Mr. James DeWolfe
MR. CHAIRMAN: Good morning. I would like to welcome our witnesses and my colleagues to this morning's session of the Public Accounts Committee. Before we begin our session, witnesses, I would like to take the opportunity to ask my colleagues to introduce themselves, and then I will call upon our witnesses to introduce themselves.
[The committee members introduced themselves.]
MR. CHAIRMAN: Mr. Cormier, before you begin and introduce yourself, I understand you're going to take the lead and I'm aware of the fact that you have received our usual introductory comments. I would, because of our Sackville High School experience from years before, remind you as a school teacher, sir, that if you go more than 15 minutes, I have the hook out. Can I put it any more politely to you?
MR. ROBERT CORMIER: I've requested assistance to make sure I stay within your confines.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Okay. If you could introduce yourself, I would appreciate it, along with your other witnesses.
MR. CORMIER: Robert Cormier, Director of Public Safety, Fire Marshal.
MR. CHARLES CASTLE: My name is Charles Castle. I'm the Manager of Boiler and Pressure Vessels service for the province.
MR. RANDALL KENNEDY: Randall Kennedy, manager of elevators and lifts inspection services, Province of Nova Scotia, Public Safety.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Thank you. We welcome our AG staff here this morning also. Go ahead, Mr. Cormier.
MR. CORMIER: Members of the House, Committee on Public Accounts, I have looked forward to the opportunity to respond to the issues arising from the Annual Report of the Auditor General, specifically Chapter 10, which relates to the activities of the Public Safety Division of the Department of Environment and Labour.
To begin, I would like to update the division's response to the Auditor General's Report. The division looked forward to the audit by the staff of the Auditor General as an opportunity for an independent review of our process. Organizations do continue to carry out programs and processes based on past practices. Organizations under change do make changes that require a review to ensure that the best procedures are being followed.
Public safety, including fire safety, is undergoing tremendous changes throughout the world. The sophistication of the equipment and buildings and the competency of the individuals who build and maintain them have changed drastically over the last 25 years. In response to these changes, a regulatory system that once was the sole guarantee of safety has to find different approaches to regulatory matters.
There are three major components to the safety system: education, engineering and enforcement. Education is extremely diversified. Public education, common to fire safety, is a new process to the elevator and escalator programs. Incidents such as a child who almost lost a finger on an escalator in Dartmouth or the individual seeking thrills by standing up on an amusement ride cannot be prevented by an inspection. Fire safety is not just fire-safe buildings and facilities but also includes emergency preparedness for institutions and other public buildings.
The competency of trades persons has always been a concern of the Public Safety Division. In fact, over 10,000 competency licences are issued each year by the Public Safety Division. When competency requirements are beyond the ability of the public safety system to deliver, partnerships are formed - the development of a natural gas industry leads to the training responsibility for gas fitters being moved to the community colleges. Training for other classes of propane certification are being carried out by the Canadian propane industry. New partnership programs arise from time to time. For example, the Office of the Fire Marshal was able to provide fire service personnel an opportunity to become internationally certified both as firefighters and hazardous materials responders. The certification of fire inspectors and fire investigators is being carried out in partnership with the Office of the Fire Commissioner in Manitoba.
Engineering is critical to the selection of safe products and materials, as well as the completed building, facility or equipment. CSA is a well known trademark in this country, and that trademark is critical to the safety system. Elevators and lifts, if correctly installed, have a proven record of operating safely, therefore the division, in accordance with the proposed new Act, will concentrate on the installation of the units. We have two engineers who ensure buildings, boilers and pressure vessels are built according to acceptable standards.
Building codes are changing to allow for greater flexibility and technical advances. Builders will be allowed more leeway in meeting objectives such as the ability to evacuate the building in a reasonable time. The acceptance of these buildings in meeting the standards cannot be done by an inspector with a check sheet. The training and experience required of today's inspectors has increased exponentially. The time to carry out an inspection has also increased. A number of years ago fire protection engineer was a very infrequently-used term. Today, fire protection engineers are almost a necessity of any large building.
The codes and standards that are used to ensure safety are developed and maintained by the chief inspection officials of each jurisdiction. Canada has a codes and standards system that provides equity across the country, and it is the envy of many other nations. The process for maintaining our safety standards is only as good as the provincial and territorial commitment to provide advice and support.
Enforcement is also undergoing tremendous changes, not because of limited resources but because of diminishing returns. The broad sweep of inspections that was somehow envisioned as a guarantee of safety is, in fact, not only a fallacy but a dangerous concept. The one day, even on a yearly basis, that the inspector looks at an elevator is no guarantee of safety for the following 364 days. This enforcement concept is not confined to Nova Scotia.
In 2001, a committee was formed by the administrators of Public Safety in Canada. The founding principle is to jointly develop validated and realistic regulatory practices. Too many of our situations have been based upon feel-good situations. A good example of that is in 1985 when self-serve service stations opened up. Fire departments demanded that the hold-open devices be removed from all of the gas nozzles. By 1995, we discovered that everybody was using rocks, pop bottles, pop cans and anything else to hold the nozzle open. So that was taken out of the code, but it was too darn late by then. We now had the problem with people not having hold-open devices. We have to make sure things are validated.
Inspection frequency should be related to two characteristics, probability and impact. The probability of a fire in a boarding house is high, according to North American statistics. The probability of a fire in a nursing home, on other hand, is low, but the impact of that fire can be devastating. A modern boiler in a utility has a much lower probability of an explosion than an older unit used in a near-bankrupt industrial site. Factors such as those highlighted in the simple examples will be used to define inspection frequency. Both the National Fire
Protection Association in Boston, as well as other major organizations do have formats for providing this type of risk management on inspection and on regulatory matters.
Over the past two years, four of the five major pieces of legislation we are responsible for have either been changed or await the approval of the House. Each of these Acts has been changed to reflect a regulatory system that is based on the following: owners of buildings and facilities and equipment have a responsibility to ensure that the citizens of Nova Scotia are protected by building, operating and maintaining in accordance with all applicable safety standards. Owners should be able to access competent tradespersons to fulfill their responsibilities. The members of the House committee on the Fire Safety Bill heard from the fire alarm industry that we were spiralling towards the bottom, because the industry was being forced into tendering without full consideration of the safety factors. As one member of the industry takes chances, another one is forced into taking more chances in order to obtain the tenders on these projects.
Tradespersons who operate, install and/or maintain the building, facility or equipment must be held accountable to meet the codes and standards that govern their activities. There must be punitive recourse when these trades fail to meet the legislative requirements. The licences of various trades groups may appear to be more red tape, but they are a principal means of ensuring public safety.
Competent enforcement officials who are responsible to audit the safety system and ensure that the buildings, facilities and equipment and their usage meet and continue to meet the legislative requirements - the owners and tradespersons who, over time, practice due diligence should not be hindered by an overzealous regulatory system, while those who gamble with safety must be held accountable. In a true risk-based enforcement system, roughly 15 per cent of owners and trades persons take up 85 per cent of the enforcement resources. The more time spent with compliance, the lower the return on the enforcement process and the higher the opportunity for an incident.
Many of the changes we have made will unfold over a period of time, and some of the processes for an improved regulatory system have been brought to our attention by the Auditor General's Report. The following is an update of those particular items. One of the reviews being carried out is best practices recognition. There are activities for which other agencies are able to provide a more effective and efficient service. One of these is the billing and collection of accounts receivable. We are investigating a process through Service Nova Scotia and Municipal Relations that will reduce the workload of my staff and provide a better service to our clients.
Compliance with legislation - these are particular items directly out of the report. I might add, on the report there were issues related to the offshore accord and division of powers between the federal government and the province. We are meeting on an ongoing basis with the federal government on matters such as that. Our greater concern on the fire
safety side is our band council lands, where we are very concerned about our ability to have the services delivered there, whether it's the local fire department who is providing firefighting services or, in fact, the investigation of fires or the inspection of properties. We are working with both the federal government and the band councils to try to bring some of that forward so we can look after it.
The Elevators and Lifts Act is under an active review to develop a reasonable and prudent delivery system. The former legislation was developed to respond to low-volume elevators and lifts. The requirement to inspect every elevator each year is both inappropriate and unnecessary. Ontario has developed a risk analysis process for the setting of the inspection frequency and we will use the program as a model for setting our own inspection requirements. We just did a national survey across the country, and in actual fact, we're about in the middle for the percentage of elevators inspected on an annual basis. The only two provinces that do 100 per cent are New Brunswick and Newfoundland, both of which probably have elevator numbers that are somewhere similar to what we had in the mid-1970s to early 1980s.
As part of the Fire Safety Act, a requirement to obtain the approval of the fire chief to set off fireworks will be removed. The fireworks regulated by the present Fireworks Act are family fireworks bought in local stores. The federal government regulates high-hazard fireworks and firecrackers. The Office of the Fire Marshal will only regulate the age of the purchaser and the storage of family fireworks. This is an uncontrollable situation. People can bring them in from offshore, they can bring them in from other provinces, and the responsibility is in the local fire chief's hands to regulate. There is certainly an opportunity if municipalities wish to ban them in their communities, to do so.
One of the last bullets states that the plans are not being received as required by law. This is true. Previous to 1988, the Office of the Fire Marshal provided the only plans review program in the province outside of the former Cities of Halifax and Dartmouth. With the adoption of the Nova Scotia Building Code Act, every municipality is required to have a building official review plans. Therefore, although the plans are not sent to the Office of the Fire Marshal, they are required to be reviewed by a building official. The proposed Fire Safety Act changes the plans for the approval system to the review of high-risk properties. This is not a new process. Beginning in the early 1980s, Halifax did all the plans for the city. We have now changed that and any provincial undertakings in the Halifax region are done by my staff.
