Printed and Published by Nova Scotia Hansard Reporting Services
COMMUNITY SERVICES COMMITTEE
Ms. Marilyn More (Chairman)
Mr. Mark Parent
Mr. Gary Hines
Ms. Judy Streatch
Mr. Jerry Pye
Mr. Gordon Gosse
Mr. Stephen McNeil
Mr. Leo Glavine
Ms. Diana Whalen
[Mr. Gordon Gosse was replaced by Ms. Michele Raymond.]
Ms. Mora Stevens
Legislative Committee Clerk
Dartmouth Family Centre
Ms. Angela Bishop
Ms. Tyla Johnson
HALIFAX, THURSDAY, JANUARY 26, 2006
STANDING COMMITTEE ON COMMUNITY SERVICES
Ms. Marilyn More
MADAM CHAIRMAN: I now call the meeting of the Standing Committee on Community Services to order. I am very pleased to welcome representatives from the Dartmouth Family Centre this morning. So perhaps we will start by introducing the committee members.
[The committee members introduced themselves.]
MADAM CHAIRMAN: So, Angela, would you and Tyla like to introduce yourselves? I understand you are going to give us a presentation.
MS. ANGELA BISHOP: Hopefully a short, sweet presentation and then we will have lots of time for questions. I am Angela Bishop, Executive Director with the Dartmouth Family Centre. Many of you know me from my former position with Community Action on Homelessness.
MS. TYLA JOHNSON: Hi, I am Tyla Johnson, formerly a community home visitor, now a family-community liaison with the Dartmouth Family Centre.
MADAM CHAIRMAN: So you can start with your presentation. Thank you very much.
MS. BISHOP: Okay, super. I know, two weeks ago, your group heard a number of presentations from groups focused on poverty across the province, so I think we all know about the challenges facing individuals, families and communities, because of that. Probably there were a lot of recommendations and proposed solutions to the issues around poverty, and I guess that is why we're here today, because we have one and most of you have one in your communities - those are family centres. Family centres start early. They look at assets and they build for the long term and focus mainly on families, sometimes just the children.
I am going to talk about a few facts about the Dartmouth Family Centre, say a couple of things about why I think we've been successful, talk about three areas of focus of work, and then I am going to turn it over to Tyla because she works one-on-one with families and can bring you a different perspective than I can bring to you.
As Mr. Pye said, we're located in Dartmouth North, but we do work within other areas in Dartmouth and actually help and support family centres throughout the central region. We do work out of the site on Albro Lake Road, but a number of outreach sites, Gaston Road area, East Dartmouth and several others. So we reach over 500 families, and this number continues to grow.
We focus on early language and learning because we know this is the key to the future success of our children. We highlight prevention and early intervention because we don't want to wait until there is a problem before we support families. We also create benchmark practices. We were a pilot site for two different projects, in early language and literacy initiative, and a home visiting program, both of which have informed the province's commitment with the Early Childhood Development Initiative funds from Ottawa.
So our success - I think this is really important - we reach many families, and I think that we've been successful because we're based in the community. There is very little institutional about us and we are always there accessible to families when they need us. We are supported by core funding, and this has allowed us to build relationships and leverage other financial pieces. For example, without that base we would not have the strong relationships that we have with the IWK Health Centre and Public Health.
We are successful because we have trained and committed staff. We focus a great deal on keeping the knowledge base of our staff second to none. We also have a speech pathologist on staff, and not only does she work with families and provide assessment with children, she has also passed on some really important pieces of her knowledge that our other staff can use. So our reach has extended well beyond that of one speech pathologist. I think that many of you may know, I think it's 18 months, maybe, to touch base with a speech pathologist through the more traditional system. So we provide a little bit of that, and maybe early enough that we don't have to go to that formal piece.
We know that families are diverse, but we have learned that they have one thing in common and that is that they all want what is best for their children. So the other reason we are successful is because we work with families who want what is best for their kids.
Just quickly, our areas of work, and I am just going to talk a little bit more about three of them. Coming Together just refers to the fact that we are open and we welcome people 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., sometimes evenings, we are looking at weekends because we have to be there when families need us. Learning Together, that refers to our early language and literacy programs. Again, I will speak more to those. Growing Together is a full continuum of programs and supports for parents. I will talk specifically about that parent support piece, and education and awareness around health issues. The final piece is Building Together, and that is where we go outside our door, because we recognize it takes a village to raise a child and we know that there is a lot of strength in the other community organizations that exist alongside of us in all the communities that we work in.
We know that all these areas of our work are interconnected and that they make an impact on the economy, the justice and child protection system, and the health and education of individuals, and they do make stronger communities.
Last week, Nova Scotians learned that one in three of our friends, neighbours, have literacy levels that affect their ability to be fully participatory in the workforce. I am sure that many of these adults, as children, did not have a rich, early childhood experience and therefore lack that very important foundation for learning. The Dartmouth Family Centre focus is on early language and learning to lay that foundation for children who come to the centre, and that foundation will take them from Primary through to adulthood.
All of our programs reflect proven, early language and learning techniques and we offer a number of interactive programs that bring the parent and the child together. Not only is the child developing that strong foundation, but the parent is also more engaged, more supportive, learning how important their role is to their child. An engaged parent is more likely to support their child through all the different years of school and then their child is more likely to graduate.
The impact of this focus is seen in the long term. There is less connection for young people with the justice system and when they are adults, and studies show right through almost to middle age, these positive things are still happening. Youth with that foundation are also, again, more likely to graduate and as adults achieve higher-paying jobs. Now we know what happens when people achieve higher-paying positions, as income goes up health goes up, the education goes up again. That lingers, and this is one effect we want to have linger. The parents improve, their children improve, and then their grandchildren and on and on.
So our parenting programs - we know income is important, but we also know parenting style has an impact on early childhood development, making it a positive experience. But kids don't come with a set of instructions, and where do you pick up these parenting skills? Well, if you are in Dartmouth, you come to the Dartmouth Family Centre. We start even prenatally, supporting parents in their role, talking about different ways to get the most out of that relationship and attachment with their child. We offer it for toddlers and middle years, and even teens, as need be in the community. Going forward, that is probably going to be even more important - the community constable in our area is saying he is seeing an increase in crime from the eight- to 12-year olds. So our centre is going to respond to that, and that has been identified in the community.
When a parent lacks positive parenting skills, of course there are social implications to that, but when they take a course and build their capacity they decrease the chances of their child connecting with the justice or child welfare system, or in experiencing homelessness.
Study after study shows that youth on the street most likely will cite family conflict as the reason that they are on the street. Again, the majority of those young people will also have had some kind of connection with the child welfare system, whether they were here in Halifax, in HRM, or they are in Ottawa, or they are in Washington, D.C. The placement piece, the child welfare itself costs, over Nova Scotia, over $5 million a year - and I am not that great at math, but when I did the math it worked out to $26,000 per year, per child, in care. Family centres could do a heck of a lot of prevention with that money. It would be dollars better spent. In the same study, where I picked up those numbers, they were also emphasizing that they ought to go back to the community and start looking at prevention pieces. Maybe in the report that prevention piece wasn't highlighted strongly enough, at least not in my eyes, but certainly it's there to look at and something for you all to think about this afternoon when we start talking about solutions.
The second piece of our Growing Together is around health promotion. We know the IWK sees 5,000 children a year with injuries - that is 14 a day; Nova Scotians are the second most obese in this country. This is also related to income; too many young people still smoke, even young mums - our prenatal classes are predominately made up of young ladies who smoke; we know that chronic disease costs over $3 billion - and they say that up to 48 per cent of that is preventable. So our role in that, day-to-day, Tyla and my other colleagues work with parents, it's an ongoing education piece. However the family centre serves as a hub in the community. We offer other groups interested in health issues a connection because we are so good at connecting with families who might not otherwise connect with supports in the community. So in the last little while, the YWCA has been with us, offering a smoking cessation program to young mums; Mount Saint Vincent has been with us with a dietitian; IWK, Child Safety Link, how to prevent injuries; and Public Health offers things like breast-feeding buddies - all building the capacity of our community, the families.
What is a little different about programs that are offered through our centre and the ones you might get elsewhere, is that because the families are regularly in contact with it, we have the opportunity to restate, reinforce, reinforce, and then model those behaviours and those healthy choices that we've talked about in those education and awareness sessions.
That seems to me like that was very short, so I would like to now turn it over to Tyla and she can talk about her experience working within what I have spoken to. Thank you.
MS. JOHNSON: Hello, thank you. At the Dartmouth Family Centre we receive self-referrals, referrals through Public Health, the IWK, and also other organizations. Through our home-visiting program we're able to connect with families who may not necessarily connect with their formal support systems, and hard-to-reach families. So with our Celebratory Bags, we're able to engage and get in homes and connect with families on a level they're comfortable with. In our Celebratory Bags we provide a thermometer, child development information, but also things that may be useful for parenting. We also take books for everyone in the home and focus a lot on literacy and language. We discuss this and talk a lot about the importance of literacy because we know that acquiring this skill creates a domino effect - so opening up one door, opens up another door, and hopefully starting a process of eliminating many of those barriers that parents face unemployment and poverty, just to name a few.
On a home visit, we go in, and families may identify areas that they need support around. One of the common trends that we have found is youth. Mums ask where do we go from here, what do we do at this point? I worked with, contacted by Susie and her mum, really struggling - Susie was on the verge of being kicked out of her home. So although we worked with the family as a whole, my job was focusing a little bit more on Susie. So it was connecting her with an educational program, helping her to enrol in that, also attending other organizations with her, counselling sessions, whatever supports that are recognized, that's what we do. It was also going to tailoring programs for her.
People may not be ready to go into the group setting where you have a parenting program. So we look at tailoring programs to meet families' needs and individual needs. Whether it's one-on-one support - and that could be meeting in a coffee shop - we get very creative, meet families where they are, so once again, they feel comfortable. If it's a mum who is out on her own, a young mum already out on her own with children, on the verge of being evicted, or a teen at home on the verge of being kicked out, we support and do whatever is necessary in order to help them in keeping their housing. So as I mentioned, the one-on-one support, being very creative in getting out there, we can sit with them, make phone calls with them, so building those capacities and those skills at the same time.
