STANDING COMMITTEE ON PUBLIC ACCOUNTS
Mr. William Estabrooks
If I could draw your attention to a couple of business matters before we welcome our visitors and introduce ourselves, I would like to, with the advice of Mora, save a few minutes, perhaps 10, with the agreement of the committee, 10 minutes at the end so that we could firm up our next list of witnesses. Hopefully you have in your package, members of the Legislature, the lists that have been submitted by the Liberal, government and NDP caucuses. So if we could, with agreement and, of course, it depends on how things go during the next hour or so, but if we could, at 9:50 a.m., save a few moments there to firm that up because, as you are well aware, we do need a lead time of three weeks, in most cases, so that the packages can be put together and that legislative staff can do the work to make sure that we have witnesses lined up.
For the information of committee members who perhaps were not in attendance at the last organizational meeting, next Wednesday we have officials here from the Department of Education and the following Wednesday we have requested that we will be having Knowledge House people in attendance at that meeting.
Before we begin, I think it is customary that we introduce ourselves or I introduce you. Which is the best way to do this. Maybe we should test the microphones, too, correct? So if we could begin with my colleague at the far end, could you go ahead, Mr. Steele?
[The committee members introduced themselves.]
MR. CHAIRMAN: Thank you, and I am Bill Estabrooks, the MLA for Timberlea-Prospect.
This morning we are pleased to have officials here from the Department of Tourism and Culture. We have Ms. Marsha Andrews, who is the Executive Director of the Tourism Division; Mr. Paul Stackhouse, who is the Chairman of the Tourism Partnership Council; and Mr. Rick Young, the Manager of Trade Development. I am under the impression that Marsha, you are going to lead off. Is that correct?
MS. MARSHA ANDREWS: Yes. Paul and I. In kind of beginning our presentation this morning, we are officials, I guess, from tourism. Some of us work for the Department of Tourism and Culture. Some of us, in Paul's case, he is the senior representative of the Tourism Partnership Council of which the department is an obvious partner but this is very much a partnership, the way that tourism operates, developing marketing and product development these days. So actually, I am going to let Paul start.
MR. PAUL STACKHOUSE: Thank you, Marsha. I guess as a lead in, I want to just take a moment to give you a background on the Tourism Partnership Council. In 1996 the minister of the day responsible for this sector brought the tourism industry to the table in helping to plan and strategically market Nova Scotia to the world. Ultimately, a group of 16 active tourism operators and participants, 14 of them from the private sector, and two from government, became the Tourism Partnership Council and a state-of-the-art public-private partnership was created.
In the years since, tourism in Nova Scotia has benefited from this partnership. We have engaged the ideas of thousands of Nova Scotians interested and involved in tourism. We have opened new markets, heightened the industry involvement and investment in tourism programs, and brought new thinking and better results to the table. This work involves hundreds of people directly on committees and involved in projects and has made tourism marketing in the province more inclusive and collaborative.
The Nova Scotia partnership model is, in fact, an envy of our sister provinces. In the last two years, the council has grown and enthusiastically led discussions to create a strong, long-view plan for product development, the first actions of which will be unveiled at this year's tourism conference next month and importantly was the driving force behind a long-term tourism strategy. The strategic objectives of the strategy are challenging and hold great promise for the future and the expansion of tourism in Nova Scotia. They are: to grow revenues from the touring markets; to improve quality, competitiveness and sustainability of our tourism product; to build a 12 month season; to develop viable niche markets; and to improve transportation access and improve the business environment for tourism. It will take the collective effort of the council, governments at all levels, private partners and individuals with vision and confidence to make this work. We are seeing the results already.
MS. ANDREWS: As a Tourism Division, our group is on the front line with this council and those who work with us, and we are committed to maximizing the potential of the long-term tourism strategy. In setting the stage for this morning, I just want to take a moment to articulate the scope and the impact of the industry to Nova Scotia. Many of you - I hope all of you - are very aware of these, but I think it will help us set the stage.
The tourism industry and the tourism sector in this province generates $1.25 billion in revenue annually; 59 per cent of that, or $733 million, are export earnings - that is new money coming into the province - 34,800 direct and indirect jobs are created in the industry. There is $488 million in direct and indirect wages and salaries and of that $1.25 billion, $117 million comes back to the province in provincial and municipal taxes.
The profile of our visitor, of course, is very important for marketing and for product development purposes and it helps us plan into the future. In the year 2000, almost 2.2 million people visited Nova Scotia: 83 per cent of them were visitors from other parts of Canada; 53 per cent were from the Atlantic Provinces, so still our neighbours are our biggest percentage of visitors; 5 per cent of our visitors of the 2.2 million were from Quebec; 20 per cent from Ontario; 5 per cent from Western Canada, which is interesting because we don't even actively market in Western Canada; 15 per cent, or 330,000 people, were visitors from the United States and one-third of those are from the near-border States in the northeast. Two per cent - about 44,000 people, were visitors from international markets, mainly from Europe, and that really means from Germany and the U.K., predominantly.
Thirty-five per cent of our visitors come solely as tourists for pleasure reasons; 38 per cent come to visit friends and relatives; 11 per cent came on business; and 8 per cent came on conventions, meetings. The remaining 8 per cent are here, probably, for personal business reasons or passing through.
In terms of the provincial government, the Tourism Division of the Department of Tourism and Culture does play a pivotal and strong role in the development of the industry. We have a marketing function so that we can compete with other destinations and we can attract more visitors who will spend more money. We have an operational function to provide information to potential visitors and to visitors after they arrive. We distribute literature. We provide a provincial reservation and information service. We operate on-site visitor centres and a program of in-province distribution of material.
The division has a regulatory function, to ensure that our accommodations and our campgrounds are within acceptable limits and acceptable standards for our visitors. We do that through the Tourist Accommodations Act and Regulations.
Importantly, we have a planning, developmental and evaluation function. We are there to ensure we are promoting the right products to the right targets and the right markets at the right times. In doing that, we want to be sure that the results that are achieved are real and
are measurable. We have a very involved research function that involves conversion studies and visitor exit surveys, long-short-term, annual and long-term plans.
We are not alone. Paul has already indicated to you the role of the Tourism Partnership Council in working with the department. The council advises and provides expertise on marketing and on product development issues. The Nova Scotia Tourism Strategy, the Tourism Development Plan and, in this case, the 2001 Marketing Plan, all of which I think you have received previously, are our guiding features. Those are our advisory partners, the things that we use to guide where we are headed.
We have financial partners, those with mutual interests in mutual markets. We have significant joint marketing partnerships on a large scale, such as with other levels of government like the Canadian Tourism Commission, with other provinces like Prince Edward Island, with New Brunswick and, importantly, with our Atlantic partners as an Atlantic Canada tourism partnership.
We have significant partnerships with transportation carriers; Bay Ferries, Scotia Prince Cruises, Canada 3000 and Icelandair. We have joint marketing partnerships with our smaller operators and those have grown significantly since we have been involved in developing these with the Tourism Partnership Council.
You have, in the material that was distributed earlier, a publication that we refer to as our Blue Book. It is our book of tourism marketing partnerships. The one that is in your material is for the current year, 2001. The 2002 book will be distributed within about the next ten days so that operators across the province can begin to make partnership decisions about how they would like to invest in the overall marketing program for 2002. The signature among those, of course, is the travel guide.
In the year 2000 we spent almost $7 million from the Tourism and Culture budget on advertising and promotion in our five major markets. Our partners spent more than $5 million in joint programs with us.
We also have partners that are industry associations, those with mutual interests in growing the tourism industry in this province. They are province-wide industry organizations such as the Tourism Industry Association of Nova Scotia, the Hotel Association, the Campground Owners Association. The regional tourism industry associations, which I believe most of you should be familiar with, are very active and very important partners with us. That would be people like the Antigonish/Eastern Shore, South Shore and Cape Breton Tourism Associations. In total, we have a complete program directed with a variety of strategic directives and supported with partners.
MR. STACKHOUSE: I just want to speak for a moment about why we do what we do, in terms of what gives us the guidance to do it. Very much right now, the efforts of the department and of the industry are guided by the tourism strategy which, as I said earlier, was very much built on input from all sectors, both public and private. The tourism strategy is what moulds pretty well everything we do right now. Soon we will have a product development strategy that will be released that will drive our product development initiatives.
A couple of things in the strategy that are kind of, I guess, guiding lights: one, of course, is the vision, and that is to realize our tourism potential as a world-class, four-season destination for the benefit of all Nova Scotians; the mission and strategy is to grow the industry by attracting more tourists and increasing their spending while here in Nova Scotia. As you heard earlier, we have six strategic objectives which are very much our focus in the decisions that we make around spending the marketing dollars that we have available to us.
Where do we do it? Well, as Marsha said earlier, we have several core markets. Many of them still have, in our best research, untapped potential. Atlantic Canada is still our biggest market and will continue to be a strong focus, even more so in the coming months. Ontario is still a very popular market for Nova Scotia and Eastern Canada. Quebec has been recently identified as a core market for Nova Scotia. Research told us that there is much potential in Quebec, to get people to come to the east, and we have, over the last couple of years, been building our focus on Quebec and seeing results. Of course, the northeastern United States has been a major market for us for many years and is one we will continue to focus on.
The long-term potential in developing markets, markets such as Europe, Scandinavia, western Canada and the South Atlantic States and our ability to go after those markets is really only limited by the resources that we have available to us. Then we have begun to really focus on a number of niche markets that we have identified as having great potential for Nova Scotia. One such as golf, nature and outdoors, meetings and convention, incentive travel, group touring, and obviously the cruise market has been one that has grown significantly over the last several years.
What do we do? Well, in 2001, we have allocated almost $7 million from the Tourism and Culture budget on advertising and marketing activities in a mix of efforts that range from traditional media, television and print to special promotions, on-line marketing and direct sales.
MS. ANDREWS: I guess pretty much, like with every business plan, as well as having your long-term objectives, which for us are embedded in the tourism strategy over the long term and then embedded in the long-term product development and marketing plan, of course, we have annual plans as well.
