The Nova Scotia Legislature

The House resumed on:
September 21, 2017.

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HALIFAX, WEDNESDAY, APRIL 10, 2002

STANDING COMMITTEE ON PUBLIC ACCOUNTS

8:00 A.M.

CHAIRMAN

Mr. William Estabrooks

VICE-CHAIRMAN

Mr. James DeWolfe

MR. CHAIRMAN: Good morning, I welcome you to the Public Accounts Committee. I would ask the committee members to introduce themselves, please.

[The committee members introduced themselves.]

MR. CHAIRMAN: I spoke with both of our witnesses in advance, and they have received a copy of the traditional statement which we send out to witnesses. They have received that and confirmed it. I would ask them at this stage to introduce themselves, please.

MR. GREG TURNER: I'm Greg Turner, legal counsel for Mark-Lyn Construction and Peter Thomas.

MR. PETER THOMAS: I'm Peter Thomas, owner of Mark-Lyn Construction.

MR. CHAIRMAN: Good morning. Our usual process is that we give you in the 12 to 15 minute range to make an opening statement. Then, subsequent to that, we go through with the Official Opposition assigned 20 minutes, the members of the Liberal Party 20 minutes, the government caucus 20 minutes, and then we return for the remaining time to divide up for questions among those three caucuses. If we're prepared to go, Mr. Steele.

MR. GRAHAM STEELE: Mr. Chairman, as you're aware, I had notified the other committee members yesterday of my intention to request that Mr. Thomas be sworn. I'd like to make that request now.

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MR. CHAIRMAN: Mr. DeWolfe, do you have something to add to this topic?

MR. JAMES DEWOLFE: Yes, Mr. Chairman. The proper procedure was, in my mind, followed. I think that procedure was laid out in a resolution back in November, I believe, made by myself. The intent of that resolution was to ensure that if a request came from a member to swear in one of our witnesses that proper notification would be given, and the members of the committee would be canvassed. Indeed, that procedure was followed. The canvass indicated, I understand, that we would not proceed with that request. I would suggest that we move on to the more important business of today.

MR. CHAIRMAN: Do we have other comments on this topic? Mr. MacKinnon.

MR. RUSSELL MACKINNON: Mr. Chairman, as you recall, several months back we swore in a witness that, in fact, was an officer of the court, as we found out afterwards. That was a motion that was put forth by the NDP caucus. I found it a little distasteful, to be honest, to find that we have members of the bar coming before this committee, and then generate an air of suspect in the people's court. The whole idea is to keep this in as common a form as possible. We're not in the Supreme Court, and the rules of engagement are much different. I find this . . .

MR. CHAIRMAN: Are you satisfied that the process was fulfilled during the last 24 hours? That's the issue, though.

MR. MACKINNON: Yes. I will not be supporting this.

MR. CHAIRMAN: There's no motion. Mr. Steele, if I may, I reviewed the November 28th copy of Hansard with Ms. Stevens. From what I understand, and the motion that was made by Mr. DeWolfe on that day, the process was fulfilled, there was a 24 hour canvass of the other caucuses and that your request to have Mr. Thomas sworn in did not have the support of this group. I would like to move on. Mr. Thomas, or whoever's going to begin, please. Mr. Turner.

MR. TURNER: Good morning, gentlemen. I'm glad to see you all here and reasonably dry. We weren't sure we were going to make it on time, so we're a little out of breath, coming up the road in the rain. My name is Greg Turner, I'm the solicitor for Mark-Lyn Construction, and I thank you for the opportunity to make a few opening remarks before turning the floor over to yourselves, your questions and Mr. Thomas.

As I understand it, it's the function of representative government at times to review government dealings in the public interest. Indeed, of course, that is the focus of this committee. You're aware of the important and sensitive issues presented in this matter, and I stress sensitive issues since I believe that government must balance the needs of people who

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represent the small business community of Nova Scotia as well as the homeowners and the populace at large.

The question, I suppose, is - and I have reviewed a videotape of last week's session in this regard - have the government departments involved and the parties involved done all they could do to promote a harmonious business climate in view of all parties' interests. We, of course, certainly feel that Peter Thomas and Mark-Lyn Construction have done everything that was possible in this regard. I'm going to give a little pencil-sketch history. I could tell from last week's proceedings that everybody knows the situation reasonably well.

I would like to just point out that in or around 1996, all government and economic signs certainly encouraged Mark-Lyn Construction to enter the composting business. It was at the time, as it is now, seen as the environmentally responsible thing to do. In that regard, they got into this business and, more importantly, very carefully sought about getting all the proper environmental approvals before they went to the Kentville Industrial Park, before they signed any kind of lease; specifically, that would have been the right to compost.

As you folks know, this right, that was part of the application, was never revoked. What happened was, as time went on, Mr. Thomas was told that his permit would have to be updated to newer, more stringent 2000 or 2001 standards. I think that in all reasonable fairness, the climate was obviously becoming such that there was difficulty composting. That's happened in other parts of the province. In any event, for whatever reasons, Mr. Thomas and Mark-Lyn decided to move out of composting in favour of topsoil production.

He felt the pressure was on and he responded to it as a reasonable businessperson would, and indeed is a choice I think he had to make. In that regard, of course, he negotiated the return of the 4.17 acres to the park. He sought, as a way of compensation for clearing trees and brush and levelling land and putting in gravel, basically leasehold improvements, he was looking for $30,000 per acre. The eventual negotiated amount, as the committee knows, was $17,500 per acre.

Mr. Thomas basically only agreed to this because in his mind and, correctly, the Municipality of the County of Kings officials - and he had spoken to three of them - led him to believe that he would be able to do his operations and make topsoil in a new site property at Baltzer Bog. All Mark-Lyn's activities in the industrial park now certainly comply with all approvals because there's no composting going on.

To move on to Baltzer Bog, the land at South Bishop Road was purchased by Mark-Lyn in a normal business manner. In other words, it was company funds enhanced by a mortgage. Just like anybody in the world buys a house, it's not all mortgage money, it's the company money. I think the committee should bear in mind that this man is a small businessman with about eight employees and he's running a risk every time he makes a major change. This is quite a little about-turn and a large investment for him.

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He got a mortgage for $91,000 at 9.75 per cent. I would point out to the committee that that was the going rate at the time, it's certainly high by current rates. The man has made all his payments, or this company has made all its payments, and it's certainly paying the expected premium on a mortgage. There's no bargain there.

Before starting operations of mixing peat moss at Baltzer Bog, Mr. Thomas spoke to the officials at the County of Kings who advised that he contact people living on South Bishop Road. In that regard, Mr. Thomas then contacted the nearest 10 neighbours - this was by telephone - and there was no objection. No one felt any problem there.

It wasn't until Mark-Lyn applied for the right to compost at Baltzer Bog that neighbours reacted, and I don't say anything negative in that regard. It's a legitimate reaction and a legitimate concern. Certainly anyone would have it if it was on their street, but I think - just so that Mr. Thomas can show his position to the committee, I would recite some of the things that Mr. Thomas has gone through because of that legitimate concern.

A brief list includes the fact that he attended three public meetings in the face of, of course, very difficult and sometimes unwarranted criticism. I think anyone who attended those meetings would vouch for the fact that those things can get very heated and very difficult. Nonetheless, he did these things. In addition to that and after that, he held two open houses on the Baltzer Bog site. This wasn't anything he was required to do. He certainly wanted to get along with his neighbours because he lives in the same general area.

Peter Thomas at that time personally invited neighbours to come in and view his entire operation. Now, that doesn't mean he sent out letters and phoned them. I mean he went door to door. He went up and down the South Bishop Road and elsewhere to get people to come and see that there was nothing to hide, that his operation was open to those who wanted to view it. At that time, as I understand it, approximately 20 persons would attend on these occasions. Peter Thomas, once again, personally invited all local municipal councillors to view his property. In addition to that, Mr. Thomas is part of a liaison committee with the people who live on South Bishop Road, with the homeowners, that was created in part by the Department of Environment and Labour to solve any potential problems.

I think, in addition to what he has done, perhaps it bears repeating that no composting has been done at Baltzer Bog and that is not an issue. Peter Thomas and Mark-Lyn Construction, at least in my mind, and I think I would be fairly critical about this, have literally done all in their power to comply with the regulations, because this man has contacted everybody every time he made a move while running a business that employs eight-plus people and trying to keep that business afloat. To change this business in midstream was very dangerous for him, and I think the fact that he has thrived is something we should commend him for. It's hard enough to run a small business in Nova Scotia.

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I would say that Mark-Lyn has gone a lot further than most businesses to ensure that the public is fully informed of its activities. It is an environmentally-sensitive issue, but nonetheless I think that Mr. Thomas, as a member of his community, is more concerned with making sure that everyone in the area knows what he's doing and has no problem with it. I think he feels in the main that that's true.

I would also like to point out that several years ago the Municipality of the County of Kings made a very clear ruling that it would no longer allow the removal of topsoil from farmland. Those days are over. The voracious appetite of the world, and I might even say this city, looks for topsoil and it's going to come from somewhere. The Valley is a normal place to look because that's where topsoil is, and certainly that's where plant material is that you can create. In the face of the fact that that topsoil has to come from somewhere, I would submit to the committee that Mark-Lyn has shown entrepreneurial wisdom in switching to topsoil creation from the use of composting, and at great risk to the company.

Further to that I would add that Mr. Thomas and his company have endured, in the face of trying to run a business, especially a business that changed midstream, the cost and time of public meetings, legal advice, public relations and just time away from his business, period. He hopes at this point, as do I, that this - which, you know, has the tendency to be an ongoing saga of some sort - where it has gone through several levels of government and several forums, he certainly hopes that at this time the Public Accounts Committee inquiry can put this matter to rest and he can go forward with his business and get on with the business of business.