We also partner with other organizations that the family is involved with, for instance, if child protection is involved, which we have had happen where child protection was already involved with the family. Melissa, for instance, I'm working with her. We started working with Melissa prenatally, talking about those key messages prenatally. Child protection was involved, partnered with them, and with that we have a family-plan meeting in which Growing Together team members from the centre are involved, the family is invited, child protection workers, and any other organization or individuals that the family recognizes they feel would be an important person around that table.
It's looking at developing and identifying strengths of the family, but also recognizing some areas of support that the family may need support around. Having this process happen allows everyone to be on the same page. We're all working towards the same goal that is beneficial to all, because as Angela had mentioned, over $52 million a year in placement services for youth and children. So in whatever way we can to build that and keep youth and young mums in their housing, we try to do.
As Angela mentioned, we begin prenatally. We seem to find trends and issues that seem to come up, obesity, smoking, as Angela mentioned, so we talk a lot about nutrition and healthy snacks. Home visitors can take that educational component into the home, taking resources, materials, actually doing the hands-on stuff with mums. Tina, who I had worked with said, Tyla, I've never really had much of a role model when it comes to parenting, and my own skills, many of the things I've done I've taught myself. So trying to find ideas and preparations and snacks for her son, and meals, in going into the home, identifying, well, I don't have any food, I don't know what to do. In talking with her and pointing things out, we realized that it was just not knowing what to do with what she had. So sitting down, showing her how to break up the food she had bought into different meals, simple meal ideas, taking cookbooks, going through making the items with her so that way she is building that confidence that she can do this on her own, and also that is carried over into the centre. The environment and the consistency in the centre creates that and supports that.
When families come in and access the centre, they will see in our drop-in area healthy nutritious snacks on a regular basis. We receive food from the food bank and we've made a choice at the centre to only accept healthy snacks for the families. Even though you may be in dire straits, you can still make healthy choices for you and your family. We provide healthy snacks for all of our workshops and programs. We have our child development room. Our staff sit at the table - some child care programs staff may feed the children and kind of go and do their thing - at the Dartmouth Family Centre staff sit at the table with the children, modelling those good eating behaviours, talking about the food, what it brings to your body, and how it is healthy for you. Our parent-child interactive programs, you've got mums and dads and children and staff at the table, so the parents see the staff modelling these behaviours. You start to see that these same parents are modelling the same behaviours and using these same key messages and words with their own families, so you start to see that learning happening.
Prenatally we provide a healthy supper for our prenatal mums. We also provide grocery bags that mums can take home at the end of each evening. We have received feedback from parents saying that their healthy eating either increased or began during pregnancy. So, once again, it's providing those key messages during those prenatal years, and that way it's starting to carry over.
We also try to make our meals cost-effective, so that way when families leave - we also provide the recipes - they're able to leave and go and have the opportunity to try it at home, and cost-effective so parents can go into the grocery store and purchase the same things. We find that in breaking down the barrier of "I can't afford it" really seems to motivate parents to want to do this, and continue with providing healthy snacks for their children and themselves.
It's providing workshops as well, programs around shopping on a budget, healthy snack ideas. We also provide cooking workshops. We have a community cupboard with non-perishable items where families can come and exchange items for things that they have at home that they're not using or don't need at the time. So through that we also provide information there - if you don't have this, then you can use this. We also have recipes in there, meal bags, and things that parents can just add certain things to it, so making those sort of education pieces, but also, once again, providing that model and component. So staff are constantly modelling these behaviours as well.
MADAM CHAIRMAN: Well, thank you very much. Like Jerry, I know first-hand the quality of the programming that your centre provides and I think it's an excellent model for centres across Nova Scotia, so I'm sure that there's going to be lots of interest today in questions.
Now, I'm just wondering, Mark, I actually have you down first, but since Diana is leaving, would you mind if she (Interruption) Thank you very much. Diana.
MS. DIANA WHALEN: Yes, thank you very much. Again, thank you so much for being here and I think it's a real eye-opener for us in communities that don't have a family resource centre to hear of the kind of work you are doing and the impact that it has. So the first thing I'm thinking is, what have we got that's anywhere equivalent near Clayton Park, because I know from speaking to constituents, and all of us on a daily basis are talking to people, often people in need, and they need to be referred or find out where services are, and I feel that a lot of areas in Halifax are without services like this. Even in the Clayton Park riding, which people think is fairly middle class and comfortable, we have a lot of people who need help and people on social assistance, or people who don't have these basic skills.
I feel that we definitely need to support an expansion of that kind of program and my thought is it's very cost-effective. So my questions to you, what is your budget, how many staff have you got, and who are your funders?
MS. BISHOP: One thing that you mention is what Ralph Klein is doing in Alberta, he is actually putting a family centre kind of around the corner from absolutely every family in the province. It's one of his goals, very progressive. Our budget is approximately $850,000 a year, we have 15 full-time staff. Up until approximately three years ago we received $250,000 from a federal government program called the Community Action Program for Children, which is now administered under the Public Health Agency of Canada, and approximately $150,000 in core funding from the Department of Community Services. Then there would be dribs and drabs of different programming, but those were the two core pieces that have allowed us to grow and the base for the other programming pieces.
Since the province kicked off its Early Childhood Development Initiative, we received much more and so do the majority of family centres across the province - 30-plus, I believe - close to $90,000 a year from that initiative. That doesn't all stay with us. When I spoke about our outreach in the community, we have a full-time position that's kind of ours but kind of everybody's. We support her work and she will go to a daycare and train the early childhood educators around how to make their programming really language and literacy rich. Next week she's going to the Atlantic Aboriginal Conference in New Brunswick and passing that information on to them so that all the Friendship Centres there will have that. That's the type of thing she does. We're kind of the host for that piece.
We, of course, are uncertain about our money going forward with the change at the federal level. We were also anticipating some change in our federal funding because there was some concern that the CAPC funding would be transferred for administration of the province. There are always challenges when there's a change in administration.
MS. WHALEN: Thank you so much. I think it sounds as though it's still extremely good value and I'm interested to hear that Alberta's looking at this as an expansion as well. The other thing that struck me during your presentation was that you have such an emphasis on literacy and learning that you could just as easily be speaking to the Human Resources Committee which looks at education. There's a greater discussion now with the province and all of the MLAs about early childhood and the Pre-Primary Program and things like that. I think you're even starting sooner to build that base.
I think my time is up and I will pass it on.
MADAM CHAIRMAN: Thank you. Mark.
MR. MARK PARENT: Thank you for your presentation. I should get my prejudice out on the table right away because my late wife worked at the Family Support Centre in Kentville, housed in the church where I used to work - Kentville Baptist Church - so I'm a big supporter of the family support services in the Kings County area. They've done an excellent job. A big supporter for many reasons that you mentioned - they're community based, they work on prevention, they work co-operatively with the parents and with the
community and I think all those are strengths that, as Diana mentioned, really give good value for money.
There were some concerns raised by the supporters of the centre with the new daycare plan that was initiated by Ken Dryden because they felt that most of that money was going to be going to daycare centres rather than family support centres. That was going to be one of my questions, but I guess now everything's in flux and we're not exactly sure where the funding is going to go. I'll certainly be advocating that there are funds for the family support centres since I think they do such an excellent job.
Two quick questions then - one of the areas which I think Tyla touched on, but our support centre doesn't do a lot of work on because of lack of resources and funding, it concentrates only on the early ages, but you're doing some work with parents of teens as well?
MS. JOHNSON: We have found that's a common trend now, getting calls from parents in terms of services for youths, where do we go from here, that transition piece. Working with the family as a whole, but certainly supporting that youth on a one-to-one basis. We have found that is seen to be much of a trend now in terms of working with them.
We say we do everything except clean house and babysit and even that's a fine line. We will go with families, we will accompany youth to programs, make calls with them - building that self-esteem and confidence within them, so building those capacities. We also have youth volunteers in the centre as well. We also have our prenatal program. As Angela mentioned, we have found an influx of young teen mums with our prenatal group to a point whereby we may have to do two separate groups in order to accommodate the great number of youth that we are getting now in the centre.
MR. PARENT: In terms of your client base, is there an income cut-off level? Do they have to be below a certain income, or is it open to anyone who wants to use your service?
MS. BISHOP: We will support all families, but we make special efforts to connect with families with fewer resources, and that just isn't a matter of income, it could be a newcomer who doesn't have family nearby. One of the reasons that we are able to work with youth and possibly other family centres across Nova Scotia aren't able to, is our federal funding is tagged zero to six because the programs were developed to support that brain development piece. Our funding from the Department of Community Services is for families. So that piece allows us to do - they are all jumbled up together, somehow everything happens with the two pieces combined.
MR. PARENT: In regard to the Pre-Primary Program that the Department of Education is implementing, how is that going to affect your work? Are you working co-operatively with that? That is at a very early stage now.
MS. BISHOP: We have expressed interest in the Pre-Primary Program on several occasions. Our staff has the capacity to support those early childhood educators in their role. One piece of that pre-Primary is, of course, the engagement of parents, and that is one thing that we do very well, and it is an absolute necessity. We don't do the daycare piece, so when parents come with their children, they have to stay. They Jump, Jiggle and Jive with their children. We had Minister Morse in doing it with us in the Fall, actually. So we focus on the parent too, and I believe the pre-Primary is doing that. The woman I spoke about who was going to all the family centres has trained the pre-Primary teachers all across the province - and her work has been supported and influenced by the centre - has been at it a long time.
We have had a preschool. It was one of the pilot programs that I mentioned earlier, where we developed some benchmarks, and that is in the Boys and Girls Club, so it's a wonderful partnership. It would be one thing I would refer to under Coming Together that I didn't expand upon, that preschool has an uncertain future because of funding issues.
