STANDING COMMITTEE ON PUBLIC ACCOUNTS
Mr. Russell MacKinnon
MR. CHAIRMAN: Good morning, ladies and gentlemen, welcome to the Public Accounts Committee. Today we have with us representatives from the Department of Education. The issue we will be dealing with today is universities, focused in part on the federal funding component. With us we have, starting with the Deputy Minister of Education, Mr. Dennis Cochrane; Mr. Joseph MacEachern, Acting Director of Grants and Audits with the Financial Branch within the Department of Education; Dr. Susan Clark, the Executive Director of the Nova Scotia Advisory Board on Colleges and Universities; Dr. Carmelita Boivin-Cole, Chief Executive Officer with the Maritime Provinces Higher Education Commission; and finally, Mr. Rick Butler from the Community College Division within the Department of Education. Welcome, ladies and gentlemen.
Also, perhaps we could introduce all the members of the committee, starting with the Conservative caucus, then going left.
[The committee members introduced themselves.]
MR. CHAIRMAN: My name is Russell MacKinnon from Cape Breton West and I will be your chairman for today. Who would like to start off? Mr. Cochrane.
MR. DENNIS COCHRANE: Thank you very much for the opportunity to be here this morning. I am going to make virtually no opening comments. I think the issue is clear and we have a fair amount of information to share with you in response to any questions you might have.
Just to explain a little bit the relationship between the Department of Education and the Maritime Provinces Higher Education Commission, Carmelita Boivin-Cole is the CEO and they serve as an umbrella organization in the Maritime Provinces dealing with our post-secondary institutions, primarily in the area of quality, intergovernmental transfers, and data and statistical generation and so on.
The actual allocation of the provincial money to the universities and colleges in the Province of Nova Scotia is now going to be done through the Nova Scotia Advisory Board on Universities and Colleges so it is an interesting relationship, but they basically serve the same function for the Provinces of Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island and New Brunswick. So Carmelita is with us today because of some of the information that she would have, particularly the interpretation of data and so on with regard to federal contributions, some of the research opportunities and so on that the federal government provides to our universities.
Other than that, the rest of us are from the provincial Department of Education. In addition to what the Chairman indicated, Mr. Butler is the Executive Director of Training and Financial Assistance. So he is here for any questions with regard to student loans, either the Canada Student Loan Program or the Nova Scotia Student Loan Program. We wanted to make sure that we would have someone available to answer any questions that you might have.
With that, Mr. Chairman, that concludes my opening comments.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Thank you, Mr. Deputy Minister. Do any other members of the panel wish to start or will we go right into questions?
The honourable member for Dartmouth-Cole Harbour.
MR. DARRELL DEXTER: Mr. Chairman, I wonder if you could just indicate what the time-frame is going to be.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Well, we seem to be making a pretty good start here so why don't we start off in 15 minute rounds and then we will just apportion it after that.
MR. DEXTER: I guess where I would like to start, it is no secret that student debt levels are continuing to climb and I think the thing that stuck out to me in the multi-year business plan on Page 9 was the cumulative debt figures for students. If you look at that chart on Page 9, the thing that will immediately stand out to you is that the upper end of the figures - in other words, debt levels from $20,000 to $25,000, from $25,000 to $30,000 and over $30,000 - are all up and the cumulative debt levels below $20,000 are all down over the span of years from 1993 to 1997, over which I assume are just the available figures that you have. My bet is that if we were to take that picture today, three years later, the picture would be even worse.
I guess my simple question is, how are we going to deal with this problem of students coming out of universities now with absolutely crushing debt levels? I guess I will pose that as a general question first and then I have some specific questions I would like to follow up with. I guess we could start by asking our friend from the MPHEC just to comment on the graph and then perhaps I can have the deputy minister comment on it as well.
DR. CARMELITA BOIVIN-COLE: This data comes from a longitudinal survey that we have done over a series of years. We are currently in the process of doing the final analysis of data that we have collected this year but in terms of preliminary results, yes, the situation has indeed worsened. I can't give you the precise data yet because we haven't finished analysing it and putting it together. We anticipate that the latest follow-up survey will be available within the next month or two for publication.
In terms of the data, there is another factor I would like to mention that is beginning to emerge from the new study that we are doing now and that is that this data is for bachelor students in the final year. What we are seeing is an increasing trend for students either to go directly into some type of post-secondary graduate or diploma education, thus adding debt on debt, with others going into the workplace, working for a year - in some cases for jobs that are not directly related to their education - and then going back again into a diploma or community college or further post-secondary education. This is going to increase, for a certain group, the level of debt.
Another factor, I think, that we need to take into consideration here in speaking about debt is that we are rapidly losing some of our professionals. For example, faculty in our universities is becoming an important issue as more and more retire and leave vacancies and as we face programs like the researcher initiative put forward by the federal government where we have places to fill in competition with other universities in other parts of the country, and this requires a student to go away for a doctorate in order to qualify, whether it is in science or whatever, which is another factor that is raising the debt. So this is just to give you a flavour of some of the new issues that we are currently looking at in the analysis of the survey data we have just received from the consultants.
MR. DEXTER: I wonder just before Mr. Cochrane responds to this if you could just tell us, how do the debt loads of Maritime students compare with the debt loads of students in other provinces, Ontario, Alberta, B.C.? Would you know?
MR. COCHRANE: I could only make some general observations. Nova Scotia's tuitions are among the highest in the country so from the tuition point of view, that would be a contributing factor but the cost of living would be considerably different in parts of Nova Scotia than it might be, for example, with the 40,000 students who go to York University in Toronto, so I suspect it levels out somewhat. In reference to your previous question, in the report of the Nova Scotia council on Page 19, it gives the actual debt load of Nova Scotia
students as opposed to the MPHEC document which talks about the Atlantic Provinces or the Maritimes, but certainly I suspect our debt loads are somewhat similar.
There are many factors, of course, that come into that: parental income, parental contribution, the cost of living, the cost of residence, the environment in which you live and so on, and obviously the government programs that are available. The Canadian program, of course, is somewhat constant across the country and different provincial programs obviously have an impact on student debt. I suspect Alberta has a fairly hefty Treasury that can make a fair contribution, in that case, but all of those factors would come into determining whether our Nova Scotia students are higher or lower than the rest of the country. I suspect we are probably in the middle of the pack and perhaps on the higher end.
MR. DEXTER: Yes, perhaps on the higher end, I think, is the fairer part of that statement. I just wanted to talk, I guess, a little bit about the way in which the funding now takes place. If we kind of look back, my recollection from those days when I was an executive member of the National Union of Students way back in 1976 or 1977, in the early days, there was a Financial Arrangements Act which cost-shared education in the provinces so that if there was $1.00 spent in the province by the provincial government, it was matched by $1.00 that came out of the federal government. The funding formula for universities was relatively equitable in terms of the responsibilities of the two levels of government.
My recollection of what happened after that was the Established Program Financing initiative came along and initially the EPF continued to follow a formula. We never seemed to know exactly what the formula was but there seemed to be a formula that increased the federal contribution to the provinces on a year-over-year basis. Sometime in the late 1970's, the province, in its desire to see to it that monies that came through Established Program Financing didn't come with strings attached, cut a deal around the formula, and what happened was the money was no longer tied, necessarily, to education or to any of the other established programs. Since that time, what we have seen is the steady erosion of the amount of money that has gone into post-secondary education in particular.
Here we are in the year 2000 with, in my view, some of the most poorly funded universities in the country. We see some of the largest, most crushing debt loads. As was mentioned earlier, we are losing the professional faculty at the universities and I still do not see that the federal government has come back to the table with the kind of money that is required to fund the system and, quite frankly, the commitment from the provincial government has not been to sustain the kind of education system that students coming through are going to need in order to compete in the next 20 years. Now, is there anything in there that I have said that you take issue with?
MR. COCHRANE: Just to give you some statistics on the federal contribution and what has happened over the last number of years, in 1995-96 - and that was the last year we had two separate programs, the EPF and the Canada Assistance Plan - the contribution from
the federal government to the Province of Nova Scotia was $618 million; this year, in 2000-01, they are at $522 million, so we lost almost $100 million, $96 million in federal contributions. Interestingly enough, 2000-01 is significantly higher than what it was in 1998-99 so we are a little better off than we were. The provincial contribution to universities in 1995-96 was $199 million and this year it is $201 million. So the federal one has gone down significantly, the provincial one has gone up marginally. Those two things coming together probably cause some validity to be assigned to your statements. We do have a problem in the post-secondary section.
The federal government, in addition to the CHST transfer which, of course, doesn't dictate exactly where it goes, also has a number of other programs it contributes to universities as well. Whether they ever find their way into the pockets of the students is another question because a lot of it deals with research projects that are specific projects that must be done and matched by the province and so on. So in those cases it is extra work that is generated as opposed to paying for the infrastructure and the cost of operating of universities, which is what the students would really contribute to. So there is no doubt that the federal contribution is down significantly and that does impact upon the contributions, obviously, to the universities that the province can make and we have not been able to maintain any great increases but we are over where we were every year since 1995-96 in the provincial contribution.
MR. DEXTER: I guess the best measurement of that is just looking at who actually funds the university. There has been, it looks like to me, like a straight transfer from government agencies to students. Tuitions now, I think, fund 40 per cent of the university budget.
MR. COCHRANE: Yes, there is no question it is increasing and the government contribution, combined, is dropping.
MR. DEXTER: One of the other questions that I think is interesting to explore a little if we can and if you have the information available is, who is actually going to university? I know that when I went there in I guess what were the golden years of university, as it appears at that time, if you took a snapshot of the economic backgrounds of the students who went there, it would be reasonably representative, I would say, of our province. We always knew that there was a shortfall in the number of people who came from disadvantaged economic backgrounds. There always was and perhaps there always will be, but my bet is that today those who fall into the bottom 25 per cent of the economic strata virtually don't exist at university anymore.
