Printed and Published by Nova Scotia Hansard Reporting Services
Mr. Graham Steele (Chairman)
Mr. James DeWolfe (Vice-Chairman)
Mr. John Chataway
Mr. Gary Hines
Mr. Howard Epstein
Ms. Marilyn More
Mr. Daniel Graham
Mr. David Wilson (Glace Bay)
Ms. Diana Whalen
[Mr. Howard Epstein was replaced by Mr. William Estabrooks.]
[Ms. Diana Whalen was replaced by Mr. Leo Glavine.]
Ms. Mora Stevens
Legislative Committee Coordinator
Mr. Roy Salmon
Ms. Elaine Morash
Assistant Auditor General
Mr. Terry Spicer
Mr. Gordon Hebb
Chief Legislative Counsel
Nova Scotia Community College
Mr. Ray Ivany
Mr. Robert Shedden
Vice-President Administrative Services
Ms. Sue Payne
Chairman, Finance and Audit Committee
Member, Board of Directors
HALIFAX, WEDNESDAY, NOVEMBER 17, 2004
STANDING COMMITTEE ON PUBLIC ACCOUNTS
Mr. Graham Steele
Mr. James DeWolfe
MR. JAMES DEWOLFE (Chairman): Good morning, ladies and gentlemen, on this somewhat quiet morning of November 17th. This morning we are welcoming members of the Nova Scotia Community College. We have the president, vice-president and finance chairman with us this morning and we will have more formal notice of that in a few minutes. We will start off by introducing our members to the staff, starting with the NDP.
[The committee members introduced themselves.]
MR. CHAIRMAN: Indeed, good morning. I'm Jim DeWolfe, MLA for Pictou East and Vice-Chairman of the Standing Committee on Public Accounts. Of course with us this morning is the Auditor General, the Deputy Auditor General and Mora Stevens, clerk for the committee. So without further ado, I will turn the floor over to Mr. Ivany and perhaps you could introduce your staff more formally.
MR. RAY IVANY: Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman. My apologies for battling a bit of a bug here. I have with me the Chairman of our Finance and Audit Committee of our Board of Governors, Sue Payne and Bob Shedden, our Vice-President of Administrative Services. We are going to try to do a bit of a combination set of opening comments. I have a few remarks and then I will pass to Sue and then over to Bob.
The first thing that I wanted to mention, I think most committee members are aware, the nature of the work at the Nova Scotia Community College is steeped in a developmental context. We were the last jurisdiction in Canada to formally establish a community college. The White Paper in 1988 and ultimately the legislation in 1996 - and interestingly, one of the steps between the White Paper and the actual legislation was the 1993 Auditor General's Report that indicated a move to a board-governed institution would hasten the evolution of a modern college in Nova Scotia. But our work has in large measure been to, as rapidly as possible, develop the structures, processes and most importantly the programmatic opportunities for students of a modern, national calibre college, if I can use that language.
So we have been working very quickly to try to make up for that developmental gap that existed because of the late development of the college in Nova Scotia. The reason that I put that framing on it to begin our discussion is that I think it does indicate to you the approach we have tried to take in working with the Auditor General, from the report in 1993, which did spur the development of the legislation to the 1999 report which was a look at us three years after we became board governed, and then this report that you are considering today.
In each of those instances - certainly I can speak directly to 1999 and the current report - we have tried to use those reports as a catalyst to help us get to that goal of, if you like, a fully developed college as per the national norms and that's the approach that we would like to talk to you about today in terms of how we have attempted to respond to the work of the Auditor General, both in 1999 and then in this most current report. So with those few brief comments, I will pass it to Sue.
MS. SUE PAYNE: Thank you. It's a pleasure to be here today and to make a brief comment on behalf of the board of governors of the college. The board, as you know, has been in place since 1996 when the Community College Act was passed establishing the college as a board-governed institution. As such, the board plays a critical role in the governance of the institution and has a fiduciary responsibility to the people of Nova Scotia to enjoy the college's meeting the needs of the province and managing its operation soundly and responsibly.
The board is very pleased to receive the Auditor General's Report of the most recent audit of the college and its findings of sound management and financial practice. We take seriously our stewardship role of the taxpayers and the province and appreciate the Auditor General's finding and advice as we continue to build the college. The board is committed to building a modern, national-calibre college that meets the unique needs of the province. We have made considerable progress towards this goal and are particularly pleased that the Government of Nova Scotia has made a significant commitment in funding the college's growth and development.
The government's decision to invest $123 million in capital and $29 million annually in operating funds is to support the college development as a major endorsement of the college's work today in a vital role of the province. With government support, we are renewing dated infrastructure, making room for expansion to make the college's education available to more Nova Scotians and enabling the development of facilities consistent with the modern college environment. We commend the government for its investment in the college and look forward to working in partnership to build Nova Scotia's college.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Thank you. Yes, continue on, then.
MR. ROBERT SHEDDEN: In the interest of time, what I have done in preparation for this meeting, I prepared a very brief summary of the findings from the latest report of the Auditor General and our responses to those findings, and I would like to go through those just very briefly and perhaps they can form the basis for questions.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Does everyone have a copy of that?
MR. SHEDDEN: I was just going to say, I believe that was included in the package. It should be entitled the Public Accounts Committee in the green . . .
MR. CHAIRMAN: Okay. Thank you.
MR. SHEDDEN: Again, as I said, in the interest of time, I will try to be brief as I go through each of these findings.
MR. CHAIRMAN: We will follow you through it then, Mr. Shedden.
MR. SHEDDEN: With that introduction, perhaps we can just go through each one of these findings at a time. I will start with the first of these, Internal Control Systems. In reading through the Auditor General's Report, I believe the overall conclusions there were that internal control over revenues and payments was found to be adequate but there were some weaknesses noted with regard to bank reconciliations and the storage of blank and printed cheques. As far as the weaknesses are concerned, bank reconciliations are done on a monthly basis at the college. This particular situation was due to a system upgrade and the result of finding us in the midst of that system upgrade and unable to produce specific reports.
However, we did discuss with the Auditor General and staff the fact that we had put other mitigating processes in place where we were actually reconciling on a daily basis, which we felt was sufficient to ensure that the processes were still being controlled properly. However, I can tell you that now that that upgrade has been completed, we are back to our normal schedule of monthly bank reconciliations as suggested. As far as the physical control
of both blank and printed cheques, they are now kept in a locked cabinet in a locked room, as per the suggestion.