[8:15 a.m.]

He certainly can't afford to have this heard in too many more forums. He's a small business operator who has done everything he can to keep a thriving business going in a sensitive community, and he hopes that the committee will see all of this proceeding in that light and help him put this matter to rest and come to a proper conclusion. Those are my comments.

MR. CHAIRMAN: Mr. Thomas, do you have anything to add? It is 8:16 a.m. and the next 20 minutes I assign to Mr. Steele.

MR. GRAHAM STEELE: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Mr. Thomas, the first thing I would like to say is a brief word of explanation about what we're here for. We are not here to investigate you or your company; we're not here to judge you or your company. The purpose of the Public Accounts Committee is to review the activities of government to make sure that public money has been properly spent, that government has gone about its business in an efficient and effective manner, and so although we will be asking you questions today about your business I want to make it very clear to you that the people on the carpet today are not you or Mark-Lyn Construction, it's the government and we're trying to decide here,

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with last week's session and this, whether the government has done an effective job for its citizens in general, for the people on South Bishop Road, and also for you.

So I would like to start actually with an open-ended question to you. Does your company feel well served by its government in this whole affair, and if not, why not?

MR. THOMAS: I guess I was in a situation in the industrial park where an odour was created. The government felt, with the other tenants there, it didn't want that to continue. I understand where they're coming from. When they wanted that operation shut down, I don't know really what other alternative they had.

MR. STEELE: What about with respect to your operations on the Baltzer Bog property, do you have any kudos or complaints about the way your company has been treated by the government with respect to those operations?

MR. THOMAS: No, I don't.

MR. STEELE: What is happening today, or I don't mean literally today, a wet Wednesday morning in April, I mean these days what's happening on the Baltzer Bog property? What is your company doing there?

MR. THOMAS: Today? We're not operating there today.

MR. STEELE: What is going on in that property today?

MR. THOMAS: Nothing, it's sitting vacant.

MR. STEELE: And sitting waiting for what?

MR. THOMAS: Sitting vacant.

MR. STEELE: Vacant, and is it going to stay that way?

MR. THOMAS: No, it's not going to stay that way. Our operation, we're in a seasonal business. For making topsoil you've got to do it when it's relatively dry. Mixing soil when it's wet is not a good practice. We do it about the end of April, once the weather turns a little milder.

MR. STEELE: So when the weather turns a little milder, what will your company be doing on that property? I wonder if you could describe it in some detail.

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MR. THOMAS: At that point, once it's dry enough to work, it's not too soft and creating a great problem, we'll be extracting the topsoil, peat from the bog and we'll take it back to the industrial park and mix it with our soil.

MR. STEELE: I just want to make sure that I'm clear on this, because it's a line of business that I have to admit I don't know a great deal about. So on the Baltzer Bog property you are mixing or you're extracting?

MR. THOMAS: Extracting.

MR. STEELE: And what exactly is it that you're extracting?

MR. THOMAS: Topsoil and peat and taking it back to the industrial park to mix with our soils.

MR. STEELE: Okay, so if I can put this in a layperson's language, you're digging up topsoil and peat and trucking it out, and that's what you're doing on that property?

MR. THOMAS: Yes.

MR. STEELE: And then what happens once it gets to the industrial park? I wonder if you could explain again in some detail, assuming, which is more or less true, that I don't know very much about this.

MR. THOMAS: Once it gets to the industrial park, we're mixing with our silt to make a lawn and garden soil.

MR. STEELE: Is there anything else going on in the industrial park property that your company owns, apart from the mixing of soils?

MR. THOMAS: Anything else? Well, we have a sales yard there, and a spot there now for repairing our equipment.

MR. STEELE: The permit that you have from the Department of Environment was issued on November 19, 1999, and it is for topsoil removal. Do you have any other permits from the Department of Environment?

MR. THOMAS: Yes, we have one on the other piece of land we had, which was on the end of South Bishop Road, for extracting silt, and I had a permit in the industrial park for composting.

MR. STEELE: But on the Baltzer Bog property, you have one permit and that's for topsoil removal; is that right?

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MR. THOMAS: Yes.

MR. STEELE: Do you consider that what your company is doing on the Baltzer Bog property still fits within the terms of that permit that you got back in 1999?

MR. THOMAS: Yes, I do.

MR. STEELE: One of the essential issues here seems to be whether the Department of Environment and Labour is taking care to issue the proper permits to your company, and to monitor compliance with those permits or other requirements once they're issued. If you have the one permit, then presumably anything else that's going on at that property is something for which you don't need a permit. Is that your understanding as well?

MR. THOMAS: Yes.

MR. STEELE: So, for example, under the environmental regulations in Nova Scotia, one of the things for which you would need a permit, in fact for which you would need to do a full environmental assessment, is removal of peat moss. Are you removing any peat moss from that property?

MR. THOMAS: The material I moved was the same material that the Department of Environment went back to look at. They brought their experts in to determine what the material was, and they issued the permit based on knowing what was on the site.

MR. STEELE: In the correspondence, in a lot of the correspondence, including correspondence from Mark-Lyn Construction but also from the department, there are a lot of references to removal of peat moss. That may be just loose language, but the reason why it matters so much is because the Department of Environment should have caused your company to undertake a full environmental assessment, if in fact it's peat moss that your company is removing. That's why this issue, which in some ways appears very technical, the difference, if any, between topsoil and peat, and the significant difference, as I understand it, between peat and peat moss, which sounds very technical, the reason it's so important is because, depending on what it is, there's a different requirement for permits.

The suggestion has been that the Department of Environment and Labour has not been entirely vigilant in ensuring that your company has the proper permits for what it's doing. That's all by way of a long preamble to the question which I would like to ask you again, just to make sure that I understand it, your position on this. Is your company removing any peat moss from the Baltzer Bog property?

MR. THOMAS: We're not removing any peat moss, we're removing peat. There's a difference between peat and peat moss.

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MR. STEELE: So although in some of the correspondence you refer to the removal of peat moss, it's your position today that that's not in fact what you're doing; is that correct?

MR. THOMAS: We're removing topsoil and peat, not peat moss.

MR. STEELE: In the permit that the Department of Environment and Labour has issued, there are a number of conditions laid down. As I was referring to at the beginning, my interest today is in whether the Department of Environment is doing its job. It is not my job today to make any judgment about what you're doing or not doing. So I want you to keep that in mind, and for Mr. Turner to keep that in mind, when I go through the conditions in the permit.

One of the conditions is that you would monitor particulate emissions, if requested to do so by the Department of Environment and Labour. That would include things like dust, I think. Have you ever been requested by the Department of Environment and Labour to monitor particulate emissions from the Baltzer Bog site?

MR. THOMAS: The other thing I was told to do is dust control, which is neither water or chloride.

MR. STEELE: Have you ever been asked to monitor, in a technical sense, the amount of dust being generated on this site?

MR. THOMAS: No.

MR. STEELE: There's another requirement in the permit, that your company would monitor sound levels if requested to do so by the Department of Environment. Have you ever been requested by the Department of Environment to monitor sound levels?

MR. THOMAS: No.

MR. STEELE: There's a requirement in the permit for you to put in place means to control soil erosion and sedimentation. What can you tell the committee about what measures you've put in place to control soil erosion and sedimentation of water as required by the permit?

MR. THOMAS: The only thing that's really put in place is the - it is peat and peat is acting as a natural filter and, in the settlement, would be filtered through the peat through a natural process.

MR. STEELE: There's another requirement in the permit for you and your company to do what's called progressive reclamation. That means, of course, as you're finished with a particular piece of property you would restore it to its natural state as you move on to

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taking topsoil or peat from other property. What can you tell the committee about the steps that your company has taken to meet that condition of the permit?

MR. THOMAS: We have rehabilitated the land that we have done. The area where the stockpiles are, we're not able to rehabilitate until we get the material off. But it is rehabilitated up to the area where the stockpiles are.

MR. STEELE: If you could estimate how much property your company has been - I don't know what word to use - digging into or using for purposes of the business, what would your estimate be of the surface area that your company has been digging into?

MR. THOMAS: We have a 10 acre block or a four hectare block. At this point I would say we're probably into about six acres.

MR. STEELE: About six acres. When you say you have a 10 acre block, what do you mean, a 10 acre block?

MR. THOMAS: We have a 70 acre parcel of land. Our permit requires us to excavate on, to remove on, the four hectare section.

MR. STEELE: Because I'm sure you're aware that if you do in fact have 10 acres under work, that, in itself, requires an environmental assessment.

MR. THOMAS: Under four acres does not.

MR. STEELE: Yes, under four acres doesn't but over four . . .

MR. THOMAS: Four hectares, I mean.

MR. STEELE: Yes, right. Under four hectares . . .

MR. THOMAS: So we're below the four hectares.

MR. STEELE: Okay. There's a requirement in the permit that you put tarps on all loads of topsoil being removed. Clearly the idea there is to keep it from blowing around, particularly on the South Bishop Road and other adjoining roads. Has your company always done that?

MR. THOMAS: Yes, we have. My trucks are equipped with a toggle switch with air tarps. Just a simple switch and the tarp is on.

MR. STEELE: An air tarp? I've never heard that expression before. Educate me.

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MR. THOMAS: Well, some people get out and they crank it by hand, or you can have electric tarp. Mine have an air cylinder on the body, a toggle switch and the tarp goes back.

MR. STEELE: The permit also requires you - bearing in mind that the permit is for topsoil removal - to leave at least six inches of topsoil behind. If I understood Mr. Turner correctly, topsoil removal per se is no longer permitted in Kings County anyway. Maybe I misunderstood Mr. Turner, but how can you be having a topsoil removal operation if it's not permitted in Kings County? I don't understand how you can both have the operation and yet it's contrary to Kings County regulations that - perhaps I misunderstood something.

