The Nova Scotia Legislature

The House resumed on:
September 21, 2017.

Public Accounts -- Wed., Apr. 7, 1999

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HALIFAX, WEDNESDAY, APRIL 7, 1999

STANDING COMMITTEE ON PUBLIC ACCOUNTS

9:00 A.M.

CHAIRMAN

Mr. Howard Epstein

DEPUTY CHAIRMAN

Mr. Hyland Fraser

MR. CHAIRMAN: We do have a quorum. I would like to get going on this morning's meeting. This is a business meeting today and we are not here to listen to witnesses but to discuss a couple of broad topics. As I see it, we have two main areas to discuss: one being the proposed agenda for the committee in coming weeks and months; and the other having to do with various meetings that are coming up for which we have to either select some delegates or representatives plus also do some planning.

Just a word on this latter one, as I understand it, there are three meetings that we have to discuss. One is the usual meeting of the Canadian Council of Public Accounts Committees that will take place in August. We are looking for delegates for that. Looking ahead to the same meeting in the year 2000, that will be held in Halifax so we have to begin to do some planning now for that of a fairly serious nature. There is a third meeting which is coming up in May - I believe in either Montreal or Quebec City. Mr. Salmon, which is it? It is in Montreal and this is a meeting of, I believe, chartered accountants, is that correct?

MR. ROY SALMON: It is the conference of the CCAF. The initials initially stood for Canadian Conference of legislative audit, Canadian Council of . . .

MR. CHAIRMAN: A-ha! Nobody knows. It is a mystery.

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MR. SALMON: Canadian Comprehensive Auditing Foundation now known as CCAF which has broadened its mandate. Members of this committee have gone to the conference in past years. It is a very high level conference of both public and private sector individuals. In fact, this year the focus is on public reporting and comptrollership and auditing. One of the key plenary sessions in the conference is a panel discussion around the balance between politics and public reporting, how to manage that process, manage the process of public reporting on a government's performance in a political environment. One of your members is on that panel. Mr. John Leefe will be participating on it.

MR. DARRELL DEXTER: I saw that in the promotional material.

MR. SALMON: I have copies of the brochure here. I don't have enough for all members but I do have sufficient that each caucus could get one.

MR. DEXTER: I think we have all received them, didn't we? I certainly received it.

MS. MORA STEVENS (Legislative Committee Coordinator): They usually do.

MR. CHAIRMAN: We did get some material about it. Can I just suggest we turn to the business about the meetings second and try to sort out our agenda first? I just meant it as a general introduction, actually, to flag what the three items were that we are going to have to deal with. The first element that we have to deal with today is our agenda setting or the substantive content of what the committee will be dealing with. We were given some additional suggestions this morning by way of a circulated memo from two of the committee members but I will remind you that we do have outstanding in front of us at least two items from previous suggestions. Just to recap, you will remember that, based on suggestions of committee members earlier, we have dealt recently with Y2K. We have dealt with the QE II. We have looked at some aspects of financing at the Department of Health and we have also looked at the Resource Recovery Fund. So we have been hard at work for a while.

The two outstanding from previous suggestions that I recall are first the proposal from the Department of Finance, itself, that they wanted to come and talk with us about some proposed revisions to the way the province's books would be kept. You may recall that they first flagged this in written form in the Blueprint For Success last year and then on September 1, 1998, the province's controller, Mr. O'Connor, asked to meet with me briefly and raised the issue and at that time said that he hoped the department might be in a position to come before the committee as early as October. This hasn't happened and we have been in touch with the department a number of times about this, the latest information seems to be from March, and they are still working on this. I will check in a minute and see but that is one item, the proposal from the Department of Finance and at some point, I guess, we will hear from them.

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The other item that is outstanding is a proposal that we look at issues surrounding Nova Scotia Resources Limited and the possibility of other associated issues with gas development here. That is my recollection of items that had been generated before. We have tackled some of them and we have, I think, two outstanding. Mora, does that accord with your recollection?

MS. STEVENS: Yes, it does.

MR. CHAIRMAN: Does anyone else remember any others that we have looked at or have been flagged before?

MR. DEXTER: I just have a question about the last one. I was wondering about it because I think the discussion of NSRL had taken place in the context of bringing Jim Livingstone forward. I guess I wondered where that was and whether or not he had made any indication as to when he might be in the province.

MR. CHAIRMAN: I think there were two aspects to Mr. Livingstone's availability. One was that he does have occasion to be in Nova Scotia, in any event, for family reasons and I believe he owns property here in the nature of a cottage. So he comes back and forth. So that is seasonal and occasional and what had been indicated was that perhaps if he was here at a time when we were ready to hear him, it would be easy enough just to have him in.

