NOVA SCOTIA HOUSE OF ASSEMBLY
Wednesday, March 7, 2012
Department of Service Nova Scotia and Municipal Relations
Registry of Motor Vehicles
Printed and Published by Nova Scotia Hansard Reporting Services
Public Accounts Committee
Hon. Keith Colwell, Chairman
Mr. Howard Epstein, Vice-Chairman
Mr. Clarrie MacKinnon
Mr. Gary Ramey
Mr. Mat Whynott
Mr. Brian Skabar
Mr. Andrew Younger
Mr. Chuck Porter
Mr. Allan MacMaster
[Hon. Christopher d’Entremont replaced Mr. Allan MacMaster]
Mrs. Darlene Henry
Legislative Committee Clerk
Mr. Jacques Lapointe
Mr. Alan Horgan
Deputy Auditor General
Mr. Terry Spicer
Assistant Auditor General
Mr. Gordon Hebb
Chief Legislative Counsel
Department of Service Nova Scotia and Municipal Relations
Mr. Kevin Malloy, Deputy Minister
Mr. Paul Arsenault, Registrar of Motor Vehicles
Mr. Robert Devet, Acting Executive Director, Information Management Services
Mr. Scott Farmer, Acting Executive Director, Strategy, Integration and Registries
Ms. Marianne Hakkert-Lebel, Director of Finance
Ms. Nancy MacLellan, Executive Director, Service Delivery
Chief Information Office
Mr. Steven Feindel, Acting Executive Director, Infrastructure Services Management
HALIFAX, WEDNESDAY, MARCH 7, 2012
STANDING COMMITTEE ON PUBLIC ACCOUNTS
Hon. Keith Colwell
Mr. Howard Epstein
MR. CHAIRMAN: Good morning, I’d like to call the meeting to order. We’ll start by asking everybody to introduce themselves.
[The committee members and witnesses introduced themselves.]
MR. CHAIRMAN: Good morning, I welcome our guests. We will start the process this morning with a presentation by the deputy minister.
MR. KEVIN MALLOY: I apologize for the number of people we have on our side of the floor over here; I thought there was going to be a vote. (Laughter) This is a very complex area and we wanted to make sure that we had the folks in the room who would be able to address all of the questions. I’ll make some opening comments and will turn it over to you guys.
Good morning and thank you for the opportunity to appear before the committee to discuss Chapters 7 and 8 of the Auditor General’s May 2011 Report which focused on the Registry of Motor Vehicles. I am going to skip the staff introductions since that has already taken place.
Service Nova Scotia and Municipal Relations handles 90 per cent of Nova Scotians’ routine interactions with government. This includes everything from renewing a driver’s licence to registering a new business. The Registry of Motor Vehicles is a big part of what we do. Of the 5.4 million client transactions processed by our department each year, over 2 million of these are motor vehicle transactions and we collect approximately $100 million per year in revenue under the RMV program.
To give you a further sense of the scale of RMV there are approximately 650,000 licensed drivers in the province and approximately 800,000 registered vehicles. There are roughly 65 driving schools, 1,800 automobile dealers, 1,200 licensed inspection stations and 4,800 commercial carriers.
The Nova Scotia Registry of Motor Vehicles operates as part of a larger system and interacts directly with other provinces, states and countries to ensure the free flow of people and goods, and ensures integrity in our licensing and registration system and those of other jurisdictions. Our stakeholders are wide and varied. Our role is clear, keeping our roads safe while providing excellent service to our clients. I can tell you that staff at Service Nova Scotia and Municipal Relations have an unwavering focus on these things.
From a technology point of view, we continually work to ensure that the information we manage is safe and secure. Our technology and our security systems are always improving. As always, we value the work of the Auditor General and his staff. The May 2011 Report identified 34 recommendations and we have been actively working to address these since we received the report. I am pleased to tell you that we have addressed approximately 40 per cent of the recommendations, with work in progress on the remainder.
Prior to the issuance of the report, we took steps to address certain things. In March 2011, we issued a policy and process to ensure that driver examiners not only have a clean driving record at the time of hire, but they maintain one on an ongoing basis. We were also able to clear the backlog of medical documentation awaiting review prior to the May report.
Since the report was issued, we have implemented improvements to processes in various areas to ensure the completeness of driving school applications, for licensing and renewal, to ensure timely follow up on complaints, and to effectively track matters referred between work groups. The department has also established standards for the timely submission and processing of medical reports.
Service Nova Scotia and Municipal Relations invited the internal audit staff from the Department of Finance to develop and deliver fraud awareness materials and training to front-line staff. This has been well received and we continue to seek, develop and deliver training programs that enhance our operations and reduce our risk of fraud.
Work is underway and continues in the remaining areas. Examples of work in progress include engagement of the internal audit centre to help us a develop a risk-based approach to the audit of inspection stations; work with other departments to assess the viability of a new system for the collection of collision data; and investigation of data-masking technologies for system testing.
We are confident that we will have nearly all the recommendations addressed in the fiscal year 2012-13. At this time, we’d be happy to answer your questions. Thank you.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Thank you very much. We’ll start our questioning with Mr. Younger.
MR. ANDREW YOUNGER: Thank you, Mr. Malloy and the others who are here. First of all, I want to recognize, as you said, that in your list of responses that you basically accepted all the recommendations of the Auditor General, as far as I can tell and, as you noted, they’re either completed or a work in progress. I think you deserve some credit for that because it just shows that it wasn’t about arguing. It was, yes, these are things we can improve on, and I think you deserve some credit.
In the package we received in advance of this meeting, there was a document entitled Terms of Engagement, where it set up the parameters for the Registry of Motor Vehicles where there was a timeline on an internal audit. That’s a good thing, it made a lot of sense, but it also said that the final report would be completed on January 6, 2012. I’m just wondering if that was completed.
MR. SCOTT FARMER: That was the original timeline that was set out in the Terms of Engagement. We’ve not yet received the draft report. There were some additional steps that were taken in terms of interviews and further investigations that have caused some additional time in the development of the report, but we would anticipate receiving that within the next few weeks from Internal Audit.
MR. YOUNGER: So probably maybe by May 6th?
MR. FARMER: I would anticipate that we would be receiving it in the month of April, certainly and perhaps before the end of March.
MR. YOUNGER: I certainly understand that sometimes these things get delayed. One of the things that it talks about, which I find kind of intriguing actually - and this is in the package that we all received on Page 5 of the Terms of Engagements. It says, “The final report, which is accessible to the general public through the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act (FOIPOP), is prepared for the client department and distributed at their discretion.”
That seems to imply that, while obviously it would be accessible via a freedom of information request, that it doesn’t have to be; the department could release that. I’m just wondering if the department plans to release that publicly.
MR. FARMER: I don’t anticipate there would be any reason why we would withhold it if it was sought.
MR. YOUNGER: Maybe we can consider it to be sought then. I just think it’s important.
MR. FARMER: We can certainly make it available to the committee when we do receive it.
MR. YOUNGER: That is, indeed, very good news because just in that clause there was - I read it and I said, I could walk down the street, pay my $5 and file a FOIPOP, but it seemed a little bit silly for something of this nature.
Continuing on with that, many of the concerns that the Auditor General raised seemed to be around the protection of people’s private information. I think the deputy minister very ably described just the sheer volume of transactions that you deal with on a daily basis and anybody who has been there in a Service Nova Scotia and Municipal Relations centre on the last day of the month certainly is well aware of the number of transactions you probably deal with.
I want to get to an understanding of why these problems happened in the first place. It would strike me that the single most important task of Service Nova Scotia and Municipal Relations - and I do recognize that you’re addressing the issue - would be the protection of information because you’re collecting so much private information. Could you walk me through why you think those problems happened in the first place?
MR. MALLOY: I’d like Nancy MacLellan to answer that, please.
MS. NANCY MACLELLAN: As you indicated, there’s a spectrum of activity that occurs in an access centre and it spreads from what we would consider to be relatively low-risk transactions to those that are significant and high risk, like the issuance of a government ID.
Part of our process when we are issuing a government ID - I think of some of the examples that were cited in the Auditor General’s Report - one of the examples would be that you come in to get a primary ID, a government-issued ID card, we take your credit card number as proof of your name, because it’s an embossed card. We have a policy that staff would not make that part of the record or that they would block out the credit card number. The Auditor General did discover a couple of instances where that credit card number wasn’t blocked out, so we reinforced the policy with the staff people and we also instituted a process in addition to that where, as part of the archiving and microfilming and scanning of those documents, there’s a safety net check that we don’t keep and retain that information as part of that transaction.
Conversely, when somebody is coming to get a handicapped parking permit, an accessible parking permit, that is a lower-risk transaction so the rigour around that would be slightly less, in terms of verification of ID.
MR. YOUNGER: So let’s take the IDs, there’s a number of elements to that, of course. If I come in for a Nova Scotia Government ID, if I recall - and it has been a long time since I’ve had to go in and do this, other than replacing my driver’s licence - it used to be that they would ask for proof of residence and sometimes they would take a power bill; there’s lots of different things, right? You are going in because you don’t actually have an ID, so you can’t show them your government ID.
One of the concerns that we have heard raised periodically and I think if I’m interpreting it fairly - it is sort of alluded to if not directly raised in the report - is the issue of if there is someone who is a non-resident of Nova Scotia, what controls are going to be put in place to prevent them from getting a fraudulent Nova Scotia ID? For example, it is sometimes not - I don’t want to say it’s not difficult but it’s not impossible to get the kind of ID and the kind of paperwork and bills and so forth that would show you having an address here which then, of course, once that allows that, that allows you to access the health care system. This is the problem, right? Once you get a Nova Scotia ID, you can access a whole range of things. What steps are being done to ensure that you are dealing with that risk?
MS. NANCY MACLELLAN: It depends on what the customer comes in with. If you are an immigrant to Nova Scotia and you are coming from a foreign country, you’ll have citizenship documentation, picture ID, professional credential ID. The registrar establishes that in order to get a Nova Scotia ID, there has to be a photo verification for a driver’s licence residency establishment. We normally rely on passport documentation and something that is issued at a federal level, as well as birth certificates and other supporting documentation. So nine times out of 10, 99 times out of 100, it’s a pretty routine exercise. If folks have a Nova Scotia birth certificate, if they have a picture ID, they can prove residency. For those that are exceptional, we rely on federal identity documents and other criteria that allow us to consider and make sure that we keep Nova Scotia IDs safe.
MR. YOUNGER: Thank you. One of the recommendations in 8.4 talked about this in terms of fraud training. My understanding is that the department accepted this. Could you discuss what percentage of staff have had fraud training - if it has been implemented at all - and what that entails?