MR. COCHRANE: I can make the comment that probably several people shouldn't be because we do lose a lot of people very quickly in the first year or two and you wonder if that is the right place to be in some cases. Although you can never take someone's education away from them, you sometimes do wonder when you look at the drop-out rates
in the first year and the second year. From an economic point of view, Carmalita, do you have some statistics that would give an indication as to what socio-economic groups are going?
DR. BOIVIN-COLE: We have done, along with the graduate follow-up study, a series of accessibility studies, and one study we are planning to repeat in some form or another next year. Some recent information that has become available from Statistics Canada in particular and some work done by the Council of Ministers of Education, shows that the gap is actually widening in socio-economic terms, rather much consistently with the debt load movement. I have no specific data yet on the latest, but can send you whatever we can find from Statistics Canada. In fact, there is evidence that the socio-economic difference between those who go and those who don't go is greater.
I should stress, however, that there are a number of factors. A study we did on accessibility shows that it is more than socio-economic that plays here. There are a lot of other what we could call non-financial barriers at play which are primarily cultural, what are the peer groups doing, and in some cases I think there is a correlation between whether or not there is a university in town that they see all the time or there isn't. That is one factor.
MR. DEXTER: They go hand-in-hand though.
DR. BOIVIN-COLE: They go hand-in-hand. The other factor I think we should keep in mind for the Atlantic Provinces, and this relates to the comment that Mr. Cochrane made, is that we have a lower participation rate in community colleges in this part of the country than we find elsewhere. That raises the question of whether or not students are in fact going to university that would perhaps be better steered to the community college system. We don't know the answer to that. We are hoping in the coming year to have a closer look at attrition factors in that first year of university, because we feel very strongly that it is not enough to get them into university in the first year if they are not going to succeed, not going to make it through, that that is an equally important question.
DR. SUSAN CLARK: We do know that when we look at the students leaving high school, that just over 50 per cent are pursuing some form of post-secondary education. We do, overall, have a very high participation rate. The question of just who it is is a little bit more difficult to tease out. I would accept Carmelita's suggestion that it is not just tuition fees because if you look at the European systems that have been free tuition, they are some of the most class-bound systems you are ever going to find. So it is not just the fact of tuition because tuition is usually the smaller part of the costs associated with going to university, especially if you have to move away from home. We are usually looking at $10,000 to $12,000 a year for a student to live away from home and go to university, of which maybe $3,500 to $4,000 would be tuition. It is significant but it is not the only cost.
MR. DEXTER: I don't think I suggested that it was. I think what we were talking about were debt levels as opposed to tuition levels. I pointed out that tuition was making up
a much larger percentage of the funding of the universities. That is a phenomenon that we have tracked now for many years. We know what is happening. Student debt is going up and we know that the funding to universities has gone down in real dollars, that how that funding is taking place, the balance has shifted. We know that the socio-economic gap is widening, poorer families are not sending their children to university. None of these, I suggest, would be considered to be positive indicators.
Let's go to community colleges. I hate to keep going back to my youth because there are those who would suggest that that is a scale far too long ago to use as an accurate measurement. As I recall, many young people going through high school chose to go to vocational schools, and as I recall, those weren't tuition related institutions. If your career counsellor suggested that you go to vocational school, you went. Indeed, I went to my 25th high school anniversary in the last month or so, and many of the people I went through high school with who chose to go to vocational school were there having had 25 year careers as a result of that education. Now we see these kids coming out of there with additional debt. I would like some explanation why that shift in direction took place.
MR. COCHRANE: The vocational schools used to be your high school course that you would take on your way through. You would go to Grade 9 and you had a choice of going to academic, commercial or vocational. That has changed considerably in that, quite frankly, what we used to train people for 25 years ago probably wouldn't get them into the job market today.
MR. DEXTER: They still have auto mechanics out there.
MR. COCHRANE: But it has become much more complex. At one time you could teach someone to weld and now there is a whole thing in welding technology and there is another set of rules that go along with that. Certainly that was an evolution that has taken place across the country, actually later in Nova Scotia than in most jurisdictions. In fact, if you talk to the President of the Nova Scotia Community College, he is quite concerned that we are behind other provinces because we did the conversion in Nova Scotia considerably later than elsewhere. I think it may beg the question a little bit of what we are doing in our public school to prepare some of the students who may not be academically oriented for the workforce. We have work to do in that regard.
We no longer have as many huge shops and doing the things that we used to do, and we probably can't afford to reproduce most of those facilities. When you look at the kind of diagnostic equipment, for example in auto mechanics, we still had people taking apart the two-cycle and four-cycle lawnmower when that was not the way it was done anymore. We have to find a better way to actually integrate in the transition from school to work. A lot of our students from Grades 11 and 12 go into the private sector for work experience, co-op ed, those kinds of things to give them that sense of the modern equipment and what is happening. We have some work to do in that regard. That should open the door.
There are some projects right now, for example the Nova Scotia Community College has, particularly within the Southwest Regional School Board, some transition programs. They just employed a former superintendent to kind of extend that across the province so that for some students in the high school system, who may not be heading toward university, who may be having a little bit of difficulty but need some exposure to the community college system and to the workplace, there is now actually an effort to give them some credit toward their first year at the community college to encourage them to go on to some post-secondary education.
A number of things like that are happening but the days of the vocational option, at least in high school, gone. I think the pendulum may have swung a little too far. Everyone isn't academically oriented, and everyone is not meant to go to university. In some sense that is not unusual, it is no different in Nova Scotia than anywhere else, but we have to make sure we make those provisions. Some of the initiatives that are being taken now, I think, are coming back and picking up some of these students and making sure they have that successful transition either from school to work or school to school. We have more work to do in that regard.
Certainly the community colleges continue to expand their 13 campuses in the Province of Nova Scotia, and hopefully will serve a larger percentage. Carmelita is correct, we have a smaller percentage of Nova Scotians going to community college than other jurisdictions in the country. We have to deal with that, whether that is a question of accessibility or whether it is the draw of the universities, because we have 11 of those. We probably have a larger percentage of people aged 18 to 24 registered in university than most jurisdictions, although in Nova Scotia about 25 per cent of our students in university are from outside the province, which is interesting too. We have some work to do in the community college sector, in our high schools, in that transition to deal with what used to be vocational students.
[8:28 a.m. Mr. David Morse took the Chair.]
MR. CHAIRMAN: We have run about three minutes over. Perhaps we will do 23 minute rounds.
For the Liberal Party, the honourable member for Cape Breton West.
MR. RUSSELL MACKINNON: Mr. Chairman, my first question is to the deputy minister. In the last provincial election the Conservative Party, when they were canvassing for election, one of their platform issues was, "Establishing a provincial Income Tax Relief Program for graduating students with high debt loads, allowing students to re-direct a portion of their provincial tax payment to retire a maximum of 30 percent of the value of their original debt load;". Could you apprise us as to where that particular initiative stands within the Department of Education?
MR. COCHRANE: First of all, let me explain where we are in the scheme of things, because one of the areas that has received some attention is the changing of the Loan Remission Program. Basically that was being phased out in this budget year. Students who were eligible for loan remission prior to April 1st are still eligible and that will be what causes it to phase out. Students who come in after April 1st for the first time wouldn't have received loan remission until the next fiscal year anyway; it wouldn't be in 2000-01, it would be at the end of the academic year 2000-01. There is a phase-out but there is not a cohort yet that is directly affected. They know entering into it that it is not there but what they don't know and what we don't know yet is what kind of program is going to be in place. We are investigating that component and that option, and Finance has been involved in that.
There have been some discussions about the complexity of that kind of a process and also some question about when you get the actual relief, because you do have to be out of the system and working and so on in order to get the relief with regard to your taxation. That is being debated by officials in the Department of Education and the Department of Finance and we are looking at what we are going to bring forward in this particular fiscal year and this budget request to deal with that cohort that for the first time won't be eligible for loan remission.
MR. MACKINNON: So, am I to assume that in all likelihood there will be some indication as to where this policy position . . .
MR. COCHRANE: We will certainly be looking at that and presenting options to the government with regard to that procedure and any others that may serve as an alternate that would have the same end result.
MR. MACKINNON: You made reference to the Loan Remission Program on a phase-out process. Has there been any impact analysis carried out as to how this will affect student enrolment, participation, eligibility and so forth at the university and community college level?
MR. COCHRANE: Loan remission didn't come until the end of your time so most students on entry may have known that loan remission was there but I am not sure how much of a factor it was when students actually entered university. There is no question, if there is not an alternate program, it was a fairly generous program and therefore would have had an impact on total student indebtedness if it had continued. Whether the alternate program will have the same impact or not is something that remains to be seen, based on the analysis of the commitment that was made by the governing Party and other information that we are researching with regard to options that might be available.
Whether it affects people going, it probably has a greater effect on the people leaving, but nonetheless when you applied this year you knew it wasn't an option. There was a slight reduction this year across the province in registrations. Whether or not that is associated with the concept that we are applying for university but we can't get loan remission, that is another question.
MR. MACKINNON: Well, that is the long political answer but the short answer is no, there hasn't been an impact analysis done as to how it would impact on students at the end of their tenure at university or community college.
MR. COCHRANE: No, I don't believe there has been any particular analysis done. We can make some assumptions, but at this point there hasn't been.
MR. MACKINNON: That leads me to another rather interesting possibility. There has been some indication over the last number of months, rightfully or wrongfully and it might just be hearsay, but I know there have been some studies done both federally and perhaps provincially, in terms of designating universities in terms of their ability to repay student loans. Could you give us some indication as to where that stands within the Department of Education?