In addition to that though, I think he had indicated that he was prepared to come in anyway so that if we actually got to this item on our agenda and wanted to move ahead, that if he was able to arrange his agenda to come, he would try to do that. So that is where it got left with Mr. Livingstone.

MR. DEXTER: I guess that gets me to this question which is, there are obviously people, perhaps Neil and yourself, who would know the background of NSRL and would have some context to place Mr. Livingstone in. Others of us might not have that background and I was wondering if it might be an idea to get a briefing with respect to NSRL initially to set the foundation for hearing from Mr. Livingstone, just so that we are all kind of playing with the same information in terms of . . .

MR. CHAIRMAN: Sure. I think if we were going to move ahead with NSRL, as we would with any topic, we would start with a background briefing session in which we would hear either from some department officials or hear from Mr. Salmon or hear from anyone else who we thought relevant.

MR. DEXTER: Maybe I misunderstood because I just thought we were moving ahead right to Mr. Livingstone.

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MR. CHAIRMAN: No, I do not think we would treat it any differently than any other topic.

MR. NEIL LEBLANC: I was going to suggest that we have put three other things on the table today and because we have something held over, it does not mean that we do not as a committee look at all the topics and decide what our priorities are, and I think we are all agreed to that. With Mr. Livingstone, there are a lot of things that came out that the government made some decisions on in regard to NSRL that I think the people in Nova Scotia should know. It may be in retrospect but there is a lot information that I think would be pertinent. If we could do it when he was here and reduce the cost, that is the best way that I think all members of the committee would like to do it.

To do the briefing, I think we should see whether or not he is willing to come. If he is willing to come, then whatever time-frame that we would have to have a briefing, whether we have to do the briefing, to have an extra day rather than Wednesday to do it. I know that our caucus would be prepared to do whatever we could to make it. We have enough meetings but that is beside the point. I still think that it is important that we should have it but, Mr. Chairman, I put another two or three suggestions. I do not know if anybody else brought suggestions but we were talking about having Hoogovens come in and talk before the committee. It is a pertinent topic. It is one that has had some debate and we think maybe having an open discussion would be good for everyone.

We have also talked, of course, about the Atlantic Lottery Corporation, the officials of that corporation coming forward, putting forward their position. I have suggested the Gaming Corporation. I am not really sure if that is the one I really want to bring forward. There is a review that was suggested by them, whether or not we could ask for access to those documents whereby the committee could be informed, I am open to discussions. In the past sometimes we . . .

MR. HYLAND FRASER: Do you want to bring in Mr. Fiske?

MR. LEBLANC: He could probably give us some good points, Mr. Fraser. But in regard to the Gaming Corporation, it is the information of the study specifically that I would like to have and through the committee we could ask for that.

Of course, the last one is the Business Development Corporation in regard to Mac Timber. I am not sure, I am still open to suggestions as to exactly who we would bring to it. But these are three items that I want to put on the table that I think that we should consider.

MR. CHAIRMAN: Absolutely. Just because the committee had previously looked at a different list doesn't mean that we are precluded now, by any means, from considering additional items and considering them to have higher precedence. This is an evolving process

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and the committee had not set an absolute fixed agenda before by any means, so we are open and flexible.

I note that the three items that you have brought to the table this morning are ones that have all led to questions in Question Period. I think the government has not been all that forthcoming in its answers on any of those. So, they would be appropriate for this committee for a more detailed look.

MR. DEXTER: With respect to the Business Development Corporation, the province hasn't had a report from the Department of Economic Development, as you all know, for more than six years. I mean, to look at the Business Development Corporation, we could certainly look at Mac Timber as one of the aspects of what is happening in BDC. Mr. [Manning] MacDonald was quick to say that 96 per cent of their portfolio is successful, well, it would be interesting to have a look at that because the question is, is it 96 per cent of the numbers, is it 96 per cent of the dollars that are invested, there is never really any explanation of where that figure comes from.

MR. LEBLANC: Do they use the $25 million to Michelin as being a success story?

MR. DEXTER: Exactly. So, there is that over and above Mac Timber. There are a number of other investments, for example what is going on in Bras d'Or North, that investment and a number of others. So maybe we could start on the Business Development Corporation and we may need to then call whoever the development officer is with respect to specific files.