MR. TURNER: I think it might be fair if I clarified my comment. My comment was that topsoil removal is no longer allowed on farmland. That's the distinction.

MR. STEELE: Okay.

MR. TURNER: This isn't farmland.

MR. STEELE: Okay, so Mr. Turner says it's no longer farmland. Another part of the general issue around here is that the people's definitions of what's there seems to keep changing depending on their needs and so depending on what the department wants it to be for purposes of not actually enforcing the permit, they call it topsoil or peat or peat moss. The same thing happens about this issue about whether it's a wetland or farmland. The department has certain rules that apply if it is a wetland, but they don't want it to be a wetland so they call it farmland. Now, because if it were farmland that would engage a different set of rules, the company doesn't want it to be farmland; it wants it to be a wetland. This is part of what the residents have been complaining about, that the rules and definitions change depending on the particular needs of the department at the time. All the residents know is that at the end of the day, the department never seems interested in enforcing because the department always manages to define the problem away.

[8:30 a.m.]

I will just leave that as a comment, that if it is farmland, then topsoil removal isn't permitted. If it is a wetland, then there are environmental assessment requirements that aren't being enforced. Maybe I won't leave that as a comment. Mr. Turner, would you like to respond to that?

MR. TURNER: I understand your comments and I think it is an ongoing part of any developmental law, especially something as sensitive and new as environmental law, that yes, I think until the whole world gets past dealing with new regulations in this area, there is going to be confusion about definitions. I would share, at least, some of your feelings about how it is difficult for people to really understand which word means exactly what. It has long been a bugaboo in law.

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MR. STEELE: Mr. Thomas, let me go back to this requirement in the permit that you leave six inches of topsoil. I think we have all seen photographs showing significant digging into the bog. How is it possible to leave six inches of topsoil when the digging is going down several feet? How do you meet the condition that six inches of topsoil be left behind?

MR. THOMAS: The way I am meeting it is by putting six inches back on it and reinstating it.

MR. STEELE: Okay. I just want to repeat that. Not that I am questioning you, I just want to make sure that I understand what you just said. In your view, you're in compliance with the permit as long as your reclamation program involves putting six inches of topsoil back over the areas in which you have dug? Is that correct?

MR. THOMAS: Yes.

MR. STEELE: Another requirement in the permit is that you post security. This is designed to give the government and citizens a fund to claim against if, in fact, any of the conditions of the permit, and reclamation in particular, aren't satisfied. The security that is supposed to be posted is $5,000 per hectare. If you have a four-hectare operation, you should have, according to this permit, posted $20,000 worth of security. Have you done that?

MR. THOMAS: Yes.

MR. STEELE: When did you do that?

MR. THOMAS: In 1999 or 2000. It is posted in the form of a bond.

MR. STEELE: It is my understanding that it was at least one year after the permit was issued, and in fact at the insistence of some of the local residents, before the department itself actually insisted that you post a security. Is that fair or not?

MR. THOMAS: Yes.

MR. CHAIRMAN: Mr. Steele, you have two minutes remaining.

MR. STEELE: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Obviously, at the foundation of this issue are some hard feelings between your company and the nearby residents who live literally across the road from the Baltzer Bog property. Those residents feel let down by their government. They feel that their government is not properly enforcing environmental laws. In fact, they feel doubly betrayed - maybe it's too strong a word, maybe not - because the funding for you to buy the property came from their government. So what the citizens see is a government, their government, to which they pay tax dollars, as well as you, that has funded the purchase of this property, and then another arm of the government is not properly

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enforcing the environmental regulations, which are supposed to be there to protect everybody. What would you suggest could be done to try to resolve this issue where the residents feel let down by their government? What can you and Mark-Lyn Construction suggest as a way to move forward on this issue?

MR. THOMAS: The only thing that I can really suggest to any of the citizens on the street if they have concerns is they should be on the liaison committee and try to work through their problems. They have the opportunity to sit on a citizens' liaison committee, and that's the place to try to work through.

MR. STEELE: Tell me about the citizens' liaison committee, I don't know about it.

MR. THOMAS: It was set up through the Department of Environment and Labour. It is not set up based on the Baltzer Bog, it's a requirement of my permit on the other parcel of land we have, which is our silt pit. In order to extract silt from that piece of land, a liaison committee is set up with the citizens on South Bishop Road.

MR. CHAIRMAN: The next 20 minutes belongs to the Liberal caucus, and the MLA for Clare, Mr. Gaudet.

MR. WAYNE GAUDET: Mr. Chairman, first of all I want to thank Mr. Peter Thomas and his counsel for appearing here this morning. I want to start off with some general questions about Mark-Lyn Construction. Mr. Thomas, how long has Mark-Lyn Construction been in business?

MR. THOMAS: Since 1991.

MR. GAUDET: What kind of business is Mark-Lyn Construction involved in?

MR. THOMAS: We do residential excavation work, build subdivision roads, anything that involves excavation work, and we make topsoil.

MR. GAUDET: I understood that Mark-Lyn Construction moved into the Annapolis Valley Industrial Park in 1995; is that correct?

MR. THOMAS: Yes.

MR. GAUDET: At that time, did you start composting, in 1995?

MR. THOMAS: 1996.

MR. GAUDET: In order to do some composting, you needed a permit?

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MR. THOMAS: Yes.

MR. GAUDET: From who?

MR. THOMAS: The Department of Environment.

MR. GAUDET: You didn't need anything from the municipality?

MR. THOMAS: No. I called the Municipality of Kings, and at that time they had no regulations.

MR. GAUDET: Earlier you indicated that your company is currently employing eight people.

MR. THOMAS: Yes.

MR. GAUDET: We're technically off-season now.

MR. THOMAS: Yes.

MR. GAUDET: Of those eight people - how many people from your family are working for the company?

MR. THOMAS: The only ones who work in my business are my wife and I. We're partners in the business.

MR. GAUDET: Looking at the tenant list for the Annapolis Valley Regional Industrial Park - and this information, Mr. Chairman, is in the binders - in January 2002 and April 2002, there seems to be some confusion here with the listing of your company. For example, in January 2002, the company was listed as Peter Thomas Construction; in April 2002, the company is listed as Mark-Lyn Construction.

MR. CHAIRMAN: Mr. Gaudet, do you have a page number for that referral for us?

MR. GAUDET: We can table that. I'm just wondering if Mr. Thomas could please explain why this happened, why the company is listed under two different names at different times?

MR. THOMAS: It shouldn't be, it should be Mark-Lyn Construction. I don't know why that is. I'm Peter Thomas, I'm the owner of Mark-Lyn Construction, and I have been since 1991. What you're talking about, I have no clue.

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MR. GAUDET: I will provide you with a copy of this. Mr. Thomas, you indicated you've been in the park since 1995. Do you own or lease the property in the park?

MR. THOMAS: We lease it, and we have the option to buy it.

MR. GAUDET: I want to go back to when you were running your composting business in the park. What materials were you using in your compost?

MR. THOMAS: Leaves, grass clippings, animal manures.

MR. GAUDET: There were some questions raised with regard to the nature of the material used in the composting.

MR. THOMAS: The only problem that was created was the odour. The odour is from the animal manures, and when it is decomposing it's not that potent.

MR. GAUDET: How long does the compost have to stay on the site or ferment on the site before it is ready to sell?

MR. THOMAS: It takes approximately one year.

MR. GAUDET: Where did you sell your compost?

MR. THOMAS: Mixing it through the soil and selling it through the topsoil.

MR. GAUDET: To people from the Valley or people in the city?

MR. THOMAS: Both.

MR. GAUDET: While you were composting or in the business of composting in the industrial park, did you ever receive complaints from other tenants in the park?

MR. THOMAS: Indirectly.

MR. GAUDET: Were you ever contacted by staff from the Department of Environment and Labour?

MR. THOMAS: Yes.

MR. GAUDET: Were you ever contacted by the local MLA, David Morse?

MR. THOMAS: Yes.

[Page 16]

MR. GAUDET: Can you tell us what Mr. Morse wanted to know or offered to do, for you, for your company?

MR. THOMAS: Mr. Morse offered to look for another parcel of land, up the street, adjacent to where Valley Waste Resource Management is located now. One of the problems with that is if I have an odour down the road, and we shift up the road, is the odour going to go away? So, by going up the street, the odour is still going to be there.

MR. GAUDET: Mr. Morse only offered to move your current location further up the road?

MR. THOMAS: Looking for other areas to possibly relocate. He knew we were no longer permitted to compost in the industrial park, and he was trying to look for another solution, for another spot to compost.

MR. GAUDET: Was he the one who found Baltzer Bog?

MR. THOMAS: No.

MR. GAUDET: Did he make you any promises, other than trying to find you relocation?

MR. THOMAS: He didn't make any promises, period.

MR. GAUDET: He didn't make you any promises. Did he indicate to you that he would be raising these concerns to the attention of the provincial government?

MR. THOMAS: No.

MR. GAUDET: He never mentioned that he would raise these concerns directly to the Minister of Environment and Labour at the time or to the Minister of Economic Development or to anyone?

MR. THOMAS: Really, what concerns could he raise? I was asked to stop composting. I don't know what he could do from there.

MR. GAUDET: In 1999, you needed some extra space to expand your business. Who did you contact to see if you could get more land?

MR. THOMAS: I don't really know what their official name is. I usually contacted George Reid, Economic Development or the Department of Transportation and Public Works, it's Nova Scotia Inc. now, as far as I know.

[Page 17]

MR. GAUDET: How much land were you looking for, to expand at that time?

MR. THOMAS: Approximately three acres, three or four acres.

MR. GAUDET: Did you put a formal request in, or did you just call George Reid to let him know that you needed more land to expand your business? Or, did you put this in writing, did you send a formal request in writing to Mr. Reid?