The changes to the Elevators and Lifts Act, including the regulations, will require the maintenance of elevators to be done by competent persons. Before the amusements regulations are changed, we need to determine what government can realistically regulate. To one extreme is the absence of the regulation of amusement devices, which the number of deaths and injuries preclude, and total regulation, including playground equipment, which is
neither possible nor desired. Therefore, there will be devices that will not be regulated under a risk/benefit analysis. I am presently chair of a committee consisting of Nova Scotia, Ontario and Alberta. The role of the committee is to address the issues related to the amusement devices.
With that, most of the rest of it is contained in the material and I will leave that.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Mr. Cormier, I was just going to say if you could wrap up, you've 30 seconds to stay within your 15 minute guideline that I so diplomatically told you at the outset. Thank you.
I would like to, although I see that one of the members is absent, I would like to ask the members of the Liberal caucus - or the member of the Liberal caucus - to introduce himself, although he needs no introduction. I'm talking about you, Russell.
MR. RUSSELL MACKINNON: My name is Russell MacKinnon, member for Cape Breton West.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Mr. Downe was here for a moment and must have just slipped out for a coffee. Could we begin? It's 8:17 a.m., the next 20 minutes belongs to the NDP caucus. The member for Halifax Fairview, Mr. Steele.
MR. GRAHAM STEELE: Thank you, Mr. Cormier and to your colleagues for agreeing to appear here on such short notice. I know you only got the invitation a week ago or less. We did think it was important to ask you and your staff to appear before the committee because a number of concerns are raised in this particular chapter of the Auditor General's Report. The Auditor General typically uses fairly polite language, sort of what I call accountant's language where they can say some fairly tough things, but in a very polite way. I don't think it's an exaggeration to say that the audit of the Public Safety Division is quite scathing.
Just to give you some examples of the findings of the audit, the Auditor General says, "There are numerous instances of non-compliance with public safety legislation. There is no formal risk assessment process to determine inspection frequencies . . . The documentation prepared to support an inspection . . . in many cases was inadequate or non-existent. Documentation submitted by companies to support their compliance with orders issued is often inadequate . . . minimal or no documentation in many files to document . . . verified compliance."
Those are pretty scathing things in a Public Safety Division that's sort of founded on an inspection system. Let me start with a general question - what's going on in the Public Safety Division that those kind of things could be said in an audit?
MR. CORMIER: We would have to know exactly which files they were to be able to discuss exactly what the issues are. There are a number of different things that arise. The period of time in the mid to late 1990s, we went through some staff turnover, some loss of staff, a number of things had to be prioritized and done, perhaps, not as well as they should have been done. Those issues have been rectified. We've now put into place an accountability system, including two new data tracking systems - one for the boiler, the pressure vessel and the elevator system, the other for the electrical fuel safety and fire safety - to track both.
What is happening as far as the inspection process goes, to ensure that the records are complete, there are also combinations of activities that take place. On some of these reports it is feasible that the report was written out. Many of these are for licences, many of them are for approval of certain equipment. The process may have stopped with most of the activities carried out by the fire safety side, ours is in relation to a licence. That licence may not have been issued and the process is, therefore, dead. There should be something to finalize the report in the final and we believe that we've rectified that with the creation of a tracking system for the inspection process.
MR. STEELE: Speaking of a tracking system, obviously when you're doing this kind of work, information is crucial, having accurate and timely information, but the audit found that the management information system was apparently not up to the job because what it says in Paragraph 10.49 is that, "A customized licensing and inspection computer system was developed for the three technical sections of the Division." The elevators and lifts section couldn't use the system. The steamboiler and pressure vessel section could use the system, but it needed some programming changes in order for it to work properly, and the power engineer section was not yet using the system at the time the audit was done. So what I see here is an information system that was developed for the sections, but it's not up to the job that it was designed for. So what's going on there?
MR. CORMIER: We have just finished working with the software installers. The elevator system is useable as of today and the codes have been completely put into it. That system is now operational for elevators. The upgrades were done for the boiler and pressure vessel section. The registration for the plants for the stationary engineers is operational, but not necessary at this time. We have a tracking system through the billing process that we're using on that. So those issues that were related to the tracking system have all been rectified and repaired by the software supplier.
MR. STEELE: There was something that you said in your opening comments, actually two things that you said in your opening comments quite intrigued me and I would like to follow up on them. The first one was, and of course it's difficult for me to capture your precise words, but the essence of what you were saying was that there are certain parts of the system that are "too often based on feel-good situations", and then you gave an example of the gasoline fuel pumps. Now, what I interpreted that to mean was that too often inspection processes are designed so that it looks good to the public rather than actually being functional. Is that what you meant?
MR. CORMIER: No, no. What I'm basing that on is that many times we don't base safety on scientific information. For instance, I will give you an example, I belong to an international committee that is meeting, especially in Europe. We have a material that's used for fire retardancy. It has bromides in it. A report was done a short time ago in regard to these bromides and they were given the appearance of severe carcinogenics. The European market is now attempting to have all of these taken off the market. The problem is that that increases the risk to fire losses and to deaths through fire.
The information is not based on scientific knowledge so we're trying to ensure that the things that we're doing are based on good sound principles and sound information. The decision that was made by the fire service that the hold-open devices should not be allowed in the gas nozzles was published in the fire code. That should have been further researched rather than just, no, that sounds like a good thing to do. We have hospitals that have hose stations in them and when everybody sees a hose station in a building, they feel comfortable to have some fire safety value. We don't want the nurses using that hose. The fire service won't use that hose. So we question what is it there for? So it's not necessarily that it's feel good on part of the inspectors, but part of the tools that we use are made up of codes and standards that we have to be sure are validated for the safety and not just because somebody thinks that it's a necessity.
MR. STEELE: How much of the public safety that is done is based on these kind of feel-good situations that you've talked about and how would we know the difference whether something is based on a feel-good situation as you described and how much is based on hard evidence? How would a member of the public know the difference?
MR. CORMIER: In reality the average citizen would not. That is why we have taken the entire building and fire codes apart. We have spent over seven years now redeveloping the building and fire codes to ensure that they do meet specific objectives. If a part does not meet the objective, then it's not in the code any longer. Those things have already been done under the elevators and under boilers and pressure vessels. They have a long history of that, but the building and fire codes have not been as exacting a science.
MR. STEELE: In your opinion, what are the top three changes that you think need to be instituted right away in order to move us from feel-good situations to actual, scientifically-based public safety? Where do you think the real danger points are right now?
MR. CORMIER: The first one is having a complete knowledge of what you have out there. In other words, you have to analyze what is presently there. Number two, you have to know what the true problems and issues are. What are the serious public safety concerns? Number three, you have to have competent staff to be able to address those issues.
MR. STEELE: What I was really asking you was to be a bit more specific than that and to say that, in your opinion - okay, you're the Director of the Public Safety Division and you've talked about what you've called feel-good situations, that is, things that look like they increase safety but really don't. An example you gave of that was fire hoses in hospitals, which look like they increase the public safety but don't. So what I'm asking you is, in your opinion and based on your survey of the whole Public Safety Division that you're responsible for, what are the top three situations where we need to update our rules so that we move from a system of looking good to actually being good?
MR. CORMIER: I think we've already moved in that direction, or I believe we've already moved in that direction. The only one that awaits a review is the boiler and pressure vessels. We've just completed the elevators and lifts to ensure that it was addressing the issue. That's a new code that has been brought into that and is directly related to the maintenance of elevators. The situation in regard to power engineers and crane operators is directly related to the hazard associated with those activities. The electrical, which is a small part of the Fire Safety Act, provides us with an ability to demand that the utilities provide a certain inspection process, a minimum standard of inspection process. The Fire Safety Bill itself is addressed to ensure that we're using just the right standards. The past standard for fire safety was any standard that the fire marshal felt was necessary, which meant it could be picked from anywhere.
MR. STEELE: You talk about, you know, bringing all these regulations and laws up to date, but one of the other comments made by the Auditor General is, "there are no formal criteria or prioritization techniques used to identify where the need to develop new or amend existing legislation or regulations is most urgent. There are no milestones, time lines or responsibilities established once a decision is made to amend or develop new legislation and regulations." Now, given that finding of the Auditor General, why would the public have any confidence that, in fact, these regulations and Statutes are being brought up to date?
MR. CORMIER: I guess we have to go to the other part of the Auditor General's Report, where it says that where the process is decided to be undertaken, the process is the correct process to do so, the consultation process. We do not rely just on our own fact and
information to make those changes. I am in agreement with you that there is a long list of legislation that has not been done. The Elevators and Lifts Act was 1958. There certainly is a need to do that. The department is attempting to put together a prioritizing process for legislation and legislation perhaps does need time lines. Time lines don't always function, but some jurisdictions have tried that.
MR. STEELE: One of the things that concerns me, it's something that has been raised before, in fact it was the NDP that first raised this a couple of years ago and it has been an ongoing irritant since then because nothing substantive seems to have been done, and that is jurisdiction over the offshore. We have a growing offshore industry and a couple of years ago the NDP caucus raised a case of a young man working on one of the oil rigs offshore who was killed. It was unclear which occupational health and safety rules applied to that case.
