STANDING COMMITTEE ON PUBLIC ACCOUNTS
Mr. Howard Epstein
MR. CHAIRMAN: Ladies and gentlemen, good morning. I would like to call this meeting of the Public Accounts Committee into session. We don't have all of our members here yet but we do have a quorum and since we have a long presentation, I think we might as well get started.
Today we are going to look at questions associated with readiness for the year 2000, particularly focusing on readiness in terms of what is known as the Y2K problem. We have as our guests, members from the Technology and Science Secretariat. I would like to welcome Mr. Bob MacKay, the Deputy Minister, along with various members of his team and people drawn from other branches of the provincial government. He will be making a presentation to us and afterwards we will turn to a period of questioning by members of the committee. So, Mr. MacKay, I would invite you to introduce some members of your team and to make your presentation.
MR. ROBERT MACKAY: Mr. Chairman, thank you very much and to members of the committee, we welcome the opportunity to be here today and to present the level of activity the Technology and Science Secretariat has been coordinating on behalf of the Government of the Province of Nova Scotia with respect to the Year 2000 problem.
With us here today, to my immediate left, is Chris Topping who will be involved in the presentation later on this morning; Holly Fancy, also from the Technology and Science Secretariat; and Amanda Whitewood who is here representing the health sectors with respect to the issues in the regional hospitals and the non-designated hospitals.
As well, we have representatives here from the Emergency Measures Organization. Seated behind me would be Mike Lester and John Perkins and here, also from the Department of Health, is Bill McKee. Have I missed anybody? Off in the back, making sure that this equipment continues to work would be Tom Conrad and Jan Smith from the Technology and Science Secretariat, both of whom are senior project managers with respect to the operations of the project. So with the introductions out of the way, let's get on with the presentation.
The presentation should take about 30 minutes to 35 minutes. It may drift a little bit on the long side but we don't intend to do that. It is a presentation, as we have indicated here, to the Public Accounts Committee and by way of presentation, the agenda that we will go through will be the challenge of Y2K, the history of the province's involvement, the scope of the project, the project structure, the services, business continuity, upcoming targets and a listing of where additional information could be found with respect to the project and to the issues. There will be a handout, if it has not already been circulated, where this information is also duplicated, plus additional information for questions this morning.
With respect to the first point, the challenge. The challenge with respect to the year 2000 or Y2K, meets a number of dimensions. The first one is with respect to the IT infrastructure. Too often, we think of this as having been simply a computer problem with laptops or desktops or mainframe computers. The reality of the situation with Y2K is that about 20 per cent of your difficulties are with respect to what we traditionally think of as computers; 80 per cent of the potential difficulties and problems arise with a number of other components within the overall information technology infrastructure. So what we are talking about here, where you would have potential problems, would be with respect to IT applications, IT platforms, IT networks, the local area network, the wide area network, Internet, networks within our office environments and so on, and user computing and electronic interfaces. Anything which has the potential of being triggered by a change in date can pose problems for us here with respect to the information technology infrastructure.
The second component with respect to the Y2K issue surrounds embedded chips. Embedded chips are date chips which would be resident in equipment, devices, facilities and process control systems. If one were to think, for example, of a preventive maintenance system in a building or in an automobile whereby it is triggered, as of a certain date something should happen; if it doesn't happen, then something else should take place - either shut down or a warning bell would go off or whatever. Those items are all tied back into the embedded chips. So with respect to the overall challenge, we have both the IT infrastructure, which we have referenced - the embedded chips - and then continuing on with respect to the challenge, the total components of public infrastructure. The public infrastructure components that we have to pay a degree of attention to would be utilities, communications, water and sewer, banks and transportation.
The fourth part of the overall challenge would be the service dependencies, which impact all of us, through our relationships with our partners, other governments, suppliers and clients. Now, all of these, again, tie back to the components that I had mentioned earlier in various ways, but to put a fine point on it, it does tie back to a change in date and anything that could be triggered by the fact that a date turns over. For example, a microwave oven comes on at a certain time if you want to set it, or a VCR. They may not be Y2K compliant in some instances, but that does not mean that they will not work. We will get into some of those discussions as we go through.
The component of the challenge is contingency plans. You operate on the basis that everything we are dealing with across government, with partners, with external suppliers, with others involved in the delivery of services, that everything will work. However, we must also be prepared that if something happens, then we also have to have contingency plans in place in order to be able to deliver on that. With respect to the contingency plans, we have to ensure, within our own operations, that these contingency plans are comprehensive, that they are effective, that they are feasible and that they are viable. The components of the challenge are as I have described, and we are prepared to get into discussions on any of those. Again, this presentation is referenced in the handouts that are there.
The history in the Province of Nova Scotia, with respect to dealing with Y2K, is as evidenced here. One of the first actions that was undertaken was in 1991 where, with respect to mainframe services, it was determined that future acquisitions and future activities represented in the mainframe would be in a four digit environment, not just the last two digits. In 1993, a four digit year standard was established for IT in government, so with respect for the acquisition of computer programs, applications, equipment, the standard that was established there was that it was to be a four digit year.
Between 1995 and 1997, remediation through regular maintenance was undertaken with respect to Y2K. In 1997, the first formal assessment, which assessed the level of potential difficulties that the province would have within its systems, was undertaken and the company involved at that time was CGI. The initial indications with respect to that first formal assessment, and it assessed primarily - Chris, perhaps you want to speak to this?
MR. CHRIS TOPPING: That was an assessment primarily of internal IT applications in use within the government, about 280; basically just the IT applications themselves, the programs themselves. That was the level of understanding of the problem and the mandate they were given was to go and do an inventory of those computer systems themselves.
MR. MACKAY: That analysis provided a bit of a road map, but inadvertently caused some problems as well, because the initial analysis indicated that the complexity of the problem for the province at that point was somewhere in the order of $2.5 million to $5 million. As Chris outlined, the study was very narrowly focused and as a result, when more intensive activity began and got under way across departments, and so on, it was recognized
that the Y2K issue was much broader than that. So there you see the escalation in costs and the dedication of personnel to address it.
The first formal assessment was completed in 1997; in 1998, in March, the Year 2000 Project Office was created and established; and in 1998, BTAC, which is the Business Technology Advisory Committee, also became the Y2K Steering Committee. I will get into the process aspects in just a few moments and describe what the responsibilities of BTAC would be.
The scope for the province and the activities we are directly involved in are 213 projects. You will notice in the handouts that inadvertently it was called up at 263; at this stage it is actually 213 projects. Approximately the cost structure is $80 million; again, that number is being further refined to determine the overall costs of totally addressing all Y2K compliance issues, some of which, if not addressed, may be fairly minor and just be a nuisance. For example, if you wear an analog wristwatch that has the ability to switch the day and the date mechanically, that watch is not Y2K compliant. Any of you who have worn one know that on a 31 day month it is fine, but on a 30 day month, if you do not change it, you are a day out. Do you still survive? The answer to the question is, yes. It clearly would not pick up a leap year and the year 2000 is a leap year. So, on the minor end, you could say that the watch I am wearing is not Y2K compliant. Can I still get along? The answer is yes, and have gotten along for some time. So, you just remember it and you change the date.
That one would simply be on the low end of the scale as being a nuisance factor. So, when we are talking about getting the overall complexity of the costs in place, we will run the spectrum from the nuisance factor all the way through, and our definitions are placed in that way. That is the overall scope.
I would guess that when fully defined, of all Y2K compliance, that number will be a little bit higher than this. How much? We do not know yet. How much would be targeted just within the calendar year 1999 is something that you will see as we go through, and will be further refined in addressing what absolutely must be completed before the end of December 1999. There are other Y2K activities which, if not fully operational or compliant by January 1, 2000, can be addressed at a later time on the way through.
The structure. What we have done here is a re-creation, and a presentation to you, of a slide program that we use across government departments to establish the relationship, for everybody's understanding, of the Y2K activities as they relate to government. At the accountability arena would be the Executive Council, otherwise known as Cabinet, and a deputy ministers' forum which would be the decision or the accountability structure at the top end. In relating how departments are involved here, what we hope to recover and convey by this slide is that each department has its own responsibilities. Within its responsibilities is the necessity of dealing with its own constituents.
For example, the Department of the Environment or the Department of Housing and Municipal Affairs would be involved in establishing the relationship between municipalities or with other environmental issues. So, in order to fully distribute the autonomy and the accountability for the project, we have operated on the basis that he or she who can actually correct the problem is the one who should be addressing it. So rather than a central command and control environment, you recognize that the person who is most impacted with it on a day-to-day delivery basis is there. So, operating on the basis and that bit of background with respect to department by department and the relationship, the deputy ministers, as you can see here, meet weekly; the deputy ministers' forum and the Executive Council meet weekly.
Within the departments, you see here we would have Year 2000 project teams reporting to management in the department through the deputy minister to the minister. In each instance, there is horizontal or collaborative efforts whereby a peer review can take place on quite a regular basis and a sharing of information, so that if somebody is having a particular difficulty, in a horizontal, collaborative way, there is an opportunity to address those in each of those instances.
With respect to the Executive Council, as many of you know there is a subcommittee of the Executive Council known as Priorities and Planning; it is a committee of Executive Council, or of Cabinet, and the Chair of the Priorities and Planning Committee is the chairman of BTAC. The working group of BTAC is a committee of deputy ministers, 10 in total, who meet on a weekly basis for two hours to review progress and activities and advise and recommend what changes should be made, what priorities should be established. The secretariat support to BTAC is the Technology and Science Secretariat.
To complete the dynamics on here - and you can see why we have built this slide on the basis of evolution because if we slapped it up this way, somebody would scream that it is too busy a slide - but on the way through you can see that what we hope to convey here is that there is a constant interchange of information. The role of the Project Office would be support and coordination, and as we started this, this was its primary role, recognizing that one of the major activities over the last year and one-half, or two years, was the necessity of increasing the awareness of people to anything surrounding Y2K.
One of the difficulties we had - and I think for anybody involved in dealing with Y2K - is that in 1998 everybody said, that is two years away, because that is 2000, and human nature being what it is, we will get at it then. The level of activity and concern has substantially increased now that we are in 1999 and people sit back and say, oh, that is next year. So part of the challenge - and I think we met it reasonably well on the way through - was raising the level of awareness, raising the level of involvement and establishing the levels of cooperation among all of the participants involved. So that is the formal structure.
What I will do now is a quick overview of what happens with respect to the Business and Technology Advisory Committee and how it plays in here. Here you see it provides advice to Priorities and Planning and then directly to Cabinet. On the structure with respect to BTAC, again we have built a slide that rolls through, and let me take a few minutes to do this.
With respect to the roles, the roles of all departments and ministers and deputies is twofold. There is a departmental responsibility and there is a corporate responsibility, or if you are in the IT world they tend to use the terminology in enterprise responsibility. So the roles on that basis are that all of us, therefore by definition, must wear two hats at that end. With respect to the responsibilities, the responsibilities are both to support and to establish priorities. The Project Office is set up within this context; on the one side you have coordination and support and on the other side, if you are monitoring and bringing in data, that data has to be analyzed. That data, therefore as a result, once analyzed, recommendations will fall out of it. So the structure we have set up with respect to the Project Offices, the analysis, recommendation and reporting goes through to the Business Technology Advisory Committee.
Coordination and support is the activity that relates to departments and to tie back to the previous slide where you have the cross-departmental working groups, the departmental relationship is established in this line here. From the departments, in order to keep things refined, to establish priorities and to provide constant peer review of the level of activities, we have IT and business working groups; the IT and business working groups report and support - I should not say report - but support a Project Office Advisory Committee. So that is one structure. If you are looking at the activities coming through the BTAC for Cabinet decision or decisions for financial purposes or whatever, this is it.
It looks as if you would have only one way of being able to influence a decision. We felt that that perhaps was not totally adequate. So what we have also done with respect to BTAC is the departments also have the ability of being able to make a representation straight through to the Business Technology Advisory Committee.
So, here the flow diagram for activities, coordination and decision is as you see here. When you look back to the previous slide, BTAC reports through Priorities and Planning Committee straight to Cabinet. So that is the administration, the support, the accountability structure that is in place with respect to the year 2000 activities within the province.
The structure, the last component that I have here, is to define what BTAC's role is. The role of BTAC is to develop criteria for essential services, establish corporate target dates, make recommendations in response to status and risks, report regularly on the Year 2000 to Priorities and Planning. The Minister of the Technology and Science Secretariat, the Honourable Robert Harrison, reports also on a bi-weekly basis to Cabinet about the activities. Another role of BTAC is to recommend funding priorities and the allocation method.
With that, I will hand off now to Holly Fancy, who will go through a presentation on the services aspect.
MS. HOLLY FANCY: I would like to take a few minutes at this point in the presentation to talk to you about the year 2000 and how it relates to the services that government delivers. That would include the services that government delivers to the public as well as the internal services that we deliver to support those public services.
