MR. CHAIRMAN: Good afternoon and welcome everyone to our meeting of the Select Committee on Fire Safety. We are pleased today to have Fire Marshal Bob Cormier here and the Nova Scotia Fire Prevention Advisory Council represented by various members. I believe today there will be a presentation from the fire marshal and then the other members of the advisory council will have an opportunity to share whatever views and perhaps if the committee has questions after the presentation, they will ask those questions.
For the information of the committee, Muriel Baillie, who is unable to be with us today, will be replacing Cecil Clarke on a permanent basis. Cecil, due to personal reasons, is unable to serve so Muriel will be replacing him and Ron Chisholm has notified us he is at a meeting and will be approximately 45 minutes late. Perhaps we could just have introductions around the table of the group that is here so we can at least get some names and faces together and then we can proceed with the presentation.
[The committee members and witnesses introduced themselves.]
MR. CHAIRMAN: Perhaps when there is discussion or questioning of any of the people who are not at a microphone, if they would make their way to one so that Hansard can get the recorded information. Perhaps, Bob, if you are ready, we could start with your presentation.
MR. CORMIER: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Honourable members of the House, honoured guests, I thought I would start off today by perhaps just giving an overview and preparing the committee for what the actual consultation process that we carried out over the last four years was really all about and what we were attempting to do. I do have handouts on the slides available. John, if you wouldn't mind spreading those around.
The first thing I would like to do is perhaps start out by stating that there is a tremendous amount of myth as to who and what the fire marshal of this province is. If you go into the Town of Bridgewater, just outside there is the Wandlyn Hotel and in the parking lot there is a big sign up that says No Parking By Order of the Fire Marshal. Well, the fire marshal has never posted no parking signs in his career and doesn't plan on starting now. It is contained in the Building Code that you do have to provide fire lanes for fire vehicles but it is certainly not an order of the fire marshal.
When the large apartment building burnt in Spryfield, the owner was quick to fall back and state that he had to keep the tenants out of the building because the fire marshal had ordered all the aluminum wire changed in the building. The fire marshal had never been near the building and we had never taken any stance in regard to aluminum wiring. As a matter of fact our fear was that people who own houses with aluminum wiring in them would suddenly be terror stricken by these statements and we had to go out to the public and try to quell that rumour.
My brother-in-law bought a building in a small town and when he went to register it with the town the clerk asked him if he was going to make any changes and he said, no, he wasn't thinking of it. The clerk said, well if you are, you better notify the fire marshal because that man is God. There are some times that I think my name is used in vain even more than what God's is at times. I hope to be forgiven for that.
Anyway, one of the things we tried to do when we put this whole thing together was to consult with as many people as we humanly could and for those of you who have copies of the final report of the Fire Prevention Advisory Council, there is a list of the major contributors to that consultation process. We did meet on at least four occasions with the Union of Nova Scotia Municipalities and I did meet on a one-to-one basis with various municipalities, fire departments and building inspectors throughout the province.
What I would like to do is just give you an overview today of some of the things that we were considering as this whole thing came together. The first thing is is that fire is a reality. It is not something that we are imagining, it is not something that might occur, it is not something that we might be thinking about, it does happen and it happens every day. Just over the last four weeks - and I realize these aren't in Nova Scotia but they are the sort of things where if you don't have a good fire prevention program, including inspections, these things do happen - these came off the Net:
Safety officials in Japan are carrying out an inspection of all buildings after 44 people were killed in a nightclub last week. A court has jailed 23 people in China for 390 deaths. Police are cracking down on a hotel where 70 people died. At least 25 have been killed by an explosion in a government-run dynamite factory. District authorities here have banned the practice of chaining mentally ill patients. Scores of shoppers fled for their lives in England when a superstore was badly damaged by a major fire. A blaze at a residential home killed three elderly residents and injured 22 others. Prosecutors say a man used a blow torch to set fire to his 85 year old mother's hair.
These might all seem remote from Nova Scotia, but let's see, over the last little while, some of the things that occurred. We had the fire at Sunrise Manor retirement home, two deaths and I don't know how many injuries because some of them were certainly caused by the fact that we had 97 year old people travelling from the tenth floor down to try to get out. We have had fires in a nursing home in Springhill; however, because we have just done procedures with that building, because we have done evacuation procedures with the staff, there were no injuries to any of the patients who were in that nursing home.
In Colchester County we had a small options, that is where there are three or fewer people staying. The use of that place was for people who were non-ambulatory, in other words they couldn't self-escape, they couldn't get out. We had the owner change the classification of the people, they had to take those individuals and put them into a nursing home where they were properly protected and they brought in other individuals who were capable of self-escape. Two weeks later the building burned to the ground.
We do know that we have it here in Nova Scotia. As late as last night we lost one person with at least three or four in very serious condition and perhaps will die some time today. That is not a statement of fact, just a reality of life that we live with. So, with the reality that fire is there, it is something we have to deal with, we went out on a consultation process. The first thing we tried to do is decide what it is we are trying to do with fire safety, and our vision is the acceptance by all Nova Scotians of their personal responsibility for preventing fires, fuels and electrical incidents, remembering that the Fire Prevention Act is also responsible for fuel safety as well as electrical. With the new amalgamation of resources the Public Safety section now also has responsibility for the Elevators, Boilers, Amusement Regulations, et cetera.
The mission we wanted to accomplish was to coordinate. We cannot guarantee public safety, no one in government can guarantee public safety. The best we can do is try to coordinate a system that facilitates the fire, fuels and electrical safety system of Nova Scotia and that is our mandate.
First of all the present Acts and regulations that we have: the Fire Prevention Act, which of course is the one we are attempting to replace; the Fuel Safety Regulations; the Electrical Act and Regulations; the Fire Prevention Advisory Council, which is the legislation
allowing for the makeup of the individuals gathered here today; and the Volunteer Services Act, which is an Act written for the protection of the volunteer fire service of this province.
Besides those we have a number of different Acts and regulations that we are required to enforce. The first is: the Fire Works Act and the Fire Work Designation Regulations. We would like to get rid of both of these, mainly because they are unenforceable. This Act and regulation is in regard to the small fireworks that are sold at the corner store. The federal government Act required that anyone who buys those must be 18 years of age. We would like to fall back and rely on the federal government and on the Fire Code for controlling those. At the present time it requires the signature of the fire chief to be allowed to set those fireworks off. The fire chief puts himself under tremendous liability and, of course, nobody is going to go to them. People are very mobile today and if they can't bring them in from a store in Nova Scotia, they can bring them in from stores outside, or on the native reserves where we have no control.
The Flammable Liquid Regulation is another one that was a stop-gap measure put in the Act a number of years ago. Flammable containers, which are the containers used to pick up gasoline or kerosene at the service station.
Your Fire Insurance Regulations which is an insurance tax paid for by the insurance industry on all fire insurance policies in the Province of Nova Scotia, which is used to pay for the expenses incurred by the Office of the Fire Marshal or used for fire safety.
The Egress Regulations were put in place again, as a stop-gap measure. All of these on this page, outside the Fire Insurance Regulations, can be replaced by the Fire Code, that is where they are contained in most jurisdictions.
We also have the Portable Fire Extinguisher Regulations; the Automatic Sprinkler Maintenance Regulations, this is not the installation of sprinklers. The installation of sprinklers are contained in the Building Code and in the Building Code Regulations; the Lightning Rod Act which governs the installation of lightening rods on buildings. We haven't done an inspection of lightening rods for so long, I don't even know if I would have anybody I could send out. Again, something to get rid of. We have the ability to cover it to make sure it is done right, but we don't need an entire regime in order to do so.
The Standard Hose Coupling Act could be covered in a general regulation, but the reason it was put there was to ensure that fire departments, during mutual aid activities, could join their trucks together so they could pump from one pumper to another and we are pretty much covered by that. We have to keep it in place so builders are putting the right connections on buildings, so the pumpers can join to the building to pump into the sprinkler system or into a standpipe system. Besides those there are a few government Acts and regulations that call us up and inform us we have certain activities to do.
The Amusement Regulations, including the Liquor Licensing Act, places of amusement and gaming where the Fire Marshal's Office has requirements for inspections.
The Adult and Child Protection Act. When Adult and Child Protective Services reaches a situation such as the one we had in Shelburne, they need advice on whether the building those individuals are being housed in is a fire hazard or not, we are called upon to assist them and that is for both child and adult.
The Day Care Act requires the fire marshal or his designate to carry out inspections at all daycares.
Tourism, overnight accommodations, everything from hotels to bed and breakfasts. Courthouses and lock-ups, all the courthouses and lock-ups are inspected by the Fire Marshal's Office or staff.
The Emergency Measures Act. In the time of a proclaimed emergency, the fire marshal is the senior official of all fire services in the province, he is also responsible for the quality of training for the fire service of the province. The fire marshal is, by an MOU, also an emergency measures coordinator and all the deputy fire marshals are assigned to EMO under a state of emergency to augment their staff.
The Building Code Act. We sit on the advisory committee, also the appeal committee and there are a couple of places within the Act where the fire marshal or his designate provides advice or assistance.
The Environment Act for fuel storage, both large and small volumes, in service stations. The Act basically says that the fire marshal is the interpreter of the Fire Code.
Homes for Special Care, which are residential care and nursing homes, we are required to carry out inspections on all those facilities.
The Hospitals Act requires an inspection every three years as part of the accreditation process.