MR. RICK BUTLER: This has been an issue for probably three to four years in terms of a designation policy for universities, colleges and the private trade schools. The designation of an institution is a provincial responsibility. The federal government has asked all provinces to put in place designation policies. More specifically in the last year, we have been trying to put together a policy. There was some consultation around it about a year ago. We are putting the finishing touches to that policy. It has not been given yet to the minister or to the government for their consideration, but I would say that it is getting relatively close to having a policy.
MR. MACKINNON: Perhaps then if we are getting that close you could give the committee members some indication as to what the cut-off point is, percentage-wise. Is it 30 per cent, 35 per cent, 40 per cent, 20 per cent?
MR. BUTLER: That decision hasn't been taken as to whether it is 40 per cent or 50 per cent. If you introduce the policy in 2001, nobody is going to be de-designated in the first year; there will have to be a review process, there will be a probationary process, perhaps. The individual default rates over a period of time may be expected to go down. We are very conscious in developing the policy of what the present default rates are at various institutions, both private and public.
MR. MACKINNON: That brings me to an institution in the community that I come from, the University College of Cape Breton. As you may or may not be aware - I am sure you would be - 60 per cent of the students that attend that university receive student loans.
Now the default rate - as I understand it - and you can correct me if I am wrong on this - is somewhere around 34 per cent or 35 per cent. If the designation were to be at 30 per cent, then what would effectively happen is that 60 per cent of the students could face the possibility of not attending university. Given that, plus the proposal to privatize a large component of the Marconi Campus and move it to downtown Sydney, would effectively kill that university over a number of years, and I mean short term.
Has there been any consideration in your analysis, in terms of the cause and effect relationship there, given the fact that in Cape Breton we are dealing with an economy that is in a difficult situation.
It would appear to me that to start designating universities, whether it be at UCCB or Université Sainte-Anne or wherever, that you would be punishing students, through no fault of their own, because they live in an economically depressed area.
MR. BUTLER: I think some of the factors that will come into play are issues such as the geographic location and socio-economic issues. I am pleased to report though that UCCB's default rates, as of June 2000, are a little under 25 per cent, which in the scheme of things in the province is about on average with other universities and colleges, certainly much better than the situation we have with private career colleges.
MR. MACKINNON: Does the Department of Education support the potential privatizing of the Marconi Campus?
MR. COCHRANE: Maybe I could comment on that. The proposal being discussed that I think you are referring to was only dealing with additional seats in Cape Breton for the community college and wasn't going to reduce the number of seats currently offered at the Marconi Campus. The only private aspect of it was the development and renting of private space by the community college in a certain development. It was being considered to add approximately 200 seats to the component in Cape Breton and locate it in a private rental facility, as opposed to a free-standing, government-owned building. The community college is being asked to be part of the catalyst in bringing forward a proposal and at this point nothing has been done in that regard, but it wasn't going to take anything away from Marconi. The only private aspect of it was someone was going to own the building that we were going to rent.
MR. MACKINNON: I guess the analysis in Cape Breton is quite different than what you just painted. The laws of gravity seem to move in strange ways. I find it rather perplexing that the proposal is to use some of the Devco coal miners' fund to start building educational institutions, moving them from one location to the other to try to satisfy certain agendas within the Department of Education.
In the long term, I see an alleviation of responsibility, both at the federal level and provincial level of their commitment to the community college system, particularly the commitment that both levels of government have in terms of ensuring continuing education at the community college level. I wanted to make that point. I find it very distressing, because we have gone through a very difficult time. Looking at the possibility of designating universities, which could severely cripple educational opportunities in a depressed area of the province, and at the same time come in the back door using economic development dollars to start moving towards privatizing our educational institutions, I find very distressing. We can coat it any way we want but that seems to be the general message that is out there and it is not very well talked about. I wanted to make that point.
MR. COCHRANE: Maybe if I could just clarify. The commitment that would have been made by the provincial government, should 200 seats have been added to the component available in that area of the province, would be $2.2 million in subsidy. Every community college seat is subsidized of approximately $11,000, so that was part of the community college's commitment to that particular project. It is not going anywhere at this point, as far as I know, but certainly our commitment would have been to hopefully a subsidized rent, to operating costs and to an additional 200 seats; about $2.2 million annually in subsidy. With the organization and what is going on, in this case the community college was asked to be a catalyst in helping bring the project forward.
MR. MACKINNON: I want to go on record as saying that in terms of economic development it is a very poor move and in terms of educating our students, I think it is lightening the responsibility both federally and provincially. I think time will prove me correct. The next issue I would like to raise is with regard to . . .
MR. DAVID HENDSBEE: Mr. Chairman, could I just ask for clarification on the terminology designation when it comes to describing or pointing out certain institutions? I want to have it clarified for Hansard with regard to exactly what that terminology means.
MR. CHAIRMAN: You are directing that question to whom?
MR. HENDSBEE: Either to the questioner or to the answerer.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Would the member for Cape Breton West like to respond to that?
MR. MACKINNON: Mr. Chairman, I apologize, I assumed the honourable member knew exactly what I was talking about since it is part of a government policy initiative that is being discussed. My respective colleagues across the table can correct me if I am wrong, but any university that has a default rate in student loans over a certain percentage, let's say, for example, 30 per cent - that may not be it, but we will use that as a benchmark for discussion - any student attending that university or educational institution in the future would not qualify for a student loan under the Canada Student Loan Program, they would
have to get their loan from another source. Perhaps their parents would have to get a personal loan or they would have to come up with the money some other way and that is it, essentially, as I understand it. Am I correct?
MR. COCHRANE: There is an effort to identify default rates and the banks have been asking for this for a long time. We also deal with the whole private sector, in addition to the universities and community colleges our department looks after - I don't like to guess the number - 80-some, I think it is, private and career colleges in the province and we are quite aware of their default rates as well. That whole issue is being looked at but there has been no decision made and quite frankly, I would be very surprised if you saw any of the institutions in Nova Scotia that are publicly funded that would be de-designated in any kind of a process. Certainly, we are conscious of the default rates and what that causes as far as the cost of borrowing from government to provide student loans.
As Mr. Butler mentioned, UCCB's default rate has improved significantly and we also have to take - as has been suggested - a number of factors into consideration, one of which is the socio-economic role that that particular institution plays, which is very significant. I think all of those factors have to come in. Right now, all you really have to do to run a private institution is meet a certain criteria, apply, provide some statements, bond, et cetera, and a certain length of course and you are eligible for a student loan.
There have been court cases in the country where there has been action taken against governments because they have given student loans to students who have gone to institutions where they didn't get what they thought they were going to get in return. We are very conscious of that and we want to make sure that the buyer beware and that we at least have a way of identifying the success rate of certain institutions with regard to their students and their opportunities for employment.
MR. CHAIRMAN: We should remember that this is a public forum and that explanations would be most helpful for the viewing audience.
MR. MACKINNON: My next concern is with regard to the board of directors level of universities across this province. We have seen some rowing of the boat back and forth on the Acadia University legislation that is proposed. My understanding is, according to the figures, students now pay around 45 per cent of their total cost of education directly, but yet they only have anywhere from an 8 to 10 per cent voice at the board of directors level.
I hear this complaint not just in my community but across the province. In some cases, the board of directors is sometimes insensitive to a lot of the concerns that are raised by student bodies across the province. If they are paying, let's say, 45 per cent of the bill, shouldn't they have 45 per cent of the say on how their money is being spent?
Certainly, Manitoba has moved in that direction, to give a greater voice. I think, in many cases, we are dealing with situations where the old school of thinking doesn't seem to want to shake itself and get with the modern times.
DR. CLARK: The minister has raised this issue and it has been raised with her by the students. She, in turn, has certainly raised it with the chairs of the boards of governors. At this time, I think you are correct, about 10 or 12 per cent is the highest percentage of students represented on any of our boards. The Manitoba situation, they are up 25 per cent. So that is the sort of range, I think, we are looking at.
In most cases, the universities can accomplish this by putting representatives from the student bodies on their boards. It is an issue that is just sort of beginning to get some attention, Mr. MacKinnon, so I am assuming we will be hearing back from the universities in response to the minister's letter in the near future.
MR. MACKINNON: Is there a timetable for that particular proposal?
DR. CLARK: No, there isn't, because each of the boards appoint people at different times and in different categories. The boards vary from up to 37 people and down to about 15. We have a great variation in there when the vacancies are available and so on, so it is something that would take some time to implement.
MR. MACKINNON: When you say some time, are we looking at two years, five years?
DR. CLARK: Certainly more than one year. It is an invitation to the boards to consider this. I am sure they will come back and tell us why they will or why they won't in due course.
MR. MACKINNON: Okay. I would like to shift back over to the deputy minister, if I could. When we were discussing the Loan Remission Program, you made reference to the fact that an alternative was being considered. Could you give us some indication as to what your thought process is on that? What is this alternative, how far into the process is it and so on?
MR. COCHRANE: We are looking at loan remission and the components that were parts of loan remission, and the degree, I guess, of generosity of the program. That was one thing that is still being considered, where we are looking at the remnants of that and what was
available to it. Certainly, we are looking at the option that the member referred to a moment ago with regard to the governing Party's platform to see what kind of an option that would present.
I had a meeting last Thursday with CONSUP, which is the Council of Nova Scotia University Presidents, and suggested to them that we were open to discuss various options that they might come forward with as well, in a way that would deal with that.
In addition to that, in the new structure associated with the Nova Scotia Advisory Board on Universities and Colleges, we, for the first time, have added the issue of student loan and student financial assistance to their mandate. There had been, somewhere in the Statutes, a student aid committee, allegedly, that was supposed to be created which never was. There was never any student involvement in the discussion level about what kind of programs are out there. Even increased student activity on boards of governors wouldn't necessarily do that because, obviously, it is a government program.
