MR. CHAIRMAN: It is close to our starting time so we will get underway. Perhaps we could start with the introduction of the members of the committee and maybe, Ron, if we could start with you:
[The committee members introduce themselves.]
MR. CHAIRMAN: Now, one of the members of the committee, Frank Corbett, from Cape Breton, is unable to be with us this evening and Muriel Baillie is on her way from Halifax and will be here before too long, I understand. That will make up our committee.
Certainly, we are glad to be in the area. If you don't have a formal presentation, that is not the important thing. If you have comments that you feel are important for the government of the province to be presented with, this is an opportunity for you and we will take the information back and try to use it, to come up with the best possible bill that we can. That is the purpose of this all-Party committee.
What we have done in other areas to recognize and respect the loss of the lives of the 300 firefighters in the New York area is to observe a minute of silence. Perhaps we could start our meeting with it.
[One minute of silence was observed.]
MR. CHAIRMAN: Thank you very much. Welcome to this meeting of the Select Committee on Fire Safety.
The Select Committee is an all-Party committee. We have been charged with the responsibility of making recommendations to the House of Assembly on a new law for fire safety. We are reviewing proposed changes to the Fire Prevention Act, which are contained in Bill No. 58. Bill No. 58 was introduced in the House of Assembly in June 2000. Now, the government wants to widen its base of comments from the public and complete the legislation.
We're also meeting with Nova Scotians. We would like to hear from the public as well as people who will be directly affected by the new law, such as insurance companies, other businesses, municipalities and the fire service. We're meeting in nine communities across the province. This is the fourth meeting. Once we have collected and reviewed all submissions, we will make recommendations in a report to the House of Assembly.
Bill No. 58 sets up a framework for fire safety. It assigns responsibilities to individuals and organizations that work to prevent fires, people that fight fires, companies and individuals that own land, insurers, municipalities and provincial government officials, like the fire marshal. The bill also sets up an Advisory Council to advise the Minister of Environment and Labour on matters related to fire safety.
Bulleted details on Bill No. 58 are:
- it is written with the intention that it would replace completely the Fire Prevention Act that is now in effect in Nova Scotia
- it directs what individuals and organizations in the province must do to prevent fires and how they must act once a fire has occurred;
- it provides direction for making sure the Fire Marshal's Office has representation in each municipality;
- it is important for educating people on how to prevent fires;
- it helps the fire marshal determine what caused fires. This is important for insurance and crime prevention reasons;
- it assigns roles to people who are responsible for preventing fires, for putting them out, for reporting fires and for investigating them, the Fire Marshal's Office and the municipalities;
- it assigns responsibilities to people or organizations that own land or businesses. These people have certain responsibilities for preventing fires and for reporting fires that do take place. Insurance companies also have responsibilities assigned by law;
- it forbids certain activities. For example, if this bill becomes law, it would be against the law to give false information to a fire official investigating a fire or to tamper with a device that would help people escape a burning building;
- it discusses what regulations the government can write to further protect Nova Scotians from fire and to reduce the harm of fires; and
- it establishes a Fire Safety Advisory Council to advise the Minister of Environment and Labour on matters of fire safety.
Those are the highlights of the bill.
With us tonight, also, from the Fire Marshal's Office - and if we have questions that we need to have answered - is it Deputy Fire Marshal, Mr. Orr?
MR. ROBERT ORR: Yes.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Yes. So thank you for being with us this evening.
Tonight we have two presentations that have already been entered. If anyone else wishes to present, you don't have to have anything written. It can be verbal, whatever, if you just have a few comments. But if you would just give your name to Kim at the back, she will make sure that it gets registered and we would have your name for the record. If the presenters would come to the microphones in front of us here at the appropriate time, then everything can be recorded so we can get the information correctly.
The first presenter is Mannie Withrow, with the Municipality of Colchester Building Inspectors Department.
MR. MANNIE WITHROW: Thank you, Mr. Chairman, honourable members. As stated, my name is Mannie Withrow. I am a professional building inspector for the Municipality of Colchester. I have worked as a building inspector for the past 11 years.
As a building inspector, I am the authority having jurisdiction under the Building Code Act. I am responsible for all fire and life provisions in the design, construction, and inspection of buildings in my municipality.
I would like to make it clear to the committee that there is a requirement in this province to enact, for the first time in the province's history, the National Fire Code as a Provincial Fire Code.
I also would like to point out that none of my comments deal with the fighting of fires or the enabling provisions in this legislation for the volunteer firefighter, the volunteer fire service, the paid firefighters or the operation of the firefighter in dealing with fires, or investigating fires, or the provisions dealing with fire suppression issues typically administered by the fire service. My concern relates only to the fire safety provisions of this legislation and the policy and administrative provisions in this legislation dealing with fire safety.
The Building Code is more than just a code that deals with how a building is put together structurally. While it clearly deals with 2 x 4's and the rise and run on stairs, its main purpose, however, is to deal with the fire and life safety issues in the design and construction of buildings.
Matters such as the following are dealt with in the Building Code and not in the Fire Code: the installation of fire alarms, smoke alarms, fireplaces, fireplace inserts, fire rated doors, windows and glass block assemblies, the installation of standpipe and hose systems for firefighting, the installation of fire doors and fire shutters, chimneys, fireplace vents and solid fuel equipment, emergency electrical power to the building, safety codes for elevators, boiler pressure valves, pressure vessels and pressure piping codes, the installation of oil-burning equipment, the installation of solid fuel burning appliances and equipment and sprinkler systems, just to name a few.
The above-mentioned all deal with fire and life safety and are required to be designed under the Building Code, constructed in compliance with the standards enacted under the Building Code and inspected by building inspectors to ensure compliance with the Building Code.
Building Codes and Fire Codes are compatible fire and life safety documents prepared by the Canadian Commission on Building and Fire Codes. The Building Code deals with the design, construction and inspection of all fire and life safety provisions. All of the standards regarding fire and life safety are in the Building Code.
The Fire Code deals with the use of the building by its occupants, storage of materials indoors and outdoors, as well as the maintenance of fire protection equipment and the fire emergency systems, and all other fire and safety systems designed and constructed, are under the authority of the building inspector. This is why it is so important that building inspectors and fire inspectors work closely together on fire and life safety matters in new and existing buildings.
This proposed legislation has not been drafted to support a compatible working relationship in dealing with fire and life safety issues between Building Codes and Fire Codes, or building inspectors and fire inspectors.
As drafted, it undermines the role I perform as a building inspector because the authority and responsibility I have under the Building Code Act is proposed to be given to deputy fire marshals, fire chiefs and fire inspectors. This is going to create unnecessary duplication, overlaps in responsibility and confusion in the administration of the Building Code Act, a job my municipality has been responsible for during the past 14 years. I am also not aware of any problems in the administration of the fire and life safety provisions of the Building Code that requires the province to duplicate this service and get involved in doing a job that is already my responsibility as the building inspector.
If there are concerns regarding municipal administration of the Building Code, maybe we should be aware of them and sort out the perceived difficulties versus putting the same responsibility of administering the Building Code with another level of government.
