The Nova Scotia Legislature

The House resumed on:
September 21, 2017.

Community Services Committee - Committee Room 1 (934)

HANSARD

 

NOVA SCOTIA HOUSE OF ASSEMBLY

 

 

 

 

 

 

COMMITTEE

 

ON

 

COMMUNITY SERVICES

 

 

 

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

 

 

Committee Room 1

 

 

 

Department of Community Services

Re: Funding Model for Non-Profit and Commercial Child Care Centres

 

 

 

 

 

 

Printed and Published by Nova Scotia Hansard Reporting Services

 

 

 

 

 

COMMUNITY SERVICES COMMITTEE

 

Mr. Jim Morton (Chairman)

Ms. Becky Kent (Vice-Chairman)

Mr. Sid Prest

Mr. Gary Burrill

Ms. Michele Raymond

Hon. Karen Casey

Ms. Kelly Regan

Mr. Keith Bain

Mr. Eddie Orrell

 

[Ms. Becky Kent was replaced by Mr. Mat Whynott.]

 

 

 

 

In Attendance:

 

Ms. Kim Langille

Legislative Committee Clerk

 

 

 

 

 

 

WITNESSES

 

Department of Community Services

 

Mr. Robert Wood,

Deputy Minister

 

Ms. Virginia O’Connell,

Director - Early Childhood Development Services

 

Ms. Vicki Wood,

Acting Executive Director - Family and Community Supports

 


 

 

 

 

HALIFAX, TUESDAY, FEBRUARY 5, 2013

 

STANDING COMMITTEE ON COMMUNITY SERVICES

 

9:00 A.M.

 

CHAIRMAN

Mr. Jim Morton

 

 

MR. CHAIRMAN: Good morning everyone. We are a few minutes past 9:00 a.m. so I’m going to call the meeting to order. Weather and other things today may have slowed us down a little bit but we’re here and I’d like to thank everybody for coming.

 

Just before I have some introductions, I would like to welcome people who are here as guests today visiting. Thank you very much for being here; your presence is part of the democratic process. Standing committee meetings are set up for the active participation of the witnesses and the members of the Legislature but you’re free to observe. At the end of the meeting if there are questions, comments or things that you’d like to address, I’m sure that any one of us who are members of the Legislature, or perhaps to the witnesses, I’m sure they would be happy to field those - but welcome. Also, as a reminder, please put your cellphones on vibrate or turn them off, if you can. That helps the meeting run a little bit more smoothly.

 

For those people who aren’t used to being in this building, hopefully there won’t be any kind of emergency here but in the event, please don’t use the elevators. If there was an alarm, at either end of the hallway beside the elevators there are stairwells and please use those to exit. The place to gather is in front of City Hall, at the Grand Parade Square. Hopefully we won’t need that information.

 

What I would like to do now is have some introductions and I should start with myself. My name is Jim Morton, I’m the member for Kings North and the chairman of the committee, and I would like to start with the clerk.

 

[The committee members and witnesses introduced themselves.]

 

MR. CHAIRMAN: Thank you, and I’d like to thank, too, all three of our witnesses for being here today. The usual process that we use here is for the witnesses to make a presentation - I know you’re prepared to do that - and then that would be followed by some rounds, depending on the time that we have, for questions and commentary.

 

Mr. Wood, I think I’ll turn it over to you for any further introductions you might like to make on your end for your presentation.

 

MR. ROBERT WOOD: Thank you, everyone, for being here and for giving us this opportunity to give you, hopefully, a relatively quick presentation, walk-through, where we are at right now with our Early Childhood Development Program. I’m going to also speak a little bit about our early years project that we have underway.

 

I’ll start simply by giving just a bit of a snapshot. For our last set of total expenditures, we spent almost $60 million on our Early Childhood Development Program. If you take all of the various programs related to early childhood development and the various grants and loans, it equals about $60 million. As of March 31st of this last year, we had 395 licensed child care facilities and had expanded up to 16,337 spaces.

 

As you’ll see, too, I know some of the questions were around commercial not-for-profit and I’m sure there will be questions around that today. What you’ll see is that we have almost a 50-50 split - 54-46 per cent commercial versus not-for-profit. Since 2007, there has also been quite an increase in the number of family home daycare agencies as well, so we’ve expanded up to 12 agencies now with 119 homes and 714 spaces. That is a substantial increase since 2007. When you add that together, we actually now have about just over 17,000 child care spaces in the province.

 

While we have done a substantial number of expansions and we’ve increased the number of child care spaces, there is fluctuation and change in demographics in organizations that take place each and every year. If you look at this last period from April 2011 to March 31st, we had 18 centres that closed - 16 of them were commercial, two were not-for-profit. However we also had 16 centres that opened as well - 11 commercial, 5 non-profit.

You’ll see sort of the other major thrusts for us over the last number of years has really been to actually increase the level of training and the number of early childhood educators in the province. We have had an increase in the number of ECE Level 3s. You will see that we have a large number of Level 2s - people who have an ECE diploma. Then we have people who have the equivalency and then obviously 271 staff who are untrained, though they receive orientation programming. So the daycare regulations say that we need to have at least 66 per cent of staff who are trained at that ECE level and we currently sit at 86 per cent. That’s just a bit of a quick snapshot.

 

When we think about the child care program, probably three of the biggest principles that we are striving towards relate to accessibility, affordability and quality. I’ll talk about some of the elements underneath each of those.

 

There has been a fairly substantial push over the last number of years of simply increasing the number of licensed child care spaces. What you can see is that we had an increase since 2009 - when we had 14,485 - up to 16,337. We still have a couple of expansions that are still underway, there are probably five that are still outstanding at this point but we have been able to increase the number of spaces to about 1,300. We’ve also had a real increase, as I mentioned, around the Family Home Day Care Program that has actually added about 500 spaces. That’s a really important program that we will probably talk about more as we go through this morning. It really does provide child care options in smaller communities for people and it allows people to set up their own organizations as well.

 

Of course you know we’ve increased the number of subsidies and I’ll talk about that. So under this notion of affordability, one of the steps we have taken is increasing the number of child care subsidies, so we’ve increased the number of subsidies by 1,000 since 2009. There was a decision made a number of years ago to, in fact, actually make subsidies portable, so essentially it’s a subsidy that the parent gets to choose, so if they were going to school up in Cape Breton, they moved to Truro, they get to take their subsidy with them and they get to make a choice about which centre they would like their child in.

 

You will see, too, that we’ve been able to reduce some of the cost, through the removal of the minimum daily parent fee and we’ve increased the child care subsidy income eligibility.