The minister has undertaken to add some students to the advisory board. For the first time, we have added the whole question of student financial assistance to the advisory board's mandate and, in addition, as I mentioned, asking CONSUP for some recommendations. So we will be analysing a number of options that come forward and looking at other jurisdictions, as well, to see what they might do.
We do have to look at our relationship to student indebtedness in regard to the federal government. With the Millennium Scholarship Trust Fund and the millennium scholarships, it does make a difference. We want to look at what kind of trend is being developed, what students are being eligible for those programs, where they are from, what socio-economic levels and so on, to see if there is any kind of a program that we should look at that would complement that or, at least, at the end of the day, provide the greatest assistance to those who need it the most.
MR. CHAIRMAN: You have about 36 seconds.
MR. MACKINNON: Well, that's okay, Mr. Chairman. I will pass it along to my colleagues to the right who may need some extra time.
MR. CHAIRMAN: I have been running it at 23 minutes. That's what we did for the first two.
The honourable member for Pictou East.
[8:45 a.m. Mr. Russell MacKinnon resumed the Chair.]
MR. JAMES DEWOLFE: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Good morning, ladies and gentlemen.
So that I get it clear in my head, I would like to establish some numbers involved. First of all - and I think, perhaps, I can go to Deputy Minister Cochrane, and if you feel that you would like to pass it to someone else, then I, perhaps, leave that up to you.
Let's start by looking at the figures involved, with regard to the current number of students in this province. I would like to have some sort of an idea how many we are dealing with.
MR. COCHRANE: Approximately 35,000 in our universities and about 7,200 or so in our community college system. It is about 42,000 across the Province of Nova Scotia.
MR. DEWOLFE: Mr. Cochrane, you indicated that there was approximately 25 per cent from out of the province. Do you have a number for that, a figure for that?
MR. COCHRANE: Yes, we do. About 25 per cent, as we indicated, students come from outside the Province of Nova Scotia; 9,608 students were out-of-province students studying in Nova Scotia in 1998-99. Interestingly enough, in that same year, there were only 4,649 Nova Scotians studying outside of Nova Scotia. So we are a net importer of students in the area of 4,959 in 1998-99; 9,608 would be out-of-province students studying in Nova Scotia in 1998-99.
MR. DEWOLFE: So we are, indeed, a net importer of students.
MR. COCHRANE: It is an industry.
MR. DEWOLFE: It is, indeed. How would this compare with other provinces on a per capita basis, provinces experiencing similar trends, more students studying outside the province than they have importing and so on? Where are we with regard to that?
MR. COCHRANE: We would be near the top, as far as importers of students.
MR. DEWOLFE: Okay. That's very interesting, isn't it?
MR. COCHRANE: Yes.
MR. DEWOLFE: What contributes to that?
MR. COCHRANE: Well, we have the highest number of universities per capita in the country, as well, with 11 institutions in Nova Scotia; that, plus the reputation. Our universities have a very good reputation. There are very few medical schools, for example, in the country.
Automatically, that existence and the relationship that we have with New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island brings in students because of Dal's medical school and the dental school, and so on. But I think, generally, the reputation.
We would like to think the lifestyle in the province is conducive to students coming to what they perceive to be the ideal kind of university. In spite of the fact that the tuition is a bit higher, it has been a draw, but I think they feel the quality is definitely here in our institutions.
MR. DEWOLFE: Well, that is comforting to hear too, isn't it?
What about the international and national import? Is there a comparison there? How many from outside the country?
MR. COCHRANE: In 1997-98, we had 1,741 students coming into Nova Scotia from outside the country. We have a considerable effort to recruit. There are some long-standing relationships with the Nova Scotia universities in parts of the world and they do make efforts to recruit students from those areas. I think there are some joint efforts in the Maritime Provinces to go out and encourage students from other provinces to come to the Maritimes and it has been fairly successful. Obviously, there is room for more but 1,741 was the number in 1997-98.
MR. DEWOLFE: Over the past few years, has there been much change in enrolment, both in terms of the number of students, as well as the number of out-of-province students studying in the province? Perhaps Susan Clark, if you would. . .
MR. CHAIRMAN: Dr. Clark.
DR. CLARK: The overall student body has been increasing very slightly over the past five years. A little up and down sometimes, particularly with respect to part-time students, where there has been a decline in number. The full-time students have been fairly steady.
In the mid-1990's, the international students declined quite considerably. As a result of that, Economic Development now has a program to help the universities recruit international students and we are beginning to see those numbers turn around. This year they will be over the 1,700 that they were a couple of years ago, for instance.
MR. COCHRANE: It's interesting. We also, probably, have more foreign students in our high schools because of some programs that are operating in the Province of Nova Scotia. In fact, just two days ago, the minister wrote to all the international students in our high schools, inviting them to learn more about our universities. So we got them here in high school and now we are trying to keep them. That is a fairly successful program, as well. A
number of students last year who went to high schools in Nova Scotia did stay and add to that number of university or international students in our universities.
MR. DEWOLFE: Thank you, Mr. Cochrane. So I guess, in conclusion, we can say that Nova Scotia is one of the top provinces for importing students and, I guess, we can consider ourselves a national leader in post-secondary education.
MR. COCHRANE: I would think that is a fair assumption.
MR. DEWOLFE: So having said that, then we have to look at the federal funding. Let's examine the actual federal funding component.
Now, we talked about the CHST and so on. As I say, I want to get these figures clear in my mind, the actual funding component for post-secondary education in Canada. How much does the federal government contribute to post-secondary education, in terms of the national average here in Nova Scotia?
MR. COCHRANE: Compared to the national average. We have a pretty good summary of the federal contribution.
MR. DEWOLFE: On a per capita basis.
MR. COCHRANE: I don't know that we would have that statistic.
MR. DEWOLFE: With regard to the funding formula. Perhaps Dr. Clark.
DR. CLARK: We don't have it calculated on a per capita basis. What we have is that we know how much CHST comes into the province. Traditionally, something around 14 per cent of that money has gone into post-secondary. This year, for instance, we have got $523 million coming in through CHST. We would anticipate that around 14 per cent, 15 per cent of that would go to post-secondary.
The other big components of federal funding that we have alluded to are the student loans that come through as Canada student loans, the Millennium scholarships, which go to students as well. Then, really, research money that goes to the individual institutions, because their faculty members are successful in research competitions. So those are the big categories of money that are coming in from the federal government.
If we take the research grants, for instance, we were bringing in about $40 million last year in research money from federal sources to our institutions.
MR. DEWOLFE: But we are subsidizing the feds on this, the importing of students. The formula doesn't acknowledge the additional out-of-province students that we have coming in.
DR. CLARK: The CHST calculation is based on Nova Scotia's population not on the student population, that is correct.
MR. DEWOLFE: That is right, so the funding formula is not, I wouldn't consider it fair in that regard.
DR. CLARK: It is an interesting argument. The universities and I think the educational system, of course, has never wanted barriers to student mobility. You want our students to be able to move to Quebec or Ontario to take advantage of programs there that we don't have for instance and bringing students into our institutions has certainly grown them and strengthened them and given us a reputation on the national stage that we might not otherwise have had. It is a fairly complex argument as to who is subsidizing who I think.
MR. COCHRANE: We do know the number, approximately, in 1998 of the loss in fiscal transfers to Nova Scotia as a result of being a net importer of students, and that is about $25 million. Obviously a whole number of issues would come to the table if that debate were entered at the national scene, and that will be someone wiser than I who will decide to enter into that debate, but about $25 million from that time.
MR. DEWOLFE: I guess we can say that we have established that Nova Scotia is playing a role as a national leader in post-secondary education in this country, and yet we receive no additional funds to compensate for the much larger number per capita of out-of-province students who are coming in here. Would that be a fair statement?
MR. COCHRANE: Yes.
MR. DEWOLFE: Basically we are being punished here in Nova Scotia and the taxpayers are being punished for being a leader in post-secondary education.
MR. COCHRANE: On the calculations of those numbers, yes. There are a number of other factors, economic advantages that Nova Scotia gets as a result of having the extra number of students coming in, but as far as that particular debate, yes, that is probably . . .
MR. DEWOLFE: We are doing more than our share when it comes to educating Canadians, in fact as we established 25 per cent of the students enrolled in Nova Scotia universities are from out of the province, yet it is not reflected in the federal funding formula.
MR. COCHRANE: That is correct.
MR. DEWOLFE: Obviously. So Nova Scotia is being penalized for being a national leader, as I said. For the past number of years students have been confronted with rising tuition costs. Statistics Canada recently reported that the tuition has increased by 126.9 per cent since 1990-91, and students pay approximately $1,000 - that is kind of a fair figure - more than the national average for education, and we kind of skirted around that earlier. There is no denying that the cost of post-secondary education is on an increase at a phenomenal rate . . .
MR. COCHRANE: Yes.
MR. DEWOLFE: . . . across the country. Many out-of-province students are coming to Nova Scotia to receive their education. Certainly it is a testament to the quality of education that is being offered here in the institutions. Thank you. I think I will pass on to my colleague.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Mr. Barnet.
MR. BARRY BARNET: First of all, let me begin with somewhat of an opening statement. I have had the opportunity, I think as do many members of the Legislative Assembly, to participate in high school graduations with our constituents. Over the past three or four years, five years or actually eight years since I have been elected I have sat on the stage with the students of Millwood High School as they received their leaving certificate and graduated. I have been somewhat amazed. I remember the first time that I actually went to a graduating ceremony. The number of students who were receiving bursaries and support with tuition to post-secondary education I thought was absolutely phenomenal, I couldn't believe it. I don't recall it being the same when I graduated. That might be a testament to the students who were leaving when I was leaving school, hopefully not, but certainly I have been amazed each and every year. It seems to me that a larger and larger segment of the students are graduating high school and going on to universities and colleges across Nova Scotia and Canada, North America for that matter.