MS. NANCY MACLELLAN: Sure. We engaged the Internal Audit folks at the Department of Finance to help us develop fraud training, which they were already in the process of doing. There are about 500 Access Nova Scotia front-line employees who have had fraud awareness training. That took place both in individual meetings at site locations, as well as at staff meetings.
There’s employee responsibility packages around fraud and prevention of fraud we have certainly heightened and raised our profile around folks’ responsibility to make sure that they are aware of fraud opportunities.
In addition to that, there is work being done on a national level with respect to fraud training through the Canadian Council of Motor Transport Administrators. That’s something that’s done and that awareness and that kind of training is done on a national level, so we’re pursuing that as well. I would consider the recommendation acted upon with respect to the training that we’ve provided to folks and always an opportunity to do more and to continue to get better at it.
MR. YOUNGER: The second element to potential for fraud is obviously on the staff side, and I don’t want to disparage the public servants because I think it’s probably a fairly tiny percentage of people who would be potentially at risk or the type of person who may commit fraud working at an Access Nova Scotia site, but we know it can happen. We just witnessed that on the health side just in the past few weeks with an employee in Capital Health accessing patient records; I know that’s not under your purview. How are you managing and monitoring staff to prevent fraud? There were two issues that were raised: one was on the potential fraudulent transactions; and second, other types of fraud that might be committed.
MS. NANCY MACLELLAN: We have a number of checks and balances in place with respect to monitoring staff transactions. A significant portion of that takes place during the training period and in the initial stages of somebody being employed. We monitor transactions at the three-month, six-month, nine-month, 12-month level and then on an ongoing basis, routine folder reviews as well as through our audit group in our head office location. So we have a number of transaction review processes that help us identify whether or not things are going the way that they should be going. When something is discovered, we do a deeper dig on what the circumstances were around that and make sure that action is taken to prevent it.
The electronic systems actually provide us with better availability to be able to monitor and track that because we can actually see who accessed what records, for what purpose and what time frame. We’re able to access those reports on a regular basis to make sure that we’re monitoring.
MR. MALLOY: I’d like to add to that. From my vantage point, we have had just a couple - I think two issues in the department with breach of privacy that we’ve been involved in. In both cases, those employees were terminated. Our message is very strong, that if you don’t comply with our policies 100 per cent of the time, you will be on the outside looking in. I think that’s important, if for no other reason than to show that we take it very seriously.
MR. YOUNGER: I think that’s a very wise policy to have, especially when dealing with personal information.
Do I understand you correctly that if I take my information, for example, that you’re able to tell whether somebody has accessed my DMV file or whichever other files you may have on me?
MS. NANCY MACLELLAN: Yes we are. We’re able to trace back and see who accessed the record and what time frame and how many times. I should have also said in my first response that we - also as part of the package that you got is the Employee Responsibility Package, which reminds folks on an annual basis their responsibilities around privacy and codes of conduct and other practices within the system.
MR. YOUNGER: I don’t know if you’re able to provide a number on this. In a private organization there is usually an estimate for the amount of fraud or fraudulent transactions that would be occurring, usually small. If I ran a Toys “R” Us, I would assume that there is a certain amount of theft and fraud that happens and I might make that 0.5 per cent or 1 per cent. Do you have any sort of guideline of what you anticipate the level might be?
MS. NANCY MACLELLAN: We target zero.
MR. YOUNGER: I hope you target zero. I’m not suggesting only staff. You have to assume that there’s at least some fraudulently obtained Nova Scotia Government IDs that get through the door in the run of a year. It probably would be unwise to assume that there isn’t at least one a year.
MS. NANCY MACLELLAN: We don’t have a target that we establish. I think Mr. Arsenault may be able to provide a better idea in terms of what goes on nationally with respect to that.
MR. PAUL ARSENAULT: Certainly I’m not aware of any numbers that are published with respect to fraud. I know it happens periodically, I mean police do seize licences that aren’t the person they are supposed to be. I don’t think it is widespread. We certainly are working very closely with the fraud component of the HPD, for example, to determine if it becomes epidemic, for lack of a better term. We want to make sure that we’re working with the police to make sure that if - for example, I believe that two years ago they uncovered somebody who was making IDs that weren’t nearly as good as ours, by the way, but they were doing that. We worked with them to make sure that the bars or whomever, where the purpose of obtaining the IDs, that they were aware they were out there.
That’s the other thing we do, we make sure that the security features, for example, on our driver’s licence or photo ID cards are published and are made available to those who need them - banks, the bars, of course, making sure that they are detected. As we learn of attempts to reproduce our licence, then we can change our security feature, so we do have a fairly robust means of controlling that.
We’re all working together. All our jurisdictions are tied together now electronically, we’ve been that way for a number of years. As people move around, we’re trying to keep track of them better. For example, when someone comes into an access centre, on screen their photo will be shown, so we’re making sure that person is the same one. If you have a brother or whatever who might be a little younger, if he comes in and tries to get a replacement licence in your name, we can look at the photo.
I think it’s an evolving area. I think Nancy was clear that we’re looking at other ways of us managing the fraud at a local level, national and international. As you are aware, the U.S. has certainly really tightened up the rules around issuance of drivers’ licences. We are on the same path of following that. Facial recognition is not too far away, where we’ll be able to compare photos. There’s a lot of good stuff out there that technology can help us do and we are aware of this.
MR. YOUNGER: Obviously I’m concerned about the person in the basement making good fake IDs. My main concern, at least today, is how many transactions might get approved as - I guess they’re not residency permits but a fake Nova Scotia Government ID, who really shouldn’t have been issued one - and not even to suggest that that’s necessarily the fault of the employee who is working. I’m a little bit surprised that there isn’t sort of an estimate that if we do - I have no idea how many you do but if you do 10,000 IDs in a year, renewals and new ones, that 1 per cent of those or maybe even just 10 of those, you assume you need to track down.
I think from my perspective and maybe this is just because I have a background in running a private business, which is a little bit different than obviously how government would work, that I would sort of have an estimate, and the target would be zero but it’s where I’m trying to get on that.
You mentioned some of the other elements to IDs and I’m wondering where you anticipate the IDs evolving. I got a NEXUS card recently - well, more than recently - for travel between the U.S. and Canada. Of course they have your irises and fingerprints and everything else all in this biometric card. Some people don’t like those. Obviously it’s just like paper currency, every time a new bill comes out, the counterfeiters find a way to replace that and they come up with something new. So what kind of things are you looking at on the horizon for updating ID cards?
MR. ARSENAULT: I think one of the more important things we’re looking at is the facial recognition because it’s the ability to compare photos, as a person comes in every five years and obtains an identification document or a driver’s licence, relatively the same thing. We’re looking at how that technology is evolving, how we can make better use of it and if we can use it for other things, even within government. I think that’s one of the big things that we’re doing.
Our current contract, for example, for the photo licensing system expires, I believe, in 2015 or 2016. We’re starting the process working with my colleagues in Atlantic Canada about what we’re calling the next generation of driver licence card. As we speak, it’s true, people try to hack or develop their own methods of producing a card so there are different technologies that are emerging, different things you can put in the driver’s licence, different layers, it’s quite amazing what technologies are being used.
That is one of our key strategies, to evolve the ID/driver’s licence card as the security features come out that we can employ and, of course, making sure they’re affordable for us, too. I’m not quite sure what a NEXUS card costs to produce, but I’m quite sure it’s much more than our driver’s licence. Having said that, our driver’s licence card has been evaluated by a security company out of Ontario and we have a fairly secure card. That’s the other step we do, to make sure that those in the business look at our card and determine how safe it is and that’s one of things we continually do.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Order, please. Mr. Younger’s time has expired.
MR. CHUCK PORTER: Thank you for being here with us this morning and taking some time to answer some questions, we appreciate it very much. Perhaps I’ll start with Mr. Arsenault and continue on with you if I can because this has to with the Registry of Motor Vehicles and Access Nova Scotia. If it’s not the right person to answer the question, please pass it appropriately on.
I am the representative for the Windsor area, as you may know, and we have an Access Nova Scotia Office in Windsor. It has been there for some time but I get a lot of complaints and the complaints are that the hours are less than appropriate. We’ve been asking over the years to have this assessed and I don’t know if it has ever been assessed. You need only be there to see that people line up early in the morning and they’re still not through by 2:00 p.m. - it’s only open 10:00 a.m. until 2:00 p.m. and they’re still not through. That should say very clearly to anyone doing an assessment that the requirement is greater than that and it warrants more hours. Can you tell me how you justify the current hours that are there and how you set those hours?
MS. NANCY MACLELLAN: We do have a number of part-time offices across the province that have grown as a result of demand and request for same. The Windsor office does do a pretty solid business for the hours that they’re open. We do staff if from another location so there are costs incurred for travel and staff being present there.
The wait times average around 20 to 30 minutes, depending on whether or not we’re at the beginning of the month or the end of the month. We do monitor all of our part-time offices to make sure that we’re meeting the demand. At this point the evaluation that we’ve done - and we usually do them about twice a year - reveals that the hours that we’re operating there are appropriate for the demand that occurs.
MR. PORTER: The people who you are covering and representing would disagree with that, including myself. I’ve been there, I’ve waited it out and I’ve seen people come in there in the morning, in that beginning line-up for starting time and not get through. They sit the entire time out. They’re frustrated, there’s no half-hour waiting time, I’ve seen people waiting there two and three hours. Trying to go down there on a lunch break is just about impossible some days because that just doesn’t work. We offer a lot of things out of that particular office - the Excel driving school does their thing there and sets up appointments and that creates another whole problem and I’ll get to that in a minute. So in your opinion then, somebody goes out, does the assessment a couple of times a year, and currently today your department deems that is acceptable what is there.
What would it take to get that extended, added to, not to become part-time, or three-quarter time, or use whatever language you like by way of time? It’s four hours a day, Tuesdays and Thursdays. I get a lot of complaints on that. I know there’s one in New Minas, I know there’s one in Halifax, et cetera, but if the service is going to be provided, I think people just have an expectation that it will be provided. Is there any way to get that - I don’t know if it’s six hours a day, or it’s three days a week, or two and a half days a week, how do we get there or is that even going to be considered? Are you just telling me flat out, no, we are where we are and that’s what you’re going to get.
MS. NANCY MACLELLAN: We’re happy to look at it again and certainly as a result of your question, we’ll go back and have a look and see if there’s something more that we can do. When we move the staff around like that we’re drawing from another office that’s a full-time office and that creates a pressure no matter where you draw those folks from. We don’t have new staff for that office at this time, so we’d be happy to go back and have a look at it.