I am a member of the Nova Scotia Building Officials Association and we have attempted to get clarification on this position for the past five or six years and are still unaware why this legislation was drafted in this fashion. Our association is also making a presentation to your committee and will be providing some background and recommendations as to how to make the adoption of a Fire Code consistent and compatible with the Building Code Act enacted by this province in 1987.
I would like to give you a couple of examples in my municipality for the committee to consider. We deal with a number of big projects throughout the Municipality of Colchester from assembly buildings, commercial buildings, to industrial buildings. A recent expansion of a window plant in my municipality required that there be some interpretation in the Building Code, as far as classification, the use of the building and a number of elements in the Building Code that would have to be addressed.
As the authority having jurisdiction it is my responsibility to make those calls. So the owners propose to construct a building of what they think is in compliance of the 1995 National Building Code and they submit their drawings to my office which I review for compliance and if it is in compliance I issue a permit. In this example of the window plant in Debert, sprinklers came into question, whether the building be sprinklered and limiting distance as far as construction of the exterior walls to property lines.
I instructed the owners to hire a fire protection engineer to provide me with a report and a detailed analysis of what was in the building the window plant was proposing, and to classify whether it is a medium hazard, high hazard or low hazard. The owners went back to the drawing board and hired the consultants - there is only one firm in New Brunswick that has the fire protection engineer qualifications that is certified - they do their analysis and submit this analysis and a detailed report to my office. At that stage I have to review this analysis and make a determination whether I classify them F-1, F-2, or F-3, and that has a number of requirements in the Building Code, as far as sprinklers and fire separations, exits,
et cetera. I have to make that interpretation and be comfortable with it, with the Building Code and then issue my permit.
Once that is done and the permits are issued, the way the legislation is set up now, after the building is constructed we still have fire inspectors who have the authority to go into the building. They can look at this scenario and decide maybe the building should have been sprinklered because it is their interpretation it is a medium or high hazard. Meanwhile, I have already done my calculations, as per the Building Code, with all of my relevant information and there becomes a conflict real quick, because the Fire Marshal's Office becomes involved and all of a sudden they write a letter of compliance to the owner saying we want this put in or we want this changed. Meanwhile, they don't have the history on the building, nor do they come to my office to see any of the files of how the permits were issues, or the inspections or relevant information. What happens is there becomes the conflict of the fire inspector over here and the building inspector over here. Who makes the call and who has the authority?
As it states right now in the current Building Code Act, the authority having jurisdiction is the building inspectors. We make the calls, we do all of our review according to the 1995 Building Code, it is adopted as our Provincial Fire Code in the Province of Nova Scotia, and we issue the permits and live with the consequences of issuing the permit to the best of our ability. As soon as you bring another authority in there, it just opens up a whole avenue of concern, not only for the owners, but also for the building inspector as well. That is an example where I can't see it working in this scenario.
You have to have one person responsible and the way it is set up now is the Building Code gives the Municipality of Colchester that authority to appoint a building inspector and that is his or her job. That is basically the way I see the situation working, it has worked well in Colchester County. I have never run into any trouble and our track record pretty well proves that. There are other examples as well.
As soon as you bring in another level of government within the municipal level doing the same sort of job, it is hard for the taxpayers out there. The biggest concern that we hear everyday is that there are too many levels of government to get a permit issued. First they have to go to the Department of Environment, and then they have to have this done and then that done. The bottom line is we are trying to eliminate too much red tape for people to construct today, it is expensive to build, run and start a new business today.
I just think the committee, if they would, should look very closely at the levels of government involved with this legislation. Other than that I ask that you please take my comments into consideration. I thank you for the opportunity to make these comments and I am confident you will find a way to enact a Fire Code as a necessary companion for the Building Code, to ensure buildings are maintained to the standards of the Building Code. Thank you.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Any questions? Graham.
MR. GRAHAM STEELE: Thank you very much for your presentation. It is always very helpful to all of us, I know, to hear from people who are doing this kind of work day to day. I would like to ask you a question just to make sure I understand exactly what you are saying.
I understand your basic point is that under the new Act there will be a conflict between building inspectors and fire inspectors, or there is the potential for confusion, too much bureaucracy, in not being clear who has the last word.
What I want to make sure I understand is are you saying that the new Act will cause this problem that doesn't currently exist or that it simply won't solve a problem that needs to be solved now? Without this Act in place are you currently facing this problem of confused jurisdiction?
MR. WITHROW: No.
MR. STEELE: So, if I am right, your point is that if this new Act is passed without changes we will be creating a problem that doesn't currently exist?
MR. WITHROW: Yes. Can I go to the Act?
MR. STEELE: Sure, please.
MR. WITHROW: Can we turn to Clause 13.4.
MR. STEELE: Of the proposed new Act, is that right?
MR. WITHROW: Yes, I believe so. If we are all on the same page it says there that "The Fire Marshal has the power and authority to enforce compliance with (a) this Act, the regulations and the Fire Code; and (b) all other Acts of the Province relating to the prevention and suppression of fires and all regulations and by-laws made thereunder; including any codes and enactments incorporated by reference therein." Right there you bring that level of government in. As it states right now in the Building Code Act and regulations, the building inspector has the authority, having jurisdiction. I make the call and I live by it.
If you ever review any letters from the Fire Marshal's Office, the last comment on the page, you guys have probably seen it, says these comments in no way overrides the authority having jurisdiction, which is the local building official. Anybody who has seen those letters, that is what is on there.
Your current Act says the fire marshal has this authority to be in any Act, the Building Code is one of them and he can go into this building. Right now, I make the call, the owners do what has to be done and the building is finished. It is commissioned, the fire inspections that are carried out on the building can be just carried out as far as fire protection issues like are the fire doors still in place, if there is a sprinkler system, is it tested, are the reports there, et cetera. That is my read on it.
MR. STEELE: You said your professional association is the Building Officials Association. You said they will be making a presentation to the committee.
MR. WITHROW: I understand we have an appointment with your committee.
MR. STEELE: And presumably they will be making this same point.
MR. WITHROW: They will probably have a bit of a different agenda, I would think. They will make this point as well but I think theirs will go into a lot more detail.
MR. STEELE: Are you generally aware of the recommendations the association is going to be making to us?
MR. WITHROW: Right now?
MR. STEELE: Yes.
MR. WITHROW: I am not aware of them right now of what position points they are going to go with.
MR. STEELE: But you are fairly confident then on this particular point the association will be making exactly the same point, is that right?
MR. WITHROW: I would assume, yes.
MR. STEELE: How many building inspectors are there in your municipality?
MR. WITHROW: There are two in my municipality.
MR. STEELE: Do you know how many there are in Nova Scotia?
MR. WITHROW: I believe there are 142.
MR. STEELE: Are there some municipalities that don't have any building inspectors?
MR. WITHROW: There are municipalities that do not have building inspectors who belong to our association and support the training, yes.