In fact, one anecdote that - like all good anecdotes I guess - has stuck in my head is that after the fatality a helicopter was going to fly out to the oil rig with the regulatory authorities on board, they actually fought over who would get the seats in the helicopter. The helicopter didn't take off for several hours because some of the people in the helicopter refused to get out because they said they had jurisdiction and some of the people who didn't have a seat said they wouldn't let the helicopter take off until they got in the helicopter because they had jurisdiction. The fatality was about three years ago now and we raised it about two years ago. It seems like today still no one knows what rules apply to the offshore. Who is inspecting oil rigs and other equipment and machinery and vessels in the offshore? Is your division doing that?
MR. CORMIER: We do have some enforcement power. The boiler and pressure vessels - have you been out yet? (Interruption) No, but your crew has? Yes, members of your staff. I would like to be able to sit here and say it's absolutely clean at this stage, but until such time as the accord is agreed to by the two levels of government, we can only work within the system. What I can tell you is that we are working in close co-operation with that system. It is not as severe a variance as it perhaps was once. I can certainly tell you on the fire side, that didn't just extend between the province and the federal government. It also extended from the province and the municipalities. I believe those days are past and we're trying to coordinate as much as we can and we are meeting on an ongoing basis. There is a legal process in place to attempt to clearly define that.
For instance, when there were sprinkler problems aboard one of the offshore rigs, even though it's questionable as to whether I have jurisdiction or not, I was contacted as to whether I believe that the process that they were going through to rectify that problem was providing adequate safety to the workers on that unit. So there is a co-operative effort taking place. There are, however, international laws and national laws that sometimes we do have difficulty with. Recently we had a boat tie up at the wharf that had a fire onboard. The captain is the controlling factor on that. Permission had to be gained before the fire department could
take any action on that fire. So there are issues that do relate to public safety or the safety of our communities that are not easily answered because of the law process.
MR. STEELE: Is the offshore safe for the people working there?
MR. CORMIER: In my estimation on fire safety with the individuals who are presently providing that oversight protection, or oversight activity, yes, I am comfortable with it.
MR. STEELE: How do you know that? Are they reporting to you?
MR. CORMIER: We receive periodic reports. We don't receive an ongoing report.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Mr. Steele, you have just under two minutes.
MR. STEELE: Thank you. Are you receiving those reports on a voluntary basis or are they mandatory?
MR. CORMIER: At this stage I would classify them on my part as being voluntary.
MR. STEELE: Isn't it safe to say that perhaps you're being told what the companies controlling the offshore want you to know?
MR. CORMIER: It is feasible, it is feasible. At this stage it's our understanding that it is federal jurisdiction.
MR. STEELE: Are federal authorities inspecting the offshore?
MR. CORMIER: That's where our staff come in. Our staff do certain inspections for the federal government which is the reason why boiler and pressure vessels would be out there.
MR. STEELE: Your staff is doing it on behalf of the federal government?
MR. CORMIER: Yes, we get paid to do those inspections.
MR. STEELE: Essentially the province is hired by the federal government to do the inspections?
MR. CORMIER: We do it both onshore, as well as offshore.
MR. STEELE: What laws or rules are you following in doing that?
MR. CORMIER: They are required to follow the codes and standards of the province, the same standards we have. We don't alter them.
MR. STEELE: Who sets the inspection frequency, the federal government or the provincial government?
MR. CASTLE: The Canada-Nova Scotia Offshore Petroleum Board. They are the ones that regulate the offshore as far as oil rigs and any equipment that's used in the oil business. They have regulations in place that require equipment to be inspected, whether it's provincial inspectors who are qualified or a certifying authority, which could be Lloyd's of London. One way or another, the pressure vessel end of things and other safety appliances on the rigs are inspected for safety.
MR. CHAIRMAN: It's 8:37 a.m., and the next 20 minutes goes to members of the Liberal caucus. I'm under the impression that the member for Cape Breton West is taking the lead. Mr. MacKinnon.
MR. RUSSELL MACKINNON: Mr. Cormier and colleagues, thanks for appearing. I would ask that you keep your answers brief and accurate. Just as a follow-up to my colleague, the member for Halifax Fairview, with regard to the offshore, essentially, from a legal perspective, you have no jurisdiction unless you're given that jurisdiction by the Offshore Petroleum Board or the federal government, legislatively.
MR. CORMIER: That is my understanding, yes.
MR. MACKINNON: If there was a bad fire or an explosion or something to that effect, in terms of enforceability in a court of law, that's negligible, is it not a fact, unless given that authority by either of those bodies?
MR. CORMIER: It would not be up to my office to be held accountable for the activities that took place.
MR. MACKINNON: So it's outside the jurisdiction of the province.
MR. CORMIER: That is correct.
MR. MACKINNON: On the annual report, the Auditor General refers to it as, and I quote, "untimely, incomplete and inaccurate". Why?
MR. CORMIER: Basically, over the last two years, the two reports, one that you have in front of you now, the other one that will be ready within the next week, the individual who was responsible for that left my office, and I was a period of time getting another staff member up and trained to garner the stats and to put them in place. It did not become as high
a priority as perhaps it should have. Other issues were put to the forefront. All I can do is to apologize for not having had it in the House in a timely manner.
There are, however, statements that I made, and I will stand behind. Do I believe it's an inaccurate report? Absolutely. I do not believe I'm receiving the information from either the fire departments or from the insurance industry that I should be receiving. I believe that the . . .
MR. MACKINNON: Mr. Cormier, don't you have the authority to ensure that you receive that?
MR. CORMIER: I am a little bit hesitant in fining a volunteer fire chief for not submitting his fire reports.
MR. MACKINNON: What about paid service? Are you receiving full reports from the paid service?
MR. CORMIER: Right now we are having difficulty because they are having in-house problems in garnering that information.
MR. MACKINNON: Aside from the reasons why, legally you have the authority to do it. You say you're reluctant to do it with the volunteer fire departments, why are you reluctant to do it on the paid service?
MR. CORMIER: Because we have attempted to work on a co-operative basis. We are attempting to try to overcome those problems jointly, because I want good information. I don't just want information because they have to provide information.
MR. MACKINNON: Well, this seems to be an ongoing thing. Incomplete and inaccurate. Obviously you're taking issue with the Auditor General's statements on that fact. Have you received these reports from CBRM?
MR. CORMIER: We are still behind in our reports for CBRM and HRM.
MR. MACKINNON: What do you mean behind? Have you received any from CBRM in the last year?
MR. CORMIER: We do receive periodic reports from CBRM, but we are behind . . .
MR. MACKINNON: What about HRM?
MR. CORMIER: HRM is behind right now. We did . . .
MR. MACKINNON: Mr. Cormier, let's be accurate and complete and concise. Have you received any from HRM?
MR. CORMIER: Yes, I've received reports from HRM, but they're not up to date.
MR. MACKINNON: Why not? You have the legislative authority to do it in the Act, to ensure that that information is forthcoming, is that not correct?
MR. CORMIER: I'm not sure, all it says is "it shall be provided". I'm not sure what my recourse is.
MR. MACKINNON: You're not sure of what your duty or your obligation is?
MR. CORMIER: I know what my duty is; I'm not sure what my recourse against the fire departments is for not supplying that information.
MR. MACKINNON: Have you raised it with the minister?
MR. CORMIER: No, because I am attempting to do this on a co-operative basis.
MR. MACKINNON: How long have you been attempting to do this on a co-operative basis?
MR. CORMIER: For three years now.
MR. MACKINNON: For three years. For three years you've received no satisfaction?
MR. CORMIER: Not complete satisfaction.
MR. MACKINNON: And you haven't raised it with the deputy minister, have you?
MR. CORMIER: No.
MR. MACKINNON: You haven't raised it with the minister?
MR. CORMIER: No.
MR. MACKINNON: So you've tried to do this all on your own?
MR. CORMIER: Yes.
MR. MACKINNON: With no satisfaction?
MR. CORMIER: I would not say without any satisfaction, I am getting some co-operation.
MR. MACKINNON: Okay. There are a number of different divisions you're responsible for, the Fire Marshal's Office and Public Safety. Before I move away from the Fire Marshal's Office, how many deputy fire marshals do you have?
MR. CORMIER: Eight.
MR. MACKINNON: They're in the different jurisdictions around the province?
MR. CORMIER: That is correct.
MR. MACKINNON: Are they all certified? That would be my first question.
MR. CORMIER: Not at this stage.
MR. MACKINNON: Why not?
MR. CORMIER: Because the certification process just started.
MR. MACKINNON: When?
MR. CORMIER: I had my first deputy certified for fire investigation approximately 12 months ago, and the first individual sent out to Manitoba for certification on fire inspections last year.
MR. MACKINNON: So we only have, right now, one out of eight certified to do fire inspections?
MR. CORMIER: That has IFSAC certification. All the individuals are competent to do so, all the individuals have passed all kinds of training and passed all kinds of testing.
MR. MACKINNON: Mr. Cormier, I may be qualified to do it, too, but if I'm not certified, professionally speaking, I'm not an expert witness if called upon.
MR. CORMIER: The certification process is only a new process, we only received IFSAC certification in this province as of a month ago.
MR. MACKINNON: I think I may have seen on the Web site that you're in the process of hiring, or maybe you did hire, two new propane inspectors. Is that correct?
MR. CORMIER: The ads are out and we have not received the applications yet. The position date is closed.
MR. MACKINNON: Obviously there's a need for that. Who's doing the work presently?
MR. CORMIER: Presently the chief inspector is attempting to keep up with it.
MR. MACKINNON: Just the chief inspector?
MR. CORMIER: That is correct.
MR. MACKINNON: No one else is doing those inspections?
MR. CORMIER: No.
MR. MACKINNON: Is the chief inspector able to cope with that workload?
