The Nova Scotia Legislature

The House resumed on:
September 21, 2017.

Human Resources Committee - Committee Room 1 (1459)

 

HANSARD

 

NOVA SCOTIA HOUSE OF ASSEMBLY

 

COMMITTEE

 

ON

 

HUMAN RESOURCES

 

 

Thursday, November 6, 2014

 

 

LEGISLATIVE COMMITTEES OFFICE

 

 

 

Appointments to Agencies, Boards and Commissions

 

 

 

Printed and Published by Nova Scotia Hansard Reporting Services

 


 

 

 

 

 

STANDING COMMITTEE ON HUMAN RESOURCES

 

 

Mr. Bill Horne (Chairman)

Ms. Joyce Treen

Mr. Ben Jessome

Ms. Margaret Miller

Mr. Iain Rankin

Mr. Eddie Orrell

Ms. Karla MacFarlane

Hon. Maureen MacDonald

Hon. Denise Peterson-Rafuse

 

 

In Attendance:

 

Ms. Kim Langille

Legislative Committee Clerk

 

Mr. Gordon Hebb

Chief Legislative Counsel

 

 

 

HALIFAX, THURSDAY, NOVEMBER 6, 2014

 

STANDING COMMITTEE ON HUMAN RESOURCES

 

10:00 A.M.

 

CHAIRMAN

 

Mr. Bill Horne

 

MR. CHAIRMAN: Good morning ladies and gentlemen, thank you for coming today. Hopefully this will be a relatively short meeting, but nevertheless, this is the Standing Committee on Human Resources. I’m Bill Horne, chairman, from the Waverley- Fall River-Beaver Bank riding.

 

You see the agenda: we’re doing ABC appointments and then a short round on our correspondence. I’d like to have our committee introduce themselves.

 

[The committee members introduced themselves.]

 

MR. CHAIRMAN: Thank you. We’ll deal with the appointments. The only appointments are for the Department of Economic and Rural Development and Tourism. I’d like to ask a member to - yes.

 

HON. MAUREEN MACDONALD: Mr. Chairman, just before we do this, I’d like to get some clarification around the procedure and the rules for the operation of this committee. My reason for that is that we were here last week, as we are scheduled to be. We had these names in front of us and they were withdrawn, due to a request from the Premier’s Office.

 

Subsequent to that, these individuals were introduced by the minister in the House of Assembly as the new board members for Invest Nova Scotia. Now here we are today, for an unscheduled meeting, to approve these names. This, in my view, calls into question the relevance of this committee in terms of scrutinizing the appointments to agencies, boards and commissions. I want to understand what the correct procedure is and why this has deviated from the procedure that we have been using for some considerable period of time.

 

MR. CHAIRMAN: Gordon, do you want to comment on that?

 

MR. GORDON HEBB: It’s largely a political question; I’ll answer the legal aspect of it only. The appointments are made by the Cabinet and they have already been made, but subject to the approval of this committee. I can’t comment on announcements by the Premier, that’s not a legal issue.

 

MR. CHAIRMAN: Is that satisfactory?

 

MS. MACDONALD: No. With all due respect, this procedurally is not appropriate and my understanding is that the names come forward to this committee for approval and then they go to the Cabinet for approval, do they not?

 

MR. HEBB: No, it’s the other way around. They have been appointed by the Cabinet and then that’s held off until this committee then approves the appointments.

 

MR. EDDIE ORRELL: So if we were to vote down one of these people, what would happen, because they’ve already been announced?

 

MR. HEBB: Then it would have to go back to Cabinet.

 

MS. MACDONALD: I don’t think that is the process. I think what we need to do is get some clarity around the process, first of all. So perhaps I would move that the chairman, on behalf of the committee, look into this question and come back to the committee and provide us with some clarification about what the actual process is. Then we can have the discussion that flows from an information base that we all have been provided with. That’s what I would suggest.

 

MS. KARLA MACFARLANE: I would second that.

 

MR. CHAIRMAN: Okay, we have a seconder - oh, we don’t need a seconder. Mr. Jessome.

 

MR. BEN JESSOME: Just a quick comment. We received this list of names through Cabinet five days before the previous meeting and procedurally we’re supposed to get these names a week in advance so we felt that because of the significance of this particular board, we should let the procedure take shape, however, get them involved as quickly as possible. I think if that helps in any way, shape or form - we were two days short of the seven-day rule to present to committee, but given the significance of this particular board, I personally feel that it’s important to get them moving as quickly as possible. I don’t know if that helps, but that’s kind of the way I understand it.