MR. STEELE: Are there any municipalities, to your knowledge, that don't have a building inspector at all?
MR. WITHROW: I don't think so because it is enacted by law that they are required to adopt the Building Code Act and regulations which also says they must appoint a building inspector. So I would assume if they don't have one they must contract it out.
MR. STEELE: Those are all of my questions, thanks.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Russell MacKinnon.
MR. RUSSELL MACKINNON: Thank you, Mr. Withrow, for your presentation. I am curious as to whether your association made any presentations on a previous day with regard to the articulation of this particular piece of legislation?
MR. WITHROW: To this committee?
MR. MACKINNON: No, to the various working groups that were established over a two year period.
MR. WITHROW: We have given a presentation to the red tape committee . . .
MR. MACKINNON: No, I'm not talking since the provincial election. Prior to the composition of this Bill No. 58, there was a rather extensive consultative period of more than two years, actually it was closer to four years if you look at the various breakdown components. At any point in time did you or your group make presentations or participate in any working group on the articulation of this?
MR. WITHROW: Yes, we had a representative on the working group of this bill. There was a member of our executive on that committee and there has been a number of presentations given.
MR. MACKINNON: What was the position of the Department of Municipal Affairs, vis-à-vis your presentation?
MR. WITHROW: I think the bottom line is they were not listening to our concerns.
MR. MACKINNON: The Department of Municipal Affairs?
MR. WITHROW: The way I understand it is we would submit as representation our concerns of this proposed bill.
MR. MACKINNON: I want to be clear because what you are saying is your parent body, essentially from the municipal to the provincial level, would be the Department of Housing and Municipal Affairs which is now Service Nova Scotia, they've changed the names. But at that particular point in time - through the various groups and through the Department of Housing and Municipal Affairs - your views were made known at that particular time?
MR. WITHROW: Yes, they have.
MR. MACKINNON: Did you receive any reason as to why perhaps your point of view wasn't accepted?
MR. WITHROW: None whatsoever, no. We have been in touch with the deputy minister . . .
MR. MACKINNON: So you are saying that two different government departments totally ignored what you were saying?
MR. WITHROW: Our concerns, yes.
MR. MACKINNON: And did you make any enquiry as to why they were ignored?
MR. WITHROW: A number of times our administrative officer has drafted letters asking for our concerns to be answered. This has been ongoing for a number of years, you people are aware of that, as well. We have been on the ground floor in trying to bring our concerns forward from day one.
MR. MACKINNON: Could you provide members of the committee the correspondence you sent and the correspondence you received back?
MR. WITHROW: Our presentation from the association to this committee will provide you with all of that correspondence, yes.
MR. MACKINNON: Because my understanding - having served as minister - is albeit that you could not come to an absolute conclusion because the various job descriptions have different responsibilities, ultimately, the number one concern is fire safety.
MR. WITHROW: Yes.
MR. MACKINNON: And it wouldn't make a lot of sense to put a building up and then find out there was possibly something wrong structurally or in the design or whatever, that would in fact create a safety hazard, in terms of the exit of people from, let's say, a fire hall, God forbid should it ever happen. Ultimately, it was all a question of the level of responsibility.
MR. WITHROW: Yes.
MR. MACKINNON: Now a building inspector doesn't want the building to fall down on you but even more critically known is that a fire inspector doesn't want to go home and put his head down at night knowing that he didn't inspect the fire preventative components.
MR. WITHROW: Every provision in this building, as far as fire and life safety, is handled by the Building Code.
MR. MACKINNON: That is right but what specialized training does the building inspector have that would allow he or she to be able to execute the duty of a fire marshal or a deputy fire marshal?
MR. WITHROW: In regard to . . .
MR. MACKINNON: To the requirements of meeting the Fire Code, aside from having it on a piece of paper, whether it be regulation, policy, Building Code, legislation, whatever, ultimately, what specialized training would a building inspector have over a fire inspector?
MR. WITHROW: Every component in this building we are trained on what proper material goes into a separation or what type of protection you need. If I told you this wall here requires a 1-R fire separation, we are trained to tell you and to examine that wall to make sure it is in compliance with the Building Code.
MR. MACKINNON: So I want to be clear, you feel that a building inspector is able to do the same job description as the fire marshal in terms of the design and construction of a building?
MR. WITHROW: Any new building, yes, the building inspector. We don't investigate fires.
MR. MACKINNON: I'm not talking about the investigation of fires, I just wanted to be clear on that because that is not my understanding. I can't see a fire inspector, a deputy fire marshal, a fire chief, or a volunteer firefighter coming in and being an expert on the construction and design of a building, in terms of the inspection, the regulatory process. Equally so, I don't know what specialized training a building inspector would have on issues of fire safety. It is a very complex issue but that is my personal opinion.
I have one other question, if I could, Mr. Chairman. There has been some concern raised over recent years about the appeal of a decision by the fire marshal, a deputy fire marshal, or anyone within the fire services. I know different times business interests have levied pressure on myself in my previous job description as minister, that any decision of the Fire Marshal's Office should be made to the minister, whereas the legislation presently states only to a court, whether that be a County, Provincial, Supreme Court or whatever, but should equally apply to building inspectors. Do you believe that a decision of that magnitude should be allowed to be appealed only to some kind of court or quasi-judicial body, or to a political body?
MR. WITHROW: As per your Fire Prevention Act?
MR. MACKINNON: Yes.
MR. WITHROW: I believe it should be the same situation as the Building Code Act.
MR. MACKINNON: So you believe it should be appealed to the minister and not to a court?
MR. WITHROW: Exactly.
MR. MACKINNON: So you would prefer politicizing the process on the issue of fire safety?
MR. WITHROW: On an appeal board, yes.
MR. MACKINNON: I'll be honest, I am astounded to hear that.
MR. WITHROW: Let me clarify what you are asking me to reply to. As far as an appeal procedure, the way it is set up now in the current Fire Prevention Act, it is appealed to the Fire Marshal's Office.
MR. MACKINNON: Ultimately, any decision of the Fire Marshal's Office is appealed in the courts, not to the ministry.
MR. WITHROW: The way it is written in this document here?
MR. MACKINNON: No, it is to a court.
MR. WITHROW: Yes, but if this document is enacted, there is an appeal section in here, is that correct?
MR. MACKINNON: Yes.
MR. WITHROW: Can we visit that appeal section for a minute?
MR. MACKINNON: Sure.
MR. WITHROW: If we look at Clause 38(1), APPEALS, it says:
"38(1) A person who is affected by an order made by a deputy fire marshal, local assistant, or municipal fire inspector pursuant to subsection 25.1, clause 25.2(a), subclause 25.2(b)(iii), or subsection 30(3) may within 15 days after the order is served, appeal the order
(a) to the Fire Marshal, pursuant to Section 39, by submitting a written request to the Fire Marshal for a review of the order; or
(b) to the Board pursuant to Section 41.
(2) Notwithstanding anything in this Act, where the regulations provide for it, matters in addition to those set out in subsection (1) may be subject of an appeal, and the procedure for the appeal may be established or varied by the regulations.
