judgment and see what type of feedback you get after the first ad. It is discussionary. I am open. I am making the pitch for the rural.
MR. CHAIRMAN: So how do we want to leave this ?
MR. STEELE: I would be interested in hearing from the other people in areas that actually have weeklies because, of course, in my constituency, there are no weeklies, so I would just be interested in hearing.
MR. RONALD CHISHOLM: I have a couple of weeklies in mine, I guess maybe three. The Inverness Oran is one of the more popular ones in the Port Hawkesbury area and the Mulgrave area of Guysborough County, but I didn't think they were that expensive to advertise in - the Guysborough Journal or the Inverness Oran or The Reporter.
MS. STEVENS: It depends on the size of the ad. Now ads can be tailored for each of the newspapers. This one has the whole hearing schedule and it is quite large because they wanted it to be seen, but it can be redone. We don't have to have the names of the committee members in. You can tailor them so they are smaller. This just happened to be the last one that was used. So this was based on this size. Again, there are ways and Communications knows the subscription rates, I think it is, for the advertising for the papers so they know what area is being covered. So you might not consider all three weeklies in one area, you might just consider the one. But, then again, they don't like to get - well, why did you advertise in my paper and not in Johnny's paper?
So they have to be careful of that. But they are very good at giving advice on that and what to cover and if you do one insert, you might consider a radio ad campaign for the local advertisement, which is less expensive - just sort of a few radio ads at rush hour in the morning because people listen to their local radio. What you might want to consider is sending it back to Communications and say, could you come in and do a mock-up for us, because I will tell you, they are fabulous at it and they can certainly give you a better idea. I just know what I have talked to with David, and Carla might have a better idea than what I have.
MS. BURNS: What we could do is do a cost estimate for various size ads and placements throughout the province. As you mentioned, Mora, the one that you had is quite large, so we could do that. I wanted to mention, as well, in addition to the ad campaign, we send out a news release announcing where all of the public hearings will be held and then up to the date of the hearing, we send out a media advisory so that the local media know that the hearing is going to be held in their area. We do that in addition to the ad campaign. We post it on our news release site and it can also be placed on the Web under Legislative Committees Office.
MR. STEELE: I would like to withdraw my motion.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Would you like to withdraw your motion? Okay.
MR. STEELE: I would like to make a different motion. My new motion goes like this: that the committee advertises hearings in the Atlantic Firefighter and that there be a direct mailing to each municipality and the UNSM and each volunteer fire department; that Communications Nova Scotia be asked to make a recommendation to the committee on other advertising as quickly as reasonably possible; and that a subcommittee on advertising be formed to deal as quickly as possible with the question of advertising. There might be one
member from each Party or, if that makes the government nervous, four members with two from the government Party. The idea being that I don't think we really need to reconvene, all of us, just to deal with this issue of advertising. My idea is that this subcommittee could then receive Communications Nova Scotia's recommendation, tweak it however they want and then just make a final decision and do it. That is my motion.
MR. MACKINNON: A friendly amendment. Would you support including the Insurance Bureau as well? I understand they don't rely on the Fire Marshal's Office any further for investigations, they provide their own service.
MR. STEELE: Direct communication to the Insurance Bureau as well, and the Insurance Crime Prevention Bureau. Maybe they are all related.
MR. CHAIRMAN: I think they are connected.
MR. MACKINNON: They are all interrelated.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Discussion? Would all those in favour of the motion please say Aye. Contrary minded, Nay.
[The motion is carried.]
MR. STEELE: Unless you have a burning desire to be on the subcommittee, I will do it for the NDP.
MR. MACKINNON: I have to hang on his every word.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Well, we wouldn't want you to miss it. I think we can go with just one of us. If we can venture that far.
MR. STEELE: We are all reasonable people here.
MR. CHAIRMAN: We will let Mora decide.
MR. STEELE: A question for Dale. Do you have enough information based on the discussion so far to put together a budget, or are there still some outstanding questions?
MR. ROBBINS: I think so. The only question I would comment on, is there any general feeling of a dollar figure that we might just look at as approximate for advertising? Because there is a wide range - depending on what you do - they are suggesting to come back with, but are we looking at $20,000, $40,000, $60,000 or what? Do we want to give them a target figure to work with? That is what I am suggesting, I guess. Could we give them a
target figure, say if you had this much money, can you blanket the province? We have already talked about some of this on the provincial . . .
MR. CHAIRMAN: Mora, this was the Workers' Compensation that was $35,000?
MS. STEVENS: It was around $35,000 for that size ad. Just looking at these figures, if it is one insert and things like that, the weeklies would be about $10,000 for one insert. The dailies would be $5,000. If you did a radio campaign or something like that that would add a little more, if you did it $20,000 versus $30,000 or $35,000.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Could we see what we could get for $20,000?
MR. ROBBINS: Use that as a target figure. If there are problems that you foresee that were missed - you can tailor it by the size of the ad, too, which certainly has an impact on the cost.
MR. STEELE: Just one more thing. We have a lot of staff brainpower around the room, and I just wanted to ask anybody around the room whether there are outstanding issues, things that you think need to be resolved before we break up?
MR. MACKINNON: Mr. Chairman, I move adjournment.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Mora has one more thing.
MS. STEVENS: Can you, depending on the availability, it is always left up to the Committees Office where we will go, depending on if all the hotels are booked in one area and they are free in another, we might put the Truro-Amherst-Halifax first versus last or in the middle. If that is all right, we will have to look at, first of all, all of these locations and the availability of hotels and things.
MR. CHAIRMAN: I don't think that should matter.
MS. STEVENS: So that is okay?
MR. CHAIRMAN: Any other comments?
We stand adjourned. Thank you very much.
[The committee adjourned at 3:45 p.m.]