MR. PORTER: So we’re trying to staff obviously within a figure, the bottom line is always about money, unfortunately, at the end of the day when it comes to service delivery and many other things. I understand that very much. I guess I would say then that we’re going to continue to do the part time and draw from other areas. Does that mean then that you close or you’re just operating, doing multi-operational - these people work Monday, Wednesday somewhere else, they work Tuesday, Thursday in Windsor. Is that what you’re saying, just for the record?
MS. NANCY MACLELLAN: Yes, that’s correct.
MR. PORTER: So are these folks full-time people working part-time places?
MS. NANCY MACLELLAN: It’s a mix. We have a number of full- and part-time people across all of our operations; some are 40 per cent, some are 50 per cent, some are 60 per cent, some are 70 per cent and based on the number of hours that we’re allowed to schedule them, including the travel time that they incur. We try to set it up as best we can to meet the demands so when somebody is working in Windsor, they’re not working in Kentville.
MR. PORTER: Sure. Would it not make some sense to be looking at - obviously there’s a cost incurred because you are paying the travelling time and hours probably to go along with it while they’re travelling and everything. Someone who comes in and works a four-hour day, as an example, in Windsor - what does their day look like? They’re travelling from somewhere for an hour, getting paid that hour, working four hours, travelling back. Are you telling me they’re putting in a six-hour day or a seven-hour day? What’s the scale here? I guess I’m not sure exactly what they’re working.
MS. NANCY MACLELLAN: They are scheduled as of 10 o’clock. I understand they often show up before that and open up before that because they’re there. I don’t know specifically the people who are covering that. They might be a 60 per cent person who does that and the travel time and the time that they’re working there makes up their 60 per cent in those two days, based on the travel time and the time to clear the line at 2:00. So when we shut down at 2:00 p.m., we serve the people who are there and then they finish and go home. They might be scheduled to return to extended hours in a Kentville location, for example, as a split shift.
MR. PORTER: I don’t believe - and I stand to be corrected - the people are not local people from the Windsor area or Hants area working there; they’re all coming from somewhere else. Do you know the HR piece of that? I’m not sure myself exactly, but I know Mr. Murray from Hantsport. He used to work there at one point. He’d come down and Peter would fill in from time to time, but I didn’t recognize the last gal that was there when I was there.
MS. NANCY MACLELLAN: I’m sorry, the question?
MR. PORTER: Where are the staff coming from? Do you know if consistently they’re coming from the Valley down to Windsor or are they coming from Sackville up to Windsor? Do you know consistently where they’re coming from?
MS. NANCY MACLELLAN: As a matter of scheduling they would be coming from Kentville.
MR. PORTER: They come from the Kentville operation.
MS. NANCY MACLELLAN: Yes, unless something transpired that somebody from Kentville - maybe we have two people out in Kentville on a particular day and we need to cover the time. We’d pull from another operation in order to open the office.
MR. PORTER: It’s important, I guess I’ve already said, about those hours there. One of the other limitations we have - obviously we have Excel driving school there and I believe we have another one that comes from farther up the Valley, down around our area and teaches our kids how to drive and so on and so forth. They operate out of there through setting up appointments, obviously through Access Nova Scotia for driving. We have sometimes months where kids are waiting to get their driving test in. Is there some foreseeable cure to that? We’re sending these folks to Kentville and Sackville. I know David and Blaine, as an example, at Excel are trying to get these kids through because their classes are big, they’re busy. Thankfully that’s a good thing. They’re doing a great job there, but then there’s this great delay afterward where we can’t get kids in to get their driving test done. Is there some resolve here for this? Are we looking forward to say, how are we going to fix this problem?
MS. NANCY MACLELLAN: We have a five-week standard for driver testing, so somebody should be able to get an appointment within a five-week period. That appointment can be booked as soon as they start their driving test or their driving school training. We have a DEO - Driver Enhancement Officer - that covers in our Windsor location, and we open up days to accommodate the demand that’s there. We just put an office there actually for the driver enhancement officer to work out of to meet that demand. We constantly monitor - as we do with the office hours - where the demand is and where we can move people around to accommodate the customer demand. We work hard to maintain a five-week standard. We’ve had some absences in the Valley area, we’ve had some staff turn-over, retirements, and getting somebody up to speed to be able to operate independently takes a bit of time, but we do try to maintain that five-week standard.
MR. PORTER: I think it was maybe December when there were none; somebody was on vacation or something. So a whole month goes by and nobody is able to be scheduled. They may make the five weeks in some cases when they start the program. If a new driver doesn’t pass their first driving exam, I’ve know some who have waited three months to try to get back on line to get that retest done.
If you talk to one of these 16-year olds or 17-year olds, you can imagine the position they are in after doing all the work. They are frustrated because I guess probably we were all the same, we were anxious to get our driver’s licence. It’s something that we want and it’s a big deal to them and they don’t really understand too much about a three-month wait, nor do they care. They just go on about giving the grief as needed, I guess.
We are seeing some major delays in some areas, from what I’ve seen and experienced. I’ve known Blaine and David for a lifetime and I know these guys well. They are calling me when they are having issues. For the most part, they’ll tell you, things go along reasonably well. I think that they seem to like that process, the way that they are set up with Service Nova Scotia and Municipal Relations and so on; not a lot of complaints that way. It has just always been about the delays in getting their drivers tested.
I think I heard you say there were some retirements, some issues. Are we hiring more people in this area, or what are we doing?
MS. NANCY MACLELLAN: We have just worked to replace the folks who have left. We are not adding new bodies to the mix but we do have the folks up to speed who are working there. Again, it is coverage from another office so you open up four days at Kentville and one day in Windsor and try to make sure that you get the travel time in there, so you can get as many appointments as you can, and maximize somebody’s day when they are travelling.
We do experience much higher peaks in the summertime, obviously, so we’ve done a number of things over the last several years to mitigate that. We’ve hired some driver testing technicians, some folks who can just administer the learners testing, for example, so that frees up the driver enhancement officer to do the road test, which is the more complex transaction or interaction with customers. We hired additional folks back for the peak periods in the summer, so we’re able to meet that standard within five weeks, so we do continue to monitor it.
I’d be happy to go back and have a look at that area again, in particular, with respect to the wait times and make sure that we’re within the standard and I’d be happy to get back to you and/or the committee about that.
MR. PORTER: Thank you for that, it’s good to hear. I’ll just ask you this final question on this particular piece of it; are you, as someone who seems to certainly have their hand on the pulse of what is going on there, are you satisfied that the numbers are adequate by way of staff, when it comes to doing what we’re doing there? I know everything is always about money, I said that a few minutes ago. You made mention a minute ago about, we’re not replacing them, we’re moving people around, we’re trying to accommodate, we’re maybe hiring some people part-time through peak seasons.
Are you, as somebody who is managing this process, monitoring this process, happy with where we are with this, as being adequate?
MS. NANCY MACLELLAN: I think what I said was that we do replace the people as they go; we don’t add net new. I think we do what we can to meet the customer demand, with the envelope and with the bodies that we have to do the work. That involves some shuffling and I must say tremendous flexibility among the staff people, to be able to go and accommodate and make sure that we’re moving around so that we’re able to meet the demand.
MR. PORTER: Thank you for that bit of clarity. I did mis-hear that then. Okay, that’s good, thank you.
Just sort of in that same vein, the department has a process in place in setting up the examiners and so on. Are you comfortable, as a department, that you’ve developed a process to ensure driver examiners hold a valid driver’s licence and have a safe driving record? What’s the process there when you are hiring somebody to take these kids out? I’m sure that they are educated to some degree but is there a background, are there secure checks? It’s a pretty significant thing, unfortunately, in today’s day and age we do hear of issues and I’m just kind of curious about that process.
MS. NANCY MACLELLAN: Recruiting for folks to do that job is a real challenge for us, I’ll say, based on the experience and the education and levels that we expect to hire. We’ve been very, very lucky to hire some incredibly strong folks.
I mentioned first the driver testing technician which was a great program for us to be able to start to recruit and grow within the organization some expertise and some of the early sort of driver testing and some of the new driver examinations, written exams. In addition to that, we have an eight to 10 week training program that folks go through that is proctored by some of our more senior folks and overseen by our head office people.
With respect to the training program, I believe the Auditor General’s Report thought that was quite a robust and appropriate program.
With respect to having a clean driving record, it is part of the requirements for a driver enhancement officer to have a clean driving record at the time of hire. The suggestion from the Auditor General’s Report was that we check that on an annual basis. That process was put in place while the Auditor General was still in doing the audit, so it was a great suggestion and we were happy to implement that. We now have a process where the driver examiner provides that on an annual basis to their managers, so that we’re able to make sure that folks maintain a clean driving record.
MR. PORTER: Thank you for that. Are you satisfied - I should quantify this to some degree, I guess. My first daughter is 27 or 28, I had the pleasure of teaching her how to drive and a few others through the course of my life. I certainly don’t have the nerve any more, I just have a gal who is almost 17 years old who went through the same thing last year and as much as I tried, I could not have the nerve to teach her. So she did go to Excel which was the right place for her, anyway, and Blaine and Dave and their staff are great there. That program is the only one that I know intimately enough, because I’ve known these guys forever.
Are you satisfied, as a department, provincially, that the number of driving schools and instructors out there, that our kids are getting the safe program that we’re looking for, that they’re coming away from there, they are solid drivers, they are good drivers, as far as the department? I know they’ve got to go through a test, anybody can have a good day, though. You’re 16 years old and we’ve often thought - I know I’ve thought - do I really want my child driving at 16 years old? I think that’s just a lot of my history, you know as you get older you have these feelings that you don’t want your kid on the road at 16 years old.
It’s a big step in these young people’s lives, obviously. We see higher speeds now, cars not made of much anymore, they’re mostly plastic. I spent a lot of years on the road as a paramedic so you can see where I’m coming from by way of incidents and things happening and traumas. Are you comfortable, as a department, and how often are things monitored by way of driving schools, safety records, outcomes? Are there any follow-up measurements, like I’m not certain - my daughter passed her test, she’s got her licencse, she’s off and running. Is there any other measurement tool that the department has or is considering for follow-up?
MR. ARSENAULT: I’m trying to remember which questions to answer because there are a number of them there.
MR. PORTER: Okay, sorry.
MR. ARSENAULT: Let me generally talk about it and if I don’t answer your specific question then certainly redirect it.
Let me talk a bit about the driving school. First of all, there are fairly robust regulations in place which govern the operation of driver licensing schools. The application process that anyone would undertake is fairly significant. We look at the program, we make sure that the elements of the program are what we’re looking for and we relatively have criteria. In fact, the regulations talk about what must be covered by the program. That’s certainly the first step in the process, that they do meet those criteria.