The targets established for the 2001 year were very aggressive targets. We targeted a growth of 5 per cent in overall tourism receipts, a 10 per cent increase in total number of
rooms sold in the off-season, and that would be between November and April. This is the very first time that we actually had a target against the off-season.
We are strategically working toward the development of a year-round industry and you need to measure how you are moving in those directions to see if you are getting there, obviously. We also target a return on investment of $10 for every dollar spent in advertising. We are striving to reach a revenue level of $1.5 billion for the industry by the year 2005.
Before September 11th and the terrorist attacks on the United States, tourism in Nova Scotia was feeling some strain from economic pressures, gas prices and tough competition. Since September 11th, our industry has coped with the same immediate results that have impacted tourism worldwide. The future, where to best maximize our dollars for next year and beyond, remains somewhat unclear.
In the short term, we plan to reinforce our fall campaign in Atlantic Canada and will hedge our bets as best we can as we move towards 2002. Nova Scotia does have the luxury of focusing our winter programs on our neighbours in Atlantic Canada, therefore we have some time - albeit a short time - to make our final decisions against 2002 in our further away markets for next year.
The tourism industry remains strong and resilient in Nova Scotia. As an industry of primarily small businesses with limited budgets, we are quick on our feet and we have proven to know how to capture opportunities and, importantly, to work together to our common goals. We are confident that despite the challenges that we know we are facing ahead, we will find a safe footing.
The tourism plan for 2002 is well into production and we will build upon our successes and shore up our weaknesses in the months ahead. I think we will be happy to take questions.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Thank you. I am also pleased, as I know you had guidelines for the amount of time that you were allowed to speak and thank you for following that, because as you will see, the committee certainly appreciates the opportunity to interact with you folks as we now proceed.
We will be going to the NDP first, as the Official Opposition and, Mr. Steele, you have 20 minutes.
MR. GRAHAM STEELE: As I was reading through the material to prepare for this morning's session, I really was very highly impressed by the amount of work that has been done, particularly the work of the Tourism Partnership Council. The tourism industry in Nova Scotia is strong and really has a quite a wonderful product, I think, to offer the world. I had some personal experience with that this summer as I had some visitors from western Canada
who were coming to Nova Scotia for the second time in their lives. The first time was in 1946, where as young newlyweds they came through Pier 21. So the first morning of their first day here, they wanted to go back there. It was my first time there and it is really quite a wonderful thing. They were here for about 10 days and right from the promotional literature through their accommodation, their tour buses, the guides that they had, they really had a wonderful experience in Nova Scotia. I wouldn't be at all surprised if they came back.
The world has changed since September 11th, after a tragedy of such monumental proportions, with so many people killed and injured and I think we are only just beginning to count up the human cost of such a horrific event. So it seems a little unfeeling, I think, on my part to talk about the financial impact, to talk about budgets and bottom lines, when, as I say, I think we are only just beginning to count up the human cost. But nevertheless, this is the Public Accounts Committee, so I will head in that direction.
I am going to ask a set of related questions and feel free to answer them in any order, or any of you or all of you, but I would like, to the best of your ability, if you could try to touch on all of them. The related questions are these. To the best of your knowledge, what has the impact been on the tourism industry in Nova Scotia since September 11th? What is the impact, to the best of your ability to judge, likely to be in the medium to long term? What is it possible to do to minimize the impact on the tourism industry in Nova Scotia and what is currently being done? Those are the sort of interconnected questions that I would like to pose to any or all of you who would care to answer.
MS. ANDREWS: We can probably answer, to be honest with you, from a couple of different perspectives. Paul, as you may know, is the General Manager of the Holiday Inn Harbourview, because the 14 private sector members on the Tourism Partnership Council are active operators, so I think we may be able to answer it from a couple of different perspectives.
You were on the line answering phones in the first few days, maybe you would like to start.
MR. STACKHOUSE: Yes and I can also comment as President of the Hotel Association of Nova Scotia. I think the initial impact of the first few days, as you probably know, September is the busiest month of the year for Halifax. So as the events of September 11th unfolded, most of the hotels were already full, because of the traditional business of September conventions, business and ongoing leisure travel. So the short-term impact within the first three or four days - well, actually probably the first week - was not that great because they were busy or if they weren't busy or they had available rooms, they were taken up with those people who had to be accommodated because they were detained here.
Going forward, as we get into the present and the coming weeks, it is very much a question of what business is coming to Halifax or was planned to come to Halifax, is it
regional in scope, is it national in scope or North American in scope. I guess the answer is there is a mix of - although as we get further into the fall, it is very much a regional focus, a lot of the business that is coming, although we still have our traditional business travel out of central Canada and the United States. That is, I guess, where we are going to see the real impact.
Do we know what the impact is going to be? I don't think there is any real sense yet. I think the good news is, if there is any - the company I work for has 160 hotels across the country and the real impact right now is being felt in centers like Montreal, Toronto, Vancouver, they are really getting hit hard right now, particularly in the airport regions because of the real major decrease in air travel - for Halifax, the impact seems to be less. I think the bigger concern for us right now is any more decrease in our access against what we were already facing and we are already hearing some indication that that is going to happen. So access will continue to be, I think, as much a challenge for us or even more of a challenge for us more so than the propensity of people that travel to Halifax, at least in the next three or four months, getting us through into the new year.
As far as next summer goes, it is really too hard and too early to make any kind of predictions. We were talking the other day, the Canadian Tourism Commission is now moving into doing some research. They have hired two research companies and they are going to start to do some research to try to get some measure of what the impact is going to be, particularly on the U.S. and their propensity to travel in the months ahead. But I think even that is too soon to even ask the question. We are just going to have to kind of wait it out right now and see what their mood is going to be six months from now more than in the next couple of months.
I think as far as what Nova Scotia might do, in looking ahead to next year, our position right now is let's make sure we know what we have to do or what we have on the map, what we had planned to do, because a lot of our plans are already developed for next year. But I guess to use a term Marsha would use, know what our drop-dead dates are, make sure we have our eye on those and continue to monitor what the reaction is, particularly from the United States.
To decide to take all of our resources that might have been directed at the U.S. and just take them out of the U.S. and focus them on Canada might be making a mistake right now. As Marsha said earlier, we have some time - we're fortunate in that - to make those decisions, so we can kind of sit back a little and wait for some of this research to come through. But our ear is certainly to the ground and we will be listening and acquiring all that information before we make any knee-jerk reactions.
MS. ANDREWS: We are attempting right now to quantify, as best we can, immediate impacts. We have been in touch with the industry but, as Paul says, it is kind of fluid right now. It also depends on where people are coming from, how they are getting here, meetings and that sort of thing. If they were coming by air, that is a question. We are attempting, as I say, to quantify as best we can in dollar terms and that is not finished yet. There are a couple of places that we can do that to try to get indicators. They won't be conclusive kind of numbers that say the impact to the industry in this province was this but we can get an indication from things like cancellations through the reservation and information system. The provincial reservation and information system would give us an indication of how things are going and the level, importantly now, of how the programs that we currently have in the market or are planning to have in the market are being responded to. Are we getting response to the programs that are already there? That will be an important area of quantifying.
I think realistically there are economic concerns, there are air concerns and there is the whole question of whether people, especially Americans, will be motivated, whether their propensity to travel will be markedly affected. That is what we are monitoring. We are doing that right now with a lot of partners. We have our own little research plan to research the research, to be honest with you, so that there is an enormous amount of work going on out there, crunching numbers and looking at attitudes and propensities to travel and where the airline industry is going and all that sort of stuff. We are trying to keep a handle on that in Nova Scotia terms so that we are taking the information that is national and sometimes international and being able to translate it for our own use.
We are going to shore up our Atlantic Canada campaign that is already in the market. Realistically, we are doing that within an environment where the vast majority of those budget dollars against the fall campaign have already been committed and are already in the market. So that gives us limited flexibility but where they are our neighbours, where the private sector partners do have a greater sense of investing closer to home, we are working on a couple of tactics right now in those areas. We have a pre-Christmas and a stronger winter program on the books anyway for 2001 than we had in prior years. So what we are attempting to do is to narrow the gap somewhat between the end of the fall campaign and the beginning of the pre-Christmas and winter campaign. That is focused on Atlantic Canada. Our primary season extension efforts right now are focused on Atlantic Canada so that gives us a little tiny bit of flex room.
We are looking at enhancing some of the programs, if it seems appropriate to do it, and this is one of the drop-dead points that we are facing very soon, is looking at the Boston tree lighting, as a for instance. We have been there for 30 years so it is an obvious strength on our part just to maintain the relationship with New England. We are keeping in touch. One of the important things that we are attempting to do is keep the industry as informed as we can on what is happening. It is very difficult to judge what the impact will be in the long term.
I think that realistically when you look at something like the northeastern United States, some of our most significant partnerships are spent in the northeast. Our partnership with Scotia Prince Cruises and how we bring the Canadian Tourism Commission money to the table in that partnership. Our work with Bay Ferries is all done in the northeast to bring people here and those are just two examples of companies whose livelihood comes from the northeast so that gives us kind of a different take on it. Bay Ferries, who travel the Cat twice a day from Bar Harbor, Maine, to Yarmouth, is not going to be particularly interested in spending money in Quebec with us.
In real marketing terms, what we need to judge or get a better read on, it is not good marketing to pull out of a market where you have been for a while because you may fall off the radar screen. We are barely there anyway although we have the ability to motivate people to come but if we are not there for a year, it may take us a bigger jump to get back in. So you balance off the partnerships that are available to us in those markets. Then the question will become what the Canadian Tourism Commission is looking to focus on in terms of whether or not there are new opportunities for us in the domestic market, primarily Ontario, Quebec and Atlantic Canada.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Mr. Steele.
MR. STEELE: I was wondering if Mr. Young had anything he wanted to add to that.
MR. RICK YOUNG: No, it was running through my mind, though, that when we talk about what the likely impact might be, we are talking about the last four months of a calendar year and the amount of traffic that if nothing happened in that extent, we might expect. I was just running a couple of things here, from the U.S., the last four months of the calendar year last year generated 4 per cent of our traffic. So we know it has not all stopped. From the European market, roughly half our traffic is generated in the last four months of the calendar year and roughly half is the May, June, July, August period. The winter months are pretty slow out of Europe so when we talk about what the impact is likely to be, it could certainly be a lot worse, is what I was trying to get across.