MR. CHAIRMAN: Just to help focus the discussion, let me just suggest that perhaps the issue of the Department of Finance might be treated in a slightly different way, that is, they are obviously moving through a process of preparation on their own and at some point they will tell us they are ready to come in front of the committee. So is it acceptable just to wait until they send a signal that they are ready? I don't see that we have a lot of choice otherwise.

MR. LEBLANC: I am questioning it with regard to the Department of Finance, whether they could make a written submission to the caucuses. That might be just as informative as a formal presentation before the Public Accounts Committee. Whereby we could make a determination of that on whether we want further elaboration or whether we want them to come in because we only have so many weeks and we have witnesses that we want to call. I am just putting that on the table so that the committee could consider it. It is more of an accounting procedure, disclosure and so forth, and I am not really sure whether it is the type of questioning that we will get, like from bringing Hoogovens in or bringing in the Atlantic Lottery Corporation. We are looking for information that we can get at Question Period.

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MR. CHAIRMAN: Its a different category. I think what they are trying to do is to change the methodology that they will be using for reporting on the province's books. It is important that as many members of the Legislature as possible understand that, but it is not pressing and may not require a hearing in front of this committee. But I think the procedure that they had set for themselves was that they wanted to consult with the Public Accounts Committee before moving to make the changes. I think that was really the context in which it came forward. I am not sure how pressing they see it, whether they intend to incorporate these changes in the budget that we might anticipate for the year 1999-2000 or whether they are looking to the year 2000-2001, I don't know. I don't think there has been any statement from them. Mr. Salmon, do you know?

MR. SALMON: In terms of timetable, I think if you requested an additional written submission, Mr. LeBlanc, I don't think it would contain much more than what is already out there in the document called, Blueprint For Success. That is their plan. It lays out their objectives for changes in financial reporting. Their timetable is to incorporate those changes in the financial statements for the year ending March 31, 2000, which is the year we are now into. The changes in the budget documents would probably follow from that so that, hopefully, the first year of a broader based budget might be the year 2000-2001.

MR. CHAIRMAN: Then the financial statements that you are talking about are the ones that would be issued in December 2000. Is that about right?

MR. SALMON: Generally, the financial statements come out in July for the year that ended March 31st. Those are the financial statements that my office is auditing for the first time this year, the year ended March 31, 1999. I am faced with reporting an opinion on those financial statements which are going to be in a form that I believe is not complete so I will have to deal with that, recognizing that they are moving to change them and make them complete for the following year. So, that is a reporting issue that I have.

I believe, Mr. Chairman, you are correct, that they wish to come forward and discuss their plan with you to obtain input from this committee as to the needs of the Members of the Legislative Assembly with regard to the financial reports that have come forward. I firmly believe that it is a useful process to have public discussion around that document called, Blueprint for Success, so I could encourage the committee to put pressure on them to come forward. They want to come forward; I have been in discussions with them recently. I think that this committee, by asking them to come forward at the earliest possible time, puts pressure on them in terms of their internal processes.

MR. CHAIRMAN: Okay, perhaps what I will do is write to Mr. O'Connor and tell him that the committee is interested in hearing from the department, that we would like to have some indication of what timetable they contemplate but also indicate to him that we are moving ahead with hearings on other matters and the sooner we know, the easier it might be to fit into our schedule a presentation from the department. I will also encourage him to

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circulate to all members of the Legislature some written material about the department's proposals.

MR. SALMON: Just to comment on that in terms of your process, Mr. Chairman. As most members will be aware, Mr. O'Connor is leaving the Government of Nova Scotia at the end of this week. It might be in the best interests of this committee if you wrote to two Deputy Ministers who are really involved in this process: the Deputy Minister of Finance, Mr. Bernard Smith; and the Deputy Minister of Priorities and Planning, Dr. Patricia Ripley. Priorities and Planning has a major role to play in this process and in these changes.

MR. CHAIRMAN: Good, will do. Now, in terms of topics that we might want to turn to, are there any among those that members see as the highest priority?

MR. DEXTER: I just wanted to throw in one more. I guess we have all watched while the Cobequid Pass, that private road, has changed ownership. I guess part of this is a question in terms of what investigation has been carried out with respect to financing of that road, what the results have been, what it has actually cost the taxpayers of Nova Scotia, what do we know about what kind of a profit is being made on it and is it a value-for-money product that we received?

MR. CHAIRMAN: I don't know, has the Public Accounts Committee ever looked at the toll highway issue?

MS. STEVENS: Yes. We have looked at it in conjunction with something Roy did, if I am not mistaken.