39(1) An affected person who appeals an order pursuant to clause 38(1)(a) shall immediately serve a copy of the appeal on the fire official who made the order, unless otherwise authorized in writing by the Fire Marshal.
(2) The Fire Marshal is not required to hold a hearing when conducting an appeal pursuant to clause 38(1)(a)."
MR. MACKINNON: But that is from the initial decision. It is much the same as a decision of the Workers' Compensation Board, it then goes to an internal review committee and then it goes to a higher appeal and then to a quasi-judicial body. Am I correct on that Graham? So that is essentially the same structure and ultimately it is not a political decision, that is the concern I have.
MR. WITHROW: The way the appeal . . .
MR. MACKINNON: Ultimately what I am saying is I am concerned about building inspectors not having that specialized knowledge to allow them to superimpose that jurisdiction or take over that jurisdiction of the Fire Marshal's Office, or to try to argue that this would be a matter of redundancy. I would argue strenuously against that because my first and foremost concern would be ensuring that we have the best-quality professional training, to ensure that people are not subjected to fire. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Brian Boudreau.
MR. BRIAN BOUDREAU: First of all, Mr. Withrow, I want to congratulate you for your presentation. I appreciate it because I am a rookie member of the House and this is a learning experience for me. I do appreciate your taking the time to come here this evening.
I want to follow-up just a little. Your municipal unit itself has made an attempt to provide input into this bill, is that correct?
MR. WITHROW: That is correct.
MR. BOUDREAU: So far the municipal unit's initiative has fallen on deaf ears.
MR. WITHROW: They did not get a reply to their letter, is that what you mean?
MR. BOUDREAU: Yes, so really I think what I heard is that you didn't have a reply one way or the other? You sent it in, the municipal unit sent it in, and there was no reply, is that correct?
MR. WITHROW: Yes, our municipal CAO is here to answer those questions as well.
MR. BOUDREAU: And then I believe when Graham asked you a question about whether your association will be providing some information, you indicated that would be included in their proposal?
MR. WITHROW: Yes.
MR. BOUDREAU: I just want to make sure, the municipal unit is approaching Municipal Affairs, I would suggest, so why would your building association have the material from the municipality?
MR. WITHROW: What do you mean by the material?
MR. BOUDREAU: The letters that your CAO wrote.
MR. WITHROW: Yes.
MR. BOUDREAU: Are they going to be provided to the committee by your association?
MR. WITHROW: I don't believe so, no.
MR. BOUDREAU: Could you provide that information to the committee?
MR. WITHROW: The letters that my . . .
MR. BOUDREAU: From you municipal unit, yes, from your CAO or . . .
MR. WITHROW: Yes.
MR. BOUDREAU: Yes, could you provide that to this committee?
MR. WITHROW: Yes.
MR. BOUDREAU: Thank you. Now I just want to understand this, Section 28 of Chapter 172 revised, on the last page, Page 28, is that basically why you are putting your presentation in here this evening, about this issue?
MR. WITHROW: Section 28 of the Act, is that what you are asking, sir?
MR. BOUDREAU: Yes, Section 28(1):
"Every architect, designer or owner shall, prior to the commencement of construction of a building or renovations to an existing building, submit the building plans and specifications to the Office of the Fire Marshal for plan examination and approval."
MR. STEELE: Just a second, if I may, just so there is no confusion, Brian is referring to Section 28 of the existing Act, the Act that exists today. I can give you my copy.
MR. BOUDREAU: Is that the paragraph you are talking about, is that basically what the problem is?
MR. WITHROW: Is that the problem right now?
MR. BOUDREAU: Yes.
MR. WITHROW: No. I do not have any problem with the Fire Marshal's Office right now reviewing drawings. Basically, the way the system is set up now the owners send the drawings down to the Fire Marshal's Office and they have two full-time staff there to review the drawings and issue back a letter to the owners. We in the municipality, I don't hold up a
permit waiting for a letter from the Fire Marshal's Office because it has been noted that they are so backlogged on reviewing plans that they cannot get out letters in time to comply with this section in the previous Act. Basically what takes place is, we require on our permits that all owners are required to comply with this section of the Act and submit their plans to the Fire Marshal's Office and then they send out a letter to the owner and send a copy of that letter to me. That is not a problem right now, reviewing the plans, no.
MR. BOUDREAU: Does the building inspector in your municipal unit or right across the province have the ability to inspect these plans that the fire marshal usually inspects?
MR. WITHROW: Yes, that is what they are trained to do.
MR. BOUDREAU: So you would have the training ability to review and in fact I would suggest you have the same qualifications as the officials at the Fire Marshal's Office, is that correct?
MR. WITHROW: The two plan examiners in the Fire Marshal's Office, yes.
MR. BOUDREAU: So do you really feel there is a requirement for these to go through the fire marshal or can it be done locally, at the municipal unit, through the building inspector?
MR. WITHROW: It can be done locally through the municipal building inspector. The requirement in your Act, or it will come out in your regulations is, I assume, they will dictate what buildings they want to do their plan review on. Originally it was all the B occupancies, hospitals, nursing homes, jails, et cetera, high hazard. Everything else they wanted to leave back with the municipal units where it belonged. What is the sense of having two levels doing the same job? I definitely agree with that.
MR. BOUDREAU: So you feel at the local level that is far enough. You don't see the upper layer as being necessary, is that correct?
MR. WITHROW: That is correct.
MR. BOUDREAU: Thank you.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Brooke Taylor.
MR. BROOKE TAYLOR: Mannie, thanks for your presentation. During the course of your presentation my ears perked up a little when you mentioned sprinklers, sprinkling buildings and so on and so forth. We had a situation over in the Musquodoboit Valley where a farming family had designed - with a professional architect - a building that was over a certain number of square feet and consequently, they were required to install a sprinkler
system in the building. I guess everybody knows it was a dairy barn and the main occupants, of course, are cattle. Conversely and quite ironically, we have many senior citizen's homes throughout the municipality and Nova Scotia, some two and three levels, with no sprinkler systems. Maybe this is more appropriately directed to the fire marshal, I am just wondering whether or not that is the National Building Code, the Provincial Building Code, or the Fire Safety Code? To me, it doesn't seem rational that the farming community must either redesign to come in under 10,000 square feet, or else put in these expensive sprinkler systems. I don't know if that has been the experience in Colchester County, maybe there is room for common sense in Colchester County, I don't know, but over in the Halifax Regional Municipality, I know two farming families who had to deal with that serious and expensive concern.
MR. WITHROW: There are no cattle barns in Colchester County that are sprinkled, I can tell you that, that is crazy, but anyway . . .
MR. CHAIRMAN: The Fire Marshal's Office is represented. Do you have any comment on that, Mr. Orr?
MR. ORR: I don't understand that, I heard rumors of that going on or heard discussion about that particular incident but I can't really comment on that. However, the sprinkler Act we did have in our province used to address that problem but it is now under the Building Code and the building inspectors look after the sprinkler end of it. There is a certain amount of criteria that comes into play as far as sprinklers go, the size of the building, whether it is combustible material, the height of the building, occupancy load and things of that nature.