MR. STEELE: One of the new flagship October events, and for good reason, I think, is the Celtic Colours Festival in Cape Breton which starts this weekend. Do you have any sense of what impact, if any, the Celtic Colours Festival will feel?
MS. ANDREWS: We have been in touch, obviously, with the people who are running the festival. To the best of my knowledge - I haven't talked to them in about 10 days - their ticket sales were pretty much on line with last year. That kind of an event, and particularly Celtic Colours, has a significant Nova Scotia audience and also a significant Atlantic Canadian audience and it is frequently pre-sold. I can get back to you, I would be happy to check with them and see where they are at this point in time. We haven't had any indication that they felt particularly pressured and it has been, as I say, about 10 days.
MR. STEELE: The federal government is currently dealing with requests for large subsidies, you could call them, from the airline industry. Yesterday they announced a package of $160 million. This morning the travel agents association says, well, we were just as directly affected as they were. Our people were very badly hurt economically by the tragedy of September 11th as well. So they are looking for some form of subsidy. I was wondering if, to the knowledge of any of you, have any requests for subsidy or other direct financial support been received by the provincial government?
MS. ANDREWS: I don't believe. We have been in touch with the industry on a consistent basis. As I say, we are still attempting to quantify direct impact which would be very short term, like the 10 days or two weeks following September 11th, short term through to the end of fall and into early winter and then longer term as to what, obviously, the long-term impact would be. There are operators absolutely who are concerned. Everyone is concerned about the airline situation. Everyone is concerned about what happens next. To the best of my knowledge, there hasn't been any kind of a formal request for any kind of assistance, as it were, like sector assistance.
MR. STACKHOUSE: It seems like most of that has been directed at the federal government so far. I think they have opened up a can they may regret in going forward. I think the only thing we have heard at the provincial level is there may be some pressure on the government to throw more money at it in order to try to help turn it around or take advantage of an opportunity if there is perceived one there. Where the federal government has already indicated they are going to throw more money to the CTC to enhance a domestic program to sell Canada as a safe place, a safe destination, there may be some pressure for the provinces, in particular, to buy into that as well, with incremental dollars. So we are hearing some suggestion that that may be coming, although I don't think there has been any direct request at this point.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Mr. Steele, your time is up and you will, of course, have an opportunity with any remaining time when we divide that up.
I would like to turn the next 20 minutes over to the members of the Liberal caucus.
MR. DONALD DOWNE: Mr. Chairman, I want to welcome the tourism industry here and congratulate you again on another spectacular presentation. It was very well done. I do compliment you for bringing up the Tourism Partnership Council and how successful that really is. In 1996, when we forged ahead with that initiative, there might have been some Opposition members questioning the logic of that at the time but it has been a great success and it only has been a success because of that tri-party approach and non-partisan in that regard but just go ahead and make it happen. Let's build on tourism. So I want to compliment you for that.
It is interesting, the questions today will probably be somewhat similar in scope. My questions that I had actually written yesterday, it was almost like they were handed over to my partners, so I have to start a little bit backwards here.
I was looking at some of the tourism numbers, going back from 1999, then the year 2000-01. Although 2000-01, we have seen an increase in tourism in the South Shore, and I am sure Lynne Perry had something to do with that, it is just her style, she would push hard. Cape Breton actually has shown a decline of 2 per cent in the year 2000 and to date, in 2001, the numbers that we received during the quarterly reports or the reports that come out on a monthly basis, show a decline of 7 per cent. So I am concerned a little bit about why those numbers are actually showing an overall decline. Fundy Shore is down 8 per cent, the Eastern Shore is down, in fact, tourism is down across the province. I remember last year, the first year we had a minister specifically for tourism, it was indicated that that would be a great boost for tourism and he or she would focus their attention and have the ability to even make tourism bigger than it was. We actually had a decline of 1 per cent. This year, the numbers before the disaster, we were looking at a decline of another 1 per cent or 2 per cent or 3 per cent, maybe even more, based on the current numbers that we are able to take a look at.
My first question is, since we have had a single Minister of Tourism as a single focus and we have seen a decline in tourism each year, do you think a single Minister of Tourism is the appropriate way to go?
MS. ANDREWS: I can speak to the numbers. (Laughter) I don't know if Paul wants to go there.
MR. STACKHOUSE: Go ahead and do the numbers.
MS. ANDREWS: I think honestly it would be inappropriate, that is a government policy decision and we will work within that framework.
MR. DOWNE: It probably wasn't a good question to ask and I do appreciate where you are coming from. In regard to modes of traffic, we have seen different changes in modes of traffic. For example, I think tourism from January to July 2000, to January to July 2001, we have seen an overall decline of about 7 per cent in the Province of Nova Scotia. This is prior to September 11th, which we had some pretty serious problems in tourism in that regard up to that point in pockets throughout the province. Some areas were really doing quite well and other areas weren't so good. So there is a concern and I don't know what we can do about it.
I guess the first question would be in regard to the strategy that we have been working on at this point and in light of what happened September 11th, the department itself, the partnership has tried to spin around, as best they can, to try to go forward from here to the
fall. Can you give me some indication as to what you think might be the new approaches that you will be taking for next year in light of what has happened since September 11th? Has the minister given any directive or direction in regard to what he thinks should be done to refocus tourism for the changing world?
MS. ANDREWS: We haven't had any directive. The minister, I believe, would expect us to be on the ball. We are researching this as best we can. The impact of September 11th is still quite unclear, to use maybe an inappropriate euphemistic term, the smoke hasn't cleared yet here either. I think importantly right now, if we put into perspective the fact that in the near term we are looking at an Atlantic Canada market, that Atlantic Canada market through the late fall and into the winter is for us a developing market anyway, the move toward a 12 month season is a gradual kind of developing one, both on the product side and on the marketing side. You can't take to market a product that isn't market ready at that time of the year and, perhaps, is not available in any great cluster at that time of the year, so we are moving in those directions. My point is, we are moving on the product development side as well as on the marketing side.
The work in marketing is relatively easy to follow. It is a kind of a connect the dots and you can see what is happening. On the product development side, it is less transparent but it is critically important. So to have the council working with us now effectively and to product development will go a long way to delivering on that strategy. A lot of what is in the strategy, the six strategic objectives, speak to product development in some cases more strongly than they do marketing and marketing, absolutely, is frequently the more obvious.
What we are doing toward next year, we are very much down the line with planning the marketing and the product development priorities for 2002. We are taking pause for the cause. I will absolutely admit that. The questions that get asked among all of us at council tables, at committee tables and whatever, is should we be doing a promotion in New England? Well, there is a sense of opinion that would say, now is the best time for Nova Scotia to step up to the plate and to do something in New England. There is another side of the story that says, well, maybe not, maybe we should look at Ontario more heavily.
So, we do have the luxury as we take the fallout from September 11th, and it isn't a lot of luxury - and I feel a little like Mr. Steele, feeling a tad opportunistic by even using those words all things considered - but unlike Alberta and B.C., who have strong winter campaigns that are targeted beyond their borders into international markets, we do have our developing program, which is primarily focused on Atlantic Canada right now, and we do have a little window of opportunity to take a deep breath and identify our drop-dead dates. Some of them we are facing. What are we going to do about x? It takes a certain amount of time for ink to dry and if Audubon Magazine's deadline for the issue that we know is the best one for Nova Scotia to be in - it isn't - but let's say it was October 31st we would have to make that decision, that is the kind of drop-dead dates that we are trying to organize right now.
Just in the longer term, there are features in the marketing campaign for 2002 that are going to be unveiled at the tourism conference which is where we kind of take the lid off what we are going to do every year while there are 450 people as members of the industry in one room. There are features that are different. There are tactics that are new but we will not be moving away from a core market. We will not be deciding that we are going to do something off into a new tangent primarily because we have got a lot of depth. We are nowhere near tapping the northeastern United States. We don't print enough money to tap Ontario. So in our core markets, there is still plenty of depth and we have some awareness in those markets and we are going to continue to work at them. Quebec is a building market.
We have made some significant advances in Maine and we went into the State of Maine last year with a solid directed campaign because when we talk about the northeastern United States, we are really talking about Boston and environs and, to some extent, with our partners into the mid-Atlantic and into New York. So we looked and said, okay, well, we have this excellent access and we have partners saying let's have a look at this and the council saying, yes, there is a propensity now for us to look at that specific area. We have made some real headway over the last two years in the State of Maine. I don't know if that helps. I hope it does.
MR. DOWNE: I think when we get to the conference, we are all going to be anxious to see when the lid comes off, exactly what the new plans are. I guess the simple question was, has the minister given any directive or direction or focus or vision himself from a ministerial point of view or has he basically left it to the council and the department, the very competent staff that he has - I say that in all sincerity - and the council to develop the strategy. I take it the minister is not directing it, he is following the lead of the council and the staff.
MS. ANDREWS: I believe that the minister understands the strategy. The minister understands the long-term strategy, he appreciates the fact that it has been developed on a consultative basis with the industry, that there is a group of, in this case, 14 private sector people and dozens and dozens of people on committees and advisory groups and stuff who are feeding solid information into that strategy. We are researching it. We are balancing it off. That is the tack that we are working on.
MR. DOWNE: Paul, just so you know, I had family from Vancouver fly in that week and stay at the Holiday Inn. It was tough to get into Halifax that week and it was tough even after that. I had another brother fly in from Vancouver and another sister from Ontario. It still seems to be very active here in Halifax and thank goodness for that. We hope and pray that it continues.
The other one is that we talked about the analysis of what has gone on. One thing about the council, they have done a tremendous amount of work analyzing what has gone on the year previous. That is a great way, like the Hubbel Telescope tells you the history and
gives you a view into the future. Last year the tourism numbers released a decline and they promised at that time - I believe the minister promised - a comprehensive visitor exit survey to be taken and it would be analyzed and it would be presented early in 2001. What did the analysis really show?