Then we will look at their training materials they are using, which we also think is important because you want to try to keep them a little bit up-to-date and make sure that they are relevant, especially the youth of today. Again, we all realize that this is a different generation coming up from how they learn, et cetera, so that is relatively the first step.
The second part - they’ve become an operational driving school. I have two of my staff who are trained driving examiners themselves. They do go around periodically to visit the particular driving schools to determine whether or not - for example, their classroom sessions, there’s a 25-hour requirement so we want to make sure that’s operational, is the classroom appropriate, are they delivering it appropriately?
The other part is we do periodically go out in the cars with them to make sure because where they are examiners, they can be in a car just making sure that they are instructing the clients properly, so that happens. We’re increasing the frequency, we’re trying to see at least seven or eight schools a year. We have roughly 60 so we’d like to do more but that’s really with the responsibilities that those officers have, that’s what we’re doing, but at least we’re looking at them. We do react to complaints if we get any, which is the other side of the business. If anybody says I’m not happy with the quality of the education here, we’ll go and have a look at it.
The other part of your question revolved around okay, now that they’ve got their driver’s licence, are we comfortable with them? Again, we have our graduated driver’s licence program which I think is a really good program, it allows their responsibilities or what they are allowed to do on the highway to increase with time. We have pretty significant penalties for stunting - again, as you recall, that’s a fairly significant piece of legislation that was passed recently - low blood alcohol. We’re trying to instill not only in the young drivers but in every driver that there are certain behaviours that aren’t tolerated on the highway and there are penalties. In the graduated program, one of the good things that we have, of course, is that you reset the program, so if you incur a suspension because of your behaviour, you’re going to stay there for quite a while and that means you can’t drive after midnight unless you have a special exemption. So there are some good things built within the program that monitor it.
From our perspective, we look at the collision statistics involving young Nova Scotians. We publish that every year. We’re conscious of that and looking for trends, and then of course we can come back to the Legislature saying we need tougher rules or we’re going to have to do something to deal with that. I think there are a number of steps we have in the process that would address what you’re talking about.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Order, please. The time has expired, Mr. Porter. Mr. Epstein.
MR. HOWARD EPSTEIN: We seem to be somewhat wide-ranging here this morning. I’m afraid I’m going to follow up a bit on that starting with a small issue. I’m happy to report that in 14 years in my constituency office, we’ve hardly ever had any issues raised about the Registry of Motor Vehicles. The one exception though, of course, had to do with the move of Access Nova Scotia - and therefore the registry offices - off the peninsula to the Bayers Lake Industrial Park. I just wonder if I could ask a couple of things about that. Can you tell me first where the offices are in HRM?
MS. NANCY MACLELLAN: We have the office in Bayers Lake that you referenced. We have an office in Sackville and we have an office in Dartmouth.
MR. EPSTEIN: Do you happen to know whether it’s a lease or an ownership arrangement in Bayers Lake?
MS. NANCY MACLELLAN: All of them are leased.
MR. EPSTEIN: The length of the lease? I’m interested here particularly about the Bayers Lake.
MS. NANCY MACLELLAN: I believe it’s two five-years and an option for a three.
MR. EPSTEIN: Two five-year periods plus an option for a third. What does it mean to say there are two five-year periods? Meaning you’re committed to 10 years but there’s perhaps a rent escalator in the second five-year period?
MS. NANCY MACLELLAN: I mean there is a five-year period and then we could get out at five, but we wouldn’t have to re-tender to stay for an additional five and an additional extension of three beyond those two five-year periods.
MR. EPSTEIN: Okay, you obviously understand where I’m going. The question would be whether there is going to be any possibility of the office moving back onto the peninsula. This did cause a lot of upheaval at the time and, of course, the problem from the perspective of people who live on the peninsula is the travel time to get back and forth. I’m wondering if you could just summarize for me what were the factors that led the department to decide that it should move off the peninsula and to the Bayers Lake site?
MS. NANCY MACLELLAN: Certainly. We were at West End Mall, as you know, for 13 years - two fives and a three, the same kind of conditions - and the landlord opted not to renew the lease, so it wasn’t our decision or choice necessarily to go back out to the street. We issued a tender for the space on the peninsula and we had no successful bidders who meet the requirements. We expanded the tender boundaries to include the Bayers Lake area and other areas and had the successful bid from the Bayers Lake location.
Certainly, for all of the reasons that you cite, it was our preference to be on the peninsula. There were no sites or bids that could meet the requirements for parking, traffic and driver testing and all the things that go into having a quality Access Centre.
MR. EPSTEIN: I certainly understand that there are space needs and a variety of factors that would go into choosing a site and the absence of any response to a request for proposals is very telling. At the same time, conditions do change on the peninsula and are changing and I guess I would simply flag this for you as an administrative matter that perhaps when you approach the five-year period you might look at the possibility at least of surveying the market just to see if there’s anything else out there that might be a little more central. I just wanted to flag that, if I could.
Maybe now I’ll move to something that’s more directly on what our main topic is for the day. What I wonder about when it comes to some of the security issues has to do with the topic of sharing registry information. This is a particular aspect of security and I’m wondering just what happens in terms of the information that the Registry of Motor Vehicles has about people moving outside that limited sphere, inside the department. Do you have protocols that are place with other departments or other levels of government? Can I hear a bit about that?
MR. ARSENAULT: I’ll characterize them as within our own government boundaries which would include departments like Community Services and that would give you an example of one of the internal departments that we would deal with.
We do have an agreement between the two departments which would specify what the agreement would allow them to access and for what purposes and then it would also specify, for example, what monitoring mechanisms we’d want to have internally within that department to make sure that they are, indeed, adhering to that. When we go outside the bounds of government, we also have similar agreements with Revenue Canada, for example; it’s a fairly large agreement that we have with them for access to vehicle information. Again, it’s the same sort of thing. They would have what specific information they’re allowed to access, they would have to define the staff who are going to access the information, how they’re going to monitor the staff and then there’s a reporting requirement to our department as to how their monitoring went. Again, we try to put as much monitoring teeth within the agreements to report back to us.
We are actually in a whole new generation of agreements. Most agreements expire on a five-year cycle and we’re now upgrading a lot of them, looking at enhanced monitoring to make sure that there are not breaches of security, for example; what are the protocols, here’s what we need to know. We’ve recently embarked on a process of making sure that their staff who have access to the system are indeed still employed by that particular department and do they still require the access.
We’ve done a number of things, some of them that the Auditor General pointed out to us which we’re very thankful for, so it is a fairly broad service that we do provide. We do make sure that the agreements are in place and the agencies are sticking with them.
MR. EPSTEIN: I think it was sometime in the last year I was part of some discussions that had to do with sharing of information with the Department of National Revenue or perhaps vice-versa. I’m curious a bit about what you said about sharing some information with the Department of Community Services. I wonder if you could just explain what might trigger a request for application and exactly how something like this might play out?
MR. ARSENAULT: A couple of the areas I can provide information on. One, if someone is applying for assistance they are looking at what vehicles they own because that’s often, determining whether or not - if they have five or six Cadillacs, why are they applying in essence, so they’re looking at monitoring the vehicles. The other thing, too, is sometimes repayments are required because the benefits exceed and they’re looking for their location, where are they now within the province. Of course, of the agencies we probably maintain the most current address information so that would be another requirement that they would ask us for the information.
MR. EPSTEIN: Does this happen on a routine basis?
MR. ARSENAULT: Yes, it would, it’s fairly significant. For anybody who is applying for benefits they will check their vehicle, what vehicles they do own, so there would be a fairly significant load.
MR. EPSTEIN: Can I ask some questions about the new driver’s licence? I happen to have had a renewal of mine just recently and it certainly looks a bit different than it has in the past. I’m assuming that it’s because there are some security features built in here. I’m wondering if you can tell us a bit about what it is that we’re seeing now in the new driver’s licence? I think particularly about the two forms of bar code that appear on the back - one looks like a fairly usual kind of commercial bar code with thick and thin lines and then there’s a very elaborate one that seems to go along with that. What are these two things?
MR. ARSENAULT: The bottom one really is an inventory control bar code. Each card in this new generation of cards that we adopted about three years ago is numbered. Within that code is embedded the physical number of that card. In fact, it’s very similar to how the banks operate. That feature, when somebody loses a card, it will allow us to cancel that card, so the same thing as when your bank card is stolen. Down the road we’re going to be able to cancel the card. There’s also the date produced, I believe, at the bottom.
The more elaborate one that you describe up top has the basic information that is contained on the front so it would be the name, the birth date, the date issued. That allows for agencies to swipe the card and to be able to read the information on it. I think in our service delivery that we’re looking at down the road, that will speed up customer service, we’ll be able to swipe the card, so there are some service things that we can do to that.
I believe, for example, there’s an initiative by the police for e-ticketing, electronic issuing of summary offence tickets - the police officer will be able to swipe the card in their devices, thus reducing the keying potential that they are going to have to do, so there is a whole bunch of good things involved in that. That’s the basis around what the bar codes include.
Again as you’ve pointed out, the look and feel of it is fairly substantially different. Within the North American driver licensing community we’ve been trying to standardize what driver licences look like. I think everyone understands that when you travel, wherever you go, the driver’s licence is usually in your pocket. The training becomes a lot easier if the driver licences have relatively the same look and feel.
As I mentioned earlier, we did enter into a contract with our three neighbours, as part of purchasing the system, which allowed us to get a much better price, by the way, for the security features that are contained on the particular card, and part of that, of course, is that the cards tend to look the same. So again, what you’ll see at the top, I believe you have coat of arms and then we do have the province’s name in French and English. So again, that’s what we’re striving for, that uniformity.
MR. EPSTEIN: In fact, that was one of my questions, to what extent the look and feel of this card, of the new card now, will be replicated throughout North America. I did hear you mention earlier the Maritime Provinces so is this now going to be typical of what we see throughout North America?
MR. ARSENAULT: That’s clearly the intent. Again, for the training purposes and for the look and feel, that’s very important - I’ll call it the enhanced importance of drivers’ licences and photo ID cards. By the way, the photo ID card did follow the same principles that we’ve tendered together and it comes off the same system.
MR. EPSTEIN: I’m certainly not asking you to reveal any of the security secrets of the card, which I assume there must be some. Surely one of the points about resisting counterfeiting of cards is that legitimate agencies must be able to recognize what is a proper card and what isn’t. What I wonder is, are there features built in here that would allow someone who has been appropriately trained to recognize fairly easily what is and what is not a legitimate card?