Existing fire safety legislation has been developed in piecemeal fashion often as a response to particular tragic fires in which a large number of lives were lost. This includes our codes as well. It is sometimes inconsistent and can be difficult even for fire safety professionals to understand. For the layperson who has to comply with the legislation it can be bewildering. That did not come from the Province of Nova Scotia, that came from England as they underwrote their own fire safety legislation at the same time as we were doing ours. There are a lot of parallels between us and I will show you a couple of more as we go.
MR. GRAHAM STEELE: I am sorry, can I interrupt for a second. Just to make sure I understand properly, are you saying that that quotation is taken from some report in England?
MR. CORMIER: From the Report of the Committee on the Investigation into England's Fire Safety Act.
MR. STEELE: So that is a quote from England and you are just saying that applies?
MR. CORMIER: Here as well. That's correct.
The three e's of fire safety. Fire safety is not building inspections. Building inspections are for the perusal and the property of a building inspector. There are three places where we have to put our efforts in order to prevent fire. The first is education, the second is enforcement and the third is engineering.
Under education, there is, of course, a general public - and everybody thinks about children when we think about that but it is not just children - that is adults who use deep fat cooking, the number one killer in this province, and attempting not to combine cooking and alcohol, one of our greatest problems that we have out there. If you go out and you drive your car and you are drinking and driving and you kill someone, they will have you in jail in very short order.
I would like to welcome Greg Clark, the Chairperson of the Fire Advisory Council. You can come right up here, Greg. (Laughter)
MR. GREG CLARK: Sorry I am late. Between work and road construction. But the Highway No. 102 twinning is great, so I am not going to complain.
MR. CORMIER: You can go home after a night of binging, put a pot of fat on the stove and wipe out your family and tomorrow we will have a fundraiser for you. So, our acceptance of what is safe and what is not is not necessarily conducive to good fire safety.
The second part is trade skills. I see that New Brunswick within the last week has made a compulsory trade of sprinkler installers. It is our desire under this legislation that people who install sprinklers, fire alarm systems and fire extinguisher work, including fixed systems, will also have to be certified. The industry wants it because it levels the playing field and provides for a more conducive environment for the corporations who want to do the right job and the right work out there.
MR. KERRY MORASH: Excuse me, currently what is the level of certification needed to install sprinklers in Nova Scotia?
MR. CORMIER: As long as you own a pipe wrench.
MR. MORASH: So you don't have to be a pipefitter?
MR. CORMIER: You don't have to be a pipefitter. On union jobs they will enforce that. But you could on non-union jobs just go out, for instance if you are putting a sprinkler system in a house, an individual with no training whatsoever could put that system in. It does not normally occur but it could very well.
The staff of institutions. The training for the people who look after our individuals who are physically or mentally challenged, our individuals who are locked up in correctional facilities, the training for those people is critical, so that they know just exactly what to do in a situation when an incident occurs. We have minimum staffing in our institutions today, even more critical. The biggest waste of money is hose stations in a hospital or in a nursing home. Who is going to use it? It is an absolute waste. The only thing we want to do is get patients away from the fire conditions.
Fire inspectors. We are twinning with Manitoba to bring in a fire inspector's program for all the inspectors in the province, to try to bring the quality up. It is just as bad to have an undertrained inspector as it is to have no inspector at all because they end up requiring what I call a comfort level. In other words, if a little bit makes it safer, well, let's get a whole lot and I will feel even better and all we did was cost the owner a whole of money we didn't need to. So we have to have properly trained inspectors out there.
Fire investigators. We have to know what is happening and why fires are being started, what causes them and where do we put our resources. If we don't know what our fires are and what is causing them, we can't do anything to stop them. Besides the fact that we have a very serious arson problem in this province and we have to deal with it. In the last year, we have had three volunteer firefighters under investigation, two of them have been charged and have been found guilty.
MR. STEELE: May I ask a question about that, Chief? You say we have a very serious arson problem, are you saying that Nova Scotia's arson problem is worse than other provinces on a per capita basis?
MR. CORMIER: On a per capita basis we are probably staying level but we are noticing it going up everywhere. It is more severe in our more economic difficult areas. It is also being used more today as a weapon than ever before, as we saw last week in one area of the province.
MR. RUSSELL MACKINNON: Mr. Chairman, on a point of clarification. Do you have statistics to back that up?
MR. CORMIER: Yes.
MR. MACKINNON: Could you table them for the committee?
MR. CORMIER: Yes, I will.
MR. MACKINNON: That will support that in economically depressed areas arson is higher?
MR. CORMIER: Yes, we will do that.
The fire service - I want to be very cautious about the fire service - is a voluntary activity. We are going to develop training levels and this is what every volunteer firefighter is going to have to reach. Those standards are reached with co-operation from the volunteer fire service, especially the Fire Officers Association.
Engineering, plans reviewed for safety. When we don't review plans, we end up with real problems on our hands. When we go back in we can't put the proper fire safety measures in place because we don't always have the building to work with the way that we would like to have it. Things are not perfect. As an advisory position on fire safety, again, not on building construction, not on building approval, but on fire safety.
Research, people who have the skills and ability to do so. In 2003, we will be changing our codes to objective base codes. In other words, it will say that you have to have individuals able to evacuate the property within two minutes. How you do that will be up to someone to design. So instead of going to what we call prescriptive codes where it says your
stairs have to be so wide, they have to be a certain length, there have to be doors every so many locations, broken up into so many sections and compartments, this will be designed according to what is known as fire modelling and scientific calculations. If we don't have the proper people to interpret those we are liable to end up with most anything on our hands, and we are already seeing it, where they are using fire modelling to try to reach the conclusion as to whether safety is being met or not.
With the old saying that garbage into the computer is garbage out, we have to be vigilant for it and it requires a higher training and a higher skill to be able to do so. The people who review those fire safety measures also have to follow up by inspecting to make sure that they are working.
Enforcement. Government buildings are our first and foremost priority. That is our number one. We are the fire loss control officers for the Government of Nova Scotia, and whether it is government buildings or licensed property of the government that is our first
responsibility, government licensed facilities. Auditing the other features to see whether it is working or not, whether the other people who are supposed to be doing what they are doing are in actual fact doing it. Reacting to complaints, and carrying out fire investigations only when the fire investigation is not carried out by the local fire officials.
Now, when we do fire safety, what are we looking for? What is the fire official's role? What we are looking for is a measure of risk, and the first is attitude of occupants. For instance, the requirements in a bed and breakfast and in a boarding house are supposed to be identical, but we know the attitude of the occupants of a bed and breakfast are completely different from those of a boarding house. We don't require nearly as stringent requirements for the bed and breakfast as we do for the boarding house. If we did we would destroy the aesthetics of every bed and breakfast in this province. The other side of the coin is that there are other people who want to take advantage of that and, of course, instead of the maximum of 10 - including the family - living in that dwelling, they want to put 14, 16, 18 in there, and we have to make sure that is not done. Attitude of the occupants is critical.
The ability of the occupants to escape. If we look at the requirements of a nursing home versus the requirements of a residential care facility, they are completely different, and we have to create different regulations or different concerns for that. For instance, right now - it has already been announced in the press - we are moving residents out of the residential care facility in Cole Harbour and into Sunrise Manor. Sunrise Manor was built and created for people who were retiring and needed low to medium cost income housing. We have to make special considerations in putting those people in there. They are non-ambulatory, they are not capable of self-escape.
Staff's ability to intervene. If Canadian Tire says that they wish to use their staff to assist in firefighting and therefore decrease some of the fire requirements, I don't buy that - by the way, I have discussed this with them, so I am not afraid to say it - mainly because they use a tremendous number of high school individuals. But when we look at a hospital or a nursing home, we have very highly-trained and skilled individuals there, individuals who have a responsibility for their patients.
The conditions of the electrical and heating equipment in the building; what is the condition of it? Built-in fire safety, and the fire department resources. That is one of the critical ones. Our Building Code was designed for downtown Halifax; our Building Code was designed to state that this is how you should build a building where the fire department has a four-minute response. We had a fire in a high school in Shag Harbour last year in which an hour after the sprinklers put the fire out the fire department was still not on the scene. When we build a nursing home in a rural area that is protected by volunteers, we have to put extra measures in place because we have to protect those patients. These things arise; they happen; we deal with them.
The concept, the risk assessment and consequent fire safety measures in high risk premises should be subject to the fire authority validation. This is, again, from the British research on their fire service. Enforcement of the new legislation should be the responsibility of the fire authorities; again, from the review of the British Fire Act.
Fire safety measures that are incorporated into buildings at the construction stage and that are covered by building regulations should continue to be the concern of the building control authorities subject to proper arrangements for consultation with the fire authorities. In 1988, we adopted the National Building Code of Canada as the Nova Scotia Building Code. Up until that time, every municipality adopted whatever it felt they needed for a building code. In the Halifax region, we used the 1965 with 1967 revisions. We are over 20 years behind. Halifax and Dartmouth were using a 1965. Other areas of the province, I couldn't tell you, they could range back to the 1942 edition.
The concept for one building code was that no single municipality should have an advantage over another municipality by requiring a lesser standard on building construction. So we have one provincial code that ranges across the province. The fire marshal does not have any other standards above and beyond that national Building Code. We have to follow it.
We have been found at fault for sprinkler regulations. Yes, originally the sprinkler regulations were in the Office of the Fire Marshal. They are now part of the Building Code regulations. If we, in fact, do require an owner to install a sprinkler, it is not because we figure that that is the best thing to do, it is because the Building Code requires it and somebody else missed it. There are a number of reasons why. We have a number of buildings in this province which are not inspected. When we deal with companies like Michelin Tire, Stora, Bowater, Kimberly-Clark, they come to us. We are working with Michelin Tire right now because their plants cannot meet the Building Code so we have to do the best we can to meet what the Building Code expects of them. The buildings are just too large. It requires 150 feet to the nearest exit. In some of the buildings Michelin has, you couldn't find an exit within 150 feet so we have to find other measures to do it. They come to us for assistance in meeting that.