MR. THOMAS: I called him.

MR. GAUDET: You called him?

MR. THOMAS: Had a verbal conversation.

MR. GAUDET: And he agreed?

MR. THOMAS: Yes.

MR. GAUDET: That you could get an additional three acres?

MR. THOMAS: Yes.

MR. GAUDET: Did you receive permission to clear the property in the park, these three acres?

MR. THOMAS: Yes.

MR. GAUDET: Did you receive written permission?

MR. THOMAS: I believe I did.

MR. GAUDET: You did. Is it possible, when you get a chance . . .

[8:45 a.m.]

MR. THOMAS: I know I had an oral but, you know, I talked to him on the phone and he said go ahead.

MR. GAUDET: Go ahead. So you've never received anything in writing?

MR. THOMAS: I thought I did. I don't know for sure if we did or not. I would have to go back to my papers.

[Page 18]

MR. GAUDET: The reason I'm raising that is that last week George Reid was here and appeared as a witness at the Public Accounts Committee. He indicated that he did provide you with written permission to go ahead with these land improvements.

MR. THOMAS: And I believe I have it.

MR. GAUDET: Would it be possible for your company, at some point in time, to provide us with a copy of that permission?

MR. THOMAS: Yes, if I can find it.

MR. GAUDET: I'm not saying today but at your leisure, of course, when you have the opportunity. Mr. Thomas, shortly after your expansion, especially with your land clearing of these three acres or so, Mark-Lyn Construction was asked to cease its composting operations in the park. Was your company offered money to cease its composting operations in the park?

MR. THOMAS: Directly, no.

MR. GAUDET: Directly, no. So, indirectly, yes?

MR. THOMAS: I was compensated but it had nothing to do with stopping the composting. So if we can step this back a little further, I went to three of the people at the Municipality of Kings. I thought I was going to be able to mix my soils on the Baltzer site. They had told me - there again I should have had it in writing. They verbally said that anything that was on site, I was able to mix on site. This was one of the reasons why I decided I didn't need as much land in the industrial park; I thought I was going to be able to mix my soil on Baltzer Bog.

MR. GAUDET: Mr. Chairman, this is a letter from George Reid, the manager of industrial properties, to Mr. Peter Thomas. The letter is dated January 10, 2000. It's in our binder. It says, "The Property Management Committee of the NSBDC has directed that it can reimburse Mark-Lyn an amount of $17,500 per acre for land improvements to approximately two acres of land adjacent to Lot A-80. The condition for this offer is dependent upon Mark-Lyn ceasing its composting operation." To me it sounds like Mark-Lyn was actually offered money to stop composting.

MR. THOMAS: Well, that's why I said indirectly, not directly.

MR. GAUDET: So indirectly you were being offered money by the Nova Scotia Business Development Corporation to stop composting?

[Page 19]

MR. THOMAS: The only thing they paid me for was the land improvements I did on the land that I no longer thought I needed. As far as actually being paid to stop composting, no.

MR. GAUDET: So when were you told that Mark-Lyn had to stop composting?

MR. THOMAS: As far as I know it was April, either of 1999 or 2000.

MR. GAUDET: Around April 1999, I see. Who told you that Mark-Lyn Construction had to stop composting?

MR. THOMAS: Mr. Reid.

MR. GAUDET: Mr. Reid. Mr. Chairman, in the first paragraph of the same letter from Mr. George Reid, he indicates to Mr. Thomas, "I was pleased to have the opportunity to meet with you on January 7, 2000, at your office, accompanied by my colleague, Mr. Bob Barton." Mr. Bob Barton is with the Nova Scotia Business Development Corporation. On January 7, 2000, Mr. Barton and Mr. Reid met Mr. Thomas at his office to let him know that the Nova Scotia Business Development Corporation was interested in providing him with $17,500 per acre if Mark-Lyn ceased its composting operation. That was January 7, 2000. So, Mr. Thomas, looking back, do you think that you were told by George Reid in April 1999 to cease?

MR. THOMAS: The exact date I couldn't tell you. I know we stopped composting in April; April was when we stopped. The day I was told I had to stop I cannot tell you.

MR. GAUDET: You can't remember?

MR. THOMAS: No.

MR. GAUDET: So were you told by Mr. George Reid that you had to move your composting operations out of the park?

MR. THOMAS: I didn't have to move it, I had to cease it in the park, stop doing it in the industrial park.

MR. GAUDET: So he didn't tell you that you had to move it?

MR. THOMAS: No.

MR. GAUDET: Just you had to stop?

MR. THOMAS: Yes.

[Page 20]

MR. GAUDET: I see. Mr. Chairman, that very same letter, item number seven, George Reid agreed to seek Nova Scotia Business Development Corporation approval for improvement reimbursement for Lot A-80 if Mark-Lyn abandons the park completely. Mr. Thomas, why is Mark-Lyn Construction still in the park?

MR. THOMAS: Why wouldn't we be?

MR. GAUDET: Well, according to Mr. George Reid, the Nova Scotia Business Development Corporation would only provide you with that funding if you left the park completely?

MR. THOMAS: The only thing they paid me for was land improvements.

MR. GAUDET: So this is not true then?

MR. THOMAS: I would say no.

MR. GAUDET: So George Reid misled your company?

MR. THOMAS: No, he didn't mislead my company.

MR. GAUDET: According to this letter that he wrote to your company . . .

MR. THOMAS: Basically all they did was pay me for the land improvements I did on the land which they now have the opportunity to sell at $35,000 an acre. The land before was approximately $15,000. They paid me $17,500. The land is for sale now at $35,000 an acre.

MR. GAUDET: Mr. Thomas, in an article that appeared in The Chronicle-Herald on March 8, 2000, this was following a public meeting in Coldbrook, you said and you're quoted here, that Mr. Thomas of Mark-Lyn Construction says he is being forced from the Annapolis Valley Industrial Park by the Nova Scotia Business Development Corporation.

MR. THOMAS: Forced to stop composting. It's not forced out of business. It's not forced out of the industrial park. It was forced to cease the compost operation.

MR. GAUDET: I see. Thank you for that clarification. So the Nova Scotia Business Development Corporation agreed to give Mark-Lyn Construction $17,500 per acre for a total of two acres. So that's a grand total of $35,000 which was offered to you if you left the park entirely, but apparently, as you indicate, that meant for Mark-Lyn Construction to cease your composting operation in the park. So that explains the first cheque of $35,000, but there's another cheque that was issued to Mark-Lyn Construction for $43,750. What did Mark-Lyn Construction have to do for that amount?

[Page 21]

MR. THOMAS: The end total, there was 6.5 acres. At the present time we occupy 2.43 acres. The rest of the land was turned back in and multiply it by 17.5 is how you'll come up with that figure.

MR. CHAIRMAN: Mr. Gaudet, you're under two minutes.

MR. GAUDET: So for clarification, Mr. Thomas, you were reimbursed for four acres, 4.5 acres?

MR. THOMAS: Approximately 4.5 acres times 17.5, whatever it works out to, $70,000-some.

MR. GAUDET: I see, but initially, if I recall, you had requested around three acres from Mr. Reid to expand your business, right?

MR. THOMAS: Could be.

MR. GAUDET: Could be, so how many acres did you have all together?

MR. THOMAS: I had 6.5 acres.

MR. GAUDET: So, 6.5 acres. So the fact that you have been paid for so-called land improvements - and we will get into that in the second part because we won't have enough time here in the first section. You still occupy roughly two acres in the Annapolis Valley Industrial Park. Is that correct?

MR. THOMAS: We take 2.43 acres. Right in that vicinity - 2.4, 2.43 acres. That's what we have now, at the current time, that we're leasing.

MR. GAUDET: I'm trying to understand. Mr. Thomas, you were requesting to be reimbursed roughly $30,492 for each acre that you had cleared, grubbed, and hauled gravel, and in the end the Nova Scotia Business Development Corporation only offered you in return $17,500. So you must have lost on that deal?

MR. THOMAS: Of course I lost.

MR. CHAIRMAN: Thank you, Wayne. I'm sorry, your time has elapsed. Thank you, Mr. Thomas. It's 8:56 a.m. and I will assign the next 20 minutes to the members of the government caucus. The MLA for Pictou East, Mr. DeWolfe.

MR. JAMES DEWOLFE: Thank you, Mr. Chairman and welcome, Mr. Thomas and Mr. Turner. Mr. Thomas, from my perspective, I certainly have become more aware of the challenges faced by environmental businesses such as yours as a direct result of delving into

[Page 22]

your company, Mark-Lyn Construction, over the past several weeks, this being the second hearing of the Public Accounts Committee on this subject. It is a rather complicated issue, to say the least, much more complicated than I originally thought. Certainly composting on a commercial scale such as you were attempting to do is relatively new to the province. Would that be a fair statement? Perhaps you could comment on that. I don't know the background of this type of operation in the province.

MR. THOMAS: Yes, it is relatively new. A few years ago, the government, I feel, encouraged people to compost. On the flip side of that, I think they thought that composting was going to be a great thing. You take the green boxes today, the compost, was it ever thoroughly thought out as to what was going to happen with that material? Maybe it's out of the landfills but it still has to go somewhere.

MR. DEWOLFE: So composting on a commercial scale no doubt brings on some technical and environmental challenges, and as I said before, this is relatively new to the contracting industry, to governments and certainly to members of this committee. Perhaps you could tell us something about the technical and environmental challenges that were faced by you in getting this company up and running.