Under our Early Childhood Enhancement Grant - and we will probably talk about that throughout the morning as well - one of the components of that is that we’ve increased the funding to facilities and the funding to the home and daycare agencies. A lot of that goes to just the maintenance costs - food and maintenance of child care centres. The bulk of our Early Childhood Enhancement Grant really goes to wage enhancement for the sector. This is an initiative that we started about three years ago, really to try and improve the number of qualified individuals who were working in the sector and to retain them working in the sector, so 80 per cent of that grant actually goes right into the wage enhancement.

 

When we look at child care subsidies, I guess the first thing really to note here is that this is a subsidy that really does help low-income families. That’s what it is designed to do - 66 per cent of the subsidy clients receive a full subsidy, which means that their income is below $20,883 a year. Ninety-two per cent of families fall under the minimum wage cut-off for two-income families so $41,600 for two people working full-time at minimum wage.

 

The other part of this subsidy - obviously the principal focus of our child care program is around providing quality child care for kids, helping with the development of kids, giving them a place where they, in fact, can grow and develop. The child care subsidy is also really important for parents themselves, so when you look at the people who are using the subsidy and what they are doing, you see 58 per cent of those people are actually able to work because they, in fact, are getting a child care subsidy. We have 30 per cent of people who, in fact, are actually in an education or training program themselves or they’re out actively seeking training or employment. Then there’s a smaller cohort where children receive a subsidy because they have a specific medical need or they have some other special need, but the vast majority of the money is really going to, in fact, actually enable parents to be able to be actively participating in society.

 

The third element here really relates to quality and the first component of that really relates to just the physical environment of the child care centre. There has been a fair amount of work over the last number of years to do those kinds of enhancements, whether they’re program enhancements, outdoor play spaces, energy, upgrades, repair and renovation programs, or the introduction of food and nutrition.

 

We also have added funding around inclusive early childhood environments so our Supported Child Care Program and the Supported Child Care Grant really goes to, in fact, actually helping child care centres make the necessary changes to create a more inclusive environment that allows children who do have development delays an opportunity to be in an integrated setting with other children.

 

On the last piece here, there is also a real push around actually providing additional professional development for early childhood educators; 5 per cent of that early Childhood Education Grant actually goes toward that, so it’s around $820,000 that goes to that. We’ve also increased the training opportunities and funding that goes to ECE institutions. One of the components of that is, we’ve been able to actually have some of these ECE institutions in fact actually develop on-line curriculum so that we can actually be delivering diploma programs on-line. We have funding for individual staff as continuing education, so about 400 educators have received further training through that.

 

We implemented a child care classification process really to recognize the staffing and the training levels of various ECEs and implementation of an orientation for staff who don’t have formal ECE training so that they can, in fact, actually enhance their knowledge and awareness of working in a child care setting. We made amendments to the regulations that implemented standards that really help us to create a more safe and caring environment for kids.

 

The final two things on here within those standards: implementing sort of inclusive, new elements within the actual daily programming and around food and nutrition. We’ve developed a number of different training elements, one around building blocks for inclusion and the other one around child abuse protocols.

 

As you can see the expenditures have steadily been rising in the program. I should say this is the finalized expenditures so this is the actual dollars being spent. When you look at our expenditures for this fiscal which have not obviously been finalized yet, we are forecasting that we will land somewhere around $56 million. The difference is the fact that bundled into this number are a lot of the expansion programs and the repair loans that were given and we’ve almost completed those. There are a few that are still outstanding - some of the ones that are not quite complete we won’t have them expensed in this fiscal.

 

This is a bit of a busy slide, but I just wanted to show you kind of a snapshot of some of the child care funding and to give you some sense of it just in terms of this breakdown of not-for-profit versus commercial operation. The first four grants that are up here they really are around early learning environments and programming. What you can see is that there is a fairly clear split in the amount of funding in each of these different areas. I’ve shown you as well the split in training levels that exist between not-for profit and commercial. You may be wondering why at the bottom - on the various expansion programs and repair programs there’s a difference between not-for-profit and commercial and you may be wondering why that is. It was simply a matter of who actually made application for those programs. We had a substantially larger number of non-profit organizations that, in fact, actually made application.

 

In summary, the province for a number of years now, really back from 2006 and the development of a 10-year plan around child care, we’ve continued to maintain that focus on enhancing options for accessibility and affordability in particular. We’ve maintained the commitment around portable subsidies and, in fact, actually have increased them by over 1,000. We focused on the provision of funding supports for the delivery of quality programs and not really making distinctions based on the organization. If you go back to a notion of principles, it’s about affordability, accessibility and quality. We want the very best for kids as it relates to that.

 

We have taken steps to invest in professional development, in increasing operational wage funding. There’s a clear understanding that child care and the broader notion of early childhood development is really important for the long-term success and health of our youngest citizens.

 

I guess that kind of leads me just to the last set of points. We’ve had a project in government now called Early Years for about a year now, I guess; we’ve started doing some work. It’s a joint project between the Department of Community Services, the Department of Education and the Department of Health and Wellness. It looked not just at child care and early childhood education, but it’s really saying what, comprehensively, do we need to be doing to make sure that kids are, in fact, actually getting the very best start in life. What are we doing, as government, in fact, to actually ensure that we take an integrated approach to the services that we need to provide. What are we doing to really integrate our services to do comprehensive assessments, make sure that when there are needs within a family, needs of a particular child, that we’re there early and that we’re there to help.

 

There’s been a lot of work ongoing around that. We’ve set up an early years project office to lead that. We went out and we’ve done some fairly extensive consultation, as you can see, through this.

 

I guess I should say - I skipped over the first bullet - we also created an advisory council that is made up of a number of leading professionals around Nova Scotia all of whom have backgrounds in early childhood development, whether that’s from a health care perspective, whether that’s from a child care perspective, an educational perspective or a Community Services child welfare perspective. They, in fact, are actually helping to provide us with advice and recommendations.

 

We’re at the point right now where we are actually gathering all of that input and we are thinking through what should those recommendations be for an early years program. We’re looking at the findings from the consultation, we’re thinking about the input that’s coming from the advisory council, we’ve completed jurisdictional reviews and research and best practice, and we’ve done work on just understanding the nature of the programs that we currently have and how they line up against best practice. I think that is the last slide that I have.

 

MR. CHAIRMAN: Thank you very much. As you’ve been making your presentation, Mr. Wood, I’ve been beginning a speakers list. Ms. Regan, you are the first member on my list.

 

MS. KELLY REGAN: Thank you for coming in today. If we go back to your very first slide - not the title page, but the next one afterwards - there were two numbers there that sort of confused me because I thought they were the same thing, so if we could go to that. The total number of spaces is 17,051.

 

MR. ROBERT WOOD: Yes.

 

MS. REGAN: Then we have - as of March 31, 2012 - 395 licensed child care facilities with 16,337 spaces. I was just wondering if you could indicate what the difference is.