Our goals. The first was an awareness through education. We really were not putting any resources into education whatsoever and this includes our Juvenile Firesetter Intervention Program. When we started that out, we thought we might be dealing with three or four kids at a time. We are now dealing with 15 kids at a time. These are kids who are continuous fire setters. They are causing problems for their parents, for their community, for the fire department. We either help them or we put up with the fires that they are going to continue to light. Our measure of how well we are doing with that is the recidivism, or the number of times they repeat.
The decreased frequency. The Union of Nova Scotia Municipalities came to us and asked us to remove the requirement for four inspections a year on public assemblies. It was just too onerous. So under the new legislation, we cut that back. That also turned around to allow us to request increased inspections on other properties.
Self-inspections. The municipalities had expressed a very strong opinion that they did not want to inspect schools. Now some municipalities do, others do not. That is up to the school board. So it is a self-inspection program, and in Nova Scotia part of that inspection process is carried out by their insured and the adoption of the Fire Code. Now I have to say right off the bat, this is the Building Code that the Province of Nova Scotia adopts. This is the standard that we build buildings to. This is what we tried. This is under Municipal Affairs.
The Fire Code does not build buildings. The Fire Code is there to maintain the buildings. You build it by that book and for the rest of its life, you maintain it by this. It is adopted in Halifax Regional Municipality and has been adopted by policy in the Fire Marshal's Office since 1993. It is not new. It is just a request to adopt it formally. There are no new requirements. Nobody else is going to have to go out and sprinkler buildings any more than what they already have to without any adoption of any new codes.
Clear delegation of responsibilities and enforcement powers. Who does what and when do they do it? Summary enforcement. At the present time, we have problems with being able to ticket people for immediate infractions, things such as chains on doors. Ensure timely and neutral fire investigations. An awful lot of what is in the Act is a result of rulings on the Supreme Court for the Canada Evidence Act, for the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. For instance, at one time we just went into people's private dwellings during a fire and when the fire was out, we continued investigating. We can no longer do that. The Charter of Rights and Freedoms says we do not have the right to trespass. We are - in fact, even the fire chief is - at that time considered a peace officer.
The right to audit. If we give the municipalities the responsibility to do certain activities, we need to know that they are doing it. Alberta decided approximately six years ago that they would do away with all the activities carried out by the province in relation to inspections and that included the Fire Marshal's Office. They now have one-third of their municipalities - which is 100 in Alberta - not receiving fire or building inspections. The Fire Marshal's Office has just requested my job descriptions because they are going to have to start hiring those people back on again. The process is not working.
The authority to take immediate action. There are times when fire departments respond to scenes where they have to take immediate action on evacuation. For instance, when the gasoline tanker upset in Halifax and they needed to evacuate the homes in the immediate area, there wasn't clear definition as to whether they could do it or not. There was not a fire nor an explosion so the Municipal Government Act did not kick in to give them the
powers, but there was the opportunity for a fire or explosion. So we want to make sure that they have the authority to take action.
Proper and timely reporting of fires. We need to know what our fire situation is in Canada. You ask for stats on arson. We have atrocious stats, to be quite truthful. Most of the information is coming from the fires that my people are investigating, a lot of fires that we should not be investigating. Court may order fines at the completion of the order to remedy. At the present time all the court can do is find you guilty of failing to comply. They cannot require you to finish the work. We would like to see that in the Act.
Appeal process that meets the accepted quasi-judicial process. There has been a lot of argument as to whether the activities under the Fire Code should be appealable to the Building Code or not. I would not have a problem with that if the two were in one location but with them in two different locations, with the fact that numerous activities under the Fire Code - and I will go through those in a little while - have nothing to do with building construction whatsoever, they have to do with hazardous materials, oil storage, the manner in which you carry out activities such as painting vehicles or what have you.
Fire service representation to government. We do not have a good representation body for the fire service to come to government on a formal or informal manner and we would like to see a council formed for that purpose. The Fire Prevention Advisory Council is strapped at times with issues that are related to fire service and those who do not belong to fire service sit there yawning and wondering what they are doing at the meetings while we are trying to handle fire service issues, and we need to find a way to deal with that.
Building and fire safety. Sprinklers, fire alarms, construction, et cetera; the Nova Scotia Building Code defines it, not the Fire Marshal's Office. The building inspector is required to ensure compliance. For whatever reason, there are times when that does not occur. We do receive complaints from building inspectors that they have been told not to follow up and we have had to go in and follow up on it.
MR. STEELE: Mr. Cormier, they would be told by whom not to follow up?
MR. CORMIER: I am not going to proceed with that outside to say that they have informed us that they are not proceeding with it. I will say that we do have a real problem in that we have a real fear with larger buildings and inexperienced building inspectors for the liability issues of approving those constructions and being involved with them. That one I will state quite openly.
If the building is in disrepair or not used as intended, the fire inspector has a responsibility to either require an immediate evacuation, and it has to be very serious. Court cases have shown there has to be an immediate problem and that would be something similar to a leaking propane tank or electrical that is so severe that it is ready to ignite. They may
write out an order to remedy with 30 days of compliance. They could require a change in the occupancy permit, in which case they would go to the building inspector and say that building is not being occupied for what it was originally designed. We want to do something about it.
We had a building in one of our larger communities in this province. My deputy was asked to go in and do an inspection for a licence. He went in, asked for the occupancy permit, there hadn't even been a development permit taken out. The simple fact was, you go back to the building inspector when you have your occupancy permit, come back and see us and then we will talk about your licence. It is an activity that is a mutual working activity.
Of course, the strongest thing we have is a recommendation for the cancellation of a licence. "We must not make a scarecrow of the law, setting it up to fear the birds of prey, and let it keep one shape, till custom make it their perch, and not their terror." Right now what is happening is the fire marshal is wearing the blame for going in after situations and ordering building owners to comply with the Building Code that they were supposed to comply with in the first place.
We do not have any legislation that is different or new. There have been complaints that many of the government departments have fire safety aspects built into some of their laws and regulations which is not true. Tourism does, for instance, have a requirement for lighting standards for tourist homes that you have to have a certain amount of light, because we don't want to be putting our tourists in the basement with a two-by-one window in it. So there are certain requirements for aesthetic purposes.
The Fire Code. The Fire Code is a companion to the Building Code, as I explained. Building features represent about 10 per cent. What the Fire Code says is that the building must be maintained as it was built under the Building Code. A vast majority of our building stock was built previous to the adoption of the provincial Building Code, that is previous to 1988. When we get called in to do an inspection, they may have never met a code before and that, at times, includes our schools of which we just do not have the staff to do the 525 schools on an ongoing basis. We try to work as close with the Department of Education as we can which is part of how outmoded our Act is. Our present Act states that the responsibility for the inspections of schools lies with the inspector of schools. I would have to check with Education to see if there is any inspector of schools even left in the province anymore.
Only under special conditions can a building which meets the Building Code be forced to upgrade. Now the sort of things that you would run into would be a situation where the Building Code missed something. A number of years ago, the Building Code permitted the use of Styrofoam insulation open in a building and they used to spray all of the Quonset huts or those metal buildings with it. Well, having fought fires in it, I am here to tell you, you don't stand much of a chance. So the Building Code rectified it in the next edition, but under the Fire Code it allowed the fire official to force the building owner to have it covered on both
sides with non-combustible material. So sometimes the Building Code does make mistakes. They are not perfect by any means.
Local issues. We have a number of local issues, people who have a fear of taking action for fear of litigation. The economic situation of if they force an owner into carrying out certain activities, they are going to lose them, they will move somewhere else. The ability for the local fire department to respond on an emergency; because the situations that we run into where in the past businesses have allowed individuals to respond to fires during working time, that is no longer true. Many businesses can no longer afford to allow their staff to respond to every call that comes in, especially when medical calls may represent as much as 75 per cent of the calls of a local fire department today.
Firefighter competency. How competent are the firefighters to be able to handle the situation? Many of our firefighters are very capable of handling residential fires but put a large structure in their community and ask them to handle that situation. There are times when the best thing to do is to stand back and allow it to burn.
Firefighter occupational health and safety. We are extremely concerned about firefighters' safety. I have buried two firefighters and on average we have 19 firefighter injuries per year. I would like to have a count of all the fire trucks that are damaged in a year but I am having difficulty getting that number. We have extreme concerns with it.
Residential sprinklers. I threw this one in here because there is a movement by a lot of municipalities in western and central Canada to go for residential sprinklers. Automatically they come back to the fire officials and they say, well, they are being put in there for life safety. No, if you want life safety, go out and buy a $6.00 smoke alarm and put it on your ceiling and make sure it is constantly working. If you want to protect property, then you buy a sprinkler system. Sprinkler systems are being used to allow fire departments in expanding communities to provide protection without having a four minute response. It decreases the number of personnel and the number of stations they have to build but it is not something that the chief fire officials in each province are attempting to push. Sprinklers have a place but they are not for everywhere.
Equipment advice. We have tremendous issues in regard to equipment advice because fire departments want to buy pumpers, they want to buy equipment and we really don't have people to turn to. We would like to see a committee set up to advise those fire departments who require assistance in purchasing equipment.