MS. ANDREWS: The visitor exit survey is a survey that we have done on a once-every-four-years basis. It is a massive piece of research where you actually stop up to 4,000 people - it was pretty close to 4,000, something like 3,900 and change - as they are leaving the province. It is an extensive survey. It took the better part of 25 minutes for somebody to complete that survey with us. The top lines from it, we are working with now and they will be presented at the tourism conference in some depth.
The research piece is this thick and it is a benchmark piece of work that then gives us the benchmarks, realistically, and then we can make our annual comparisons. It shows us travel patterns through the province - that is a new feature, by the way - it shows us expenditures, length of stay and clearly articulates what people do. What we are in the process of doing right now is taking that exit survey information which is very fresh and bouncing it into the product market match, as a for instance, as fresh information. It may be just a reality check. In some cases there are some new learnings in there.
I am trying to come up with the top lines in my head. It indicates that the visitors' length of stay has increased, that spending has increased per party trip. It gives us an indication of some of the top attractions in the province; albeit some of those were aided, some of them were unaided, so there is a balancing act that goes in there. One of the important features, I think, for us this year, it actually plots visitor travel through the province and that we are hoping to have completed for presentation in November. Actually, we have asked for a session at the tourism conference set aside to deal with the key information that the industry can use as industry members plan their own work over the long term.
MR. DOWNE: That would be very beneficial for everybody, including myself. I would love to see the exit information.
We lost a Washington flight recently, the Newark cancellation and Icelandair is talking about pulling out. I remember putting a press release together and then the following day the Premier indicated then that he was going to ramp up the guns and go after these guys to see what could be done. I was disappointed that the minister himself wasn't able to do that, but we can't lose those modes of transportation and expect tourism to grow. I fail to understand why we are allowing these things to slip away.
Marsha, I can remember - and you can remember all too well - the battle with Icelandair to get that one flight in and then to get two flights in and how that opened up that corridor and how we worked so hard to try to build, and you had worked so hard, and your department worked so hard, to bring in the cruise ship lines. Now that is turning into a huge
success but we need to be aggressively pursuing those modes of transportation in securing our community in tourism.
I hope the minister, I know he is going around the province talking about tourism and how important it is and maybe he is doing that to make sure that the Minister of Finance doesn't cut his budget all to pieces, I don't know, but there needs to be a Tourism Minister out on the street of the world to talk about why this is a great province to come to visit and its people and its natural beauty, a year-round beauty. I would hope that we would have that kind of desire from the minister. I know the department and the council are born again to this and we need to get a lot more aggressive, I think, with all the players.
Everything shouldn't always be out of Toronto. I get so tired of hearing Ottawa and the airlines saying, well, Toronto is the centre. Well, I'm sorry, excuse me, we have a lot to offer and by gosh, we better start fighting for what we have and not let it go, we fought too hard to get it and just to let it whittle away is wrong. So, I compliment the government for starting to get a little aggressive and I hope that they get a lot more aggressive on those issues.
The tour guide has been a great success. I ship that around everywhere I can, as you know. The Quebec model in 1998 or 1999, when you brought in Quebec, that was a great success story. We are next door neighbours and we have the great community here, the Acadian community, where Quebec people like to go. I think western Canada, when I have family come over, relatives come here, they are exploding with excitement about the beauty of Atlantic Canada, specifically Nova Scotia. So I think there is an opportunity there.
I would like to know, also, now that we are close to 2004 - my time is almost at one minute - I will just leave on this one point; 2004 is going to be a great year, I hope for Nova Scotia, as we celebrate Champlain, the Acadians and so on and so forth. I would assume that the strategy that we are working on for 2002-03 will be stepping stones toward building up to 2004 as we start trying to bring those people to the community to explain that part of our history, which is again an exciting new one.
MS. ANDREWS: The 2003-05 activity, which will culminate in 2004 is, needless to say, very high on our radar screen and we are working with the groups right now. I would rather indicate that we won't be redirecting the tourism marketing plan around an event, like particular events that are going to end. More importantly, we are going to be layering the 2003-05 activities around the congrès and all that into the marketing plan and working them in particular tactics and niche areas. So we are looking forward to it as well.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Thank you, Mr. Downe and Ms. Andrews.
I will turn the next 20 minutes over to the government caucus.
MR. WILLIAM LANGILLE: There has been a lot covered here so far in the last 40 minutes, so I will touch on basic issues around the province, if I may. In light of the economic state of the world in regard to terrorism, and I realize you are limited in what strategy you can put in place to attract more tourists to this area, in other words, the ball is not your court right now, I don't believe. But I would like to say that you people are certainly doing a wonderful job and I think that we have a terrific Minister of Tourism. I have had a lot of dealing with him and he has responded to every one of my requests.
In regard to when people enter Nova Scotia and particularly our highways, and I know that for years now we have not been mowing the intersections, however, we have started mowing, I see, between Halifax-Dartmouth on Highway No. 102 up to Elmsdale, cleaning up that corridor there. I was concerned with the litter and I commend you for handing out your garbage bags to the tourists and I think that was a good first step, although I do believe that there is more to do. I also believe that you people are addressing that along with the Department of Transportation and Public Works and hopefully in the future the unsightly highways will begin to look better.
The other concern of mine, you people look after the blue highway signs and the green ones belong to the Department of Transportation and Public Works. One sign in particular is the sign on Highway No. 102, which says, Truro the Hub of Nova Scotia. It has been that way for years. If you look at it, the little white spots around Nova Scotia look like islands. I think that because of the unsightly condition of some of the signs that possibly somebody from the Tourism Department could go around the province and identify signs that need replacing because these are things that tourists see. I believe that would be in the best interest of all of us.
Now, I have a question on cruise ships. This is a growing industry in Nova Scotia. You people are doing a great job in attracting them here. It is one of the best places to come and we have so much to offer. Although when they are on a cruise ship and they come to Nova Scotia, they are more or less confined to the areas of HRM for the length of stay.
MS. ANDREWS: Or the other areas where the cruise ships will go.
MR. LANGILLE: Or the other areas where they go, Sydney and so on, which is on a lot smaller scale. But the ones come into port here, the tourists, I am saying, are limited to Peggy's Cove and this area here.
MS. ANDREWS: They are limited to wherever they can go within the time frame the ship is in, yes.
MR. LANGILLE: Exactly. Now, do you have literature on board the cruise ships before they dock here?
MS. ANDREWS: It frequently depends on the ship itself. We offer information and if the ship is coming into Halifax there is the Welcome Program or if a ship comes into a port then that port offers the Welcome Program. We will work with the cruise ship line, which is really where you get most of your effort to ensure that, number one, the itineraries are strong and they are frequent. There is a limited amount of influence that you can have on the length of stay of a ship on a kind of a one-off basis aside from selling the destination as an excellent place to be. We are in the process right now with our partners, the Atlantic Canada Cruise Association, of actually trying to identify the residual benefits of cruise visitors.
There is a lot of anecdotal information and I am willing to bet that pretty much everybody has heard from somebody who has stopped off here on a cruise ship and decided I have to come back. What we are trying to identify now, in fact, is that follow-up benefit. We know that there is an immediate return by a ship unloading hundreds, sometimes thousands of people into an area, even for a limited period of time. There is lots of evidence, and we are attempting to quantify it with our partners the best we can of how much return that causes. Frequently, people return as a party trip on an individual basis. Those are the people we are looking for, more visitors, more often, more money, spending more money.
MR. STACKHOUSE: If I could just add to that. One of the things you have realize too, though, it has been identified, although it is not quantified right now but there is a trade-off of the cruise ships coming here in that we are seeing a decline in the motorcoach visits to the destinations because, obviously, more people or at least it appears that more people are choosing to take cruises than to come by bus. The other thing is that when a cruise ship comes into the destination, very much they are an all inclusive thing, so we do see obvious increases in retail spending but as far as the accommodation sector and even the food and beverage sectors are not benefiting as much as they might from other modes, because these people go back to their ship to have their meals. They are accommodated on their ships. So there is a bit of a trade-off and that has to be taken into consideration.
Now, one of the things that they are looking at right now is to have a ship based out of Halifax, which would improve that situation some because you have people coming and going and they have to stay in the city overnight before they board their ship or when they are coming back, that type of situation like you would have in New York or Miami or other cruise ship ports. But that is just one of the things you have to keep in mind when you are talking about cruises.
MR. LANGILLE: I would just like to touch on your program that you have, the Ambassador Program, where people in Nova Scotia were made ambassadors and you sent literature to them and they, in turn, promoted other people. I was one that received a package. I must say that because I lived in Ontario for many years that I am an ambassador.
A large group of people who left the province, of course, went to Ontario, from Newfoundland, Nova Scotia and so on. They, in turn, attract people to come down here. I believe that is one of the reasons why we have such an influx, 20 per cent of the people coming from Ontario, and also your 5 per cent from western Canada. Many people went out there too, and that is one of the reasons.
I know that you had targeted Quebec last year, and spent a lot of money in Quebec. You say there is a growth in the future for Quebec, but I see it is still only at 5 per cent. Can you elaborate on that?
MS. ANDREWS: The Quebec market, we had not actively marketed in French in Quebec until - this is our third year. All of the evidence that we have, and we have dealt with marketing consultants in Quebec, is that the Quebec visitor buys differently than an anglophone visitor either in Quebec or in the rest of the country, and that it is a slower burn to get on their radar screen. We are making the headway. This year, we keep adding tactics as they seem appropriate.
We began, in the first year, with a newspaper program and the travel guides, and the literature in French. The second year we added the Ici On Parle Français program, which is the in-this-province, French Spoken Here program. Our conversion study out of Quebec showed that that helped, that really reinforced the motivation of Quebecers to travel to Nova Scotia.
I travelled with the initial focus research group, when we went into Quebec to see what our base line was. There was an astoundingly low level of awareness about what this province had to offer among francophone Quebecers. We are in a program to build that awareness and to generate enquiries at the same time. We are seeing it grow, as we add tactics on an annual level. We are also marketing to anglophone - when I say Quebec, we are not marketing to Quebec, we are marketing to Montreal. Our program is focused on Montreal. We are looking at expanding, based on budget and propensity, a little into Quebec City and whatever, but realistically we are marketing to Montreal right now.