I think probably the best place to start when talking about services and Y2K is to start with the departments themselves. The departments have completed a large body of work, which allowed them to identify all of the services that they deliver. So, they have a very extensive list of services with the description and also a lot of very detailed information about how those services work.
If you look at that body of services and try and relate that to how we are going to focus our Y2K efforts in order to ensure that all of the services that government delivers are operational in the year 2000. It became fairly clear that we needed to prioritize our efforts in the Year 2000 work as it relates to those services. The reason why we wanted to do that was to ensure that the most essential and critical services continued to operate. We wanted to be able to take all of the efforts of the 200 or so people who are working on Y2K in government and focus them on the most critical services and the most critical implications within those services. If you looked at the broad range of services that are offered by government, we have a very large scope and, therefore, it was necessary to try and prioritize our efforts in this regard.
The way that we decided that we would accomplish that is to define four categories of services. I would like to take a moment and go through those and explain what each of the categories mean.
The first one being essential services. If we look at some point form which help describe what an essential service is, and there are detailed definitions for each of those in the handouts that you received, but an essential service would be a service that any of the departments deliver that would directly impact the health and/or safety and/or security of individuals in Nova Scotia, and also could provide direct financial support to individuals. So, the departments went through their services and if it met those two criteria, then the service was categorized as an essential service and one that we want to pay particular attention to in our Year 2000 efforts.
The next category is mission-critical services. The criterion against that second tier of service is one in which the service would provide a core business function for that department. It would be critical to the continuing operation and also a mission-critical service
could support an essential service. An example of that would be if we use the mainframe computer that is the responsibility of the Technology and Science Secretariat, that would be considered a mission-critical service because it has to be operational in order to support a lot of applications and systems, which in turn support essential services. So, that would be an example of a mission-critical service.
The next category would be significant services. The criteria against that definition is one that if the service was not operational would cause significant disruption to the delivery of that service or to operations. Also, the second grouping would be a serious degradation of the quality of the service.
The fourth and last category was termed interruptible services and would be the fourth tier of the services that we deliver. A short-term interruption of a service of this type would be an inconvenience. A longer term, we could expect it to cause other problems.
If you look at the four categories that we have placed before you and looked at, as I spoke earlier, how departments have identified all of the services that they deliver and have now categorized or mapped them to these four categories, I would like to delineate between the first two and the last two.
The first two categories of essential services and mission-critical services are going to go through quite an extensive process of corporate oversight. There will be regular meetings where individuals, the Y2K coordinators and deputy ministers within the departments will be coming forward to the Business Technology Advisory Committee and reporting on the status of their projects as they relate to essential and mission-critical services so that we can ensure that these services are operational in the Year 2000.
The bottom two categories, significant services and interruptible services, are going to be used more so for departmental prioritization so they can use those two categories to look at their departmental priorities and decide where they are going to focus their efforts. But the real corporate thrust here is with the first two categories, the ones that are concerned with public health and safety, and financial impact.
The process to date, around the services and how they relate to Y2K, the definitions for those four categories were approved by BTAC on March 3rd of this year. The departments went away in the seven days, took the body of work that they had done around identifying their essential services and mapped them to those categories. That was presented a week later, March 10th, to the Technology and Science Secretariat and then presented to BTAC on March 17th in which it was approved, and then went on to be presented at Cabinet on March 24th.
Within your handouts, you also have a copy of the detail services that mapped those categories. So, we didn't go through, during this presentation, and identify that these are all the essential services across government because that would take some time, but they are included in your handouts and were presented to BTAC and Cabinet.
What I would like to do though, in the absence of going through all the individual services and how they map to these categories, is to give you a summary which will help scope out how many of these we are talking about.
If we look at the first chart, we have a summary of the essential and mission-critical services by department. So you can see we are not talking about 50 or so of these per department. You can see the numbers there for yourselves, which shows the first 10 departments, the number of essential and mission-critical services that they have identified.
If we skip to the next table, we will see the remainder of the departments. We are talking about 56 essential services and 46 mission-critical services that will undergo a great deal of corporate oversight as it relates to Y2K, and has certainly been given priority within the departments as they move forward with their Y2K work and their projects.
These numbers, although they include the Department of Health, exclude the health sector, and I would like to take a moment to talk about the health sector. The health sector also went through a very rigorous process in identifying the services throughout the sector. They have also prioritized their services and their efforts and have submitted to the Technology and Science Secretariat their list of essential and mission-critical services. Because of the broad scope and the complexity of the services within the health sector, it was advantageous from a corporate reporting requirement to build in subcategories so within essential services for the health sector you would see these subcategories of emergency, diagnostic, surgical, nursing, in-patient services, ambulatory care and therapeutic services.
So we have taken it down another level and actually have subcategories to the essential services, which will help us when reporting to the public or reporting within government the progress. Missing from the slide are the mission-critical subcategories, which I believe were patient care and administrative. That, again, will help us on reporting on the mission-critical services within the health sector and where we are with those.
At this point I will pass over the remainder of the presentation to Chris Topping but, to recap, I think what we have seen so far is that we understand the problem, that we understand the Y2K challenge. We have a structure in place which we can work within to bring this project to successful completion; we have roles and responsibilities to find; and we have taken a service-oriented approach so that we can communicate to the public where we are with Y2K as it relates to the services that are important to them. I think the next step is for Chris to talk about the process that we are going to follow to ensure that these services are operational and we have entitled that Business Continuity.
MR. TOPPING: Thanks Holly. Across the industry in year 2000, there are really two mainstreams. So while the 213 projects are going on to fix applications and replace embedded chips and replace PCs and contact all of the clients, that remediation stream, at the same time there is an additional stream going on that says if we have any risk that some of these things won't get completed, what are we doing to ensure business continuity? It is the business continuity process that I want to briefly go over here, and some of the other terms that have been used in this context would be risk management and contingency planning. Those are components of an overall process that is called business continuity.
The Government of Nova Scotia first started working with the federal government over the summer to identify the process that the federal government was using to address the business continuity and contingency issues and we, in fact, have gotten, through close collaboration with the federal government we are basically adopting the process that they have developed to address this part of the problem. In turn, this process is based on the software engineering institute's generic business continuity process that is developed at Carnegie Mellon University.
The basic components of the process are, of course, getting buy-in at senior management levels that we do need to undertake a process like that. I think that has been extremely successful both at the departmental level and at the corporate level, through BTAC and Executive Council putting in place the governance structure for the process and then launching three steams: risk assessment, do we understand what the probabilities are of bad things happening and what the impacts are if those bad things do happen; business continuity, what we do in response to those; and then an overall process to track changes as risks appear or increase or decrease.
I will just spend a minute going through a somewhat complicated but colourful slide to explain the process itself. Working from the left, as I have said, there is the technical stream of the project - that top triangle - that says technical is really addressing the issue of all of those projects, those 213 projects that are going on to fix the Year 200 problem. Underneath that, on the functional side, are the business managers within government that have roles to play in their own, whether that is contacting supplies while their computer guys are off doing that or working with clients. There are really the two sides of that - the technical stream that is fixing the problem and the functional business stream - and a governing structure in place so that the decisions are made in the organization in each department. I will point out that each department is using this model and working its way through the process.
The first part of the square block, identify and analysis, is really the work that has been going on since we implemented the process in November. It is functional prioritization, FP. Do you understand which of your services, what is the pecking order for the importance of the services that your organization provides, functional prioritization. Then the second stage of that is asset mapping. Do you understand what assets those functions depend on. So a typical example, you would be looking at the computers that you use to deliver a service, the
applications, the embedded systems that you might use if it was in a laboratory, for instance, the building that you reside in, your dependence on power. Those are all the assets that allow you to deliver the service and you go through a process of identifying what are the year 2000 risks that those assets are exposed to and hence what risks does your function itself have?
Now the ongoing aspect of risk management really goes all the way through this process. So once you have done that initial identification of where you are at risk, there is a process to keep that up to date. What has been changing? Have we lost all of our best programmers? Is there some problem in lead time for ordering equipment to be replaced? Are there financial risks that we need to raise up to senior management levels? So the top part of that square is talking about the ongoing process of managing all of the risks that you have identified as you are going through your technical process.
Those risks are also used to feed the bottom half of that middle slide, contingency planning, where you make decisions to say, we need alternative ways of delivering the service because there is some risk that our normal way of doing business will not be ready to go. The contingency planning really breaks down into what they have here as four categories. Contingency planning is what will we do if we can't provide the service in its normal manner. Crisis scenarios would be what type of failures, it gets into risk management. Crisis response is, how will we know at the time - that is to say in this case on January 1st - that we need to trigger the contingencies we prepared? What processes do we need in place to be able to contact the people necessary to say, we are not going to be able to operate in a normal manner here? We now have to trigger the contingency, whatever that plan might have been. Then the final spot, the business resumption is, once we have a contingency operation in place, how do we get back to normal business operation? How do we resume our operations back into the way that we would normally do business?
The time lines for how we are applying this so all departments in government are using this same method, there has been training that has gone on over the past four or five months and is continuing so that all of the departments are going down this line at the same time as they are doing their remediation. The first set of work that was done in December and January was the governance structure, doing that prioritization and doing the first level of risk identification. The work that is going on right now is, given that you have some sense of where you are at risk, what general action plans are you going to be taking over the next few months to address those risks and then the first stages in contingency plans to identify your alternatives if a particular service or asset isn't functioning. I would say all departments, right now, are at that stage.
The corporate target date as regards business continuity process for June 15th. So for all of those essential and mission-critical services - that Holly was talking about and are listed in the handout - the corporate target date is by June 15th to have contingency plans and procedures identified. The next corporate target date is August 30th. So by June 15th it is, if your service isn't running, what will you be doing? Then by August 30th, it is the more
detailed procedure to say, what are the steps we need to take on January 1st to trigger those contingencies? How do we get our business back in a normal operational mode after that, and then go ahead and test and implement all of those services.
Those are the target dates that have been established on the business continuity, they parallel the target dates that were set for the remediation stream as well. I will point out that in the case of the health sector, being larger than the departmental efforts and working somewhat independently, they are working on a range of dates that generally fall between June and October. These are the dates that we have applied to departments of the Government of Nova Scotia.
Upcoming targets. Over the next four weeks BTAC is hearing presentations from every department in government to get a clear statement of the status of their essential and mission-critical services. We started the first of those last week and there is another series going on this afternoon. Every week, we have a roster of the deputies and the Year 2000 teams coming to BTAC to present that. That will allow us, by April 30th, to be able to produce a more complete status from a service point of view, the status of the essential services and the mission critical services, exactly how many of them are already addressed, how many of them plan to meet the corporate target dates, and which ones are at risk of not meeting those corporate target dates.
Then we get to the June 15th target date. On the technical stream, on the remediation side, that target date is to mean that your repairs have been completed, that your systems have been redeveloped so that they will be Year 2000 compliant. On the business continuity side, as I have said, the contingency plans are in place. Again, these corporate target dates are applying specifically to essential and mission-critical services.
If the remediation work is done in the middle of June, that allows for thorough, complete system testing to be done in July and August, so that the actual implementation of the Year 2000-ready service is targeted for August 30th. On the business continuity side, the August 30th date is to have crisis response and business resumption plans complete.
That is the end of the main part of the presentation. I just want to provide some information about where you can get additional information and how the Technology and Science Secretariat is distributing information within government. We are really using two main websites to distribute information. The main government internet has a sub-site called Y2K, which is where the information on the public reporting is posted monthly and additional information. We will see some additions to that today to include information on essential and mission-critical services.
Internal to government. Everyone who is on the government network has access to an Intranet, which address is given there. This is really our main vehicle for communicating to all of the staff within government working on Year 2000 and also a way to communicate to everyone else working within government on what is going on on Year 2000.
A couple of samples of the types of information, if you go on the government Intranet site, this would be the master page, just to get you into the various sections of the internal website. An example of the type of information that we put up here, COTSS stands for Commercial Off The Shelf Software. This is a website where all departments are adding their information as they test particular software products, they come up with any idiosyncrasies, they validate what the vendor's compliance claims are, and do testing and further detail. This is the place where the Technology and Science Secretariat is bringing that information in from across government to be able to make it available to all of the other departments.
The example you can see here is that the staff at Natural Resources has completed some very thorough testing on the Lotus Spreadsheet set of products. What they have done is provided, if you click on any of those individual windows, you will see the results of the Natural Resources testing of those various aspects of the Lotus. This goes on, not quite forever, it just seems like it.
This is an example of the bulletin board where if there is key information that has some longevity to it, this would be where we would be posting it so that all the staff within government can easily get at it. It is our bulletin board. The recent policy statement on staff leave and overtime is an example that came out of the Department of Human Resources. Some of the other testing, verification stuff, this is our main bulletin board so if there is a government policy statement, a decision by BTAC, or some major decision that we want out there so that government staff at any time can look back and say what is it that has been said about this particular issue, they have a place to look back and see that.
MR. MACKAY: I think it is fair to say that this is available to anybody on the government Intranet. It is not available externally but it is available internally. Anybody who is set up to the wide area network systems and so on, it is there.