MR. CORMIER: No.
MR. MACKINNON: So you're understaffed?
MR. CORMIER: We're understaffed at this time.
MR. MACKINNON: You lack financial resources?
MR. CORMIER: No, we have the financial resources to do that, we're just waiting for the positions to be filled.
MR. MACKINNON: This is a little concerning. You have the resources to do the job, but you don't have the staff. The question I asked, I believe it was on a previous day and I believe it was with the Auditor General's Office, was if you have the resources and you don't have the staff, then there's a problem and the question I believe I asked was what's the morale like in the department? Have you ever done any satisfaction rating on your staff?
MR. CORMIER: Yes, we have.
MR. MACKINNON: Is that documented anywhere?
MR. CORMIER: I believe there is a satisfaction or a morale survey that was done a year ago.
MR. MACKINNON: Would you table that for members of the committee?
MR. CORMIER: I don't have ownership of it.
MR. MACKINNON: Who does?
MR. CORMIER: It belongs to the department.
MR. MACKINNON: Yes, but you are representing . . .
MR. CORMIER: I'm representing the Public Safety Division.
MR. MACKINNON: Was there a satisfaction rating done . . .
MR. CORMIER: Not since the unit has been put togther.
MR. MACKINNON: Maybe if you would allow me to finish the question. Was there a satisfaction rating done on all the employees in the Fire Marshal's Office and Public Safety?
MR. CORMIER: As part of the former Department of Labour.
MR. MACKINNON: Would you give an undertaking to provide that?
MR. CORMIER: I will attempt to find it. I don't have ownership of it, but I will attempt to find it.
MR. MACKINNON: Now what are the results? Give me, in essence, what was the bottom line? What was the rating?
MR. CORMIER: I would be speaking without substantial information to say that right now. Basically, there were concerns.
MR. MACKINNON: Some concerns?
MR. CORMIER: Some concerns.
MR. MACKINNON: Who did the satisfaction rating?
MR. CORMIER: There was an outside agency involved. That's all I can state at this time.
MR. MACKINNON: Do you know who the agency was?
MR. CORMIER: No, I would know if I read it. I don't have it in front of me.
MR. MACKINNON: You indicated there were some concerns. Obviously, you must know what those concerns are. Can you tell members of the committee what those concerns were, the ones you know of?
MR. CORMIER: There were issues from my staff, and that's previous to the time of the Public Safety and the Fire Marshal's Office being brought together. There were issues related to training. There were issues related to the amount of work that each member was doing. There were issues related to communications, which is always an issue when you're spread across the province the way that we are.
MR. MACKINNON: I was looking at the pay scales for fire investigators with HRM. I believe it's, I stand to be corrected, I think it's upwards of $60,000?
MR. CORMIER: That is correct.
MR. MACKINNON: With CBRM, that would be slightly less, around $50,000.
MR. CORMIER: That is correct.
MR. MACKINNON: What's the pay scale for your inspectors?
MR. CORMIER: A TE24 is $42,000 per year.
MR. MACKINNON: I would tend to think that the workload they would be doing would be broader, well maybe not broader in scope, but certainly the workload would be much heavier. Am I correct?
MR. CORMIER: They have a higher level of accountability because of the type of buildings and the type of facilities that they're dealing with, including nursing homes, hospitals and other types of buildings.
MR. MACKINNON: Would that be part of the problem in your satisfaction rating, the fact that perhaps they're overworked and underpaid?
MR. CORMIER: I'm not going to go into the workload issue. I can state that there is presently work being carried out with human resources in regard to the pay scales.
MR. MACKINNON: I'm not sure if you're grasping what I'm trying to say here. You're the director for this division. You're not raising these problems with the deputy minister. You're not raising them with the minister. You've acknowledged that they carry a broader responsibility and workload than those, let's say, in CBRM or HRM and nothing
seems to be done about it. The Auditor General has released a rather scathing report. To me, there's something that doesn't add up. How would you attribute that?
MR. CORMIER: I guess I would have to ask for a specific question. Do you want a broad response or a specific response?
MR. MACKINNON: Well, specific. There's a problem. Just look at it numerically.
You have eight inspectors for a population of slightly more than 900,000 people. The fire marshal has indicated that many of the reports are incomplete, untimely and so on. It would appear to me that it is almost impossible for them to do their jobs. You're understaffed or you're underpaying and morale is low. Why aren't you doing something about it?
MR. CORMIER: I would question the broad brush that morale is low. If my morale is low, I have probably one of the lowest sick time losses and numerous other indicators of low morale of any organization, and I will put that up against anyone who wants to provide other information. Morale is not low. The situation is that at times, the staff are overworked, absolutely. There are great demands on my staff.
MR. MACKINNON: What would you consider, Mr. Cormier, to be a reasonable complement of deputy fire marshals to do the job?
MR. CORMIER: If the House is willing to provide the Fire Safety Bill as we established . . .
MR. MACKINNON: Never mind the bill . . .
MR. CORMIER: No, I'm sorry. That is part of it. One of the issues I have is that I don't have adequate staff because I have to fulfill the obligations of the municipalities.
MR. MACKINNON: Okay, so what you're saying is that there will be a downloading of responsibility to the municipality with the bill.
MR. CORMIER: Absolutely not, sir. There has been a requirement for the municipalities to carry out those inspections since 1976.
MR. MACKINNON: But you can't have it both ways. You can't say that the responsibility is already there and you're not doing anything about it and that the only way you can do something about it is by bringing in new legislation. That's double standard talk. I mean, let's be realistic. If you know there's a problem there and you're not doing anything, and you're the director and you're not raising it with the deputy minister or the minister . . .
MR. CORMIER: No, sir. I have to go back on that. I made one comment that I did not raise issues with the minister or the deputy minister outside of the annual report. Other issues are certainly dealt with on a day-to-day basis with the deputy minister. It is not my role to discuss those matters directly with the minister, but certainly with the deputy minister.
MR. MACKINNON: No? You don't discuss matters with the minister?
MR. CORMIER: When the minister requests information or I feel there's something critical for the minister to know, yes, it is discussed.
MR. MACKINNON: Don't you brief the minister with an overview of what's happening to the general operations of your division?
MR. CORMIER: That's part of the ongoing process, yes.
MR. MACKINNON: So wouldn't the minister be aware of the fact that you're understaffed?
MR. CORMIER: The minister would be aware that we are, on an ongoing basis, replacing staff people. As far as our numbers of staff, our components of staff, I am not receiving reports that our people are not able to complete their work activities.
MR. MACKINNON: Presently - forget about the proposed legislation that's before the House, let's just put that aside - presently, do you have enough staff to do the job?
MR. CORMIER: In accordance to my legislation, yes, if I stick strictly according to the legislation.
MR. MACKINNON: Well, then according to the Auditor General's Report, you're not doing it. So why? That's the question members of this committee are trying to get an answer to. The Auditor General doesn't have any particular interest in this on one side of the issue or the other. It's an independent assessment.
MR. CORMIER: There are training issues. There are issues related to paperwork. There are issues related to process. There are issues that are related to ongoing activities with the files. There are numerous problems there. We are attempting to address those issues.
MR. MACKINNON: Yes, but attempting to address them and addressing them are two different issues.
MR. CORMIER: Well, we definitely are addressing them. We are addressing them with the use of both software and hardware. We're addressing them by providing training. We're addressing them by providing ongoing personnel evaluation and appraisal. I provided you with a copy of the performance appraisal requirements for the deputies.
MR. MACKINNON: Let's focus on the software. When did you purchase the hardware?
MR. CORMIER: The hardware is an ongoing purchase, the replacement of it.
MR. MACKINNON: No, when did you first acquire it to be able to do this filing of the information that you put in for your annual report and so on?
MR. CORMIER: We're looking at four years ago it was up and running.
MR. MACKINNON: So you've had it for four years and you haven't been able to utilize it to the advantage of the department is really what you're saying. Now you're just getting software to get it up and running and you're telling me you've had it for four years.
MR. CORMIER: Yes and that software has been operating for four years, but garbage in is garbage out. We have to get the information correct that's going in.
MR. MACKINNON: Why has it been for four years you've been putting garbage in and taking garbage out? Why hasn't it been factual information in . . .
MR. CORMIER: I'm going back on that one. It's true of every jurisdiction in this country and it's true of almost every year. I provided those reports.
MR. MACKINNON: I'm not talking about other jurisdictions.
MR. CORMIER: What I'm trying to do is tell you that there is . . .
MR. MACKINNON: I'm talking about Nova Scotia.
MR. CORMIER: Yes. I could easily get by without trying to recognize the problem and just continue on as has been done for years. I recognize that there is a problem. We have a new problem that has arisen with the insurance industry whom we counted on heavily for a lot of the information that was provided. The insurance industry does not want to provide that information because of their loss of information through the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act and are unable to protect themselves under litigation. So, we're not getting the information we should. We're working with them, we've provided you information, we're trying to get the fire departments to join in by putting the information through our Web site.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Excuse me, Mr. Cormier. Thank you for your time, Mr. MacKinnon. The next 20 minutes goes to a member of the government caucus, the member for Kings West is taking the lead. Mr. Carey, you have the floor - it's 8:57 a.m.
MR. JON CAREY: Thank you, Mr. Chairman and good morning. The legislation that you have been striving to have put in place, I believe, is there so you will be pleasantly pleased with that, I trust. Having said that, the Nova Scotia Fire Safety Act, when implemented, the responsibilities of fire and building inspectors will be more clearly defined. What are the new proposed roles for these inspectors as you see it?