MR. PARENT: Working with the parents, I think, is one of the strengths, because one of the innovative things that they do at that centre in Kentville is work on healthy eating. Of course the benefit of that is, if the young people start getting accustomed at a very early age to eating properly, rather than junk food, then it pays off for the health system, for the cost we incur there. One very last question, I may want to come back, Madam Chairman. I'm really supportive of what you do and I want you to know that. Is there an association that binds the groups together? Do you meet with the staff from Kentville - and I assume there are ones in other parts of the province - and work cohabitively, or are you all operating on your own?
MS. JOHNSON: We do, there are family resource centres that come together every so often, every few months. There was just actually another networking meeting just this month. So we come together, we talk about what other resource centres are doing, what challenges we are finding, things that have worked, we talk about successes. They also bring in different guest speakers, where, in the afternoon, you kind of break into your little groups to see what this presenter is there to present. It's another way to connect with other resource centres. We find it very hard to kind of always get around to see what everyone is doing, but this is one way we can all come together and connect and find out what each centre is doing, things that have worked, programs that are happening, and also to exchange resources as well. That's every three to four months that those are planned.
MS. BISHOP: Those meetings take place on a regular basis as Tyla said, in a central region. Over the last 10, 15 years, since that federal funding piece has been in place, those family centres that are funded by that program have come together once a year. At the event
that happened in the Fall, the non-federally funded family centres were invited and a steering committee was struck, of which I am a member, to form a provincial association for family centres, and the Executive Director of the Kentville Family Centre is involved in that. She is not on the steering committee but she has been setting up a Web communication thing for us.
MR. PARENT: Okay. Thank you very much.
MS. BISHOP: So a powerful voice coming from that, hopefully.
MADAM CHAIRMAN: We were joined earlier in the meeting by Michele Raymond, who is the MLA for Halifax Atlantic. Michele's filling in for Gordie Gosse who, I believe, was storm-stayed in Cape Breton.
Michele, I believe you have some comments or questions?
MS. MICHELE RAYMOND: Thank you very much, both of you. I'm sure, like a lot of other people around the table, I'm very committed to the concept of family resource centres, and I'm glad to know there are as many as 30 out there. I wasn't actually aware of the numbers.
The area I represent includes Spryfield, which I'm sure lots of people have heard me talk about at some length as an area which was a rural area in my memory and over the course of 30 to 35 years has become completely urbanized. It has been very interesting to watch what that has done to essential skills and to family integrity and so on over the years, which is why I've been very much involved in things like the Urban Farm Museum Community Gardens. I think it is also why we are fortunate to have a single-parent resource centre, which is belied by its name because it actually is a family resource centre. It's a very unfortunate thing that it's left that way as I think it probably fails to attract as many people to its programming as it could, although it's well-subscribed, the St. Paul's Family Resource Centre and so on.
It's been interesting to watch a new community develop out of 10, 15 years of this kind of work. My first question, what was the genesis of the Dartmouth Family Centre - how did it come about?
MS. JOHNSON: Actually, this centre was up and running when I came on. I started out with the preschool and then home visiting.
MS. BISHOP: It was a woman named Alice Hale in the community who, by gosh, she saw a problem and she was going to make it happen. She was going to change it. That's how it happened. Very much so.
MS. RAYMOND: So community-driven, and that's pretty well how these continue to arise.
MS. BISHOP: It continues to be community-driven in that the majority of our board members are from the community, and we also have parents on our board to keep us on our toes.
MS. JOHNSON: Also, if I could add something. In our home visiting program, our home visitors are also parents who have either lived in the community at some point or still live in the community. Some have grown up there themselves, so they are quite connected as well so that whole community piece.
MS. RAYMOND: So very much like ours then. I guess one of the things I was wondering about was that in Spryfield we have a postpartum Doula Program, which is a paid service. It has been funded partly through the Department of Health and partly through Community Services, although I'm not sure how much that's continuing. That has shown great success, particularly in nutritional things, as a health promotion initiative. Have you been able to get one running or keep it running?
MS. BISHOP: I'd like a Doula Program, but I haven't told the staff yet. I'm quite familiar with what they've been doing in Spryfield, the postpartum particularly.
MS. JOHNSON: In our prenatal program we actually do tell our pregnant mums about the Doula Program and refer families to the Doula Program. After mums have their babies, we do have postpartum programs set up, but also home visitors can go into homes and we provide that celebratory visit and talk about those nutrition pieces and one-to-one support around that - on getting to know baby, taking care of babies, those sorts of pieces. We're able to have in-home support.
MS. RAYMOND: The getting to know baby part is a little scary, but that was one of the things I was particularly wondering about. I guess that's about all I would like to say, and to commend that particularly around the health promotion and the food issues, programmed eating and so on. Out of curiosity, do you or do any of the food banks do anything like a basics supplies list and menu thing? Is that how that works?
MS. BISHOP: We have a program that's called the Basic Shelf. That takes the things you almost always have in your cupboard and provides tons of ways you can mix them up and shake them up. The Mount Saint Vincent dietitians have come on a couple of occasions and updated that cookbook so when the Heart Association puts out new guidelines, they will redo and rejig so it's also heart friendly. It is also what we're attempting to do at the prenatal, that a volunteer comes into the centre and makes a healthy, easy, great-tasting meal for the mums, the young mums. They can have the recipe and we're moving towards linking up that grocery bag Tyla tied up, with what's in the slow cooker tonight, it's what you can make at
home and everyone will leave our prenatal program with a slow cooker. So much thanks to the IWK for their support and also our expansion of our prenatal program into the Dartmouth East area.
MS. RAYMOND: Well, listen, thank you very much because you're really helping with filling in some of the holes for a transient, particularly transient, and especially urban population.
MS. BISHOP: Yes. I don't want to leave the impression that the family centre can solve everything because certainly as long as incomes remain low, we won't be able to stay ahead of it, I don't believe.
MS. RAYMOND: Thank you very much.
MADAM CHAIRMAN: Jerry.
MR. JERRY PYE: Thank you, Madam Chairman, and first I want to say that I'm impressed and delighted at the knowledge that my colleagues have at this Standing Committee on Community Services today in speaking about family resource centres and their tremendous support behind family resource centres. As an MLA who knows the value of a family resource centre being located in the constituency, I have a better understanding of the kind of services and programs that you provide. I have much the same clients that you have coming though your doors coming through my office. So I certainly know the importance of nutritional meals, the issue of poverty and so on.
So there are two questions that I would like to ask you today. A couple of weeks ago we had a two-day Forum on Poverty and in that two-day Forum on Poverty the single most important issue that came out was the inadequate funding for personal dollars and that meant to purchase food because that's where the bulk of the food dollar comes from, that personal allotment of $194. I've heard you talk at length today about preparing nutritional meals. I do find that it's almost impossible because of the amount of dollars that they receive from the department to provide nutritional meals.
MS. BISHOP: Yes.
MR. PYE: Even when individuals come to our office and we direct them to do it in a frugal way by going to the food bank and getting the non-perishables and the dry goods and then to save their dollars to buy the perishable items that they need and how to utilize and better utilize the dollars that come through, even with those very fundamental basics of calculations of providing the right dollars for food, it's still not sufficient. So I don't know how you do that and I think that you're probably in support of an increase in the personal allotment to the families on social assistance?
MS. BISHOP: Yes.
MR. PYE: The other question is around expanding the programs and services of the Dartmouth Family Resource Centre. As you know, because of gentrification of communities, what happens is some families who have had family resource centres find themselves moved out of those communities and into other communities. I do know that you mentioned Caledonia-Kennedy and, in fact, you had mentioned the Gaston Road area, both which are similar or akin to the makeup of the structure of Dartmouth North. Yet you only provide, I believe, a two-day program in the Caledonia-Kennedy area and you may have to bring the people in from the Gaston Road area to the Family Resource Centre of Dartmouth North. Because of the value of the services of the programs that you provide, is it not possible to encourage government to find stationary facilities in both of those communities? You have mentioned Ralph Klein's comment about a family resource centre in every community, is it not possible to encourage government to do the same thing here? Those are the two questions.
MS. BISHOP: We would love it if the province wanted to buy us a few buildings. Who will I meet with early this afternoon? Some of you may know - I know Marilyn knows - that we were located on Wentworth Street in downtown Dartmouth, and just because of the gentrification that Jerry refers to, we closed up shop and left because we want to be easily accessible to those who need us most. We don't turn anyone away, but we make special efforts to connect with them.
So we had a plan in the community of East Dartmouth, very close to the Caledonia area that Jerry just referred to. We then discovered the building had some environmental problems and certainly wasn't a feasible option for us. So since that time, which was since August, we have been working out of church basements, the Rotary Club. (Interruption) Yes, schools, doing some programming as much as possible. I think that we have to look at whether we want a shotgun approach. So we're just two days, or two mornings a week in one community, or we're going to go with the rifle.
So we're right there in the middle and we have 70 to 80 families that we work with all the time, or we're spread thin. The board has requested that I look into the opportunity to purchase. I had suggested that to the board because of the opportunity that might give us to grow, to build up some equity. Actually, quite some wonderful family centres have done that, Memory Lane in Sackville is incredible and they own everything that they work with. We can't find just the right one, and one issue is the accessibility. We just went through - every bit of it was worth it - but it was an ordeal to have our centre made accessible, and that's only on the top level because it was an old building and it was this and that. Now I know I should have gone to see my MLA and had it all solved, I was told after. (Interruptions) You see, we would have to be creative, and I don't have Jerry's magic.
We look at buildings and they're just not appropriate for people in wheelchairs. We do have parents who do have disabilities, and young kids. It's difficult, and we want to be accessible to them. So we're just kind of taking our time and not looking to make a quick decision, because we have to live with it for a long time and we're accountable to the families who we work with and also to our funders, that we've made some wise decisions around our resources.