 

MS. MACDONALD: It doesn’t really help in terms of what broke down here and what the correct procedure is. All of the ABCs are important. There isn’t one board that’s more important than another board. We don’t have a ranking of the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia board not being as important as the World Trade and Convention Centre board. All of the agencies, boards and commissions are important, and there is a set of procedures for appointing people and for vetting people to these boards. I would hope that those procedures are the procedures that we follow unless there is a very good explanation.

 

I mean, last week we were told that the time frame hadn’t been met. So fair enough, there was an explanation that the rules hadn’t been followed, but then subsequent to that the announcement was made in the House of Assembly and this committee had not approved those names going forward. So that, in my view, calls into question this process. All I’m looking for is some clarification about what the rules and the process are so we can have a discussion about that.

 

MR. JESSOME: I just wanted to clarify - I wasn’t trying to suggest that one board is more important than the other. This is a new thing that we as a government have headed and we’re trying to get them moving fairly quickly. I didn’t mean to allude to the fact that one board is more important than the other. That being said, if there’s clarification, it sounds like clarification would be nice around the table.

 

MR. CHAIRMAN: Mr. Orrell.

 

MR. ORRELL: With all due respect, why didn’t we have the meeting on the following Thursday? It would have been our seven-day time frame. I mean, we could have had it on Monday or Tuesday before the announcement was made, procedures would have been followed, and everybody would have been happy. It does, as Ms. MacDonald says, call into question why we’re here if that has already been decided and done. It has nothing to do with the board. It has nothing to do with the people around the table. It’s just that Cabinet probably shouldn’t have made that announcement until after this meeting, even if it was a done deal.

 

We were ready to debate this last week not knowing the procedure wasn’t followed. I don’t think anybody here is opposing any of these appointments because these people are good people, but if that was the case we should have had the meeting at the end of last week, which would have satisfied our seven-day time frame, or the first of this week. They could have made their announcement - we wouldn’t be any the wiser, but right now I know I feel like this is a done deal - that we’re here to say yes to something that has already been done. We talk transparency - that to me is not transparent.

 

MR. CHAIRMAN: Thank you for your comments. We have a motion on the floor.

 

Would all those in favour of the motion please say Aye. Contrary minded, Nay.

 

How many are Nays? I’ll have to say Nay on that.

 

[The motion is defeated.]

 

We will advise our staff to have a look at the procedures of the board here and what it stands for. I’ll comment on it at the next meeting.

 

MS. MACDONALD: But you’ve just voted against that motion.

 

MR. CHAIRMAN: I did. (Interruptions) One at a time, please - Ms. MacFarlane.

 

MS. MACFARLANE: I’m not clear, this has nothing to do with, other than all of us here, besides Eddie Orrell and Maureen MacDonald being the two who are familiar and they’re confused, we as new MLAs should be looking into understanding the procedures here better because really right now, us sitting here negates the whole purpose of this if Cabinet is going ahead and it’s a done deal - why are we here? There is no purpose for us here.

 

MR. CHAIRMAN: Ms. Treen.

 

MS. JOYCE TREEN: Can I make another motion to get clarification on this, please - the process? I must have been out of the room when we were doing it, sorry, I have allergies. I’m going to put a motion on the floor for clarification of the process of when we bring names forward, please.

 

MR. CHAIRMAN: Mr. Jessome, go ahead.

 

MR. JESSOME: Mr. Chairman, these agencies, boards and commissions have been carried out in a very similar way ever since we started this. We get the resumés and the background on the individuals. They’ve already been vetted through Cabinet, through the people who have submitted names and who contributed their names and there has never been an issue - I shouldn’t say there has never been - we haven’t had an issue like this in approving these in the past.

 

Again, our intent for delaying this board appointment was to allow for that time requirement to be filled. Given the government’s intent to get this board going as quickly as possible, we felt it was important to call this meeting sooner rather than later.

 

MR. ORRELL: If I may, Mr. Chairman. I understand, Mr. Jessome, what you’re saying but I don’t think we’ve been - I’ve been here just three years, and Ms. MacDonald has been here a lot longer than I have. My understanding is that the names go forward, they get recommended by Cabinet, and they come to this board to be approved. There are people who have come to this board that we have had questions about and we delayed their approval.

 

We can’t do that to this board. It has already been announced, they’re already starting to work, from what we’re told. So if we had a concern with someone on this board and we either - if I brought up something that everybody in this room agreed with and that person didn’t get elected to the board, what would the procedure be then? It has been announced, they started work already. That’s the whole idea of this committee, we approve or disapprove somebody.