MR. SALMON: We did an audit of the process leading to the construction of Highway No. 104 Western Alignment Corporation, several years ago. I believe there was at least one hearing on it.

MR. DEXTER: That was my understanding. What I am thinking, at this time, is that we now have the benefit of hindsight to be able to look back at it. If this is going to happen in the future, we should look at this as a test case to say, was there anything good about it, what was bad about it.

MR. SALMON: Just for clarification, Mr. Dexter, the ownership of it has not changed.

MR. DEXTER: Well, that was what was reported the other day.

MR. SALMON: That was incorrect. The financing company that provided the financing, Newbridge, was acquired by an American company. The highway is still owned by Highway No. 104 Western Alignment Corporation, which is a government corporation.

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MR. DEXTER: Well, at this point, I guess this makes my point more than anything else. There is a lot of misinformation out there about that deal and various aspects of it. Other provinces now have experience with toll roads as well and it might be interesting for us to have a look at this, given that there are still some fairly significant complaints about the quality of the road and about the fact that it closes. It was designed to be an alternative to a dangerous piece of highway and, yet, at the most dangerous point in the season, it closes and people are forced to take the other road; so those kinds of aspects to this.

MR. CHAIRMAN: We have five possible topics: Nova Scotia Resources Limited; the sale aspect of Sysco; the Atlantic Lottery Corporation; the Department of Economic Development and its grant framework; and the Highway No. 104 problem. So, again, my question is, are there any of these items that are seen by members of the committee as being the highest priority? Maybe two of them might be seen as the highest priority and then we can try to work on those.

Mr. Fage.

MR. ERNEST FAGE: When we move into the Business Development Corporation, there is one other situation that I would like to point out to the committee that my colleague and I neglected to put on there and that was Cerescorp along with Mac Timber.

I would like to move that I feel the two with the highest priority, right now, are Hoogovens and the Atlantic Lottery Corporation. Both issues are of huge economic consequences to this province, whether it is the debt or it is the right thing to do or whether it is income from gambling monies in our relationship with our sister and brother provinces here in Atlantic Canada. Quite clearly, those two have the greatest significance and impact on the future of this province of where we have been and where we are going as far as income.

MR. CHAIRMAN: Mr. Dexter.

MR. DEXTER: Well, I am not sure. It would seem to me the work of the Department of Economic Development, in terms of immediate impact on the province, has perhaps the greatest effect on the future of the province in how they are managing that portfolio. I suppose Sysco and its management have been hived off from that and are another aspect of it, but I don't see them as being any more important than the other work that is going on in the Department of Economic Development. I think we all had briefings by Hoogovens. Have not all the caucuses had briefings? My understanding was that the Tory caucus had briefings.

MR. FAGE: Yes, and I guess that is why I think it is very important, when you look at the one loan guarantee that is over one-half of the budget of the entire Department of Economic Development, sold not on a business plan, but on a sales promotion. I think that is why it is important that this committee have a look at it.

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[9:30 a.m.]

MR. DEXTER: It is my understanding, Mr. Fage, to be clear, that the line of credit in fact doesn't impact on the . . .

MR. LEBLANC: That is a good question in itself, Mr. Dexter, as to the why it does (Interruptions)

MR. DEXTER: Well, then there is also the Irving loan guarantees and just an analysis of how many loan guarantees are out there by the government is a huge question, because we have looked at that before, as well.

MR. LEBLANC: If I could interject, I think part of the problem is that when you have a loan guarantee to Irving, whether you agree or disagree with it, the probability of getting paid back is probably quite good. Through the years, the anticipation of being repaid for a loan guarantee to Sysco has not been very successful, and I think part of the problem is that most people realize, when you are giving a loan guarantee to Sysco, that basically you are pretty well signing the money away; it is not coming back. There is a difference between the two. I don't argue the point as to how it is accounted for, whether it should be as it is being used up, or whether or not that should be coming off the Department of Economic Development's budget.

There is a $106 million line-of-credit debt at Sysco as we speak that is somewhere out in limbo-land. So, this is a whole discussion about the regional health boards, regional school boards and everything else. Who is accounting for it? We are here talking about deficits and balanced budgets and, in the meantime, we are running these guarantees outside which are a problem, but if I could just get focused one more time on the selection process, especially the Atlantic Lottery Corporation. There is a time-frame, and the time-frame is 12 months. They have given notice and there are discussions by the Atlantic Lottery Corporation as participants that they would like to talk to Nova Scotia. The minister is saying, no, I am not going back to the table. It is like a kid's game: you hurt my feelings, I am not going back.