If there is one thing this project has brought forward it is an abundance of data. There is one massive amount of information available. The challenge I think for us is to make sure that it is established in such a way that it is user friendly, easy for people to get at, easy for people to understand and then a mechanism to say if there is something there that I am not sure of, let's come back. Chris, I think you should go into the - have you got the external?
MR. TOPPING: Yes, that is the next one. This is just another example of the type of use we are making of the Intranet. This is the place where the project managers across government can enter the status data for the projects they have going on. This is one of the examples of the public site that is available to everyone. This went up last week. It shows the
summary page on the project data that we have been collecting. This site will evolve. Over the past couple of months it has mainly been a place to catalogue the overall project status of the 213 projects. This is what is available to the public and that is just the opening page where you could go down and click on an individual department. It does not work on this slide system.
The other thing that we are just adding is a full list of where we are, what you have just heard about essential and mission-critical services, to make that available to everyone. The first part of it is those definitions that Holly went over and then underneath that you will see the services that individual departments have identified as essential and mission critical. (Interruption) I am not sure exactly what the timing is for that. We are going to be adding that this afternoon. It is the same material that you will see in your handout, the same list of services and definitions. It is really the first 40 pages or so of the handouts that were provided this morning. That is an example of an individual department where we are starting to build up, although the presentations to BTAC on the status of these services are scheduled over the next three or four weeks.
We have done an initial survey of some of the departments to be able to identify quickly the ones that they already have considered to be complete. So you will see in here current information that we will be validating through these presentations to BTAC over the next four weeks to give you some indication that these essential services, a lot of them have already been addressed. One of the problems that we have had over the past year really is everyone's focus within government is fixing the things that need to be fixed and I think through this process of essential services we will also be able to explain to people that there are an awful lot of services that are already Year 2000 ready. You will see that the initial status is going up this afternoon, as I have said, and as we get these presentations in front of BTAC, there will be a more complete status report on essential and mission-critical services. That is the end of the presentation part of this.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Thank you very much, Mr. MacKay. Thank you, Mr. Topping and Ms. Fancy, for your remarks. It is a big help. What we will do now is turn to members of the committee and perhaps I will follow the usual practice and we will take about 20 minutes for each of the caucuses. Before we move into other aspects of this, I wonder if you could help me understand some aspects of the money accounting here. There are a few things that I wonder about.
First, I wonder if you can explain to me what the $80 million is being spent on. As I read these documents, they seem to be spent on hardware and software, the actual purchase of items that are needed in order to change or upgrade systems, plus the money seems to be spent as well on service functions which I assume are external to the government, that is consultants. Is that broadly what it is? Essentially what I am getting at is, is it the case that the $80 million is money that is being spent for services external to the government, so it doesn't include, for example, an accounting for services that are provided in-house?
MR. MACKAY: There is a combination, Mr. Chairman. As I indicated earlier in the discussion, with respect to the year 2000, is getting the definition in place and getting the definition of what is compliant. The subset to that that we have found is that it is necessary to collect all data, both personnel costs, internally as well as externally. A large component of this is for the acquisition of hardware and software. Many of the services are being provided by our own personnel within, so we have to also categorize that.
MR. CHAIRMAN: I wondered about that, because as I look in the details some departments seem to categorize services that obviously are being provided in-house and put a dollar value on them as zero, so that led me to speculate that the $80 million was made up of external services. You are telling me that is not a uniform practice around all the departments.
MR. MACKAY: I think that is a fair assessment.
MR. CHAIRMAN: All right, thank you.
MR. MACKAY: Now what has happened, and it is often the case, services in kind don't often get captured. What we are doing here now is making sure that we are catching all of the costs. You have internal department service being provided to this, in some instances the salary of that individual wasn't being captured, so it varied department by department.
MR. CHAIRMAN: To the extent that there was use of services external to government, was there centralized procurement or was it done by each department? In other words, who is responsible for procuring those services?
MR. MACKAY: Each department is responsible for addressing its particular needs within its budget allotment. The procurement is done according to the procurement practices of the province. It can either be a direct competitive bid for service or it can be a selection off a standing offer for services that are provided. The Technology and Science Secretariat was not involved in procuring Y2K services or hardware for the government. Each department was responsible for that particular activity and the reporting on that.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Was that efficient? Or did we miss out on some opportunity to perhaps direct our procurement in a way that might have avoided some duplication?
MR. MACKAY: We think, with the process that has been in place, with the peer review and the sharing of information, that where there was the necessity of having collaborative effort, that was done. For example, in doing the testing for the embedded services, that capability was retained by the Technology and Science Secretariat and made available to all departments and some related agencies against the account of the Technology and Science Secretariat. Where existed the opportunity to have economies of scale, the peer
review process and the Y2K coordinators, I think generally we were able to be quite efficient in gathering that.
MR. CHAIRMAN: The other aspect of the money accounting that I wondered about was the problem of knowing how much money has been spent in each year. I think it has been suggested to us that the bulk of the spending will have taken place in 1998-99 or will take place in 1998-99, that is most of the $80 million will likely have either already occurred or will take place in this calendar year and not much before that, that is to say in 1997, and not much trailing over into the year 2000. Is that essentially your impression?
MR. MACKAY: It is probably a traditional bell curve, where the bulk of expenditures will take place in the year where it has to really be important and that is the calendar year 1999. I think you would see a ramping-up of expenditures through the latter part of 1998 as systems got up and running and people clearly identified. As you can see by the earlier slide that I put up, in varying degrees expenditures have been undertaken in this province since 1991, with respect to where you could identify in an ordered arrangement, an orderly way, as you were requiring software and hardware that you would make it date-compliant.
So for us to get the full picture of what the true Y2K costs to this province would be, you would go back some number of years. I think for practical purposes, the real starting point was probably 1997 where we retained the consulting services to come in. Where it is hard to track, one of the suggestions and a recommendation of CGI was that you would perhaps speed up the replacement of certain equipment. You may acquire a desktop or a computer system for your office and its normal life would be four years - that four years would see it running out let's say in 2000 or 2001 - so, in some instances, you escalated that. Instead of replacing it in 2001, you replace it in 1999, so that addressed that. It's all over.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Is the reason that you suggested to us earlier that the sum might be in excess of $80 million because some of the costs would be as far back as 1997 and perhaps a bit before that and that was left out of the $80 million?
MR. MACKAY: No, I think primarily the reason I suggested that it might be in excess of $80 million is the accuracy of making sure that we catch all of the costs of personnel and costs in kind.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Do we know how much has been spent to date?
MR. MACKAY: I can't directly answer that. Does somebody have a feel for it?
MR. TOPPING: The Project Office didn't start until this fiscal year, so we don't have numbers that go back into 1997. Subject to, as the fiscal year closes, we will expect to see those numbers get complete, but it looks like this fiscal year the numbers that the departments have reported are somewhere in the range of $10 million to $15 million having been spent.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Now, I wonder if you can help me understand a series of line items that I see appear in the departmental accounts. The ones that puzzle me are ones that are titled Legal Review, or Legal Services, or Legislation and Contract Review. I see that about one-half dozen departments have such items. I wonder if this relates to the retention of external lawyers to review contracts or to give advice on legal implications for the departments, or whether it's internal and what is the nature of the work?
MR. MACKAY: I hate to be difficult on this, but I will be candid. The department, as indicated earlier, is responsible for its own expenditures. What I assume in some instances - and this is simply an assumption - that what you are seeing reflected there is an actual charge-out against internal acquisition. As you know, legal services within the province, within the government, are provided by the Department of Justice and Justice solicitors are attached to departments, but they're still home based with the Department of Justice, so what you may well be seeing here is just a capture there where they did not treat that as an in-kind service and put it there. I don't know that for sure.
MR. CHAIRMAN: So, first, you are not sure whether it is internal or external. Do you know what the work is then?
MR. MACKAY: My guess is that it is primarily internal with respect to legal reviews and so on.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Again, do we know the nature of the work?
MR. MACKAY: Again, in some instances, the nature of the work would be to assess the liabilities or activities falling within the statutory obligations of a particular department. Is the legislation compliant? Should we be changing dates? Should we be doing other things?
MR. CHAIRMAN: Well, it's a fair bit of money and I would like to find out whether any of this was contracted out.
MR. MACKAY: We will attempt to do that and report back.
MR. CHAIRMAN: That would be a big help. The other line items are called Contracts Project that seem as if they might be similar items and the departments, just for your note, are Business and Consumer Services, Community Services, Economic Development, Housing and Municipal Affairs, Labour, and Natural Resources, all of which have some form of legal review listed. Business and Consumer Services, Economic
Development, and Housing and Municipal Affairs all have something listed as a Contracts Project.
Is it Mr. Delefes or Mr. Dexter. Oh, sorry, Mr. LeBlanc. That time does come out of our Party's allotment.
MR. NEIL LEBLANC: Mr. Chairman, that is what I wanted to know.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Absolutely, yes.
MR. LEBLANC: So, can you tell us what is the time you are planning on giving out?
MR. CHAIRMAN: Twenty minutes.
MR. DARRELL DEXTER: I guess I am really following up on the road that Howard was going down. One of your slides said, 40,000 work days. If you are optimistic, 230 work days a year, that is 175 years of work or 175 employees working every day of a year to fulfill this obligation. I don't know what the average salary would be, but it seems to me that that alone would account for somewhere in the neighbourhood of $65 million to $70 million in wages, 40,000 work days.
MR. MACKAY: Probably reasonable. That is why when the chairman asked, what does the number include and as he goes through, you see some departments saying zero, other departments allocating a figure. What we have indicated, and that number has helped point this out, that we know there is a substantial amount of activity under way and it is not just with the 270 people who are in the IT arena in this province, there are other personnel within departments who may well be spending five hours a week or whatever. So, when you look at this category, it suggests that, hey, we haven't caught all the costs.
MR. DEXTER: If we say that that estimate of time spent internally is correct, we will just take that at face value, do we know what the running total of contracted out services are?
MR. MACKAY: I don't know what the running total is in the aggregate. We can report back on that. Each department has kept its own running total on its budget responsibilities.
MR. DEXTER: Would you do that? We would like to know exactly what services have been contracted for and what the value of those were. What you have given us now is kind of an internal benchmark for what it is going to cost. What department is in is not as material as knowing what the big picture is for total number of employee days spent on a project.
MR. MACKAY: Well, we will attempt to make that as accurate as possible, but recognize that we will have to go to each department and aggregate that up.
MR. DEXTER: Are there other Y2Ks out there?
MR. MACKAY: In what way?
MR. DEXTER: Are there other things that we are going to find out about in five years that are going to be so critical to the system that they are going to cost? We heard last week that the next time this comes up is Y10K. (Laughter)
MR. MACKAY: We were at a presentation recently and somebody said, look, if there is a disaster or potential catastrophe that I haven't heard of, please tell me because we have to get ready for it. I can't answer that question.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Mr. Delefes.
MR. PETER DELEFES: If anyone wants to ask any other questions on financial matters, mine doesn't pertain to . . .
MR. CHAIRMAN: Well move right along to any aspect at all.
MR. DELEFES: I just want to ask about the actual progress report itself, which I have been following with interest since they were first published and found them quite helpful actually. Now you are going to add a few additional pieces of information to the report, namely the essential and critical services and a breakdown. So, looking at health here, for example, under Emergency Health Services, we will see its ground transportation and dispatch and so on.
I noticed, for example, if I may ask a specific question about let's say Emergency Health Services, which is indicated to be 35 per cent complete, and that is an essential service. Is that correct? That is deemed to be an essential service?
MR. MACKAY: I will refer to Bill McKee.
MR. WILLIAM MCKEE: I noticed in the last few reports . . .
MR. CHAIRMAN: Mr. McKee, can I get you to stand up when giving your answer, it would be a big help in terms of broadcasting. Thank you.
MR. MCKEE: Yes. I think the question was, is it an essential service, and yes, it is sir.
MR. DELEFES: Now will it be shown what percentage of work is completed in each one of those individual items under Emergency Health Services or will it just be the one overall category?
MR. MCKEE: If I may respond at this point in time with respect to the first category on inventory, we are 95 per cent complete on that category; with respect to technical assessment, we are 95 per cent complete; and with respect to our risk assessment we are 100 per cent complete. The balance of the project is the fact that we are now working on the other elements, being the business continuity planning, the remediation, our testing of the systems and so on. So what you are seeing is probably an aggregate percentage as to where the project exists, but as we were going through the presentation, those very important elements, we are quite far along on that front part of the actual project itself.
MR. DELEFES: It is June 15th that the contingency plans will be identified, is that correct, that process hasn't been completed yet, the identification of the contingency plans? That is, if there is an interruption for example in ground transportation, certain contingency plans will kick in. Will that information be made available to the public via this web page, this progress report?
MR. MCKEE: What we will be able to do once that is completed is identify what those particular elements are. I would think that that would be a reasonable thing to do, sir.
MR. DELEFES: It is one of the questions we have been asking, in the event of a disruption of services, what contingency plans are in place? I know the public is anxious to know that. I am asking if in fact that information will be made available on the progress report on the web page.