Moving on to the second of these recommendations, Outstanding Student Accounts, it was noted that procedures for identification and collection of outstanding student accounts should be improved. We went back and looked at the entire process for student accounts, and I should preface this by saying that it has only been in the last three years or so that the college has had adequate information systems to control student accounts and certainly, all its financial operations. That is one of the issues, as Ray alluded to, that we had to deal with as we began to develop the infrastructure and so on.
However, getting back to the specific recommendation, we have developed new reports to help at the campus level where most of these accounts receivables obviously are managed, and we're putting new procedures in place which would involve the schools more in actually, I guess, assessing each of the student accounts and deciding upon how these student accounts should be managed, in terms of how they should be collected and whether special terms of payment should be extended to the students. I think you can appreciate that the issue surrounding this whole problem is we have a number of students who find it difficult - as many students do in this province - to pay. We are always looking for ways to make sure that the education comes first and the payment is managed properly and within the student's means.
Moving on to the third finding, Internal Audit Reports. Findings from internal audit reports it was noted should be properly addressed and certainly, we take this finding very seriously. I believe the Auditor General was indicating that the follow-up on our own internal audit reports that are done by our college internal auditor, were not always followed up on immediately. Again, we have addressed this immediately by revisiting this whole area with the campuses and with our financial operations internally, to make sure that there is a schedule put together and that reports are acknowledged and reported back on within a month period, and corrective measures are put in place to address any and all of those issues that are pointed out by our own internal auditor.
Interestingly enough, I think it's worth note that the Nova Scotia Community College is one of the few educational institutions, certainly in this province and certainly across Canada, that actually has its own internal audit function. We deem it that important that we have put that in place and as I said, we take this finding very seriously and we've moved on it very quickly.
Moving on to the next one, Procurement. I believe the overall finding there, as pointed out, was that procurement transactions in general were in compliance with our own procedures and policies. However, there was a note there that documentation of public tendering processes has not been kept. When we searched into that, the documentation that was in question had to do with the actual notification in the newspapers, the actual tender
notification in the newspaper was not being kept in the file. We traced these down and we can trace them as far as knowing the ads were placed and so on, but we could not physically prove in all cases that these ads were kept in the files. We have amended our processes accordingly so that now, any and all ads that are placed in the paper for public tendering activities are kept in the files and included in the documentation as stated.
The next one is Safeguarding of Assets. Again, a very important finding and one which we take very seriously. It was noted that formal policies should be developed for the safeguarding of personal computers and related equipment, as well as data files and disaster recovery.
Just to respond specifically to this particular finding, we have policies that are in place for data files and backup and recovery. We have put a new asset control system in place as of September this year, that basically we have put all of our assets, whether it's furniture, equipment, computers, whatever, in this particular system and we are using that system then to manage all of the physical assets within the college.
The other thing I should note here is that we feel that our business systems, which consist of our financial, student information and human resources systems, as well as our communications systems - all of our e-mail - they are all managed by a third-party-contracted, outsourced firm and they have commercial level - if you would - backup and recovery procedures. We did that purposely because of the costs associated with trying to set up those types of systems and we believe we have made a cost-effective move in outsourcing that particular activity. Again, certainly our business systems are all backed up and are handled capably by our outsourced contractor, and I think that is an important point to make.
To the next finding, the Business Plan. Again, a very good finding which we discussed at length with the Auditor General. I think it's fair to say that officials from the Auditor General's office were in agreement that most of the information that would comprise a proper business plan was available in some form or other, but it was not put together in a proper business plan. For 2005-06, we have put a business plan together incorporating all of those facets, we have shared that with the Department of Education for the obvious reasons, and we sent copies on through to the Auditor General as well. Again, we have agreed with the finding, we've acted on that and put the business plan together. How's the time, Mr. Chairman?
MR. CHAIRMAN: Perhaps you could shorten it up a little, Mr. Shedden.
MR. SHEDDEN: I'll try to move a little quicker, I'm sorry.
MR. CHAIRMAN: You have a few more minutes.
MR. SHEDDEN: Budget Process. That dealt with the lack of documentation on utilities. Again, we took note of that and we now provide documentation for any and all of the assumptions, and/or calculations, that are included in the budget process.
Deferred Maintenance. That has been an ongoing issue for the college. We had formally documented all our deferred maintenance issues as part of the development project that we're now involved in. This information has been shared with the Departments of Education, and Transportation and Public Works, according to the processes that they have put in place because, again, the buildings that we occupy are those owned by government. We are currently monitoring that process so as we go through and see some of this deferred maintenance being addressed through the development project, we have a list, as suggested by the Auditor General, where we are actually ticking off those issues as they arise and as they're remedied.
Notification of Funding. We have no argument with that one at all. We agree that the earlier notification of funding makes the planning process that much easier and we continue to work with the department to try to make that process better.
Governance Function. Ms. Payne has addressed that.
Finally, Follow up to 1999 Audit. Again, we have no quarrel with the findings at all and we continue to work with the various government departments that we deal with to try to deal with these issues as we move forward.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Thank you. We will move right along and start with the NDP caucus. As usual, we'll have 20-minute rounds to begin with.
The honourable member for Dartmouth South-Portland Valley.
MS. MARILYN MORE: First of all, welcome. I want to preface my remarks by saying that I've been extremely impressed with the development of the community college system. I have to pay tribute to Mr. Ivany's leadership over the years, and certainly to the dedication and expertise shown by the board and staff. Anytime I have been in contact with any of the students from the various colleges, I've been most impressed with their enthusiasm, their abilities and their potential for the future. So I just wanted to put that on the record.
I want to say how delighted we are in Dartmouth to be hosting the new metro campus. I'm going to focus my questions on that expansion aspect of the community college system. We're very pleased to have the campus in the Woodside area, we think it's going to be a real catalyst for development and for life learning in our community. But there are some concerns and questions that are being asked and I would like to perhaps delve into those a
little bit. I guess, in general, how is the construction proceeding, is it going according to plan?
MR. CHAIRMAN: Mr. Ivany.
MR. IVANY: Yes, we are on plan, both on time and on budget as we sit here today. Our projection is for completion of the construction phase in January 2007.
MS. MORE: Are you aware if there have been any provincial government funding changes or delays that will affect your plan or your schedule?
MR. IVANY: No, we have a set of allocations for the Tangible Capital Assets process with the province, and we're currently operating according to the cash flow, over x number of fiscal years, that was approved at the time of the project. So far, no change that would impact that completion date.