MR. THOMAS: Some of the biggest challenges I could see in the operation that I was doing - and really in any of the operations that have an outdoor windrow system, and that's what we were doing - how do you control the odour? To me, that's probably one of the greatest challenges. Take even the guys that spend $2 million, $3 million, $4 million on their facilities; they might have the odour controlled inside the building. As soon as the door is open, the odour is going out the door. It's a problem that I don't know how it will ever be corrected. I don't know what type of filter system - certainly in the outside windrow system, there is no way, when you get stuff that's decomposing, to ever control the odour. That was one of our biggest challenges, odour. When you use manure, leaves, grass clippings, anything that's decomposing, how do you control the odour? That, to me, is the biggest challenge. I don't know how you control it, and I don't know where you would do it where anybody would like it.

MR. DEWOLFE: I had an opportunity several months ago to visit a modern, state-of-the-art composting operation near our landfill site in Pictou County. Of course, that is an enclosed system and supposedly relatively odour free on the outside, but I guess that option wouldn't be available for your type of operation, that type of facility?

[9:00 a.m.]

MR. THOMAS: I don't personally believe that any system is odour free. Where you have anything composting, inside a building or outside a building, when those doors are open the odour is going out. You have no way of controlling that odour. Whether it's in an enclosed system or in a windrow system, there's no way of controlling that odour.

[Page 23]

MR. DEWOLFE: Not a pleasant odour either.

MR. THOMAS: No, it's not a pleasant odour. Whether you spend $50 million on a building, the building is not going to keep - when the doors are open, the odour's going out. When you have a windrow system, the odour's there. It's there 365 days of the year, there's no way of controlling it. It's not like you're going to put some perfume on it, there's no way of controlling it.

MR. DEWOLFE: Could you equate it to - just so we have an idea of how strong the odour is - would it be similar to a farmer's field after manure spreading?

MR. THOMAS: It would be equivalent or worse. Certainly no better. I know I was raised on a farm, we spread manure, usually you put it on in your field and then you harrowed it right in and then the odour was gone. In a windrow system, the odour is there all the time. There is no getting away from the odour.

MR. DEWOLFE: I, too, was raised on a farm and you sort of become immune to it after a few years. Mr. Thomas, I guess at the very least we could say there was a localized public outcry with regard to your operation. Would that be a fair statement? Was the outcry localized or was it wider spread than that and also was it mainly because of the odour?

MR. THOMAS: It was mostly the odour. If I owned a business right next to my business, I would not be a happy camper either. The odour is there and there's no way of controlling it, regardless of who my neighbours are. I don't blame them if they did complain. The odour's there, there's no way of controlling it.

MR. DEWOLFE: I guess, the first part of my statement, was it localized or was it wider spread than that?

MR. THOMAS: I would say it was localized.

MR. DEWOLFE: It was localized. Do you as a businessman in that area feel that you were fairly treated by the local residents during this process?

MR. THOMAS: I feel everybody had their own concerns. It's just like I said a few minutes ago, I really don't blame the owners adjacent to the industrial park for putting in complaints.

MR. DEWOLFE: What steps have you taken to put the concerns of the local residents at rest? Have you dealt personally with the local stakeholders to try to alleviate their concerns?

[Page 24]

MR. THOMAS: The main way now is through the citizens' liaison committee. If the ones who are out on the street would like to sit on the committee, they have the opportunity to sit on it and try to work through the problems.

MR. DEWOLFE: So you formed a local community committee?

MR. THOMAS: Yes, a liaison committee.

MR. DEWOLFE: Did they form it or - who pulled that together?

MR. THOMAS: The Department of Environment asked me to do that, not based on the bog operation, it was based on my silt operation.

MR. DEWOLFE: So, I do understand that. It has been brought to my attention that the government certainly had a willingness to act as a mediator with regard to the local dispute between the residents and your company. Has the government acted in that capacity?

MR. THOMAS: Yes. It was the government that said that a liaison committee would probably be a good thing in the long term to possibly come to some type of solution with my business and the residents on South Bishop Road.

MR. DEWOLFE: Having said that, were the local residents interested in that option?

MR. THOMAS: Some were, some weren't.

MR. DEWOLFE: Some were and some weren't. Why were the residents, those who weren't interested, what reasoning would they have not trying to resolve this matter?

MR. THOMAS: A question you'd have to ask them, not me.

MR. DEWOLFE: Okay. There was an issue brought to our attention about zoning. Was this property properly zoned for your business?

MR. THOMAS: The property is zoned for extracting of material.

MR. DEWOLFE: The site was country-residential. Is that correct?

MR. THOMAS: Right.

MR. DEWOLFE: So that site was then deemed appropriate for industrial use?

MR. THOMAS: Right. Extracting of material is permitted on that property.

[Page 25]

MR. DEWOLFE: Was there any possibility that that property could be redeveloped for resident purposes?

MR. THOMAS: Once you got rid of the peat, you are down to a hardpan and once you get rid of the soft material on top, I see no reason, through proper drainage, that it could not go back to a residential area. (Interruption) The way it is now, no. Nobody is going to go out and put an $80,000 or $100,000 home on top of soft material. You have to get rid of that soft material in order to develop the land for any purpose, whether it is a golf course or residential.

MR. DEWOLFE: So, therefore, by removing the peat, as you were doing, that is an important step into turning that land back to residential. It is almost a remediation process to that end, if that is the way it was going to go. Just a few little points. I am going to skip around just for a moment or two. I am referring back to last week's meeting and I realize that you have viewed the video of that meeting, so some of these points that I am bringing up go back to reflect on some of the comments made during that session.

There was one allegation of fear by some of the residents that Mark-Lyn Construction was dumping fuel.

MR. THOMAS: Dumping fuel, now that is an interesting question. Fuel today is approximately 70 cents a litre. Now, at $4.00 a gallon, who is going to dump fuel? It is hard enough to buy a tank of fuel without dumping it on the ground. Get realistic here, eh.

MR. DEWOLFE: So subsequent investigations by the Department of Environment and Labour found no fact to support that argument. Is that correct?

MR. THOMAS: You are right. It is hard enough to buy it without dumping it on the ground.

MR. DEWOLFE: It is, indeed. Okay, there is nothing else that is just jumping out at me, Mr. Chairman. I will pass to my colleague for Kings West and perhaps he can continue on for the rest of the moments.

MR. CHAIRMAN: The honourable member for Kings West. You have eight minutes.

MR. JON CAREY: Peter, I think they said there were about 100 residents within - I don't know what area - but that you would be affecting somewhat by your business there. Do you think the residents are satisfied now with what is going on there?

MR. THOMAS: I don't think that all the residents in that area have a problem. There are a few that have a great problem with it.

[Page 26]

MR. CAREY: There was some concern about the water level or the supply of water, their wells and so on. Does the Department of Environment and Labour work with you to monitor this or is there anything in place that would indicate for you that you were on a weekly, monthly or whatever basis having to check on this, or do the Environment people come out?

MR. THOMAS: Yes, weekly we have to send a water report to a lab to have it analyzed. What we are having it analyzed for is solubles, which means how much dirt is in it, and the PH. I can understand testing for solubles because you can see how much dirt is getting out, but as far as testing for PH, it is water that mother nature put there. I am not changing it. But it is part of their requirement and it something that we have done weekly.

MR. CAREY: Now, you and I, I think, are very familiar with the dust that comes from Annapolis Valley peat when they are harvesting. Berwick has had some experience with that. Do you have any of that type?

MR. THOMAS: No, we have a completely different operation. They are handling peat moss; I am handling peat. They probably have approximately 600 acres; they are going in there in the summer months, when it is dry and harrowing that. If you harrow that top, disturbing the top vegetation, you are getting into a dust. My staff is excavating as we are coming to it. We are not going ahead of any of the root mat and disturbing it. So the dust from the peat is not an issue.

MR. CAREY: So the residents really have no dust from the peat here. They shouldn't be concerned about this.

MR. THOMAS: There is no dust, Mr. Carey, from the peat. The dust is coming from the roadway. There is definitely dust from the traffic when the trucks go through. As far as peat dust, no.

MR. CAREY: You have been through this for quite some time. I think my major concern about our doing business in Kings County is that we seem to be quite highly regulated in Kings County. Zoning and that type of thing, you have explained that. Do you think there is a reasonable relationship and ongoing communication between the municipality and the Department of Environment and Labour that is adequate, or could some of your problems that have been thrust upon you have occurred because of a lack of communication in departments? I am not asking you to be critical of anyone. Maybe just tell us where you think it could be better, or maybe it's as good as it could be.

MR. THOMAS: I don't know, really, how the different levels of government operate. I am not familiar with that. I am familiar with the Municipality of Kings County. They gave me verbal permission to mix on the site and then later on said, no, you can't do that. I don't understand that process. As far as between the Department of Environment and Labour and

[Page 27]

the Municipality of Kings County, I am not sure what the relationship is. I don't know how strong it is.

MR. CAREY: So you really don't have any recommendations that might make it easier for business to operate, dealing with the complexities that we have between the municipality and the provincial Department of Environment and Labour?

MR. THOMAS: I am not sure how they would deal with that.

MR. CAREY: I was shown pictures where it looks like you are going down, in some areas, maybe six or seven feet. I expect you are loading this with your excavator, are you?

MR. THOMAS: Yes.

MR. CAREY: When you go down to that depth, how large an area do you take this down before you're required or it is prudent to do reclamation?

MR. THOMAS: We are just getting started. We are in there for the second summer, just getting the feel of what to do. What I would like to get into the habit of doing is, once the material is off and I am no longer going to be able to use that parcel of land, to rehabilitate it. As time goes on, I want to stay on top of that.

MR. CAREY: But you are not required to remove an acre of material and then do the reclamation?

MR. THOMAS: No, but if we were having an environmental assessment done before we were able to go ahead on the next section, this section would have to be completely rehabilitated.

MR. CAREY: Just to clarify in my own mind, has there been an environmental assessment done on this?

MR. THOMAS: No. Under four hectares, it is not required.