Also in fairness to your question of a barn, as I say, I don't know how that came about. There is a Farm Act for farm buildings, separate from the Building Code, so I really can't comment on that aspect of it. However, in all fairness to what Mannie Withrow has been saying, I think under the regulations, what is perceived with the plans is to put the onus on the architects and engineers. It is not up to the fire inspectors or the building inspectors to be designing or telling architects or engineers how to design a building. The plans come into our office and our plan examiners look the plans over and say you can't do this and can't do that and then the plans go back. At present there are a lot of plans going in.
It is my understanding that under this new Act, the onus will be put on the architects and engineers and then the building inspectors can certainly look at the plans from their own areas.
MR. TAYLOR: Mr. Chairman, I am as confused now as when I originally asked the question. I remember quite vividly dealing with Mr. Cormier, the Fire Marshal of the Province of Nova Scotia, regarding this concern and it was the Fire Marshal's Office that gave the farmers the hard time. It wasn't the architect who designed it calling for sprinkler systems,
the architects designed it without sprinkler systems and the plans were submitted to the Fire Marshal's Office and the sprinkler system was required unless it was downsized. I guess what I am asking is, do you believe, Mr. Deputy Minister, that there should be some distinction made between agricultural use and residential use? At present, I don't believe there is, now I could be wrong.
MR. ORR: I think there should be, definitely yes. It was my understanding there was a code for farm buildings, animals and livestock.
MR. TAYLOR: Thank you.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Would that not be between the insurance company and owner of the building? It would seem to me that a sprinkler system in a barn would be a matter of financial loss rather than safety from the standpoint of humans.
MR. WITHROW: A farm building has low human occupancy so there is a Farm Building Code. The sprinkler regulations have been adopted in the Nova Scotia Building Code regulations and nowhere does it state in here that farm buildings are to be sprinkled. As Mr. Taylor said, when the Fire Marshal's Office calls and wants sprinklers in a farm building, it becomes that same criteria again, the building inspector does his job and says no, it is not in the regulations here but the Fire Marshal's Office must deem it some sort of risk.
MR. TAYLOR: Mr. Chairman, it exceeded the threshold relative to the number of square feet. As soon as you go over that - and I think the milkhouse subsequently was downsized in this case. I think also in Cumberland County there was a situation with a cold storage where there were no occupants, I guess from time to time somebody would go in and out, there was a requirement too for sprinklers. I wasn't really involved in that but I did hear about that.
MR. ORR: That is addressed under that Act. However in all fairness, if you think back a number of years ago, McCain's lost millions of dollars because their large freezer building caught fire and that was due to the motors in the freezers that caused that.
MR. TAYLOR: No lives were lost, I don't believe.
MR. ORR: No, but millions of dollars in property. Sprinkler systems are designed . . .
MR. TAYLOR: I think myself, with all respect, we should focus on fire safety, I have no difficulty with that. Primarily, my concern is with human beings.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Kerry.
MR. MORASH: This is a very interesting discussion. Thank you very much, I appreciate the comments that have been made. I was wondering if perhaps you could give me some background or perhaps some information from a building inspector's view, we won't talk about barns, but some other building that needs to be sprinkled? What is the process you need to go through, if you could help me understand, we have already determined that we have to sprinkle the building, I guess I am wondering the design of the sprinkler system, the capacity, the occupancy, the installation and the final inspection, how you go about that? If you could give me any information on that it would be very helpful.
MR. WITHROW: Basically what would take place is an applicant would apply to build a new building and I will give you the example of an industrial building because there are a lot of industrial storage buildings out in the counties, where you guys are going. Under the Nova Scotia Building Code regulations it adopts the sprinkler rates for an industrial building. The first step you have to do is classify whether it is low, medium, or high hazard. As soon as you classify it you go to the tables in the regulations and if it is more than 15,000 square feet in one storey, it is sprinkled, no ifs, buts, or maybes; 15,000 square feet, one storey, F occupancy needs to be sprinkled.
From that stage on when the plans are submitted, if they didn't have sprinklers included, you would send them back to the drawing board to submit a set of sprinkler drawings. Of course, they would be engineer designed, according to the Building Code. They submit to me a set of engineered, sprinkler drawings and at that stage a letter of undertaking is required by the engineer who designed the system to also come in and certify the installation of the system. So we issue our permits, we have the engineers as per provincial regulations, sign out letters of undertaking for design and inspection, stating they will come in and also inspect the system on completion of the building.
The building inspector's job is to make sure they are done as per the drawings, to make sure they have them in the proper spots as per drawings, et cetera, and when the building is finalized, the system is tested and certified, all of those documents are returned to the building inspector's department before an occupancy permit is issued. At that stage everything is installed properly, certified by the people who designed the system and it is also tested. Under the current regulations they have to test them annually.
MR. MORASH: So there is a professional engineer and architect who design, they oversee or inspect the installation to make sure they have the coverage they need and they would be there for a final test, or somebody would be there to give a final inspection and give the paperwork over to you to make sure everything was as it needed to be. Now a kind of an odd question, can anyone install the sprinkler system?
MR. WITHROW: No, you have to be a certified installer, it is a prerequisite. There are joints which are either screwed joints or welded and things like that. It is quite a detailed operation they have to follow, as well.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Perhaps if I might ask one question. Do you see building inspectors and fire inspectors being the same person in municipalities?
MR. WITHROW: I think it is going to end up that way because of financial restraints being put on the municipalities. Most of them will dump it onto the building inspector as another level of responsibility.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Do you see that as alleviating some of the problems you brought forth tonight, if they were the same person?
MR. WITHROW: According to your Act, the way it is written now, that is the way you have it set up, other than there are a number of areas in there I have already identified where there are other hands in the pie. Again, the County of Colchester's CAO will speak from their point of view on the municipality but the building inspector, in most cases, I would see as the local fire inspector, as well.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Thank you.
MR. RUSSELL MACKINNON: Mr. Chairman I have one short snapper for our deputy fire marshal. I was a little concerned with your comments alluding to the heavy workload of your planning inspection. Is there a shortage of staff in the Fire Marshal's Office presently?
MR. ORR: There is a shortage of staff to what was there. At this time we are short one deputy, that is for sure.
MR. MACKINNON: You are short on staff?
MR. ORR: Yes.
MR. MACKINNON: Okay, thank you very much.
MR. CHAIRMAN: The member who came in from Halifax is with us now, Mrs. Baillie, we are glad to see she got here safely.
The next presenter is Gary MacIsaac, Chief Administrative Officer for the Municipality of the County of Colchester.
MR. GARY MACISAAC: Mr. Chairman, committee members, my name is Gary MacIsaac and I am the Chief Administrative Officer for the Municipality of the County of Colchester. I am speaking on behalf of the municipality this evening. Thank you for providing
a forum this evening to express our views on Bill No. 58, it is a formidable piece of legislation which discusses a number of related but different functions.