MR. CORMIER: I think what's critical here is that past practice is a terrible thing. We go on with just allowing it to occur and reoccur. When we recognize the problem, we try to take action against it. That's normally when we find out all the issues. One of the things that we found was that many of the municipalities had the belief that they did not have to provide inspections because the fire chief had been appointed as the inspector, which was never the intent of the legislation. When the legislation is changed under the Fire Safety Act, we clearly defined that the municipality itself is responsible for that and they can appoint the fire department as a responsible member as they do here in HRM. In CBRM it's the building officials, they have that right. So it's clearly defined.
The regulations will lay out the requirements as to what those individuals are required to do. We've kept it as simplistic as possible. Most small communities should not need to hire a fire inspector that's separate from the building inspector. They can use the same individual because the construction rate in these smaller communities is not high enough to warrant the building inspector on a 12-month basis.
The responsibility is basically to ensure that the building continues to operate as it was built. It is the building official's responsibility to ensure that building is built correctly. Our number one - and in a meeting with the building officials last week as we reviewed the regulations, very critical at this point that we create a strong working relationship between the building and fire officials in this province. As you are aware, there were issues that were raised during the select committee's tour of the province and we need to overcome those. We're only interested in one thing and that's public safety.
MR. CAREY: The fire school that we've had for years in Waverley has changed its ability to serve in different ways - there have been changes there. Could you give me an update so that we could understand what has actually happened there and from a financial point what it's going to do to volunteer fire service?
MR. CORMIER: There are a number of concerns that have arisen in regard to the fire school and especially with regard to the pre-employment program that has come into place. First of all, the pre-employment program is not in any way interfering with the programs that are delivered to the volunteer fire service. We have a fire school that is not correctly used
Monday to Friday and we are attempting to work with Halifax Regional Municipality to increase the usage of that by the fire service of the region at the fire school.
The critical component is that the fire school in 1993, when we began working more closely with the fire school, had a debt of over $350,000. According to the financial records I got on Sunday, the proposal is that will be down to $21,000 for next year. That has come through numerous ways, one of them is a pre-employment training program. Although it appears to be bringing a tremendous amount of profit into the school, there are a lot of expenses. The actual profit to the school on the pre-employment was $28,000 for last year. That money is being used to augment what they already have to increase the school's ability to respond to the volunteer fire service. So the volunteers are actually gaining out of this program.
MR. CAREY: Over the years the volunteers have been involved in instructing there from all over the province. At times, I know from experience, there have been some excellent instructors and other times, less knowledgeable, I think it's fair to say. As your people are trained, and with the new Fire Safety Act you will have your eight deputies, do you see where there will be any time or any one that might be involved in actually upgrading the training for instructors for the school?
MR. CORMIER: I think we have to be cautious of what we get into or what we get involved with. I believe that we have a role to play in the provision of fire safety training, whether it be the firefighters' safety or the education, inspection or investigation through the fire school. But, I think we need to try to find a way for the fire school to expand its income or use that income to have a couple of full-time instructors at the school. From the experience that my peers face in other provinces in operating a fire school, the minute that we make it appear to be what I will call a provincially-owned school, we end up with numerous problems and we don't receive the volunteerism for that fire school at this stage.
Those instructors out there are providing a tremendous number of hours in training for themselves as well as providing training for others. Much the same as when you begin to move paid firefighters into the station, you slowly lose the volunteer concept and you have to be careful.
MR. CAREY: I certainly appreciate that. I know the problems you can run into there. What financial and other advantages do you see in being in the same department with Environment?
MR. CORMIER: I think there's a number of issues that have worked out tremendously well. It would seem as though fire and environment are very far apart, but we have very common issues. One of the fastest growing concerns in North America is recycling.
We've had tremendous issues with recycling. By being in the same department, we've been able to put similar or acceptable policies forward jointly that provide not only an opportunity for the recycling to operate on a narrow but still a profit margin and still ensure fire safety in the community.
One of the issues I would relate to is tires. Tires are a very high hazard. One could say we should be doing something more about them. There's only so much you can do so we do have to store them. Previous to the Resource Recovery Fund, we had them stored in the woods all over the place. Now at least we have them in a controlled environment. Sometimes that environment does get out of hand and we have to have ways of being able to ensure that firefighters can handle the situation there. Sometimes having that joint relationship, we're able to deal with industry, we're able to deal with the actual problems on a better basis by bringing forward both sides of the issue.
MR. CAREY: You indicated that there are adequate funds to do what your mandate is at this time? Having said that, by the change in your position to Environment to Public Safety and so on, was there an increase in funding or was there a change of personnel? Maybe you could . . .
MR. CORMIER: What we actually did was we flattened the organization by taking out one more level of management. I would say 20 years ago you couldn't do that because we didn't have the competency of the staff that we have today. The span of control of most managers is expanded mainly because we no longer micro manage. If we were going to micro manage, no, I couldn't handle any more than four or five people, but with the competency of people that we have, with the guidelines that we provide them, with the resources for communications, that span of control expands and you end up providing policy at the top, technical in the middle, and a competent delivery of those services on the - I don't want to use the term bottom - on the working level of the organization.
MR. CAREY: You indicated that your deputies, to this point you have only had the opportunity to get one trained in Manitoba. How extensive is that? What's the time frame, what's the cost?
MR. CORMIER: Well, in actual fact it's not so much the time frame to do it, it was where we held the exams. For instance we had an opportunity, jointly, to do fire investigation certification in New Brunswick. The only place I could get fire inspector certification was in Manitoba. Out-of-province travel would prevent me from sending all eight, unless I do it over a period of time. So one individual went and got that training. Now they will be doing the certification through Manitoba here in Nova Scotia, not only for my deputies but for the other inspectors.
In actual fact, he went out there, did a one-week review of the material and wrote the exam and passed, and all of the deputies are capable of doing that.
MR. CAREY: From what region was the first one?
MR. CORMIER: He happened to be from your particular area, from up in the Valley.
MR. CAREY: I thought it was, thank you.
The National Fire Code, of course which is the Fire Safety Act now is involved in it, what are the advantages of having that?
MR. CORMIER: Well I think the principal advantages, I had stated in a previous comment, previously all it said for fire safety was that it had to be a standard acceptable to the fire marshal which meant it could have come from most anywhere. The fire code is a companion document to the building code; the building code builds the building and the fire code maintains it. Now there are other things in there such as yard storage for lumber mills, et cetera, but basically that's the purpose of that code. The other side of it is it gives everybody the same rules. It's awfully hard to be out there playing a game of ball and not knowing whether you are playing softball, hairball or lob ball. It's nice to have all the same rules. So it also gives industry the right rules.
It's been my experience that when you provide the right information to individuals, the vast majority of the time they will do the right thing. So our position has been as much as educators as it has been the enforcement arm. Perhaps we have not been as good as we have been in the past and I think one of the things we have done in the past is instead of setting a course and following the best practices of any of our particular activities and ensuring they are done and done right, we have attempted to respond to every complaint under the sun, tried to do all kinds of things and we just can't do that. We have to do what's right and what we are required to do under legislation.
MR. CAREY: Now with the implementation of the Fire Safety Act, do you see where most regions will have the fire inspector and the building inspector being the same person?
MR. CORMIER: It won't occur broadly, but it will occur in numerous regions. We have a number of the building inspectors who have come forward to request training. Cape Breton region has decided to do that on a broad-base for the entire region of Cape Breton. The Halifax region has a very defined split between building and fire. In the Valley region, or what I will call some of the growth areas in the South Shore, the Valley, the Pictou area, what I'm hoping I will see are municipalities joined together to have one inspector for that region. If building inspectors do come on board, Manitoba has shown that this process will work and that it's not necessarily a conflict between the two.
MR. CAREY: From a rural standpoint of costs and to avoid conflict, simplistically, I see that if you could have the same person doing both jobs it would eliminate any type of conflict. Are there advantages or disadvantages to that?
MR. CORMIER: There are disadvantages. One of the books I teach from calls it the watchdog effect, where the fire inspector goes in after the building inspector. Well, that sets things off wrong right from the beginning. In actual fact, the building and fire officials should do the occupancy inspection together. The building inspector says, I've had this built to my satisfaction, and the fire inspector says, I'm taking it over to my satisfaction. So there's no conflict between the two. That doesn't always work.
Basically, for the majority of buildings that we're looking at in turning over to the municipality, that is not a critical issue, remembering that my office will continue to be responsible for the high life-risk facilities, such as nursing homes, residential care, and correctional facilities.
MR. CAREY: Just to touch on the fire loss report, I think, one of the issues that Mr. MacKinnon had, over the years, as I think you've indicated, the accuracy was questionable. Also, I certainly agree and from previous experience I understand that getting reports from volunteer fire departments is not always the easiest thing you can do. I guess my question is, it seems to me that it's a very fine, glossy report that comes back. I really don't know what it costs, but I know there are costs involved and staffing. Could you tell me how many staff would be involved in that?
Maybe there should be a way of trying to find another way of getting the - I know you have to gather the information. I certainly agree with you that when you start trying to force volunteers to give it - an encouragement somehow. I just question the value of it because it's inaccurate. Is it something that if we can't do accurately, we should be doing at all?
MR. CORMIER: No. I think it's necessary to do, but I think it's necessary to do and do well. What we have to do is realize what the problems are and why we're having issues with the local night watchman who is supposed to be reporting these things, whether it's the fire department or the insurance industry. We've provided a simplistic format to the insurance industry, which they will be quite satisfied and happy to fill out and send to us. It at least gives us the basic information. I have one staff person who is specifically assigned to do the annual report. It took approximately six months to train them. They are not completely completed in that yet. They are watching the newspapers and other sources of information to try to get that information in. We will contact the fire department and try to get the information.