 

MR. ROBERT WOOD: The 16,337 doesn’t include the family home daycare. When you add the family home daycare, the number goes up.

 

MS. REGAN: Because they’re not licensed, is that why they’re not included there? Okay.

 

MS. VICKI WOOD: They’re regulated, but they’re not licensed.

 

MS. VIRGINIA O’CONNELL: Perhaps I can speak to that. In family home child care in Nova Scotia, we have an agency model, meaning we have family home daycare agencies that monitor and manage the family homes and are required on a monthly basis to visit the home and they annually inspect the homes. The spaces that are in the family homes are regulated by the family home agency, which we license, so this is the difference. The licensed spaces are in your child care facilities - the 16,337. The 714 spaces are in a family home.

 

MS. REGAN: So they’re regulated, but not licensed.

 

MS. O’CONNELL: That’s right.

 

MS. REGAN: I’m just wondering - do we have subsidies that aren’t being used? Is there 100 per cent uptake on it or how does that work?

 

MR. ROBERT WOOD: Subsidies are a cyclical event. Right now we have probably 90 subsidies that are available. By the Spring, traditionally what happens is we have a flood of new requests for subsidies. We will go through a period where we will work through those application processes. As other kids move on into school, those subsidies drop off and another subsidy is now available. Over the last number of years we’ve gone into a wait-list period three different times, but again it’s not a continuous wait-list. It’s more about the peaks and valleys of when the applications come in. Probably the best indicator is more about the length of time on average that a person waits.

 

MS. REGAN: And what would that length of time be?

 

MR. ROBERT WOOD: That depends on the nature of the applicant and the type of space for a person who is working or, in fact, is actually in training. The average is about four days. For somebody who is seeking employment or is seeking training, it’s actually closer to four months. For somebody who, in fact, actually needs a subsidy for some kind of developmental delay for their child, it’s closer to five months.

 

MS. REGAN: And you said there were 90 subsidies?

 

MR. ROBERT WOOD: I think that’s what our current list is.

 

MS. O’CONNELL: That’s right, there were 92 subsidies available on Friday.

 

MS. REGAN: We’ve been hearing that there are no licensed daycares in Victoria County, so can people use subsidies there if there are no licensed daycares?

 

MS. O’CONNELL: Subsidies are only available to licensed child care facilities, they are available to family homes. They are available only, though, to full-day licensed child care facilities. We do have part-day facilities in the province that do not have subsidies, but certainly any full-day facility that meets all of the requirements and signs all of the agreements is eligible to receive a family home subsidy.

 

MS. REGAN: What’s the maximum subsidy that a family can receive?

 

MS. O’CONNELL: The maximum subsidy would depend on the age of the child so our subsidies are rated in accordance with the age of the child.

 

MS. REGAN: Is there a difference between urban and rural?

 

MS. O’CONNELL: No.

 

MR. ROBERT WOOD: No, it’s broken out: infant, toddler, preschool and after school and there’s a different rate for each.

 

MS. REGAN: My final question for this round is, my big thing when I was a young mother was that if you work shiftwork it’s very difficult to find daycare for your children. I never worked a 9 to 5 job, I sometimes would go into work at 4:30 a.m. I’ve been contacted by parents who have jobs in construction and have to be on-site before local daycares open. What’s available for parents in terms of licensed facilities or family home daycares? Is there much out there where people are able to actually drop their children off early or pick them up late?

 

MS. O’CONNELL: That’s one of the benefits of family home child care in that the family home provider can set the hours for the families that she’s serving. You are exactly stating a concern that we certainly heard from child care operators, as well as from families.

 

We recently mentioned that when we commenced and put in place amendments in 2011, we did create a new standard and it’s called Extended Hours Care. It’s a standard that in the event a licensed child care facility wished to provide extended hours, meaning care usually greater than from 7:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m., they could apply to the department and put in a proposal and a plan as to how they could best deliver extended hours care because we really wanted to ensure that if a child even came in at noon hour that they’d have to be providing supper and some form of sleep arrangement et cetera. To date we really only had one operator, to my knowledge to date, consider providing extended hours care.

 

I think what’s very important is that in the provision of extended hours care most operators would need to ensure that there may be more than one child requiring it. We really wanted to be in tune with the needs of families and the needs of the sector, so we do have this standard, Extended Hours Care, which a facility can apply for. We certainly know that family homes as well are attempting to meet that need.

 

MS. REGAN: Thank you.

 

MR. CHAIRMAN: Thank you, Ms. Regan. Mr. Burrill.

 

MR. GARY BURRILL: I’m interested in trying to understand better how the world of early childhood education is organized within our province, specifically the matter of how this responsibility falls with the Department of Community Services. I understand this is a model that quite a few Canadian jurisdictions have moved away from toward giving leadership for this file to Department of Education. I understand the other two Maritime Provinces are, in fact, moving pretty significantly in this way. Can you comment on what is the state of thinking in the department about this, why we’re doing it the way we are doing it?

 

MR. ROBERT WOOD: It’s one of the questions coming out of our early years project. The early years project office is, in fact, actually led out of the Department of Education and it is fundamentally about the development of young children and what that development should be. It’s not just about providing a safe place, but truly understanding that these formative years fundamentally create a trajectory for a child.

 

One of the indicators we use is something called an early development instrument, the EDI score. It’s something that is being used in other jurisdictions as well and for kids who are entering into the school system at Primary, it is essentially assessing them at their grade level - where they are physically, intellectually, socially, emotionally, across a whole range of factors and if they are, in fact, ready to be actually starting school. What we know is that kids who are not developmentally ready, it is very difficult for them to catch up, so it’s really important that we do a good job in those early years of ensuring that kids are fully ready.

 

Government and child care centres, we have a role to play, we’re an important piece of that puzzle. I would suggest to you that we are not the epicentre of it, it’s actually what happens in families and the ability of a family to nurture their child and the work that we need to do to actually help families have an understanding of the kinds of development taking place with their infants, with their toddlers and their preschoolers, that would allow them to really understand what’s going on and how best to care and nurture for their child.

 

We are looking at all of these things, we understand the need for a play-based curriculum. We have taken some good steps, I think, within our child care system, increasing our educational rates, increasing the daily programming components and there is more that we can do.

 

MR. BURRILL: Thanks. Just to try to understand this as precisely as I can, are you saying that the idea of giving primary responsibility for this area to Education, as is done in the rest of the Maritimes, that this is something that is coming into view for us in Nova Scotia now?

 

MR. ROBERT WOOD: We are at the place where we are, as I said, gathering up all of this information and we’re in the process of formulating some recommendations that will go back to government for decision-making. We are not at the place yet of finalizing what those recommendations would be.

 

MR. BURRILL: Okay, thank you very much.