County council has previously registered concerns about certain parts of Bill No. 58 with the minister back in September 2000. Mr. Withrow offered a scenario earlier this evening in his presentation where he registered concerns about the building inspector being on this side of the fence and the Fire Marshal's Office being on the other side of the fence. County Council's concern is about the man, woman, or company who is in the middle, who has constructed a building, or has a fire prevention issue. That is where council's concerns lie from a customer point of view.
The municipality understands that the province, through the fire marshal, has an important role to play in establishing regulations. We understand there must be uniformed regulations across the province. Further, we understand the fire marshal has an important role to play in other functions like investigation. However, we are of the belief that the legislation goes too far and that the fire marshal is unnecessarily involved in program delivery at the local level.
It appears inevitable that we will be required to deliver fire safety inspections at the municipal level. While we don't relish the idea of greater staff resources and associated costs - I must point out that council does not relish that idea - we do understand that there is a rational argument, that the inspection function should be done at a local level. Council's single, biggest concern centres around duplication of services in a convoluted regulatory structure.
I have seen a couple of presentations regarding this new legislation with comparisons about what was required of municipalities in the past versus today. Let us set this aside for now. Bill No. 58 is about what will happen in the future. Therefore, we must set up the best possible structure in order to deliver these services.
Our municipality believes that the relationship between provincial and municipal governments is complex enough at the best of times. When we have an opportunity to look at delivery of services, there must be a clear definition of which level of government is responsible for delivering the service. Bill No. 58, in our view, further entangles the fire inspection function. If our municipality is responsible for delivering a service, then the Fire Marshal's Office should be removed from the delivery function.
As the legislation currently reads, the fire marshal, deputy fire marshal, fire inspector and local building inspector have a responsibility for inspection. This will inevitably lead to a difference in interpretation. When this occurs, the Act uses words like "consultation" and
"review" between the fire official and the building inspector. There is no time requirement set out in the Act, and it seems to me that this is complicating the situation.
Can you imagine the frustration of someone constructing a new building who gets different interpretations on the same building? To make matters worse, the individual must sit and wait while the two levels of government sort out their differences. In my view, this violates the principles of clear accountability and further muddies the waters for those in need of inspection services.
I must also comment that the existing legislation seems to take a paternalistic approach to the municipal inspection function. Ultimate authority still rests with the fire marshal, who is the final authority throughout the bill. For example, the building inspector is authorized, in one section, to issue a remediation order, subject to checks and balances, in the event that there is a fire risk which poses a threat to life. If this order is not complied with, the building inspector can have the work done and bill the owner. However, if the cost of the work is greater than $1,000, he must receive approval from not only the municipality but also the fire marshal. This, to me, seems to contradict the original intention, which was to fix an immediate threat to public safety.
In conclusion, I must state that the municipality has reservations about the legislation in its present form. If we are going to deliver and pay for the service at a local level, then the fire marshal should not be involved in service delivery with the duplication and inefficiencies that result. Our municipality has competent building inspectors, and we invest significant funds in training and development each year. We are confident that the service will be delivered locally in a professional, competent and uniform manner. Thank you for the opportunity to present these views this evening.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Thank you very much. Mr. Boudreau.
MR. BOUDREAU: Mr. Chairman, the previous presenter indicated that the municipality, prior to this evening, attempted to have an input, and in fact he indicated that perhaps they were having difficulty getting input. Is that true?
MR. GARY MACISAAC: Mr. Boudreau and Mr. Chairman, through you, I do have a letter on file that the municipality wrote. If you like, I can read that, or if not I can table it. I would like to go back, before I completely answer your question, and do a complete file review to see what response we got. I just pulled this original letter today, that we wrote last year. We did register similar concerns last year. I can read that letter, if you would like.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Perhaps that would be appropriate.
MR. GARY MACISAAC: It is dated September 12, 2000, to:
"Honourable Angus MacIsaac, Minister
Department of Labour
PO Box 697."
"Dear Mr. Minister:
Re: Bill No. 58 An Act to Promote and Encourage Fire Safety - 'Fire Safety Act'
Council for the Municipality of the County of Colchester has reviewed the proposed legislation and does not support the adoption of Bill No. 58 in its present form for the following reasons:
1. The Municipality has been responsible for the administration and enforcement of the Building Code Act from its adoption in 1987 to present, and as indicated in Bill No. 58, the Province wants to be responsible for the administration and enforcement of the Building Code. Council does not support Provincial involvement which will create unnecessary duplication, confusion and time delays in the administration and enforcement of the Building Code Act.
2. We support the adoption of a Fire Code, nevertheless, with one level of government being responsible for its administration and enforcement. We do not support two levels of government being involved in this proposed bill.
3. We encourage the province to provide leadership, advice in assistance, training and certification of those municipal employees (fire inspectors) comparable to the relationship between the Building Code Act and the Municipal Building inspectors.
4. Considering this legislation without the regulations made public for review it is very difficult to see the final out come of this proposed Act and how it will affect municipalities. Therefore, our Council would encourage the revised Bill to be circulated with the regulations in advance of its second reading.
We appreciate the opportunity to review this Bill and look forward to these comments being reflected in the new draft of this legislation.
Mike Smith, Warden
As I said, I did not do a file search, so I don't know what the reply was to this correspondence.
MR. CHAIRMAN: You are going to table that. Yes, thank you.
MR. BOUDREAU: Could I ask the date of the letter, please?
MR. GARY MACISAAC: September 12, 2000.
MR. BOUDREAU: Are there other letters, prior?
MR. GARY MACISAAC: I would have to do a complete search. I am not sure.
MR. BOUDREAU: Would you undertake to provide a copy of the file to the committee?
MR. GARY MACISAAC: Yes, sir.
MR. BOUDREAU: Thank you. Just on the downloading issue, if there is in fact any downloading - I am not suggesting that there is but we never know what happens in Halifax, from time to time - do you feel that this should come with a price tag for the provincial government in the way of training, providing training to the building inspectors? The cost of the training, should that be paid for by the province, if in fact the building inspector, who is an employee of the municipality, requires any further training? It should be paid for by the province, is that the message I am getting?
MR. GARY MACISAAC: Mr. Chairman, we need to try to be consistent in what we are asking here this evening. We are suggesting that we are not crazy about getting that particular portion of the service. Having said that, we understand that if we are going to get it, it is going to be our responsibility to deliver it. In the same way that we provide training for our building inspectors for the Building Code, we will be providing training and making sure it is provided at some level. If there is funding assistance there, of course I am sure that council would welcome that, but we understand that if there is going to be a division of responsibility ultimately it will be our responsibility to provide training, and the municipality will have to do that.
MR. BOUDREAU: Mr. Chairman, just one last question. Has your municipal unit approached the UNSM with this issue?
MR. GARY MACISAAC: The particular letter I just read was copied to the Union of Nova Scotia Municipalities.
MR. BOUDREAU: But, to your knowledge, is it on the agenda? I know there is a UNSM meeting, I believe it is in Sydney, later on this month. Is this issue in fact on the agenda for that annual meeting, do you know?