MR. CAREY: And so you are under four hectares?

MR. THOMAS: Yes.

MR. CAREY: When you go to do the reclamation of this land and you go down to this level - I am having a little problem trying to get it in my mind. If you go down six or seven feet, are you going to push material from the area around it to put this six inches of topsoil back on it? You are not going to have to haul material in there?

[Page 28]

[9:15 a.m.]

MR. THOMAS: No, the material is on-site. The reason why we usually take it to the bottom is underneath the topsoil peat layer is hardpan so my trucks can travel on top of that in the dry part of the season. If you left that six inches there, then you would be getting stuck every five minutes. So what we find in our business is it's working better to extract it and put it back on when it dries out.

MR. CHAIRMAN: Doing the math here and allowing for a wrap-up at the end, Mr. Thomas and Mr. Turner, I'll return to the MLAs now for 12 minutes each. So, Mr. Steele, it's 9:16 a.m.

MR. STEELE: Mr. Thomas, luckily or unluckily for you, to me the fundamental issue here is the Department of Environment and Labour, whether it has the will and the capacity to enforce environmental regulations and, luckily or unluckily for you, it's this case which we've delved down to a level of great detail as an example of whether the department is or is not able to carry out its mandate. We haven't gone anywhere close to this level of detail in any other company or any other operation in Nova Scotia, but when you look at the detail, I think you can start to understand why the residents have some concerns.

Is it not the case that at one point compost from the industrial park was brought onto the Baltzer Bog property and was later removed? Is that the case?

MR. THOMAS: What was brought to the Baltzer Bog was the tailings from my screener to make topsoil which had compost in it. It was not direct compost. It was the topsoil, it was the oversize that comes off the end of my screener. The material that goes down through a one-half inch piano screen was sold and went across the province to be sold for a lawn and garden soil. So it's exactly the same product except for the material that I sold goes through a one-half inch piano screen. Anything larger than that goes off the end which I usually put in a pile and it breaks down again and I put it back through again. As far as compost, I would say it was topsoil and compost mixed.

MR. STEELE: And it was on the order of the Department of Environment and Labour that that material was, in fact, eventually removed from the Baltzer Bog site, am I correct?

MR. THOMAS: The only reason it was moved was because the Municipality of Kings led me to believe that I was going to be able to mix soil on site. That's why I took it there. On a return haul I would go over and bring - at that time I was getting my silt from next door at Shaw Resources. The trucks going back, instead of going back empty, I was under the impression that I was going to be allowed to mix soil on the Baltzer Bog and it was a straight take-in, which I call the heavy back, to mix with it.

[Page 29]

MR. STEELE: And when you removed it, where did it go?

MR. THOMAS: Back to the industrial park to mix it again.

MR. STEELE: And there was another incident where the company, I believe, was fined for burying garbage on the site? What can you tell us about that?

MR. THOMAS: Okay, I can tell you about that. At my own residence, at my house, I had a dumpster there. All it was was wood from my patio. I bought a house that was approximately 10 to12 years old. The deck was built out of wood and it wasn't treated lumber. At the time I didn't know there was any law against taking wood. I was at my Baltzer Bog site and there were alders and stuff. I was digging a hole to bury the alders. I didn't know there was any law against burying wood products on my own property and that's what the fine was for, burying wood product. I excavated that and took it to Valley Waste to get rid of it. My fee was $30 to get rid of that material. So that tells you the magnitude of the material that I had taken there.

MR. STEELE: Because in both cases, both the burying of the compost, you define it somewhat differently than the stuff from the screening, but however defined, the Department of Environment and Labour said it needed to be removed and also with the incident of the garbage for which the company was fined, in both cases it was brought to the department's attention by the local residents. These incidents, you know, are examples of why the residents feel that they have to be the police officers here, they have to be the ones who are watching, because the Department of Environment and Labour simply doesn't appear to have the will or the capacity to keep an eye on the property. Then there are the other things that we alluded to earlier, like the fact that security wasn't posted as required by the permit; the department didn't require you to do that until the residents insisted.

It's my understanding a survey was also a part of the permit and the department didn't actually follow through on that until the residents insisted. Then there's this whole issue of the topsoil removal which, you know, the fundamental thing that your permit is supposed to be allowing you to do is topsoil removal, but I have to say that by any reasonable definition of topsoil removal, it's hard to say that that's what's going on in the Baltzer Bog property. Now, that's my opinion and I know you don't share it, but this idea that the permit requirement of leaving six inches of topsoil is satisfied by digging deep down and then sometime later putting six inches of topsoil on the back, when I read that, I thought, well, that's not what that means, but yet the Department of Environment and Labour seems content to let it go.

You see, to me, when somebody says you've got to leave six inches of topsoil, what it means is that you assume, for example, there's 12 inches, you take six off the top and you just leave the other six inches. It doesn't mean you dig down, dig the whole thing up, and then

[Page 30]

eventually later put six inches back. Anyway, that's my opinion, but it's a very reasonable interpretation of what the permit requires.

MR. THOMAS: At the end of the day it amounts to the same thing.

MR. STEELE: Or does it, I wonder, I wonder if it does.

MR. THOMAS: In my opinion it does.

MR. STEELE: Yes. I wonder if it does, especially when the company is digging down, from the pictures I've seen, in some places seven or eight feet into the bog and you say, well, you put six inches back over the top of that and that satisfies the requirement, it seems to be, well, it's not the most reasonable interpretation of the permit and my point is not to question what you're doing, you're running a business, I understand that, my issue is with the Department of Environment and Labour and why they are satisfied with that. That's my issue.

In the Kentville Industrial Park site the Department of Environment and Labour wrote to you at one point asking you to hire an environmental consultant to come up with a close-out plan. Did you ever do that?

MR. THOMAS: No. Well, what would you have to hire a consultant to do? I consider myself as much a professional as anybody else. When you're going to close it out, you finish mixing it with your topsoil. What's there to hire? What's there to do?

MR. STEELE: Well, you see, the issue is, I'm not going to say what it is, my point here is that the Department of Environment and Labour wrote a letter to you telling you to do it and you wrote them back saying, well, here's the plan and the Department of Environment and Labour didn't seem to care that you hadn't followed their direction. They just said okay, well, Peter Thomas has written a letter to us, that's good enough, even though their previous letter had said the close-out plan has to come from a qualified engineer. Now, whether you needed one or not, I'm not here to say. My point is that the Department of Environment and Labour said you needed one and then when you didn't hire one, they just seemed to shrug their shoulders and say, oh, well, that's good enough.

Water and soil samples on the Kentville Industrial Park site, you referred to weekly testing?

MR. THOMAS: No, I'm talking about the bog.

MR. STEELE: You're talking about the bog. So let's go over that for a second. Am I to understand you correctly that you do weekly water samples from the bog property?

[Page 31]

MR. THOMAS: I do to the point, in the wintertime if there's no water running from there, from the point where I'm taking my samples, if there's no water running, I simply send the Department of Environment and Labour a letter saying that there's no water leaving the site.

MR. STEELE: And they accepted that?

MR. THOMAS: Yes. I don't know why I'm doing that in the wintertime when I'm not in there. I mean I've asked that question, why am I water sampling when I'm not working there? I can understand when I'm working there why we're doing water samples. I don't understand why I'm digging water samples if I'm not there working.

MR. STEELE: So let me ask you again because I'm still not sure I understand. Are you or are you not doing weekly water samples on the Baltzer Bog property?

MR. THOMAS: Yes, we are.

MR. STEELE: Okay, 52 weeks a year?

MR. THOMAS: If there's water to take it from. If there's no water to take it there, we send them a letter saying there's no water leaving the site.

MR. STEELE: What about on the Kentville Industrial Park site, are you doing water and soil sampling there?

MR. THOMAS: No, it's not required.

MR. STEELE: It was required when you were doing your composting there, right?

MR. THOMAS: Yes, but what happened there is when it was dry enough for me to make topsoil, there was no water running from my site, when it was dry enough. On the off season or when you had a heavy rain, there would have been, during the summer when I'm mixing my soil, it's dry enough and there's no water leaving the site.

MR. STEELE: To your knowledge are there any test wells at the Kentville Industrial Park site?

MR. THOMAS: No.

MR. STEELE: Are you aware that the Town of Kentville has spent many millions of dollars for an alternative water supply that is connected to the drainage easement from the property in the Kentville Industrial Park?

[Page 32]

MR. THOMAS: No.

MR. CHAIRMAN: You're under two minutes, Mr. Steele.

MR. STEELE: Are you aware, in any way, of this issue about whether the alternative water supply to the Town of Kentville is under threat?

MR. THOMAS: No.

MR. STEELE: I want to close by going back to this issue of the citizens' liaison committee. You said there is one, but for the property at the end of the South Bishop Road.

MR. THOMAS: That's what the Department of Environment and Labour told me to set it up for.

MR. STEELE: Would you consider setting up a citizens' liaison committee for the main bog property?

MR. THOMAS: I am letting it go for both parts, both the bog and the silt pit.

MR. STEELE: I'm sorry, could you say that again? I didn't hear what you said.

MR. THOMAS: I'm letting the same things apply for both situations.

MR. STEELE: I'm not hearing the word you used. You have let the same thing apply?

MR. THOMAS: Yes.

MR. STEELE: Are you saying there is currently a citizens' liaison committee?

MR. THOMAS: Yes.

MR. STEELE: Who sits on it for the citizens?

MR. THOMAS: Who?

MR. STEELE: Yes.

MR. THOMAS: The names of the people?

MR. STEELE: Yes.

[Page 33]

MR. THOMAS: Stan Dominey, Diane Dominey, Ron Martin, Merrill Ward, Richard Orr . . .

MR. STEELE: It seems to me that a lot of . . .