MS. MORE: I understand from various meetings that have been held in the last few weeks that the Bell Road campus is going to be phased out before the Dartmouth site is completed. I'm just wondering if you can explain to us how you're going to deal with that interim period.
MR. IVANY: Yes, we have a transition plan. It is complex and changing almost by the day. Essentially what happens is we come out of Bell Road for an academic year and a half. We have a set of programs in the applied arts area that will move off-site. We have a set of administrative services that have already moved to a temporary location. We will have a range of our admin services, including our sort of central office functions, that are currently at the IT campus on Leed Street that will again move off-site. Then we'll do a renovation at Leed Street, in that vacated space, to take in the remaining number of students, perhaps on some modified scheduling basis. So the rest of the students from the Halifax campus would move to IT.
Essentially you'll have pods of activity that currently exist at the IT campus that will be moved out, we'll renovate the space within and then bring the rest of the students from Halifax in there, hopefully reassembling the pieces in 2007, once we have the major move of programs to the new site.
MS. MORE: Will this cause any change in the number or variety of programs that you currently offer?
MR. IVANY: No. The only thing that will change will be the location of some of those programs, by definition.
MS. MORE: My next concern is about parking. As you can imagine, we're expecting about 1,800 students, possibly 100 staff and faculty. This is going to have a terrific impact on that part of Dartmouth. I'm just wondering what your plans are to alleviate problems for the rest of the community.
MR. IVANY: Parking is something that we have taken very seriously, and I think anybody who has dealt with parking for public access facilities knows it's always a challenge. What we've done is we've worked with the municipality and the Department of Transportation and Public Works around trying to understand the potential traffic flow issues. We do, fortunately, have ferry service contiguous to the site. We also have public transit access, which we hope will improve. It may reduce some of the parking demands. And we have a shared-use facility with the Capital District Health Authority that has their own demands on the site in regard to parking.
We've attempted to model the kinds of ratios that you would expect, the number of students to individual vehicles, in trying to minimize the footprint associated with parking, but at the same time understanding that we have to provide as much full access as we can. It's not like we have the option of broad-scale street parking, which you would have in an urban centre.
I guess all I can say at this point is parking is an integral part of the planning process, and we've been modelling as many options as we potentially can look at, which is how would you configure it, on-site, on-ground, multiple-level, if you went to a parking structure, as some colleges have, whether you look at the possibility of even an off-site lot if you needed overflow parking, but no decision has been made, definitively, on that. We're literally trying to look at all the options so that whatever path we take - in fact, we had a public meeting with the residents of Woodside this Summer. That was one of the issues that they let us know was important for them. We gave them the undertaking that we would come back and meet with them, progressively, as we got closer to 2007, when we thought we had the most viable option.
We'd be happy to cycle back to you specifically - I know your personal interest in this - to let you know how the deliberations are going. Parking is a challenge, I absolutely acknowledge that.
MS. MORE: I understand that there may be another building constructed in Phase 2 of the construction of the campus that would actually be located on part of the proposed parking area. When will some of those decisions be made?
MR. IVANY: The Phase 2 construction is scheduled to begin when the first building is completed, so that would be in 2007-08. The actual siting of that building has not been done yet. An early drawing did indicate that it would rest where we currently have some temporary parking. That has not been decided. I would think we are probably about a year
away from a decision on that. That's also what I was referencing before, in that depending upon where you locate that building - which programs go in that building, the ratio of students to faculty to staff - will ultimately impact your choice on the parking use. I think we're about a year away from that decision.
MS. MORE: You mentioned discussions with public transit officials. As you know, some of the universities are currently using or contemplating using the U-pass. I'm just wondering if staff and board are considering making that an absolute with that particular campus in order to alleviate some of the problems.
MR. IVANY: That is one of the items that's under discussion. Again, it is early. The experience of colleges is somewhat different than the university sector regarding compulsory fees generally. The distribution of income levels, in terms of our student body, is significantly different, and we have tried to be very careful of the number of times where we've made a blanket, sort of, application of ancillary fees. On the other hand, if we thought, and our student body thought, there was benefit to that kind of blanket coverage, it would be something - our students are currently considering it on extended health care benefits - we would certainly look at.
Again, Ms. More, it's a little early. We don't know necessarily, because of the mix of ferry traffic, of public transit whether or not we could get sort of a dedicated service level associated with the new site, because of the number of students. Some of those decisions are actually going to have to be worked out on the basis of the loads that the transit authority are projecting as well.
MS. MORE: That actually leads into my next question about accommodations. Not all the students attending this particular site will be commuting from Halifax and using the ferries or from outside metro, many will be looking for local accommodations. I'm curious, because I understand at one point the old nurses' residence at the Nova Scotia Hospital was being considered as a possible site to be converted for residential space for the community college. I'm not sure of the status of that. I'm just wondering if you've done any surveys to see what capability the local community has in terms of housing potential students.
MR. IVANY: No, we haven't, in terms of any kind of quantitative survey of the existing capacity. I was just asking Bob Shedden. I don't believe the old nursing residence is an option, I'm not certain of that, but I don't think so. Our current thinking on this is that by the time we open in 2007-08, we will not have a residence facility built. We just don't have the financial capacity to even consider that right now. I think, as I mentioned at a public meeting you attended in Dartmouth last week, my feeling is that it will be likely that we would have some residence capacity built on that site within five years after the building. That's just my projection, given the student need, given the second phase rolling in there. I think, particularly for first-year students, you're probably going to need to have some minimum number of beds on-site.
One of the things we don't know yet is what the pattern will be in terms of enrolment of our students in those particular programs from immediately in the metro area versus outside. Our programs actually have different patterns at each site that exists around the province, depending upon the type of program, where else it's offered. So sometimes you get intense local enrolment, and other times we have campuses that draw extensively from outside their particular geographic area. This campus, because it's not yet in existence, we don't know what that likely will be. We can do some predictions based on the programs that are moving from some existing metro sites already.
The survey that you suggest, for instance, I think it would probably be best done when we have a better idea of what the mix of students at that campus will be from immediately in metro versus outside.
MS. MORE: So, will you actually have to wait for registration to find out where they're coming from? How can you predict earlier than that, in order to provide some level of readiness within the community to accommodate them?