I put tire storage and recycling in because it is one of our faster growing fire problems. When we don't take action, we do end up with environmental disasters. When the tire recycling plant went into Cornwallis, we made them follow the guidelines that came out after the Hagersville fire in Ontario and the Quebec fires which created disaster for the environment both in the water table and the air. When the fire started down there from an arson problem
and that fire grew, there was an expert there from Texas who told us we would be there for two weeks. The fire was out in two days because of the training the firefighters had, the equipment we had prepared on hand and the requirements that the owner had to go through in dividing their piles and making sure that they had adequate water for firefighting purposes. We have to have control on it. So far this year, we have lost three recycling facilities, the largest and latest being the paper storage in Dartmouth. This is a growing phenomenon.
We have to prevent the plasmon situation that occurred in Hamilton and created such a disastrous environmental situation. The pesticide/herbicide fire that we had in Canning a number of years ago is another example of the sort of thing we have to be ready for. And, yes, owners are faced with all kinds of inspectors. We have building, fire, boiler, electrical, elevator, fuels, environment, health, occupational health and safety, and no wonder owners at times throw up their arms. So we have to find a way to sort of try to complete our safety system the best we can and not be onerous on the businesses of this province. The hope would be and the normal division is about 85/15. That is 85 per cent of businesses will attempt to comply while 15 per cent will try to cheat the system for every dollar that they can make. We have to make sure that we don't lose sight of the 15 per cent but we can't hold the 85 per cent to ransom while we do it. So it is a balancing act and we have to find a way of doing it.
Rationalizing services. Fire prevention, building protection, fire department and fire investigation. Those are the major aspects that are involved. The municipalities' responsibilities are building inspections. The Act is quite clear on that. That is the municipalities' responsibility. They are also, under the present Act, responsible for fire inspections and a system of fire inspections.
Condemned properties. The only reason I put that up there is because of the vandalism problems we face with condemned properties, the health hazards faced by firefighters who have to fight fires in those buildings. Firefighting itself is a municipal responsibility.
The Office of the Fire Marshal's responsibilities at the present time are plan approval. We should not be approving plans. That is not our role. We review them for fire safety features only.
Fire inspections. Right now I have an inspector who is out inspecting apartment buildings on behalf of three different building inspectors. They are substandard apartments. We had one burn last night. We know that they are a hazard. We know they are a problem and we are working with the building inspector to try to rectify it. Apartment buildings are not part of our mandate but at the present time, that is where I have to put my resources and I don't have those resources to ensure people who have licences are getting their inspections done in a timely manner so that they can continue to get their licence on the day that they are due. So I either pass some of these responsibilities on to the municipalities or I have to increase my staff.
Fire investigations. There is hardly a weekend goes by that I don't have half of my staff out on fire investigations. Some of them are very critical and very important. People have died in the fires. I have had to send a letter off to the Department of Indian and Northern Affairs. We can no longer carry out fire investigations for the band councils. We had been doing that as a goodwill gesture for a number of years. We just don't have the ability to do that any longer without some compensation. I met with the RCMP last week and they are in a very serious situation of trying to investigate these fires without our assistance. So we have tremendous pressures on us on fire investigations in regard to assisting fire departments in carrying out their activities.
We send out information or try to help the fire departments meet different fire safety or aspects of government activities whether it is the new radio system, the 911 system, the medical first responder and recently we sent out a bulletin in regard to the Department of Motor Vehicles requirements for vehicles and a few individuals out there thought they were part of our new fire safety regulations, which they are not. They have been the laws of the province for years and they have been requirements on fire departments.
The concepts. A building permit is required and if it meets the building permit, then my job is three-quarters done and I don't have to worry about it. What is the government responsibility for life safety and especially for buildings where the government is responsible for placing those individuals, whether it is a correctional institution, a nursing home or residential care facility or school?
Advice and assistance. High level advice and assistance to those who do not have the expertise or the experience to carry out certain functions in certain areas of the province.
The builders' rights. The builders' rights to be able to complete their activities without undue interference and the occupants' rights to know that they are safe in the buildings or the facilities, that whether they be indoors or outdoors, that are built in this province.
Qualifications and Standards Board. A certification system for our firefighters so that they know that the competency level is of the best and we have already started a pre-employment training program.
Occupational health and safety for firefighters. Access to information. Right now our Act is confusing in that we have the FOIPOP requirements under the province but my Act says that the information is accessible to anybody who wants to come to the office and read it. So we are really in conflict with government legislation.
Fees for service. There are certain activities that we do for which we should be able to charge. If we do, in fact, carry out fire investigations for the Department of Indian and Northern Affairs, we should be able to charge fees for that and liability protection for fire inspectors. The electrical installation and inspections, the fuel safety regs have been passed,
both of them have been passed and approved by Cabinet. Now we have a new one - and I see we are climbing closer to it in this morning's paper - and that is electrical deregulation for which we do not have a system of inspections that will meet the requirements under that. So that, as part of my responsibility, is something I am bringing to your attention at this time.
Fire safety is a multi-billion dollar business. We know that there are socio-economic issues. The balance of people's right to safety versus the ability for the community to pay, the ability of business to pay. Where that balance is is not easy. It is not an easy guideline. I am working with an international committee, we met this year in Berlin. We will be meeting later this year in Italy and these are the issues we are trying to address. The environmental impact of some of the fire safety measures. For instance, if we were to cut out smoking, we would decrease fire deaths by 29 per cent. About 29 per cent of fire deaths are directly related to smoking, that's people with careless handling of cigarettes. We have come up with a safe cigarette. There are two different ways of doing it. So we can save 29 per cent of our lives. The only problem is, we increase the carcinogenic by about 75 per cent so we kill everybody in another way. (Laughter) So there are balances that we have to look at and we are the first to note that.
The owners, of course, are very concerned and what the owners' perception is of fire safety and what is the true perception of fire safety can be two different things.
The fire service is a delicate balance, especially our volunteer fire service. It relies on community support, it relies on the goodwill of the community to carry out their activities. Where else do you find people who will get out of bed at 4:00 a.m., go off, and try to do something to rectify their neighbour's stupidity, come back, not even get any more sleep, go to work for the day and then decide that night they had better go down to the fire hall and do some training? I don't know of any other volunteer organization in the world that even operates close to that. We have to nurture that. It saves us tremendous dollars but the industries who take advantage of our communities where volunteer fire departments are have to realize that there is a price to that. The price is the fire protection they have to build in their buildings when the fire service cannot handle those fires in those buildings.
We also have to have an economic consideration. In the study of the economic cost of fire protection, most buildings it is economically cost-effective when the building is sprinklered at 6,000 square feet. In this province we start at 10,000 square feet. That's only for the most critical buildings.
In the United States, sprinklering is seen as a very important aspect of fire safety. There are tax breaks from both the federal and state governments for the installation of sprinklers. Sprinklers are an effective thing and in most cases it is paid for by the insurance savings. When the Sackville Arena was forced to sprinkler - and I was only a fire inspector
then, so I had the community up against me - they thanked me because they paid for that sprinkler system in five years and then pocketed the savings from then on in. We have to look at the protection of our firefighters and the protection of our communities' assets.
The insurance industry. At one time IAO inspected just about every sprinkler system in every industry in this province. They still do a bit of that, but not to the aspect we had in the past. We have to find new ways of carrying those things out. Insurance industries range all of the way from offshore companies who do nothing more than provide the protection for the company to companies such as - I am going to forget, the one in the Valley - Kings Mutual, who have an extraordinary program of inspections and can be very proud of that organization for the work they do in the preservation of property and the removal of fire hazards.
The general public's expectation of what they should expect when they walk into a nightclub, when they walk into an arena, when they walk into a school, when they walk into a building, the expectation that no matter how much it costs they are safe in that building, they are safe because the staff knows what to do, the fire department is capable of responding, the building will maintain itself and that somebody has ensured that the doors aren't chained, the fire alarm is working and that the fire department will be notified.
The way that we see the organization, or at that time, is now changed because, of course, it is the Director of Public Safety, the fire marshal, but we just covered it for the Act that we presently have before you, we would have an advisory council, an appeal board, and that is for fire safety and electrical as well. That is flexible, that can be changed. We can look at that in relation to the Building Code, remembering that we have to have an appeal process for those things that have nothing to do with buildings, the storage of hazardous materials, farm tanks for oil storage, process issues, et cetera.
Critical incident stress debriefing. We provide an assistance to the fire service for critical incident stress for firefighters and fire departments where there are serious incidents. The Fire Service Council, which would be advisory to the fire departments, the Fire Prevention Advisory Council, as it exists now, perhaps with a few other members, you will note that we do not have representations from the Union of Nova Scotia Municipalities nor from the Fire Officers Association. With that, I will invite any questions in regard to the items we have brought forward.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Thank you, Mr. Cormier. Welcome, Greg Clark, President of the Fire Officers Association of Nova Scotia. Does Greg have a presentation as well today?
MR. GREG CLARK: I don't have a presentation, Jon, but I do have a few comments from our Fire Officers Association directed at the committee. Some of you may or may not know that the Fire Officers Association is frustrated with the delay in this Act being put through. We have an annual meeting coming up at the end of this month. What I am looking
for is some answers today so that we can go back to our membership then with some understanding of what your committee is all about; what is its mandate; what is its time frame? One of the things that does concern me is that this Fire Prevention Advisory Council presented the revised Fire Prevention Act. This committee was formed with no consultation back to us. That gives me a bit of an insult, and our membership is very frustrated. Some of you may or may not know that.
I think it is my duty and obligation to get some answers today so that I can go back to our membership on September 30th and give them an update as to what your committee's mandate is, where it is going, what the time frame is, and will you come back to the Fire Prevention Advisory Council before it is presented to Cabinet.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Thank you, Greg. With that agenda, perhaps what we should do is go to Mr. Cormier and get the question aspect of it done, then deal with the other part of it. Graham, would you like to start?