The first question you asked, we certainly do know that - like I said we're creative, but not magic. Lots of times it doesn't matter what we do, there simply is not enough money. We thought today, because we knew that there had been a two-day session on poverty, we would focus and talk about what can be done, and the family centre is doing it. We're starting early so maybe we won't have to have a two-day focus on this in 30 years when these little guys are your age, 30. (Interruption) So, yes, we do agree with that.
MR. PYE: It truly is a serious issue because it doesn't matter how much you practise nutrition, and you can have the best persons - I remember a few years back when, in fact, St. Anthony's Parish opened up what was called the community kitchen and brought in families through a social action committee, brought in families to teach nutritional values and good eating habits and so on. It really didn't matter then and I don't know if it matters a whole lot now.
I know you're putting a lot of emphasis on it, but when you don't have the real dollars to provide the nutritional meals, then it's virtually impossible regardless of how well you're taught to provide those meals if the dollars aren't there, and you go to the store to purchase the consumer goods that are needed to prepare a nutritional meal, it just doesn't happen. The single most important issue, other than shelter, that comes through our office, is a lack of dollars for meals at the end of the month.
A week at the end of the month is disastrous for most families in Dartmouth North, and I would say that that's consistent throughout the entire province for those individuals who are on social assistance. I do believe that was one of the reasons why we heard this comment loud and clear every day during the Forum on Poverty, was the lack of dollars allowed for family food and personals. It's $194 now and I don't know if you have a number, if you could tell us a number you might think would be appropriate to provide good, basic nutritional meals a month for a family.
MS. BISHOP: I believe Dalhousie University did a food basket study so that number could easily be found, but I don't have it at the top of my head. I want to say that the struggles around income and access to food are kind of on a continuum. You're speaking to the most severe challenged, I think, people on social assistance.
But we also work with families who work and they still get it put to them. We have a lot of success because they just squeak by, their kids aren't going to the rink, they're not playing hockey, they're missing out on all kinds of different things, but they're just squeaking by. It's a continuum of struggle.
The other thing is that just because of the structure of the sector - this has been a hot issue around the whole daycare piece but this affects family centres too because we have early childhood educators with us - their pay sucks. On average, I'm happy to say, we pay more than average. Our funding doesn't allow much more than a little bit of happiness around that, but when you have an average salary of $19,800, that person is living well below the poverty line when you consider the housing costs that they face. They have little left at the end of the day. It might be okay if they're in a relationship and they're sharing expenses, but that is a really poor reason for somebody to have to push themselves into a relationship. Those dollars into the sector would have been very important because once a system is strong it's harder to break.
MADAM CHAIRMAN: Leo.
MR. LEO GLAVINE: Thank you, Angela and Tyla, for coming in today. Once again, very enlightening and a lot of tie-ins with the two-day forum we had on poverty as well. I just had to chide my colleague here, Mr. Pye, for not reading his mail from Madam Chairman because we did have a letter from Elizabeth Brown, Co-chair of the Face of Poverty Consultation. In consulting with the Nova Scotia Nutrition Council, they have suggested an increase of $25 per month for each individual in the home would be a wonderful step toward helping to deal with some of the nutrition deficiencies.
MS. BISHOP: A baby step . . .
MR. GLAVINE: Yes, but I just wanted to put that on the record this morning. (Interruptions)
MS. BISHOP: Jerry just wanted to see if we knew, that's all.
MR. GLAVINE: That's it. A good atmosphere around a very tough area to deal with. The family centres certainly play a key role.
In my riding there is just one centre - I say unfortunately one centre - and it is the Military Family Resource Centre which is a little bit of a different model in that they're very, very well funded and have a tremendous range of services that they offer. One of the opportunities as an educator that I had was to work with them as school and community liaison. I'm just wondering if you have any kind of relationship like that with schools in the neighbourhood of the family resource centre?
MS. BISHOP: We connect with almost all of the schools in our area. We connect with them just to say, hi. We connected with them through an initiative everyone in Dartmouth knows about called Knowledge is Power, funded by the Justice Department to look at what assets do the young people in a community have and what are the gaps and let's have a lot of discussion about how we can address them.
We also, in a way that complements the Pre-Primary Program, offered a Ready, Set, Go! program in three schools in Dartmouth last year and we've trained other people to do it. We take the little one and the parent and provide them with an experience in the school in June so that they arrive a little "warm" in September. Also connecting with the family military centres, especially around the formation of that association, they have been very supportive of that, absolutely.
MR. GLAVINE: Yes, I am pleased to hear that because when you talk about your work - which I see as really vital, very critical and you did key in on that zero- to six-year age group, which is where the care and the support is so vital to that child's future - I'm just wondering if you have families and children for an extended period of time, a little bit over a continuum to observe what is going on, or is it more of a kind of a one-hitch during the pre-pregnancy or just afterwards? What kind of time frame do you often have children because I know that there are a couple of community health centres that are working, for example, with three-year olds. They are trying to key in on three-year olds. What have we missed in the early couple of years about their health, cognitive abilities and any deficiencies that they can possibly help with before going to school? I'm just wondering if you were with them long enough to get that sense of where help may be needed.
MS. JOHNSON: We actually will begin prenatally, so we can have a mum come in prenatally, and then move on from there to programming after baby is born, also connecting with a home visitor and accessing programs within the centre. I can sit here and think of many, many families where we have watched prenatally, and babies come in and we watch them grow as infants. We also have Ages and Stages, which we connect families with. It's a developmental screening which parents can fill out themselves, so we can pick up things in area support that children may need at that point. We also connect with the schools. We have a unity program, Understanding Needs and Ideas through Youth. So it's that continuum of birth right on up that we are able to connect with and work with these children and their families.
MR. GLAVINE: Thank you. Angela, being connected with the wider provincial association, what do you see happening and, perhaps more importantly, not happening in rural Nova Scotia, where we know there are limitations on such access and knowledge and program support?
MS. BISHOP: Yes, well I know that in some rural areas they don't really have a centre, they operate out of their cars. That's all they do, they meet at a small office and they go to church basements and they are in a different community every day. That's a stressful way to work. We have been doing that only since August. How fond are our colleagues of that? Not so happy. It's hard.
I think that it is more difficult in the rural area, and the challenge there is that families cannot walk there. They might set up at the church, but the mum can't get there anyway. They can't access it even if they tried their best to make themselves accessible, people still can't reach them. I think for instance that the Healthy Beginnings Program where we have a couple home visitors, I think there just may not be the numbers of births in a rural community to support one, but yet the one or two who do need that don't get it. So those would be the challenges that I would see.
MR. GLAVINE: Do I have much time?
MADAM CHAIRMAN: Do you want to save your questions for round two? One quick one? Okay.
MR. GLAVINE: I don't want to be too harsh here, but in some ways you have a lot of stand-alone value in your program, a lot of what you are doing is it the failure of Family and Children's Services, that you are picking up a lot of pieces through the family support centre? How would you react to that, Angela?
MS. BISHOP: Well, I don't believe that it is a failure of the Department of Community Services, I believe it is a failure of how we as a society do things, and I think that if you want to look at the Department of Community Services, we can also look at Justice, Health, and on and on. I think maybe the place to start is to look at ourselves and our neighbours. I don't believe that we just ought to be solutions-based and what can we do and change going forward. There are many things that many people could do.
MADAM CHAIRMAN: Thank you. Stephen.
MR. STEPHEN MCNEIL: Thank you, Madam Chairman, and I thank both of you for coming in and giving a presentation. Just a general comment, and it's really on your last comments, that highlights the problem that traditionally happens around governments, and I include us involved in that, is we become single focused and look at an issue and say it's the Department of Community Services when this issue encompasses so many departments. Trying to bring them all together and break down those silos is a real challenge, whether it's dealing with this issue or many other issues that we're faced with.
MS. BISHOP: Yes, we deal more with Health issues really than Community Services. I shouldn't say that or you'll tell me to go to Health for your funding, but we're doing health promotion all day long and they really aren't at the table to the same extent. Now, we get a little bit through the Healthy Beginnings piece that's funnelled down from Ottawa, but otherwise we don't receive anything from Health. Well, we get support from IWK, they're supported by Health, so it comes but, you know, not directly, and a lot of our support from IWK is in kind.
On Wednesdays there's a team called the Growing Together team and that includes all the community home visitors, speech pathologists, developmental psychologists from IWK, Public Health nurses, women's mental health worker, and different people you need at different times, and that team is there to support families who are going through a rough time. We do a lot of prevention so this piece, we would call it early intervention. So we want to work with that family as much as possible to keep them out of that child welfare system because that's good for the family and it's also good for the bottom line of government because it's much more efficient to do it that way. So that's how those groups contribute to us. We would look a whole lot different if we didn't have those partnerships.
MR. MCNEIL: You spoke about health promotion and you talked about basically among young children and one of the challenges is around nutritional eating. It's also a challenge for many poor families to provide that physical activity for their children because they can't afford to be enrolled in all the things that happen outside in the community. One of the things that I would like to see government do, and I'm wondering if you have had the opportunity to encourage them to do that, is to provide physical education or physical activity in schools on a daily basis - whether it be 20 minutes - and I would just like to get your reaction on what impact you would think that would have on the children getting involved, not only the children that you're serving but also the children of Nova Scotia?
MS. BISHOP: I believe that physical education should be a part of the school day, but I believe that opportunities outside of school should also be a focus. HRM has a kids' program, but I think they're scooped up in about 10 minutes so have never been able to access one. At least during the school days the children are occupied. So it's after-hours where they need to have some diversion and some positive influence in their life. So both pieces have to be addressed and physical education is a good way - not just the health piece, but also the mental health piece.