 

MR. CHAIRMAN: Thank you, Mr. Burrill. The next person on my list is Mr. Orrell, followed by Mr. Whynott.

 

MR. EDDIE ORRELL: Thank you for your presentation. We’re talking the Early Years project, you’ve gathered the information - when do we expect to see a concrete plan? Is it months, years? Would it be for the next school year, say?

 

MR. ROBERT WOOD: I would not say that it would be for the next school year, it will be a matter of us actually building out those recommendations, moving them forward to government. We are not in a place of being ready for this next budget cycle, as you know - right? All of these things have to move in that cycle.

 

There may be things we can do that would be some initial steps. There are some short-term kinds of opportunities, potentially, that we may be able to do sort of in-year, in-budget - what we might be able to move on. Any kind of substantial program plan announcements, I think we’re at least one year-plus away from.

 

MR. ORRELL: Okay, because back in the Fall sitting of the Legislature, we heard the minister talking about they’re going to change the funding from private to non-profit, they’re going to change it to this. The future funding for private versus non-profit centres - can we get an idea of where the department stands on that now?

 

MR. ROBERT WOOD: Absolutely. There has been confusion around that very issue. Our minister said I think quite publicly that it is about providing families with choice.

 

There is no recommendation moving forward, there is no planning around, in fact, actually moving away from our existing model. When you have almost a 50-50 split and a very large number of centres, that’s not really even the principal focus for us at the moment, the focus is really on enhancing the quality of the programming, enhancing the availability of services.

 

MR. ORRELL: Back in December, I guess, of 2011, she said the consideration for the P.E.I. model, it phased out private daycares after the five years. I’m just wondering what direction the minister is giving regarding any change to that kind of model. It was back and forth at that time and it was yes, we’re going to change/no, we’re not going to change. A lot of the privately-owned daycares were getting . . .

 

MR. ROBERT WOOD: I can say we are not looking at any changes to the existing system. It has not been - well, it hasn’t been part of really the kind of work that we’ve done on the Early Years project. It has been very much about what we need to do to enhance both internally to government, our operations, and to in fact actually create the right policy framework for early childhood development.

 

MR. ORRELL: Throughout the province there are different areas that have a higher percentage of persons with disabilities, we’ll say - wheelchair needs. Where there may not be a licensed daycare, say the home daycare program, would the financing be available for them to upgrade their washroom facilities or their accessibility requirements, in areas where there would be no commercial daycares, where being an in-home daycare program?

 

MR. ROBERT WOOD: I’m going to let Virginia answer part of this. We do have our Supported Child Care Grant program but I’m not sure if it’s available for the family home daycares as well.

 

MS. O’CONNELL: It’s not available at this time. We know that in order to implement supported child care funding within family homes we certainly need to provide additional training for the family home providers. As well, we would want to ensure that the family home consultants can certainly assist that role.

 

I do want to state that within the repair and renovation loans that were available, and even within our supported child care grant now, there were many facilities that installed ramps and bathrooms and a whole range of other opportunities to enable children and families with any type of disability to access that. This is something as well, even in the role of our family home daycares, our family home consultants who meet with the providers certainly do assist them to support as many children as they can.

 

MR. ORRELL: But it’s not available to the in-home yet?

 

MS. O’CONNELL: The additional funding to alter a home is not available at this time.

 

MR. ORRELL: So in places like Victoria County, it would be difficult because there’s no commercial - it’s mostly in-home there so they would have a difficult time if a family had a child with a physical disability and they need a wheelchair, they would have difficulty accessing the programs in, say, Victoria County.

 

MR. ROBERT WOOD: I think it’s important to recognize, too, that there are really the two components to that. One is the physical space itself and the kind of environment that the child will need and the other is the training and professional staff who, in fact, actually have the knowledge of actually helping children with developmental challenges.

 

MR. ORRELL: Thank you.

 

MR. CHAIRMAN: Thank you, Mr. Orrell. I think we’ll go next to Mr. Whynott, followed by Ms. Raymond.

 

MR. MAT WHYNOTT: Thank you for coming today. I have a few questions in particular around the family home daycare program. My wife did a child and youth degree at the Mount and is a teacher by trade but since we’ve had our little girl, she decided she wanted to be a stay-at-home mom. One of the ways that she has always wanted to supplement what she does at home is by having a couple of children come into our home, through child daycare.

 

What we found interesting is when she reached out to the Sackville Family Daycare Association and the Sackville-Bedford Family Early Intervention centre, that there was a system in place that basically coordinates all of those home daycares and helps place children in need of child care. It was interesting because this was only six or eight months ago that we finally found out that these sort of things exist.

 

I find it interesting because I think if there were more people who knew about these, to help people find spaces and find child care, it would be a benefit to everyone. Even if there is a need for simple things like an extra crib or toys for outside, they supply all of that. People think you need to go out and buy all of these things, well these are on loan from that facility, which I think is an interesting concept.

 

You talked about 500 more spaces. Is that this past year?

 

MS. O’CONNELL: That would be from 2007, when we considered the number of spaces, when we really made the decision to grow family home child care. We’ve increased the number of spaces available by 500.

 

MR. WHYNOTT: And so what is the difference between - is the subsidy different for home daycare versus . . .

 

MS. O’CONNELL: No.

 

MR. WHYNOTT: Okay, interesting. You talked about how many overall spaces we have. Obviously the majority of the population is in the HRM in Nova Scotia. Is it consistent with where the population is - the percentage of spaces in HRM versus outside of HRM? Is there a breakdown of that - how many spaces there are within HRM versus the rest of Nova Scotia? Can you comment on that?

 

MS. O’CONNELL: I don’t have the breakdown with me, but we certainly do have it from a regional perspective, yes. In essence, when you look at the map of Nova Scotia - because we’ve actually mapped where our child care facilities are - they really go around the perimeter of the province where, of course, historically, this is where our communities were established. What is interesting is that we certainly have seen a change in demographics in communities where there are actually many communities now that have a much older demographic, so you do see child care centres having greater struggles there in the context of enrolment, but we certainly see an ongoing move to grow child care in our suburban area where actually many families are moving to.

 

I also just wanted to state with respect to Cape Breton, we would very much like to see, as a department, family home child care grow there. I did spend some time in Cape Breton in the Fall and I did have an opportunity to meet with some folks about beginning the opportunity to grow family home child care agencies. So getting back to your comment on Victoria County, one of the roles of a family home consultant is to match families and this is why family home agencies are quite successful. In the context of maybe having a home that is difficult to be accessible, hopefully there would be other homes that would actually be accessible. That’s one of our goals is to really work with community entities because to be a family home agency you don’t need to be a child care facility - you can be an entity that meets the requirements of an agency and certainly support that in the community.