MR. MCKEE: I would think that that would be a reasonable thing for us to do. Yes.
MR. DELEFES: That would be most helpful.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Is there anything more Mr. Delefes?
MR. DELEFES: That is it for now.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Thank you. Mr. LeBlanc.
MR. LEBLANC: A couple of questions. I would like to start off first of all on the expenditure side of it. I find the whole expenditure debate on how much Y2K is going to cost very confusing because we have heard numbers that range from $50 million to $150 million, now we are at $80 million. I think for a lot of us who are not computer gurus and have no intention of becoming so in the short months ahead, trying to understand exactly how much money is being spent is important. We are hearing $80 million.
If I could understand what you are talking about, that is $80 million the Government of Nova Scotia has and will be spending to address the Y2K problem. Is that correct?
MR. MACKAY: That is the estimate as this stage, what we think it will cost, categorize it. We are in the budget process now, or in the preparation of budgets for the next fiscal year. So that will have to be addressed there.
MR. LEBLANC: Let me ask you another question. Of that $80 million, how much of that, if you had to make an estimate, would have been contracted out versus being done internally?
MR. MACKAY: I don't know. Chris, have you got a feel for that?
MR. TOPPING: When you say contracted out, I assume you include other external costs, buying equipment. So the external cost would be external people and then all of the costs for equipment as opposed to the internal costs which is really government staff.
MR. LEBLANC: Let's change it around. How much of the $80 million would have been government staff - that is probably the easiest way of saying it - would be your people that you had within government, even in rough terms?
MR. MACKAY: In response to that, I think we come back to the question that was raised earlier, that if you use the estimate of 40,000 hours involved here, the bulk of those would have been government staff. The difficulty we have had, department by department as referenced to the Chairman earlier, some of that was treated as in kind and not captured. What we are doing now and in discussions that we have had with our internal auditors is to make sure we are catching all of those costs. I am not avoiding it, I just can't answer. I don't know.
MR. LEBLANC: Let's just change the focus a little bit. How much of the work has been contracted out in this fiscal year that is ending today? Maybe you can give me an estimate.
MR. MACKAY: I can't give you an estimate. I committed earlier that we will gather that.
MR. LEBLANC: No. You gave a commitment that you would give us some specifics. What I am asking you is whether or not you have a ballpark figure for what you have done . . .
MR. MACKAY: No, I haven't. I could tell you what we have spent as a Technology and Science Secretariat within reason on external consulting. I referenced earlier we retained the experts on embedded chips and provided that service. Do you have the total on that Chris?
MR. TOPPING: In the project office we have used consulting services for embedded chips specialists, for training courses on project management, for training courses on contingency planning, and these are things that we have offered to all of the departments of government. We use some of the consulting services to help us set up design and set up the office. My estimate is for 1998, I would just be going off the top of my head, but I think that is probably in the range of $150,000 to $200,000 that we have spent on those services.
MR. LEBLANC: Can you tell me in regard to the QE II and the health sector, are those costs included in that $80 million or is that outside of that?
MS. AMANDA WHITEWOOD: Those costs for the health sector are included in the $80 million. We are estimating right now an approximation of $55 million for the health care organization. So that includes all the regional health boards, the non-designated organizations, the health organizations that are rolled up within the regional structure, which would include Public Health, Drug Dependency, and some long-term care facilities as well.
MR. LEBLANC: If I could change to another topic, you had some briefings back in April within your planning strategy as to whether Nova Scotia should be passing a law prohibiting lawsuits against the province for problems which may come about for Y2K. Perhaps you could just inform the committee as to what has happened from that recommendation and where that goes from now and maybe whether those recommendations have changed, or what exactly has occurred since then.
MR. MACKAY: With respect to issues impacting liabilities and legal questions, potential legislation, the Department of Justice is reviewing those, first of all on liabilities on a case by case basis and then with respect to potential legislation. The Department of Justice is addressing that and I do not know where that sits at this stage but I am sure the Department of Justice would be prepared to provide the answer. I do not have it.
MR. LEBLANC: I am looking at the legal implications that the province has and I am not really sure whether you have the ability to answer that question and I appreciate it, but I look at the government itself as an entity. It is a form of corporate entity. It is dealing with a lot of people who are dependent upon it as well as the citizens who are out there, and I look at the fact that you, as senior government officials, I look at ministers, I look at deputy ministers perhaps being personally libel, and I would tend to think that yourself, as a deputy minister, probably would have some understanding of that. I know, I have been a former minister myself. I tend to ask questions such as that because if I did not, I would be remiss. So if you could specifically refer to yourself and say as to whether you have inquired as to
what implications would come about if you were imprudent in doing, I guess to do your utmost to ensure that these services are maintained, because I think in your capacity you are probably first and foremost in ensuring that that happens. So maybe you could inform the committee.
MR. MACKAY: I think you are doing a little bit to my concerns but, anyway, the issues of liability I do think catches everybody's attention. With respect to personal liabilities of deputies, staff, ministers and the Crown involved in this, that is an issue of concern. Specific legislation, as I referenced earlier, is with the Department of Justice. Specific issues with respect to liabilities and suppliers and so on are being addressed on a case by case basis.
With respect to the liability aspect of the individuals involved, what we are doing today is part of the due diligence of ensuring that everything we can do to address the concerns is being done. So there is an extensive effort under way of awareness, of remediation, of assessment, of recommendations, of liability, and so on. So the activities with respect to addressing each individual really does tie back into being able to demonstrate at some point in time that you exercised the due diligence that was necessary to discharge this and this is part of the process that is there where we can identify, where we can change, where we can recommend, that is what we are up to.
MR. LEBLANC: Mr. Chairman, I want to direct my question to the Auditor General in that respect. That is in order, is it not?
MR. CHAIRMAN: Mr. Salmon is present and if he is willing to answer your question, go right ahead.
MR. ROY SALMON: You are setting a precedent here, Mr. LeBlanc.
MR. LEBLANC: I just like to live dangerously, Mr. Salmon. I would like to pick up on that and I appreciate Mr. MacKay's hesitancy - maybe I am misconstruing it, I am sorry - but if you could take it into a national perspective as to what other provinces are doing and maybe what other Auditors General are recommending. I am just trying to look at this to see whether or not Nova Scotia, you know, whether there are potential financial consequences in Nova Scotia. That kind of concerns me. Maybe you could just talk about that a little bit so that we can be informed.
MR. SALMON: I guess I would answer that by saying that virtually every Auditor General has focused on this issue and reported on it. So in terms of exercising due diligence, I believe my office has exercised due diligence in reporting on this twice now, the last two reports. I believe that what has gone on in the Government of Nova Scotia in addressing the issue demonstrates due diligence in comparison to what I have seen done in other governments across this country.
In comparison to the state of readiness that exists in the Government of the United States, for example, and there is public information available on the Internet with regard to the state of readiness in the Government of the United States, the Government of Nova Scotia would appear to have exercised a higher degree of due diligence and a higher degree of readiness. There is a general sense across the world that Canada generally is in a better position than most countries of the world, both in terms of the public sector and the private sector. That is a very subjective opinion that I am expressing but that is the sense that exists. Does that answer your question?
MR. LEBLANC: I think so. I am reading from some of the recommendations that the federal task force report came in with and that is what I am getting at. I think for ourselves, I am looking to see that an open debate is held on this because I think questions should be asked. I would rather have the answers coming back that at least we are being diligent in doing this because it could very well be the province that would suffer and I do not think anybody wants that.
I have a few minutes left but I want to ask a couple of questions in regard to, you know, what happens after January 1st if you are successful and that we are basically as ready as we can be and we think probably there will always be glitches but if the majority of the work is done and things go on, hopefully, as normal, I am sort of wondering whether or not we have built up an infrastructure within government to deal with this that may very well become cumbersome after? I do not know that and from my discussions with civil servants, a lot of the maintenance work, the upgrades to the systems that should have been done in the last two years have been put on hold because the priority has been on dealing with Y2K. So do you see the same levels of spending happening subsequent to the Y2K, subsequent to January 1st, even though if it is successful, we are going to be needing so much more upgrades to take place. Maybe you can inform the committee as to what is going on with that?
MR. MACKAY: In the slide that Mr. Topping used earlier with respect to risk assessment, business continuity, and then return to business, those are issues that we are now addressing. What we will be doing, as we gain more comfort on the way through that essential services, mission critical services, interruptible services and so on are addressed, then we will be redeploying people as early as this year, or later this summer, or in the fall. So the plan of resumption to normal business activities is under way.
With respect to the levels of involvement in activity of personnel, what is on hold this year would be new developments, new business solutions and so on. Having remediated Y2K in many instances, your major capital investments will probably have been addressed. For example, the mainframe computer system that is up and running within the province, the new system was put in place last fall, a new operating system was in place. Those things will be done and so the capital expenditures that will be necessary in some of those arenas will be caught through the activities. So the level of expenditure going beyond, let's say January 1,
2000, in all likelihood will decrease a little bit but personnel will be redeployed into the business solutions and the other aspects of information technology that perhaps right now have been deferred. There are a number of business solutions you would put on the back burner at this stage.
MR. LEBLANC: Can I ask a question outside of government? What concerns me is whether or not the private sector is prepared for January 1st. I think from the focus that you say here today, obviously you are trying to deal with whether government is prepared. Do you have any comments in regard to whether or not you have tried to, or whether you have the potential to assist the private sector or whether or not you are getting feedback as to what their preparedness is?
MR. MACKAY: We have had contact, primarily in the business arena through the Department of Economic Development and Tourism and its relationship with businesses in this province. I, and some of us have had conversations with the Federation of Independent Business and so on. Their assessment back to us is that within reason they are fairly comfortable that there is a good level of awareness and the business sector is addressing it. The banks have been very aggressive, as you know, in getting the information out and working with their clients.
One of the things that we are seeing now is that the level of awareness is high enough that we think there is a good interplay going on. The challenge we have, as a secretariat, is keeping this somewhere between panic and complacency. On any given day, people are scared that the sky is falling and on other days they are saying, oh, no, this is not going to happen. So our challenge ties back to the due diligence question that you raised earlier. This is all part of it. We think it is working reasonably well.
MR. LEBLANC: Mr. Chairman, I will pass on to my colleague. How much time do we have left?
MR. CHAIRMAN: Four more minutes in this round.
MR. ERNEST FAGE: Mr. Chairman, I thank everyone for showing up today on an issue that obviously the time-frame is getting short and it is starting to get to the situation where it is becoming critical that we, as a province, have critical systems in place and can assure the citizens that the proper steps that can be taken, have been taken to ensure their safety on the year 2000 turn.
Going back to a couple of areas that have already been briefly touched upon in relationship to Nova Scotia's preparedness with other provinces in Canada, those jurisdictions, Mr. Deputy Minister, how would you feel we rate in that regard? Are we as prepared as other provinces?
MR. MACKAY: I, personally, think that we, in many instances, are as well prepared and, in a number of arenas, ahead of other provinces. With respect to our relationships province to province, our major concern would be with telecommunications, it would be with electric utilities. The entities in this province, such as Nova Scotia Power and Maritime Tel & Tel, appear to have discharged their responsibilities quite well. On that basis, we feel reasonably comfortable that the lights will be on on that day and the telecommunications will work. That is key to us, as a government, in our dealings with other provinces, too.
MR. FAGE: That leads to a question, the one of responsibility that concerns me, and that is any system where government would have an inspector or regulator to qualify each year, and an easy example that would touch common, ordinary lives, would be an elevator system in apartment buildings here in the city. When you talk to citizens out there in terms that take it out of the abstract as to what they understand, what is the province's responsibility with embedded chip and technology that that elevator is going to perform properly on January 1, 2000, for its first occupant?
MR. MACKAY: The elevator example is probably a good one to pick on because its responsibility ties back with respect to the Department of Labour. The inspection services have been done, the reporting that you have there indicates that the contact has been made with the delivery of that service, buildings and so on . . .
MR. FAGE: We see the stamp there with the signature right on the wall every time.
MR. MACKAY: . . . and so the level of due diligence, as we see it, with departments and delivering on those services, has been pretty complete.
MR. FAGE: So that assurance will be strongly given by the Province of Nova Scotia then that whoever steps on the elevator first, January 1st, should have no concern whatsoever, is that the message that the ordinary citizen would be receiving?
MR. MACKAY: I think that as we see it now the elevators will be as safe on January 1, 2000, as they are today.
MR. FAGE: So we don't have to put a box in the elevator to see if it goes up and down first trip? (Laughter)
MR. MACKAY: We maybe, for some people, should have them in the elevators now.
MR. FAGE: We are making a little light of that, but I think . . .
MR. CHAIRMAN: Sorry, I have to interrupt at this point and turn the questioning over now to the Liberal caucus for 20 minutes; also, I am obliged to leave the Chair. I have to attend a press conference and the Vice-Chairman, Mr. Fraser, will take over, so is there anyone in the Liberal caucus with questions?