In the meantime, there are consequences to the province which are going to be far-reaching, that is very pressing. I really believe the Hoogovens situation is one of public disclosure, and if you are saying something you should be willing to stand up and defend it. In Question Period, let's be honest about it, there hasn't been very much standing up and defending of anything other than catcalling, name-calling across the floor of the Legislature, and nothing substantive.

We think that those two subjects are ones that should be dealt with here, because we are not getting answers in Question Period, and neither are we through Economic Development. I think those are the three high priorities, but I think the Atlantic Lottery Corporation, if anything, we should start the process. I don't know how quickly they could

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come anyway, because we don't necessarily control them within our Legislature. We were participants, we are no longer. We ask ourselves whether the officials will come. If we don't start planning this very shortly, we might be talking long time periods before we can even have them appear before a committee.

MR. DEXTER: I am going to move the following, that we proceed through this agenda in the following way: that Mr. Livingstone be contacted first to find out when he will be in town so that we can structure whatever future meetings that we are going to have around the fact that we are actually going to get to see him at some point in time, hopefully in the near rather than the later future. Once we know where he is, the next scheduling thing that would be done would be the background briefing in advance of him appearing.

In the alternative to NSRL and that examination: that we move to the Atlantic Lottery Corporation and develop a suggested witness list for the Atlantic Lottery Corporation; from there to the Department of Economic Development and the examination of BDC; from there to Hoogovens and whoever. I suspect that Hoogovens is just the name that is most attached to this, but I assume that there would be a number of other people that you would want to talk to with respect to Sysco including probably the deputy minister and . . .

MR. LEBLANC: The board of directors.

MR. DEXTER: . . . board of directors, and then from there to Cobequid Pass. I will move that as the way to proceed through that agenda and put it on the floor.

MR. CHAIRMAN: Okay. We have a suggestion that gives a hierarchy, starting with Nova Scotia Resources, the Atlantic Lottery Corporation, Department of Economic Development, sale of Sysco, and Cobequid Pass. Any support or suggestions for changes?

Mr. Fage.

MR. FAGE: Just a question, a query on the list there. Obviously if NSRL and Mr. Livingstone can appear in August, that is fine, then the Atlantic Lottery Corporation could appear in their turn. I feel it would be remiss, the way it was suggested that that is the order of priority. Whichever one is convenient to come next week, we'll take.

MR. CHAIRMAN: I don't think the suggestion was that we hold all business, for example, and we focus all our efforts on number one and, if we can't get that conveniently, we don't do two, three, four or five until we get number one. I think it was a question of trying to slot in, in a convenient way, in that order. That is what I took to be the burden of the suggestion.

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MR. FAGE: That is how I took Mr. Dexter's suggestion but, when you paraphrased it, it sounded a little more rigid in the priority list, as you termed the terminology, so that's what I wanted to . . .

MR. CHAIRMAN: No, I think the understanding was let's try to do it in this order, but understand that other factors may - as they have in the past when we have done scheduling - well intervene. I think it is really in the category of a working list, one we will try to work from.

MR. FAGE: Whoever is available first, off that list, let's just bring them in.

MR. CHAIRMAN: Yes. With that understanding, would that be okay or do we still want to make changes to that?

MR. LEBLANC: It is going to be difficult to get people. I would think that Mr. Fage is correct in the sense that NSRL, it will be difficult to get them, and it will probably be during the summer. I think the Atlantic Lottery Corporation, it depends on their availability. They may be the ones who will want to come quicker because of the fact that there is some posturing going on - and I use the word loosely - and they'll want to come and put forward their position of why they feel it is beneficial not only to the organization but also for Nova Scotia. I think that is good. Then, from there, whether it is the Department of Economic Development, or whether we go into Sysco, all these things are important to us, but we think that they should have a forum and, as I said, we are not getting it in Question Period.

MR. CHAIRMAN: If this is generally acceptable as a working list, can I ask the committee for suggestions, particularly with respect to the Atlantic Lottery Corporation and the Department of Economic Development, as to specific individuals or bodies that they have in mind that we might want to ask to come?

MR. LEBLANC: I think for the Atlantic Lottery Corporation, we should have the chief executive officer and staff. We could ask them for the staff that they feel they should be bringing forward, but I still go back to the suggestion that I made that the Public Accounts Committee should be requesting from the Gaming Corporation a copy of the study that shows the cost-benefit analysis. If there are subsequent requirements for them, to call them before this committee, then we will consider doing so. I think that would be the way to approach them on that one.

MR. CHAIRMAN: Just before we move off, is that all right?