Our Web site will contain the fire report with drop-downs so that it's very easy for the fire departments to fill out. We are attempting to work with Halifax, which has the same database as we do. The problem is they're not getting the information from the stations up into the main database, so they can't supply it to us. CBRM, we're working toward a link with them. The information will never be perfect, but it can be far better than what it is.
MR. CAREY: And I guess that's the point. From a local level I've seen it. Our department, over the last 20 years, had sent it in faithfully, but prior to that we hadn't sent it in at all. I know the accuracy, I know you have that problem throughout. You say with the new form the insurance companies are more willing to make a commitment to doing it.
MR. CORMIER: That is correct. There's no information there that would provide any one information under a lawsuit that they could obtain through the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act and hold against the insurance company, but it's adequate information for us to begin the file.
MR. CAREY: Thank you very much.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Could we go back around for the second round now. I would ask each caucus to stick to the guidelines of approximately 10 minutes, which would allow some wrap-up time for Mr. Cormier and his staff, and one item of business which we have as a committee. We're just coming up to 9:17 a.m., and I will hand the clock over to the member for Halifax Fairview.
MR. STEELE: Mr. Chairman, I have 10 minutes and I have four topics that I would like to cover. I will try to keep it brief, as long as you will as well, Mr. Cormier.
The first thing is that, and I'm sorry for putting it quite this way, but when I read the Auditor General's Report on what's going on in the Public Safety Division and when I hear you speak today about what's going on, I am reminded very much of Westray, because part of the problem at Westray was an inspectorate, and I know you're not responsible for occupational health and safety or coal mine safety, but the principle's the same.
What was going on at Westray was an inspector who tried to work with the employer, kind of put the arm around the shoulder and said, come on you guys, do the right thing. There were infrequent inspections; there weren't surprise inspections; orders were rarely issued, and when the orders were issued, they weren't followed up on. I think we all remember that on the day that the mine blew up there was an outstanding compliance order that had not been followed up on by the inspector, to spread limestone dust.
When I read the Auditor General's Report, I see exactly the same kind of thing. A Public Safety Division that's focused on working with people rather than on enforcement. The Auditor General says that when orders are issued there's no documentation indicating that there's any follow-up, that documentation provided by companies is - his words are "often minimal or non-existent," and that there is minimal or no documentation in many files to document that inspectors and deputy fire marshals had verified compliance with the orders issued.
How is this different from Westray? And why is it that we don't seem to have learned the lesson in Westray, and we still have these situations where, even when we issue orders, we apparently don't follow up on them? How is that still happening?
MR. CORMIER: I will try to be as short as possible on this. The process is not perfect. First of all, I would dare to say that the arm-around-the-client type of thing is not quite correct. I think the number of facilities that we've shut down over the last little while and the number of times our name has been used not with the greatest of admiration because of action we have taken is proof that we do not stand back and just wait.
Where individuals are willing to work with us, yes, I think they deserve that opportunity for us to assist them. When an organization as large as Michelin Tire or Stora comes to us and asks us for assistance in meeting fire safety, we don't need the big enforcement power, they are looking for our help. Are there other individuals out there that we can't do that with? You're absolutely right, that's that 15 per cent that we have to hold accountable. Has the system been perfect? Absolutely not. Has accountability been as well as it should have been? No, it has not. We are working towards changing that. We are working with our staff on performance appraisals. We're working with our record keeping to ensure that our records are correct and we're working with our clerical staff to use them to help us ensure that all of the paperwork and everything is in the files where it properly belongs.
MR. STEELE: Because you see, the problem is not with the good companies, the companies that are determined to do the right thing and there are very, very many of those in Nova Scotia. The problem comes with the bad companies, the companies like Curragh Resources that are determined to do the wrong thing, that are determined to frustrate the inspectorate and they're the ones that need to be told that if they're not complying that they have to comply or else and they have to really believe that there's an or else. But according to the Auditor General's Report, even when compliance orders are issued, there is little or no follow-up. What would make Nova Scotians believe that we have learned the lessons of Westray?
MR. CORMIER: Well there are a couple of things that occur with this particular public safety group that other types of regulatory matters don't have. First of all, in my group, 90 per cent of our activities are tied to some licence. We may recommend the licence be pulled and somebody else will pull that. That's the compliance reaction. We ensure that the person can't operate. So the order may be in the file, but the activity may not be taking place. There may have been an elevator infraction, in which case the reaction to that is to put a lock on the elevator so that you can't use it. The same thing is true of boiler and pressure vessel equipment. So there are actions that are taken. Our problem is that we don't believe it's been as well documented as it should be. We've hired exceptionally good inspectors. We have not necessarily trained them as well as we should to be the bookkeepers that we need.
MR. STEELE: When specifically is the last time that the Public Safety Division pulled a licence for non-compliance?
MR. CORMIER: Let's see. We pulled one last week in Yarmouth County. There's an order on one apartment building going to the Crown. As a matter of fact, I have to face the appeal on the 18th. When did you do your last elevator lockout?
MR. KENNEDY: I believe it was in Lunenburg County about two weeks ago.
MR. CORMIER: About two weeks ago. Boilers?
MR. CASTLE: Within the past two weeks, we've taken pressure vessels out of service for one reason or another.
MR. CORMIER: I know for a fact, I apologize, but our stationary engineer section, he's holding exams in Port Hawkesbury right now. We just removed the right for people to operate cranes and the right for people to also act as power engineers.
MR. STEELE: A different topic. Paragraph 10.24 of the Auditor General's Report refers to certain amusement devices. The Auditor General believes that the Public Safety Division, according to the Statute, is responsible for the inspection of bumper boats, go-carts and water slides. Apparently, the Public Safety Division has interpreted itself out of inspecting those things. The Auditor General concludes by saying, " . . . there are reports of accidents and injuries attributed to these devices." Why are these devices not being inspected and how many injuries is the division aware of resulting from the use of these devices that are going uninspected?
MR. CORMIER: The legal interpretation was on the advice between the Act and the standard that's used in regard to those. I'm going to leave the number of injuries up to Randy to respond to, but just in regard to your question, we have a lot of other so-called amusement devices in this province that we could be concerned with, go-carts, bungee jumping, river rafting, swings and slides in public playgrounds. We're in agreement that it may not be as clear as it should be and we are attempting to come to some sort of understanding of exactly what that is. As far as the injury, there is no death rate, but there certainly might be an injury rate. Are you aware of any?
MR. KENNEDY: Not death rate, but there have been some injuries on those types of devices. We have been keeping close records of those accidents and monitoring the situations at present. We've never inspected those types of devices because, basically, they're not under the control of an operator where he's standing there with a stop switch where you can actually shut the device off. Also, the national standard for amusement devices, that is not a mandatory section. So, basically, we haven't been doing them. We are monitoring the
situation and we have a lot of problems with some of the new devices that are coming because they're getting bigger and more advanced.
MR. STEELE: How many injuries, specifically, are you aware of on these devices?
MR. KENNEDY: I've started a file specifically on go-carts. I believe, since I started probably two to three years ago, accidents that have come to my attention are probably around three that were serious enough that I actually started a file on them.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Your final minute, Mr. Steele.
MR. STEELE: Back to Mr. Cormier. In your opening comments you said that one of the things that you would like to see as an improvement to the system is some kind of "punitive recourse" against tradespeople who install defective devices or don't do the job. What exactly do you mean by punitive recourse? What would that look like?
MR. CORMIER: I will give you an example of one that we have been reviewing for a period of time and trying to work with industry on. In the Province of Nova Scotia - and we are the only jurisdiction that I'm aware of in North America that operates this way - the utilities are responsible for the inspection of electrical work. We are one of the very, very few jurisdictions in North America who do not license either the contractors nor the electricians themselves. We recently lost a hog barn, along with numerous hogs that happened to be inside. Upon investigation, it was found it was electrical. That electrical was installed without a permit and was never inspected. We have no recourse against the electrician. We have no recourse against the contractor. We do not control that. That is the sort of situation that I'm referring to.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Thank you, Mr. Cormier. Mr. MacKinnon, you have the next 10 minutes.
MR. MACKINNON: Mr. Chairman, my question is for Mr. Kennedy. Of the 2,355 elevators in the province, how many are inspected every year before you issue a licence?
MR. KENNEDY: Under the present legislation and at the time of the auditor's report I believe the number was around 400. I don't have that figure right in front of me here, but it was quite low. There were probably roughly 2,000 that weren't inspected, at the time.
MR. MACKINNON: And they were still licensed?
MR. KENNEDY: They were still licensed, yes.
MR. MACKINNON: Out of the 100 escalators in the province, how many were inspected before they were licensed?
MR. KENNEDY: Most of the escalators seem to get inspected because of the high usage and the type of device. We have a tendency to inspect those more frequently, especially because they're . . .
MR. MACKINNON: Out of the 100, how many were inspected?
MR. KENNEDY: Mostly all the escalators have been inspected.
MR. MACKINNON: But not all.
MR. KENNEDY: I would say there have probably been a few that haven't been done.
MR. MACKINNON: Out of the 12 ski lifts, how many were inspected?
MR. KENNEDY: Those are done every year.
MR. MACKINNON: Out of the 105 amusement devices?
MR. KENNEDY: Those are inspected on a yearly basis, prior to the licensing.
MR. MACKINNON: Nine hundred and fifty-two steam boilers, were they all inspected before they were licensed?
MR. KENNEDY: I do not have those figures.