MR. GARY MACISAAC: I have seen correspondence from the president, I believe this year, on the matter, but I can't tell you whether it is on the agenda in Sydney. The only resolutions I looked up today were the ones we had submitted.
MR. BOUDREAU: Thank you.
MR. GRAHAM STEELE: I would like to pursue this idea of downloading. I assume the municipality has taken a pretty close look at Bill No. 58, and maybe the best way for me to ask the question is, if Bill No. 58 is enacted in its present form, does the municipality have any estimate of whether there would be additional costs imposed on the municipality, and if so, how much?
MR. GARY MACISAAC: When we set our budget this year for our building inspection department, we usually plan for the worst. What we did at that point in time is we assumed that on April 1st this legislation would be in place. In lieu of that, not knowing, in particular, the details of what it would cost, we budgeted $30,000. If my recollection serves me right, council has to make the final decision, staff recommendation will be that this service not be contracted out, that it will be our building inspection officials who do it. Some of the funding that I mentioned earlier will be to backfill some of their other duties. It would be them as opposed to new staff coming in who would do it, our trained people. As well, I believe that we put an allotment of funds in there for legal matters, because, once again, we are opening up liability issues. Whether $30,000 is the number, I can't really tell you because it didn't happen this year, but our budget was increased by that amount.
MR. STEELE: To put that in context, how would that compare to the overall building inspection budget? What percentage would that be, roughly?
MR. GARY MACISAAC: I am hearing 20 per cent. We have two staff right now.
MR. STEELE: And $30,000 would represent approximately a 20 per cent increase in the building inspection budget. Thank you.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Mr. MacKinnon.
MR. MACKINNON: Mr. Chairman, my first question is, you say it represents 30 per cent of your budget, how many building inspections are done a year, in your municipality?
MR. GARY MACISAAC: 1,500.
MR. MACKINNON: The previous speaker indicated that he was in favour of building inspectors taking over the job description of the fire inspectors. Essentially, you support that, then; is that correct?
MR. GARY MACISAAC: The municipal council will make the final decision.
MR. MACKINNON: But, certainly as a policy adviser, they would have to take some advice from someone like yourself; am I correct?
MR. GARY MACISAAC: That is correct.
MR. MACKINNON: What is your position? What would your advice be?
MR. GARY MACISAAC: My advice to my council would be that we not contract the service out.
MR. MACKINNON: No, no, I am not talking about contracting out or in or up or down, it is on the issue that was made by the previous presenter, that he supports the idea of the building inspector taking on the role of fire inspector.
MR. GARY MACISAAC: Our view at the municipal . . .
MR. MACKINNON: The duplication between the two services.
MR. GARY MACISAAC: My understanding, Mr. Chairman, is that council is not particularly pleased about having received the additional service. That having been said, our issue is to ask what is the best way to deliver it if we are going to receive it. My recommendation to council would be that it is the building inspectors who provide that function in our municipality. Fortunately, they tend to agree with us on that. Our council will have to make the final decision. Our recommendation at this stage would be that the building inspectors do it, and that is why we upped their budget.
MR. MACKINNON: I want to be clear. You support that initiative that the province is attempting to achieve by having the municipality take on this responsibility.
MR. GARY MACISAAC: No. What council's position is . . .
MR. MACKINNON: Wait now. If I could, I know I sounded a little anxious there but I want to be right to the point. What you are saying seems to be two different things, correct me if I am wrong. On one hand you are saying you support the building inspector taking on the role of the fire inspector, and you are recommending that to your council; on the other hand you are saying that the province shouldn't download that. Which is it?
MR. GARY MACISAAC: I am saying, what council is saying is that they don't want the downloading. If it is going to happen, then what is the best way to deliver the service? That is our function. If, in fact, we are going to receive the service, which council has indicated they are not crazy about receiving, if we are going to receive it, then what is the best way. In my view, we have a couple of options. The option I will recommend to council is that it be tasked to the building inspection department.
MR. MACKINNON: Mr. Chairman, if I could, two more questions.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Could I just interject? In my mind, I was under the impression that municipalities were responsible for fire inspections since the 1970's. Is that not right?
MR. GARY MACISAAC: In the current Act, I believe there have been 8 out of 55, I am not sure of the exact number, very few of them have actually been doing it.
MR. CHAIRMAN: I think it is there, is it not, that the municipalities are responsible. I guess that is where I would question, is there downloading?
MR. GARY MACISAAC: I think the reality is, with the new bill, the pressure is going to be on municipalities to do it, and that there is no getting away from it at this point.
MR. CHAIRMAN: To clarify the point, municipalities were supposed to be doing it since the early 1970's, were they not?
MR. GARY MACISAAC: Your current Act has a requirement for municipalities to do it. I would suggest to you the function has been done in different ways in different municipalities, that the province has played a role in the delivery of the service. I think it may be conflicting and maybe mixed messages have been sent.
MR. BOUDREAU: Just on a point of order, Mr. Chairman, if I may. I believe the previous presenter, his opinion was that combining the permit process would be beneficial. In fact, at least I didn't hear anything about inspections.
MR. CHAIRMAN: That was just a point. Mr. MacKinnon.
MR. MACKINNON: Mr. Chairman, first of all, I don't see anything, and I appreciate what you are saying, Mr. [Gary] MacIsaac, in terms of concern about downloading of costs. I believe that certainly would be determined as part of a budgetary process. It would really be inconclusive to state, albeit history has never been on the side of municipalities from what I have seen in certain circumstances, particularly on the issue of exchange of services, if I could be so bold to state, but the Act itself doesn't speak to actual movement of dollars on budgetary process, does it?
MR. GARY MACISAAC: No, sir.
MR. MACKINNON: And you are familiar, undoubtedly, with the roles and responsibilities process.
MR. GARY MACISAAC: Very familiar. Yes, sir.
MR. MACKINNON: The issue in terms of this additional cost, that could very well be addressed in the next upcoming budget, if the bill were enacted.
MR. GARY MACISAAC: I would be very glad to receive that news, if that were the case, that something was going to be offset . . .
MR. MACKINNON: I am sure all my Tory colleagues on this committee would support that.
MR. GARY MACISAAC: Mr. Chairman, I guess our understanding is that . . .
MR. MACKINNON: I couldn't let one meeting go by without making a political observation.
MR. GARY MACISAAC: And, of course, I wouldn't want to go down the political road, sir, so our point is if we have to deliver the service, it will cost money. If you ask our taxpayers, it is $30,000 more in the budget to deliver services than there was last year. That is subject, I guess, to interpretation of whether or not that is a download.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Mr. Morash.
MR. MORASH: I would like to get something cleared up for my sake. I have the existing Act in front of me, and if I could just read the system of inspection, Section 19(1):
"It shall be the duty of the council of every city, town and municipality to provide for a regular system of inspection of buildings and premises situate within the city, town or municipality, and every such council may authorize other persons, in addition to the local assistant, to exercise some or all of the powers conferred by Section 16 and 17 upon the Fire Marshal, such system of inspection shall provide for the inspection at least once in every four months of all hotels, theatres, cinematographs, skating rinks, dance halls, and every other building used as a place of public resort or amusement."