MR. STEELE: Sure, thanks very much. Again, I am Graham Steele, the MLA for Halifax Fairview. I think those are very important questions, Mr. Clark. I do want to make sure that we don't end the session today without some very direct answers to those questions that have been raised, because they are good questions. On this committee I think you will find people with widely varying levels of knowledge about what you have just talked about. I think our chairman would be at the high end, I am certainly at the low end. I don't think I know any more or any less than an ordinary citizen.
I have some questions, really just directed at getting some information or advice from either of you or both of you. The first thing I would like to ask is, if you were giving advice to this committee about how to do a thorough job of the task we have been given, leaving aside for the moment the question about why we are here in the first place when a lot of this work has already been done - we will leave that aside for now - if you were giving advice to us that if we are going to do a thorough job, who should we speak to, or to put it another way, who is it that we shouldn't miss if we are going to say at the end of this that we have done a thorough job?
MR. CORMIER: I would suggest that some of the government departments that I mentioned, that we carry out services for, would certainly be an aspect of what role we play and what we provide; the municipalities, a very critical component; the fire departments themselves, for that part of it; the building inspectors. I certainly am not going to sit here and try to steer you towards groups who are going to be totally pro for this Act, it is only right that you hear both sides, the same as we did, and we played that balancing act. Building owners, we have not had a large number of building owners who participated or who took part. Their major concern was that they be treated fairly and equitably, wherever they happened to be. Certainly APENS and the design industry are individuals who should come forward. I would state that probably one of the more important government departments
would be the Department of Transportation and Public Works. Those are the ones that immediately come forward.
MR. GREG CLARK: And again, I am not quite sure of the mandate of your committee. One of the things that perhaps I would caution you on is that within the fire service the Fire Prevention Act is one issue. There are other issues involving government, the licence plate issue, some assistance in that regard. To me, those are two different issues. I am not sure your committee is mandated with them.
MR. CHAIRMAN: No, that is not part of this.
MR. GREG CLARK: Therefore, I think I would caution you that when you are meeting with fire service people that you make that loud and clear and not allow that to happen, because there are frustrations there as well. They may not intentionally but they may try to blend them all together. I think from our association standpoint and the membership, we want to keep those separate and deal with them separately. I would just warn you of that, because that may come at you without your knowing it.
As far as the Act goes itself, I think the fire service is comfortable with it. We did a lot of talking and research with the fire service people insofar as those parts of the Act that particularly relate directly to fire departments and let me say that in our consultations on going through that Act and the revisions of it, it was not only geared for volunteers, it represented paid and volunteer fire services both. So those considerations were taken on both sides and not just one.
MR. CHAIRMAN: We will come back and try to give everyone equal time.
MR. MACKINNON: Mr. Chairman, going back to identify the sense of frustration Mr. Clark has identified, I focus on the Fire Marshal's Office, as we know, Mr. Cormier, there was a 20 month consultative period and a report prepared back in 1997. After extensive consultation and with the support of the Fire Marshal's Office, Bill No. 58 was constructed. From what you have presented here today, what substantive additional elements do you foresee that were not included in this recommended piece of legislation that was introduced back in 1999?
MR. CORMIER: At this point in time I would recommend that the Act, as delivered at that time or read into the House at that time, would continue to go through, that there not be changes.
MR. MACKINNON: Are you suggesting that when the policy decision was made by government that there was no recommendation from the Fire Marshal's Office other than to proceed with Bill No. 58?
MR. CORMIER: That is correct.
MR. MACKINNON: I guess I am a little concerned, as well, it seems like many of the points you raised here were more at the administrative level, things that would be dealt with without having to make changes to the legislation. I recognize some of the points that you made, the issue about the level of training and I believe you indicated your office was understaffed as well. Am I to understand that correctly?
MR. CORMIER: What I would state is that at the present time we are in a holding pattern. If the Act were to go through, as is, we would be able to carry on with the present staff we have. If there is an expectation that we will fulfill a larger role, then we certainly would require more staff. I guess the issue I would put forward to you is that I step forward today without any idea what the mandate was of the committee, whether it was to come up with a totally new Act, to review the Act to come up with substantial changes or whatever and all I wanted the committee to be aware of was the reasons we made the decisions for the things that we did decide and put in the Act in the manner in which we did.
MR. MACKINNON: So just to be clear, what you are saying is that there was no consultation with the Fire Marshal's Office when the decision was made to proceed with the select committee and put Bill No. 58 in abeyance? Yes or no?
MR. CORMIER: That is correct. Bill No. 58 . . .
MR. MACKINNON: One final question if I could . . .
MR. CORMIER: If I could finish . . .
MR. MACKINNON: I'm sorry, yes.
MR. CORMIER: Bill No. 58 did not proceed into the fall session of the House and therefore died on the floor because the House itself was not sitting.
MR. MACKINNON: We are aware of that. That would only have been simply a matter of dusting it off and putting it back in the following session. That is a procedural thing rather than a substantive issue. One final question if I could, Mr. Chairman, is that back in August 1999, you prepared a report in your department, you are familiar with that, that is an issue I raised in the House on Wednesday, October 13, 1999. There were two issues and one was the fact that the Fire Marshal's Office would like to have volunteer firefighters take over the responsibility of fire investigations in the province and the other issue is your concern with
the fact that the deputy fire marshals' reports are decreasing in quality and you go on to say that the workload of your office is being compounded by the total lack of training and planning in the Fire Marshal's Office. Would you care to comment on both those issues?
MR. CORMIER: Yes and without any difficulty at all. Over the last year we have worked with Manitoba which probably has the best training program in the country. We have already had three individuals certified to their fire investigators program and are presently preparing for other individuals to go out there to be certified in their fire inspectors program. One of our individuals has been to Ontario and just completed their public education certification. We are attempting to catch up to that activity at this time and bring our individuals up to a higher quality standard.
The reason for the decreased quality in reports was directly related to the amount of time people had available to develop those reports and the fact that between trying to keep up with our planned and scheduled activities, fire investigations were also a big problem. We are there to help the volunteer fire service but when we are called out to carry out fire investigations and we are taken by an ATV three miles into the woods and all that is left is a piece of ground with some ashes, that is a waste of our time and effort and we just don't have it. We have to attempt to work with the volunteer fire service to have them draw the proper conclusion as to when to call us in and when not to.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Mr. Morash.
MR. MORASH: I represent Queens County and there are at least five volunteer fire services there. You said there was extensive consultation so should I assume that if I talk to the chief of each of these that they will be aware of the new legislation proposed and that they have had some input into that?
MR. CORMIER: Every one of them would have received a copy of the legislation, a copy of the final report and a copy of the consultation as it went on. Outside departments such as Brooklyn, Liverpool, Greenfield, some of the larger departments, they may not have personally participated in it. They certainly have been aware, I certainly have met with the South Shore Mutual Aid Association, which Queens County is a part of.
MR. MORASH: One of my concerns is that this is very extensive and I certainly want to make sure it is well communicated prior to it becoming law.
MR. CORMIER: What we tried to do was split out those parts that directly affected the fire departments. There are a couple of things there - just to bring you up to some understanding of them - the first is the immediate investigation of fires. There was a desire to try to have somebody on site. Now for instance, with those five fire departments, maybe they would only have one trained person among the five, who could go in and do the investigation or the initial. There is also the protection of the property. At the present time fire departments have to maintain the integrity of the property for evidence gathering, so they put a watch on. If they put a watch on there is the hope they will be able to get that money back from the insurance company. The insurance company will normally pay for that or has on many occasions. However, if that does not occur what we wanted to create was the ability for the fire departments to bill so they could collect it against the owner or against the property.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Mr. O'Donnell.
MR. CECIL O'DONNELL: Just a couple of quick questions. You mentioned a home in Shelburne that was inspected. Normally are private dwellings inspected only when there is a complaint lodged or asked?
MR. CORMIER: Absolutely. For instance, in our municipal Act - and we have requested that that be moved over to fire safety so we keep the separation between emergency activities and non-emergency activities - that allows for fire departments to carry out inspections on private dwellings with the owner's permission. That is the only way it can be done, unless you have a search warrant. We receive complaints about certain property and basically what it is is the next door neighbour doesn't like the car that is stored there, so we have to go. If we do not have a justifiable reason to go to a Justice of the Peace and swear out for a search warrant or an entry, then we have no justification to be there.
MR. O'DONNELL: Did I understand you when you said the fire at the Shag Harbour School, an hour later and the fire department still hadn't . . .
MR. CORMIER: No. The only person available at that particular fire situation was a volunteer who was new and didn't know how to drive the truck. They had to bring in one of the other departments eventually to handle the situation. It is just that sort of thing that happens when those individuals are out lobster fishing, when they happen to be away, we are reliant. The 911 system in our new radio communication has provided us with a much better mutual aid system than we had in the past and that was the purpose of working closely with the departments on that. It is just that we have to have a realization. Two minutes and 30 seconds after the initial fire starts, the area where that fire started is untenable. When we say, well, the fire department will get there, with the fire last night, when the fire department arrived the fire was coming out of all the windows and doors, there was no way the fire department was doing anything there.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Mr. Chisholm.
MR. RONALD CHISHOLM: I don't have any questions right now, Mr. Chairman. I would like to apologize for being late, I had a previous commitment.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Mr. Steele.
MR. STEELE: I do have another question. While Mr. MacKinnon was actually speaking, I gave Mr. Clark a copy of the resolution that contains the mandate of the committee and it is very short. In case any of our other guests have the same question about what exactly this committee is for, it is very brief and I just wanted to read it. This resolution was approved unanimously in the Legislature on April 12th . . .