MR. IVANY: I think what we would do is, the first thing, just make a straight-ahead extrapolation from the existing programs that are moving, whether Bell Road, IT or Akerley, because there's some musical chairs that will happen as a result of the new site, look at those patterns, assume they are going to be a reasonable proxy for what will happen when the programs are at that new campus, and then begin a process of, typically, an off-campus housing-type listing and an assemblage of that information for the students. That would, by necessity, have to be done in concert with members of the community who were interested, either in terms of formal apartment buildings and/or the sort of room-and-board accommodations that would be provided. That would begin significantly before 2007-08.
I think the modelling for the purposes of actual residence construction, since it's probably going to have to be funded with a third party, would likely occur once you are live in 2007-08, because anybody who was going to invest in it, I think, would want to see what the numbers are on that site.
MS. MORE: I understand you put out a request for proposals that I believe closes on Monday for a child care operator for the new campus. I couldn't find that on the Web site, so I'm just wondering, what is the status?
MR. ROBERT SHEDDEN: I wish I could offer you a lot of information on that, but I really can't. I can't give you an update on the status of that, I'm sorry.
MS. MORE: I'm just curious because I just returned, actually, from the National Child Care Conference in Winnipeg. I'm really interested to know whether you've limited,
and perhaps this information could be provided after today's meeting, your call for proposals to non-profit child care or whether it has been opened up to the for-profit commercial side of things? I would be particularly interested to know that.
MR. IVANY: We'll gladly cycle back to you with the information. I don't know the answer to that either.
MS. MORE: The researchers who were at this conference, and it was extremely well attended, seemed to indicate that both Canadian surveys and international research had proven that quality child care is more likely to be available under the non-profit system than the for-profit system. Since quality is one of the most determining factors in the degree of benefits to both the child and family, and the community in general, I think that's a very important aspect. I would like you to check into that, please.
Is there currently a child care operation in the Bell Road campus?
MR. IVANY: Yes. We have a child care operation there.
MS. MORE: What's going to happen to that, during that year and a half interim period? Will it move with some of the programs, when the facility is closed?
MR. IVANY: I was just asking Bob. I'm not certain. We don't have a daycare facility at our Leed Street campus. The bulk of the students from Bell Road, as I indicated, will move there after we move other pieces of the operation out. We do that in partnership with a third party provider, and I don't know if they're intending on transferring or not. I'll have to get back to you on that one as well.
MS. MORE: As I understand it, your third party provider currently is not-for-profit.
MR. IVANY: Yes, that's correct.
MS. MORE: So, it wouldn't be worth me asking whether community members will have access to this daycare operation? There's not a lot of information available at present.
MR. IVANY: Do you mean for the new campus?
MS. MORE: Yes, for the new site.
MR. IVANY: No. I certainly would not know that. We've been very pleased actually, because we only had a couple of sites, even up to about three years ago, where we had daycare. We've been able to expand the daycare offerings actually, through both some federal and provincial funding that has supported us on that. Obviously our first priority is daycare sites for students, because of the barrier that represents to access for many of our
students. If there's still spaces available after that, I assume that those are made available. But at the new site, it's still pretty hypothetical at this stage. Again, I appreciate the question, because that's something that we still have time, in working with the provider, to plan for, in terms of the number of sites, if in fact students don't take them up, how do they become available on some sort of priority basis for other use.
MS. MORE: It's actually a very particular issue for this community, because they recently lost a well-established, large non-profit daycare across the street. This has had a negative impact on a number of families in that particular community, many of whom don't have access to daycare or child care centres that are further away because of transportation difficulties and whatnot. I think the community would see this as a tremendous opportunity and benefit, if there was some access for community members to take part in a quality child care program in their community. I would certainly encourage you to investigate that.
MR. CHAIRMAN: You have less than a minute left, so you might want a quick snapper.
MS. MORE: I just want to talk a little bit about the harbourfront trail that runs in front of the new campus. I understand there's going to be public washrooms available in one corner of your facility to accommodate the people using the trail. I'm just wondering if there have been any discussions with the community about appropriate lighting and security measures for the women who might be using it, early morning or after dark, in the evening, and what sort of time schedule the washrooms are going to have?
MR. CHAIRMAN: A 10-second answer there, Mr. Ivany.
MR. IVANY: We have had discussions with the Waterfront Development Corporation. That was an issue that was flagged when we met with the residents in Woodside. I suspect there'll be more discussions underway. Our intention is to have those washrooms available for as many hours of the day as possible, so the target is 24. There's been some discussion of whether you need them from 2:00 a.m. to 5:00 a.m. or whatever. Maximum utilization of the washrooms, and the safety issue is one that we always deal with in terms of our own parking areas, et cetera. So, yes.
MR. CHAIRMAN: We'll turn now to the Liberal caucus.
The honourable member for Halifax Citadel.
MR. DANIEL GRAHAM: Thank you, guests, for coming today. I think we described this, when we were setting the agenda for the Public Accounts Committee, as a good news story. I think, as the member for Pictou East had pointed out when he suggested this as a topic for us to discuss, it's important for us in the Public Accounts Committee to highlight the successes, recognizing that the Auditor General's Report was certainly a very favourable
one in relation to what we've seen from others. In all audits there is obviously room for improvement and we appreciate the comments that have been provided by Mr. Shedden and Ms. Payne, about the way in which you will go about undertaking those.
My comments and questions are going to be more general. Before I do, I think it's appropriate in these good news times to applaud the community college and all of its leadership for the work that it has done, from the board level on down through the administration. You have taken on an enormous challenge. I believe, Mr. Ivany, on previous occasions, you have been quoted publicly as saying that we were 20 years behind the other jurisdictions in Canada, in establishing a comprehensive, fully-supported, and more independent community college system. It's clear that the connection between our community colleges and the strength of the Nova Scotia economy, had historically been underplayed. You and your group have done a terrific job in bringing this issue to light and tenaciously marching us forward to not just a general plan, but as it turns out in the recent capital announcement, a very specific plan and there are other plans, of course.
So, bouquets to you, I know that your departure is not until next October so there may be lots of bouquets you catch along the way but let me, certainly, on behalf of our caucus and I would expect most members of the Legislature, say that the work has been exemplary, it is the best of what Nova Scotia leadership is about. From speaking with the people who are on your board and the hundreds of people who work on your staff, it's clear that they support the vision that you have advanced.
The topics that I'm going to touch on will be first, funding and tuition; secondly, I'd like to talk about the interplay between the education system and the economy; and thirdly, issues of enrolment, and then Mr. Glavine, the honourable member for Kings West, will have an opportunity to ask additional questions.