MR. MCNEIL: Yes, and providing it in schools, you're right, it's not enough and it wouldn't be enough when you're dealing - there are many of the hours after the school issues that we need to deal with, but if we begin to deal with it at the school level, we begin to put the mindset on how important it is to have that physical activity. We have children out there today who, unless we're keeping score, don't act and don't participate; it's not for the love or the fact that it's a healthy thing you're doing, it's a count of how many goals or how many baskets you have is the important thing which we've lost focus on that. Once the score has
been struck, people aren't active and I think that's one of the rules that schools can play, is to create that mindset in young people that we're doing that for health reasons, we're doing it because it makes us feel good at the end of the day. You mentioned that you're dealing with children from one to six, is really your catchment area. How many?
MS. BISHOP: Well, because of the federal funding, the emphasis of that federal funding is zero to six, but we work with children of different ages because of the flexibility of the Department of Community Services' piece. So we can stay with families much longer than - I mean it seems weird, you're six, bye. So, fortunately, we don't have to say goodbye to our families in an abrupt way. They usually move away or get married.
MR. MCNEIL: Do you have a waiting list?
MS. BISHOP: No, no, but we're full, I don't know, 17 or 18 babies sometimes in the place on Wednesday afternoons, 500 families, so what, 2.5 kids per family. Maybe some of them are one. We do have that number, I just don't have it with me, but it's a lot of kids.
MR. MCNEIL: You must be fearful that a family like my mother's might arrive in your community.
MS. BISHOP: Well, we are, we are. We never try to connect in Annapolis. Tyla mentioned something that you might be interested in around the Ages and Stages. We are very involved in research. We have a good partnership with Dalhousie University, and that's how we establish what we're doing is working; dare say a survey sent out to parents at milestone points - I think it's three, six, nine - they send it back, we look at it, and parents have opportunities to express concerns. We make sure the development pieces are all coming along as they should be.
MR. MCNEIL: Good. You also mentioned in your presentation staff training and the fact that you encourage that and continue to encourage learning. Does the province give you additional funding for that or is that something that you take out of your operational budget?
MS. BISHOP: It comes from our operational budget. One thing that we are really fortunate to have is, many of our staff are also trainers. So when new people come on we can train and support internally. Natalie Downey, who is the GT coordinator and a speech pathologist, is a certified trainer with Invest in Kids Foundation out of Toronto. She actually travels across Canada and has been consulting on - well, maybe I shouldn't say that - different government initiatives through Invest in Kids, backed by the experiences at the centre. So she's training people all across Canada on how to deliver these parenting programs that we've been doing for a number of years.
MR. MCNEIL: One final question if I may.
MADAM CHAIRMAN: One quick one.
MR. MCNEIL: You talked about your funding in the provincial and federal - do you spend much of your time fundraising?
MS. BISHOP: Maybe six months ago, after I started, we restructured, we put in place a half-time resource development position, because the reality of non-profits hadn't quite caught up to the Dartmouth Family Centre, but it's catching up quickly. So by being a little proactive we, at this point, will not be losing any of our supports, but we are facing the loss of some funders in the near future.
MR. MCNEIL: Thank you very much.
MR. GARY HINES: Thank you, Madam Chairman. I think, back as far as I can remember, and that goes 55 years or so I guess, that the message that always got out to you in school and from your parents was to stay in school. I think that message has resonated throughout life. Somewhere along the line we went to the extreme where stay in school meant graduating, get into university, and go on to those areas of participation in order to make the big dollar. One of the areas that I've promoted within caucus, as have others, is that we can't all go through Grade 12. Somewhere there has to be opportunities to ramp off and get back to our trade schools, our trades, and so on.
How advanced is your promotion of education, and do you deal with the old suggestion that stay in school and get an education is the message, or have you sent the message out to the teenagers and so on whom you deal with that there are two areas that you can make good money, because there's good money in the trades, because the promotional aspect of it is the opportunity to make the big dollar, to make good dollars so you can have a better quality of life. I think somewhere along the line we have to start to ramp off and increase the training of our tradespeople, and so on because we are in a deficit now for tradespeople and they do make big money. I just wondered, do you get that involved in the education piece that you indicate the areas that perhaps they may go.
MS. BISHOP: Our education piece is focused on those early years, to lay that foundation. So whether they go to trade school or university, they have what it takes to get through that. We would have that or facilitate that kind of connection with a young person through some partners. We have different groups that come in and counsel people on employment - Dartmouth Literacy Network, Women's Employment Outreach might use our centre so I'm not sure what messages they are delivering, but we feel that we're really successful if they all have the capacity to make those choices, because many people, trade school or university, they don't have the foundation to move forward.
MR. HINES: One of the difficulties with the suggestion is that we may be seen as encouraging young people to not try to get their Grade 12 because they can get out of Grade 9 and go into the trade schools, and so on. I think the kids themselves realize, at a point, that maybe we don't have the capacity to go to Grade 12 and graduate and go beyond, and they give up and say, well, I'm relegated to job to job and just kind of a meaningless existence eking out a living, when they come out of trade schools and so on with proper credentials and they go on to job sites and job opportunities. I think that's where we as a government and we as a society have failed over the last seven to 10 years is to encourage individuals who determine for themselves they can't reach Grade 12 or can't go beyond that there are opportunities above and beyond. I just wondered if you were involved with the tradespeople. I think many of the unions would assist you in that type of program and provide people for speaking engagements and for that type of program as well.
MS. BISHOP: While that's not an area we focus on a lot, I guess in some way I feel young people may not have the language and literacy skills to make a choice. So if someone chooses trades or university - I went to university but my dad was a farmer, I had my hands dirty plenty of times, so I have nothing against trades - I think people ought to have the choice, and if they don't have the choice to go to university because they can't read, because they didn't get that important foundation when they were children, we should do what we can to have that not happen and then let people make their choice. Then it's a choice, not, you know, I'm dumb. I remember vocational school, the dumb kids went there. The vocational school in Kentville, you didn't want to be seen there. Certainly the image of the community colleges has changed dramatically.
MR. HINES: Well, an example of some 25 years ago, I guess. I went North to work and I made $110,000 the year I was working up North, and I was operating equipment. To a lot of people, the perception is that you're only an equipment operator. This is where the message has to get out to young people, look, your trade skills and so on can make you a good living and you're a valuable member of society as well. That's where I think the messaging is the important part. Thank you, Madam Chairman.
MADAM CHAIRMAN: Thank you. Does anyone else want to speak on round one?
MS. JUDY STREATCH: If I may, Madam Chairman. One of the advantages of waiting until the end is that you get to pick up everybody's comments. One of the disadvantages is sometimes people take your questions. My good colleague, the member for Kings West, and I share the same profession prior to politics, so we often find ourselves on the same line of questioning.
I would like to indicate that I'm sure there's no one around this table who wouldn't appreciate Ralph Klein's $11 billion surplus. I certainly would welcome that; however, an $11 billion surplus makes it easy to put a building on every corner. We all know that it's important to work within your means.
MS. BISHOP: Yes. We understand the constraints facing the Government of Nova Scotia.
MS. STREATCH: I do want to talk a minute, and I want to brag a moment and I want to ask a couple of questions. I'm going to brag about the New Ross Family Resource Centre. Again, my colleague inquired about rural communities, and I would never attempt to make this a rural versus urban issue, but we have an extremely healthy, successful family resource centre in New Ross that is volunteer-driven, that is the hub of the community for a variety of reasons. The men and women who work around the family resource centre are truly invaluable in our community. We have everything from a breakfast program, we have a preschool program, and our nurse practitioner works out of the family resource centre, so we have health workshops that take place there as well.
One of the unique things that we have been able to do, and this is the idea that I was thinking of when my colleague was speaking, our resource centre is physically on the same spot as our elementary school. We have a P to 9 school, and our resource centre is the old school that is directly on-site. What that has enabled them to do, of course, is partner extensively with the students and staff. I know my own four children spend numerous hours there during school, as well as after school. They buddy with the younger kids. At different times my daughter has been able to provide some babysitting services for some of the mums afterward because she has made the connection through the fact the facility is on-site there. I know that it is difficult in some of the rural areas for people to get the transportation, but this has been very beneficial. I guess I throw it out to you as a suggestion or an idea - the closer you can partner with your schools the better.
MS. BISHOP: Yes.
MS. STREATCH: Sometimes schools like to be very guarded because we all like to have control of what goes on in our own little world, but you will find, I think, some schools will be very receptive to that and it benefits both your clientele and the students, because some students don't realize that there are families in our communities who perhaps are in more need than they are, and it's quite an eye-opener for them. So I offer that as perhaps a suggestion, Angela. You can try and perhaps partner with your schools and with your school communities.
MS. BISHOP: We have actually been looking at that model. I attended what is referred to as integration in Toronto, all their First Duty sites. The family centre is on-site. It's incredible. I was very impressed with what they were doing there. But they take it a step beyond that in that the little ones - if their mum goes to work at 7:00 a.m. - come to a daycare piece, they move into a preschool experience, then they go back into the daycare piece, have another rich piece in the afternoon and then they are back in daycare. That is called the
"seamless day" and it takes place in the school. So there is a daycare, a preschool and there is a family centre there and this is a five-year pilot in Toronto. Truly an incredible success and we have been looking at that and having as many discussions as people will listen to us around that, but we really feel that we are in the position to do that, but it would of course have to be a school in Dartmouth.
MS. STREATCH: One further comment, if I may. The other thing that we have done with great success in New Ross - following up on my other colleague's suggestion - is that we have a family fitness centre, and again the men and women at the family centre worked hard to get some grants and purchase some equipment. They had some equipment donated and they turned one of the areas into a fitness centre, and it's available 24 hours a day to anyone in the community, to promote that idea of having a healthy body. The students at the school work with adults as well as the young kids. So the family fitness centre has been a real big success. Again, that was through the hard work and dedication of the volunteers who went out and pounded the pavement and sought some grants. I guess maybe this would be one of my questions, what type of volunteer response do you get? Do you have a lot of volunteers come in?
MS. BISHOP: I can comment on that. I think the initiatives like New Ross has, there are lots of examples of that and the volunteers pull together and they do fantastic things. You have to make a distinction between the families we are working with and those families that you are seeing in New Ross. We target families who are most in need, you wouldn't see them out lobbying for money for a fitness centre. We do rely on volunteers of course, our board, there have been some moves and some volunteers have lost touch with us and Tyla is in a new position right now, so I am not sure how much she can say about it, but she will be in charge of kind of revitalizing our volunteer piece. It is very important.