HON. RUSSELL MACKINNON: Mr. Chairman, my first question is with regard to the issue of Y2K and our responsibility in terms of the big picture - if I can use that - whether it be provincial, national or international. Could you quantify, if possible, what percentage of this Y2K problem that we are dealing with at the government level that is essentially beyond our scope?
MR. MACKAY: Chris, I will defer to you on that; I am not touching that one.
MR. TOPPING: Off the top of my head, I can't think of a percentage number. You would mean things like the dependancy on the phone companies and those external organizations?
MR. MACKINNON: Communications.
MR. TOPPING: I really don't know how you would quantify that portion of the dependency. I think, as far as cost to government, almost all of the costs to government are really directed at us fixing our problem. There is some cost within project management of dealing with exchanging letters with suppliers and checking with them on where they are, but I really don't have a number overall that would say . . .
MR. MACKINNON: Could you tell me what percentage of the Y2K problem that we are now dealing with that would be normal upgrading of our systems? As we all know, every year we upgrade our various computer IT systems and, although the Y2K is now an issue, I would suspect a certain percentage of this $80 million or $65 million to $70 million - whatever parameters you would like to put on the discussion - I would suspect a certain percentage of that would be normal upgrading. Could you give me an estimate on that?
MR. MACKAY: I think with respect to upgrading, what has happened is we probably changed the time schedule, so if something would have been upgraded in 2000, it will be upgraded in 1999. The level of that would, I think, be a fairly small percentage, minister, on the way through, because one of the things that we have been quite vigilant on is that monies would be spent on issues that it had to be spent on, so if it is simply an upgrade, if it is simply a change of equipment, we haven't encouraged that, we have discouraged that. There would be a percentage in there that would be replacement of laptops or desktops or certain other services, but primarily that is done on the basis of advancing the time line rather than its normal depreciation time.
MR. MACKINNON: Just as a sidebar to that issue, our total provincial employment complement, do we have any estimate as to what percentage are computer literate?
MR. MACKAY: Of our employees?
MR. MACKINNON: Yes.
MR. MACKAY: We would like to think that in excess of 90 per cent of them are computer literate. I would think that most of the government employees, if not all of them, have access to, and have had training on, the use of computers and computer skills. I think virtually every government employee has access to the Internet and the e-mail systems, so there is a degree of computer literacy involved in that. The degree of sophistication for an employee changes on the way through depending on the level of activity they have to be engaged in.
The level of computer literacy with some employees would probably stop at being able to send and respond to an e-mail, others have the literacy to bring and develop the type of system and presentation you have here using tools but also to build it from scratch. There is quite a wide range. If one were to target directly to the number of personnel in the province that are directly dedicated to information technology, we are somewhere in the 270 to 280 range of personnel. All of those people would be quite computer literate. Some of the rest of us know where the switch is to turn it on.
MR. MACKINNON: I noted with interest the Auditor General's comments that Nova Scotia was doing very well in terms of its rating vis-à-vis other jurisdictions and its ability to meet the Y2K compliance. My next question somewhat dovetails off the one my colleague from Argyle raised, the question of liability and due diligence.
At what point did the issue of responsibility to the computer supply companies, et cetera, really kick in at the governmental level, that hey, perhaps these individuals could be, and I am not saying they have been or they were or they are, but could have been selling us a pig in a poke for a monetary opportunity at a later date? I notice we went back as far as 1991 when the focus started to develop on Y2K, at what point would you estimate that we really started to buckle down and put our defence mechanisms in place to ensure that we weren't just going to spend $80 million of the taxpayers' money because we have a problem at hand and not explore our opportunities to take responsibility?
MR. MACKAY: I think to attempt to answer that, Mr. Minister, is in the schedule, starting in 1991 of identifying standards and activities that the province should be doing in its overall needs, being more specific in acquiring new programs and software in 1993, on making sure that you had the proper date standard in place. To be aggressive on it, I think you would see the concentrated activity began in 1997 and earlier. There had been some assessment done, but the engagement of external analysts and experts to come in and take a
look at it was in 1997. With respect to suppliers and whether or not there are liabilities out there, we assess that, as I indicated earlier, on a case by case basis. It is something that is being reviewed by the Department of Justice, and quite clearly it is something that is being assessed, I suppose, by every entity in the world who have acquired either a computer or a software system that may have a degree of vulnerability in there.
I think, to get back to your question on assessing the liabilities and when, it is a question that everybody from banks to the average business is looking at and as are we. I think if it looks as if there is something that can be done by way of redress on that, yes, it will be done.
MR. MACKINNON: One final observation, if I could put it in that context, is with regard to the issue of Y2K, with regard to elevators, elevators do not need to be Y2K compliant, it is a totally separate issue. Anyone who is afraid their elevator won't get to the top, that is a self-determination factor, that has nothing to do with Y2K. I am pleased as Minister of Labour to give them that quality assurance.
MR. CHARLES MACDONALD: The net additional cost to the province, when all this is finished and addressed, and I say the net because if we are including 40,000 hours of in-house staff that would normally be in the system regardless, they were not hired in because of Y2K, do we have a net cost, we are talking $80 million or whatever, is there a net figure what this is costing the province?
MR. MACKAY: That is what we are determining now. Earlier on in the conversation, sir, we had indicated that that number of $80 million may slide up a little bit, I don't know how much, but it is to make sure that we have fully addressed the real costs. If we have somebody working as an employee of the Crown dealing with the Y2K and they are normally employed, then that means there is something they are not doing, that is a cost item. That is what they are trying to fully determine.
MR. CHARLES MACDONALD: But if he is an employee of the Crown, he would be there regardless?
MR. MACKAY: Yes.
MR. CHARLES MACDONALD: If Y2K didn't come along, you would still continue to employ that person?
MR. MACKAY: That is correct.
MR. CHARLES MACDONALD: I guess what I am asking is, take all this stuff, take what your normal system would be, and then tell me what Y2K is costing us over and above that normal?
MR. MACKAY: If the employee is working on Y2K, then that means there is something he is not doing, and so if he was legitimately employed, which we argue he is, then what has happened is the job he or she would normally be doing is deferred. That is a cost. We should be able to, when we finish the calculation here, give you a distribution of what in-house in-kind costs are plus other costs, and then you would be able to assess what has been deferred, because come January 1, 2000 that employee will be doing his or her other job again.
MR. CHARLES MACDONALD: But we are not adding $80 million or $60 million to the overall budget of the province.
MR. MACKAY: We may be. As we go forward on this, there are costs that are being incurred because of Y2K that we would not normally have incurred. What we are trying to do is give a true reflection of what the total cost of this has been. In that we will be able to say, look, here is $10 million worth of employee time that has been dedicated to this, and as a result they are not doing these other information technology activities like an improved motor vehicle registration system or an improved e-mail system or improved legislation and electronic commerce.
Perhaps the Auditor General might want to jump into this fray a little bit. I am going to reach for . . .
MR. SALMON: Perhaps I could. I think there is a fundamental issue here in terms of total government expenditures and that is that the $80 million estimate, whatever that ends up to be, is being funded out of existing resources provided through tax dollars by the people of this province.
In a perfect world the government makes the best decisions it can as to how to spend that money on what priorities but the number is fixed in terms of total. So if you have to spend $80 million of taxpayers money to fix the Y2K problem, then that is $80 million you have not got to do something else. That is the point Mr. MacKay is trying to make. It is costing $80 million. It means that other priorities are not being addressed and will have to be in the future. So there is a real cost of $80 million, or whatever the number ends up to be, to the taxpayers of Nova Scotia.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Mr. MacKinnon.
MR. MACKINNON: I guess I want to put it in context. Essentially we are looking at an additional cost to government of 0.2 per cent, or less than 0.2 per cent of the total budget. That is approximately what it would work out to, 0.17 per cent, if my figures are correct. I guess to put it in context, on the issue of due diligence - and perhaps this is a question more for the Auditor General than for our team at the Technology and Science Secretariat - would it be safe to say that the government has taken all reasonable steps to
ensure that we have met our Y2K compliance, particularly when you look at it in terms of as you have measured other jurisdictions, both provincially, federally, and so forth? It is like a lot of issues, in hindsight, 20/20 vision is there, given the magnitude of this issue, but yet the fact that when you look at today's activities, if you go back 10 or 20 years ago, who would have ever envisaged educating our children at the elementary level, primary level, with computers on their desks.
I know we still have a long way to go but we are advancing so rapidly into the technology age, it is very difficult, given the demands on any government, to anticipate the full impact, or the full force as to where we are going to land with this, and the Y2K, given the fact that we have, I suppose, started to recognize it back in 1991 as being a real concern, both provincially, nationally, and internationally. So, would you say in terms of the issue of due diligence we have done fairly well?
MR. SALMON: Let me start by saying that you and I are going to have to compare math calculations later because I come up with 2 per cent, not 0.2 per cent, . . .
MR. MACKINNON: Well, .002.
MR. SALMON: . . . of annual expenditures in this province. I would say that in terms of recognizing and dealing with the problem Nova Scotia stacks up favourably with other jurisdictions. I think everybody started too late. I think that Nova Scotia would have been in far better shape if what is now being done had been started and was in place a year ago or even two years ago but we are no different than anybody else with regard to that issue.
There has been an awful lot of catch-up performed but in terms of state of readiness, it appears that we are in reasonably good shape. The key for me right now would be the contingency plans, being ready to deal with something that goes wrong on January 1st, preparing for that, because some things are going to go wrong. There is no question of that.
The magnitude of the problem is such that there is no way that everything will be compliant and will work properly. Some things will go wrong. Hopefully, they will be small inconveniences as has been pointed out but the problem has been recognized, there has been communication. The fearmongers are now saying we should not be fearmongering any more and that is general in terms of North America. So in terms of where Nova Scotia is, Nova Scotia appears to be as good or better prepared, as anyone else.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Thank you. We are just about out of time, so we are going to move on. I have one comment on the calculation that Mr. MacKinnon and Mr. Salmon were jostling about. I think it is maybe $80 million, if that is the cost, over three years. So you can add up the provincial budget for 1997-98, 1998-99, and 1999-2000.
MR. SALMON: It depends on how you do the calculation.
MR. CHAIRMAN: There has got to be a 0.0-something there. So we are going to go back to the NDP and we will start probably another 20 minute round. Mr. Dexter.
MR. DEXTER: Thank you. I realize that it does, in fact, depend on how you do the calculation, but just so I am clear on this, is the internal staff cost, which are calculated at 40,000 days, you value that, if it is $68 million, or whatever number you pick, it is that amount plus whatever other services or hardware you have purchased in order to be Y2K compliant. That is what the real cost of fixing the problem is and, you know the calculations get fuzzy because, as Mr. MacKay has pointed out, there are accelerated purchases where you may have bought a product that in the normal course of things would have become obsolete, what it is replacing would have become obsolete, and what you have done is you have moved up the purchase a couple of years. So how much of that you apportion to normal operating upgrades and how much you apportion to a fix of the Y2K is anybody's guess, but that is my understanding of the way in which you determine the real costs of fixing the problem. Is that a fair analysis?
MR. MACKAY: Yes.
MR. DEXTER: I must say I appreciated your observation that trying to keep the balance between, complacency and panic has been the real game here and I guess in part it is because we listen to people saying things like, and I have said them myself, what happens if the ground proximity indicator on my airplane does not work, what if the air collision avoidance system does not work? Well, you know, these are big problems and whether or not the minister's elevator goes all the way to the top is not the problem. It is whether it goes all the way to the bottom. So, you see, these are what causes us to have these kinds of concerns.
Now, I think in each one of us there is a kind of the balance between the Luddite in us which says, gee, I hate these things, they make my life miserable, it was much better when I got mail in six days because then I had six days to reply and nobody expected me to answer overnight. On the other hand, there is the part of us that says isn't technology wonderful. I can get information at my fingertips, literally any time of the day or night. If I want to work at 3:00 a.m., I know that I can go on the web, do my work, send e-mail to people who are going to be there first thing in the morning and it is going to be there for them. So, you know, we are constantly struggling with these kinds of competing demands, I was going to say curses but competing privileges, I guess, as well.
I guess what does get us somewhat confused and what we are struggling with, and I asked you earlier about whether or not there are other Y2Ks out there, is the whole question of planned obsolescence. I think there is an awful lot of skepticism out there about whether or not these kinds of things are actually planned right into the system, you are going to have to replace this in four or five years because that is the expectation that the public has, that is the expectation that business has, that there is going to be a new product upgrade, that there is going to be a new problem to be fixed in four or five years, and because we expect it, we
now plan our budgets around replacing things in four or five years. It is not that the machinery itself actually wears out. It does not. To some limited extent it may but not to certainly the life of what is involved.
So I guess my question is, is this a resolvable problem? I mean, are we always going to be stuck in this loop of replacing system after system after system for the lifetime of government?