First let me talk about funding and tuition. I've read in the material, in preparation for today's meeting, the suggestion that funding for the community college system in Nova Scotia is perhaps the lowest of any province in Canada. I don't know whether that's correct, I don't know whether that's on a per capita basis, on a per student basis, and where we're headed. Could you please comment on that?
MR. IVANY: Yes, I could, Mr. Graham. Thank you for your kind comments, I'll pass them on to my colleagues, who have worked very hard to make up for the lost time.
On the funding side, the number that you've talked about is our operating budget and we've made some progress, actually, in recent years, but it is still at the lower end on a per capita basis. That, of course, is partly due to the extensive historical gap that has existed between university and college education in Nova Scotia. One of the results of the historical anomaly of the late development of the college was that we also had one of the most well developed university systems, thankfully, in the country. So on a per capita basis, this is a
problem that Nova Scotia faces at all times with the number of students we have in post-secondary education. Whether they come from Nova Scotia or come from elsewhere, we are still, as taxpayers, investing in each of those students. So that is the specific reference on the funding level.
MR. GRAHAM: Do you know where we are on a per student basis?
MR. IVANY: I don't know exactly, I can get back to you on that. We used to be at much more of a mid level but I can get back to you on the recent numbers on that, I don't have them off the top of my head.
MR. GRAHAM: It brings me to the question of tuition increases. I'm aware of the proposed and approved increase of 6.7 per cent in this past year, raising tuition from $2,250 to $2,400, to go up in the subsequent years to $2,500 and $2,600 respectively. I would like to get to the heart of the 6.7 per cent increase this past year, it was more than double the inflation rate. I'm wondering whether or not you could comment first on how does Nova Scotia compare to other jurisdictions for community college, and I appreciate that there are two levels - one for your advanced diploma program and the other for the regular program. I think the current tuition for the advanced program is $3,300. Could you first comment on how our tuition rates compare to other jurisdictions and secondly, provide us with your analysis of why the required increase this past year was double the rate of inflation?
MR. IVANY: Yes, Mr. Graham, there is no question the tuition ramp that we've been on as a college because, again, you don't have to roll the clock back that far, I think in 1997 our tuition was $1,000. Obviously, prior to the creation of the college as a post-secondary option, it, for all intents and purposes, was zero. It is a cause for concern. Colleges are primary access points in post-secondary education, they were founded as forces of democratization, to be honest. They were founded because when you looked at the distribution of who went to post-secondary education, prior to colleges being created, unfortunately, one of the strongest predictors of who went was family income. Therefore, the creation of colleges in both the United States and Canada was founded on changing the nature of access in society to post-secondary education.
One of the things I can report to you as a huge positive, I believe, is that the Millennium Scholarship Foundation recently completed a review to take a look at income quartiles and participation rates in both university and college education. In university education it still rises according to increasing family income, so family income is still the best predictor of attendance at university. For colleges, participation rates were flat across all four income quartiles, which I think is a major step forward in societal terms. And if you allow me, in answering your question, to raise it to that level, I do believe the issue of access - tuition not being the only factor but being a primary factor - is a higher order question, it
really is what kind of society do you want in terms of people having opportunity to get post-secondary education, particularly in a world where we are inundated with analysis that says virtually all of the new employment over the next five to 10 years will be for those individuals - whether in Nova Scotia or another province - who have some post-secondary education?
To get directly to your point, we are concerned about our tuition levels. We, like every other publicly-funded, post-secondary institution, really have three streams of revenue: we have the appropriation that we receive from the government; we have tuition revenue; and then we have everything from customized training, to sale of services, our research activities, all of those other things bring in a third flow of revenue. At the end of the day, in order to build a budget to do what it is that you've kindly acknowledged that we've made some progress on, which is building the kind of college in terms of programs and services, there is a budget amount that you are required to do that. If that funding doesn't come forward from government or you can't get it from another source, it invariably is what has caused the rising tuition levels across Canada, in both the university and college sector. We ended up there last year, as we have in previous years, by simply needing the revenue to continue to do the work that we do from all three sources, actually, that I described.
Where does it put us relative to the rest of the country? We are above the national average but we're some distance from the highest. Again, I don't have it specifically with me, I will gladly provide it. The last time we ran these numbers it had us somewhere in the order of, I believe, the top quarter in Canada and that's, I guess, why I was citing the concern that we know from our students that the tuition level does impact on their decision relative to attendance and I guess our approach has been, despite the increases that have occurred over the years, because there is private and public benefit to someone attending post-secondary education, our approach has been to try to minimize those increases relative to the other opportunities that students might have.
In the long run, is tuition a concern? Quite simply, you can't be in a college and not have it as a concern because again we were created to try to ensure that we changed the pattern of access for students to post-secondary education.
MR. GRAHAM: You referenced the larger question of whether or not we, as a society, value this type of education to the point where it is reasonably accessible and I know that one of your principal motivations in the whole field of education relates to the question of access, whether or not the kid from Balls Creek or Yarmouth or Amherst has the same opportunity as someone from another part of this province. Too infrequently, we examine those larger questions and perhaps given that you are in the twilight of your time, at least in this specific role in education, you would be willing to share with us your thoughts about the whole question of tuition around community colleges and whether or not you feel that a tuition at all is something that is appropriate.
I don't know what your potential response is but when one looks at that larger question and what is valuable and ultimately, which leads into my second line of questioning, what will strengthen the economy of Nova Scotia, is there an argument to be made for us lowering tuition provided that obviously appropriate funding is still found through the private and public sectors or perhaps even eliminating tuition in recognizing that what used to be a high school education is now at least a community college education or a bachelor's degree?
MR. IVANY: A complicated question and I guess I do not have an easy answer because I think contextually, Ireland is always the example that people use, clearly, where they took the infusion of dollars around entry into the EU and they radically altered their post-secondary structure by dropping tuition. In more practical terms, I do believe there is both public and private benefit to someone attending post-secondary education. So I think from almost an ideological standpoint, I don't think having tuition levels in and of themselves represent the primary barrier. I believe that the balance of public good and private good and the students' access, whether it's on the student assistance basis or otherwise, to the vehicles that will allow them to attend is the main question.