MS. STREATCH: Great. Thank you, Madam Chairman.
MADAM CHAIRMAN: Thank you. I have a few questions, so I am wondering if the vice-chair would mind taking over.
[10:20 a.m. Mr. Mark Parent took the Chair.]
MS. MARILYN MORE: Good morning again. As Judy has mentioned, there is really not much left to discuss at the end of round one, and I'm just really thrilled at the interest that our committee members have shown in this issue because it is one that is near and dear to my heart.
I just wanted to start off by saying that I really appreciate how broad the service delivery is from the Dartmouth Family Centre. It is so cost effective for other departments and other community groups and agencies to be able to work through your centre and the families that you serve, and I am really impressed. I thought I had a pretty good
understanding of how widely you collaborate with other organizations, but certainly the detail that you have provided today has been fantastic. But there is a cost to comprehensive programming and to the degree of collaboration that you provide.
I'm a little concerned, we haven't talked a lot about the security of your funding. You have mentioned that you have the $150,000 core funding from the Department of Community Services, but it seems to me you were indicating that the rest of your funding is tied to either federal programs, federal initiatives or project funding or fundraising - that kind of thing. There's always big question marks around the security of that, so can you just fill in a little more detail about the non-core funding? For example, you mentioned the CAPC - the Community Action Program for Children. I'm not sure how much longer that funding, under the best of circumstances, was continuing. So could you just fill us in a little bit about that?
MS. BISHOP: We consider the Department of Community Services $150,000 and the $250,000 from CAPC as core funding. However, those funding agreements are expiring. For instance, Ontario's expires in 2007 and there has already been a lot of discussions taking place with Carolyn Bennett, former Minister of State (Public Health) around keeping it at home with the Public Health Agency of Canada and having it remain as a core funding piece. We also had Carolyn Bennett visit our centre last week and we passed those messages on. I think soon we will be making efforts to pass them on to someone else. That's core, everything else is program.
We are now facing the loss of $100,000 starting in March 2007. We were supported by Invest in Kids Foundation in Toronto. Like a foundation, they are with you for awhile and then they change their priorities or they focus on another group, in this case, this organization has changed their priorities. But when you have that money you move forward, you put programs in place and you always know it's not going to last, but you move forward optimistically that it will be there and you will be able to sustain it.
Certainly the resource development person that we've hired half-time has a huge challenge ahead of her and we're optimistic that we will address that shortfall. We believe there will always be opportunities for us because of the range of things that we do to get further support from the Department of Community Services, maybe the Department of Health, maybe the Department of Justice going forward. With a lot of creativity you can provide similar levels of support going forward.
MS. MORE: Thank you. So the federal CAPC - that's one of those continuing five-year programs?
MS. BISHOP: Yes.
MS. MORE: Was it 2007?
MS. BISHOP: Ontario's expires in 2007. There is also the Canadian prenatal program, which is what Spryfield has. Ours expires in 2009, and they were originally put in place for zero to six in high-risk areas, to help high-risk families.
MS. MORE: Okay, thank you. It has been mentioned several times about transportation problems in rural areas, but we also have the same problems in the urban centres. I'm just wondering, between your outreach initiatives and trying to bring people into your facility on Albro Lake Road, do you have any way of assisting families with transportation?
MS. JOHNSON: We provide bus tickets for families, also, if home visitors are accompanying families to places, we accompany them through taxis and whatnot, but we do provide bus tickets for families to get to and from programs, doctors appointments, that sort of thing.
MS. MORE: That is great. Just one quick final question. Obviously, coming here today I recognize that there is an advocacy role for your organization. I'm just wondering, does your board of directors see advocacy working at some of the root causes of the symptoms that the families display that you are providing services for as a major role for them or is it mostly the program in service delivery side?
MS. BISHOP: They see that advocacy piece as a function of staff, mainly. However, like a lot of non-profit organizations, there is little time left at the end of the day to take part in that. We do as much as possible, not just myself, but almost all staff members are on some kind of committee where we are working forward for change. So it is an important piece, but it's kind of like, you have to make a choice, do we support the family right now, or do we look at the long term? Sometimes, often, those urgent pieces get your attention first.
MS. MORE: Right. Okay, I just want to say congratulations on the initiative to start a provincial association. I think that is a huge move forward, and that self-supporting capacity for all those organizations, all the centres to help one another, I think will really make the movement stronger. So congratulations and thank you.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Are there any questions for the second round? Has everyone asked the first-round questions? Second round, Jerry.
[10:27 a.m. Ms. Marilyn More resumed the Chair.]
MADAM CHAIRMAN: Jerry, before we start the second round, I neglected to mention that the government members on the committee have asked for at least 10 minutes before the end of the meeting, and we do have some other business items. I think we are going to have to close off the questioning about 10:45 a.m., so if people could keep that in mind and keep their second-round questions as short as possible. We will have opportunity
to contact Angela and Tyla individually if we need to pursue things down the road. So just keep in mind that we really only have about 15 minutes left. Thank you.
MR. PYE: Thank you, Madam Chairman. The only point I want to make is some clarifying points around physical activity, around the general well-being of an individual through physical activity. I think, Angela, that you are aware that the Dartmouth Boys and Girls Club is located in the constituency, in the close connect that you have with the Dartmouth Boys and Girls Club and the programs that are run out of the Dartmouth North Community Centre?
So I did want to say that those are two very active organizations within the constituency that partner with the Dartmouth Family Centre on making sure the programs and services are available. I do know that you have a line of communication with both of those agencies.
MS. BISHOP: Yes. Jerry, that's exactly why our centre doesn't focus on those pieces so much because we know it already exists, and we want to work together rather than compete for those few dollars that are out there.
MR. PYE: That's important.
MS. BISHOP: Yes, you are exactly right. Thank you.
MR. GLAVINE: Tyla, what would be the profile of the young mother who comes to your centre in terms of age, education, that kind of quick little piece there?
MS. JOHNSON: Well, that's just, for instance, our prenatal program. Now we have mums as young as 16 years old, Grade 8, Grade 9, you know, we have some young mums who are between the ages of 18 and early 20s, who already have children, living out on their own and single parents on top of which, some with very little support and some with no support. So that's . . .
MR. GLAVINE: Yes, generally speaking.
MS. JOHNSON: Yes.
MR. GLAVINE: Very quickly, Angela, I know there's a great need for the work that you do, but do you see some stabilization or some positive trending that could eliminate some of the needs of the centre, anything that you see that may be happening?
MS. BISHOP: No.
MR. GLAVINE: Nothing at all?
MS. BISHOP: Little pieces, and if you just think of the housing piece, we build new units and others are torn down. So I think that we pick up somewhere and we lose it somewhere else.
It takes some kind of transformation to overcome the hurdles that many of our families are facing. Programs address and create a better circumstance for those who can access the program, but it doesn't create an environment where there are fewer people who would need the program in the first place.
MR. GLAVINE: Great, thank you.
MADAM CHAIRMAN: Michele.
MS. RAYMOND: Angela, just a very quick question. People are self-referring, people bring themselves to you. So one of the concerns that I have and one of the things that happens sometimes in my area is when, for one reason or another, eventually the resources run out and people are headed for shelters and most shelters are not designed for families. There are very few family situations. Now, have you come up with some way of dealing with that because when women and children have to go to one shelter and men basically have to go to Turning Point or something, what happens? Do people come back? Do they consider themselves to remain in the Dartmouth community? What happens? Do you keep contact or have repeated contact?
MS. BISHOP: I'm going to let Tyla address that, but I think around the whole family piece, it has been terribly neglected and it's not a matter of who should have housing and who should not, but the number, the commitment to units large enough for families through the Affordable Housing Agreement has been minuscule; the same as the SCPI dollars, there isn't a family shelter here and families are split up. We will just have to live with that until such time as . . .
MS. RAYMOND: Do you see them again? I mean do they come back together?
MS. JOHNSON: Oh, yes. Families are faced with housing challenges, once we know, we try to connect, whether it's with landlords, managers and whatnot, to try to come up with solutions in terms of keeping that housing. If families do move out of the area, they do reconnect whether it's phone contact coming out of an access, or just keeping in contact for that support piece. Many families, in a few instances, have gone to a shelter maybe in Halifax with their children, but still continue to look for housing in the Dartmouth area.
MS. RAYMOND: So you are really providing some continuity and community stability?
MS. JOHNSON: Yes.
MS. RAYMOND: Okay, I'm glad to know that's happening. Thank you.
MADAM CHAIRMAN: Thank you. Does anyone else want to ask a question in round two? No. I want to thank you both. You've been fantastic representatives for your organization and, please, extend to your board and the rest of the staff, your parents and families and volunteers, how much we appreciate the excellent work that you're doing. Obviously, we want to support family centres right across this province. So, again, good luck with your provincial association.
MS. BISHOP: Thanks for the opportunity to speak and certainly consider the strength, the capacity of family centres when you look at the solutions to the issues that were raised with you a couple weeks ago because it does have a huge role to play in supporting the kids so maybe there's a little less of this in a generation.
MADAM CHAIRMAN: So do either of you have any closing comments or want to bring up an issue that perhaps has not been covered this morning?
MS. JOHNSON: I just want to say for me, being a parent and having lived in the community and whatnot - I've said this many times and I'm sure my colleagues are tired of hearing it - it's more than just a job for us. These families become a part of us. They call us, they share their successes - when babies take their first steps or, you know, they're pregnant or moving on, I've got a new job. Many families report it's a home away from home, that second home, so creating that environment, for us it's more than just a job. These families become a part of us.