I know we have had some discussion with the fire marshal, and his interpretation is that municipalities are responsible for these inspections now. As I read that, that to me is the language that holds us for that. Aren't liability concerns greater if we are not doing fire
inspections now than they would be? We do have it in the Act now and the Fire Marshal's Office may be able to clarify it for me but it seems like they are needed now, according to law. As we have heard, some municipalities aren't doing them or are doing them differently. If it is the law, don't we need to abide by it now anyway?
MR. GARY MACISAAC: The view of our municipality, respecting this legislation, is there is no arguing that there is not a need for fire inspection to be done. That is not what the municipality is arguing. We are arguing, what is the best way to deliver the service. We are saying, if the best way to deliver the service ends up at a local level, and that is what is determined to be the best way to deliver the service, then it should be delivered at the local level. As it stands right now, it will be delivered at the local level, there is an appeal mechanism to the fire marshal, there are a couple of different organizations delivering the service, in our view, at the local level under your current legislation.
We are not arguing the point that it should be delivered. Our council understands that. The service will be delivered. The question is, how is it best delivered, and what is the appropriate division between levels of government?
MR. MORASH: I am looking at Bill No. 58. If Bill No. 58 weren't to come in for a period of time, your council would still have to look at some type of fire inspection system to comply with the existing Act?
MR. GARY MACISAAC: Yes, although it is interesting that I don't know the number of municipalities that have actually been doing it. I know Queens has done it. HRM, CBRM come to mind. It has largely not been followed by municipalities. The issue would still be out there. I would suggest to you that there must be ambiguity in some ways. Bill No. 58 will clear that up and it will be done by one level of government. We are just suggesting that it should be done by both levels, the actual service delivery.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Okay, thank you. Brooke.
MR. TAYLOR: Just one quick question, Gary. Do you recall how many volunteer fire departments, brigades are in Colchester County?
MR. GARY MACISAAC: I would say 17. I could be corrected; 17, yes.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Ronnie.
MR. RONALD CHISHOLM: Just a quick question for Gary on the issue of, who does he feel is the best one to be involved with the fire inspection, should it be the province, the Fire Marshal's Office or the municipalities?
MR. GARY MACISAAC: When it was looked at, through roles and responsibilities - and roles and responsibilities can be a difficult term for some folks - they tried to look at, what is the function that should be delivered by each level of government? I guess it is our view that in the overall scheme, if our building inspectors are involved in building inspection, then it does seem to make sense that the fire inspection be done locally. We would see it as a local issue, if it is a provision of a local service. We do understand that the role of the province is to ensure uniformity across the province to their legislation.
MR. RONALD CHISHOLM: There is, right.
MR. GARY MACISAAC: But our issue, particularly tonight, is that if this service is going to be delivered locally, we don't want to be encumbered by another level of government involved there.
MR. RONALD CHISHOLM: I guess I have to go back a number of years when I was on council for 11 years in Guysborough County and St. Mary's, and from day one that I was involved with UNSM or any of the municipalities, you know, the roles and responsibilities was a major issue. I don't know how many meetings that I have gone to that - resolution after resolution - the municipalities wanted to pay for property services and let the province pay for people services. I would just like to know what you would consider fire inspection is, a property service or a people service?
MR. GARY MACISAAC: I find that very interesting. I was in Sydney in 1989 when, I think, that first resolution. . .
MR. RONALD CHISHOLM: That was the first one that I was at too. I remember that. I recall that.
MR. GARY MACISAAC: . . .came forward and there was a lot of debate on it. I see that, through roles and responsibilities, the property versus people tended to get dropped as part of broad principles and what they adopted at roles and responsibilities was the local versus general. Now, you could argue the whole local versus general as well.
MR. RONALD CHISHOLM: Yes.
MR. GARY MACISAAC: Coming back to your specific question, is it a property service or is it a people service, the inspection of a building? I tend to say property, if asked philosophically. I think you can argue almost any service on one side or the other and that is what happened with people versus property.
MR. RONALD CHISHOLM: The cost of Community Services was taken over by the province a few years ago and there are still other issues as well. I guess the fire inspection is one. I think, probably, in my mind, I guess, fire inspection to me would be a property service
that would be the responsibility of the municipality, for training. But I can see what you are saying, if you are going to be responsible for it, you should be responsible for it.
MR. GARY MACISAAC: That is the position, that if we are going to have to deliver the service - right now, we find it confusing in the way that the bill is setting out - there seem to be roles at both levels of government in the delivery. If we are going to be tasked with delivering we would like it to be more clear.
MR. RONALD CHISHOLM: I think, in all fairness to a lot of the municipalities, shared building inspection. I know in Guysborough County, there is one building inspector for three municipal units. Definitely, there is going to be extra training if that is the route they decide to go.
MR. GARY MACISAAC: I think it will be much more difficult for other municipalities than us, as you say, where they have big geographic areas and they have lower population levels and, therefore, less inspections.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Thank you very much. Do we have any other presenters, anyone that would like to make comment? As I said, it doesn't necessarily have to be written. It can be short, it can be comments regarding the Fire Service Act, whatever you would like to share with us.
MR. STEELE: It is not very often you get a chance to tell eight MLAs whatever you want, about fire safety. (Laughter)
MR. CHAIRMAN: Having none coming forward, I would ask that the local MLA, Brooke Taylor, would conclude our meeting.
MR. TAYLOR: Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman. On behalf of the Select Committee on Fire Safety, I would like to thank everybody for coming out this evening. I would like to thank our presenters, of course, Mannie Withrow and Gary MacIsaac.
We also have a number of local county dignitaries here this evening with us: Councillors Bob Taylor, Deputy Mayor Hugh Matheson and Earl MacKenna, Councillor. Thank you for coming out. I know there are a lot of volunteer firefighters there. I see Ronnie Wolfe back there. He used to sell me a few truck parts to keep some of those old rigs going up and down the road. Thanks very much for coming out.
I would just like to point out to my colleagues in the House that the Salmon River Fire Brigade certainly provides a very good service to its citizens and the businesses in this area. It is a very active fire brigade. They train hard, they have invested a lot in equipment, they hold several fundraisers through the year. If you are ever up this way, especially during the spring time, pancakes and maple syrup are first rate, certainly rival some of the pancake
suppers in Cumberland County and Cumberland County likes to think they are famous. We don't want to hear anything from Guysborough or Cape Breton or down in the Valley, or Halifax and Queens. (Laughter)
Thanks a lot, folks, for coming out and thanks to the staff that is also out working with the committee.
We were joined, I should point out - I'm not sure, Mr. Chairman, if we introduced our very capable member for Pictou West. That is Muriel and she likes to be called "Fluff", Muriel "Fluff" Baillie. Thanks very much and good evening.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Thank you.
[The committee adjourned at 8:29 p.m.]