MR. THOMAS: Stan Riggs was on it, but he's not there. There were different people. Some people come, some people don't.

MR. STEELE: It seems to me that part of the way forward in all of this is having a really effective, truly functioning citizens' liaison committee that could deal with all these issues, like dust, trucks, just exactly what is going on in the bog. There is a trust issue here because of the violations that have occurred up until now, and the citizens feel they have to be the citizens because the Department of Environment and Labour is not doing its job.

MR. THOMAS: These citizens you're talking about, why aren't they on the committee? They had the opportunity to sit on that. Why aren't they on it?

MR. CHAIRMAN: Thank you, Mr. Steele. Thank you, Mr. Thomas. I would ask that the next 12 minutes be for the Liberal caucus.

The honourable member for Clare.

MR. GAUDET: Mr. Chairman, I want to go back to Mr. Thomas. Mr. Thomas, who encouraged you to move your operations to Baltzer Bog?

MR. THOMAS: What do you mean by, move my operations to Baltzer Bog? What I'm doing there, which I was doing even before I stopped composting, was I was extracting the soil. So, just what are you talking about?

MR. GAUDET: Why . . .

MR. THOMAS: I'm not doing anything different now than I was doing before. So, what do you mean by, who encouraged me to move my operation? My operation was at the Baltzer Bog at the same time as was going on in the industrial park. We did not move the operation.

MR. GAUDET: You were running your business at two different sites; is that it?

MR. THOMAS: Yes. I'm not running my business. All I was doing was extracting material from the Baltzer site. What I'm doing in the industrial park site is mixing and selling. What I'm doing at the silt pit is extracting silt.

[Page 34]

MR. GAUDET: Mr. Thomas, do you know the difference between peat moss and peat?

MR. THOMAS: The difference between peat moss and peat is that peat is a dead product which is composted and peat moss is the sphagnum peat, which is a live peat which is used for bagging. That's what's done in the Annapolis Valley peat operation.

MR. GAUDET: Mr. Thomas, did you ever indicate to the provincial government that Baltzer Bog was a good site for peat moss?

MR. THOMAS: It's a good site for peat.

MR. GAUDET: But you never indicated to them it was a good site for peat moss?

MR. THOMAS: I could very well have called it peat moss, meaning peat.

MR. GAUDET: Mr. Chairman, I will table a letter. This is a letter from Mr. Peter Thomas, President of Mark-Lyn Construction, a letter dated October 4, 1999, that he sent to

Mr. Bob Barton, Nova Scotia Business Development Corporation. It says, second paragraph, "I'm looking at a piece of land here in Coldbrook that has peat moss on it . . ." Mr. Thomas, you were aware that Baltzer Bog was a peat moss site; is that correct?

[9:30 p.m.]

MR. THOMAS: It's a peat site, yes.

MR. GAUDET: Well, according to your . . .

MR. THOMAS: That letter was drawn up by my wife, and she called it peat moss instead of peat.

MR. CHAIRMAN: Mr. Gaudet, I assume we're going to get a copy of that.

MR. GAUDET: Mr. Chairman, I will table that. Mr. Thomas, at any time did staff from the Department of Environment and Labour tell you that Baltzer Bog was a peat moss site? At any time, did someone working for the Department of Environment and Labour tell you that Baltzer Bog was a peat moss site?

MR. THOMAS: We refer to it as a peat site, not a peat moss site.

MR. GAUDET: That wasn't the question. Did anyone ever tell you, someone working with the Department of Environment and Labour, that Baltzer Bog was a peat moss site?

[Page 35]

MR. THOMAS: Not that I recall.

MR. GAUDET: Not that you can recall, okay. Did anyone ever tell you there was peat moss on that site at Baltzer Bog?

MR. THOMAS: Did anyone ever tell me there was peat moss?

MR. GAUDET: Told you there was peat moss.

MR. THOMAS: Well, there's peat on the site. No one ever said it was peat moss.

MR. GAUDET: Do you know Mark McLean who works for the Department of Environment and Labour?

MR. THOMAS: I met different people, I don't remember their names.

MR. GAUDET: Mr. Chairman, I will table a copy of a memo dated September 25, 2001, a memo written by Mark McLean, an employee with the Department of Environment and Labour. In his memo he indicates there is evidence of peat moss on this site at Baltzer Bog. I will table that.

Mr. Thomas, given the fact that Mr. McLean, an official with the Department of Environment and Labour clearly states that there is peat moss on this site at Baltzer Bog, if you're asked to cease your operations until an environmental assessment is done, would you agree with the department?

MR. THOMAS: Absolutely not. That would put me out of business. If I had to cease my operations today, how long do you think a small business would last? That's like asking me to go out of business. Absolutely no.

MR. GAUDET: Even though you knew, and the document from Mr. McLean clearly shows there's peat moss on this site at Baltzer Bog, and under the policies from the provincial government, specifically with the Department of Environment and Labour, in order to extract peat moss from any site we need to have a full assessment done on any site before peat moss is extracted.

MR. TURNER: Just to be fair, I think my client . . .

MR. CHAIRMAN: Mr. Turner.

MR. TURNER: Just to be fair, I'm not trying to interrupt unduly, I think the question is set up with the premise that Mr. Thomas feels is incorrect. There isn't peat moss there. Whether or not Mark McLean of the Department of Environment and Labour used that word

[Page 36]

and believes there is is kind of a false premise that I'm not sure my client understands. If he answers the question as put to him, he might very well be saying that he's trying to disobey the law or something. It's more of a legal question. I think Mr. Thomas has said on two or three occasions that there isn't peat moss present, that it is peat, and therefore what he's doing is legal, and therefore an assessment isn't required. I feel the premise might be a little misleading to Mr. Thomas, in a legal sense.

MR. CHAIRMAN: Thank you, Mr. Turner. Mr. Gaudet.

MR. GAUDET: Mr. Chairman, I don't think we're misleading at all here. We have a memo written by staff, an official who works for the Department of Environment and Labour, probably an expert in this field, that clearly shows there's peat moss on this site. Under the provincial regulations it clearly states that a full assessment, a full-scale environmental assessment should be done before peat moss is removed from any site. So I am not reinventing or inventing provincial government policy here, I'm just basically going back, providing this committee - I am not attacking Mark-Lyn Construction. I think there is definitely some cover-up here by the provincial government and this is basically where we are attempting to try to set the record straight once and for all, Mr. Chairman.

So we have clearly in the evidence here, that shows that peat moss is located on this site that is located on the Baltzer Bog. I am just asking Mr. Thomas, if the Department of Environment and Labour agrees now they have shown there is peat moss on the site to do a complete assessment before peat moss is extracted from this property, would Mr. Thomas agree, with the Department of Environment and Labour, to go ahead with this assessment? Just a yes or no.

MR. CHAIRMAN: Mr. Thomas, I believe you replied to that earlier. I heard you reply, but if you would like to add further comments, please go ahead.

MR. THOMAS: Very simply, no.

MR. GAUDET: Mr. Chairman, we've learned early this morning that Mr. Thomas has been involved with holding public meetings involving the residents of South Bishop Road into open houses on the property so people can actually see what is being done. I want to certainly compliment Mr. Thomas for having taken that initiative. Again, there's something here that is not right. On one side, we have someone working for the provincial government who clearly indicates that there is peat moss on the site. I am asking Mr. Thomas if he would object to a full environmental assessment on this property before the company is allowed to continue to extract peat moss from this site.

Mr. Thomas indicated that he would certainly not agree with this assessment if he was asked by the Department of Environment and Labour. I find that very objectionable, especially when, in this province, we have some rules and policies to follow. I agree that this

[Page 37]

company has not been contacted, has not been told to cease its extracting operation at Baltzer Bog, extracting peat moss from this site, but, at the same time, you really have to question, and I am sure we will have that opportunity in the days ahead to raise these types of concerns with the provincial government. So I guess, in closing, Mr. Chairman, again I would like to . . .

MR. CHAIRMAN: Excuse me, Mr. Gaudet. I didn't mean to interrupt. Mr. Turner wishes to reply, but you have a summative comment you want to make?

MR. GAUDET: I just wanted to thank again Mr. Thomas and his counsel for appearing here this morning and we will certainly be waiting for - I am sure there will be more coming out of this in order to pursue this matter.

MR. CHAIRMAN: Please, Mr. Turner, you have as much time as you want. The 12 minutes has nothing to do with your answers.

MR. TURNER: I only have a brief comment to Mr. Gaudet. I think the question is not so much whether Mr. Thomas is at loggerheads with you. It's what I was alluding to before. I am not sure he really understood the pith and substance, the nature of your question, as I understand it. Mr. Thomas has co-operated with all departments all the way through and I am sure he will continue to do that. He has ensured me that he will. The question wasn't that he would say no to any government request for an assessment. His position is there is no peat moss. The fact that somebody at the Department of Environment and Labour has used the word peat moss in an internal memo . . .

MR. RUSSELL MACKINNON: The inspector.

MR. TURNER: Well, the inspector - and who knows, maybe he has something to go on. I am not arguing with you on that. His position is simply that from his standpoint, he has met all the requirements. He has had a hard enough time running a business as it is and right now he doesn't need more of this to put him out of business. It's not a question of him saying, I am up against the government. I will never do anything for the government again, which is what that answer sounds like. What he is trying to say is that from his position, he has been assured there is no peat moss, therefore, it isn't an issue. That is the pith and substance that Mr. Thomas was trying to get across.

I just think, in deference to my client, I wanted to make that clear because he is not used to legislative procedure or certainly even legal terminology. Once again, we get back to those questions of when you are saying peat moss, do you mean peat or do you mean something else and when you mean topsoil, do you mean something else? We don't seem to have, perhaps, the definitive dictionary, or at least for the purposes of legislation, definition of what those matters are. So, once again, I am just clarifying for Mr. Thomas. It is not that

[Page 38]

he won't co-operate with the government. It's that his belief is that there is no peat moss there, so it's not an issue.