MS. BISHOP: Tyla is just triggering a memory. I don't work with families, but I do talk to them. I just don't give them advice or I don't do any of that modelling stuff she's talking about. There was a mum who was excited about having her child stay overnight with her because she had had some connection with child protection and she was very excited, and I shared her excitement around that. Then she said, you know, it's like you guys are all angels, you're angels, it never would have happened if it weren't for you. So, you know, we have a reunited family, a happy mother, an open crib in the child protection system, and it was all because of the work of Tyla and her colleagues at the centre.
MADAM CHAIRMAN: It's a beautiful illustration of the impact of your centre. So thank you very much for coming. We'll take just a short three-minute break, and I mean that. (Interruptions)
[10:37 a.m. The committee recessed.]
[10:40 a.m. The committee reconvened.]
MADAM CHAIRMAN: Could I invite the committee members to resume their seats, please. The next item on our agenda is correspondence from the Law Reform Commission of Nova Scotia. I think you all have a copy at your desks. It's good news. Despite a heavy workload they have agreed to take on the issue of Grandparents Rights for Nova Scotia. They're going to study it and come back to the government with recommendations. This information has been passed along to the Grandparents Rights group and they are thrilled that the issue is continuing to move forward, and send their deep appreciation.
MR. PYE: Is there a need, Madam Chairman, to send them a thank you note?
MADAM CHAIRMAN: I think we should acknowledge, yes, that we're very, very pleased.
MR. PYE: I would so move that we send them a thank you note that, despite their busy schedule, they acknowledged it.
MADAM CHAIRMAN: Are you ready for the question? Would all those in favour of the motion please say Aye. Contrary minded, Nay.
The motion is carried.
Now the annual report.
MS. MORA STEVENS (Legislative Committee Clerk): No members have sent back any further comments. There had been a few little things. It's just a matter of the committee actually doing the formal vote of approval and signing off.
MADAM CHAIRMAN: Would someone like to move that we present our 2004-05 annual report to the Legislature?
MR. MARK PARENT: So moved.
MADAM CHAIRMAN: Would all those in favour of the motion please say Aye. Contrary minded, Nay.
The motion is carried.
Okay, we'll now pass it over to the Progressive Conservative members.
MR. PARENT: Thank you, I appreciate it very much, Madam Chairman. We just wanted to raise a few issues from our caucus and get some response from the other caucuses on it. We have two concerns. One is that the topics recently have been too narrowly focused, and I might add, maybe more personally than as part of a caucus, that they are too metro-centric. I think we need to stick to broader issues and look at those broader issues and try to deal with the broader social changes that affect the whole province, if we can. I don't know why that has happened. I was trying to remember back to our last agenda-setting meeting, which was quite awhile ago. It may well be that we haven't been able to get some of those people in and have substituted with others, but we do have a concern about that.
The other thing is that we would prefer to have more consultation when changes are made, particularly, for example, the time of the meeting. The Forum on Poverty, for example, we got e-mails, but usually on most committees the chairman would phone a representative from each of the caucuses and say, listen, we need to move this to a certain time because of such and such, is that okay with you, and that person would consult with the other members on their caucus and say, sure, that would be fine. It became a bit of an embarrassment for us at the Forum on Poverty. We really didn't have that consultation that normally we would get. We did get notice, I'm not saying we didn't get notice, but usually a phone call would go out, is this change fine with you, and we could consult and, if we weren't there, that would be our own fault, I mean, it would be a problem.
So those are things that we're concerned about. I speak personally, and maybe Gary and Judy want to chime in with some comments. I'm just wondering what sort of response and feedback from the rest of the committee.
MADAM CHAIRMAN: Well, I just want to clarify one thing, and I'm not being defensive about this at all. Actually two sets of dates, replacement dates, were sent out to the committee members when the forum had to be postponed because of the extent of the Law Amendments Committee discussions on the off-road vehicle legislation. I don't remember all the feedback, but the two dates, the Thursday and Friday that were chosen, seemed to be a consensus of the three caucuses that that would be the better of the two suggested. I remember distinctly, very forcefully actually, at the meeting before the forum, telling people that this was an extremely important topic and asking everyone if they could not make it personally to make sure there was another representative there from their caucus so that we would have a full house for the two days of the forum. I mean, there was no disagreement around the table. Everyone nodded their head that that would be quite possible. So I think, to be fair to the committee clerk and myself, we did our best to ensure that we would have as many members there as possible during the forum.
As to the other issue about the topics and the organizations being metro-centric, we can certainly discuss that. We have set aside a time from a number of meetings to discuss what the next agenda topics were going to be. If you wanted to take another full meeting and devote it to setting the agenda - but we have agreed on a fairly lengthy slate of topics and organizations, we seem to be on top of that.
MR. PARENT: I think it may be important to put those on a piece of paper for us to review them.
MR. HINES: If I can speak, and mainly my concern is with the Forum on Poverty, in particular. I had attempted to get other members of the caucus and, of course, they were busy and scheduled. So when I attempted to schedule the time to do that - I spent my day on Friday, in particular, working with two workers' compensation cases and three social services cases. Then you get attacked by press releases that we didn't show. Well, the reasons I didn't show were good legitimate reasons. I know we are all busy, but to get a consensus to change the date, you are not always going to get that consensus. I think it is important to note that when we are relying on somebody else to attend that sometimes we have difficulties there. I guess maybe I'm guilty of not indicating that I wouldn't be attending because I had other things scheduled, but I did attempt to get other members of our caucus and they weren't available. So that is why we were absent. So I felt that coming out of it with press releases stating we didn't attend, well, yes, we didn't attend, that was quite obvious, but to attack us when we are at home doing our own things, that, I think, is somewhat uncalled for.
MR. PYE: I certainly don't think that we have attacked you at all and, quite frankly, I'm not impressed by your comments with respect to what you had to do in your constituency. You are absolutely right, there are times when in fact you may not be the individual who will be representing your caucus at a particular committee meeting, but your caucus is the largest caucus, and other caucuses had scheduled times and made times available.
Now there was one particular day in which it might have been excusable, but there was also a member of your caucus on that particular day, the lone member, Mr. Parent, who could have sent a signal or a flag back to your caucus indicating that there is a problem here.
You have an outstanding issue that is province-wide. The Department of Community Services, through the 1995 service exchange program, decided to take over the whole component relating to community services. This is a very serious issue. We at this committee had discussed on several occasions the importance of having that Forum on Poverty simply because of the feedback that we got from one end of this province to the other on issues around community services. To sit here and tell me that it's unfair for us to send out a letter, or for anyone to make comment with respect to the lack of representation by government on
a committee is totally, totally wrong, and it certainly is out of line. I could understand if in fact there were, and you did not have the personnel or the members in order to offset those people who were not present.
Now, Friday came, and there wasn't a single person there, and there were contacts made, I do believe, to the Progressive Conservative caucus that there was no one present. We would have waited, if anything, the very least we could have done would have been to wait for about 15 minutes and give a 15-minute grace to have members there. I can assure you that if it were any of us it wouldn't have been five minutes and the government would have had a letter out saying that we were the ones who asked for the agenda on poverty and now we're not showing up. I can assure you that within five minutes that would have hit the press. We didn't do that. We understood there may have been particular and real circumstances as to why, at least, the members who were appointed to this Standing Committee on Community Services may not be there. I cannot and will not forgive the government for not having at least some representation there, if not all.
On the other issue, with respect to the topics and organizations, Mr. Parent brings up a very good point. On the issue of topics and organizations, we have left this open to each and every member of this committee to make presentation on who they might like to have as witnesses to come before this committee, anywhere across this province. You, as members, and other members from outside of metro had the opportunity to engage us and tell us there were individuals who you would like to see at this committee. I, for one as a member of this committee, would be delighted to hear the presentations from organizations outside of metro. They're real, the services they need that are unique to rural Nova Scotia and not consistent with what's happening in urban Nova Scotia.
So you're right on those, but to say that we as an organization centred on it, it's only because of the kinds of organizations we were willing to accept or that were brought before the committee to be witnesses before the committee. I don't think we ever - as long as I've been a member of the Standing Committee on Community Services - denied any single organization anywhere in this province from coming before this committee and speaking to the committee, rural or urban.
Madam Chairman, I just want to say that yes, there can be some fine-tuning of your request. I think we should look at that. First of all we need to know who they are and if they're willing to come forward as well.
MR. MCNEIL: Jerry did such a good job, but I do want to show my confidence in you as chairman. I think you've been very fair, the topics that have come forward to us have been discussed, all of us have had an opportunity to have input on those topics. I'll use the autism one, for example - it was brought here regarding the Valley autism group and we encompassed a group from Cape Breton. We opened it up and that's no different with any of these committees. Everyone here has had a chance to have input when those suggestions
have been brought forward. I think it's unfair to say that it's focused in one area over another. Our caucus put a list in front of this group - I think yours did as well, as well as the NDP caucus - so if there's a particular group you need to have in front of this committee, I'd be more than happy to help make that happen.
The issue around the Poverty Forum - we sent a press release out. I won't apologize for it, quite frankly. I have constituency work to do, the people of Annapolis deserve to have their MLA there just as much as anyone else does. I have a very busy constituency office, but I had plenty of notice of the dates that were put in front of us around this forum, and I responded back on what dates I thought were best for me and then they were sent out to me.
If I couldn't be here, I needed to find somebody to show up in my place. If they hadn't shown up, I shouldn't be looking at you guys. I should be looking at my own caucus member who didn't show up. If you ask someone to be here in your place and they didn't show up, don't come to me. Turn it inward. Talk to that caucus member. Quite frankly, when it was put out, the response that came back, that I read in the paper, it was we had staff members there. That was the response out of your caucus, so why are you looking at us? Why are you blaming us for the reaction you received? You had the same opportunity to be there as I did and the members of our caucus.
Quite frankly, the reaction and the words in those things - if you read Hansard - came from the people in the audience.
MR. PYE: Exactly. That's my point.
MR. MCNEIL: They noticed it before we did. As a matter of fact if you read Hansard on the day you were there, Mr. Parent, when you stepped outside of the room I had made comment that you had just stepped outside of the room because something had happened.