MR. LANGILLE: With your strengths, and when I am talking about strengths I am talking about Atlantic Canada, Ontario and the New England States, those are where you get the bulk of your tourists. Would it not be better to work on your strengths rather than spending more money in targeting where we have fewer people coming from?
MS. ANDREWS: I will just give you an overview . . .
MR. LANGILLE: I'm just throwing that out to you.
MS. ANDREWS: . . . and then I will let Paul respond to that. We had not marketed in Quebec for a number of reasons until we became partners with the industry. One of the
very first things that the people who sat around the tourism partnership table said to us is, why are we marketing in Atlantic Canada and why are we marketing in Ontario and jumping over 4 million people to do that? We had reasons based on that we didn't have the ability at the time to speak to - and the concentration of course is Montreal - we didn't have the French travel guide, the French literature, the Ici On Parle Français program to be able to deliver on any promise that we were offering to francophone Quebecers.
It was very clearly with the interest and the motivation of the industry that they said, why are we doing this? We said, well, this is the reason. Okay, we don't want to do that anymore, we want to talk to those cats. The industry has bought in on that travel guide, the industry has bought in on those programs. I believe, somewhere along the line if we found, after an appropriate period of time, that it wasn't delivering appropriately and we needed to make adjustments that the industry may change their opinion on it. Right now, that is the reason we are there. I don't know if Paul wants to comment.
MR. STACKHOUSE: Yes, I think when the council started to look at the markets we were going after, Quebec came up as an issue for discussion. We were spending an amount of money in the South Atlantic States of the United States, we weren't seeing any real return, or there was a return but it wasn't a significant return. When we look at our ability to attract people to come here, we kind of draw a circle, and we say, where is the greatest population, the ease of access, those are key issues when we are trying to attract a market.
When we looked at Quebec, well, they can fly, they can drive, they can come through the United States by ferry, their access to this market is very good. At the time, as well, there had been good research to indicate that the Quebecers who had traditionally been going to the United States, Old Orchard Beach and down to Florida, had started to back away from that because of the costs of going. We were also seeing statistics to show that more and more of them were going to New Brunswick. So we said, well, there is a real opportunity there. They are already coming this way, we just need to get them to come a little further.
There was a very healthy debate around the table, and a decision was made that we were going to refocus the resources that were going into the South Atlantic United States into Quebec, and that is how we arrived at that decision.
MR. LANGILLE: I will turn it over to the member for Kings West now.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Mr. Carey, you have six minutes.
MR. JON CAREY: Mr. Chairman, I would certainly like to commend your department, and I am not sure who all was involved, but your advertising on television has been, I think, exceptional, particularly the CAT ad and during the curling last year. I am not sure if you people were directly responsible for that, but it certainly was eye-catching and quality advertising. I think it was money well spent.
A couple of questions that I would like to ask, for the seasonal fluctuations that do take place, are there specific plans to get something out there that covers all locations in the province and specific attractions? Is there a long-term plan in that direction? I think some areas are certainly doing reasonably well now in all seasons, but there are certainly some that are not. I know that the accommodations and so on in some areas are not, maybe, large enough because they operate on a seasonal basis.
Tying into that, I was going to ask Mr. Stackhouse, perhaps there may be others who would know, the occupancy rate, to be viable in the province, what percentage do you have to run at so that your business can operate and be profitable?
MR. STACKHOUSE: It is difficult to generalize on that. Obviously it really depends on the style of operation, the services you offer. Generally, I can speak more, I guess, to the hotel industry, we need at least a 60 per cent occupancy, annualized 60 per cent to 65 per cent just to make a go of it. I think for the most part the hotel industry has been able to sustain that over the years, although even in some of the other areas of the province, like Yarmouth and probably some areas of Cape Breton, it has been a challenge. In some cases, they have chosen to become seasonal operations as a result.
To your question about the seasonality and trying to get people to go into parts of the province, one of the challenges we face, and Marsha alluded to it earlier, is product readiness and having a product that will attract people to come to a particular area of the province. I think the challenge going forward, and one that is on the radar screens for us in terms of product development, we know there are various products out there around the province but many of them are not ready to take to market, they are not sellable. Our challenge is to help those areas to get those products ready, so that we can then go out and sell them, and they will see the return. That is the challenge that we face.
In the case of Halifax, for instance, we have been very successful over the last number of years with the entertainment season campaign, which the province supports. There is lots of product here in Halifax that is easy to sell. When you go into other areas of the province, it becomes more of a challenge. That is one of the things that we have to address.
MR. CAREY: Another question that I would like to just touch on, Icelandair and the flights from Newark were already in jeopardy or having some difficulty prior to September 11th. I guess my question would be, was there any plan or were you working on a plan to do some type of replacement - that obviously was not going to increase, or didn't appear to be at the time - other alternative modes of transportation in attracting people?
Mr. Downe alluded to the cruise ship business and that was very successful. Perhaps the air wasn't as successful and with the changes in the air transportation that we are going to see over the next while, I think that maybe we have to work on other modes, rather than the air situation. Is there any planning in place to accommodate or replace that?
MR. STACKHOUSE: Yes, I will speak to that and maybe Rick will want to have some comments as well because he has been very involved on the airline side in trying to attract airlines to come to Nova Scotia.
Clearly, the biggest challenge we face is Ottawa, I think everybody understands that. We had a meeting with the minister just at the time that the Newark announcement was made and, already, the wheels had gone in motion at the Premier's level to address that issue but, now, to say too little, too late, you know, we can speculate all we want but, clearly, this is a political issue. It is something that has to be addressed in Ottawa. Whether it is our province alone or the four Atlantic Provinces, we are getting taken advantage of. Clearly, it is going to have to be addressed at that level because our ability to influence is very limited.
We have had very good relationships with a number of airlines as a province but they are businesses and if they can't fill their seats they are not coming, or if they can fill those seats at a higher yield somewhere else, they are going to take those planes somewhere else. That is what has happened.
As far as other modes of transportation, it is challenging. Air is crucial because of the time involved in being able to get people here on a timely basis. We do have concerns right now about the ferries, the two ferry operators in place right now have their own challenges ahead in terms of the length of time that those particular vessels are going to be able to serve. That is something that we are very clearly keeping an eye on as well and trying to work with them, to ensure that those services don't go away and, in fact, maybe could even expand. I mean, there has been talk of ferry service from Boston to Nova Scotia and that would be wonderful but there are obviously challenges associated with that.
Other than that, Rick, I don't know if you can comment on the air side.
MR. YOUNG: I want to just talk a little bit about the air because, beyond the automobile, it is our best chance for growing the tourism industry. I mean, it is our only chance, so to speak. It does bring in a higher yield customer. We can't at all ignore it.
Our experience over the last many years has been that we can't, unfortunately, direct when an airline puts in a route or takes a route out. We have very little to say about that. Our approach has been, when they decide to put a route in, if it is in a market where we see a potential, then we will work with them in terms of marketing that route. We like to tell them that we are going to help them sell their seats because that is what makes them interested. We know that once we help them sell their seats, that when the people come to Nova Scotia, they are going to be spending money here and that is what makes us interested.
We can come together as a partnership there but we can never put enough money on the table to subsidize those routes or to guarantee the seats, to do those kinds of things, or to influence their policy which is driven by the business environment of, can we make a profit on that route?
It gets a little frustrating. Maybe I am showing it. Maybe I shouldn't but it gets a little frustrating when you work with an airline and you develop - and we know we get a very good return - and then for other reasons, the airline pulls the route.
We just have to keep trying because that is our best way of growing the industry over the next many years. That is all.
MS. ANDREWS: If I might, the whole discussion of transportation access is very much on the radar screen of the industry. It is one of the strategic objectives of the tourism strategy. We recognize that we are a player in a big playing field and we intend to be there every day when the discussions happen. We are, I think, getting much better at identifying who our allies and partners, and whatever, may be.
In the longer term, to go to Rick's point, when we work with an airline, we are working on two levels at the same time. We are looking to maximize the return on any investment in a partnership way that we make with them in the short term, identifiably, and that we can do.
We are also hoping that we can help them be successful enough that they will be in a position to maintain those routes. We are very successful on the first one. We understand that and we are trying to find the best ways to approach the longer term one. How can we be an influence because we can't be a director or a directing agent where that effort goes.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Thank you, Ms. Andrews. In the remaining time I would suggest that we go to eight minute rounds. That will leave us a few minutes for some business. If that is agreed, I would like to turn the next eight minutes over to Mr. Steele.
MR. STEELE: I have three topics that I would like to try to squeeze into my eight minutes. The first one is, Mr. Stackhouse, I would just like to pick up on a comment you made when talking about Ottawa and airlines. You used the expression "we are being taken
advantage of". I wonder if you could elaborate on that a bit and say by whom and in what way.
MR. STACKHOUSE: Well I think there is clearly a sense that Atlantic Canada is not very clear on the radar screen in Ottawa in a number of areas. As far as the airlines go, when Air Canada decides to just start cutting routes, and they are a national carrier subsidized heavily by the federal government, the sense, at least, of the industry is that Ottawa has an obligation to ensure that there are some attachments to those subsidies, in terms of requirement to maintain certain levels of service across the country.
What we have seen over the last couple of years is that Atlantic Canada has continued to see cuts and cuts and cuts, particularly as the mergers have taken place and there seems to be no protection for the routes that are so important to us. That was my main point.
MR. STEELE: On that topic, do you think there is something more that our government could be doing, and if so, what is it?
MR. STACKHOUSE: I think there needs to be aggressive lobbying in Ottawa and there seems to be more of a move in that direction currently, particularly as of the recent announcement by Air Canada to cut the Newark route. You know, obviously, the Premier - it seems that he has moved it very high up on his agenda. There is, obviously, a lot of discussion going on in Atlantic Canada amongst the Transportation Ministers and the Tourism Ministers. I think that there is going to have to be a lot more of that in the future and maybe even to a larger degree, in terms of involving more of the private sector in that lobby effort, as well. Clearly, this is not just a tourism issue, it is an economic issue for Nova Scotia and Atlantic Canada. When you start cutting routes into the United States, which brings a lot of business travellers here, as well as the tourists, we are going to suffer in a lot of ways.