One of the things that has been brought to my attention, and I think it is something that the government needs to have a look at - and maybe we already are - is the fact that there are a number of students who are leaving high school, going into university, attending for one, two or more years and even getting a degree and then subsequently going on to community college to take a trade. I wonder if we have done a good job of directing those students to the right place in the first place. It has been brought to my attention that in many cases we have students who are plumbers with Bachelor of Arts degrees. Does it make sense that a plumber have a Bachelor of Arts degree? Does it make sense that we have plumbers who have taken science or any number of courses that have absolutely nothing to do with their trade and the job that they are going to be doing in the future?
My question to the Deputy Minister would be, what have we done? Do we recognize that as a major problem, and is there a way that we can turn this around so that we are better directing the leaving students where they ought to be going in the first place?
MR. COCHRANE: Certainly the question of students going to university is always one that is debated. It is interesting and I have tried to analyse why that happens. I think if you look at a student who graduated in the year 2000, they would have been born in 1982. Their parents were probably born in 1950, 1953, 1955, whatever, and that was very much the trend, particularly if you look at Nova Scotia, there was no community college system in those days. I think everybody aspired, in that generation that was growing up, and the answer was to go to university. We haven't turned that corner yet. There is a paradigm shift that has to happen. I suspect the children of these people, and yours I would assume, have looked at it in a different way.
Most people, of course, if you look at our education system, have to go through the university system to be a teacher. You have a tendency to promote what you know the best. We have an obligation to make sure that our teachers are exposed to the growth and what is happening in our community college system. Certainly the governments recognized that last year, the increase in budget to the community college was about $2.5 million, in an effort to let them expand some of the programs that they are offering. We know they are limited and they want to do more.
One of the answers to the question, I think, in the big picture is more articulated programs so that you could go to community college for two years and then go to a related university course and get recognition for that. This is happening across Canada and across North America, and quite frankly not as rapidly as I would like to see it happening in the Province of Nova Scotia, so we recognize that there is a relationship amongst our institutions and that two years in one would be recognized in the other. I ran into two students in one of the community colleges one day, I noticed they were, I thought, a little older than the crowd, and I basically said where have you been. Both had university degrees. I asked them if they would do it the same way again, one said yes and one said no, but they said no one will take my university degree away from me; I have my education, now I want my training, which was interesting.
We have to do a better job of articulating some of the programs so that you could take two years in civil engineering or civil technology at the community college and get two years credit at the university, should you decide to go into engineering. We have some work to do in that regard. I think the universities realize that. One of the things that will change that trend is the fact that in Nova Scotia we have more students going to universities than community colleges. When it gets more competitive, and it is getting more competitive, I think you will find an effort then by all the players to recognize that there is only one student and we have to get them into our institutions and get the kind of education that they should have, which would involve, in many cases, an articulated program.
MR. BARNET: I think that is good news, the fact that we have recognized the problem, the fact that we are making steps to correct it. I know I drive along the bottom of Burnside on a daily basis and have noticed recently at, I think it is Maritime Steel or one of the large welding shops, there is a big sign there, welders needed. It seems to me that in the days that I left high school that those signs would not have occurred, we would not have seen that. In fact, a lot of the people that I graduated high school with went on to become auto mechanics and welders. I kind of wonder if we have not left ourselves in a situation where we have jeopardized certain sectors of the economy, certain job sectors that are now in a situation where they are competing for employees.
There is one example and I am certain that there are other examples across this province and in metro, where we have companies that are now no longer competing for the business but they are competing for the employees to do the work. Although it seems like an enviable position to be in, it certainly isn't when a company has to bid on a project with the expectations of having to import workers from somewhere else, meanwhile we have Nova Scotian students who are unemployed and looking for work. To me it would make more sense that we focus our training and our education both at the university and the community college level at the job market rather than at whatever the whim is of the students.
In my last minute I want to bring to attention the article in The Mail Star, Bring back student relief loan, MLA says. We have had some discussion here today about that and one of the conclusions I have reached on this is the fact that it is difficult to assume that because of a budget this spring and the decision of this government to re-look at that particular line item in the budget, that suddenly in one of the community colleges, enrolment would drop as a result of that. We know that this program is an out-take program, it is not anything that affects enrolment, it affects the students as they leave.
To me, it is not even reasonable to assume that a student looking to enrol in university has gone down the list of the government's budget and said, because of this item I am no longer going to university. I wonder if there might be other reasons why the enrolment has declined there and maybe it is a trend and it is something that has to be looked at. Are the graduating students in that particular region, the number of students leaving high school, are they fewer and might that be a reason why the enrolment at the University College of Cape Breton is down? Could it be that the courses being offered there aren't something that are matched with the economy of Nova Scotia? Can we have some answers or some discussion around those areas?
MR. COCHRANE: A number of factors would affect that. There is no question, the number of students in public school in Nova Scotia is dropping by about 1,500 a year and this is a problem that we are coming to grips with. We have fewer students than we had before and how you adjust your budget to reflect that is an interesting debate that we have had with the superintendents recently. Certainly, the number of students available is dropping. A number of other factors affect that.
The community college is getting more aggressive and certainly, if you look at Marconi Campus and the proximity to UCCB, that is a factor. They are marketing themselves much better and we are proud of that, and fairly aggressive. All kinds of factors effect where students might go. There was a major faculty dispute in the last year at that institution and students have a tendency to want to go somewhere where they feel there is going to be stability and there are not going to be disruptions and so on and that is a factor. So there is a whole number of things that would contribute to that.
I suspect you are correct, that it wasn't a look at loan remission alone. In fact, I don't know if Dr. Clark or Dr. Boivin-Cole can speak to it but tuition is only one of the factors affecting students' decisions to go to university and it is not the number one factor and that is interesting. In fact, if you really want to look at the cost and it is interesting because we always focus on what happens to tuition, but if you look at what happens to residence fees, it is the sleeper because we are all looking at tuition and of course, it has to reflect the pressures, the housing costs and all of those things that go along with it. The fuel increase is going to have an impact upon tuition, upon residence fees; all of those things are affected by it.
I don't know if Dr. Clark or Dr. Boivin-Cole want to speak to the factors that contribute to where the students go or not?
DR. CLARK: I think I mentioned earlier that tuition is the smaller part of the total year's cost, particularly if you are going away from home. We argue it would cost about $12,000 a year for a student to go through university - a little less for the college because the tuition is less - of which about $4,000 is tuition, the rest are living costs, books and so on. So it is that total figure, I think, that students look at when they are making a decision whether to go and where they will go.
Certainly, it is a less expensive option to be able to go to university in your hometown which, I think, speaks to what Carmelita was saying earlier, about why students go sometimes and why they choose not to go. If there is a university in close proximity it is a much easier option to consider than it is if you really have to travel a long distance to get there.
MR. CHAIRMAN: That concludes the Progressive Conservative caucus' time. We will go into our second round of questioning. We have approximately 44 minutes left so we will leave a few minutes at the end, if it is agreeable, 13 minutes for each caucus?
MR. DEXTER: I am just going to take a couple of minutes here and then turn things over to Mr. Holm. Just on Mr. DeWolfe's point, Nova Scotia has been a net importer of students probably from time immemorial; they certainly were in the 1970's. I assume that for as long as recorded figures exist, Nova Scotia has been a net importer, is that not true?
(Interruption) Yes, I agree we may be a national leader in that but it is not something that certainly this government could take credit for if that is what they were seeking to do, it is just a fact of life.
I am going to tell you in blunt terms what I have gleaned from this morning is that student debt is up, the contribution of governments in real dollars is down, and the poor are out. That is what is happening in universities today. I want to discuss with you a very specific example. I have a constituent in my riding, she was on social assistance and applied to go to university at Saint Mary's University. She decided that to do that she would leave social assistance and take student loans. She applied to have her total living cost taken into account when she applied for her Nova Scotia student loan. They have refused to do that. They have insisted that she is on social assistance, despite the fact that she filed with them notice of her termination from the Department of Community Services. I spoke with officials in the department and they said, well, she couldn't possibly be off social assistance or not have some other source of income because what we give is not sufficient for people to live on.
Now, there are two things at work here. One is why would you want to force somebody back on to social assistance if they had made the decision to get off? The second thing is, if you recognize that it is not a sufficient amount of money to live on, then why aren't you doing something about it?
MR. COCHRANE: The general question first and maybe I will throw it over to Mr. Butler after that. The whole notion of people going to university or government assistance, either federal or provincial, is not meant to completely support the lifestyle of an individual in its totality. It is not a ticket to go to university and have this as my lifestyle and I don't think a student lifestyle is extravagant, although some may be more than others, but it is meant to be assistance in that regard, as opposed to covering the complete cost of living. Those are factors that are taken into consideration in the formula. I suspect the formula, as it exists, which is probably the essence of your question, would give that person the maximum that would be available.
MR. DEXTER: No, in fact, not. In fact, I guess this is what I find so disturbing, is that they refuse to assess her because they insist that she must have some other income, despite the fact that we filed with them all of the documentation. I would be pleased to give you the particulars of this file number for you to see for yourself at an appropriate time. It confounds me how it is that we keep talking about getting people off these kinds of systems, promoting lifelong education, moving people through the system so that they can become productive members of society and here we have a perfect example of a person trying to do that and what she finds is just brick wall after brick wall.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Mr. Butler do you want to speak to this?
MR. BUTLER: Generally, the normal situation, depending on the person's need, the maximum that individual would receive to go to university would be $10,760. Now I would have to know the individual case and look at it to see why she didn't even come close to $10,760. Normally, based on the criteria of financial need and parental contribution - and I assume this person is independent so there is no parental contribution required - the maximum for a university loan is $10,760.