MR. PARENT: Hansard hasn't been out on that day.
MR. MCNEIL: Okay, well, if you read that, I made comment to that and the chairman I'm sure can testify to that, but it's not my fault, or our caucus' fault, that you were the only member of your Party to show up one day and the next day nobody showed up. Trust me, because I've seen you do it around health issues in the riding in the Annapolis Valley, knowing half the information in the Nova Scotia Legislature, pointing to the fact that you said the member for Annapolis and the member for Kings West weren't at a meeting when, in fact, we had had a meeting prior to that and you didn't know what you were talking about. So you ended up pointing us out publicly on a health issue in our riding, so don't have us feel sorry for the fact that someone pointed out that you failed doing the job. So I take exception to the fact that you turn it around and say you're doing something that we would have never done. It has been done.
MR. PARENT: Madam Chairman, can we avoid personal attacks and stick to the larger issues, please.
MADAM CHAIRMAN: Yes, I would encourage members to speak to the two issues.
MR. MCNEIL: Well, Madam Chairman, may I respond to that?
MADAM CHAIRMAN: Certainly.
MR. MCNEIL: This was a personal attack (Interruption) No, and let me finish, Mr. Parent.
MADAM CHAIRMAN: I'm just thinking about bringing in the other experience though. Perhaps we . . .
MR. MCNEIL: Madam Chairman, I would respond that this was a personal attack. This was a personal attack.
MADAM CHAIRMAN: Point taken. Jerry.
MR. PYE: But, Madam Chairman, I'm also going to say that this is a personal attack as well. It's a personal attack on every other member on this standing committee.
MADAM CHAIRMAN: I know, I feel it just as personally, but we've got five minutes left and I want to make sure everybody has at least a chance to say something and if we can at all resolve this before we head into this afternoon's meeting, I would like to be able to do that. So I have Leo, Mora and then Mark again. Leo.
MR. GLAVINE: I just wanted to go on the record to say, Madam Chairman, that I thought you and Mora both did an excellent job in getting out the information as to when the Poverty Forum was taking place. It was very clear, those dates were set aside on my calendar, and I felt my responsibility to be here. In regard to singling out people here, we got our lead from the audience. The people who came, and in this case the Poverty Forum, just did not represent metro, I can assure you. We had people from around the province and they were the ones who gave us the cue: well, how is this information now going to get to government, there are no government representatives here. There was one for one day, Mr. Parent was there for one day, and that was the lead that we took in terms of initiating any kind of press release and, in fact, they were very upset.
I had two calls that evening from people who were there for the Poverty Forum who said, you know, why should Mr. Parent go on the radio and provide at best an outright distortion of the truth and the reality because they should have been there. Government should have had people in those places. When you were interviewed, Mr. Parent, in that
regard, I had two calls which simply said, tell it like it is. This government is not that interested in the poverty issue and they showed it by their representation and that's the reality of what went on there.
I think this committee has functioned very well in terms of hearing from people across the province. If Mr. Parent has a group that he would like to bring in, look, put the letter to the chairman and we'll entertain it immediately, if you feel there's a group that has been shut out. I think we've tried to be more than fair on this issue, but the Poverty Forum, in my view, like poverty itself, was an embarrassment in the way government did handle it. Thank you.
MADAM CHAIRMAN: Mora, perhaps you could clarify how we notified the committee and also I think we only had one regret and it was just someone was caught in traffic and we were expecting him at some point.
MS. STEVENS: Correct. When the original Poverty Forum was set up, it was for a Monday and Tuesday and, of course, this was in late November. It was then moved to Thursday and Friday and everyone was e-mailed about possible changes to this and it came back that the majority of the committee said that Thursday and Friday was fine. This was December 1st and 2nd but, of course, then the ATV hearings were set up. So that threw everything out the window. Once we knew when they were scheduled, an e-mail went out to the caucus saying these are dates in January and it was either January 12th and 13th or, I think, the following week, either Monday and Tuesday, or Thursday and Friday. The majority came back to say that Thursday and Friday was better for them.
As soon as that poll was done I announced the results through e-mail to all members, and researchers, as well, were included in that so they could contact their members. That's normally how I do it. If a caucus wants calls, I'm more than happy to make calls to talk about schedules. That's just sort of the way the committee has been done, but I'm more than willing to make any changes that a personal member would like. If there are certain members who prefer calls versus e-mails, that's fine, just let me know and I'd be happy to do that.
As for witnesses, it has been metro-dominated, and one of the reasons - you could even think it today - is the weather in the Winter. Both Darlene and myself, being committee clerks, if there are metro witnesses - for snowstorms and reason of bad weather, we tend to get those in more in the Wintertime because of travel. If they cancel a meeting, we're on the hook for hotels and all of that for a night, then we have to bring them in and you pay double. That's just been sort of a Speaker's policy that he gave us - if you can try and save money, and we have tried by bringing in witnesses in metro. That's not to say that it's not government department witnesses or things like that, we do try to keep the people who are located in the city, whatever organization they represent, in the Winter, just so you know.
Also, going from the list that I have - which I can get to you for this afternoon's meeting - what we have coming up is IWK mental health. There was a problem with scheduling which was why this group came in. I sort of had those tentatively scheduled for this week, but then there was a scheduling problem. So when you have that and you have an organization that can, at the drop of a hat, come, you fill those in.
After that, we're looking at the KidSport program, which was actually a Tory caucus suggestion that had been approved. I think that was one of the only items that was brought forward by that caucus, but I can check. Both of those programs are in line for February and March.
MR. PARENT: Thank you very much. I brought concerns from our caucus. I thought I did so in a diplomatic, gentle way. I've been attacked personally. We've been told that our Party is not interested in poverty in Nova Scotia, and that that's the issue. I guess I'm really offended at the response I got. I raised these issues in a very gentle fashion. I raised them because they were concerns of our caucus. I do not expect to be attacked personally. I do not expect to be told that our Party doesn't care about poverty when I'm raising these issues.
I expected an adult conversation on it. If you are going to treat our caucus members like that, and myself like that, then the co-operation that we extend - Madam Chairman, it's hard on us on our side because most of the topics are criticisms of government and we support many of those criticisms of government, try to make it better, work with the Opposition.
So to be attacked personally, and for my government to be attacked here as being totally unconcerned about poverty is absolutely abhorrent to me. If you want to treat us like that, maybe I'll look for another committee to serve on and you can get different committee members, if that's how you want to treat us. (Interruptions) We raised it in a gentle, diplomatic manner. You could have told us diplomatically the very things that Mora said in a very diplomatic way, that we get metro people in in the Winter. Those are things that could have been said. In response, we would have said, sorry, we didn't understand. Okay? I was just responding personally here. I raised the issues before, but I'm responding personally. That will be the last personal response I make about these things.
I'd like to get back to our issues in terms of - and I've heard response, yes, if we have witnesses we want to bring in, let's bring in a list. So the suggestion, Madam Chairman, that I make is that we look at the agenda again, we look at our witnesses. I guess this afternoon we have a meeting in terms of the Forum on Poverty, we'll discuss our recommendations at that stage that are brought forward. Okay?
I'm sorry to speak personally, but I'm responding to personal attacks. I think we should keep this above those levels and speak to issues the way Mora did. That's what I think we need to do. If our criticisms were invalid, then the criticisms are invalid, but they're not
personal black marks on us or on our Party per se. They're maybe invalid criticisms because of weather, because we haven't put forward enough topics to be discussed, et cetera. Those are, I think, the things that we need to stick to.
MS. STREATCH: Thank you, Madam Chairman. Being the rookie on the committee, I have only been here for a few meetings. There have only been a few since I have been put on this committee. I certainly do understand that I wouldn't have been part of an agenda setting because I wasn't part of the committee ahead of time.
I would like to clarify a couple of things, from my point of view. I will take full responsibility for my absence on January 12th and 13th. There was a mis-communication between my caucus staff and your office, and I certainly take full responsibility for that. I did appreciate the phone call yesterday from Mora, indicating the committee would be sitting this morning and in anticipation of bad weather, some of the members had suggested staying over and I had discussed with my colleagues and had indicated to my colleagues as well as to Mora that if I wasn't able to be here because of weather, I certainly would have found a replacement. I do have good studded tires, so we were in good shape.
So for the record, Madam Chairman, I would certainly support an opportunity to have a look at agenda items, broaden our scope, absolutely, to include issues of provincial interest, and certainly would support the entire issue of the good work that our Community Services Department does in Nova Scotia and look forward to an agenda that will include a broader scope of issues.
MADAM CHAIRMAN: Thank you. Now, I do appreciate the fact that other people want to comment and my personal preference would be to leave the discussion on this issue here. We are going into a two-hour meeting this afternoon, where we hope to move forward some of the issues and concerns that came out of the forum and I think if we try to push one another in terms of these more minor, in the sense of moving on with the outcome of the Forum on Poverty, that we could really irreparably destroy our working relationship, which up until now has been very good I have to say.
I commend all members from the three caucuses for the way that we have been able to work together on these issue that are so important to our constituents and the people of Nova Scotia. So I'm just wondering, for the sake of working together this afternoon, could we leave this issue where it is now. I think the main points have been made. We have certainly left it open if the Progressive Conservative caucus wants to bring in additional topics, they are more than welcome to and we will certainly look at them very seriously.
We appreciate that we represent all Nova Scotia and as much as possible, we try to make sure that the issues are province-wide, and I think even this morning, even though it was a metro-based organization, people had a chance to talk about their family resource centres and I think share the best practices and what has been working in different areas. So
I would like to finish on that note that we have a shared commitment this afternoon to look seriously at the remaining recommendations and issues that came out of the forum and further discuss how we are going to develop a process of moving those, presenting those to government.
With your permission, I would like to ask for adjournment.
MS. RAYMOND: So moved.
MADAM CHAIRMAN: We are adjourned.
[The committee adjourned at 11:07 a.m.]