MR. MACKINNON: Would you give an undertaking to provide them? (Interruption)
MR. CASTLE: Yes, that is our intention, to try to provide an annual inspection on every steam boiler in the province.
MR. MACKINNON: Has that been done?
MR. CASTLE: Up to this point, as many as we could, yes.
MR. MACKINNON: So all 952 were inspected before they were licensed?
MR. CASTLE: No, but they don't get licensed every year. They require a certificate to operate and we try to carry out an inspection annually. So, within the year, they will all be inspected.
MR. MACKINNON: All 952, okay. What about the 8,898 pressure vessels?
MR. CASTLE: Those are on a different frequency of inspection. They don't require an annual inspection. It depends on where they're used and that sort of thing. So some of them could go as long as five years without requiring an inspection, but we identify certain areas and carry out inspections on those vessels as they come up in our system.
MR. MACKINNON: Recently, there was a complaint sent in by the fire chief from Kentville to your department, Mr. Cormier, I believe to your deputy fire marshal in the Valley, Mr. Pothier, with regard to Scotia Fertilizer. Are you familiar with that?
MR. CORMIER: I'm not aware of it.
MR. MACKINNON: You're not aware of the complaint that was filed on an ammonia nitrate leak or improper storage of ammonia nitrate?
MR. CORMIER: No, sir.
MR. MACKINNON: You're not familiar?
MR. CORMIER: I'm not familiar.
MR. MACKINNON: What's the protocol for Mr. Pothier? How long after a complaint would come in would he file that with you?
MR. CORMIER: It would depend on the information he received and maybe passed off to another agency if it's another agency, if it's not a direct fire hazard-type situation. If it's a fire hazard, he would inspect that basically when he had the time available to do so.
MR. MACKINNON: Ammonia nitrate, that has some explosive characteristics?
MR. CORMIER: If it's properly mixed with diesel fuel, it can be explosive.
MR. MACKINNON: I want to go back to the annual report because you indicated you're in the process with a new staff member, or a staff member being retrained to prepare the annual report and that's being done. How accurate or complete is that report going to be if you've already indicated that you're not receiving substantive information from municipalities such as CBRM and HRM?
MR. CORMIER: The report you have on your desk at this time, that I supplied with the materials, I'm quite comfortable with.
MR. MACKINNON: No, no, I'm not talking about what we have on our desks, I'm talking about what you're preparing now.
MR. CORMIER: That is one of the reports I'm preparing now. I have two reports to prepare.
MR. MACKINNON: Well, we wouldn't have . . .
MR. CORMIER: No, one you have a copy of that was supplied with your materials.
MR. MACKINNON: Yes.
MR. CORMIER: That report, I feel quite comfortable with the accuracy. The next report, the fire numbers are too low. We've dropped too far down to believe that that's an incident of decrease in fires. I don't believe that report is as accurate as it should be.
MR. MACKINNON: So you have no idea at this point how many fire reports have been carried out with HRM?
MR. CORMIER: Not at this time, no. I have requested that information from them.
MR. MACKINNON: When?
MR. CORMIER: Within the last month and a half and they are normally forthcoming, but it takes time for them on their system, the way their system is set up, for them to get that information off, to separate the dollar loss of fires from all the other calls they have.
MR. MACKINNON: Yes. I'm going to switch rather quickly. Mr. Kennedy, do you feel you have enough staff to be able to meet the obligations of your division?
MR. KENNEDY: To meet the annual inspection of the old legislation mandate, the way we've grown, every year we are growing roughly around 125 units per year and that's quite a few units, so we have presently four staff members full-time and I have one vacant position. If I could fill the vacant position, we could come very close.
MR. MACKINNON: How long has that been vacant?
MR. KENNEDY: It has been ongoing, I believe it is probably two years now, roughly two years.
MR. MACKINNON: So for two years you haven't been able to do all the work?
MR. KENNEDY: To fill that position. I have not been able to meet all the annual inspection requirements, no.
MR. MACKINNON: So you're not able to do everything that you're legally obligated to?
MR. KENNEDY: No.
MR. MACKINNON: Mr. Cormier, did you recently hire a new deputy fire marshal?
MR. CORMIER: Approximately in November.
MR. MACKINNON: Where was this individual from?
MR. CORMIER: St. Catherine's, Ontario.
MR. MACKINNON: Was there not one Nova Scotian out of 925,000 who you could have hired?
MR. CORMIER: I could have hired any number of . . .
MR. MACKINNON: Who was qualified, you know what I mean.
MR. CORMIER: I was looking for a qualified individual and that was the nearest place I could find them, yes.
MR. MACKINNON: So there wasn't one Nova Scotian who had the qualifications to be able to do that job?
MR. CORMIER: That applied, that is correct, sir.
MR. MACKINNON: And what are the qualifications?
MR. CORMIER: The qualifications are to be trained on the National Building Code, National Fire Code, fire investigator, public education.
MR. MACKINNON: And what certificates do they have to have?
MR. CORMIER: We require them to have a certificate from a recognized fire training facility.
MR. MACKINNON: From Nova Scotia?
MR. CORMIER: No, not necessarily from Nova Scotia. Nova Scotia is acceptable. We would require a Nova Scotia certification from the building inspectors training program, from the fire inspectors.
MR. MACKINNON: So do you have quality assurance that the other jurisdictions are as far advanced as Nova Scotia?
MR. CORMIER: Yes, I do. It's a program called the International Fire Service Accreditation Congress and if they have those certifications, I can be confident they meet all the national fire protection standards.
MR. MACKINNON: So this new employee has all the certification that is required . . .
MR. CORMIER: That is correct.
MR. MACKINNON: . . . to be able to do fire inspections?
MR. CORMIER: Fire inspections, fire investigation and public education.
MR. MACKINNON: Has all those?
MR. CORMIER: Yes.
MR. MACKINNON: And there was nobody in Nova Scotia who could have done that?
MR. CORMIER: There was no one in Nova Scotia who had those credentials, sir, who applied.
MR. MACKINNON: I see. I will turn it over to my colleague, who may have a few questions.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Mr. Downe, you have two minutes.
MR. DONALD DOWNE: I've been there before. I will just go back to your comments with regard to the offshore. You say that you're still working with the accord re the offshore. Can you explain to me, on jurisdictional right, who has jurisdictional right offshore? The CNSOPB, they seem to indicate who's doing what. Can you explain to me why it has taken so long to determine the provincial jurisdictional rights within the accord that's already set up?
MR. CORMIER: As much as I would love to be able to answer your question, I'm going to have to step back from that and defer that to somebody in Justice who understands the constitutional issues and the accord itself. I can only state our particular position, that we have been informed we are not directly responsible for anything in the offshore, and that is no different, I have far more concerns. I am not responsible nor do I have any authority in the Halifax International Airport or any other federal property or undertaking. So it's more than just offshore. We are involved where the federal government contracts us to do the work for them, whether it be elevators or pressure vessels and boilers.
MR. DOWNE: So any federal jurisdiction, for example, the port. If there's federal jurisdiction there, the airport, First Nations, all the reserves, and offshore, they are controlled by the federal government and the responsibility is with the federal government?
MR. CORMIER: That is correct.
MR. DOWNE: And they do all the inspection?
MR. CORMIER: There was a requirement and there should be an inspection process in place. We have recently agreed with the Department of Indian and Northern Affairs to provide fire investigations only because the RCMP, which is our provincial fire service, needs expertise on the reserves or on the band council lands and has been requesting my staff. We now require the federal government to pay us for that service.
MR. DOWNE: Some of the construction . . .
MR. CHAIRMAN: Excuse me. Sorry, Mr. Downe, your time has elapsed for the Liberal caucus. I would like to turn the next 10 minutes over to the government caucus, the member for Queens. Mr. Morash, it's 9:38 a.m.
MR. KERRY MORASH: I would like to ask a few questions of Mr. Castle with regard to boiler inspectors and boiler inspections. We have had some past together and I certainly have a great deal of respect for his abilities. He has been a tremendous help, I know, in my past with regard to his professionalism. (Interruption)
With regard to boiler inspections, I was wondering if you might be able to give us an outline of - an education, perhaps - the types of boiler inspections that you do? You've talked a bit about frequency. Perhaps some of the risk analysis with some of the more complicated ones, what you look for when you go to a site or a facility - and I know that's depending upon size, as to what the highest risks are - what the concerns most often are, what your findings usually are, and basically, almost like on an annual basis, what are your findings and what are the most current violations? You know, what's out there that people are missing that you pick up to help them rectify and make sure that their facilities are safe?
MR. CASTLE: Thank you. I appreciate the opportunity to be able to address the committee. Our work in the boiler and pressure vessel side of things is that we're in accident prevention. We've had regulation in the province since 1914, and they've changed over the years, of course. When we talk about boiler inspectors and boiler and pressure vessel inspectors, there is a whole range of activities that take place to ensure that the equipment that is installed in the province is built to an acceptable code. For the province here, we use the CSA codes. There is the B-51 code for boiler and pressure vessel and pressure piping systems, along with the CSA B-52 mechanical refrigeration code which we also inspect. They reference mainly the ASME boiler, pressure vessel code that has been developed over the 70-odd years it has taken to get to get to where it is today and we have people, such as myself, who sit on these committees to provide guidance for boiler codes and that sort of thing in the province.
Our inspectors all come with an appropriate background, with experience in boiler and pressure vessel manufacture, repair, operation, whatever, and they are also required to receive a national board commission which is an internationally recognized certificate that shows that they are competent. What we do on our inspections, when somebody wants to build a pressure vessel or boiler to install in the province, what they are required to do to begin with is to provide us with a design and calculation so that we can compare it with the code to make sure that it does meet the requirements. If the item is built in the province here, we carry out inspections at the shop while these items are being made to make sure that they are being made as required.