 

I really certainly agree with you and the fact that part of our funding to the agency - we really give them full operational funding - is certainly to grow the resources and materials. As a start-up grant we give every agency $5,000 and we certainly enable them to buy cribs, et cetera, and whatever a family home provider would need to support different ages of children, as well as school-age children.

 

MR. ROBERT WOOD: Let me pick up on that a little bit, too. If you go back to 1991, only 27 per cent of Nova Scotia households were one-person households. Today it’s 64 per cent - 27 to 64 in 20 years. We have had this seismic shift in our demographics as a province and for many smaller communities, the number of children in that community is shrinking, and the capacity to be able to have a full child care centre - which has a lot of overhead and operating expenses and it does require some economy of scale - is difficult. We really do see some real benefit around continuing to expand the Family Home Day Care Program. It can be far more discreet and targeted into communities where the need is and can be far more nimble.

 

MR. WHYNOTT: If there was a mechanism - again, after having discussions with the Sackville Family Day Care they basically said, look, we have no wait-list, they have very few people on the wait-list, you can count on your hand the amount of people on their wait-list, and that clears out pretty quick. If we’re able to maximize the resources that we have through these sorts of agencies, then let’s by all means try to support them.

 

Do we know how many children - I find it interesting because before someone said there was a difference between regulated and licensed. Outside of those two kinds of streams do we know people who are just not in regulated - I assume it’s homes, right? Outside of regulated and . . .

 

MR. ROBERT WOOD: Only 26 per cent of children are in a licensed child care setting. There are other children whose parents are finding other child care/daycare arrangements in their community. Sometimes they are . . .

 

MR. WHYNOTT: So 26 per cent licensed and regulated?

 

MR. ROBERT WOOD: Yes.

 

MR. WHYNOTT: Okay, interesting.

 

MR. ROBERT WOOD: Other people are making other choices with friends and family and making other daycare/child care arrangements.

 

MR. WHYNOTT: Thank you.

 

MR. CHAIRMAN: Ms. Raymond.

 

MS. MICHELE RAYMOND: Thank you very much. This is wonderful to hear and actually just your comment a few minutes ago about there being 26 per cent of Nova Scotia children in licensed care, I think that’s probably a good thing that there’s an improvement from the 10 per cent I remember we were talking about only a few years ago.

 

Ms. O’Connell, you and I had spoken years and years ago about a sort of hub model of child care. Is that what the family home daycare is? Is that this hub model of a resource for families? Is that the same thing we were talking about in the past?

 

MS. O’CONNELL: Not all. In most cases they are an agency which is the agency, but what is exciting is to see that in a number of situations some family resource centres have also been delivering family home agencies. We have one entity in the province that not only is an early childhood training institution, it has licensed child care, it has an early intervention program and it has a family home agency. The model which was recently spoken about with respect to Lower Sackville, they have a very expansive family resource centre. We’ve provided funding to them two or three times to expand the child care centre and they have a family home agency. So when you think about the community that that’s supporting, it’s not only supporting the children.

 

What is exciting as well to see is that many of our agencies like the ones I’ve referenced, where they have the family home and they have the licensed child care centre and the family resource centre - can you imagine what the families can benefit from that? As well, we all know the importance of home environments especially for very young children, our infants. In many cases the family homes provide the care for the children who are zero to 18 months, and then the child care facility provides the care from 18 months and onward. For that family not only do they have the family home agency, they have the child care facility and then they have the resource program as well. So, yes, there are some that have the hub-model context and there are some that are really moving towards it. I have more applications on my desk right now.

 

MR. ROBERT WOOD: Let me pick up on that one a little bit too. One of the areas that we’re looking at is around early-years resource centres and what that might be. Remember that a lot of the success and development of children are the resources that parents receive. Do they have the knowledge and awareness - are we, in fact, actually helping and supporting families? As far as possible, the approach we will take is look at existing resources that are within communities, whether that’s a SchoolsPlus program, whether that’s a family resource centre, how are we augmenting those programs and enhancing them to, in fact, actually deliver services.

 

MS. RAYMOND: That’s a very interesting thing because certainly the family home daycare is a very interesting model and I’d like to know more about that at some point and the establishment of agencies and how communities go about setting them up, specifically, and making that knowledge available.

 

One thing you also mentioned was that you have an on-line education program for some of your untrained educators, or untrained educators in the licensed daycares. Now I’m curious about that, whether that is a resource that is available to parents as well? There must be some cost associated with delivering that. Is that a cost that the department covers? Is that a cost that the centre covers? Is it something that can be made available to parents?

 

MS. O’CONNELL: In the context of on-line diploma, the department has supported the Nova Scotia Community College so that an individual can study and receive their diploma in early childhood from the community college, as well as Mount Saint Vincent University. They also received funding, a few years ago now, to develop their degree on-line. What is very exciting is that in the last two or three years, we’ve given funding to Université Sainte-Anne, so that our francophone early childhood educators as well can study on-line.

 

In the context of funding, as was previously mentioned, we have two initiatives that are supporting the individuals. Not only have we, as I said, initially supported the institutions to develop these programs but we have two initiatives that support the educators. We are not necessarily supporting parents but the thing is, if I were a parent and I was working in a child care facility, where I’m working and studying part-time, the department is fully funding - under the continuing education program - we are fully funding for the course work and even for practicum and for books, any working educator who wishes to receive their degree or actually their diploma, so we’re fully funding.

 

As well, if I’m not working and I qualify for a Nova Scotia student loan, after receiving the diploma or even the degree, the department, under the Early Childhood Education Assistance Program, upon graduation and upon a return to service, we will pay $5,000 per year. So if someone is studying for a diploma, after two years they’ve actually graduated, they’ve done two years of return to service working full time, we will assist in the payoff of their student loan to a maximum of $10,000. We’re really seeing that’s making a difference.

 

MS. RAYMOND: You’re getting good uptake on that?

 

MS. O’CONNELL: Yes, absolutely. In essence we’ve actually been able to certainly fund a number of staff to do that, to the point that we actually have 319 individuals who have had an opportunity to actually do their continuing education. That includes over 1,320 courses that we pay for and we have well over 119 individuals who have taken advantage of the ECEAP program. So as you can see, and when January came, we received a flood of applications for continuing education to pay out. So we’re really seeing it’s making a difference.

 

It’s making a difference as well in return to service piece, meaning they have to put hours in working in a facility.

 

MS. RAYMOND: Okay.

 

MR. ROBERT WOOD: I want to go back to the original part of your question, which was about the parents. I think as we go forward one of the pieces of work we need to be thinking about is how do we make resource material available to parents so that they truly understand the development that is taking place with their child and, in fact, what things they can be doing to, in fact, actually help and support their child’s development. That’s a clear area where, if there are real gains that can be made, we could be in fact actually really helping parents to do a better job.