MR. DEXTER: I understand that, I am just saying she has fallen through the cracks for whatever reason. I would be happy to pass the information along.
MR. BUTLER: I would appreciate that.
MR. COCHRANE: If you could do that and give us the specific individual, we will take a look at the application.
MR. CHAIRMAN: The honourable member for Sackville-Cobequid.
MR. JOHN HOLM: It would be interesting to know what the particular student's age is because that sometimes comes into it, in terms of what the student loan deems the parents will or will not be doing.
A few things, if I could. First of all, could you tell me what the total cost to Nova Scotia is for defaults, approximately, in student loans?
MR. COCHRANE: Well, we have been paying a risk premium to the bank and I believe it was 10 per cent in the last budget year. Of the total envelope, we pay that to cover the defaults. The banks have no longer agreed to extend that kind of provision and we have had to go into a different arrangement for the future. This is a problem across the country and we have had discussions among deputies and ministers . . .
MR. HOLM: Yes, I am just wondering what that 10 per cent would have worked out to, a round figure.
MR. COCHRANE: The risk premium was $2.5 million in 1998-99.
MR. HOLM: Now, we talked about the number of students and that there were 35,000 in university, a little over 7,000 in community colleges. How many in private trade schools?
MR. BUTLER: That is a tough one because they have continuous intake.
MR. HOLM: You must keep records of approximately how many on an annual basis. I know that some courses can be of different durations.
MR. BUTLER: Yes. Probably in the order of 5,600.
MR. HOLM: So almost as many as at the community college.
MR. BUTLER: Yes.
MR. HOLM: Now, in terms of defaults, we have had some discussion about the percentage for universities and community colleges. How do the default rates at the private trade schools compare to the universities and community colleges?
MR. BUTLER: For some private trade schools, substantially higher.
MR. HOLM: What does that mean? What kind of figures are we talking about? Are there some of them up in the 80 per cent, 90 per cent range?
MR. BUTLER: They are up over 50 per cent.
MR. HOLM: Now, is that as a general rule across the board with the private trade schools, or is that a few at the 80-plus per cent or at the 50 per cent rate?
MR. BUTLER: The greater percentage are over 50 per cent.
MR. HOLM: So the greater percentage of them are defaulting at over 50 per cent. In community colleges, programs are evaluated. You determine if a particular program will continue to be offered. One of the criteria you looked at is if jobs are going to be available in that particular field.
First of all, you said there are a little over 80 private trade schools. There are a lot more courses than that because some of them offer numbers of courses, so there are hundreds of courses. Could you tell me how many staff within the department are involved in evaluating the courses that are offered by those private trade schools? How many staff are strictly allocated towards private trade schools?
MR. BUTLER: Professional staff, four, and clerical staff, two.
MR. HOLM: What do the professional do?
MR. BUTLER: Well, they are responsible for all of the aspects of the registration of a private trade school which includes, for a private trainer, to operate in the province as a result of the new Act and the new regulations. They must present a business plan for their operation. They must register each of the courses that they are going to conduct in their premises and provide an industry review of that curriculum to ensure that it is meeting the
needs of the labour market out there today. Plus, a number of other criteria, such as to ensure the bond is in place, to ensure that the fire marshal's report has been done and . . .
MR. HOLM: A lot of technical things.
MR. BUTLER: Yes.
MR. HOLM: I have a teacher's licence so I basically go out and open up a private trade school if I can get the financial backing and come up with an idea for a course that I want to offer. I don't think much has changed in that regard. If I want to start up a course in travel and tourism, for example, and I get a location where I want to set it up and have the financial backers, I can do it, and then charge . . .
MR. BUTLER: If you meet all the criteria, sir.
MR. HOLM: Yes, if I meet the criteria. However, the question is, and where I come back to, you have a detailed program to evaluate community colleges and the courses that are being offered. I would suggest to you that you don't have the same kind of rigorous evaluation of the private trade schools. Yet, the students who are attending those private trade schools - and a lot of those private trade schools are excellent. I am not trying to cast a blanket over them all. A lot of them, I would suggest, are excellent and offer excellent programs - but as Mr. Cochrane said, it is buyer beware, in large part. That is buyer beware on behalf of the students, but it is also buyer beware on behalf of the province.
We are paying risk premiums, or we were. We are now losing the old regime. Part of the reason why, I would suggest, has to do with the default rates, in part, at some of those private trade schools, which are affecting the university and the community college systems, and all the students, therefore, who attend them. If the Department of Education registers a private trade school, that is the same as giving the CHST's stamp of approval. It is saying that it meets all the requirements, that it is a good program.
I would like to know what the department is doing to toughen up the evaluation of those private trade schools so that those ones abusing it are shut down and I would also like to know, how many of them have lost their designation over the last year?
MR. CHAIRMAN: Could we have a one minute answer, Mr. Butler?
MR. BUTLER: There have been no undesignated private trade schools in the past year but I think if you talk to private trainers, they would be saying that the registration process this year was too rigorous. They were being asked to provide things that the Nova Scotia Community College does not have to provide on the programming side. You are quite right, that for the college, they have program advisory committees and so on, but private
industry says that the public college system gets off easy. The private trainer thinks the new Act and its regulations are too rigorous.
We have put in place, for the first time, industry reviews requirements. The second thing that has been put in place is that there will be a graduate follow-up survey on graduates of private trainers. Obviously, thirdly, we will be checking with the new designation policy, those areas, because you are quite right. Students have to be assured that when they go into a program, that that program means the opportunity for a job when they are completed. I think the measures that have been put in place with the new Act and regulations will start to deal with those issues.
[9:28 a.m. Mr. David Morse took the Chair.]
MR. CHAIRMAN: The honourable member for Cape Breton West, for the Liberal caucus.
MR. MACKINNON: Mr. Chairman, I would like to go back to the deputy minister, if I could. With regard to the Millennium Scholarship Program that was announced earlier - and I understand each province has a responsibility in how that scholarship is disbursed - where does that stand with the Province of Nova Scotia?
MR. COCHRANE: Last year, 1999-2000, which was the initial year this became available, we had in the Province of Nova Scotia 3,084 students who received $8.976 million in awards under the Millennium Scholarship Program.
MR. MACKINNON: How is it being disbursed?
MR. COCHRANE: First of all, you have to be in your second year in order to take advantage of that opportunity. It is based on an award in relation to the student loan that you receive. I think, basically, 95 per cent of the Millennium scholarship is based on need and about 5 per cent based on merit. That was on agreement, kind of, across the country. In different jurisdictions it may be a little bit different.
We don't have much of a mechanism in the student loan process to recognize merit, it is all based on need. Basically, the bulk of their money is tied in with the student need and what they have been awarded as their student loan.
MR. MACKINNON: So you're telling me the province has this money but has no particular criteria, or has access to this money. . .
MR. COCHRANE: We don't get the money.
MR. MACKINNON: Okay.
MR. COCHRANE: The money is paid directly by the federal government to the bank. The student doesn't even touch it.
MR. MACKINNON: Where does the province fit in this process? Do they determine the terms of reference by which the student would receive it?
MR. CHAIRMAN: Mr. Butler.
MR. BUTLER: Mr. Chairman, through you, to Mr. MacKinnon. The Millennium scholarship - we are given an allocation based on our population. So for Nova Scotia's population, of the total amount of fund in the Canadian Millennium Foundation, we get $8.9 million.
Since it goes to students in need, those students who apply under student assistance and have a certain threshold of loan, then we provide the Millennium scholarships on a first-come, first-served basis. So if you get your application there early and between $7,000 and $8,500 in loan assistance is required, you will get a $2,000 Millennium scholarship. Then it goes up from that: $8,500 to $9,500 is a $2,500 grant; $9,500 to $10,500 is $3,000 and if you have a loan over $10,500, you get the maximum which is $3,500.
MR. MACKINNON: I'm getting, through you, Mr. Chairman, some conflicting messages. What I am hearing here today and what I have heard from the student bodies, the student union Presidents across the province seems to be a different story altogether.
Before coming to the Public Accounts Committee, I have asked our research staff to speak with them of the issues surrounding this particular scholarship fund. What they have told us is that every province in the country has had to provide a report to the federal government on how they would be disbursing these funds and that doesn't appear to be the case with Nova Scotia. Am I correct on that?
MR. BUTLER: Absolutely incorrect. Any requirement of the Canadian Millennium Scholarship Foundation has been met in full, so it is untrue.
Now, if the students are suggesting - which is possible - that according to the foundation, as a result of the Millennium scholarships being introduced in Nova Scotia, Nova Scotia would save $3.5 million in student aid assistance; that may be an issue.
We have asked the Millennium Foundation to provide us the analysis whereby they arrived at $3.5 million. The foundation has not provided us with that analysis. Until they do, it is difficult for us to respond to statements that are being made, indicating that we were having a saving of $3.5 million as a result of these scholarships being introduced.
I also think it is fair to say that when we signed the Millennium Scholarship Agreement - and that was the former Minister of Education, Wayne Gaudet - that we guaranteed to the foundation that we would spend no less on student assistance than, I believe the figure is $14.8 million.
Since that time, we have spent more than $14.8 million. In fact, we have spent $22.8 million and $28.2 million, and probably this year, $16 million.
MR. MACKINNON: Perhaps, Mr. Butler, you could supply us with the written detail on that topic. That would certainly help to remove a cloud . . .
MR. BUTLER: Yes, that is not a problem.
MR. MACKINNON: . . . and some confusion, maybe, and misunderstanding.
My next question is to the deputy minister. I understand earlier this year, this summer in fact, the minister did a tour of the universities across the province. Is that correct?
MR. COCHRANE: I understand she went to a number.