MR. STEELE: A second topic completely unrelated to that one, currently there is underway a process called the Integrated Resource Management plan, which is widely seen as - to some extent - a discussion about how best to use Crown land in Nova Scotia. The two departments most prominently involved with it are the Department of Natural Resources and the Department of Environment and Labour.
There is a perception to which a certain extent is true and perhaps to a certain extent not, that there is a bit of an internal struggle between those two departments about the proper balance between development and other uses. Of course, the tourism industry has to be interested in that process as well. In fact one of the groups that has come out quite strongly against certain aspects of the Integrated Resource Management plan is the Tourism Industry Association. I personally applaud them for the position they have taken on that and in
particular, a parcel of land that is very much in the news, the Ship Harbour Long Lake corridor.
I would like to direct this question primarily to Ms. Andrews, although either of the other two should feel free to jump in. Is the Department of Tourism and Culture involved in the development of the IRM and if so, what is the department's position, in particular on Ship Harbour Long Lake?
MS. ANDREWS: The proposal for IRM, the draft proposal was put on the table by DNR, certainly. The department, as a partner with the industry in the Tourism Partnership Council, has spent some time looking at this issue. In fact, there is a discussion paper of the council that is pretty much in its final stage. It is a discussion document which is pretty much internal to the council right now because the council group is still debating it.
I think the Tourism Industry Association is the advocacy voice for the industry in the province. The Tourism Industry Association has a very clear, well articulated point of view on IRM. The department is a partner with a council who will, in essence, have a point of view as a partner with government. Right now the council is saying please understand that tourism has a role in the long-term future in the way land is managed and Crown land in this province. That is what we are working toward, to be acknowledged as having a role.
The Tourism Industry Association has every right and every opportunity to be an advocate for that, that is what they are in the business of, they are the voice of the industry.
MR. STACKHOUSE: If I could just quickly add to that, in our recent meeting with the minister, one of the things on our agenda was to express to him on behalf of the council that we would like him to take the message forward or to act on, that the tourism industry needs to have a formal voice at the table for those discussions as they go forward on IRM and I think he has already written a letter to the minister. We have not heard a response of yet but clearly he knows how we feel about this and that we want to ensure the tourism value of those lands is recognized as going forward.
MR. STEELE: I understand the partnership council has a discussion paper in development. I wonder if you would be able to summarize the thrust of that paper for us, or if you don't feel you are in the position to make that public yet, when would you expect that paper to be public?
MR. STACKHOUSE: It will probably be public, I would say, in the next few months or maybe even sooner than that. I think the key thing coming out of that is the fact that tourism needs to have a formal voice in any discussion on the future use of Crown lands. One of the recommendations in that paper that I think is key is that we need to look at those lands and put a tourism value on those lands, so at least when the discussion is taking place - there are obviously other economic values that are being attached to those lands but we feel there
is a tourism value for those lands as well and we want to make sure that that is clearly on the table. So that is one of the initiatives that is being undertaken right now and I think probably the most important aspect of it.
MR. STEELE: Does the paper specifically address Ship Harbour Long Lake?
MR. CHAIRMAN: Mr. Steele, your time has elapsed.
I will like to turn eight minutes over to members of the Liberal caucus.
MR. RUSSELL MACKINNON: Mr. Chairman, I thank our guests for appearing here today. It was very informative. My questions will be designed so that possibly we could keep our answers as short as possible.
Is it correct to state that the tourism numbers and revenues for last year are down from the previous year?
MS. ANDREWS: Somewhat yes.
MR. RUSSELL MACKINNON: Yes or no.
MS. ANDREWS: Yes, they were.
MR. MACKINNON: Is it correct to assume that the tourism numbers and revenues in tourism up until, let's say, prior to September 11th were also down from the previous year?
MS. ANDREWS: The visitation numbers are tracking down. We expect that the revenues will be down but it is not as easy to track revenues as it is visitations. So, they may not be on the same level.
MR. MACKINNON: So based on your . . .
MS. ANDREWS: The presumption would be, yes, the expectation would be.
MR. MACKINNON: By about 7 per cent? Well, between last year and this year, to date, all of last year and this year to date would be around 9 per cent.
MS. ANDREWS: That is visitation.
MR. MACKINNON: I was intrigued to hear you make observation about the Quebec market, approximately 4 million, and at the same time the tourism numbers for the Fortress of Louisbourg are down quite substantially. As we all know, Cape Breton is generally referred to as the masterpiece of Nova Scotia but yet in terms of marketing dollars, that appears to be quite reduced from previous years, if my memory serves me correctly. I will just refresh your memory.
Several years ago when there was a previous Minister of Economic Development, the Honourable Donald Cameron, there was a rather famous subsidiary agreement of $20 million that was allotted specifically for Cape Breton, it was a federal-provincial agreement. For some strange reason, only about $0.25 million out of that $20 million was spent on studies, nothing actively for the partners in tourism. The following year that money was diverted into general revenues, which never really saw its way to Cape Breton. So I am a little concerned about the efforts on promoting one of our greatest assets in terms of tourism, that being what your department refers to as the masterpiece of Nova Scotia.
MS. ANDREWS: There were two questions in one there. One of them is around Quebec and Louisbourg. Our evidence is that the Quebec visitor, the visitor from Quebec, is looking for the very same kind of experience in this province that most of the rest of our visitors are, they are looking for a touring coastal experience with features that really appeal to them. So, I guess in the reference to Quebec . . .
MR. MACKINNON: Excuse me, Mr. Chairman, wouldn't they get that in the Fortress of Louisbourg?
MS. ANDREWS: Yes, they very well would, but I don't know that there is a direct correlation between the number of people who come to the province from Quebec and the visitation at the Fortress of Louisbourg is my only point.
MR. MACKINNON: Why not? You have indicated pretty accurate tracking in terms of what numbers come from what province and what percentage comes by boat, plane and so on.
MS. ANDREWS: Yes but not by attraction. We would need to go to the Fortress of Louisbourg, to Parks Canada, to get their . . .
MR. MACKINNON: Do you have any figures on that?
MS. ANDREWS: I don't have any figures on that right now, we do track the fortress figures as part of our tracking because it is one of the Parks Canada features that is in the Tourism Insights tracking. I think that we would have to sit down with the people who operate the fortress, the Parks Canada people on the Island.
MR. MACKINNON: Have you done that?
MS. ANDREWS: We have talked to Parks Canada. Parks Canada are very active partners with us.
MR. MACKINNON: But you say you would have to sit down with them, that implies . . .
MS. ANDREWS: No, no, to go through the actual overall visitor profile and whether their visitors from Quebec are down this year.
MR. MACKINNON: Have you ever done that before?
MS. ANDREWS: We meet with the Parks Canada people, I haven't myself sat down with the superintendent or the manager for the Fortress of Louisbourg and gone over in detail their visitor profile.
MR. MACKINNON: Why not?
MS. ANDREWS: To be honest with you, we never had an ask for it or saw a particular need. We deal with Parks Canada on a mainland and an Island basis. We can. I don't know, however, that we can directly influence - our mandate, the mandate of the province and the marketing plan for the Tourism Partnership Council is to bring visitors to Nova Scotia and move them around, to get them to spend more money and to get them to stay longer. I think that it may be very beneficial for us to meet with the people at the Fortress of Louisbourg so that we better understand each others visitors' patterns better but, in fact, their marketing is directed at a particular visitor. Whether or not the Quebec visitor is . . .
MR. MACKINNON: Well, may I suggest then, since your marketing strategy has been put in place since 1996, that five years would be sufficient time to be able to endeavour to do that. But that's my own personal observation. I will leave it at that.
How big a factor is the quality of the roads in Nova Scotia impacting on tourism?
MS. ANDREWS: We have a number of letters.
MR. MACKINNON: A lot of complaints?
MS. ANDREWS: We have letters of complaints.
MR. MACKINNON: Do you have more this year than previous years?
MS. ANDREWS: I can't say that definitively, but we have a number.
MR. MACKINNON: I could leave that and perhaps you could provide members of the committee with the number of complaints you had this year compared to previous years.
MS. ANDREWS: Yes, we do track those, it is just a matter that I don't have them off the top of my head.
MR. MACKINNON: Thank you. The other issue is, as you probably know, approximately two years ago Cape Breton Island was referred to by National Geographic as one of the best 10 places in the world to live. Am I correct?
MS. ANDREWS: One of the world's great islands, I think it was.
MR. MACKINNON: That's right. What percentage of your tourism budget goes towards promoting that unique asset? To complement the observation that was made by my colleague, the member for Colchester North, we should be putting more emphasis on our strengths rather than trying to prop up our weaknesses.
MS. ANDREWS: In fact, there is little question that among the key features of the province, certainly in marketing terms, the Cabot Trail and Cape Breton Island is a key feature. It is highly visited, highly recognized, highly acknowledged. I don't think that I could easily give you a percentage of the marketing effort that is focused on either one area of the province or another because what in fact (Interruption)
MR. CHAIRMAN: Excuse me, would you finish that off, Ms. Andrews. Then I have to move on to the members of the government caucus.
MS. ANDREWS: Sure. Because what in fact we do is play our strong suits. In playing our strong suits, Cape Breton Island and the Cabot Trail - of which the Fortress Louisbourg is frequently used, has been on the cover of the travel guide on a frequent basis - is taken to the market. I have all sorts of samples here if you would like to review them. I don't think that I could give you a percentage figure except to say that among the signature elements that the province takes to the market, the Cabot Trail is very much front and centre, as the key feature to the Island.
MR. CHAIRMAN: I didn't mean to cut you off. Thank you.
Mr. DeWolfe, I understand you are the first questioner for the government caucus.