MR. MACKAY: I do not think there is a quick answer to that but let's try and come at it. All of us have experienced the problem with an automobile or a piece of equipment failing the day after the warranty period ran out. I think we have used cliches for years that there has been built in obsolescence. The risk you run in the information technology environment is that it really is exploding very quickly and the challenge for us is to make sure that we remain state of the art where we have to remain state of the art.
I will give you a personal example. I have three daughters, the youngest of which is now 24, who went through high school and university, first of all, using an old Commodore 64 computer and many of us would remember that. Then in about 1985-86 we bought a system 88 computer. It is a slow speed 4 to 10 megahertz and put on it a wordprocessing and spreadsheet program. Well, I have got to tell you, my kids and my neighbours still use that system. It is still capable of doing what it was designed to do. I cannot use it on the Internet. I cannot use it on any high speed applications but it still produces quite a fine term paper, a rather neat spreadsheet.
So to get back to your question, the challenge for us is to be able to make effective use of the technology and not always be subject to the latest bell and whistle. How many of us have microwave ovens, for example, that we can program to do just about anything and we boil water and pop popcorn in it, but we have got the sophisticated microwave oven because it had all the bells and whistles. So I think to get back to your point, the challenge for us in the Technology and Science Secretariat and in the IT arena is to be prepared to make effective use of the technology and so that we do not inadvertently keep jumping on the latest bell and whistle.
As technologies emerge and as you go forward, it is almost that things are returning to the way they were. Those of you who may have had exposure to large mainframe computer use in years past, you could go on an Internet system with basically what was a dumb terminal and you did not have a work station at your desk. Today there is a return to some of that so that some of our systems can be hosted on servers and the level of the terminal at the desk may or may not have to have the level of sophistication it has now. So the challenge for us in government is to address what you have said.
MR. DEXTER: Yes. I mean it is quite amazing when you think back to the days of COBOL and Pascal, the computer cards, and running down to the computer lab to punch them and put them in a proper series so that they run even a basic or very simple program. I guess, obviously, what we are concerned about here is the whole question of the effect of any potential problem on the system as a whole. How long has the department been asking the question of the suppliers - whether it is computer hardware or software or medical devices or anything else - are you Y2K compliant? And more than asking the question, have we been saying, do you certify that your product is Y2K compliant?
MR. MACKAY: I think the level of being aggressive in dealing with suppliers and so on has increased dramatically over the last 18 months. With respect to speccing out and establishing the standards for departments, we are going back three or four years. What we have done in particular over the last year and one-half, two years, is that in the specifications in things we procure, you are required to be date compliant and Y2K compliant. We have also notified in writing everybody who supplies us that this is an issue of concern and we are following up on that.
What that will also do, there is a side benefit to it, because a number of the suppliers to us are small businesses in Nova Scotia, so by raising the concern in that way, it also gives us the opportunity to provide information to them as to what their system may or may not be. The dynamic of this is working out quite nicely.
I think there has been a lot of pressure but there are some good side benefits and I think you have hit probably one of the big benefits going forward beyond January 1st, and that is having a very clear understanding of what the technology is and I think it can be a very effective planning tool for us as a government in this province in the nature of the business solutions we address and the types of equipment that we buy, and can be much more effective in disposing of surplus equipment to schools or whatever.
I think we have to operate on the basis that by and large what that piece of equipment was designed to do it can still do; what we have to do is find somebody who still has that need.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Mr. Delefes. You have about 10 minutes left.
MR. DELEFES: About a year ago a representative of the federal government's Year 2000 Task Force visited Halifax and spoke to, I think, all Parties and spoke to the Auditor General as well and encouraged government to use its leverage to ensure that private businesses were becoming Y2K compliant. I was wondering what efforts our government has made to communicate that message to private business, and where do you think small businesses are? I am sure the larger businesses, the larger corporations, the Michelins and the
Nova Scotia Powers have taken remedial measures, but what about the myriad of small businesses out there? What efforts have we made and what is your sense of their readiness for Y2K?
MR. MACKAY: As I indicated earlier, Mr. Delefes, we think they are in reasonably good shape in the province, but again, some are not. Some will face a problem on January 1st, I don't know which ones they are. But with respect to being able to get information to the business community of this province, we have relied on each department to deal with its constituents. For example the Department of Agriculture would be dealing with the agricultural community on a pretty regular basis and the businesses that are associated with that. The same with the Department of Economic Development and Tourism using its mechanisms to contact the business community.
We have been in contact, as I referenced earlier, with Peter O'Brien of the Canadian Federation of Independent Business. There have been trade publications, we have had conversations with Nova Scotia Power, Nova Scotia Power has put alerts in its mail-outs. The level of contact to the businesses has been quite extensive. The difficulty, I think, that we encountered was what I referenced earlier, which was people saying, oh, that is 2000, this is only 1997, this is only 1998, and then all of a sudden it is 1999 and someone says, whoops, that is just a year away.
In being able to tie back into the activities with the Government of Canada, we have worked with the Government of Canada and with other provinces in sharing information and getting that information out through the departments to the businesses and the community that deal with them. Again, this exercise today is also another piece in the process which helps raise the level of awareness but also the level of due diligence, and also gives people another opportunity to say, oh, I wasn't aware that maybe this existed on a site, we can go get more information. We have linkages where people can find further information, where they can tap.
[10:06 a.m. Mr. Howard Epstein resumed the Chair.]
MR. DELEFES: To your knowledge has the private business community been reaching out to government seeking help, seeking information, seeking support?
MR. MACKAY: Again, in varying degrees. Some of the businesses have contacted us directly. I think what has happened is that most entities have an industrial trade association, so I have referenced the Federation of Independent Business, I have referenced the agricultural community, but there is a Federation of Agriculture. A lot of the professional groups or industry trade associations have also been working with us and with their memberships to disseminate information. It has been quite neat, how it is happening. It truly can be a bit of a unifying factor, very clearly for us internally. It has been a good province-wide corporate activity of getting people to set aside differences and say, let's get at this.
MR. DELEFES: I had a query from a constituent the other day asking me if there was a glitch with his pharmacist's computer, whether his prescription drugs would be available, that sort of thing that might cause some disruption.
MR. MACKAY: We would rely, again, on his pharmacists' association, the relationships with the Department of Health and with Maritime Medical Care, all of whom are addressing the system. Maritime Medical Care today allows most pharmacists to be on-line, either to pay the bill or to check information. To say a specific pharmacy is up and running, I can't answer that question, but I think we are generally comfortable that the professional pharmacists and their associations are addressing that. We have tended to make them aware, but at the start of this presentation we indicated that we have operated generally on the basis that he or she who can fix it is the person who should fix it.
MR. DELEFES: Just another question or two with respect again to the progress report. If I can just reference the health section. There are two categories there, home care and long-term care, that I have been sort of cross-referencing for the last couple of months and noticed very negligible changes there in the estimated percentage of work complete. They presently stand at 7 per cent. I was just wondering if you could comment on those two areas, what exactly the home care program and the long-term program refers to in this context, and why has so little progress been taking place in those two areas?
MR. MACKAY: I will do a lateral to Bill McKee.
MR. MCKEE: If I may respond. Part of the reason for the percentage progress to date really was probably reflective of the late start-up with respect to those particular two programs. If I may bring you up to date, first of all, with respect to home care, and probably reflective as of our status date last week, we are probably somewhere in the vicinity of 40 per cent complete with respect to the home care review. Maybe to give you some highlights of that, we obviously are working very closely with those that we have contracted with to provide services, the approximate 30 home care agencies.
The situation is the fact that we are using a lot of the testing that has already been done within the health care sector. In other words, as we talked before, as to how we share information and with respect to the health care sector and our provincial coordination office, a lot of activity that has already been done with respect to the RHBs and NDOs, obviously we benefit from some of that experience, so that if it is dealing with oxygen equipment or whatever the case may be, we find out the make and model and do that type of testing.
In any event, I am to give you an indication as to percentages with respect to the inventory. We are about 75 per cent complete on doing the inventory. On the technical assessment, again, about 75 per cent complete and the same on the risk assessment. So, in summary, about 40 per cent complete so far on the status of that particular project. With
respect to long-term care, you are right in your identification of about a 7 per cent complete at this particular point in time.
One of the things we have done is we have actually issued surveys to the homes that are responsible to the independent operators, and the surveys have really indicated to us that, yes, there is an awareness of Y2K, that there is project structure in place and then, obviously, there is an awareness of the need to complete with respect to the compliance date of January.
The other thing that we have identified through that survey is the fact that we realize there is some assistance needed with respect to facilities, and that could be with respect to their HVAC systems and so on. We have actually engaged the services of an engineering firm to visit the 69 homes, to work with them and to identify any of those areas with respect to deficiencies in facilities that we really should be working on. So what we are doing is actually improving communication and working very closely with that particular sector. Again, it is our hope that we would see that percentage go up, obviously, as they start to move very quickly with respect to the status of the project.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Mr. Salmon.
MR. SALMON: I do not want to be raising fears here or anything like that, but I would not focus on the percentage completion in these reports as the key. What I would suggest you look at and consider on some of these projects in the health sector is the planned completion date and the latest completion date. What I would consider worrisome is those situations when those dates are the same, and they are very late. You have a number in the health sector that are planned for November 30th, November 30th latest, that allows you one month for slippage and that to me is a concern. I just wanted to comment on that without saying that we have major problems, but it is a concern and I think Mr. MacKay would probably share that.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Was there additional comment here?
MS. WHITEWOOD: I would like to speak on behalf of my colleagues who have been working very diligently in relation to Y2K remediation. Again, I am speaking on behalf of the coordinated effort which encompasses the RHBs and the NDOs in the province. As was mentioned earlier, when Deputy Minister MacKay put forward the remediation date of June, I think there was some discussion that the health care sector is targetting the third quarter of this calendar year for remediation and contingency planning. As you can imagine, for all of us who have had contact with the health care system in recent years, or at any point in our lives, it is a very complex environment in which to operate.
Our time lines, although they are different - with all due respect to the Auditor General - than others, they are consistent with other jurisdictions across the country and, in fact, in other areas of the globe, Europe and so on, and we have been monitoring Scotland's
progress. I will give you an example of that. We have been hosting provincial seminars on a monthly basis to learn from other jurisdictions and we have been inviting in what we are calling expert speakers on this subject matter. We have been finding it very difficult to find people to come to speak to us over the last little while in relation to those jurisdictions who are significantly ahead of the progress that we are making in the health care sector in Nova Scotia, and that has been a challenge, but a nice challenge to have. Although benchmarking is one thing; obviously everyone is concerned with whether or not we collectively meet our deadlines.
We talked a little bit earlier about success and I would like to clarify that. Measuring success for the health care sector is minimizing any disruption to patient care; that does not mean everything compliant on January 1, 2000. So in order to minimize that disruption to patient care and to comply with due diligence in relation to our projects, our public relations campaign is paramount in that, so that the public have some understanding of what they can expect when they enter our health care setting on January 1st.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Mr. Fage.
MR. FAGE: Mr. Chairman, just continuing, maybe, on that very vein right there. I guess the updated reports, as the Auditor General said, concern me, especially in the health care sector. All along I have been concerned that we are always behind; determining that you are less behind than somebody else is worrisome to me. When I look at media reports of, say, the Northern Regional Health Board and get their newsletters and as late as three or four months ago, late in the fall, they finally had an estimate, maybe $7 million would be the estimate at that time that came out in the newsletter from the Northern Regional Health Board. They were starting to get a grip or analyse the degree of the problem of what they were facing. In none of that literature would you get any degree that anything had been fixed, complied with, it was basically an inventory of the problem. The deadline is getting extremely close.
I come back to the point if we are less behind than somebody else, really is no comfort to the patient that may be endangered in this process. I guess the general public is worried, especially with the health care system and when we have a system that is so fragmented with regional boards where in another department compliance could be across the board rather than have to filter through a number of hierarchies, I think could be streamlined and would be much easier to implement. This one in its fragmented state is very much more difficult. You have equipment with varying ages, varying technology, embedded, non-compliance; those type of things and you do an inventory over and over again instead of just one inventory, so a lot of repetitive redundant work appears to be occurring there.
Can you give us an assurance that we could take back to our constituents who are very concerned about their health care and those time lines of November are extremely close to the end of the year, that yes, we are behind but possibly we should get to the finish line on
time? Is that possible or are we still in that state where we hope we are ready, with no major assurance?
MS. WHITEWOOD: I think that certainly some of the key messages to take back to constituents is that we are not going on a whim and a prayer on this. It is not an intuitive gut sense project. It is something that is based on hard fact that is compared with other jurisdictions across the country. So, in that light there has been a very high level of effort to look at the project. We haven't talked much about the health care sector structure and maybe if I could just take a minute to explain that.
We came together as a group in the spring of 1997, through an established group that we already had, to deal with the problem. That group comprises all of the vice-presidents in Corporate Services in all the health care organizations, the directors of IT and, as we have evolved through the project, their project managers for Y2K.