 

MS. RAYMOND: That is interesting because that leads partly to another question that I had. When The Early Years studies were going on around Halifax Regional Municipality a few years ago - they were using that early development instrument, I think - there was an anomalous piece. There were a couple of communities in my area that were real outliers. One was sort of on the high end and the other one was not at all on the high end.

 

One of the problems was, I don’t think there was, in fact, any licensed child care available in that area at that time - it may or may not have had anything to do with it - but the children arriving in one particular school were really much less than ready when they had arrived, when they did that assessment in Primary. There were a couple of problems with it on all of the measures, but one of the things that was particularly worrisome to me was that it appeared from that data that some of these children might not have even seen physicians during those years to have picked up on actual physical disabilities - visual and auditory - and that is really scary.

 

I don’t know how the early intervention piece fits in with your program. Does it fit in? How does that work? Is there anything that can be done to ensure that parents whose children aren’t in care, are at least having access to the medical assessments that they need and is this still happening?

 

MR. ROBERT WOOD: That is a component of the early years project - at zero, 18 months, 36 months - are children receiving the assessments that they need to ensure that we are being preventive, that we are picking up potential developmental delays early enough so that we, in fact, can actually help support the child and the family. That is one of the areas that we are looking at.

 

MS. RAYMOND: And will that be at least fitted in with the family home day care? I assume that there are some health components to that.

 

MR. ROBERT WOOD: It’s more about trying to understand the needs of that specific child and that family, and taking a much more comprehensive understanding of it and then building out what are the right needs of those individuals and what resources do we have to bring to bear to the system.

 

MS. RAYMOND: Some children may not even be located until they reach the school system.

 

MR. ROBERT WOOD: That’s right.

 

MS. RAYMOND: I guess you are still finding that sometimes.

 

MR. ROBERT WOOD: Yes.

 

MS. RAYMOND: Lots more questions, but I’ll leave it alone for now. Thank you very much.

 

MR. CHAIRMAN: Mr. Prest.

 

MR. SIDNEY PREST: Regarding parents that are eligible to qualify for home care spaces - maybe they decide one year to put their career on hold and stay home with the family. Do you have any breakdown on the percentage . . .

 

MR. ROBERT WOOD: Of parents who are staying home?

 

MR. PREST: Yes.

 

MR. ROBERT WOOD: I don’t know if we do. It’s not a statistic that I think we could easily capture because we don’t know whether they’re going to grandma’s house or to their aunt’s house or they’re staying home.

 

MR. PREST: Anyway, I guess what I’m saying is that maybe they would put their career on hold. Down on the Eastern Shore with the distance some of them have to travel and the cost of daycare spaces - they’re just on the borderline of, should I stay home or should I keep working. You don’t really have a breakdown?

 

MR. ROBERT WOOD: We don’t.

 

MS. O’CONNELL: The only breakdown that we would have, may I say, is that it would be opposite. It would be the number of mothers that are working or parents that are working. This is data that we get from census data. When you say “mothers working”, whether or not it’s full or part time, it may not tell us that. That would be the only data that we could have, but we wouldn’t have the numbers of parents that are choosing to stay home. Whether that would assist you or not - I mean, I don’t know if we could get it demographically, but this is more census data.

 

MR. CHAIRMAN: Thank you. I think we may have come to the end of our speakers list (Interruption) Perhaps not. Ms. Regan.

 

MS. REGAN: I will be short. I’m just wondering how much money was invested on the consultation last year?

 

MR. ROBERT WOOD: I actually don’t have that figure for you.

 

MS. REGAN: Maybe we could have that sent to the committee.

 

MR. ROBERT WOOD: Sure.

 

MS. REGAN: So we don’t expect the results until after this next budget sometime, is that correct?

 

MR. ROBERT WOOD: Yes.

 

MS. REGAN: I could be wrong here, but I seem to recall when it was announced that the public consultation period, where you could send in your thoughts on it, was actually under a month and I noticed it said eight weeks there. Does that also include some reaching out to stakeholders, et cetera, so that’s why it was eight weeks?

 

MR. ROBERT WOOD: Yes, and on-line components, as well, some targeted sessions, some open sessions.

 

MS. REGAN: Right, thank you.

 

MR. CHAIRMAN: Thank you, Ms. Regan. There is maybe a bit of time for me to ask a question. There were a couple of things that I was thinking about as we were having this conversation this morning. One of the things that you mentioned in your presentation, Mr. Wood, was the minimum daily parent fee which apparently has now been removed.

 

MR. ROBERT WOOD: That’s right.

 

MR. CHAIRMAN: Could you say a little bit more about what that was and why it was removed and what difference that may have made to parents?

 

MR. ROBERT WOOD: Actually, I’ll let Virginia answer that because that’s her expertise.

 

MS. O’CONNELL: Historically the Child Care Subsidy Program always had a per diem, but there always had to be a parent fee paid. For example, if the subsidy for infant care was $22, that was the rate, but we would then require the parent to pay $2.25; therefore, the actual per diem was certainly not $22. But over a period of time - and actually more recently - we completely eliminated that $2.25. We actually did it initially by deducting the $1.25, and then in 2009, we actually then deducted the $1.

 

Right now the actual per diem is actually what it is exactly, so in essence it certainly means that the per diem for a family that qualifies and actually receives that per diem is as it is stated which means then it’s hopefully somewhat more affordable, a little bit, for the family. It was a good move.

 

MR. CHAIRMAN: Do you think that has made some difference in those people who actually have been able to use daycare services?

 

MS. O’CONNELL: Oh yes, and as well as we changed the income eligibility. At a point in time it was lower than it is now which certainly means more families qualified not only for the full subsidy, but certainly for a prorated subsidy, absolutely.

 

MR. CHAIRMAN: Just one other question maybe, if I could stick with the theme of money for a moment. When I think of child care services, I often think of issues around salaries of people who work in child care facilities. I know that has been an issue in many people’s minds and the department has made investments in wage funding, I know. Could you make some comment on how the salaries and wages of child care workers or early child care educators in this province might compare with other jurisdictions? Is that any information that you might have available?

 

MR. ROBERT WOOD: I’m not sure that we have it with us; Virginia might be able to answer some of that. Maybe I’ll start by simply talking a little bit about the Early Childhood Enhancement Grant, so 80 per cent of that grant is around enhancements of wages and salaries for ECE workers. It was a program we started about three years ago really both to recognize the need as we were increasing professional levels to, in fact, actually have higher salaries and we wanted to test whether or not it actually did help to improve retention rates. So we are going into the fourth year of that particular program, we will be doing the evaluation of that.

 

Clearly one of the things that we heard back through the consultation process, we heard from the advisory committee that ECE salary rates were an area that we needed to consider.