MR. ARSENAULT: Yes, that’s correct. There are actually three levels of security features in every card. We publish level one and level two. We provide that, for example, to the bar and restaurant community in the province, so their staff can be trained to detect any fraudulent documents. We also provide that, of course, to the police if they are at roadside as they want to be able to determine whether or not there’s any fraud within that document, and our own staff of course. So yes, other jurisdictions will send me their information and that becomes part of our overall training package that we provide to our staff.
In fact, Nancy was talking about it earlier, around the fraud, how we’re providing fraudulent document training to front-line staff. It’s as important for them to recognize a fraudulent P.E.I. or Ontario licence coming to us as it is a fraudulent Nova Scotia. As you can appreciate, I think there’s 64 or 65 jurisdictions within Canada and the U.S. that we might see, so it is a fairly significant step that we have to go through in providing this training.
MR. EPSTEIN: Well thank you. In fact I think my colleague from Pictou County wanted to ask some questions. Just before I pass it over to you, can I ask, is Nick Barr still working in your office?
MR. ARSENAULT: Yes, Nick Barr is the Deputy Registrar for Driver Licensing.
MR. EPSTEIN: Okay, good, thanks.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Mr. MacKinnon.
MR. CLARRIE MACKINNON: Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman, great having you with us this morning. I have a couple of local questions, but first I want to commend you. I understand that you do about 2 million transactions a year. Is that correct that you take in about $100 million through the department and so on? Am I in the ballpark here?
MR. MALLOY: Yes, that is correct. We basically interact with every Nova Scotian on average about five times a year and about 2 million of those transactions are RMV related.
MR. MACKINNON: I’d like to zero in on the Access Nova Scotia offices. The member for Hants West was talking about wait times and so on. I hear that once in a while. We’re very pleased to have a new centre in New Glasgow. I find that as your service increases, the expectations of people actually more than matches that. I’m wondering, how many Access Nova Scotia locations are there in the province now? Some of them are relatively new, right?
MS. NANCY MACLELLAN: Yes, some of them are relatively new. We opened the New Glasgow-Stellarton operation recently. We co-located our land and Access Nova Scotia Sydney operations recently. We just closed a tender for the Amherst area, which will be a co-located land and Access site. We recently opened in Kentvile. We’re opening in Digby, I think, in another month, couple of weeks. Yes, we have a number of newer locations. It’s part of that 13-year span when we started this journey in 1997. All of those leases are now coming up for renewal so we’re going back to the marketplace to meet today’s needs.
MR. MACKINNON: So many changes have taken place in relation to the two-year inspection and the spreading out. I remember when people used to come in from all over the province to Halifax and there would be line-ups like you wouldn’t believe. It was just unbearable to try to register something at certain times.
One of the things that the Government of Nova Scotia is really committed to is the reduction of paperwork, of bureaucracy, of red tape. I know your department has done a number of things. Does anything come to mind right off the top of the head in relation to some of the things that you might be doing? The two-year inspection itself is better for individuals and companies and so on.
MS. NANCY MACLELLAN: We are always trying to take work out of the system and free folks up to do those things that require human intervention. Some of our on-line service developments have really helped move us forward in that direction so we now have on-line vehicle permit renewal, on-line change of address with multiple departments. We launched an integrated birth registration, which now will be an electronic offering in the Spring where new parents will be able to actually register the birth, request a birth certificate and register for federal programs from a kiosk in the hospital, instead of even having a paper form; so we have a number of initiatives.
We have an access-to-business initiative, which is moving us forward for business customers, creating the ability for business customers to have an on-line profile like on-line banking. They’d be able to log in, subscribe, pay for licences and permits. We’ll be able to push information out to them based on their business sector or business life cycle. I think the real opportunity for all of us is in the on-line world and being able to have folks self-serve where they can and where it makes sense so that we are able to serve people in person for those things that absolutely have to be in person.
MR. MACKINNON: In relation to driver licences, I understand that there are some special relationships with certain countries. I know that the department did a substantial amount of work in relation to the Koreans who were coming into the province. I interacted a lot in relation to that and I think the department really tried to come up with a reciprocity agreement with the Koreans and I understand some other countries as well are in the same situation. Any comments?
MR. ARSENAULT: Currently I believe there are 12 countries that have asked us for a reciprocity agreement and we are working through that. We do due diligence around it; we look at their licensing standards, how they test, et cetera, making sure that they’re all comparable to our Nova Scotia environment and making sure that happens. So it’s something that we are aware of, we’re looking for immigrants and we want to make sure that we can do things to accommodate them here, so if we can accommodate them safely, I think that’s what we’re looking at.
The countries we’re looking at right now include Japan, Hong Kong - which is another, despite being part of China - and Austria. We will actually have that agreement in place shortly, so it’s something we’re working toward as the countries come forward.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Order, please. Your time has expired. In the second round we’ll go to Mr. Younger for 16 minutes.
MR. YOUNGER: I guess there are two issues I wanted to try to cover in the 16 minutes. Let me start by following up with something that Mr. Epstein talked about which was this issue of locating Service Nova Scotia and Municipal Relations facilities, especially in the metro region. Obviously I also heard about the Bayers Lake move and I’m sure lots of people did, but interestingly enough the other one that I’m hearing about now is the one in Dartmouth, which is moving to Russell Lake. It’s moving off the transit routes and away from one of the busiest corridors in all of metro, into sort of a back area that HRM has identified as being an area of significant traffic congestion. It really doesn’t have significant transit access at this point - it might in the future.
I’m just going to make the assumption - you can tell me if I’m wrong - I assume that Mr. Chedrawe gave you a much better lease deal up in Millstone Square than you were getting from the Superstore or whoever manages that building. Is that correct, is it merely just price?
MS. NANCY MACLELLAN: The price is slightly less than what we had for 13 years at the Superstore, but I will say a couple of things about that. All my life’s a circle, we did tender in Dartmouth and didn’t have a successful bidder in the sort of geographic area that we had been in and we expanded those boundaries. Part of the tender process that’s managed through Transportation and Infrastructure Renewal is an evaluation of those submissions and the low qualifying bid that meets the operational requirements is the successful bidder, and it is on a bus route.
MR. YOUNGER: Yes, it’s on a single bus route that they just put in, but it’s a little bit different than the access availability . . .
MS. NANCY MACLELLAN: Yes, it sure is.
MR. YOUNGER: The only reason I know is because I was involved in locating the new Woodlawn Library and we actually ruled out where you guys just went for Access Nova Scotia because the consultants defined it as an inaccessible location, so we went basically where the one that has now left.
I think you’re probably seeing a trend if you’re not getting appropriate bids in the metro area; you’ve heard it from Mr. Epstein on the Halifax side and the same problem in Dartmouth. I can tell you right now that in the urban area we don’t want to encourage large malls with huge expansive parking lots, which is what’s required for a full-service Service Nova Scotia and Municipal Relations site because, as you said, you need the driver training parking spots and all that sort of thing.
What I’m wondering is, has there been any discussion or examination of alternative service locations for maybe not even a full-service Service Nova Scotia and Municipal Relations location? So things like partnering with municipalities, not just in HRM but elsewhere because they have access centres, as well, where you could provide drivers’ licences and Registry of Motor Vehicles, you can basically do everything except the things that require you to get into a car and be in a parking lot. Has that been looked at as an option, especially in more urban areas?
MS. NANCY MACLELLAN: We’re always looking at ways that we can sort of work with municipalities and the federal government to deliver services. Customers don’t differentiate one level of government from another and so we’re always looking at ways to do that. You think about the decoupling of the co-located site that was for client convenience and you think, well, are we going back to a time where every department or every area had their own office, which was sort of the way it was maybe 15 or 20 years ago, back to this transition now?
What I would say the next iteration looks more like is less people having to come to an office and more people having an enablement around on-line transactions and on-line interaction, and that really is much more of our focus on a go-forward strategy than more physical footprint locations.
MR. YOUNGER: I agree, if I can do it on-line, I’ll do it on-line. I just think that there are always going to be things where somebody - I can’t get a driver’s licence without getting a photo and, as the biometrics change over time, there’s probably going to be more things. We may go to iris scans and fingerprints, who knows, right? We’re going to go somewhere and it just strikes me - I mean you just need to look at this area, I mean they are trying to densify it with HRM by Design or go up, as the case may be. Either way, the idea is not to have areas on the peninsula or in downtown Dartmouth or, for that matter, even in Bedford with a large expanse of parking lots. So the tender requirements you have are going to necessarily force this out into suburban areas.
There’s nothing wrong with that. I mean you also need to provide - if I’m going for a driver’s test, that’s fine, I’ll go to Bayers Lake or - well, Russell Lake isn’t that far but I just think it’s going to get pushed further out. I would just encourage them to look at the option of - I don’t want every department to have its own thing but maybe this is a limited Access Nova Scotia site where we provide certain things but we don’t provide everything.
They do exist elsewhere in the province. I had something renewed, vehicle registration or something, up in Digby because we happened to be at an out-of-town caucus and it was expiring. It’s almost just a shed.
MS. NANCY MACLELLAN: It’s a trailer.
MR. YOUNGER: Yes, a trailer, it really is. I’m sure they don’t provide every single service that I can at the one - you are going to tell me that they do?
MS. NANCY MACLELLAN: I’m going to say two things. One is to Mr. Epstein’s point that when we tender five years from now, if we’ve been successful in the on-line world, the mix of what we deliver in the physical might look really different and Digby is getting a real office within about four weeks.
MR. YOUNGER: They’ll be very happy with that.
MS. NANCY MACLELLAN: I am. When I started working for government in 1997, they were in a trailer and we said, oh, we’re going to make sure we get an office. Those folks are just an incredible group of people who work there in a location and they really earned a real office, with a door and a foundation.
MR. YOUNGER: Yes, it was an irony that my GPS couldn’t find the place for driving.
All right, that’s good to hear, I just wanted to raise that because I think Mr. Epstein has raised an important point and I just want to point out that the irony is that it is kind of happening in Dartmouth now, to a lesser extent. I mean it’s more central than Bayers Lake is, but it has some of the same issues.
I want to go to an issue that Mr. Arsenault alluded to and probably didn’t know he was going to end up going down this road, until he brought this up, when we were talking about the cost of different types of cards, if I’m not mistaken, it’s $73.54 for a Nova Scotia driver’s licence for five years? All right, interesting he asked about NEXUS - it’s $50 for five years but I know they do a lot more. Do you know what the cost per card is?
MR. ARSENAULT: Yes, I believe the cost per card currently is $3.60. That’s for all of the equipment that is provided by the supplier and the actual physical card that is produced.