Our group is responsible to bring progress reports to another high level committee in government called the Provincial Leadership Committee. That comprises all of the CEOs in all the health care organizations and the Deputy Minister of Health. So, again, today is another venue where we have an opportunity to share information. (Interruption) Yes, there are multiple layers, you are right and that is part of the due diligence in everyone's vested interest, ensuring that our patients are safe on January 1st.
I think you are talking about anxiety around dates and perhaps I can clarify what we are seeing in terms of the progress reports. Our approach on this is from a very conservative nature, since we are dealing with patients and health care organizations, where you are seeing implementation and remediation dates falling together very closely . . .
MR. FAGE: Can I interject just there? My sense of what is happening - and correct me if I am wrong - is that the degree of completion is analysing the problem, more assessing what is wrong rather than the actual, if a chip needs to be replaced, if a piece of software needs to be reprogrammed. The percentage base that I am being given here and looking at is that you have analysed the problem, the solution still has to be implemented. I guess that is where the degree of uncertainty would come, in my mind, and in many other people's, that the percentage is based on analysis of problem, not degree of solution.
MS. WHITEWOOD: Maybe if I could finish and try to respond to that in more clarity for you. Deputy Minister MacKay earlier suggested that the health care project is somewhat independent than of government in totality. I think that is an important concept to keep in mind. When we are reporting information to TSS, we are trying to fit the way that we understand information into the way that they need it to report across government departments. So what I can share with you is a way that we understand our progress and perhaps that will make some sense.
At this point in time, all of the organizations are totally complete with their inventory phases. All organizations, with the exception of three, have finished their assessment and costing information. All organizations, with the exception of four, have finished the prioritization phase. All of us are thoroughly into the remediation stage right now and replacement, whether that means simply upgrading or retiring a piece of equipment.
Contingency planning is well out of the gate and that is something that we are putting a tremendous amount of rigour into. If you step back a little bit and look at how the year 2000 has evolved over the last little while, a common new definition that I take some comfort in is that Y2K compliance now equals readiness plus contingency planning. It is no longer you are ready or you are not. We have got that other piece of the equation there and that is where we are focusing a lot of rigour. We talked earlier about supply chain management and contingency planning is very strongly connected to that, our players and stakeholders and the way that we provide services. Also, testing is throughout all of these phase. So, we are well under way in our remediation phase.
Another important point that I would like to make is that the magnitude of the problem for the health care sector has declined dramatically since we began this project. When we went into it what we were hearing from other jurisdictions was that about 20 per cent of all medical devices that we have on board would require remediation and replacement. What we are finding, and the QE II is an example of this through their publications, is that in fact only 4 per cent of devices will require remediation and of that 4 per cent, only 1 per cent will require replacement. So the magnitude of the problem, as we understand it more, going through all the phases, is dramatically decreasing.
MR. FAGE: Thank you very much. Mr. Deputy Minister, back to you for one quick question to finish up. Any concerns out there now that assessments have virtually been done and replacement and reprogramming that there will be any type of shortages of software, hardware equipment or service technology in the short run up to the year 2000 now that can be achieved . . .
MR. MACKAY: We don't have anything firm on that but anecdotally we do expect that there could clearly be shortages in equipment software and personnel. If the normal level of awareness peaks and somebody says, oh, I had better get this done, it is like Christmas shopping. I think there is an element of risk.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Mr. LeBlanc.
MR. LEBLANC: Mr. Chairman, I am going to be passing on to my colleague who is the critic for Y2K, but I just wanted to make reference. I asked about the possibility of the province passing legislation prohibiting lawsuits against the province. I don't know if I had clearly spelled that out. That was taken from a briefing that your group held on April 29, 1998, which suggested that that was a recommendation that was put forward at that time.
MR. MACKAY: No, if I might clarify. At the briefing we did and that was internally. We indicated that this was one of the issues we would be assessing rather than specific recommendations. The recommendation was, let's make sure we have got it covered.
MR. LEBLANC: The other thing that came out of that further on was that it said that a legal audit was required to identify many things such as the scope, that the legal risk and went on and on. Was that legal audit done by the Department of Justice or through your group?
MR. MACKAY: It was not done by us but I understand that each department is assessing its own legal responsibilities. I don't have an aggregate of what that is.
MR. LEBLANC: Okay, anyway, I will pass it on to my colleague, Mr. Chairman, thank you.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Mr. Balser.
MR. GORDON BALSER: Mr. Chairman, adding on to what Mr. LeBlanc said. It is my understanding that ministers, officials and deputies can, in fact, and would be actually responsible, according to legal principles of directors' and officers' response if there is liability, that there is a real issue related to litigation around Y2K compliance and whether or not if, in fact, the government indicates to the public that a particular department is Y2K compliant and there are failures that there is a real risk of litigation as a result of that failure.
MR. MACKAY: I would think we run the same risks as any deliverer of service would. I think the risk of litigation impacts all of us in this room with perhaps some exceptions. But the ultimate responsibility for the delivery of services to the people of Nova Scotia rests with the House of Assembly. So part of the due diligence exercise here impacts all of us. The elected as well as the non-elected personnel.
In defining the levels of where one has some particular liabilities is something that I think the Department of Justice is fully assessing. But our activity at this stage was really to get on, identify the problem and solve it. In doing that, we feel we are delivering the due diligence that is necessary.
MR. BALSER: In terms of the expertise that is available, it seems to me that as the time lines become more and more compressed the demand for expertise is going to increase and there is a real fear, particularly coming from the IT sector, that there just isn't the manpower with the training necessary to adequately address this problem and as we reach the date, the critical date, that the costs will increase exponentially because of the need to have the problem addressed and just not having the people.
MR. MACKAY: I think in response to a question which was put earlier by your colleague, I think that is a risk we run but it is a risk that we assess in the whole process that we have described here in establishing contingency plans and risk assessment. One of the things that we are talking about is the risk on a minimum of at least three categories. That would be intellectual, being able to find the expertise there; the physical risk of being able to actually get the software or the hardware. So there are the three components, there is the intellectual, their is the fiscal and there is the physical being able to get at it. That's is being assessed in the categories here.
When we talk about the essential and mission critical, if one has to start making priority decisions as to where you are going to husband and direct your efforts, then we are confident that the process we have underway will give us the tools to do that and make the right choices.
MR. BALSER: Perhaps this question was asked earlier during my absence, but with regard to the tendering of contracts from various government departments, is wording in the contract given to Y2K compliance issues?
MR. MACKAY: Yes, there is. There is a requirement in the contract and in all recent contracts of a major and a minor nature that have been signed going back over a year. There are specific clauses in there which address Y2K compliancing.
MR. BALSER: It seems a fair amount of the information about the province's progress with regard to compliance and Y2K issues is available through Internet access. There are a large number of Nova Scotians who don't, for whatever reason, access information in that way and maybe it is my lack of exposure to it but I don't see a whole lot of information being provided by the government through other means other than through periodic newspaper reports. Is there a strategy in place to disseminate information around compliance access through other means of the media?
MR. MACKAY: The quick answer is yes. We do rely on industrial trade associations and other groups to keep getting at their membership but at the same time we have the ability through the community Access site program that is in place in the province, there are 109 sites up and running around Nova Scotia where people can come in, go on the computer and get access to information. As part of the total awareness and communications program, we are considering such vehicles as information sessions in malls and in shopping centres, disseminating information through the school system. So physically, we hope that we can cover just about anybody. But if, for example, you lived in L'Ardoise or St. Peters or pick one of the areas, with the community access site that this there and the program that is in effect, you can go to that site and with somebody get onto the Internet easily or tap into databases that are here. Now do we have them all covered, no. Are we trying to get them all covered, yes.
MS. WHITEWOOD: Can I just add, from the health care perspective what we are doing there is timely. Today we are issuing a press release around the launch of our public home page, our website for health care organizations in the province. That is just one piece of our overall communication strategy. You are talking about other venues, people who don't necessarily have access to that technology. We, through our signed-off commitment through the province have developed sort of a road show campaign where we are going to be inviting media interest to different health care organizations to actually look at different areas where compliance might be an issue, and also to show a real emphasis and focus on the people, the health care deliverers and the organizations to whom we really rely upon. There will be that venue.
We are also looking at whether or not we will actually need to purchase advertising space or areas in local magazines and so on to get the message out there if the media and so on are getting a little bit saturated with covering Y2K. We have a provincial strategy in place and today is the official launch of that through a press release.
MR. BALSER: I know from reviewing the Federal Task Force Year 2000, one of the recommendations contained in that was that there be active public hearings and consultations so that the people can be informed and certainly the issue has always been cloaked in that prophets of doom kind of atmosphere. By and large it is attributable to the fact that many of the people in Nova Scotia are not technologically literate, with all due respect to them, but the fact that they just take it for granted that it is doing to happen.
There is a real need, and I guess I am inferring that that is going to happen in the near future, that it will be on-going - so that is good. On that note, I would pass it back to my colleague.
MR. LEBLANC: How much time do I have left, Mr. Chairman?
MR. CHAIRMAN: Three minutes.
MR. LEBLANC: I just want to ask a question, and I would like to pick up on what the Auditor General said. I looked specifically at the health one, and of course the health boards seem to be the last ones that are getting ready. I see the QE II has an initial date, a planned implement date for the QE II is September 30th with a backup for November. But, all the regional health boards, and I am not a big proponent of regional health boards and how they are delivering systems, so when you are telling me they are going to have it ready by November 30th and I am supposed to take this at face value that everything is going to go well, maybe I am just being a little bit negative, I have my doubts.
Perhaps I could go back to Ms. Whitewood to sort of try to understand in a sense who is coordinating that, and I believe there is an external company that has been hired to do so, and why are we cutting it so close? Maybe you could just update the committee. I think that for most of us, we would like to know those answers.
MS. WHITEWOOD: There is an external company helping us with the overall coordinated effort for the organizations under this umbrella. They are East Bridge Consulting, a locally based firm. That contract was tendered publicly through the Department of Health. In relation to that, they have been providing us assistance in terms of our reporting structure, and again, I will emphasize that the reporting that TSS is giving you is a very highly summarized version of the detail that we have around our table.
In relation to the categories that are in the TSS report, planned implementation date and latest possible target date, I think what we are seeing there again is the ultra-conservatism in the health care sector since we are dealing with patients. I think that my colleagues and certainly the hospital that I represent, the Nova Scotia Hospital, would tell you that in relation to percentage complete, much of the work will be finished way in advance of that, as I said, third quarter of the calendar year.
If you are looking at 100 per cent complete, then yes, we are looking at a November time line there due to the absolute complexity of the environment in which we work.
MR. LEBLANC: If I have exceeded my time, Mr. Chairman, just one short one. The MSI public insurance system, that one kind of surprises me, that it is being listed almost in the same time-frame. I would have assumed that that would have been a very high priority by government. With the health boards, I am not at all surprised, the MSI public insurance system, really to be very candid, it is mind-boggling that it is getting this late on. I am just looking at it and percentage completion at March 26th was 26 per cent.
I appreciate what you are telling me and everything else, but I would have assumed by priorities that that one would have been way ahead of the ball game and we would be talking very high percentages as we speak. Is there a reason why this one has been overlooked and is it just something that fell through the cracks? Perhaps you could inform the committee.
MR. MCKEE: If I may respond to that. I think with respect to the MSI system, yes it is one of our essential projects and very much an area of concern for us in the sense of everything that the MSI system does provide so that we are very anxious obviously to ensure that that is in place. If we take a look at the actual completions on it, the fact that we are only 26 per cent complete or showing as an overall total, I think it is as reflective of a couple things. The first being the fact that we expect to probably ramp up very quickly as we take a move closer to our actual date. If I may just make some references, when I go back to the different aspects of the program itself from the point of view of its inventory, its technical assessment and risk assessment, those were 100 per cent to 75 per cent complete in that.
I think a lot of the front-end part was really trying to identify all the particular issues associated with the MSI program. What we are seeing now is, again as the earlier comments, the fact that we have now been in a position to be able to identify through our inventory assessment and through that risk assessment, we are in a much better position now to actually develop our strategy. There is a lot of testing that has to be done and that is one of the things that will take time, but from that perspective, it is still our feeling that we are going to be moving along much faster now that we have some of that front-end aspect of the program done.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Mr. Fraser.
MR. HYLAND FRASER: Mr. Chairman, I am going to go back a little bit, because I don't understand computers very well. When the date changes I guess, as the calendar changes, when it gets to 00, that is the problem. Is that basically the problem?
MR. MACKAY: Essentially. Chris, maybe you would want to take this one.
MR. TOPPING: Sure. It is really wherever you do a calculation based on date. If you are only storing two characters for a year, for instance a parking ticket would be a simple example. You pay a certain amount on your parking ticket if it is within 14 days, I believe, if it is past 14 days, then you have to pay more. On the computer that does that calculation, normally today it would take a date that would say 01/04/99, minus 01/06/99, therefore it is three days. If you get that ticket on December 29, 1999 it is going to subtract 12/30/99 from 01/05/00. It is going to come up with a date that says this ticket hasn't been paid in minus 3,625 days. It can cause all sorts of problems. That is the simplest example of the type of problem.