MR. JAMES DEWOLFE: Yes, Mr. Chairman, and good morning to you and certainly we are very proud of the Tourism Department in this province, you are doing a great job for us and I expect you will continue to do so, even though you have some frustrations to deal with in the coming months.
As we travel outside Nova Scotia and abroad, we do hear very positive comments that truly indicate that we live in a world-class destination right here in Nova Scotia. Any tourism strategy, I would think that we pull together in the next few months must include new innovative ways to attract tourists in these niche markets that we talked about. I was rather concerned about a comment made by Mr. Young that air travel is certainly key to expanding but right now I think we have to concentrate perhaps in some other areas because I don't think that air travel is just going to be there. So maybe this is the time that we really have to go after these niche markets and we have to attract, I think, more and more, particularly, Americans who will be travelling by car to this country and, indeed, this province.
If we can get the message out there about the beauty of Nova Scotia. You talked about the exit surveys and so on and trying to find ways to identify the key attractions, I think the key attraction in Nova Scotia is the pristine beauty of Nova Scotia. Any destination where land meets the sea is certainly, in my mind, and maybe because I live here I feel that way, I might be biased, but I think it is just absolutely beautiful. I am wondering where you are going with that and are you really concentrating on that niche market and getting people to come here by car and spend their money and getting the message out. I am thinking even on my laptop, I have a screensaver that has all these pictures of Nova Scotia. If we can get that screensaver out there on the electronic media that people could download into the computers in the U.S. for nothing . . .
MS. ANDREWS: You can get them off novascotia.com.
MR. DEWOLFE: . . . and that sort of thing, I think it would be wonderful. So I just throw that out and perhaps some of those comments you can address.
MS. ANDREWS: Certainly air transportation is of particular concern to us because it is frequently business access. It is European access. If we are going to grow an overseas market, then we need air because it is real tough to get here from there without it. But realistically, 75 per cent of our current market, and our core marketing focus right now, travel to us by road - in a motorcoach, in an RV, in a car. That is still the focus of our attention. Again, not to sound opportunistic, but this is a better situation for us than it may be for some provinces, territories of this country who are very dependant on people flying in. Our greater concern now is whether we can get the ROI out of our investment in particular areas and the propensity of the visitor to actually go anywhere. I think that this is the reason we are in kind of a tracking in making sure that we have the lay of the land, know the landscape mode, because we do understand that the vast majority of our travel comes here by tire.
The reference to air has a great deal to do with opportunity and ongoing access. I mean still 25 per cent of the business flies in so we absolutely can't ignore it but be assured that our key focus is spent on the areas where we can attract people to come other ways than fly. Now we like them to fly in from there as well but at least there are other ways to get from Boston or from Toronto to Nova Scotia.
We make every effort, all the time, to be acute and quick on our feet with marketing. You can download a screensaver from novascotia.com and I would just like to point out that one of the ways that we really made it significant, I believe, with the full support and insistence and motivation and a lot of work by the industry, was in e-marketing. We are making enormous changes. We now have the URL novascotia.com and novellecosse.com. Our Web site has been reconfigured. We get compliments and kudos on it on a constant basis, importantly. Because it can be pretty is great but it needs to sell stuff and it is selling stuff.
MR. DEWOLFE: Thank you and as I pass to my colleague, the member for Sackville-Beaver Bank, I just want to make a comment. We talked about the roads and I am sure that the department is very pleased with the new highway signage policy that is coming in and being developed that is there now.
MR. MACKINNON: Rough road there now.
MR. DEWOLFE: I think that is a very positive step.
MR. MACKINNON: Drive cautiously.
MR. DEWOLFE: I will pass things to Mr. Barnet.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Thank you, Mr. DeWolfe. Mr. Barnet.
MR. BARRY BARNET: I realize I have less than two minutes so I will try to be brief. I am going to go back to the 25 per cent of those people who travel here by plane. It struck me as odd or unusual that at the Halifax International Airport where the vast majority of those people arrive, the departure gates is where you see the information about Nova Scotia. It is where the kiosks are to promote a golf course and the blueberry industry. There are signs from industries in Nova Scotia that say welcome to Nova Scotia at the departure gates and in the departure lounge. When you switch over to the domestic arrival lounge and the arrival lounge for foreign flights, there is very little information. It would seem to me that we have this backwards, that we should be promoting our province as people arrive in Nova Scotia at the airport rather than when they leave.
The second thing is that I travelled both prior to and after the September 11th incident and I was struck with the security before and after at the Halifax International Airport. To me it makes sense to look at that as a strength. The fact that we have the RCMP at the airport providing security is a level of confidence that Nova Scotians and Canadians should accept. Even prior to the September 11th incident visitors weren't allowed in the departure lounge, it was only travellers. Other airports that I have been at, Los Angeles and Sydney and Auckland, they were allowing anybody who wanted to walk through those departure gates to walk through those gates. To me, one of the things that we need to do is focus on those strengths. My belief is that we need to restore the confidence in air travel by simply telling people that we have done a good job all along and that is why 10,000 people came to Nova Scotia and came to Halifax in the beginning, because of our security and our strengths. That, in and of itself, will help restore some of that confidence.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Excuse me, Mr. Barnet. I assume you would like a comment on that.
MR. BARNET: Yes.
MR. CHAIRMAN: I know you had a great trip (Laughter) and I want to know why you got to go and I didn't.
MR. BARNET: You can go next.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Ms. Andrews could you respond to that. I would like to suggest, we usually, at the end of the sessions, the committee asks for a wrap-up comment of some sort so I could give you that time at this stage if you are willing to take it.
MS. ANDREWS: There are two questions in there so I will see how quickly I can zing through those. With regard to the departure areas at the airport, I believe that the advertising, the signs and things that you are seeing, are in fact private sector investments and that truly is the discretion of the private sector. There is some benefit in marketing as somebody leaves a lasting impression and all that stuff. Our work with the Halifax International Airport Authority has been, in fact, in the arrivals area and if the international arrivals area is well featured now, as Nova Scotia, you know where you are landing when you step down those stairs, and Rick has been doing a great deal of that work with those people. Our visitor information centre is, in fact, in the airport and it will be bigger and better in the reconfigured area of the airport in arrivals.
MR. DOWNE: You are doing a good job.
MS. ANDREWS: Thank you. With regard to security, I think that certainly the feeling of security by the travelling public is going to be incredibly important but it isn't something that we can either feature or promise because it is, in fact, what the federal government and
Transport Canada is offering and should be pretty much the same to a standard in pretty much every airport in the country now. I haven't travelled, myself, into the States since then so I don't know the changes but you are quite right that airport security feels different, feels better. It has been reinforced in the last little while.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Thank you. If, now, any of you or all of you would like to make concluding comments it would be appreciated.
MS. ANDREWS: I guess that I would just say thank you very much for the opportunity to be here. We believe, as the departmental partner in the Tourism Partnership Council, that this partnership with the private sector has made us a stronger operation and will build a stronger industry across the board.
There is a free flow of ideas, there is a free flow of information. Importantly, there is a way to process it. If somebody or an industry association or an individual has something to say, then there is an ability to process it.
I truly believe that one of the most important pieces of work that we have on our radar screen right now has been the work that the council did on a long-term strategy for tourism. It gives us a road map and it gives us a way to focus our effort with the dollars we are given and the partners' dollars that come to the table with us. It gives us a very strong point of view and that is focused on bringing more visitors here and having them spend more money.
MR. STACKHOUSE: I guess, two very quick points. We have talked today about a number of challenges that we face in the industry. One that we have managed to avoid is the resources that we have to work with. Certainly, going forward, our ability to do new and better things is very much contingent on the resources that we have to work with, so we will continue to ask for more and, hopefully, get more as we go forward. We are now talking about budgetary dollars. Our dollars don't go nearly as far as they used to so we are continually challenged in that area.
To Mr. Downe's point about our minister. I certainly don't envy him taking on that new challenge, a new department in his first time as a minister. I think the important thing from the industry's point of view is that we now have a champion for tourism that sits in the House and we are working very closely with him to keep him informed and to let him know what we see as, I guess, the priorities for the industry going forward. I think that is something that is improving every day.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Thank you. Mr. Young.
MR. YOUNG: Yes, I will just end off by thanking you for allowing us this opportunity but, at the same time, maybe a little lighter note, that when we provide this information we hope that you people read it and that you take it under advisement. I believe you have, so thank you very much for that.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Well, thank you. On behalf of the committee, we would like to thank you for your time this morning. It has been very informative. Please keep in touch. Thank you.
We will give our visitors a few moments to pack up and then I would like to turn to a couple of business items here, so if you could just hold on for a moment. No, we are not going to formally recess. We are going to move on here.
If we could get back to the business at hand here. Thank you. We have a couple of items.
First of all, I would like to bring to your attention, the next meeting, the item that is listed here. Next Wednesday morning we have the opportunity to ask questions and listen to members from the Department of Education. It has been suggested, due to the fact that the Red Room is going to turn into Rideau Hall - you are aware, perhaps, that there is a Trudeau documentary that is going to be here, and he was an exceptional Canadian for sure - that we not meet in the Legislative Assembly, that instead we meet in one of the committee rooms. Mora, do you have anything to add to that?
MS. MORA STEVENS (Public Accounts Committee Coordinator): Just that they would never say that we couldn't meet here, it is certainly a committee decision to move the meeting. The filming day is actually Wednesday, and that would be the problem. If it was any other day that we were meeting, the production schedule would certainly be easily able to move for us. They are changing the Red Chamber into Rideau Hall and they are using the library. There will be about 100 to 150 crew members in the building that day, that week. Actually, it might be fascinating to look at. Pirouette Productions are the people doing it, a Nova Scotia company. They filmed Black Harbour and did a lot of things.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Mr. Steele.
MR. STEELE: The Public Accounts Committee is the only committee that sits in this Chamber and can be viewed on television by members of the public. Frankly, I am a little reluctant just to say sure, let's meet somewhere else when that facility isn't available. My own preference would be to meet here as normal. This House is really for the business of the province, first and foremost. I would really prefer to meet here.
MR. CHAIRMAN: I was assuming that I was going to have uniformity here. I saw someone lean towards a mike. Mr. Downe.