MR. YOUNGER: Okay, and I know there’s other costs, like labour and overhead and things like that. So we charge a fee of $73.54, I’m not sure if that attracts HST or doesn’t but it’s kind of a moot point for what my question is. There’s a difference between a fee and a tax, right? A fee recovers your costs and I don’t know if this is a legal thing or just the way I feel about it so I’ll be up front about that, but there’s a difference between a fee and a tax. A fee is something you charge that is meant to be cost recovery - maybe it isn’t fully cost recovery but it doesn’t make a profit, generally, or it shouldn’t. A tax is when you - we’ll call it a profit for the sake of business, so taxes make a profit.
How do you determine what the fees are? You know that your card costs $3 - I know there are other overhead costs in addition to that, how do you determine a fee of $73.54 for a licence?
MR. ARSENEAULT: The fee, I guess, has been historical. There has always been a five-year fee, I guess, since we’ve gone to the five-year licence fee and I believe it was at that point, I believe, $12 per year for a driver’s licence. So, over time, with the inflationary increases, I think that’s where we’ve ended up today.
When you look at the overall costs of running the registry, and I believe it has been tabled in the House roughly around $30 million to operate the registry and we take in $100 million. Well there are many aspects to highway safety that need to be taken into account, also highway maintenance and construction. So the fees that we charge, which would include the vehicle permits and all the other fees, first of all would go to operating the costs of the registry and the other portion contributes to the maintenance of the highways and, of course, the construction thereof. I believe that’s tabled in the House by the Department of Finance on an annual basis because I know we provide the costs to it.
I think on the driver’s licence side, when you look at the costs - again, in my shop, for example, we manage driver records so a portion of that fee could be attributed to that. We have a number of people entering collision reports, managing suspensions so it’s not just the card; it’s beyond what it takes to put the whole driver licensing scheme within the province.
MR. YOUNGER: I guess that leads to another question because if I need a driver abstract, I’d come in and pay for a driver abstract and I don’t know what that fee is. I just happened to look up the driver’s licence one because you were talking about it. I know somebody can sit there, you’re right, and table the total cost - here’s the cost of the registry, here’s the cost to building the roads - and the auditor gives an opinion on that after a year.
I guess what I’m concerned about is that it has always been said that the fees for anything - and let’s face it, most of the fees that are charged on behalf of any department come through this department. It has always been said by ministers of various governments that the fees are meant to cover the costs of delivering service, but does anybody actually sit down and make a list of, here are the things we’re intending to cover? You mentioned roads. I never would have thought about road maintenance being in a driver’s licence, but maybe that’s a fair argument to have and maybe it should be. Driver abstracts, I would have said, well, that’s covered by my driver abstract fee, but maybe there’s a bit of both.
I’m concerned about the transparency aspect. I know it’s more than just a card, I completely agree with you, but when I buy a driver’s licence or register my vehicle or whatever the other hundreds or thousands of fees that there are in the province, does anybody break those down to say, here’s what it contributes towards?
MR. ARSENAULT: I have not seen a breakdown, for example, of what the driver licence fee would ultimately cover. Again, there are so many moving parts. For example, you have all of Nancy’s shop involved there and to break it down, so what’s the overhead? We’ve gone through some analysis to try to look at the transaction costs, but there are just so many moving parts. I’ve not seen it in my tenure there, but there have been attempts to try to do that. I’m not sure that I’ve seen a successful one yet.
MR. YOUNGER: So how do we know that a $73.54 charge isn’t actually charging more than what it costs to provide what is directly attributable to a driver’s licence?
MR. ARSENAULT: I think, for example, one of the things that I would look at would be where do we sit with the rest of the country with respect to where driver licensing fees are and we’re very comparable. Now, I understand that one could argue on the same point, they’re overcharging too; I guess one could argue the same thing. I think that gives us some sense of comfort. That’s certainly what everybody else is charging.
Some of the analysis that we’ve done would support what we’ve - you know, what are the costs? For example, when you go into an Access office, the clerks are so multi-talented today they can do a vehicle transaction, they can do many things so to try to put all their time in for the overhead costs, the lights, the heat and the lease payments, it’s pretty tough. I know we spend an awful lot of time trying to do that, to come up with a transactional cost. But I’ve not seen one to date that I think would 100 per cent reflect that.
MR. YOUNGER: I guess I’m not so much worried about cover from other departments and I know what you meant by that. What I’m concerned about is last year - I don’t remember how much the fees went up, but the fees went up by some percentage, pretty much across the board - and the minister stood up, I think it was the Minister of Finance at the time and said, listen, the costs of those services have gone up. The question I had at the time was, well, if the fee is meant to cover the service then, first of all, they shouldn’t be going up across the board unless they’re all way below the cost of delivering the service. But if we go to a more electronic world, which we have been - I mean I used to file my business registrations, when I had the business going, on-line all the time. I’d pay my fee and away it would go and I’d only have to come in if I had to change partnership or addresses or things like that.
The minister is telling me, well listen, it has gone up because the cost of delivering that service has gone up, but I think I’m now hearing that nobody really knows - even if you don’t know the exact costs, here’s what each fee is intended to contribute toward. So you’re right, I have no doubt that a licence is similar in price to everywhere else in the country, but maybe it’s cheaper to deliver that service here because more people are accessing that in different ways. I thought the whole point of going from a three-year to a five-year was to reduce costs on an annual basis, but my quick math says that we’re basically charging the same, a little bit more, but they say it’s inflation. Do you understand my concern?
MR. ARSENAULT: Yes.
MR. YOUNGER: Am I out to lunch on this?
MR. ARSENAULT: If you’re looking at what you are covering by that particular service - so if you’re looking at whether that covers the cost of highway maintenance and construction as part of the overall service, what part does the ability to drive on a road play? Whether you include that or not determines what your outcome would be, to be fair.
MR. YOUNGER: Unless I have a list of what you’re suggesting is covered by it, I can’t even reasonably make an argument as to whether it’s a legitimate fee or an illegitimate fee.
MR. ARSENAULT: Yes. Well, again, we can go back and have a look to see if we can try to isolate those areas. It would be a relatively significant effort, but I can work with my colleague from the Finance Department to see if that’s something we can provide for you.
MR. YOUNGER: It’s probably significant enough that the minister would probably have it. I don’t know if this committee could direct it, it sounded like it’s a big task.
Mr. Chairman, I’d be interested - and maybe the Auditor General doesn’t want to comment on this and if he doesn’t, that’s fine - to know if he thinks it’s important that fees that are charged have an indication of at least what they’re intended to be paying for?
MR. CHAIRMAN: Unfortunately, your time has expired.
MR. YOUNGER: Oh well, there you go, you got away from that one.
MR. CHAIRMAN: We will put that question to the Auditor General at the end for reports to come back.
Next we have Mr. d’Entremont.
HON. CHRISTOPHER D’ENTREMONT: Thank you folks for popping in and answering our questions today. First of all I wanted to just thank you for the work that you did toward the Acadian licence plates. I have one on the back of my car and am very proud to have it there, didn’t mind the $50 fee, didn’t hurt much more than anything else. I’m just wondering how the take-up on the Acadian licence plates has been up to date before I get into the real bulk of my questioning here?
MS. NANCY MACLELLAN: I think we’re over 100 at this point issued in the couple of months that they’ve been available to folks.
MR. D’ENTREMONT: Very good and I think what a great opportunity it was that I picked mine up in Bridgewater of all places just on my way to Halifax, thinking it’s time I get that plate. I popped in and, of course, they had a couple there and I think it was a good opportunity for Acadians in the province to be recognized that way and I look forward to seeing where the dollars of that $50 fee end up in the end. I guess ultimately we don’t know exactly where it’s going just yet, but I think it will be a good opportunity for the community to see that. I just wanted to pass on my thanks as an Acadian in this province.
More specifically, I just want to get back into maybe continuing on where my colleague left off and it was sort of around driver training and more specifically about the driving schools themselves. Probably it’s more for Paul, than anybody, are you satisfied that driver training for young people is safe simply with all of the companies we have and the myriad of things that they do?
MR. ARSENAULT: I think from our perspective we’re confident in the licensees that we have today. Again, as I mentioned earlier, we do go out and monitor periodically the schools themselves. We can have a look at the outcomes of the driver tests to see what’s going on and our DEOs are good in reporting to us if they have concerns about some of the training instruction that they get, so we do have the internal capacity to do such. I think yes, we’re fairly confident in the level of training that’s being provided in the province and our ability to have a look at that periodically.
MR. D’ENTREMONT: Have you felt the department has implemented a process to follow up on complaints to maybe action items resulting from the review of driving schools because I’m sure there would be a complaint here or there that comes in? How are those dealt with?
MR. ARSENAULT: We’ve upgraded our reporting system internally, we now have a spreadsheet that captures any complaints that would come in and they’re monitored by the coordinator there to make sure that they’re responded to in a good time, making sure that everything is done.
MR. D’ENTREMONT: Collision reports, I was just wondering what kind of backlog - do we see those and how does the department plan on eliminating that backlog?
MR. ARSENAULT: I think there is currently about a nine- to 10-month backlog in the collision reporting area. We are using additional staff in that area to do the processing of the reports. Certainly long term, we really need to work with our partners to find a better way of collision entry. We have undertaken a project with ourselves, Transportation and Infrastructure Renewal, and also the Department of Justice, to go forward to our policing community in the province.
As I mentioned earlier, one of the projects that Justice has championed is the e-ticket project, which is really the real-time entry of summary offence tickets at roadside. We think that has a fairly good potential for us in the collision entry too. There are provinces today that their police forces do collision entry right at roadside and there’s a lot of good things we can do for that. Again, we’re hopeful that we can work with the partners, there’s obviously going to have to be some investment made. We believe that in the short term we’re going to try to add more staff to the area to get the collision reports down to a reasonable level. Then long term, we certainly want to look at the electronic submission and that, which has benefits for all of our partners that rely on that information.
MR. D’ENTREMONT: Is the bottleneck more the Justice side of things or is it just sort of attributable to all sides in this one? I mean you do mention Justice and the police are involved in this one and I’m sure it takes time to get those reports done, get them entered, get them to the abstract; I mean it just continues on there.
MR. ARSENAULT: There are a number of issues around that. For example, we do quality control in the reports when they come in. If there’s information missing, we have to go back and spend time trying to track down the officer, for example: where are you so we can get the report in? Again, it’s just a volume issue for us that we have to manage roughly 16,000 to 18,000 reports a year and again, depending on the winter you have, that can go - for example, if you had a bad December with a lot of freezing rain or whatever, you can get a backlog that can build up quickly. So it’s just the practical nature of what we’re dealing with.