I guess in addressing it, the way that I would look at it is, and let's look at Nova Scotia since that is what we are most concerned about, in Nova Scotia, does a given level of tuition prevent an individual student from attending? I think asking that question over and over again - believe you me as we do - is the most salient question to be asked. Currently, I think we are at a point where I am getting, I guess at a personal level, more concerned that we may be getting close to the amount of elasticity, if you like, that you have in terms of students, particularly at lower family income levels, being able to access our college. For that reason, I think you will see our institution, clearly our board, has spent plenty of time on this issue, trying to moderate and hold, if you will, the current levels, so that we can make certain that it is not the barrier. Again, it's a very complex question and, I apologize, to some degree an inadequate answer in a short period of time. I honestly think that the question we should be asking right now is can we move much beyond where we currently are in our province, especially for the kinds of circumstances that some of our students are coming from. I believe it's in our interest, as well as theirs, to give them the opportunity to get to the college. That's the best I can do at this point.
MR. GRAHAM: I'm going to attempt, probably awkwardly, to bring together my second and third lines of questioning, just in the interest of time and making sure that Mr. Glavine has plenty of time for his follow-ups in the next session. The big picture, as I understand it, relating to the community college, is that enrolment has been historically low. We haven't placed the kind of emphasis on almost every aspect of community colleges. As a consequence, we have suffered economically. When the offshore first started to hit, and hit big with Nova Scotia, what we learned was that there was a shortage of skilled labour to provide the work that was necessary in order to get the jobs done. We ended up taking people in from other places.
I know that the community college has provided significant agility and created partnerships in order to link with the private sector in order to bring in outfits that will help with that training process. It underscores the question of how education and the economy are in lockstep with each other. Without a strong, healthy education system, particularly as we go to the post-secondary level, then we're not apt to have a strong economy. We are facing significant challenges in Nova Scotia in making sure that we have an industrial base, something that is ultimately reliable for people. We've got a different economy than they have, for example, in New Brunswick, with a different kind of industrial base there.
I'm just wondering if you can give us a sense of how do we get - first, in a link to that other part - the enrolment numbers? I know that your targets are to increase numbers by about 2,500 in the next couple of years. I expect that will continue to increase. But, how do we make that shift happen, because there is, in some respects, a stigma attached, still, in Nova Scotia to the notion of people going to the community colleges, something that needs to be broken down in the living rooms and kitchens of the people in this province? And, how do we transfer that over to the economic advantage that we can get? What do you forecast to be the link in community colleges between the education and the economy as we move forward?
MR. CHAIRMAN: You have just over a minute for your response.
MR. IVANY: Another complicated question. I think you've hit on the first part of it in the question. The sweet spot is the link between the economy and the labour market. I think we did see in the late 1980s, which is one of the imperatives that resulted, I believe, in government's investment in the college, the situation we want to avoid, which is you have increased economic activity but you have sort of a two-barrel problem. On one side you have opportunity to grow and you can't find the people you need with the specific skill sets to allow that growth to occur, but at the same time you have relatively high unemployment. So you really have the two pieces fundamentally out of sync. Colleges have played a role in every jurisdiction in getting those pieces in sync. That is part of our target, to get those two things together. Where the economic opportunities exist, Nova Scotians have the skills in order to be able to take advantage of those opportunities.
Your second point is the longer-term cultural and attitudinal change that will need to occur. We have not, despite one of our national newspaper's front page, the other day, saying trades are the new university, which is again pointing to something that's happening in other jurisdictions as well, which is our attitudes and beliefs about what kinds of opportunities, in the post-secondary sector, lead to good employment and a good life need to change, otherwise we will not see - and leave the college aside from this - that matching between the economy and the labour market.
We've been working hard, and the Department of Education has been looking at some very creative curriculum work to start to, in the public school system, have students see a range of options in the applied education areas. We have responsibility in this regard as well, and we've been working hard to try to highlight, especially when you get in non-traditional areas, those kinds of success stories, where individuals have moved into career paths that would not normally have been predicted, and it has opened a door for them that wouldn't have been seen otherwise.
Culture and attitude takes a longer period of time, and I think it will take some work in the public school system, it will take some work by the college, and will probably take some work by some of the industrial sectors that have not normally been seen as first-choice employment destinations for Nova Scotians. To be honest, I've seen some early signs that that transition is underway.
One other quick point on this, I want to go back to the access question one more time, because it does relate to this. If you're an individual in this province previous to the Nova Scotia School for Adult Learning and even saw, okay, if I can get into that particular program, which can get me to that employment, the difficulty was you couldn't get to the starting point.
One of the most rapidly growing segments of our student population has been students in our access programs and studying towards an adult high school diploma on a modularized basis, whereas in the past they would essentially be on the outside looking in. Now they have a pathway to get to that program and get to that job. That's a relatively recent creation in Nova Scotia. I guess my prediction would be in the years to come that's going to serve us very well, because that's another one of those changes in attitude and culture, that if we can get the educational opportunity to meet you where you are, then you can get there too, rather than people feeling like it's not available to them.
MR. CHAIRMAN: We'll now move to the Progressive Conservative caucus.
The honourable member for Waverley-Fall River-Beaver Bank.
MR. GARY HINES: Mr. Chairman, in starting out I would like to read a quote from Ann Dowsett Johnston, the Editor at Large of Maclean's Magazine, "In the six years since the charismatic Cape Breton native took the wheel at NSCC, he has negotiated a major transformation of the 13-campus college, reshaping a diverse network of vocational schools and technical institutes into one dynamic entity."
That individual would be Mr. Ray Ivany, who was also chosen as Maclean's Magazine's 1 of 10 Canadians. Congratulations, Ray. Beside every successful man there is a successful committee, so I also want to shower accolades on your board that works soundly
and solidly with you. That being said, I would like to know a little bit about the makeup of the board, how they're chosen, the term that they're chosen for and so on.
MR. IVANY: Maybe we can do this in a one-two, if you want. The technical aspects of our board are that we have representation half and half of members who are appointed by the minister and upon recommendation from the college, we have an equal number of members who are appointed by the board itself. Then we have members who come from within the institution, two students, a member of our teaching faculty, a member from the administrative areas, and then a member from our support staff category. That comprises the board. After that, it is looking at representing Nova Scotia more broadly. With that, I think I'll pass it over to Ms. Payne.
MS. PAYNE: As with the college, diversity is very important on the board as well, so we try to reach out to different sectors within the communities in Nova Scotia. As Ray said, some of us are appointed by government and others are appointed by the college. There is a nominations committee that sits and we make sure that diversity is on the board and try to balance female and male, and all of the rest. For example, at the last two they had 26 or 27 great candidates come forward to the nominating committee - and there are two outside members on the nominating committee - to go through the final pick of two people. So they have lots in the pipeline, as well as good business people out there to be involved in that.