 

We know we don’t have the power to disapprove someone alone on this side, but if there was something from one of these people that someone knew that nobody else did and that wouldn’t be the best thing for the province and the people of Nova Scotia, I’m sure we would all agree with that. But how do we go about that if this has already been done before this committee has met? That’s all we’re asking. We want to know the procedure.

 

MR. CHAIRMAN: Mr. Rankin.

 

MR. IAIN RANKIN: I’ll ask a question to legal counsel because that’s what I’m relying on here. It’s my understanding that it goes to Cabinet, they make a decision and then it’s vetted here, so they shouldn’t be officially working as of yet until we make this announcement.

 

MR. HEBB: They can’t be officially working until - the legislation under which they were appointed is subject to proclamation, so legislation that has not been proclaimed but has received Royal Assent. You can pass regulations, you can make appointments to boards, but until the legislation is actually proclaimed in force, they don’t do anything. It’s not as soon as their appointment is approved that they can start work; they can’t start work until the legislation has been proclaimed. The last time I checked it hadn’t, unless it has gone through Cabinet today and I don’t believe it has.

 

MR. RANKIN: So you’ve had a week . . .

 

MR. HEBB: They wouldn’t start work until the legislation is proclaimed, but they can be appointed. So the idea is you can do regulations and make appointments ahead of time so that when you do proclaim the legislation, everything is set to go. They shouldn’t have started work - they wouldn’t be able to be paid.

 

MR. RANKIN: So with all due respect, there’s the legal advice that you want - if you go away and do a study, you’re just going to get the same answer back. We can argue about how futile these committees are. I mean, you had a week so if you do have a problem with any of these members, let’s hear it and then let’s have the vote.

 

MR. ORRELL: That’s not the point. Anyway, you guys have made your decision - let’s move on with the meeting.

 

MR. CHAIRMAN: Ms. Miller.

 

MS. MARGARET MILLER: I just had clarification. It was just looked up in the records and when the Premier made the announcement in the House, he said that these were nominees to the board. I thought I had heard that before. I wasn’t sure and I couldn’t tell you where, but I know that it was said at some point that these were nominees and it would still have to come to the board. I think we should move ahead with this. I don’t think we should really stall it.

 

MR. CHAIRMAN: A comment on Ms. Treen’s motion - it’s similar to what Ms. MacDonald . . .

 

MS. MACDONALD: Mr. Chairman, I’ve had my hand up for quite some time. I don’t know if you’re going to recognize me and allow me to speak.

 

MR. CHAIRMAN: I can recognize you, yes. Ms. MacDonald.

 

MS. MACDONALD: Thank you. I want to be very clear that the previous motion - and my intention is not to stall the discussion and the appointment of these people today. If that had been my intention, I would have made that motion. The motion I made and the motion that’s now on the floor is simply to get information about the appointment process - full stop. Just so we’re clear about that.

 

MR. CHAIRMAN: I’ve been told it’s the same motion that Ms. MacDonald had brought forward, so there’s no point in having a vote. You can rescind it if you like.

 

MS. MACDONALD: Let’s just vote on the motion that’s on the floor.

 

MR. CHAIRMAN: There’s no motion on the floor.

 

MS. MACDONALD: There is no motion on the floor? Ms. Treen made a motion.

 

MR. CHAIRMAN: It’s the same motion that was already made.

 

MR. ORRELL: How about we rescind the motion we have from Ms. MacDonald. We’ll let one of you guys come up with the idea and then we’ll run it again. I think it’s a great idea.

 

MR. CHAIRMAN: Mr. Jessome.

 

MR. JESSOME: Mr. Chairman, through you - Mr. Hebb, you just outlined the process for us two minutes ago, did you not?

 

MR. HEBB: The appointment process, yes I did.

 

MR. JESSOME: Mr. Hebb is here to provide counsel on this particular procedural matter and if you have specific questions for him, can you direct them through him right now?

 

MS. MACDONALD: I’ve simply asked the chairman to go away, take the necessary time to look at what the process is for all appointments to ABCs, and come back here with the information. Then we will be able to look at whether or not that process was followed in this case and why it wasn’t, and have clarity for when we move forward on other appointments that will be coming in front of us. This is not the last appointment that our committee will have to deal with.

 

MR. CHAIRMAN: All right, can we have an agreement that we do that? The agreement would be to give the procedure of what this committee does and how it works - how the appointments work. Is that satisfactory?