MR. DEXTER: I would certainly be willing to accept that as part of the direction to the Chairman, to write to the Gaming Corporation and request the study. If they refuse to release it, then ask them to appear and bring the materials with them so that we can question them in that forum.

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MR. CHAIRMAN: Right. Okay, that sounds fine. Now, what about the Department of Economic Development? It seems to me that this potentially encompasses a lot of ground. It wasn't clear to me whether the idea here was to focus on one, two or three particular instances of decisions that had been made in that department, or whether the idea was to start with an attempt to gather a broader understanding of what the department thinks it is about and then focus afterwards on some particulars.

MR. DEXTER: Specifically the Business Development Corporation was a suggestion, I believe, from Mr. Fage and Mr. LeBlanc, and certainly we could start with the senior staff person at BDC for the generals and then tell them that we are specifically interested in the Mac Timber files, as one example, and Dynatek, Cerescorp are the ones that I think immediately spring to mind. I think we have asked for a copy of the forensic audit into Dynatek so often that, as Mr. LeBlanc pointed out, at some point in time you just give up asking. It is like beating your head against the wall, it feels good when you stop.

MR. LEBLANC: May I make a suggestion to Mr. Dexter's comments? Perhaps a lot of times there were development officers - I am not sure of the terminology - assigned to these specific cases and I think if we are going to have witnesses for them, not only having the head of the Business Development Corporation, I think it would be very wise if we could also have the development officers pertaining to those three specific cases also come forward. They may be the same in some instances, but I think it would be more informative, rather than taking it as noted and getting back to us later on. I think it would be good if we had that.

MR. DEXTER: Yes. I was just thinking that it may be another set of hearings, that is all. We would talk to the head of the BDC and then that may give rise to . . .

MR. LEBLANC: That is right, for a discussion.

MR. DEXTER: . . . the names of the people that you would want.

MR. CHAIRMAN: This seems like a good amount of information to be going on with. Mr. Salmon.

MR. SALMON: If I could, I would like to go back to the issue of the Atlantic Lottery Corporation for a moment just for clarification. The issue of Nova Scotia being treated unfairly in terms of profit allocation and being short-changed, I guess is the best term, to the extent of $4.5 million to $5 million a year, was identified by an audit my office did jointly with the Auditor General of New Brunswick in 1996 and that was publicly reported. That is what triggered the negotiations that then commenced among the provinces to change the profit allocation formula.

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Just for clarification Mr. LeBlanc, I believe the study that you are looking for is the one that identified whether or not it was economically viable for Nova Scotia to go on its own.

MR. LEBLANC: That is correct. That was done by the Gaming Corporation.

MR. SALMON: Yes, it was.

MR. LEBLANC: That is what has been reported.

MR. SALMON: Yes, that is correct and so I just wanted to make sure that you were focusing on that particular study, not the audit that was done that identified the shortfall.

MR. LEBLANC: Could I make a suggestion, Mr. Chairman. I have heard about the previous work that you have done. I do not have access to it and perhaps if the members of the committee could be given a copy of it, it may be good for doing some prep work in regard to it.

MR. CHAIRMAN: It is in one of your annual reports?

MR. SALMON: It is in an annual report.

MR. LEBLANC: Do you know which year?

MR. SALMON: I believe it is 1996. I can confirm that for you. There was also a special report that was issued separately in addition to what was published in the annual report. We can certainly get you copies of that or Mora can.

MS. STEVENS: Yes, it should be in briefing packages that were put together for those meetings, in the caucus libraries, and if not, just let us know because it had all the transcripts as well that we dealt with when we had the Gaming Corporation in and the ALC.

MR. SALMON: Yes.

MR. CHAIRMAN: Great. I think at this point we have probably made good progress and between myself and Mora I guess we will see what we can organize then as quickly as we can and move ahead with that. Is that sufficient for everyone for now, at least on the first part of the agenda of the question of content?

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Agreed.

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MR. CHAIRMAN: All right, let's move on to the second aspect which is the business about the meetings. There are three meetings coming up that we have to do something about. Some of this is fairly easy, the first being the business about the August meeting of, I think the correct term is the Canadian Council of Public Accounts Committees, is that correct?

MR. SALMON: Yes, it is a joint meeting of the Canadian Council of Public Accounts Committees and the Canadian Council of Legislative Auditors.