 

MR. CHAIRMAN: Thank you. Mr. Orrell, I saw your hand earlier, please go ahead.

 

MR. ORRELL: We talked earlier about how there are approximately 90 subsidy spaces that aren’t filled. How many subsidized spaces do we actually have in the province?

 

MR. ROBERT WOOD: We have about 4,427.

 

MR. ORRELL: By region how do they compare to - are they more rural or urban or is there a breakdown on that, I guess, is the biggest thing.

 

MS. O’CONNELL: I think that the availability of subsidies is also related to the number of licensed facilities, so you would certainly see more families accessing subsidies in HRM because we certainly have more facilities. Yes, I mean, if this is information you’d like . . .

 

MR. ORRELL: No, I just wondered if there was a difference between - I mean I know you have to be licensed to get to a subsidy but would there be more in the more populated areas?

 

MS. O’CONNELL: Absolutely.

 

MR. ORRELL: Would the need necessarily be greater in the city, as compared to a rural area, where someone may have to travel a little further for work, so their time frame would be longer? Would that be more beneficial for a subsidy to someone like that, or compared to the city area? I don’t know if that’s clear or not, it’s just that I know at home some people have to be at work by 7:00 a.m., they don’t get off until 5:00 p.m., so they may only get a small subsidy but they may need a longer time. So would that subsidy be more appropriate there, maybe a little greater than compared to someone who works at an office job, 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. in the city? Has that even been considered, I guess is the question with that?

 

MR. ROBERT WOOD: Well I think it gets to some of the earlier questions around flexibility times. The subsidy is available for full-time child care - does it need to have more flexible time spans for it? Should it be for part time? The subsidy is really - it’s not so much that it’s allocated by location, by geography, it’s really as people come in who are looking for it, do they qualify, is there a licensed facility in their community, then the subsidy is given.

 

MR. ORRELL: If I may, with the licensing process, how difficult would that be for a facility to acquire the license and how long would it take, on average, for that to happen? If I wanted to start a facility in North Sydney and I had a space, what would the process be and how long would it take, approximately, from start to finish, I guess is the big question. Obviously we could use more, by the sounds of it, if that was the case.

 

MS. O’CONNELL: Well prior to a facility even being visited by licensing services, any proposed operator, anyone considering it, would certainly first have to apply. We have a proposal process. It’s on our Web site and it’s an application for a proposal for a licence. That certainly involves meeting with our early childhood development consultants.

 

In many cases how long it takes is really dependent on the capacity and the knowledge of the person, of the applicant. In many cases, an operator or even a board will hire someone who has knowledge in early childhood to help put that package together. There’s a number of requirements that must be met in order for our department and certainly our regional consultants, to even deem that this applicant is ready to be considered a licensed facility.

 

Once they go through that process, and I know from talking with my staff, it involves a range of steps. Once again, as I said, it depends on the applicant. Once all that is done and it’s recommended they proceed to licensing, I do know that licensing really works very hard to ensure that the process is completed in 10 days, but it can take six months, three months, a year, for an applicant to really fully understand the processes that are involved because it is certainly extremely important that they are aware of and are certainly fully knowledgeable of all they need to do to meet the requirements of our Act and regulations.

 

MR. CHAIRMAN: Thank you. Ms. Regan, maybe is at her last question. I don’t know if there’s anybody else who would like to speak - Ms. Raymond, then, so perhaps that will be our last one. Ms. Regan.

MS. REGAN: You were talking about the subsidies available and you said they are only full day, is that correct?

 

MS. O’CONNELL: Yes.

 

MS. REGAN: I was just wondering because I know a lot of the jobs that are being created these days are, in fact, part-time jobs. That sort of eliminates a whole pool of people who need child care. It just struck me that perhaps opening up some part-time spaces for subsidies would make sense if we’ve moved to a new economy where there’s so much part-time employment rather than full-time employment now.

 

MS. O’CONNELL: My comment, I mean when we say part time or part day, I guess what’s important is that we have - although we say full day, it means that the facility has a full-day licence but in many cases there are families that only work a couple of days a week or maybe three days a week.

 

So in any one facility - and you can have a subsidy that could be shared by two or three different children, but it’s a full-day subsidy. We certainly have many of those and this is why - as was said earlier, in 2012, although we have 4,427 subsidies, over 5,600 children were able to access subsidy. Some of that was the coming and going, but it also means that a person who is only working one day a week, two days a week, three days a week can certainly access a full subsidy if their income permits that. We’re very attentive to that and this is why we certainly have subsidy in our family home programs as well.

 

MR. CHAIRMAN: Ms. Raymond.

 

MS. RAYMOND: Some quick questions. I don’t know how this works in context to the family home day cares, but there was a rule that only a certain number of children could be cared for in a home before it had to be licensed. What is that and does it still exist?

 

MS. O’CONNELL: If an individual is providing care in a home and the number of children of any age exceeds six, they need to be licensed. With respect to school-age care, the number would be eight. So in essence, any individual who is saying they’re providing care, once they achieve the maximum of six, they need a licence.

 

MS. RAYMOND: So if, for instance, they had five children of their own and they were caring for one child . . .

 

MS. O’CONNELL: They would be fine because there are six, but once they exceed six . . .

 

MS. RAYMOND: So it’s the number of children, not the number of . . .

MS. O’CONNELL: Yes.

 

MS. RAYMOND: So family home day cares then - typically what sort of numbers of children are in a family home day care? Do you know?

 

MS. O’CONNELL: That can also depend on the ages of children they’re serving. If they are a family home regulated program they can have eight children if they’re all school age. This is wonderful for rural Nova Scotia, because in many cases children get off the school bus and there’s maybe nobody home, so they can go to the family home program and it’s really making a difference. If they have mixed ages, they can only have six, so you could have a couple of children coming home; you could have a couple of children coming in at 2:30 in the afternoon - two of those children could be school-age; the remaining four would not be school-age so that you could have your maximum of six.

 

MS. RAYMOND: Okay, so that’s the cap on it. The last couple of questions about that - would you be able to provide us with a list of the family home day care agencies that exist, or is it on-line somewhere?

 

MS. O’CONNELL: It’s certainly on-line, and as some of you know, we have a child care directory, which is on-line completely, and it’s by county, but we can certainly provide you with the list. It’s very good to see, as well, that in the last year we have two new family home agencies in HRM. The other component about family home, it enables a person to be a small-business operator in a way, so for many families it means they, as well, can have a business. There are many positives to this.

 

MS. RAYMOND: There’s some training component, obviously.

 

MS. O’CONNELL: There’s required training. We actually give funding. Part of the funding we provide to the agency is that for every care provider there are so many dollars for annual funding for that care provider that they can access.

 

MS. RAYMOND: Last question - food and nutrition grants. Those are available to family home day care, as well, presumably?