After that's done, wherever the unit is being installed, if it's in a plant, we go there, on site, to provide inspection while they are being installed and after they are installed, we carry out the annual inspections or whatever the required frequency is for the province here. We have quite a range of equipment for pressure vessels. You find them everywhere from the local service station, the most common thing, the most ubiquitous item would be an air-receiver tank that is there. For boilers, you find steam boilers in small places like a dry cleaning shop to the utilities here at Tufts Cove, Point Aconi, all those types of units. They all vary in the type of equipment they are. Even the small ones are a complicated piece of engineering to make sure that they are put together and operate properly.
Our experience in the things that turn up is, after items, although they are built to a code and they are fine when they are first built, after they are installed and used for a number of years there are things that develop, like metal fatigue and things like that, and when they start to show up, they show cracks or whatever like that, depending on the maintenance of the equipment, if they start to thin out or something like that, our people are trained to look for those things. and where repairs are required or appropriate, we would oversee to make sure that those are done.
Day to day, when we carry out inspections, we can drop into any establishment that we believe has a unit working and carry out an inspection on it. We look for things like the safety devices, the safety valve, make sure that that is the proper type and is working. They have to have the proper gauges and other things like that. There are other controls for low water conditions and those sorts of things.
MR. MORASH: Does your department do magnetic particle testing for metal fatigue? Is that something that you get involved with, or dipenetrate testing, or is that something that would be contracted out at your request?
MR. CASTLE: When we identify a problem with a unit, we would instruct the owner/operator of the equipment to contract out and get a competent person to come in to carry out that work. We have people on staff who are trained in that and are familiar with how that's done and what the results would be so that we understand what it is but we don't actually carry out those types of inspections ourselves. We have the owner/operator of the equipment contract with the qualified people for that. They are certified people.
MR. MORASH: That would be the same with any kind of X-ray testing as well, for wells or pressure vessels?
MR. CASTLE: As well, X-ray, radiography on whether it's a boiler and pressure vessel.
MR. MORASH: What would be the process today if I were to build some sort of a structure and had a boiler installed and you weren't aware of it until after the fact? What steps would you take at that point in time when you became aware?
MR. CASTLE: What we would do is carry out inspection of the item in concern and find out what design it was built to, who built it, the qualifications of the staff and see if the equipment was actually built to the code, the proper materials were used, whether the welders were qualified and if any one of those things was missing, we would shut it down and not permit it to operate, if it couldn't be demonstrated that it was safe.
MR. MORASH: I wonder if you wouldn't mind giving me a bit of an education with regard to fired and unfired boilers and their manning requirements at this point in time.
MR. CASTLE: I can touch on that briefly. That actually comes under the Crane Operators and Power Engineers Act. (Interruption) Yes, if you want to.
MR. CORMIER: Our Power Engineers Director is not with us today but anyway, in regard to that, over the years, boiler and pressure vessels have been acquainted with devices
that have some sort of fuel firing associated with it, whether it is solid fuel or liquid. We do have a numerous number of boilers around that are recovery units, that is, the source of the heat for that unit comes from some other device, such as the mechanical activities that take place in a pulp mill and that water that comes off that is at super heated temperatures and is then used to produce steam through a device. So the heating element is not the fuel any longer, it is waste product from some other source. Those devices have not formally been regulated under the plant registration system.
There are two parts that arise to that, one where you have that as the only source of heat and there are no fuel-fired appliances. There may not be any power engineers available to operate that. That device is treated in most jurisdictions and now in Nova Scotia exactly the same as a fired device, that is one that has a fuel source tied to it. The same elements exist. The same explosive hazard, the same element of control of the product that is being produced.
The other one which we run into, which not as severe a situation, is where part of a plant also has stationery engineers or power engineers associated with it and it just blends in as part of the equipment for the overall plant. So there have been activities taking place with those plants where the only source of heat that they have under their control is the unfired boiler. We have been trying to work with those companies to try to ensure that one, we meet the minium safety standards but two, we are able to understand and work within their confines and not having what might be classified as a powerhouse or a separate boiler plant.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Thank you, Mr. Morash. I would encourage our witnesses now to offer a wrap-up of a couple of minutes. We do have a couple of items of business. So if either or all of Mr. Cormier, Mr. Kennedy or Mr. Castle would like to make a few concluding comments, here is your opportunity to now.
MR. CORMIER: I will stick with a couple of statements just on a few things that weren't covered while we were here. For instance, one of the things that was mentioned in the accountability, and it's not really that the concept is wrong, it's just that sometimes these things are not as easily worked out as what they might perceive to be. We have the suggestion that our inspectors should be putting forward weekly scheduling for the week ahead. Although there is no disagreement with that, in a lot of our instances, it becomes a difficulty in that we get notifications of investigations that wipe out a day's inspections or two days of inspections. We have other inspectorates that we get called in on. For instance, I can almost guarantee that at 3:30 p.m. on Friday afternoon, somebody is going to need a liquor licence inspection because they want to get their bar or tavern open that Friday afternoon for the weekend. It upsets the entire scheduling process.
The other side of it that we take a bit of an issue with is the rotation of inspectors. Within a jurisdiction where you have three or four inspectors working out of one office, that's not a difficult issue. It's just a matter of giving them different routes. But we've attempted
to decrease our travel time and decrease the amount of time it requires for individuals to get to their work sites by regionalizing our deputy fire marshals, our boiler inspectors. We would do it with elevators, but the vast majority lie within the region of Halifax, so it only makes sense to keep them here.
In doing that, we have set them up in those communities. There is an opportunity for them to either continually miss things or if it's not properly managed, for them to become somehow associated and perhaps allow things to occur that they shouldn't. However, the other side of that coin is picking these people up and rotating them every so many years, which means not only having them move out of their communities, it also means their family has to be shifted, the kids have to go to different schools and there is an expense associated with that. So we believe we have to address that through management activities and not through rotation of our inspectors.
I would like to thank the Auditor General. The inspection was thorough. It was a snapshot in time. It did bring us to take action on a number of issues that perhaps we had been procrastinating on and I believe we are addressing those issues in a timely manner and towards only one end, and that is the safety of Nova Scotians. Thank you.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Thank you, Mr. Cormier. Mr. Kennedy, do you have something to add?
MR. KENNEDY: Yes, I would just like to thank Mr. Dave Hendsbee - or David Hicks and Doug Hendsbee - he's not here today, for a job well done.
MR. CHAIRMAN: We will note that Hansard will make that correction that you didn't thank David Hendsbee, who we know in another life.
MR. KENNEDY: Doug Hendsbee.
MR. CHAIRMAN: I would like to call for a quick recess so we can pay our dues to our witnesses, and then we will reconvene.
[9:53 a.m. The committee recessed.]
[9:54 a.m. The committee reconvened.]
MR. CHAIRMAN: If we could reconvene, as our witnesses make their way out, we have a couple of quick items of business. Perhaps self-serving on the chairman's point, however I want to bring it up. Next week we are scheduled to meet from 8:00 a.m. until 10:00 p.m. for the Fall agenda-setting session. I'm looking for the consensus of the committee. I personally don't think it will take an hour for the meeting, so I will be bold enough to suggest, is it possible we could meet at 9:00 a.m. on that morning? (Interruption)
You're always late, the member for Queens. It was close with me this morning, I must admit. I'm just saying, if the meeting is going to take only an hour, or would you prefer we keep with the 8:00 a.m.?
MR. JAMES DEWOLFE: No.
MR. CHAIRMAN: God, we have consensus.
MR. MACKINNON: As long as it's the exception and not the rule.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Yes, as I understand, but if it's going to be just an hour, could we meet at 9:00 a.m. next Wednesday? Okay, thank you. On the topic, we have not received from the Liberal caucus a list of potential witnesses. We have received from the PC caucus and the NDP caucus. Mr. MacKinnon.
MR. MACKINNON: Mr. Chairman, we will endeavour to try to have something to both caucuses by Friday, if that's okay. It's just with the House and everything, we're just running a little behind. We're trying to get some soft issues for the Tories that they will agree to.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Mr. DeWolfe.
MR. DEWOLFE: Mr. Chairman, you will note that the PC caucus has passed out several agenda items. We hope to add to that list by next week. If we do get some agenda items, we will ensure that they get out to the respective caucuses prior to our meeting next week.
MR. CHAIRMAN: The final item of business from me anyway, Mora, is we have not received confirmation or any details with regard to the St. John's, Newfoundland August 25th to August 26th, through there. I should put the member for Halifax Fairview on note. I know we're on the public record here. I have a prominent young woman in my life who could be coming home from Iqaluit, so you should consider the fact that you might like to go to St. John's, Newfoundland. That's how I'm under the impression that if the chairman or the vice-chairman can't go, then we delegate first within our own caucus and then bring it to the committee's attention.
MR. STEELE: Mr. Chairman, there is a prominent young man coming into my life over the summer as well and we will see how that goes.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Oh, that's right. So I guess, Don, we could be looking at you. (Interruption) I once found out that you could ask in advance. I never had the courage then. We know that your charming family is going to be doubled.
Ms. Stevens, do you have anything to add? No, okay. Mr. MacKinnon, you're leaning into the microphone, so I will recognize you.
MR. MACKINNON: I move to adjourn.
MR. CHAIRMAN: We stand adjourned.
[The committee adjourned at 9:57 a.m.]