MR. HINES: I looked at the diversity of your board in the program here. One of the things of interest there - and it's of interest to all Nova Scotians now with the offshore opportunities - is the offshore industry. I see you have a program, the offshore opportunities program. I was just interested to see if EnCana, Irving and some of the other corporations are involved there. Could you tell me a little bit about the makeup of this offshore opportunities program and how it prepares people for the oil industry and at what level do they walk out of the program and into a job? I would like to have a little bit of background on it.
MR. IVANY: The programs that you are referring to specifically, EnCana, Ocean Rig and Irving, made a major investment, $2.25 million, in the college to allow us to create, both in equipment and curriculum, a world standard of offshore operations programs. It was tailored specifically to a set of skill sets that are largely around instrumentation process control, again, the more sophisticated aspects of the operations, whether on board a drill rig or in other aspects of the petroleum sector. We've operated that out of our Marconi Campus in Sydney and in the first iteration of that program, those students were doing internships and work placements with a number of the sponsors.
The thing with the offshore area is that one of the things we've found from the industry, itself, is that interestingly their employment cuts across a large number of our programs. It's because of the sophistication of the technology that they made the investment and we ran a specific program, but the reality is they employ mechanical technologists, they employ students who are doing CAD/CAM and a whole range of other programs that we
don't specifically tailor for the offshore, but are employed essentially by a large-scale, heavy - if you like - industrial sector. That one is a specific program but in terms of if we look at our response to the oil and gas sector more broadly, it covers a much broader range of programs than just that one.
MR. HINES: When you're speaking of opportunities in the offshore, apart from the regulatory process which is painstaking in this country, one of the problems I hear from the oil people is that we tend to, in general, protect our labour forces who have to work in our areas of Newfoundland and Nova Scotia, but one of the areas we don't protect are the procurement people and the engineering people. Do you see any ties there, because our procurement and engineering are going back to Dallas, to Korea and other areas and it seems to be something that is happening more frequently and something that needs to be addressed. Is there any fix there or influence coming forward from an organization like yours that could help with that process and get the procurement people and engineering people, so that our people are doing it?
MR. IVANY: Mr. Hines, I think we absolutely have a responsibility to work with local bidders in the engineering, procurement and other areas, to make sure they have the people they need so that they can make successful bids. As a Nova Scotian, I would concur with you, I think anytime we have economic activity here, and some of the more intellectually intensive aspects of it go somewhere else, then it's economic leakage to us, there's no doubt about that. Our ability to influence that is not extensive beyond the partnerships that we form with some very strong Nova Scotian companies, to make them successful in those bids. Beyond that there's not much directly, at least, that the college is able to do.
MR. HINES: Thank you. I'm going to move to another area. One of the things that this government has done different than other governments is to do long-term planning and long-range planning in capital projects related to education. Has that long-range planning helped you in any way up to this point and do you see continuing it being a real asset to what you want to do?
MR. IVANY: Absolutely. The commitment that was made in 2003 was noteworthy, in terms of the size and the scale of the investment, but what was also noteworthy was it was tracked out to 2009. I believe, if we look at the second phase of the development project in Dartmouth and having the certainty of that, and being able to then efficiently plan a large-scale construction project knowing what those pieces are going to be four and five fiscal years hence is, it's the right way to do it, so we've benefited hugely from that. In one way, we're probably one of the early examples of the benefits of that kind of long-term planning.
I will say that we're continuing to work - as was indicated in the Auditor General's Report - with the Department of Education, to try to extend the planning horizon on the operating budget requirements as well, because that, again, would have the same kind of
value. If you know where you're going to be two or three years from now on the operating side, it has the same kinds of benefits if you know where you're going to be on the capital side.
MR. HINES: I may be wrong but I would say that part and parcel of that would be one of the areas you addressed in your report to show future concerns and find agreements, and that would be land and building issues as to ownership. How has that posed a problem for you people to go forward and what is being done with it? Are you at liberty to tell me where you're going with that?
MR. IVANY: Certainly, it's not a major problem to the extent that we have a close working relationship with the Departments of Education, and Transportation and Public Works around the buildings. I think partly it is a bit of leftover from the legislation in 1996. Typically, you would see colleges in most jurisdictions having formal ownership of their buildings but you would also see a situation where in the transfer around that you've also got, again, some of that long-term planned contribution to, for instance, the maintenance and upkeep of those buildings.
What has happened up until now is that we made that occur on an informal basis, by virtue of a good working relationship with the various departments. So it's not a major impediment to doing the work of the college. I think it is something, for instance, the Auditor General has pointed out, and I think it's evolving quite naturally now. To me, the next logical time to take stock, so to speak, around this particular question would be when the development project that is underway right now comes to a close. Now you have a refurbished infrastructure in the college and then the question around ownership and the long-term maintenance requirements for all of the pieces would seem, to me, to be a reasonable time to ask the question.
MR. HINES: One of the other programs that I see here is a college prep program. Can you tell me a little bit about the participation in the schools and how you direct that effort, and the inclusion of the Aboriginal community, which I think is a good thing as well?
MR. IVANY: Thank you, Mr. Hines. I'm glad you asked a question on that program, one that I think points to the kind of attitudinal and cultural changes we talked about earlier. We are very fortunate to have great partnerships with the school boards around the province, memorandums of understanding around college prep. On a pilot basis, essentially, what we're doing - and this has existed in the United States for about 20 years now - is giving a student in high school a chance to say, really what I want to do when I finish is move into an applied career area - it could be in a trade, it could be in technology, it could be in the hospitality industry, but they start to get themselves prepared for that as their goal once they complete high school. These programs have been hugely successful, in terms of improving high school completion. They've also been hugely successful in improving the students' persistence and success when they move to the post-secondary level.
Now, college prep is essentially a collaborative effort between ourselves and the boards, including the First Nations communities, to pilot this program. It's not one that we're doing by the hundreds of students, although I know the Department of Education is discussing the possibility of curriculum reform that would make it more broadly available, which I think would be a huge step forward relative to changing the attitude and culture around seeing applied education at the post-secondary level as a real option for Nova Scotians.
It's a program that we're really excited about, and the school boards have been tremendous partners with us on this. I think, as a pilot program, it has proven that this works. Now that we've proven it on a pilot basis, I hope we get an opportunity to say, what happens if we increase the scale and availability of the program to more students.
MR. HINES: Have you had many requests from high schools, from the staff level, to address their classes and so on, regarding opportunities that abound?