 

MS. O’CONNELL: We did provide a food and nutrition grant - a one-time grant - and that was provided to the agency in the context of working with the providers to determine what would be the best way to allocate those funds. In many cases, they could have been materials and resources for the agency, which of course the providers can borrow. It could have been resources as well as - what we have been doing is a partnership with Health and Wellness, and it’s wonderful. We’ve been delivering a number of information and training sessions across the province on nutrition. Certainly our family home consultants attend it, as well as many cooks, so this whole component of ensuring that children have nutritious meals and snacks is really coming to the fore right now. It’s very exciting to see.

 

MS. RAYMOND: There was a program at one point in my community and I think it was doing after-school care. I’m not quite sure how this worked. It was in a community centre - after-school care for maybe 30 children every day - it wasn’t licensed, and the food budget for these children who were spending four hours a day there, quite frequently from 2:00 p.m. until 6:00 p.m. for the youngest ones, and the food budget was 15 cents per child for those four hours. Is there any way to prevent that kind of situation arising?

 

MR. ROBERT WOOD: Unlicensed?

 

MS. RAYMOND: Unlicensed. Operated fully, openly, unlicensed but that was what was available. Is there anything now which prevents that kind of situation?

 

MS. O’CONNELL: Well, one of the things in our amendments in 2011was that we actually much better defined or more clearly defined what type of facility requires a licence. So I’m not sure the organization you’re talking about, but unless it’s under some other form of an umbrella organization and it’s providing school-age care, it requires a licence.

 

MS. RAYMOND: Okay, and is there a food - is there licensing that says, okay, this amount has to be spent on food?

 

MS. O’CONNELL: For example, when the question was asked earlier about the licensing process - how long does it take - one of the things that we really work with operators on, even when they do submit the proposal, is certainly their budget. There are certainly some guidelines that if you’re operating a child care facility that you should be following, so a certain percentage of your operational budget should be for food.

 

When we look at budgets, even when we look at budgets and financial statements sent to the department, that’s a really key piece for us to look at. When we even hear about facilities that have financial problems, there are ways that they can buy in bulk because what’s important to us, as well, is that they have the capacity in their operation to buy food at a reasonable price, but to buy the nutritious food and have children have that opportunity.

 

MS. RAYMOND: Thank you very much.

 

MR. CHAIRMAN: Thank you, Ms. Raymond. I’d like to thank our witnesses and everybody on the committee this morning for both the presentation and for the stimulating discussion that came from that.

 

Are there any final comments, however, that as a panel of witnesses you might like to make?

 

MR. ROBERT WOOD: I guess if I were to sort of summarize this, a lot of good work has been done over a large number of years. When I think about Virginia O’Connell and even for Vicki Wood, they have spent the vast majority of their adult lives serving Nova Scotian children and have done an incredible job of actually helping to advance our programs.

 

Obviously there is still lots of work that can be done, if you think about just the amount of literature and science that has emerged over the last decade in terms of early childhood development and the transformation of that programming. We are continuing to go through a transformation that really is about trying to understand the needs of the children, in particular, and then the needs of families and parents.

 

There are still areas where we can explore, that we can continue to advance and improve our programming.

 

MR. CHAIRMAN: Thank you very much, thank you for being here. I think what we will do at this moment is recess briefly, to allow our witnesses to gather their materials. I believe we have a little bit of committee business to engage our attention after that moment, so we’re adjourned briefly.

 

[10:23 a.m. The committee recessed.]

 

[10:31 a.m. The committee reconvened.]

 

MR. CHAIRMAN: I would like to call us back to order, please. The challenge of interrupting a meeting is getting it reconvened. We are almost gathered again - thank you, Mr. Orrell, for wrapping up your conversation. I know everybody was making good use of the break. The wonderful thing about meetings is that when there’s a break maybe even more work happens, so I’m glad we’re back, but I’m sure it was productive.

 

We have just a couple of pieces of business to take care of, unless there are some other things that I’m not aware of myself. At our last meeting we looked at some correspondence from Dalhousie Legal Aid; we had some discussion about that and were in touch by letter with the Deputy Minister of Community Services about that correspondence. All of you, I think, will be aware that yesterday we were provided with a letter from Mr. Wood, who was here earlier, of course, indicating that some meetings - a couple of meetings at least - have been held between the department and Dal Legal Aid, chaired by Mr. Ray Larkin, to try to work out some of the issues that have been arising relating to special needs issues and income assistance.

 

I think we accomplished what we set out to accomplish from that discussion last month and the outcome looks to be positive. Are there any other comments about that correspondence? Hearing none then we shall go to the next issue, which is our next meeting date.

We are scheduled to meet next time on March 5th at 1:00 p.m. Our witnesses are the Housing Strategy and the Town of Windsor Affordable Housing Committee, so that has been set. We had some question about that at our last discussion because I think we were thinking the Progressive Conservative caucus might be having an out-of-town meeting. I think they are but not on that day, so all is good for March 5th.

 

I know, Mr. Prest, you had a question about meeting dates, so if you’d like to just raise that for the future that would be helpful.

 

MR. PREST: I don’t know when the other caucuses have their caucus meetings, but where we usually meet on Wednesday afternoons, is there any chance of having our Community Services meeting either in the morning of that Wednesday or in the afternoon of Tuesday? I’m just trying to get clear of an extra trip.

 

MS. KIM LANGILLE (Legislative Committee Clerk): If I may, I think the only issue with having it on Wednesday morning would be Public Accounts is held basically every Wednesday morning and there would be a conflict of members. I think that’s why they tried to have certain days for this committee and certain days for that committee so that we get away from having conflicts of interest.

 

MR. PREST: So when is it decided if we have it on Tuesday morning or Tuesday afternoon?

 

MR. CHAIRMAN: Mr. Prest, our typical procedure is when the House is not in session to meet in the afternoons and I can’t remember why we met this morning . . .

 

MS. REGAN: We have an out-of-town caucus. (Interruptions)

 

MR. CHAIRMAN: Thank you. So this morning was an unusual occurrence, but our typical practice is to meet on Tuesday afternoons when the House is not in session, and where we can manage to meet while the House is in session, we’ve met on Tuesday mornings.

 

MR. PREST: Even in the afternoons, at this time of year, if you’re here Tuesday afternoons and it’s storming, you stay.

 

MS. REGAN: It’s tough getting in some mornings.

 

MR. CHAIRMAN: Thank you for raising that, it’s always useful to clarify what is the most convenient time to bring ourselves together.

 

I’m not aware that there’s any other business . . .

 

MR. WHYNOTT: Motion to adjourn.

 

MR. CHAIRMAN: A motion to adjourn is accepted, thank you.

 

[The committee adjourned at 10:36 a.m.]