MR. MACKINNON: My understanding is that she attended every one or practically every one except for the one in Cape Breton. It is a point that I raise because I find it personally concerning, myself. There may be a logical reason. I did have a meeting with the student union representatives at UCCB, and they were quite distressed about the fact that in their conversations with the minister's EA, he advised them that the reason she did not go to UCCB was because she feared for her life. I find that distressing, when that type of conversation is permeated down to the university level, to any one community of the province. It may be totally fallacious but I find it concerning.
I find the student body at UCCB very responsible. For that type of conversation to even be raised I find very distressing. As you can appreciate, there is still some apprehension and concern about the brochure that was put around during election time with the minister and Sysco. That is politics and I understand that, but when we take it to the next level, that I find very stressing, because we are all Nova Scotians, we are all citizens and we like to be treated as such. I would ask, through you, Mr. Chairman, that that particular issue be addressed.
MR. COCHRANE: I should address that. I believe, Mr. Chairman, that at the time the minister was doing the tour of the universities, at the request of the president of UCCB, the meeting was held off-campus due to a fair amount of labour unrest that it would have probably served no purpose to have the minister injected into the middle of. A meeting did take place, I understand, in Sydney but not on campus. Additionally, I have met with the
president of UCCB on two occasions. I am going up in November to tour the campus and meet with the president.
In addition to that - and I agree with your comments about the student council president - he has just been appointed to the advisory board of universities and colleges for the province. There has been recognition of his commitment and his understanding of the issues facing students at UCCB and elsewhere. I think factors were in place for a reason, and certainly I am looking forward to my visit at the campus in November.
MR. CHAIRMAN: The honourable member for Dartmouth East.
DR. JAMES SMITH: Mr. Chairman, how much time do we have? I think it is about three minutes.
MR. CHAIRMAN: It depends on whether the member for Cape Breton West and the real Chairman wants to make it 14 minute sessions because the first one went 14.
DR. SMITH: We won't argue about that, because I am really not going to do much damage here this morning.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Shall we say 5 minutes and go with 14.
DR. SMITH: Fine. To me it has been very interesting, and I don't mind admitting, a learning experience. I look at the various systems in our province, health care that I have worked in, our Legislature and others, and I look at the university system and I really find it quite confusing even though I have probably had as much interest as any other Nova Scotian in this. There are some issues. The universities are really one of the pillars of our society. If you look at the Legislature, our churches, and the universities are there. I am always interested in the boards, and some boards come to us, as legislators, with their problems. We see that on a current basis.
I know you can't compare one system with the other. I look at the health care system and the universities and I see many similarities. If you follow the dollar - we spend a lot of time here speaking of money and students - through either system, how much gets down to the patient in the health care system and how much gets down to the student? Where are the voices? We saw the regional boards disbanded last fall. There are really no voices for the consumer in Nova Scotia in a really organized sense since the disbandment by the government of that. It was brought up here earlier this morning, where does the consumer, where do the students, and I guess society as a whole as a consumer, so the boards are somewhat representative, but what is the role of the student there?
There are other issues as well, the accountability of administration and the role of advocacy for certain groups - I think of single mothers I have seen struggling through university - and the universities not necessarily being on the cutting edge to support those people. As legislators I think we look at that sometimes. I have been very impressed. I don't want to get into that, and I think these are discussions for another day. The issue of personal safety in universities, I have a real concern about females. What I have seen in my time as a physician is what I would consider to be the cover-up, where the male student, if he perpetrated the rape or whatever it was, is just whisked away, particularly if he is an athlete, and he is more likely to stay on campus. I think this goes on. I hear this from students today, the issue of personal safety, and whether the criminal justice is being subverted in this issue.
This is a whole different area here, and I should not be bringing up issues that are embarrassing the government, and I don't mean that. This is really a complex issue and it is a fascinating system, I think, to deal with, and one that certainly has my respect, our universities; the positive initiatives in the private sector - we see the Sobey group at Saint Mary's, we see Irving at Acadia, even the universities of DalTech - and the money that has come in from the United States that I recognize, and that whole issue of funding and how complex it is.
That is all I wanted to comment on. I know we have centred on some very small issues here but we are dealing with a very large system, it is very complex. It is a credit that we have these universities in this province, and we haven't spoken of the universities so much as a job creator, but we have talked about the brain-drain a little bit. I think all of these research monies that come in from the States and the pharmaceutical companies and all the others are really creating high-paying, good jobs in this province. There is a lot to be proud of in this province.
I would end with my question, briefly, on the Canadian Foundation for Innovation in relationship with the feds and the universities and the province, what is the status of the participation of the province at this time in that particular program? We are hearing that the province is the partner that is not coming up to bat. Is that true, and what is the status?
[9:42 a.m. Mr. Russell MacKinnon resumed the Chair.]
MR. COCHRANE: Certainly the CFI awards to Nova Scotia so far, as to July 2000, have been in the area of about $14.8 million divided among the universities. We have been attempting to provide some provincial contributions, and they basically come from three sources, two we have been able to kind of develop and one we are still working on, I guess a fourth would be the provincial contribution through our grants to universities and so on and some special projects that we occasionally get involved in.
Through the economic development agreement, there have been contributions and that, of course, a program that is federal and provincial; ACOA, there has been involvement there and provinces have supported applications and support; the new program, the new initiative announced by the federal government, the AIP, in my discussions with university presidents last week, which is not finalized so we are not able to tap into that yet; and a number of those areas where the province has supported spending federal and provincial money that is in those agreements to assist with regard to CFI.
DR. SMITH: I know my time is over, but what you are saying is most of the provincial participation in the earlier Canadian . . .
MR. CHAIRMAN: I am sorry, your time is over.
The honourable member for Preston.
MR. HENDSBEE: Mr. Chairman, I have a couple of quick questions I would like to ask. In regard to some of the comments that were made earlier about the decline in secondary student numbers and also with the enrolment numbers adjusting at the universities, I also look at the statistics and see that even the part-time enrolments have been dropping over the years or have now levelled off. Could I ask where in the future do you think that the student body, the composition demographics are going to be? Are we going to have an older, mature student audience who are going back for continued education and lifelong learning? If we do have a changed demographic in the student body, what about the ability to pay? Will these be adults or older students who have been working elsewhere to be able to afford tuition? Any comments on those, please?
MR. COCHRANE: I think there is a fair number of older people entering university and community college now, in other words that have been out of school for a year or two or three or four and have seen that there is an opportunity for them there. I am sure there are some statistics as to where that cohort is. Certainly that is a big part, and particularly if you look at the part-time side of the university population, it does make a difference. One thing about the universities is they have not made it easy to be a part-time student, which is a very positive thing. I don't want to deceive you that our population is dropping, but basically because the primary class is getting smaller than the graduating class, we still have some larger numbers coming out of the system which will have an effect over a long period of time.
Obviously we are going to continue to recruit international students and students from out of province to come into Nova Scotia to complement what is happening here and to take advantage of our educational opportunities. Hopefully a number of them will not only contribute to the economy while they are here but they will stay if they can find opportunities in Nova Scotia; many of them have. It is a challenge to universities, because there are more institutions now competing for a smaller number of people.
We have to continue to capitalize on other opportunities; the double cohort that is going to go through Ontario is an opportunity for us because they have taken Grade 13 out, so all of a sudden you are going to have a different cohort coming through. Everyone is kind of looking at that and saying hey, there are a number of opportunities here in Nova Scotia for those students. We are making it clear that they would be very welcome.
It is going to be a continuing problem because the number of people available to go right out of high school is changing, so we have to make adaptations for older students to go; there may be student loan adjustments needed in that regard. All those things contribute to it, but we have a job to do in that regard. The universities are aware of that and continue to work at it.
MR. HENDSBEE: That also leads to my second question in regard to the recruitment of students beyond Nova Scotia, be it either provinces or internationally. What is the current policy and practices of the differential fees that are being charged? Do the federal and provincial governments penalize the institutions for collecting those differential fees, or will the universities become a commodity-driven institution and be out marketing their programs to these students?
MR. COCHRANE: I will ask Dr. Clark to address that.
DR. CLARK: In terms of differential fees, there are a number of different things that are occurring. For Canadian students who come into Nova Scotia universities and indeed universities across the country, there is no differential fee with the exception of Quebec. So whether I am from Halifax or Toronto or Vancouver, if I am studying in Wolfville I pay the same tuition fee for my Bachelor of Science degree. There are, however, different fees for different programs, so if you are going to Dal the fee you will pay for medicine is different from the fee you will pay for a B.Sc. or a B.A. degree. As a Canadian, I would pay the same fee.
International students, the universities can charge extra fees, and most of them I would say are charging close to double what they would charge Canadian students. That is an assessment they make because of the extra services they may have to give to those students. There are requirements for health care, for instance, insurance and so on. That money stays with the university.
In terms of Quebec, their fees are very low but they charge extra fees for students coming from outside their province. Even with those extra fees, they are still about the same as our students would pay there. So there is a differential fee, but it is not a very high differential fee. I think those were the points you raised.
MR. DEWOLFE: Mr. Chairman, talking about other federal contributions, one that comes to mind is the CFI, the Canadian Foundation for Innovation. I feel that these funds are being given out on a per capita basis, and therefore larger provinces receive more, creating a widening gap between the larger and smaller provinces like Nova Scotia, and large institutions that require more faculty as a result. So there is a drain on our researchers and a drain on our faculty and professors and so on to perhaps larger provinces where the large institutions are and it is a concern to me. Maybe you could just give a very quick answer, Dr. Clark.
DR. CLARK: The CFI funds are actually awarded on the basis of a competition, except for the smaller institutions here that have a reserve amount. So we have done reasonably well on that reserve amount for the small institutions. Dalhousie has to compete with every other large research institution across the country. It is difficult because although they are large in our terms, they are small compared to U of T or the University of British Columbia and so on.