MR. D’ENTREMONT: Having the electronic systems that I know most police cruisers have, how hard is it or what kind of costs would you expect to see in trying to get that kind of roadside entry happening? Is it that the systems aren’t there? I mean I see those laptops sitting in the cruisers so I’m just wondering if they can be used that way.
MR. ARSENAULT: For example, HPD has a system they bought out of Ontario and there is a collision-reporting module that they could implement, for example. It might have to be customized a bit for Nova Scotia, I’m not quite sure, but that’s an example of maybe they could do it fairly quickly.
The RCMP has been launching their PROS system throughout Canada and there is a module in that for collision reporting. Again, it’s one thing to have the reporting in the car but then it has to be interfaced with our systems and there’s a quality issue, the checking. So it sounds kind of simple but when you look at all the moving pieces with it, trying to make sure that the information is correct, especially if it’s the right driver that we’re dealing with, so there are a lot of quality checks that we need to do on the data.
I will mention quickly, though, that the reports that come in, anything that’s involving a serious injury or a fatality is posted to the record immediately. Then we do follow up on cases of where there’s no insurance reported on the form, we follow up immediately with the client to make sure. So we are doing the really - for the registry work it’s just the keying of the data sometimes takes longer than we would like it to.
MR. D’ENTREMONT: That sort of rolls into my next question, are you confident that the department adequately identifies high-risk drivers? It’s not only from the accidents but from the speeding tickets, from all the other things that happen on the road. Do you feel there’s a process in place to ensure that any necessary interventions are taken to promptly ensure public safety?
MR. ARSENAULT: I guess the easy answer to that is yes, we believe that we are monitoring driving records, to ensure that if someone needs to undergo a road test or have a medical submitted to us or if they need to be taken off the road, we do have the ability to do that.
High-risk drivers are a fairly broad topic throughout our whole country currently and we’re looking at ways of targeting those individuals, who they are. Again, stunting was an effort by the Legislature and government to get those individuals off the road right away so they wouldn’t cause any more havoc.
There are others that are probably more subtle. We do monitor collisions. We have a point system in the province, as you know, as people’s behaviours accumulate we do take action on that, so we do have a lot of mechanisms currently. I think it’s a question of what information do we have on our system that we might be able to better use. We are looking at that currently to see if we can better target high-risk drivers.
MR. D’ENTREMONT: Going back to the police for a second, do you feel or are you satisfied that they have the required information to know when the driver’s licence is suspended?
MR. ARSENAULT: I think as you mentioned, there are more and more police agencies in the province that have laptops in their vehicles and as they come on-stream, we’re making sure they either have direct access to the RMV system or they can go through the Department of Justice system to provide that information. We’re pretty confident that at roadside the police officers are getting the information they need. Of course, down the road we can enhance that, it would be nice for them to have a photo right on their screen so they can verify the driver because there are times people don’t have their driver’s licence with them, so that’s an interesting tool that down the road we hope to be able to provide for them.
MR. D’ENTREMONT: Are you tracking the 24-hour and 90-day suspensions, are those getting on the system quick enough? I mean a 24-hour - you miss a data entry point and then the day’s done?
MR. ARSENAULT: At the suggestion of the Auditor General we now have a spreadsheet in my office that’s maintained. As reported it’s faxed into our office from police, it’s now recorded by one of my assistants and then we track it throughout the whole process and that would include - for example, some of those reports do end up in the driver behaviour area, we may take action there. So we’ve adopted that system and long term we hope to send a report to the detachment to ask, did we get them all, given the fact that they’re faxed in and does the fax work. I think we’ve actually enhanced the system based upon the recommendation of the Auditor General.
MR. D’ENTREMONT: Medical documentation - probably a couple of questions around that. What kind of backlog do you have in medical documentation right now on stuff you’ve got, rather than stuff you’ve asked for, just some stuff in there?
MR. ARSENAULT: Actually we are current right now which would mean if a piece of mail is received today, it will be processed probably by tomorrow. Actually I’m looking after the medical mail right now if any action has to be taken.
MR. D’ENTREMONT: Putting my hat on as previous Health Minister and working with doctors, how are you finding their response? Sometimes there are forms that they have to fill out. Are they being timely in filling those out or are you getting some kickback there?
MR. ARSENAULT: I think we recognize that there’s difficulty periodically for an individual to get in to see their doctor to get a report. We usually ask 30 days, 60 days for the person to get a report to us. I’m not aware of very many times where that’s not possible. Periodically, we’ll ask for a specialist report, that could become problematic, as we know, to see a specialist, but generally the GPs are right on time and the reporting is very well from them.
MR. D’ENTREMONT: The indication though especially in our rural areas for the most part that the doctor availability is not there, so some people don’t have doctors. Have you come up with sort of a backup that if somebody says, listen, I don’t have a doctor, I’m not going to go sit and wait eight hours at the emergency room to get a form filled out. Is there any backup to that?
MR. ARSENAULT: We’ve not seen a lot of that in our offices that I’m aware of, where people couldn’t find a doctor to get in to see. There are clinics in many of the rural areas too that a person could take advantage of. We are currently looking at nurse practitioners, whether or not we’ll be able to accept reports from them we’re going to have some discussions with Doctors Nova Scotia around that, but that would provide an additional source of information that we could accept.
MR. D’ENTREMONT: Because even in my time I’ve seen a couple of people who were looking to get a document done and it has just been a little tough to try to find that correct person, whether it’s a specialist or the GP. It’s good to know that you’ve got some work done there.
Switching gears - I am just trying to get my time in here because I know I’m running out. Are you confident that the department processes for monitoring motor vehicle inspection stations and testers are adequate? I think that was another thing that was identified in the report as well.
MR. ARSENAULT: I think one of the things the deputy mentioned in his opening statement is, we have engaged an audit group to come in to have a look at how we can better target inspection stations with respect to an audit of them, to ensure that they are compliant with our requirements.
Having said that, we do have a number of steps in place. For example, we do roadside inspections on an annual basis, in which we participate with local police forces. They are done throughout the province. They provide an excellent opportunity for us to get a sense of how safe a vehicle fleet is in that given area. That would allow us, if we find vehicles that aren’t safe, to go back and target stations that are bluntly putting stickers on cars without doing the proper inspection.
Again, we also entertain complaints from the citizens about the quality of the inspection on their cars, so we do have mechanisms currently that allow us to do that. We believe the targeted audits will also help us to provide to make sure that we can get around to the stations on a periodic basis that might be of interest to us.
MR. D’ENTREMONT: Two points, maybe. One is on the issue of spot checks. In my time driving - I’ve been driving since I was 16, I’m 42 years old now - I’ve never actually gone through a stop like that. How often are they happening and what kind of violations or shortcomings are they identifying?
MR. ARSENAULT: My recollection is that last year I believe we had roughly 40 checks throughout the province. They are held, usually I believe, in all the communities. We’ve had them in Yarmouth.
MR. D’ENTREMONT: Yes, I’ve seen them, I’ve never been lucky enough to get hauled into one.
MR. ARSENAULT: We’ll make sure the next time. (Laughter) The type of violations are all over the board. We find impaired drivers - believe it or not - at ten o’clock in the morning, malfunctioning equipment, lots of people without insurance and people without driving licences. It’s really a potpourri of any offence under the Motor Vehicle Act.
We find people on warrants. I recall one, I saw that one, the police were looking for someone, he actually went through the road check and they found them. Again, they do provide a real good understanding of who is going through our checks, et cetera and they can find that.
Although we only physically check 320 vehicles, if you look at the traffic volumes that are actually checked by the police if you’ve seen them, there’s a triage. In other words, a police officer will give the vehicle a once-over - is the sticker valid, is the inspection sticker current. Then they’ll look, is there anything of the vehicle that we should probably have a deeper look at. Again, you’re looking at maybe 100,000 vehicles that go through our checks throughout the province during that time.
MR. D’ENTREMONT: Mr. Chairman, I know I’m running out of time, I do have a number of other questions that maybe I could submit and maybe get some answers to later on. Maybe to that last point is the issue of, now that we have the two-year inspections . . .
MR. CHAIRMAN: Order, please. Your time has expired. We will accept those questions. Finally, Mr. MacKinnon this time.
MR. MACKINNON: Thank you very much. I’m going to just have a couple of quick questions because I’m going to be sharing with Mr. Whynott.
First, a comment. The figures I used in the first round in relation to the number of transactions and the income actually wasn’t for the whole department - it was for the Registry of Motor Vehicles, I think alone. So it’s a significant amount of work that you’re doing as a department.
For one constituent and perhaps several over a period of years, one person really had a fixation in relation to an issue, that is in relation to registering a little trailer or something, you are doing some work in the Fall and you register something in October, November. You pay for that year and then you have to pay again for the next year.
On occasion there is a request for - it doesn’t amount to a lot of money but it’s a request for pro-rating the period of time. I do that because a constituent does give me a hard time on this issue.
MR. ARSENAULT: I think we’d have other areas that we do receive concern - anybody registering a motorcycle would be another one. There are a number of what we will call, seasonal vehicles, I believe would be a term we could use for them.
I think one of the things we are going to look at is the length or the expiry date of the particular vehicle. For example, a lot of our vehicles expire December 31st and that has been historic. We just haven’t had a chance to look at that in the long term. I think one of the things we need to do, as we’ve done with driver licensing where we’ve gone to your birth date as your renewal, we may want to look at having the expiry based upon the initial registration of your vehicle to be periodic for that particular point. Again, it’s something I believe we’re aware of; it’s just something we’ll have to work in our overall work plan to see how that will work for it.
MR. MACKINNON: I have a question in relation to inspection stations. In years gone by, no matter what area of the province one was in, there were some inspection centres that were known to be fast and easy. I never hear any comments about a fast-and-easy place anymore. Somebody has to be doing something right in relation to the inspections. Somebody has to be doing something right in relation to the return of stickers from the stations and also the renewal of the inspection stations as well. I think there has to have been a toughening up over the years. I never hear that anymore and it used to be quite common. What have you done to make it so much better?
MR. ARSENAULT: Certainly, as I mentioned earlier, we have our officers out in the field as much as we can. The roadside checks are certainly one way we can keep track of anyone who would want to put a sticker on a vehicle without inspecting it. Certainly I think the public have become more savvy about not wanting to operate a dangerous vehicle on the road because there are fairly tragic consequences to that so I think certainly we’ll entertain complaints around the public.