MR. CHAIRMAN: Yes. The pattern in the past has been that the committee has sent three representatives - the chairman, the vice-chairman and a representative of the Third Party and that was Mr. LeBlanc last year. It comes up I think partly pro forma but also because I am not able to go to the meeting this year. So I wondered whether the vice-chairman is interested in going again this year? He says yes. Okay, so I guess there is the answer.

MR. SALMON: It is the last weekend in August, I think August 29th, and it is in Quebec City.

MS. STEVENS: It would start on Sunday, August 29th, and go through to Wednesday, September 1st.

MR. CHAIRMAN: Then I wonder, Mr. LeBlanc, are you interested in going again this year?

MR. LEBLANC: Yes, I found it informative last year. I learned quite a bit from that.

MR. SALMON: I would add, Mr. Chairman, if I could, that for the first time this meeting is being held in conjunction with the annual meeting of all of the comptrollers of the provinces and it is planned that there will be a joint session, at least of the auditors with the comptrollers, but the comptrollers will be there as well. So the opportunities for interchange is broader than it has been in the past.

MR. CHAIRMAN: That is fine.

MR. LEBLANC: Being that we are trying to - with the new form of government and so forth - have at least one representative from all three Parties, are you looking to have someone from your caucus?

MR. CHAIRMAN: I was just about to ask Mr. Dexter what he thought. Darrell, are you interested? I wondered if Mr. Dexter was interested in attending.

MR. DEXTER: Sure.

[Page 15]

MR. CHAIRMAN: I take it this is settled now and I will ask Mora to coordinate with those three members of the committee to make the travel arrangements and other details known to them. Is that okay? Good. That is the first meeting.

The second meeting is the one that Mr. Salmon started to speak to us about a little earlier on. This is the CCAF National Conference. It is being held May 10th and 11th in Montreal.

MR. LEBLANC: Did you say that John Leefe would be attending as a panelist? That would be someone from our caucus.

MR. CHAIRMAN: Yes, that is one item that I want to just raise with you. Mr. Leefe is attending in any event. His travel is paid for otherwise. He has, however, requested of this committee to know whether we are prepared to pay the cost of his per diems in the attending of this conference. So what I want to know from Mora was whether we had sufficient budget to cover this. I had spoken with her briefly but perhaps she can confirm for the committee?

MS. STEVENS: We do have sufficient budget for that. The last time John actually went to the conference the committee did pick up the tab, just on the request that any information that was obtained at the conference, that a report be made back to the committee and it was very helpful.

MR. CHAIRMAN: So on the basis of that, is it acceptable to the committee then to authorize the payment of the per diems on that basis?

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Agreed.

MR. CHAIRMAN: Great, thank you. Is there any thought that anyone else from the committee need attend this meeting? I take it, Mr. Salmon, you are attending this meeting?

MR. SALMON: Yes, I will be attending. I must indicate to the committee my bias. I am a member of the board of governors of this organization. I have been involved with it since its inception in the very early 1980's. I believe that the research it does and the publications it produces have added greatly to the development of better public reporting and accountability structures in governments. I would also point out to you that a very notable, high profile individual in this city, Sir Graham Day, is on the board of governors as well and is going to be speaking at this conference. It is very high profile. The people who get involved in it are very senior and very influential. I think members who attend would find it of great value from an educational point of view and from a contact point of view.

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MR. CHAIRMAN: I have to say I am not certain what the extent of our budget is, as to whether we can afford to send someone because then there would be travel and conference registration fees as well as the per diems for an additional person. Mora, perhaps you can advise us on this? Would that completely blow our budget here?

MS. STEVENS: We should be okay. If not, we have the interoffice travel fund which I would take out from our conference, that is where my funding comes from. So I can switch myself over and provide a little extra money.

MR. CHAIRMAN: We have Mr. Salmon, of course, as a member of the committee who will be going and Mr. Leefe will also be attending. I guess the question is whether it is of use to the committee to have anyone else attend this. Have the other members of the committee had a chance to look at this background material? Did you have extra copies?

MR. SALMON: I have copies here, yes.

MR. CHAIRMAN: While Mr. Salmon is passing out copies of that, let me ask members to have a look and see if they think it is worthwhile to send an additional delegate to that meeting?

In the meantime, let's move on the third meeting, which is the meeting of the CCPAC that is to be held in Halifax at the end of August 2000. What we have to do about that is begin to plan for it. Having seen what went on at the meeting last year, it seems clear that a lot of advance planning is necessary. Anyone who has ever had anything to do with planning a conference will understand that there is always a huge amount of detail that needs to be looked at. There is accommodation, there is entertainment, and special local events and so on. Nova Scotia having volunteered to take this on, we have to then follow through and begin to do the planning, and certainly to begin to plan more than a year in advance certainly seems the right thing to do.