MR. MACKAY: Imagine what your overdue library books are going to cost.
MR. FRASER: How is that problem fixed? Is it fixable in that piece of equipment that produces that or is that piece of equipment obsolete and has to be thrown out or is there a combination of both?
MR. TOPPING: One of the very first slides that was presented was the information technology component of it that went through. The programs themselves can be rewritten, the applications. The interfaces where you are sharing data with other organizations, that can be programmed as well. The hardware itself on the PC platform, there are really three levels.
The ones that are now compliant, you don't need to do anything with. The ones that what you need to do is on January 1st, you need to manually go in and reset the date on your computer and once you do that, it will continue to operate okay. And then the third category is you either have to take the chip right out of the computer or in a lot of cases where it is an older piece of machinery, it makes a lot more sense just to replace the computer itself, really
I suppose that is fourth. Replace the whole computer, replace the board inside the computer, manually reset the date or it works okay as it is. The general category, obviously the total replacement is the one that is the most expensive cost and we have seen departments that have varied widely in how many of their inventories of computers fit into which of those categories.
MR. FRASER: So that is the process that you are into. What needs to be done, can it be done before the year 2000, can we salvage the equipment, do we have to throw it out because we cannot get it upgraded, is that the sort of process that you are in?
MR. TOPPING: Yes, and that is just the hardware; that is just the computer hardware component of it. There is a different set of processes for rewriting programs and applications; different set of processes for looking at laboratory equipment, for instance, that is not a computer per se, but has a similar chip in it.
MR. FRASER: So government, I guess, is only one minor user compared to a business and everything else. Do you feel you are going to get quality work when you are competing with everybody else to try to get people, or trying to get equipment that is built, or reprogrammed, and there is going to be a huge rush as time goes on, I expect to the end of the year, government may be ready but businesses are leaving it, for financial or whatever reasons, as late as they can before they get the work done.
MR. MACKAY: We are assessing those risks and part of the contingency planning process will help address that. So let's say a business cannot deliver its service, then where else can we get it? So the whole compositive of the assessment, the risk assessment and the establishment of the contingency plans goes together. It gets back to that point there and clearly one of the threats that we have, or one of the risks is, as I said earlier, the availability of equipment, the availability of people, and the availability of money. As we go through this, you will then assess, okay, that is too high a risk, let's dedicate our resources here, get it done quickly, then we will move on and do the next.
So there is a process in place that we are generally comfortable with, but I do not think we should overlook the fact, what Amanda had said earlier, we started off in certain arenas assessing the problem anecdotally thinking that there was a horrendous problem. Amanda referenced the assessment of devices in the QE II, for example, and your initial estimates were perhaps 20 per cent of them.
Although it seems a long time period to do the assessment, the beneficial advantage of having done that assessment is that you did not go out and replace 20 per cent of your equipment. You now deliberately will replace and remediate what you have to do. So the percentage complete is sometimes misleading because you may only be 5 per cent complete but to get the other 95 per cent done may only take a day. The hard part is in getting the assessment done and making sure you know clearly what is there. So to go back to your
question on risks, yes, there is a risk on supplies, there is a risk on intellect, there is a risk of money, and we think we have got it figured in.
MR. FRASER: Back in your initial presentation you made, since 1995 or 1990-something, all equipment that was purchased by government was compliant, was at least, well, a four-digit year was used and not two, would those all be compliant? I guess the newer equipment that would have been purchased since then, most of it would have been?
MR. MACKAY: Chris, do you want to handle that one?
MR. TOPPING: Sure. The standards that were put in place, the 1991 standard was for development on the mainframe. So the large systems that were being written within government, the standard that was put in was a four-character year. The 1993 information technology standard that was put in place basically said to all of the departments of government, when you are purchasing software, when you are purchasing hardware, you should be verifying that it accepts a four-character year.
Unfortunately, information technology standards are not 100 per cent in their effectiveness and, in fact, even in 1993 and 1994 there were a lot of custom software packages where you could not buy a Year 2000 compliant version. So the government went ahead and implemented that standard, made it a standard, put in its best efforts to ensure that the new stuff that came in, but the information technology industry does not lend itself well to standardization unless you are perhaps Bill Gates. It was not entirely effective. So the standard was in place but for a whole variety of reasons there are still products that keep coming in that are not built to properly handle the year 2000.
MR. FRASER: Last week in our briefing I asked the Auditor General a question which he said to ask you today, so I will ask it. That is on companies that supplied services to government that, I guess, people would have felt, and perhaps just in what you said, would have been compliant which in your assessment may not be. I am wondering, are some of these companies anteing up now and saying, we will get you up to date without costs because we really knew at that time that we should have been, or were not?
MR. MACKAY: Again, that is across the board and it ties back into what I had said earlier on assessment of liabilities and so on. For example, some of the fax machines that exist in offices technically were not compliant. The suppliers of that equipment now are around replacing the chips and making them compliant. Now, if the fax machine gave you the wrong date on January 1st, you still have the fax; where it could be a problem, if Mr. Dexter was in his previous career, the date of when a certain transaction took place could be important. So those are the types of risks you have to assess.
So going back to suppliers by and large has been useful. Companies that have long reputations and are going to be around a long time, feel pretty strongly that they are providing good service and so for us we virtually have to take it on a case-by-case basis but so far it is not working out too badly.
MR. FRASER: The government, I guess, off and on has surplus equipment to give to charitable organizations through the Department of Public Works. Do you feel that there will be a surplus, that does not sound right, I guess, surplus of surplus equipment, but an additional amount because of computers and that sort of related products that either could not get compliant before the year-end, which could still be upgraded at some point in time, or other equipment that cannot be upgraded at all and is found to be obsolete and scheduled for replacement anyway and just done a year earlier?
MR. MACKAY: I think, again, there are a couple of components to that. One would go back to a question that was asked earlier on technology generally and built-in obsolescence. The short answer to your question is, yes, there will be additional equipment because we are advancing the timetable on some acquisitions. Will all of that equipment have to be remediated? No. It is quite useful in its existing state and if it is let's say a desktop, or whatever, and you go in and reset the date, you can do it. That old word processor I have at home that I referenced earlier will probably still function as a word processor in January 2000 and will continue to do that.
With respect to providing surplus equipment to schools, or other use, to charitable organizations, yes, the challenge for us is to identify the agencies and the entities and the schools that still have a need for a piece of equipment to deliver what it was originally designed to do and which it is still capable of doing. Chris, do you want to add to that?
MR. TOPPING: No, that covers it fairly well. I think in the software industry itself there is not really a reuse. The question really does not apply to all the applications and the software and all of that but I would not add much really as far as the hardware to what Mr. MacKay has said here.
MR. FRASER: On New Year's Day do you expect that there will be many people coming in to reset the date so that they can go back home and go to work the next day (Interruption)
MR. MACKAY: Yes, I think so. I do think it could be, providing he can find the switch, but we do not know. Again, it is a personnel matter and that working with the Department of Human Resources we are assessing just what the needs and the demands are for that and, yes, there will be some people doing that, especially in entities that will have to be done.
The one thing about the analogue watch that I referenced earlier, we will not have to change it on that date because that is a 31 day month but we will have to address it later in the same year because next year is also a leap year.
In trying to put this in balance, I think it is fair to note that there is all kinds of equipment out there that can still function that was never leap year compliant. So what did you do? You went in and you recalibrated it for a leap year. Not to demean the issues on year 2000, there is still a number of things there where you can simply recalibrate. Again, it is the cost benefit ratio and so that you get at. Holly, do you want to add anything?
MS. FANCY: No. I think you have covered that. I agree. There will be, I think, all of the departments themselves as they are looking at the equipment and the hardware that is out there have been asking themselves those questions and have been doing this sort of cost- benefit analysis in the business case around that equipment to make sure we are only replacing the equipment that needs to be.
MR. FRASER: How much more time?
MR. CHAIRMAN: You have about five or six minutes.
MR. FRASER: With your appearance here today and actually from the Auditor General last week, I think I am reasonably assured that things are in progress and that things are in hand. I guess your task from now until the end of the year and that of this committee, I guess, will be to ensure that you can keep people's feet to the fire, that the work gets done at some time through the year and testing is done, and when the year 2000 happens, most everything will be in order.
The suppliers of services to government, I know for instance Nova Scotia Power, MT&T and those services, they are a public service to the people that we don't directly control but others that may be a step further away than that, are you reasonably comfortable that they will be compliant with what you are doing and what the public's expectations would be? I know you can't control them and you don't have any say, but the public does expect a certain level of service from those as well and so does government.
MR. MACKAY: I think there are two components to that. One is the awareness component that we would expect the business or supplier of a service to have. With respect to Nova Scotia Power and Maritime Tel & Tel, which you have talked about, we have had discussions with them and they have been acting responsibly as well and doing their own work.
The other aspect of the awareness is for the citizen to look at this and assess what things should I be doing. But in conjunction with that, as we have outlined the process earlier on in our presentation, we have to assess the risk of that. So, let's say we depend on a certain
supplier for a given set of services, either software, hardware or physical presence or whatever, and during our assessment process of risks we find that that supplier is not going to be able to deliver, then we are going to have to put a contingency plan in place.
For the citizens of Nova Scotia, I think there will be a benefit as we go through, as we assess the risks to us in the supply side that has to come to us, then there should be a positive benefit to Nova Scotians in that as well to say yes, although that company or that person can't deliver, we have assessed the risk and therefore the contingency is such and so we are going to deliver there.
Another major component in that exercise is a commitment by the Technology and Science Secretariat that we will share information, we will keep the websites up and running and as accurate as they can be, we will provide linkages on those websites to others, we will in a corporate way, across departmental lines, make information available to the public. There will be plans that tie back in with the information sessions that Amanda has described in the health arena. With that, the people who provide goods and services to the health arena will also be contacted on the way through.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Mr. MacKinnon has a question.
MR. MACKINNON: One question with regard to the health care, Mr. Chairman. In listening to this spectrum about complacency and panic and listening to the folks to our extreme left here, it is like panic city. I do not seem to get that sense when I listened to the presentation here today.
Ms. Whitewood, do you envisage the heart monitors, the oxygen machines, the dialysis machines, et cetera, in the health care system all shutting down at the year 2000 because of where we are at according to this report?
MS. WHITEWOOD: I did not catch your last sentence, sorry, can you repeat it?
MR. MACKINNON: There seems to be that fear of creating a panic situation in health care. I do not seem to receive that sense from the presentations that I have received here today and previous days, as well as from the information output coming from the Department of Health and health care centres. Do you envisage shutdowns of all the systems over there in the year 2000, January 1st? I do not get that sense.
Granted, there are some issues to be dealt with, but is everybody who is on an oxygen machine now going to have to go out and gasp for breath on the street, or the dialysis machines all shut down so people are going to start dying left, right and centre? The Auditor General himself has indicated that this is not in isolation to Nova Scotia. It is universal. So where are we going with this? How many hundreds or thousands or millions of people are going to be dying in the year 2000, January 1st?
MS. WHITEWOOD: I think that you have hit on a good point in terms of the potential anxiety around the health care system. Health care is an emotional business. It is much like an airport. There are a lot of tears shed when you are in a hospital and when you are leaving, you are coming, you are going, it is that type of organization. I think that our due diligence around our project is to manage that anxiety and that panic.
To do that well we have made the statement and the objective of our project that we are working to minimize any disruption to patient care, and the most responsible way that we can address that is to ensure that our contingency plans are in place. We have worked very closely with our stakeholders, we have tested and replaced all of the pieces of equipment that we need to that are in service, that are in operation, and most importantly we have trained and have a high level of comfort with the health care professionals that are on-site every single day and know how to think and take care of people with their hands and their intelligence. So I think that the public needs to take comfort in our approach to the project, that it is consistent with other jurisdictions, that our time lines are consistent with other areas and that we feel that we are making steady progress.
MR. MACKINNON: In short, you have a good comfort level at this point?
MS. WHITEWOOD: I do not think it is important that I have a good comfort level. I represent the health care effort and I think what is important is that the health care organizations and their boards of management have a good comfort level. They are the individuals tasked with the overall accountability. I am here to tell you how they are doing and I am confident in the Nova Scotia Hospital project.
MR. MACKINNON: Do they tell you they are doing well?
MS. WHITEWOOD: Yes, they do.
MR. MACKINNON: That is what I needed to know.
MR. CHAIRMAN: We are just about out of time. I think what I would like to do now is thank our witnesses for coming today and helping us out with their information. Ms. Fancy, Mr. Topping, Ms. Whitewood, Mr. MacKay, thank you very much for being here. It has been a big help.
I would remind committee members that we will have a session on the morning of April 7th which will be really an agenda setting session. We will be discussing business of the committee. It is at 9:00 a.m. I would ask members to come prepared with specific suggestions of areas of inquiry and potential witnesses and to also turn their minds to the forthcoming conferences, one this summer, and our obligation to organize one for the year 2000 ourselves. Thank you very much.
We stand adjourned.
[The committee adjourned at 11:00 a.m.]