We currently do audits on inspection stations and certainly that’s something that we believe, if they know we’re coming, they’re going to be compliant, so I think we do a lot of efforts. Having said that, there are more things we can do. As I mentioned, we’re looking at the audit process, how we can better target stations and I think we can make it even better than it is today.
MR. MACKINNON: I appreciate what you’re doing and the contact that I’ve had with you over quite a period of time.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Mr. Whynott.
MR. MAT WHYNOTT: I think I’m going to do some quick snappers here and finish up the day. I just wanted to make a few comments; one was around - I believe it was called the joint birth certificate process. I guess this question is more for Ms. MacLellan. I just wanted to make a comment that I have a new six-and-a-half-month-old baby at home and it was actually great throughout that process of filling out the form at the hospital and it was just so easy and then you get the SIN card, the birth certificate, everything you need for her in her life to continue. I just want to say great job on that. I know it was recognized, I believe, under the Premier’s Award of Excellence or something in that regard. It’s a great system and I commend you on that.
The other thing was around on-line services. Oftentimes I get phone calls from people - a few times - about specific things they go to an Access Centre for and I say to them, did you know that you can do this on-line? Is that word getting out that you can do these things? People are surprised that you can do, for instance, a birth certificate on-line or what have you. Can you comment on that a little bit?
MS. NANCY MACLELLAN: I think you’ve raised a great point, we build a lot of great things and then we don’t necessarily proactively get out there and tell people about the things we’ve done. We do have on our horizon right now a bit of an advertising promotion campaign around some of the things you can do on-line and making sure that folks are aware that we have a number of those services that we continue to evolve and get better at.
MR. WHYNOTT: You made a comment earlier - I think it was to Mr. Epstein - around the Sackville Access Centre. Obviously a brand-new facility; I think it was opened up in 2009. I didn’t realize that it was actually a leased property. I thought the province owned that. Is that true, it’s leased?
MS. NANCY MACLELLAN: Yes, it’s leased.
MR. WHYNOTT: Interesting. I just assumed it was owned by the province, but it’s actually a leased property.
MS. NANCY MACLELLAN: Yes, it is a leased property.
MR. WHYNOTT: I wanted to make a question around driver’s ed and as a person who took driver’s ed when I was 16, one of the things you always heard was oh, if you’re male, you have to take driver’s ed because your insurance will go down. Do we have an over-proportion of young male drivers taking driver’s ed, or do we know that stat?
MR. ARSENAULT: I don’t think we have that stat, not that I’m aware of.
MR. WHYNOTT: Okay. One of the things also around the - I guess going back to why we’re here, is talking about the Auditor General’s Report. Is that one thing our government has done is to ensure that all departments, since we formed government, put an update on their Web site in regard to the AG’s Report? So if it’s okay, I don’t know if this is going to go to Mr. Malloy or whoever, I just kind of want to go through some of the completed items from the Auditor General’s Report and where you’re at, if it’s not complete, or if it’s a work in progress.
My understanding is there were a few Auditor General’s Reports over the last number of years, since 2009. In April 2009 there was one; I understand from your document on your Web site that five have been completed and one is a work in progress, so there was a total of six recommendations. That one that’s a work in progress, is there any indication of when that can be complete?
MR. FARMER: I don’t believe we have the 2009 information with us today. Certainly we can talk to any of the recommendations in that May 2011 report but we have made very good progress on moving on those 2009 recommendations.
MR. WHYNOTT: Good, so I guess that’s what I’ll do, I’ll focus strictly on the May 2011 report. So beginning with 7.1, “Service Nova Scotia and Municipal Relations should implement a process to verify that driver examiners meet and continue to meet the position requirements for a valid driver’s licence and safe driving record.” Where are we on that?
MR. FARMER: I believe Ms. MacLellan addressed that earlier. There’s a process in place now whereby at the time of hire, and on an ongoing basis, driver enhancement officers are required to provide a copy of their driving record so we can ensure it’s clean and that they are properly suited to be conducting their duties.
MR. WHYNOTT: Okay, thank you - 7.2 has a work in progress. Any indication of when that’s going to be completed, at this point?
MR. FARMER: That one relates to the issuance of driving-school licences, is that the one?
MR. WHYNOTT: Yes, that’s right.
MR. FARMER: So with respect to that, we’ve got a checklist in place that’s being used by the service delivery operation when we get the applications in place or when we receive the applications, to ensure that the applications are full and complete. That checklist is then scanned into an electronic record. So we’re confident that we’re in a good spot, as it relates to that recommendation, and that we’re addressing the concerns that were identified there.
MR. WHYNOTT: Okay, I think you’ve already addressed 7.3 in regard to complaints; 7.4 is complete. So 7.5, “Service Nova Scotia should implement a process for timely recording of collision . . .” - I think you kind of addressed that as well. Any further comments on that that you wanted to make?
MR. FARMER: Well, the future direction that we want to take on this, as Mr. Arsenault mentioned, is around electronic collection of the collision reports. We see broad benefit in that kind of approach. For Service Nova Scotia and Municipal Relations it means better quality data coming in, in an electronic format, and addressing the issues we have in terms of backlogs with data entry.
For others that also have an interest - and this is why we’ve been working so closely with the Department of Transportation and Infrastructure Renewal and the Department of Justice - there are other benefits as well. So if we were to collect the information electronically, not only is it available on a more timely basis, it’s more easily managed and messaged for reporting purposes. So from a policy evaluation perspective, we’d be in a better spot if we were to implement a change aimed at road safety and we were able to match that up against collision data in a timely way, we would be in a good position to assess the impact of policy change.
As well, if we were to associate GPS data with collision data, for example, that’s very valuable for Transportation and Infrastructure Renewal to understand if there are patterns or clusters as it relates to certain types of collisions and then they can react to that as well. Of course, Justice and police for their own purposes have an interest in understanding where collisions are happening, what kind of collisions are occurring and whether intervention efforts are being effective. In addition to dealing with the backlog issue, there are a number of corollary benefits that we would see as well by moving to that system.
MR. WHYNOTT: Thank you very much. I think I’m going to hand the last few seconds to Mr. Ramey, but I will just make a comment that I’m glad to see that our government has moved to ensure that the update from the Auditor General in each department is on their Web site every six months. Also, just for the record, from the May 2011 Report, as according to your update on your Web site, it says that Chapter 7, five of the recommendations have been complete and 16 are a work in progress. In Chapter 8, four are complete and eight are a work in progress. It’s good to see that you’re working hard to complete those ones that are a work in progress.
I will share the last two minutes with my honourable friend from Lunenburg West, Mr. Ramey.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Mr. Ramey.
MR. GARY RAMEY: I’m going to go fast. How does the DMV interface with CPIC, Canadian Police Information Centre, or do we?
MR. ARSENAULT: Currently what we provide is an extract of the driver vehicle database on a monthly basis to the Canadian Police Information Centre and that is then accessible by other police agencies throughout Canada with respect to our drivers and vehicles. They have asked, by the way, for real time information so we’re going to try to figure out how that can happen down the road.
MR. RAMEY: That may involve satellite technology or something like that, too, at some point maybe?
MR. ARSENAULT: It’s more their ability to access our data directly so it could be simply through their own police network into our system. That’s a little more complex so I’m not quite sure how that would happen, but they’ve asked us for that.
MR. RAMEY: So the second question and if I run out of time, I run out of time - you mentioned an exchange of information or people accessing DMV information, I think you mentioned Community Services. Do we have agreements with other provinces in Canada? For instance, I know in some provinces if you have a deadbeat dad who’s not making maintenance payments, one of the ways that they can snap your chain is when you go to register your vehicle all of a sudden something bad happens like you can’t do it. Do we have arrangements like that?
MR. ARSENAULT: Yes we do, we have the same process. In fact, the other provinces help locate that deadbeat dad who might have moved from here, that we can locate him if he went to say Alberta, which is a popular location to work. We can access Alberta’s information to find out where he is, so our people can get in contact with him.
MR. RAMEY: Super. Thank you very much and thanks for coming in today.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Thank you very much. That concludes our questioning for today. I wonder if the deputy minister would have any wrap-up comments?
MR. MALLOY: First of all I would like to thank the committee for their questions. What we do at Service Nova Scotia and Municipal Relations impacts Nova Scotians every day and we strive to do our very best.
First of all I would like to thank the staff present here today for taking their time to provide you with the necessary information. I would also like to take the opportunity, if I may, just to thank the staff who work on the front lines of our organization every day. We have in excess of 900 people who are there every day, devoted and dedicated to ensuring that Nova Scotians get the service they require. They take a tremendous amount of pride in the work they do and we couldn’t be more proud than we are of the people that we have within our organization and we’re very, very fortunate.
I’d also like to indicate that we appreciate the feedback from the Office of the Auditor General, we take it very seriously. We have an up-to-date listing of the items that we’ve completed and where we’re at on all the recommendations that we will leave with you here today and we’ll continue to work our way through the process to ensure all the recommendations are addressed. That is my commitment to you. Thank you very much for your time today.
MR. CHAIRMAN: I too would like to commend the staff in the department because any interaction I’ve had with them at any level has been very professional and, indeed, you should be very proud of the people who work within your department. Does the Auditor General have any comments?
MR. JACQUES LAPOINTE: I feel I should give credit to the department for its positive approach to our audits. They have shown a willingness to take action to deal with the problems we’ve identified and to make the improvements we recommended. I should point out that, unusually, there are two chapters in this report addressed to this department so that makes a lot of recommendations, a lot of work and they have appeared to take this very seriously and to make good progress.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Again, I would like to thank all your staff for coming today for the very informative meeting.
We have a tiny bit of committee business here. We’re going to have an agenda-setting committee meeting immediately following this meeting. Our next meeting will be March 28th and the Department of Agriculture regarding meat inspection will be the next program we have.
There are a couple of things that we’ve asked for information on. Mr. Farmer indicated under a question from Mr. Younger that there was some information he would try to provide and would I ask the clerk to send a note off to Mr. Farmer in that regard, or to the deputy minister, whatever is appropriate. Also, there were some questions about the cost of a driver’s licence breakdown and where the cost goes that Mr. Arsenault said he would try to provide the information - I stress, try to provide the information. Mr. Younger also asked if the Auditor General could provide a breakdown on the same thing. I will leave that with the clerk to follow up with. It may not be possible for the Auditor General to do that. I don’t know. (Interruption) We’ll check the records and see what was asked and we’ll send the appropriate letters off to the appropriate places.
Again, I would like to thank you for coming today and a motion to adjourn would be in order.
MR. EPSTEIN: So moved.
MR. CHAIRMAN: We are adjourned.
[The committee adjourned at 11:27 a.m.]