 

MS. MACDONALD: Yes, let’s move forward and see how this all turns out.

 

MR. CHAIRMAN: Thank you. All right, if someone would like to make a motion to approve the nominations. Ms. Miller.

 

MS. MILLER: Mr. Chairman, under the Department of Economic and Rural Development and Tourism, I’m very pleased to move the following appointments to the Invest Nova Scotia board: Thomas Traves as chairman and voting member; and Elizabeth Beale, Chief Leroy Denny, Kenneth Deveau, Laurie Jennings, Colette O’Hara, Julia Rivard, Adrian White, and David Wilson as members.

 

MR. CHAIRMAN: Would all those in favour of the motion please say Aye. Contrary minded, Nay.

 

The motion is carried.

 

That is the end of the appointments to agencies, boards and commissions. Mr. Orrell.

 

MR. ORRELL: Mr. Chairman, can I bring up another topic for discussion here this morning before we do our correspondence?

 

MR. CHAIRMAN: If it’s not going to take too long.

 

MR. ORRELL: No, it won’t take long. Last week while we were in committee, the members voted against bringing the FOIPOP officer to this committee. In Question Period, the Premier and the Minister of Internal Services both believed that our suggestion was improper; it was a last-minute thing.

 

We’ve shown that our request was in on October 16th, giving everybody lots of time to understand who we wanted to bring forward. So the suggestion from the Premier was that we bring the topic back before the consideration of the committee. The next day the Minister of Internal Services said for us to bring it back to the committee.

 

So today I’m taking the advice of the minister and the Premier, and asking the members of the committee to reconsider us bringing the FOIPOP officer to appear before this committee.

 

I would like to move that we go back to agenda setting today and see if we can bring that forward.

 

MR. CHAIRMAN: Ms. Treen.

 

MS. TREEN: You have two people already arranged; one for December and one for January. I just have to ask, are you going to bump them? Those people think they’re coming in to us (Interruption) We can’t bump somebody who thinks they’re coming to represent - well, maybe you can but I think it’s not a very . . .

 

MR. ORRELL: We’ve done it before, cancelled people and moved people around.

 

MS. MACFARLANE: It happens all the time. (Interruptions)

 

MR. CHAIRMAN: Mr. Rankin.

 

MR. RANKIN: I just think there’s disagreement of when the FOIPOP officer should be coming in. It’s our feeling that we’d like to see her come in but why not give her a chance to work in her role? It’s the same thing in Public Accounts, when as soon as David Darrow took over the Bluenose II file, you guys wanted him in right away. Then we waited actually, we wanted him to come in after he had his footing and you have a better breadth of the discussion when they actually have been in a position for a significant amount of time. I don’t see any reason why that should be rushed, unless it’s for political reasons, that’s all.

 

MR. CHAIRMAN: Mr. Orrell.

 

MR. ORRELL: I don’t see why the person - that should have been said last week instead of a strict no, if that’s the way you actually felt about that.

 

With Bluenose II, Mr. Darrow was in the Premier’s Office for four years before he was in the present Premier’s Office; he knew the Bluenose II file. We’re not talking about Bluenose II today; we’re talking about the FOIPOP officer.

 

Last week we asked the question and we were told no. I’m bringing it back again this week to see if we can get the FOIPOP officer back on. We were told in the Legislature she has worked a number of years in FOIPOP offices across the country, she has more than enough experience to understand what her role is going to be.

 

We’re asking today to put the FOIPOP officer back on as a witness to this committee.

 

MR. CHAIRMAN: Ms. MacDonald.

 

MS. MACDONALD: Just a point of information - I’m attempting to get some information. I have the calendar in front of me for when our committee meets. We meet on the 25th of this month and I see that we have a witness scheduled, the Apprenticeship Agency. On December 16th, do we have a witness scheduled? Yes, we do, and who is that?

 

MS. KIM LANGILLE (Legislative Committee Clerk): It is Labour and Advanced Education regarding benefits for firefighters.

 

MS. MACDONALD: January 27th, do we have a schedule for then?

 

MS. LANGILLE: We do - it’s the Collaborative Partnership Network. They were supposed to come in and they weren’t available. They had to be bumped because of the House hours so they’ve been rescheduled to the 27th.

 

MS. MACDONALD: And February 24th?

 

MS. LANGILLE: I do not have anyone confirmed for that date as yet.

 

MS. MACDONALD: So we could confirm the FOIPOP officer for February 24th?