MR. MACKINNON: No.
MR. STEELE: Oh wasn't it? It was approved, at any rate, by the Legislature and after setting up the committee it goes on to say this:
"the mandate of the select committee is to
(i) review proposed changes to the Fire Prevention Act, as reflected by Bill No. 58, entitled an Act to Promote and Encourage Fire Safety, which was introduced in this House on June 6, 2000, and relevant reports of the Fire Prevention Advisory Council,
(ii) seek input from municipalities, local fire departments and others who are involved in addressing or who are affected by fire safety concerns, and
(iii) make recommendations respecting an Act to Promote and Encourage Fire Safety to ensure that Nova Scotians are protected by effective fire prevention laws;"
So in a nutshell, the mandate of this committee is to look at Bill No. 58 and receive input from the public and make sure that at the end of the day we have the best possible legislation.
Part of the question or concern people have is that Bill No. 58 itself was the end of a fairly extensive process, which started under the Liberal Government and before Mr. MacKinnon says it, he either started it or presided over it when he was minister.
MR. MACKINNON: It was started in 1996.
MR. STEELE: It started in 1996 and so it was itself the end of a several year process and I think some people are scratching their heads and saying that was supposed to be the end of the process, not the start of a new process with a new committee to hear more public input. At any rate, that is the mandate of the committee and perhaps later on the chairman or someone from the government side could explain exactly why we are here.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Perhaps I could explain that at this time. When I was asked to chair this committee my response was - being a little bit aware of what had gone on the previous five years with the fire service - I felt the fire service was basically comfortable with the Act. The information I received from Cabinet was that they understood that but they wanted to be sure because, as Mr. Cormier said, legislation is slow to change - we go back to the 1960's, sometimes the 1940's - so we would like to do it the very best we could. We don't want to drag it out, this is not going to be a long process. The public hearings will be completed before the end of October and I expect it will be written by November - I shouldn't speak for the writer - but some time in that time frame. My understanding is that at the spring session we will introduce this bill.
The municipalities may - we have had some calls and comments because there is a cost factor that could affect them. When you are downloading, as we will be accused of, we are going to hear about it from the municipalities, so we want their input. If there is anything in the bill that does not jeopardize fire safety and does not put people at risk, then we would certainly want to listen to what they have to say and what they have for solutions and recommendations. Also, we feel there may be contractors and that type of thing, who would like some input, as well as the general public. This is only my opinion, but the municipalities will probably be the greatest participants in what we are doing, but I may be wrong in that.
MR. STEELE: If I may resume, Mr. Chairman, this was all leading up to my question which I will get to now. Really the essential mandate of the committee is to review Bill No. 58 and to see if there are any tweaks that it needs, to see if there are any changes that it needs. It is my understanding, Mr. Cormier, that you, by and large, support Bill No. 58 as it stands?
MR. CORMIER: Yes, I do.
MR. STEELE: And, Mr. Clark, that you, by and large, support Bill No. 58 as it stands?
MR. GREG CLARK: Yes.
MR. STEELE: I am going to put you on the spot and ask you this question. For a layperson like myself who is new to considering this issue, can you identify for the committee which parts of Bill No. 58 you think are controversial or potentially might be controversial,
even though I do understand that you, after due consideration with your background and experience agree with the way Bill No. 58 resolves those issues, what do you think those issues are?
MR. CORMIER: The first issue is certainly - as Mr. Carey has brought up - the issue in regard to what appears to be downloading to the municipalities, even though it has been their requirement since 1976. We have approximately 8 of the 55 municipalities who actually have fire inspectors hired and operating in their communities. Many of the municipalities are ready to pursue this and it is not as much the cost factor as the issues related to liability issues, they are going into a whole new requirement where they are going to be expected to give permission and advice on situations that they are not sure they will have staff who are properly trained to do so. That is my responsibility, to ensure that training is in place and that they have that opportunity and when in doubt, that they have the personnel to allow them to question someone else to try to eliminate that.
Number two for the municipalities is the fact that there are very few municipalities who can support a single fire inspector for a single area. In meeting with the Valley regional municipal units, they would like to turn it over to their fire departments but there was an issue related to which fire department would they turn it over to; they don't want to have the appearance of favouritism. Do they take a neutral way and hire the Fire Marshal's Office to do it for them, in which case he would hire someone to do it, but they certainly accept the concept.
I believe 11 municipalities were going to band together for a single inspector because no one community needed an inspector on a full-time basis. Other municipalities, such as Cape Breton Regional Municipality, are going to use building inspectors in downturn times in the economy, which happens at least every year between October and March, as a normal function of our weather. So the municipalities have various issues that range with this and where they perceive it is really going to be the conflict.
The second one we operate under is the fact we are trying to build a close relationship with the building inspectors. We do share a very close working relationship with the vast majority of building inspectors in this province. However, there is a who's-in-charge question, which we don't need from either side, but basically if you go in and order some work to be done - and I will give you an example of where it worked well.
We went into a lodge that had been around for a number of years. They applied for status as an inn. We went in to do the inspection and they had people on the third floor of the inn who only had one narrow stairwell to go down to get outside and they wanted to use that as sleeping accommodations. We required them to put an outside exit on the building, another stairwell. Our job was to say, you need another stairwell. It was the building inspector's job to ensure the stairwell went in in accordance to proper construction procedures, the right run and rise, the right number of steps before you get onto a platform, the railing height, et cetera.
Now we can go into the code and find that, but really it is the building inspector and they have to take out a permit for that.
The building inspectors and Municipal Affairs also had some concerns, although they conceded to us eventually that, yes, the municipalities should have the right to the benefits of the permit for the work that is being carried out. But if there is an appeal, should the appeal be to the fire marshal or should it be to the Building Code? The Building Code covers the 1995 Building Code, it may not cover that building, what we have come up with, as a solution for a building that was built in 1895. So there has been some concern with who has the proper authority there. But once the fire official writes out an order, that fire official is responsible to see that the work is done but that is a second area.
The third area is, as Greg says, the fire service will have feelings that the Act is going to be used to put more legislation in place for the fire service will have to meet. That is not true at all. It is solely an advisory capacity. As a matter of fact, we have no mandate even in our legislation to allow us to regulate the fire service. Now Ontario and Quebec have both gone into that direction where they dictate to municipalities what the level of fire protection will be. We do not feel this province is ready for that and the balance of our fire service, we want to work with them, not try to destroy it.
MR. STEELE: Mr. Clark, is there anything you want to add to that? What would you identify as the potential points of controversy in Bill No. 58?
MR. GREG CLARK: Well, thinking over the process that we went through and the final draft that we presented, I am not convinced that you are going to run into a lot of opposition as to what the changes are or what that Act says. I believe, and I think our membership believes, that the issue here is between the provincial government and municipal government units. If that is the case, then why go through the exercise that we spent three and four years going through, very extensive. We talked to fire departments. We gave everyone an opportunity. We went out to municipalities. They all had opportunities to feed back information to our committee. Once that was done, and I have binders in my office, three or four of them, full of all kinds of information that we went through.
After we went through that process, we then came to the Fire Advisory Council and we went through it again. To me, and I am speaking on behalf of our association, we feel that that has been exhausted. The public was given the opportunity, fire departments were given the opportunity. We don't have control over if they respond or they don't. We kept sending, mailing stuff out, having meetings at all the association meetings across this province. This topic was discussed. It was open for input from any and all.
Now it is the feeling of our association that this is an issue, call it downloading or whatever you want to call it and it is not an issue whether it is the present day government or the past. It is an issue of provincial government and municipal government. Therefore, that
is something we feel you should be able to address at that government level and go with it. As far as the Act itself goes, I won't guarantee but I would say I am very comfortable on behalf of everybody who went through that with us that what is in there is what will be accepted and is what is comfortable with everybody that we talked to. We made revisions, we juggled it around to fit as best we could all of those factors.
I think that is my reply, that we see it as an issue between two levels of government and what you are going to come up with to change the structure of that Act is going to be very little, if any.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Mr. MacKinnon.
MR. MACKINNON: Mr. Chairman, I guess I have to compliment Mr. Clark because we are on the same wavelength on that point. Perhaps even at worst, it is an issue that could be dealt with through the roles and responsibilities committee of the UNSM and the province.
Back to the issue of training, Mr. Cormier, you indicated that your office should have the full responsibility for the training to make sure that we have the fire inspectors properly trained. Is that correct?
MR. CORMIER: There are a number of things that my office has got involved with and if there is anybody to be held accountable, I am the only one to hold accountable but there are a number of areas that we have ventured into, knowing there was a necessity for it in the province even though the legislation does not strictly provide ability for me to do it. One of the areas is the quality of fire service training. We have training in Cape Breton region, we have training at the fire school in Waverley and we have training in the Halifax Regional Municipality that are high level training. The only thing we wanted to do was ensure that when those individuals were tested they were tested to the accepted standards and the accepted standards are North American standards. So there is an accreditation process through Oklahoma State University called IFSAC. It is a certification for a body in a province to be responsible to ensure that testing is done on firefighters to ensure they were trained properly.
That accreditation has been completed up to the stage where the site visit team has been here. They will be going back and issuing their report at the end of this month. The chairman of that is the Fire Commissioner of Manitoba, so I can pretty much guarantee that we will have certification in this province by the end of the month. I am the holder of that certification because I am the only provincial fire service person in the province. Even though the Act doesn't permit me to do so, what we did was hide under the EMO Act which says that I have the responsibility for the quality of training. So I used that to hide under and create it.