MR. CHAIRMAN: Thank you, sir. It is 9:42 a.m. The next 12 minutes go to the members of the government caucus.

The honourable member for Pictou East.

MR. DEWOLFE: Mr. Chairman, I almost feel obliged to start off where the Liberal caucus had left because, first of all, I come from a Natural Resources background and I was involved in two very extensive peat moss projects over the course of the 30 years that I spent with that department, the last one being finalized probably about eight years ago. I know many of the players in peat moss and peat projects. Having said that, I am no expert, but I do know that there is often a confusion with terminology and people referring to peat and referring to peat moss and meaning one and the same. I have done it myself and it is certainly not uncommon.

With regard to Mark McLean, I can tell you that Mark is not an expert in peat. He is a staff person in the Department of Environment and Labour's Halifax office and he has many duties, but one can't expect an environmental officer to be an expert on everything. Certainly he, no doubt, has a bit of knowledge about the peat, as a result of the problems that have been brought to the forefront with regard to Mark-Lyn Construction over the past couple of weeks to this committee. But an expert, he is not. He is with the Environmental Assessment Branch.

Again, I would like to refer back to last week when it was indicated that we, the government, the Department of Environment and Labour, had brought, in fact, two experts in to look at the peat. They concurred and one of the experts was from Agriculture Canada, I believe, and his name was Webb. The other gentleman, the name escapes me, but he was with the Peat Moss Association of Canada, I believe - I might be slightly off on my name there, but that is essentially the organization that he represented. Mr. Thomas, you may be able to correct me and spread a little more information on this topic, but these two gentlemen were brought in and they came to the conclusion, very quickly, I understand - in fact when they surveyed the site - that it was not peat moss, it was in fact peat. Perhaps both or one of you gentlemen could expand upon those comments that I've just made.

[9:45 a.m.]

MR. THOMAS: That's the way I understand it - it was peat, not peat moss. To go a little further on this, when I first started to get the piece of land, and I'm not an expert either, I called the Department of Environment and Labour and I made an application and they are the ones that gave me the permission to extract the material. Whatever material it is they gave me a permit to extract the material, call it whatever it may be, they gave me a permit to extract it and as far as I believe it's peat, not peat moss.

[Page 39]

MR. DEWOLFE: I thank you for your comments, but I just wanted to shed the proper light on this subject - and I mean no harm to Mark McLean, he does a fine job for the department, but I can't expect every environmental inspector to be an expert on everything, particularly peat - the conclusion that came from that department is that your company was indeed in compliance with the approval, is that right?

MR. THOMAS: You're right.

MR. DEWOLFE: And indeed there was no peat moss on the property.

MR. THOMAS: You're right.

MR. DEWOLFE: And, again, by removing the peat, it makes that property more suitable for the residential zoning that could possibly happen down the road.

MR. THOMAS: You're right.

MR. DEWOLFE: Okay, I just wanted to make that clear, and having done so, Mr. Chairman, I will refer my further questions to my colleague.

MR. CHAIRMAN: The member for Kings West.

MR. CAREY: How much time do we have left, Mr. Chairman?

MR. CHAIRMAN: You have six minutes.

MR. CAREY: Thank you. I would just like to go back to close. When we're talking about public money and so on, Peter, you received a loan at what we would consider today a relatively high interest rate, and it was just a straight application for a loan and the necessary legal work and so on was done by all departments and so you had a loan to purchase this bog, is that right?

MR. THOMAS: That's right. At the same time, Mr. Carey, I went to my bank and I went to the Nova Scotia Government. The bank wanted me to pay it back over five years and the Nova Scotia Government gave me ten years, so it made my payment more economically feasible for a small business to pay back over ten years than five years. We are paying at the rate of 9.75 per cent, and the current rate today is less than 6 per cent.

[Page 40]

MR. CAREY: Right. And as I understand it, this is not unusual. The purpose of this type of loan from the government is to help business, to give them an opportunity that a normal banking institution wouldn't do, but certainly not a gift because, as I work it out, you're going to pay over $50,000 or $60,000 interest over that period of time so it's a . . .

MR. THOMAS: Right, $54,000.

MR. CAREY: Thank you. Going back to the industrial park where you had 2.4 acres, you wanted to expand your business and no one ever indicated to you prior to your composting that it wasn't something that could be done, so you cleared some land there - and we know what it costs to clear land. When you and the Department of Environment and Labour, or the people that leased the park to you, found that composting wasn't an appropriate thing to do there they bought back the lease, and actually at a loss to you.

MR. THOMAS: Right.

MR. CAREY: So, all in all, this hasn't been a really good experience for you.

MR. THOMAS: No, it hasn't been a good experience whatsoever.

MR. CAREY: Quite honestly, do you really know why you are here today?

MR. THOMAS: I don't have a clue what I am here for. I really don't know.

MR. CAREY: It looks to me like you followed the rules that have been put in place. If there have been errors made, it doesn't appear that it's been you. I am wondering, really, the purpose, but, I just want to thank you for coming in and providing this information and, hopefully, I think we can work on better communication within the departments to avoid this type of thing.

MR. CHAIRMAN: Are there further questions from the government caucus?

MR. DEWOLFE: I, too, want to thank both gentlemen for coming, particularly Mr. Thomas. I know it's been probably a rough road that you have gone down with regard to this and your company and all the interest that it seemed to generate. It's hard enough to get businesses going and starting up new businesses, I know very well myself. It's been a learning experience for all of us, I am sure, and hopefully we will find better ways to deal with this type of business and try to keep the smell down and try to keep all the stakeholders reasonably happy. I thank you again for helping me shed some light on this situation with regard to the confusion that was presented by the Liberal caucus. I think everyone has a clear understanding now of the situation. So having said so, Mr. Chairman, I would be very interested in hearing the wrap-up.

[Page 41]

MR. CHAIRMAN: Sticking to my time constraints, I have a minute and 30 seconds left and I don't know if I want to do the math and try and divide it. Mr. Steele, another question?

MR. STEELE: No, Mr. Chairman, I am quite prepared to finish.

MR. CHAIRMAN: The Liberal caucus is going to use the final minute.

MR. GAUDET: Mr. Chairman, last week at the Public Accounts Committee, Mr. George Reid indicated that he would be providing members of this committee with written permission that was provided to Mark-Lyn Construction for doing some land clearing in the Annapolis Valley Industrial Park. That information still has not been received. So, maybe, Mr. Chairman, on our behalf, you could contact Mr. Reid's office for that information, please.

MR. CHAIRMAN: Thank you, Mr. Gaudet. I am aware of the fact that the reply will be distributed before we leave here today. That matter will be taken care of within a few moments. Mr. MacKinnon, just a quick comment, please.

MR. MACKINNON: Just a quick note, I note Mr. Thomas was very gracious in indicating who the contact person was with the citizens' liaison committee, but, in my understanding, he is equally responsible for the polls in Mr. Morse's constituency, on a political level.

MR. CHAIRMAN: It is 9:54 a.m. I am sorry, Mr. MacKinnon. I am going to move on. We traditionally have a wrap-up from our witnesses. I would encourage either of you or both of you at this time, Mr. Turner or Mr. Thomas, to make a comment at this stage. It's not necessary, but if you would like to go ahead, Mr. Turner.

MR. TURNER: Is this the final item of business for this matter?

MR. CHAIRMAN: Yes, sir.

MR. TURNER: I think, on behalf of Mr. Thomas, there's really no further comment necessary. We thank the committee for their patience and understanding in what is obviously a difficult situation.

MR. CHAIRMAN: If you could just remain in your places for a moment. We have no business. I would like to inform members that next Wednesday at 8:00 a.m., Mr. Salmon will appear in front of us at this time, the Auditor General for the province. It will be in this historic Chamber.

MR. MACKINNON: On a point of personal privilege, Mr. Chairman. As you recall, over the last year to year and a half, we've been requesting information from various

[Page 42]

individuals from various departments and agencies, and witnesses that come before this committee. To date, they have been, for one reason or another, not forthcoming with this information. I've taken the liberty, with the assistance Ms. Stevens from the Committees Office, and identified at least 16 major pieces of information that were committed to this committee, and never supplied. I would ask for support. I will table this, and I've also tabbed for the respective meetings that that took place and a list of all the information that was requested, and the verbal commitment that was given by the witnesses, confirming that they would supply this but have not supplied it. For example, the Department of Health has been the most reticent even responding to e-mails and phone calls, let alone providing the information. It's absolutely vital for us to be able to show some validity to this committee, that we provide this.

Mr. Chairman, I would ask for the full support of the committee, confirming that we will pursue and request these individuals from the various departments and other witnesses to provide this information, that they themselves have given an undertaking to provide, and perhaps maybe even raise it with the Speaker at a future moment. In fairness to the other committee members, I will table that list. I do acknowledge and thank Ms. Stevens for helping me with this. It's very detailed and I believe that it's imperative that the credibility of this committee be maintained by securing this information.

MR. CHAIRMAN: I thank you for bringing that forward. There will be follow-up, I assure you. (Interruptions) They're tabled, and it will be brought back either as a topic with the Auditor General, with a few moments at the end, or we will act on it subsequent to your comments here. Other speakers on this topic? I see Mr. Steele's hand.

MR. STEELE: Mr. Chairman, are you saying that we will deal with this issue at a future meeting?

MR. CHAIRMAN: I'm saying that I'm giving a commitment as the chairman that Ms. Stevens and I will follow up. At our next meeting, we will set aside some time to discuss this matter more fully.

I will entertain a motion for adjournment. So moved.

The committee stands adjourned.

[The committee adjourned at 10:00 a.m.]