 

MS. LANGILLE: If the committee agrees.

 

MS. MILLER: I believe that would allow enough time for the FOIPOP officer and it will also take into consideration the people who have already been on the schedule, so I would have no problem with that.

 

MR. CHAIRMAN: Do you want to make that a motion? Ms. MacFarlane.

 

MS. MACFARLANE: I’m just wondering if we would be opposed to having a special meeting. I mean, we had to call a special meeting today, and while the subject matter is of much interest to many, perhaps we could all agree to have a special meeting and call her in. I would like to put that on the floor - that we have a special meeting in order to invite her without bumping anyone else.

 

MS. MILLER: With all due consideration, I don’t really think we need a special meeting. We do have a scheduled meeting. I’m sure you know how busy your schedule is with all the meetings, and I think February is a good time to give her some time to get her legs under her and get the information we need, and also to see the other witnesses previous to that.

 

MR. CHAIRMAN: Would you be willing to make a motion that we have her in February?

 

MS. MILLER: I would like to make a motion that we have the FOIPOP officer come in for the February meeting.

 

MR. ORRELL: I’m glad you guys came up with that idea. Now we might it get passed. Good.

 

MR. CHAIRMAN: Would all those in favour of the motion please say Aye. Contrary minded, Nay.

 

The motion is carried.

 

The next is the correspondence. We have one piece of correspondence from Ms. Deborah MacKenzie. I suggest that we don’t know a lot of information of what this is all about. Apparently it was brought up in the House as a petition. I think Ms. MacDonald might wish to explain that petition a bit.

 

MS. MACDONALD: I actually tabled a petition in the House of Assembly - not this session - I believe in the last session. I don’t have a copy of the petition with me with the operative clause, but Ms. MacKenzie is a constituent of mine and a former employee of the health care system in the province, and has a legitimate concern and is attempting to find a way to facilitate a return-to-work plan.

 

MR. CHAIRMAN: Mr. Jessome.

 

MR. JESSOME: Excuse me, Ms. MacDonald, could you be more specific about what the petition is?

 

MS. MACDONALD: I can’t because I don’t have a copy of it and that was back in April. I do a lot of reading and I really can’t remember a lot about what the petition was. I know that this individual has been employed by the province, has been off work for a considerable period of time and is looking for a return-to-work plan.

 

MR. CHAIRMAN: I do have a copy of what that petition said.

 

MS. MILLER: I would suggest that this is another occasion where we need to be better informed, that we need to have more information about it and have a chance to look at that before the next meeting and decide at that time.

 

MS. MACDONALD: I do know that the petition does not make a request to come to this committee. I’m not sure what the petition actually says but after the petition was tabled, Ms. MacKenzie has been in communication with a number of public servants in the Public Service Commission and has identified the Human Resources Committee. So that’s not part of the petition but she has subsequently written this letter to the clerk.

 

MR. CHAIRMAN: Mr. Jessome.

 

MR. JESSOME: I suggest we recess for five minutes, until we get a copy of the petition.

 

MR. CHAIRMAN: Sure. I’ll accept that.

 

[10:30 a.m. The committee recessed.]

 

[10:32 a.m. The committee reconvened.]

 

MR. CHAIRMAN: Order, please. We’ve had an opportunity to read the additional information. It would appear to me that it’s a bit vague and if individuals should be invited to this committee, it may be another question we have to answer. Normally it’s not done. It doesn’t mean it can’t be done but we would suspect that it would be better to go back to the government department she worked for and have them look at the letter or petition and ask them if they are interested in discussing it with the individual.

 

With individual cases, what is normal, I’m told, is that our committee does not look at them, but it doesn’t preclude the possibility that it could happen. What I’m suggesting is that maybe we talk to this lady individually, or I can, and see what her issue is and who might best have a look at it. Is that fair? Ms. MacDonald.

 

MS. MACDONALD: I certainly can’t speak for Ms. MacKenzie, she’ll make her own decision, but I think that’s a sensible idea for the chairman to speak with her.

 

MR. CHAIRMAN: Thank you. Are there any other comments? Not hearing any, that’s the way we’ll go. Are there any other issues to be brought up?

 

Okay, we’ll call for the meeting to be adjourned. (Interruption) Sorry, the next meeting will be Tuesday, November 25th, 9:00 a.m. to 11:00 a.m. and we’ll have a presenter, the Nova Scotia Apprenticeship Agency.

 

The meeting is adjourned.

 

[The committee adjourned at 10:35 a.m.]