The new Act allows us to do things like that and all we are doing is bringing the fire service together. There are five different groups that sat on that; my office, the Fire Officers Association of Nova Scotia, the Halifax region, the Cape Breton region and the fire school all formed a committee to bring that about. That is what we are trying to do. That is just to ensure our firefighters are receiving the correct training.
MR. MACKINNON: Thank you very kindly, that is very helpful because the suggestion was made before about building inspectors now being able to do fire inspections or act as fire inspectors or deputy fire marshals at the municipal level in CBRM. My understanding is some of these building inspectors are doing inspections under the fire marshal service but don't have the training.
MR. CORMIER: No. My deputy fire marshal is working with them on a one-on-one basis. For instance, when we did one of the large facilities down there - and I had to go down to help them do it because I have been through those types of inspections before - we had one of the building inspectors with us as a building inspector, also one with us as a fire inspector and my deputy to go over the aspects. That is not a problem. It is not who is smarter than who, it is which hat you have on while you are doing that aspect of the job. That is what is critical.
MR. MACKINNON: As long as you have the training.
MR. CORMIER: As long as you have the training, but you have to be careful. Generic inspectors are not a reality of life. It has been tried in other provinces and yes, a jack of all trades and master of none is the best way for me to put it and you end up giving improper advice and the litigation activities go 10 times higher. The only winners are the lawyers. (Laughter)
MR. MACKINNON: One final question. I am not a lawyer.
MR. CORMIER: I got the reaction. If they didn't say it so much themselves, I perhaps wouldn't have commented.
MR. MACKINNON: Thank you, Mr. Cormier. Just with regard to the schools in the province. It is an issue I have raised with yourself on a previous day, wearing different hats myself. In terms of the number of students per classroom, are you aware of any schools in the province that have excess number of students as per your allowable limit?
MR. CORMIER: On our investigations - and the Halifax region has done quite a number on these - we have not as yet found classrooms that have contained numbers beyond that which is permitted by the codes.
MR. MACKINNON: Even at Sir John A. Macdonald?
MR. CORMIER: Even at Sir John A. Macdonald. I am trying to remember that particular school, the particular classrooms. We do have schools for the first time under the P3 program where because of the construction of stairwells we now have limits on the classroom sizes, because they are on the upper floors and when the contractors built the schools they built the school stairwells to the exact size for the number of students who were going to be there. When the Department of Transportation and Public Works builds them, they overbuild the stairwells so we have extra space. Yes, we do have a situation where we could reach, but we have not yet.
MR. MACKINNON: Mr. Chairman, I know I digressed just a bit on that, but it is a personal interest of mine.
MR. CORMIER: One thing that you mentioned was the committee. In the emergency services committee for the roles and responsibility of the province and the municipalities, it was a unanimous decision of those committees that fire inspections should be the responsibility of the municipality. It is my understanding that that also became a part of the central committee's recommendations.
MR. MACKINNON: Recommendations, going into Bill No. 58?
MR. CORMIER: No, not going into Bill No. 58, but it is part of the roles and responsibility committee meetings which were held about two years ago.
MR. MACKINNON: And that is the point that Mr. Clark is alluding to; am I correct?
MR. CORMIER: Yes.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Mr. Morash.
MR. MORASH: A question on inspections. If I am a business operator in Queens County, I guess an example would be a hardware store or something like that, and I have my insurance inspector in, would that fire safety inspection be suitable to your office to prove that I have done everything that is acceptable?
MR. CORMIER: As far as the hardware store goes that should be a municipal issue. People who go into hardware stores should be able to get back out again, so we don't view it as a life safety situation. Now, if you are selling dynamite off your shelves, that is a different matter, and then we have the federal government to get after. The chances, first of all, of an inspection, unless they are done by a municipal inspector, are pretty rare, unless it is under a complaint.
MR. MORASH: But now under the proposed regulations . . .
MR. CORMIER: Under the proposed, the municipality would have to have a system of inspections which would include somebody going into your store at some stage. It may be once every 10 years, might be once every 15 years.
MR. MORASH: And that would be the municipal unit's call as to whether they would take the insurance company's inspection or not?
MR. CORMIER: That is correct. In most cases, I would dare say, I have not seen an insurance company inspection as such for fire safety, in the 28 years that I have been in this business, outside of what has been carried out by Kings Mutual.
MR. MORASH: That might be a question for the person beside you, as to whether they do fire inspections or not.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Dr. Smith.
DR. JAMES SMITH: Mr. Chairman, I will be brief. Mr. Cormier, you mentioned Sunset Manor, and that has been an interest here in metro the last few days, or the last while, the transfer of people from the Cole Harbour Rehabilitation Centre. In a building like that, and I know you distinguish between the building inspector and the responsibilities there, but would the Fire Marshal's Office have been consulted in that?
MR. CORMIER: Absolutely. We are working with Sunrise. All I am saying is that at the present time part of our responsibility is to see that those people are going to be safe. They are on the first floor, the design allows for adequate exits. We just want to ensure that the staffing, et cetera, is going to be correct. That building was not specifically designed, but it does not mean it is unsafe, we just have to put extra precautions in because of it.
DR. SMITH: Yes, and the safety of the others who are in the building . . .
MR. CORMIER: That's correct and remember, that building has now been sprinklered since the fire.
DR. SMITH: You mentioned sprinklers impacted on property. Would a building like that have smoke detectors as well, for the safety of people?
MR. CORMIER: Yes, there was a full fire alarm in that building.
DR. SMITH: Just one final, on residential care throughout the province. Do you have any knowledge, is there any restriction on numbers of persons per beds or per room in a small facility?
MR. CORMIER: No, but there are compartment sizes, on residential care, I can't say, I do know in nursing homes it is 10,000 square feet, and whatever number of beds you would put in that particular area. It depends on the age of the residential care facility, it depends on the structure of the residential care facility. We have been working very closely with both Health and Community Services on recognizing which of these units should be closed. It has been a long process, and it is not an easy process.
I remember meeting with one owner when we made our first decision to close one of the nursing homes, and she called me the next day and told me, when I left that meeting I called you every name in the book. Like I said, my name is taken in vain a few times a day. Anyway, she said, I went down and took a look around the facility and when I read your letter and took a look at what you were talking about, I burst into tears realizing what kind of threat I had put these people under all this time, and the faster you get us out of here the better.
Lots of times there is not a realization, so we have to do a real analysis. We don't do that lightheartedly. We have just developed a program with Underwriter Laboratories of Canada that we worked for three years on to come up with the fire safety analysis for buildings such as nursing homes and residential care facilities, so we are sure of when the right time is to close and when the right time is to make alterations and changes to them.
DR. SMITH: We still hear, and I think some of these you and I would probably note equally, having been minister in earlier years, and probably the one you mentioned I may well know of. There still seems to be, throughout the province, areas where renovated larger homes, for instance, where there are three people in a room. Is that fairly common throughout the province?
MR. CORMIER: It is not common but those features are there. They have been licensed for years. Our new codes have not created any reason for us to believe that we should take them out. We have put some extra features into some of those. I just read a report last night, in residential care facilities the average time for evacuation is 58 seconds from time of sleeping to get residential care people out. So we have a pretty fast movement of people out, provided those smoke alarms are working so that we get them up and out as soon as something occurs, and that we have staff available. We are very critical with staff now.
DR. SMITH: Thank you, Mr. Cormier and Mr. Chairman.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Mr. Steele.
MR. STEELE: I have two closely related questions, but I want to give a bit of context first. My constituency of Halifax Fairview is entirely urban, 100 per cent urban. I have a number of very large apartment buildings in my constituency, including 36 Abbey Road or
Armdale Place, where there was a fire earlier this year. It happened to be just before I was elected and by the time I was elected the tenants who went back were back. Nevertheless, the particular challenges of high-rise fires are very much on my mind as we do the work of this committee.
Mr. Cormier or Mr. Clark, if you care to, if you could tell the committee, just briefly for the record, what happened at 36 Abbey Road, what we can all learn from that particular fire, and then the third thing is what changes if any to the legislation and regulations would you recommend to minimize the chances of that kind of fire happening again?
MR. CORMIER: Well, the head of fire prevention for the Halifax region is here. If I miss anything, Mike, please cut in. Basically what occurred there, the main panels throughout the building, we had a short circuit or a surge, we are not sure what the cause was, that pushed an electrical short throughout all of the building right up through the floors and took out the main electrical system. The building was constructed at an age when aluminum wiring was permitted. Aluminum wiring is still there, it is still used on large conductors of electrical equipment. The major aspect there was not so much whether the fire was as serious as what it was reported to be but as to what the building owner wanted to do with that particular building. Why was there an outcry to have all the electrical wiring? Certainly Michael's people had not required the electrical wiring to be stripped out. We hadn't required it. So there were issues that I believe related to that building that were more issues of market value than they were issues of fire safety.
As far as what we could learn, in that particular case, I think things went right that night. There were no deaths. The fire department was able to get it out in fast order but it is just that when the building has no electrical in it and all the electrical has to be refed through the system and the building has to have the smoke cleared out of it - that is the biggest problem we have - 90 per cent of fire costs could be cut with a door closer. It is a simple fact, having a door closer on a door that shuts it. The whole problem at Sunrise Manor, the reason we had those people out of there so long was the simple fact we didn't have door closers on the doors. We now require all seniors' complexes to have door closers. That is another balancing act because seniors like to have their doors open so they can see everybody go by and say hello because they are lonesome in there. They are all by themselves but that big old bad fire marshal wants that door closer on there. (Interruption) That is one of the reasons I am trying to keep all the nursing homes in good shape. I don't know which bed is mine.