MR. CHAIRMAN: The honourable member for Kings South.
MR. DAVID MORSE: Mr. Chairman, I would like to direct this to Mr. Cochrane. We have heard a lot of interesting information today that I am sure would be of interest to Nova Scotians. Some of the underlying problems we have though with funding our universities would seem to go back to your pointing out that the Canada Health and Social Transfer has basically been cut by about 20 per cent over the last five years. That is the federal amount. Despite the difficulties that this has imposed on the province, we have managed to increase the provincial share somewhat.
You have also spoken about how, in essence, about twice as many out-of-province students come to Nova Scotia as Nova Scotian students go out of province to other Canadian universities. You have also touched on the fact that there is nothing in the funding formula for the Canada Health and Social Transfer to recognize the universities that are actually paying the cost of educating those Canadians. Furthermore, you put a dollar amount on it of about $25 million, that that is what it is costing us.
Now, for all those university students who are presently out there and starting with them, how much more are they paying in tuition this year because the federal government does not recognize, who is providing the cost of their education? What does $25 million mean per student? Approximately.
MR. COCHRANE: I have no idea. Obviously if we had that extra $25 million it would represent about 13 per cent of the provincial contribution to the universities. In other words, we give $201 million now, we could give $226 million in that case. That would obviously have an impact, but as far as the actual number, I really wouldn't know what it would be.
MR. MORSE: Well, it may be a little unfair to ask you that question without a calculator, but let's take a look at the flip side. Now for all those students who have gone through university and suffered through these increasing tuitions which are driven primarily because of cuts to the federal transfers, how much debt load are they now carrying today that they might not have otherwise, if the federal government had maintained its contribution to secondary education?
MR. COCHRANE: Again, I could only guess. There is an amount, there is no question about that, the calculation of which would be very difficult to present.
MR. MORSE: It is an honourable thing to educate Canadians, whether it is in the public school system, whether it is in the secondary school system, and it is an honourable thing to care for seniors with our health care system, but unfortunately the Canada Health and Social Transfer does not recognize Nova Scotia's commendable contribution to Canada. I wish they would address this so that we can address some of the things that have been brought up here today. Thank you.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Unless you would like to respond to that.(Interruptions) That is correct, I heard an honourable member make reference to Joseph Howe. One of his famous quotes is, "I know the value of education by the lack of it." With that having been said, on behalf of the committee we would like to thank all our guest panellists for appearing, answering and providing us with some great detail. I believe it has been very productive.
Now we can move on to a number of housekeeping matters. Also as a note of information, we do have our Auditor General, Mr. Roy Salmon and his assistant, Elaine Morash in attendance. We have the national highway system scheduled here in the Legislature for next Wednesday morning. We did receive a letter from the Regional Director General of the Atlantic Region for Transport Canada, G. Berigan, who indicated by letter - I'm not sure if this was passed out to members of the committee - his reasons for not being able to attend. I wanted to make a note of that.
We also received a list of suggested topics for the Public Accounts Committee submitted by Mr. Holm, on behalf of the NDP caucus. I would conjecture at this point both Liberal and Tory caucuses now have it in hand, so that we can consider that next week, or we'll save a few minutes to consider some of their proposals.
Also, my conversation a little earlier with Mr. DeWolfe, with regard to the ones that the Liberal caucus submitted, is that in general agreement, some of them or all of them? Just so we can keep the agenda flow going to the end of the year.
MR. DEWOLFE: Certainly, if you number them one to six there, two, three and four are the ones we would consider currently.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Two, three and four?
MR. DEWOLFE: Yes, the fuel tax, student aid and Access Nova Scotia.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Sure.
MR. DEWOLFE: I guess the vice-chairman would like to have a word.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Yes.
MR. HOLM: I haven't heard what he is saying. I can't hear.
MR. DEWOLFE: What I indicated was, the fuel tax review, the student aid program and Access Nova Scotia would be in keeping with our thoughts at the current time.
MR. HOLM: The Liberals and Tories have approved those ones?
MR. DEWOLFE: Yes.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Yes. Now, is it generally agreed? Okay, Mr. Morse.
MR. MORSE: Mr. Chairman, what I would suggest, in view of the number of topics that we ended up approving last meeting, was, why not pick out one from those three that you deem to be most expedient and you can take it that we would continue to approve other ones, but rather than run this list right into February - and other things may come up which may be more timely - why not pick the one that is of greatest interest to the Liberal Party and put that on. We will keep this for future reference. I think the NDP has indicated a number of topics they would like to consider.
We would also like to vote on the one with regard to the provincial credit rating which, really, is just talking about the importance of keeping the confidence of the credit rating agencies and what the impact would be on Nova Scotia.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Generally speaking, Mr. Morse, in a case like this - and, Mr. Holm, you are an experienced member here - we have put two or three of them in the mix, just in case some witnesses cannot appear at certain times, just to have a few in storage. Otherwise, if we hit a snag with one and then all of a sudden, everything comes to a log head. We are fairly flexible on it.
If your caucus supports all three; whatever the priority is, in terms of the timetable, we're easy on that, one way or the other.
MR. MORSE: Could I ask that a vote be taken, then, on our number one as well and that that be considered for a session this fall? If you want to put two or three on the caucus . . .
MR. CHAIRMAN: What is number one? I don't have it right here.
MR. MORSE: It had to do with the provincial credit rating.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Okay, yes, sure.
MR. MORSE: The purpose of putting that on, Mr. Chairman, just to clarify this, is that I think that. . .
MR. CHAIRMAN: Do you want to make a motion?
MR. MORSE: Yes, all right. I would move that we vote on the Department of Finance credit rating of the province, the importance of achieving a balanced budget and there were some possible witnesses put down there by staff.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Would all those in favour of the motion, please say Aye. Contrary minded, Nay.
The motion is carried.
The reference to our list, two, three and four of the Liberal caucus list. Is that agreed?
Okay, two, three and four. Perhaps, Dr. Smith, if you want to make a motion that we approve the fuel tax revenue, student aid program and Access Nova Scotia. The motion is moved.
DR. SMITH: I so move.
Would all those in favour of the motion, please say Aye. Contrary minded, Nay.
The motion is carried.
Mr. Langille and then Mr. Holm.
MR. WILLIAM LANGILLE: Mr. Chairman, the expediency that we are putting these forward every week, now, I know that the research team is not having enough time. Is there any way that we can alternate the weeks and have a briefing like they used to do, one week prior, at the Dennis Building?
MR. CHAIRMAN: That's generally what we do but I think, in this particular case, because of some of the issues and I believe the Auditor General has indicated that time factor and the complexity of some of the issues, they were pretty demanding. That is why we didn't have a briefing going into this and so on. Am I correct in that, Roy?
MR. ROY SALMON: Well, none of the issues that you currently have on your agenda has been the subject of recent audits by my office so I have no basis to provide you with any kind of briefing on them.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Bear in mind, each caucus has a responsibility to do their homework. The fact that we are doing this process - we are the only jurisdiction in Canada, I believe, that does this, that tries to provide as much information as we can to the individual caucuses to help prepare, so it would be very informative and detailed.
MR. LANGILLE: Sure, I realize that. I think that we probably have more on the agenda than the norm in other provinces, too. We probably do more in the Public Accounts Committee than any other province. Is that correct? I think that is what I got at our last meeting.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Yes, we are right in the mix, according to Mora. We are just in line. Actually, with the summer taken off, the last three or four months, that was unprecedented. Generally, we would only have a month off, max, for the summer months.
MR. HOLM: I'll put a motion on the floor, too, one that had been previously approved by this committee; that is, the Sysco sale. I move that we put that back on the agenda.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Mr. Morse?
MR. MORSE: I'm not looking for the question. We are quite happy to entertain all the NDP suggestions in a caucus forum, subcaucus or subcommittee forum and discuss them and bring it back. We are not prepared to vote on them until we have had the opportunity to consider them within our own subcaucus.
Mr. Chairman, there is still a motion on the floor but I would like to speak to something that you said a moment ago.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Mr. Holm.
MR. HOLM: That was a topic, of course, that had been approved by this committee previously, prior to the June vote that wiped the committee clean. I would think that the Tory caucus had already had an opportunity to discuss it before they voted and put it on at that time. I'm just trying to bring it back.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Would all those in favour of the motion, please say Aye. Contrary minded, Nay.
The motion is defeated.
MR. MORSE: Mr. Chairman, I just want to make reference to your comment about the precedent here, the meeting of the Public Accounts Committee. As I think the committee is aware, a lot of Public Accounts Committees in the country only meet while the Legislature is actually in session and, historically, in Nova Scotia, the only time that this committee remained active was during the minority government during Casinogate.
MR. CHAIRMAN: That's not true. I sat on the committee. I know to the contrary.
MR. MORSE: I would like the opportunity next week then, publicly, to give a record of the amount of activity on the Public Accounts Committee since the early 1990's, which I have in my possession.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Mora will provide that.
MR. MORSE: I think it came from her and it has been a pretty quiet committee for the last decade, with the exception of that one year, in the summertime.
MR. CHAIRMAN: In the summer. We always took a month off. That was it, yes.
MR. MORSE: Well, I think you will find that, traditionally, we have not been active in the summer.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Mr. Holm.
MR. HOLM: I don't really know where this discussion is going. It is just a little bit of one-upmanship, I guess.
Certainly, there were times back in the 1980's when this committee met when the House was not in session, and that is quite fortunate because back in those days we only had one session which was during the spring, so the committee wouldn't have done much. There have been occasions. Unless we are going to be dealing with something a little bit more
substantive, I would move that the committee now rise as we have passed the hour of adjournment.
MR. CHAIRMAN: We are adjourned.
[The committee adjourned at 10:05 a.m.]