What I need to know is whether there are members of the committee who are prepared to work with the Committees Office and with the Auditor General to begin to do the planning. Given the structure of the committee, I guess it would probably be useful if we had one representative from each of the caucuses to help coordinate and also in terms of numbers, that would probably help. I am prepared to spend time on it. I wonder if I have any other volunteers.

MR. LEBLANC: I would be prepared to do it.

MR. CHAIRMAN: All right, Mr. LeBlanc. You are going to volunteer Michel are you? Okay, and the vice-chairman is prepared to volunteer.

MR. DELEFES: How large a conference is it? How many delegates?

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MR. CHAIRMAN: There are a couple of hundred, I think.

MR. SALMON: I would say somewhere between 100 and 125 actual delegates plus spouses, et cetera. In Yellowknife, we were in that range last summer. I would just point out that there is a very set timetable structure to this conference. It rotates from provincial capital to provincial capital as well as at the federal level. Nova Scotia hosts it every 12 years on that cycle, so the last time was 1988, I believe, prior to my arrival here. Last year was Yellowknife, Northwest Territories, this year it is Quebec City, next year it is Halifax.

On the administrative side, in terms of organizing, my office and Mora will very much coordinate and look after all of the administrative side of it. What we need, I believe, is a group - Mr. LeBlanc and Mr. Epstein who have volunteered - to make the major decisions in terms of program and budget, et cetera. So it is very much at that level.

MR. CHAIRMAN: Mr. Salmon, in your office, will you be the person who is going to take lead responsibility for this?

MR. SALMON: I will be establishing someone in my office to lead it. Mora has been in consultation, I believe, already with my administrative staff who will look after all of the details.

MR. CHAIRMAN: Nicely said. My suggestion is then that as soon as you have decided who it will be in your office, that perhaps they and Mora could invite the three committee members who have volunteered and we could all sit down and begin to go through the detail of what we need to decide.

MR. DEXTER: Is it always the last week of August?

MR. SALMON: No. It can be anytime. It is generally in August and it would start on a Sunday evening and run until Tuesday afternoon. In terms of the social side, there is a reception-type function on the Sunday night and some major social event on the Monday evening. We were talking about going on the Bluenose or something like that. Then there is the program for Monday and Tuesday that requires decisions on what the program is going to be and that sort of thing.

MR. DEXTER: I was just wondering because I understand that the Parade of Sail will be in Halifax.

MS. STEVENS: That is July 19th, I do believe, but everything in the city is booked for that.

MR. DEXTER: So somebody has already thought of that.

[Page 18]

MS. STEVENS: And I think our date is going to be determined by when we can get a block of 150 hotel rooms at a government rate. The problem now is - and I have been in contact with a few hotels - finding that block, and especially in August or early September. It is a little difficult, I have a few calls out and a few feelers to find out what we can get. I think that will determine it.

MR. SALMON: That is the major reason for getting going on this now.

MR. CHAIRMAN: I mean this kind of event is surely not unique to the government. It must host conferences all the time. So is this part of the function of the Protocol Office to be involved in organizing these meetings?

MS. STEVENS: They certainly will help out and give advice but that is usually their extent of it. Basically they will tell you what you need. They will provide the lists. I have been in touch with Colleen MacDonald already as well as Mike Laffin of Province House who has held a number of conferences. So we are sort of getting the information. Nancy Kinsman as well has been involved in agendas. So it is a collective that works together but Protocol will not come in and do the conference for you. They hold enough of their own conferences so they can advise you and they are very good at that.

MR. CHAIRMAN: We can go through more detail when the organizing committee gets together. Let's just go back briefly, if I could, to the CCAF National Conference. I do not know if members have had a chance now to look at the outline of the program and the description to see if they have any suggestions?

MR. LEBLANC: Mr. Chairman, I would suggest that perhaps it would be in the best interests of the committee that if a member of the committee would attend, that seems reasonable. It does not seem to be a two day meeting. I would be agreeable if a member of the committee would attend.

MR. CHAIRMAN: This is doable on my schedule and if that is okay with the committee, then I will do this. Mora, do you think we can afford this?

MS. STEVENS: Yes.

MR. CHAIRMAN: All right, so is this okay? Is this agreeable.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Agreed.

MR. CHAIRMAN: Okay, if that is it, then we have actually done our business for the day in less than one hour. Congratulations. Thank you and we stand adjourned.

[The committee adjourned at 9:57 a.m.]