MR. STEELE: The third part of the question was whether there are any changes to legislation and regulations that you would recommend to minimize the chances of that kind of fire happening again?
MR. CORMIER: No, that type of thing will occur. What we have to do is have the people ready to react when it does occur. We can't eliminate every situation as much as we would like to. We would like to have more control over electrical people. You will be seeing
legislation coming forward for the licensing of electricians and electrical contractors, the same as every other province has. We do want to get a control on that aspect.
The number one concern, if I were to issue my greatest concerns right now for fire safety is first of all the bars in downtown Halifax, not because they are unsafe, but because of the number of people who crowd into those bars at any given time, tremendous numbers. The young firefighter who walked into the bar in Sackville and shot two of the patrons before taking his own life could very well have walked in with a Molotov cocktail. Situations arise like that.
The day-to-day issue that I am most concerned with is boarding houses, boarding houses that are housing our students, that are housing our economically deprived, are housing people with improper fire separations, improper fire alarms, improper equipment. We are not even sure where they are. One of the municipalities is against hiring a fire inspector because they know that the majority of the boarding facilities for the students in that town are not safe for the students to be in and they would have to close them. So one of the things we want to create is a regulation on boarding houses, a minimum standard that would allow the majority of these to stay open with minimum upgrading of their facilities. Those are the two greatest concerns I have for fire safety in this province right now.
MR. STEELE: Mr. Cormier, would you care to identify the town that you are talking about?
MR. CORMIER: No, I would not.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Okay, we have two more people to go and we are running out of time.
MR. STEELE: I had a very closely related question to that. I can leave it until later. We have until 4:00 p.m., right?
MR. CHAIRMAN: We have about 15 minutes. We have a committee after this part of the meeting.
MR. MACKINNON: Who else is on the list?
MR. CHAIRMAN: Kerry Morash.
MR. MACKINNON: Okay, let Kerry go.
MR. MORASH: I have a fairly quick one with regard to the last discussion. During the inspection for a high-rise or something like that, is there any thought or any consideration to infrared cameras or something like that that would be able to look at a panel and tell if
there is a loose wire or a bad connection that could possibly create a fire at some time in the future?
MR. CORMIER: That is one of the things that is not in the code is the actual requirement for maintenance of electrical equipment. This is very true of aluminum because if there is one issue with aluminum it is that it expands and contracts so fast and so much that it does weaken the connections if it is not properly connected. That is something that could be looked at.
MR. MORASH: But currently there are no plans to do that.
MR. CORMIER: Currently there is not, no, not for electrical.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Mr. MacKinnon.
MR. MACKINNON: Mr. Chairman, actually just to follow along on that, I am thinking about the provincial institutions, provincial buildings. We have the committees' building here, the Dennis Building, we have the Joseph Howe Building, where we had that large fire a few months ago. I know you did a quick on-the-site job very effectively. Does that building have aluminum wiring as well?
MR. CORMIER: That I couldn't say. The Department of Transportation and Public Works - departments are joining so fast, sometimes I have to check my card to see which one I am in - has a good listing of all of the wiring. We have exceptionally good electrical engineering facilities for the province, and the buildings.
MR. MACKINNON: So you wouldn't know if there is aluminum wiring?
MR. CORMIER: I couldn't personally say, but my chief electrical official probably would.
MR. MACKINNON: How many of these provincial institutions do we have that do have aluminum wiring? Is it 10 per cent, 20 per cent?
MR. CORMIER: There would not be that many. It was only a short period of time that we went through with the actual construction with aluminum wiring. Most of them will have aluminum but not as branch circuits, and that is where the issue is. Probably the period between 1975 and 1985 was the biggest period, so buildings that were built in that time would probably have aluminum wiring.
MR. MACKINNON: Okay, just to satisfy my curiosity could you give us an undertaking that you would provide us that information?
MR. CORMIER: I can attempt to find it out, yes.
MR. MACKINNON: You can go through the chairman or give myself a call, whatever is convenient.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Mr. Steele.
MR. STEELE: Actually, in view of the time I probably will not ask the question that I had in mind, I can always ask it another time. Because we have so much expertise and experience in the room, I wonder, Mr. Chairman, if you would be interested in inviting anybody else in the room . . .
MR. CHAIRMAN: That was my next . . .
MR. STEELE: Then I will pass it back over to you.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Anything further from Mr. Cormier or Mr. Clark?
MR. CORMIER: No, I would request the other members to please speak up.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Is there anyone who would like to make some additional comments? Could you just introduce yourself.
FIRE CHIEF BRENT DENNY: Brent Denny, Fire Chief, Sydney River and also a member of the Fire Officers Association of Nova Scotia. I guess my main thrust is to echo what Greg had to say in that there was a long and lengthy consultation process on Bill No. 58, and being Chairman of the Cape Breton Regional Chiefs Association at the time there were several meetings held in our area and the bill was gone over in great detail and input sent back in. We would certainly encourage the committee to push through or get this bill through as soon as possible because it is going to do more good for the fire service or for the province than the old bill, and we are looking forward to the improvements. Once again, I can assure you that the fire service has studied the bill and is familiar with it, and is quite satisfied with the way it has been presented.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Thank you very much. Any other presenters?
MR. GREG EWERT: Greg Ewert, representing the Design and Construction Institute of Nova Scotia. Just a comment maybe in support of Mr. Cormier's presentation with respect to plans examiners. The number of plans examiners has been reduced, or not increased anyway, over the years and from a design industry point of view it causes some problems just
in the processing of documents and getting speedy approvals, but also every architect and every engineer should do a perfect job and it go out and be built perfectly, but that doesn't happen. A layer of safety in the whole process of designing and constructing a facility, the plans examiners are in there doing their thing and if something does slip through the cracks from the design engineers' point of view then there is a layer in there that would possibly pick it up, not that one should rely on the other.
Just another comment on sprinkler systems, contrary to Mr. Cormier, I just wanted to add that, really, while a sprinkler system may protect property, in doing so it protects life as evidenced by any of the large fires that would occur. The MGM Grand and some of the other large hotels, without a sprinkler system there was certainly property damage but there was also a great loss of life. When you come down to it, in a facility it is like $1.62 a square foot for a sprinkler system, and that is a small price to pay. In a lot of instances where it is optional, it really shouldn't be.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Mr. Cormier.
MR. CORMIER: I don't want it to sound like Greg and I are on opposing views of this. What I am referring to are single-family dwellings only. Believe me, I can tell you I would far rather go in there and stand under a sprinkler while I shut it off and get wet than I would from the heat of that 2000 degree fire any day.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Are there any other presenters? Graham.
MR. STEELE: Just before we finish I would like to make one brief comment. Earlier Mr. Clark raised some questions about the mandate and purpose of the committee, very good questions. To a certain extent, Mr. Chairman, you have provided answers. Mr. Clark, you were out of the room when we were doing introductions, so I will mention again that I am a member of the NDP caucus and speaking only for myself and certainly not on behalf of the committee or any other caucus I would say this, the government on June 6, 2000, brought in fire safety legislation. It was the result of many years of effort. It became clear to us that the government was not willing to move forward with that piece of legislation.
This committee was proposed, and we are going along with this committee, you could even say happily going along with it. If this is what it is going to take to get that piece of legislation back into the Legislature and passed, then that is a price we are willing to pay even though I do understand that you and other people believe that what we have been asked to do has already been done. As I said, the government made it clear they were not willing to go forward with Bill No. 58 as it stood, whether their reasons are good or not I will leave for other people to judge, but that is why I am sitting here today, not because I necessarily think there is anything wrong with Bill No. 58 but because if that is what it is going to take to pass this legislation then that is what we will do. That is my comment.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Mr. MacKinnon.
MR. MACKINNON: Just one final note on that, I was a little concerned, Mr. Chairman, when you indicated that the legislation would be prepared for the spring sitting of the Legislature. I believe if we go back to the last full committee meeting we had, when we were doing the scheduling for our meetings, my understanding was that the indication was given that on or about the last week of October the legislation would be prepared for the fall sitting of the Legislature, mid-December.
MR. CHAIRMAN: As you are well aware, I don't set the agenda for the House. It very well may . . .
MR. MACKINNON: . . . early frost, there could be some slippage here.
MR. CHAIRMAN: I guess what I would tell you is it depends on how much opposition there is in the time frame after the House opens until it closes, if the time frame works it very well may be part of the agenda. I certainly want it to go through as quickly as possible, but as you know . . .
MR. MACKINNON: The powers that be.
MR. CHAIRMAN: The powers that be will make that decision. I want it put through and the reason I am here not only today but agreed to take this was because I have an interest, have had a long-term interest, and I would like to see it progress. I think it is good legislation, just speaking as an individual.
AN HON. MEMBER: Former life.
MR. CHAIRMAN: My former life. However, I think the group here can get the information, it can be facilitated and I see a very co-operative group, and I think we can do a good job. I am interested in getting legislation that is as good as possible, as I said, because we know it is there for 40 years or something like that, or it appears to stay with us for some length of time, so let's do it the best we can.
MR. GREG CLARK: Is it too much to request that when your committee work is finalized that the Fire Prevention Advisory Council be consulted before you go forward?
MR. CHAIRMAN: I certainly plan to do that. Personally as chairman, I want to see as much consultation and input as possible and that we do the very best we can to satisfy as many as we can. Any others? If not, I would thank the gentlemen who have appeared and everyone who has come, and I would ask the members to just stay for a couple of minutes while we have some house . . .
MR. STEELE: Can we adjourn for just a couple of minutes?
MR. CHAIRMAN: We can adjourn for a couple of minutes, sure.
[The committee adjourned at 3:41 p.m.]