MR. DOWNE: Yes, I think I understand that we don't want to get into a habit of not meeting here. I think under the circumstances - it is a very unique circumstance - that it has been requested of us to give up the Chamber. I concur that I wouldn't want to make this a habit, but I think from a national, historical point of view and a local company wanting to help produce that documentary, I think it would only be appropriate for us to co-operate with industry and with national history.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Would you entertain the suggestion of making a motion to that effect, please? (Interruptions) Mr. MacKinnon.
MR. MACKINNON: Mr. Chairman, certain courtesies and protocols are to be afforded with our sister provincial colleagues and federal colleagues. This is not the first time we would have met outside this Chamber, any more than it would have been the first time other committees would have met in this Chamber. For the sake of a slight inconvenience, there is no difference. The committee room over there is just as accommodating as here. I have no problem.
MR. CHAIRMAN: I have a number of speakers and I would like to recognize them in this order: Mr. Morash, Mr. Steele and Mr. DeWolfe.
MR. KERRY MORASH: I was just wondering - it sounds like the people who we are going to have in aren't going to go anywhere - if it might be an option just to postpone for a week, and then resume back here the following week with the same people. I would just put that out for some discussion as well.
MR. STEELE: I guess maybe I have a question, just to find out some of the facts. If they are filming elsewhere in the building, why exactly is it that we would volunteer to move from this Chamber, if they don't actually need it? Why would we do that?
MR. CHAIRMAN: Mora, could you volunteer an answer to that?
MS. STEVENS: It was advisable that both events don't take place at the same time because of the fact that not only will there be a lot of noise, and they are not actually using the Chamber itself, they are using the members' lounge and things for their 150 crew and cast, but it was advisable because of the noise of production, it wouldn't be conducive to this meeting because it is going to be quite a large meeting with the Department of Education, a lot of people interested and a lot of press. It is adding more people to the building. They weren't saying no, you can't have it. They are just saying that because they are filming from 8:00 in the morning until at least 8:00 p.m. or 10:00 p.m. at night that it probably is not advisable.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Mr. DeWolfe.
MR. DEWOLFE: I just wanted to make the comment that we have no problem, from our caucus, giving up this facility for this filming. I am just wondering, some question was brought up as to the future witnesses, like Knowledge House would be coming in in two weeks. (Interruptions) Has that been firmed up yet?
MS. STEVENS: It has not been firmed, but letters have gone out and inquiries have gone out to get in touch with Dan Potter and Cathy MacNutt.
MR. DEWOLFE: So, it probably wouldn't necessarily be a deterrent if - I am just asking this question - we put them off for another week? I am coming around full circle and going back to Mr. Morash's comments that perhaps we could put off the meeting next week, cancel that one and just move it forward. That would be acceptable as well, as long as we don't jeopardize any of the commitments that you have secured for us.
MS. STEVENS: It probably, if I may, would actually work better. I don't know about the Department of Education because they are the ones who are actually due in next week, but it would certainly work better getting the Knowledge House people the following week, that gives them a little more time, and also getting shored-up agenda items for the future of the committee.
MR. CHAIRMAN: That's a good point. I would like to turn to Mr. MacKinnon, you have the floor.
MR. MACKINNON: Mr. Chairman, I am somewhat in symmetry with what Mr. DeWolfe is saying, with the provision, perhaps, that next week we could have what we usually do, a briefing session with the Department of Education or with the Auditor General on this issue. (Interruptions) We could probably focus on some other issues for future agendas. Would that be agreeable?
MR. CHAIRMAN: I would like to give some focus to the suggestion. I think Mr. Morash's suggestion is the one we are talking about at this stage, putting off the Department of Education's session until the following week, and then the week after that would be Knowledge House. Is that what you wish to speak about, Mr. Downe?
MR. DOWNE: If we postpone, is the minister prepared to be here, from the Department of Education?
MR. CHAIRMAN: Originally it was going to be the deputy minister who would be here.
MR. DOWNE: With the additional week, will the deputy and the minister be willing to participate in that event, seeing as there is that much notice?
MS. STEVENS: It wasn't the minister per se that was actually asked to be here, she is the one who wrote the letter volunteering the deputy minister and the staff. I think, they are pretty much willing to come in when we invite them. I would have to shore up that October 17th is fine versus October 10th. I know they scrambled to get October 10th together, so it would give them an extra week.
MR. DOWNE: I appreciate having the deputy here. I think it is important to have the deputy here, but I would also like to have the minister here, as well. I think it would be appropriate if both were here. The other thing is that if it is postponed for that other week, I want to make sure that the Knowledge House individuals mentioned in our debate of last week, that both of those individuals will be able to be in attendance. If we postpone for another week and all of a sudden we get an excuse that they can't be there, I want to make sure they will be there.
MR. CHAIRMAN: We have not heard back from Knowledge House, officially, yet.
MS. STEVENS: There has been word out for them to get in touch. There has been a letter that hasn't been responded to yet. I am hoping to hear back from them today. I can firm those details up. The invitation was issued because the Department of Education was coming in on October 10th, that if they would like to be present we would like to have them in the following week to appear before the committee. If they wanted to be present, we would like to have them present, so they knew what was happening during the meeting of October 10th, so they would be able to respond the following week. That can be bumped, from October 17th to October 24th.
MR. CHAIRMAN: The topic Mr. Downe has brought up is that he requested the minister be present at that time. Mr. DeWolfe, did you wish to respond to that?
MR. DEWOLFE: I feel it is not necessary to have the minister. The minister is extremely busy these days, and I think it would be hard to secure a commitment at this time for the minister. Normally, that's not the way we approach these subjects. We usually try to get senior officials from the departments in. The deputy minister, I think, would be the person best suited to come in for this topic.
MR. CHAIRMAN: I would like to give us some focus here. I would like to talk about Mr. Morash's suggestion. Would that be the proper way to go? Is that the wish of the committee? Kerry, your suggestion was, if you could verbalize it for us?
MR. MORASH: That we postpone a week and that moves us away from the filming and also there is another committee, the Fire Safety Committee, that is kind of tough on schedules. So I am a bit biased I guess to that as well. But just to postpone for a week and then continue and resume with our normal state of affairs.
MR. CHAIRMAN: In lieu of next week, there would be no meeting of Public Accounts? Okay, on that topic I would like to recognize Mr. Barnet.
MR. BARNET: Mr. Chairman, I think this actually provides us an opportunity, because, in fact, we last week received a list from the other caucuses and we haven't had a chance to completely caucus those lists. We may take advantage of next Wednesday over in the committee room to help develop a further agenda and that will resolve two issues at the same time.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Mr. MacKinnon.
MR. MACKINNON: Mr. Chairman, I agree with Mr. Barnet. As well, I think between now and next week we should endeavour to, as soon as possible, contact the Auditor General's Office to see what information he may have with regard to Knowledge House in relationship to public expenditures and so on, so that we could probably take that snapshot information and because we will be, most likely, in camera, if we are dealing with the Auditor General as part of a briefing, which is generally the protocol and we can, for lack of a better phrase, do a hodge-podge of issues. I mean we have been off for several months now and just further delays would be counter-productive. I agree with Mr. Barnet, we could do that. I would suggest that we also secure whatever information the Auditor General has and, perhaps, if he is in a position to be able to appear next week at the Committees Office and just give us some insights to better prepare all caucus members from the three caucuses for the next two weeks after that.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Thank you for your direction there. Mr. Langille.
MR. LANGILLE: Mr. Chairman, we're 13 minutes over our time allocation already. This debate is just going in circles. Maybe you could have the question put forward by Mr. Morash.
MR. CHAIRMAN: I think we have consensus and I am going to ask for consensus that we will hold a meeting next week at 8:00 a.m. in one of the committee rooms and at that time we will firm up, there will be some business, we will make an attempt to get the Auditor General there, we will also firm up the witness list at that time. The following week we would ask the Department of Education, the deputy minister and staff to be there, and that the subsequent week after that, which is October 24th, is Knowledge House. Do I have consensus on that or do you want a motion?
MR. BARNET: Motion.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Mr. Morash, are you prepared to make that motion?
MR. MORASH: I guess my motion was just for the postponement with regard to postponing a week. So I certainly move that we postpone or we move ahead our business one week and my intention was that we wouldn't meet next week.
MR. CHAIRMAN: I have a motion. Are you speaking on the motion?
MR. DEWOLFE: I am speaking on the motion and for a point of clarification with regard to the agenda. I do have some items approved. Wednesday, September 26th, was the date on one of these lists that I only received yesterday. So, we haven't had a chance to caucus those either. But I can provide the Committees Office with approved items later today, I expect, because our caucus is now currently meeting and we will be going directly to that caucus meeting. So I can easily provide a list of agenda items that can bring us up for probably a number of weeks. So a meeting next week wouldn't be necessary for setting an agenda I would think at that point, because we do have items for the next couple of weeks already on schedule.
MR. CHAIRMAN: But I would assume that, if I may respond to that, yes, there is a government caucus and with the number of votes you have on the committee, you are going to come in and say those are the ones but we would also discuss that at a meeting, would we not discuss the fact that these are the witnesses over the next number of weeks and months?
I have to deal with the motion at hand. Mr. Morash's motion is that the two upcoming witnesses be delayed and that there be no meeting of the Public Accounts Committee next week. Is that clear? That is the motion that Mr. Morash has made.
Mr. Downe, you are shaking your head, so I am going to recognize you.
MR. DOWNE: I understand. That is Mr. Morash's motion. That was not the motion that was . . .
MR. CHAIRMAN: I know that but there wasn't a motion. Mr. MacKinnon didn't actually make a motion. I thought we had consensus. (Interruption) Well, perhaps with my inexperience I shouldn't just think we have consensus, I should go through the motion routine. I have a motion from Mr. Morash. Are you ready for the question? Would all those in favour of the motion please say Aye. Contrary minded, Nay.
The motion is carried.
There will be no meeting next week of the Public Accounts Committee.
Heaven forbid I ask, is there any further business?
The committee stands adjourned. Thank you for your time.
[The committee adjourned at 10:17 a.m.]