MR. IVANY: Yes, that has been on the increase in my whole time at the college. We've had much more uptake, if you will, from the public school system because, again, teachers and guidance counsellors are trying to help their students, in what we know is a very complex labour market, to make good decisions about where they can prepare themselves for the kind of world that we live in. Just like it's happened in other provinces and in other countries, college is one of those opportunities. Again back to, I guess, my opening comments of the development challenges that we face in Nova Scotia, that hasn't been the norm.
You asked the question, are we seeing more of it, the good news is we absolutely are seeing more of it, year over year over year. There's been greater uptake in the high schools around information about the college generally.
MR. HINES: As a young fellow, back 20 years ago, looking for opportunities, I came from a family of educators and somehow I fell through the cracks and didn't listen to my mother. Needless to say I didn't get the education level that I might have liked to have obtained, but I did get a lot of experience in the field of construction and industry and so on. Deep in my heart I have a real affinity for the re-establishment of secondary industry in the Province of Nova Scotia, because I think at some point in time we got away from the secondary industries that we were good at, and it's an opportunity to use up our raw materials and so on. I think that we have to get back to that. I see a big connection between the community college activity and the revamp of secondary industry. Can you elaborate a little bit on that, and give your opinion on it?
MR. IVANY: I would concur. I think any time we have an economic opportunity, I think we should ask ourselves the question, in terms of secondary and even tertiary level activity related to that. The classic example is if we have a new product or service, are we thinking about advancing that technology, whether we own it ourselves or are taking it from somewhere else, so that when the rest of the world needs it, they'll buy it from us and not who we bought it from. Those multipliers, those questions that really go to an economic multiplier, I think, should lie at the core of our strategy. On that, I would concur.
The most important point for us as a college, I believe, is to have a close working relationship with those employers in those secondary - and, again, if we can get to the third level, that's great - level industries, because as you know from your experience, they tend to be very technology intensive. You're usually using some sort of process, some sort of machinery that is processing or in some way adding value to the product. Whenever you're doing that, you are opening up a range of occupations that typically colleges prepare people for.
I go back to my earlier comment, and I think it's the thing that we should be judged on, again, tightening that link between the economic opportunity at the primary or secondary level and having Nova Scotians having those skills. That's the thing that I guess has been a burning, driving force inside of me on this, that as a native Nova Scotian it's just unacceptable when the opportunity exists here that Nova Scotians, only because of skill and knowledge, are not able to access it. I guess my answer would be, again, our responsibility is to make sure we work with those employers so that we have graduates who are prepared and can give them the opportunity to make those businesses successful.
MR. HINES: Can you give me some numbers regarding the student growth level, the numbers since 1996 until present-day? What is the increase in student growth?
MR. IVANY: I think our enrolment level is up about 27 per cent. I think that's since 1998 - it's not cumulative there. So in 1997-98 we were at 6,696, in terms of our full-time enrolment; as of 2004-05 we were at 8,495, full-time. That is about 28 per cent, I think. That's been our increase. Again, as the new facilities and new programs come on stream, you'll see that continue to ramp up.
MR. HINES: Now we've made the tie between the community college level and the secondary industry level, what's the retention of the students to employment in Nova Scotia? Do we find that we have a mass exodus, do we have a situation we need to address there in terms of keeping them home?
MR. IVANY: The good news is that in our last graduate follow-up survey, of the students we have who are employed in the labour market, 92 per cent were in Nova Scotia. That, again, is another one of the characteristics of college. Our students tend to come, certainly from the province but even more locally from the communities that the campus is
located in. Again, if economic opportunity exists, they tend to stay in those communities in greater numbers. You may have seen it in some of our material, because it's something we're quite proud of, having that percentage of our students who stay in the province.
MR. HINES: Mr. Chairman, that's the end of my questioning. I guess it's almost the end of my time.
MR. CHAIRMAN: It is, indeed, almost the end of your time. I thank you for finishing up a moment early, because we were running quite lengthy with the other caucuses. Having said that, I believe what we will do is move on to Mr. Ivany - I'm sorry. What we're going to do, then, is seven-minute rounds. We will begin with the NDP, and we're going to have to stick to our timeline because we have some business to attend to at the end.
MS. MORE: I'm just going to ask one quick question and then pass it over to my colleague. I have a number of other questions revolving around the impact of the new campus, but I just wanted to finish off by asking you about public access. As you know, it's on the harbourfront, that area of the community is well-used during big events on the harbour, and I'm just wondering, do you foresee any restriction to public access because the community college is going to be in that area?
MR. IVANY: Ms. More, no, I don't. We've asked our architects from the earliest days to design this facility and this site, again, as a community college; our approach is this is a community resource. But for the typical security concerns that would be in a building holding the kinds of equipment, et cetera, that we'll have, the design from the outset has been to make it a public-use facility.
MS. MORE: So when there are special events taking effect on the harbour, then it's your intention that it will be open to the citizens of Dartmouth?
MR. IVANY: Yes, it is.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Mr. Estabrooks.
MR. WILLIAM ESTABROOKS: Mr. Chairman, I'd like to turn my attention to Mr. Shedden, if I could, please, with some of your comments, although, Mr. Ivany, of course you're encouraged to jump in. Again, congratulations on the great job you've done in promoting community colleges.
When I had a real job as a school principal I recruited kids constantly to go to job-oriented - this is the place to go, anybody can get a B.Ed. from Mount Allison in History or English - you're looking at one of them, right? I'm concerned, however, about the message
it sends when you're looking at outstanding student accounts. I would like you to clarify if you could - I made some notes about how you were doing this. Tuition has jumped immensely from when I was in the situation of let's try out community college, folks, there are some jobs at the end of the course. You said that you have identified new procedures that are being developed to deal with students in arrears.
MR. SHEDDEN: Yes.
MR. ESTABROOKS: That sends me all the wrong messages. Don't tell me you're going to let the dogs loose tracking these kids down in the streets if, for some reason, they're tardy in their payments?
MR. SHEDDEN: No, quite the contrary, Mr. Estabrooks. The process surrounding students and their payments of accounts has always been one that has been done on an individual student-by-student basis, and that's what we're promoting. What we're trying to do in terms of the new processes, if you would, is to actually get the deans of the schools involved so that the students can deal one-on-one with the dean of the school involved. We've always gone the extra mile to make sure that individual payment plans are set out for each student. It has never been our intention to try to dog students, that's not the point, but to try to find a way to make it, I guess, as easy as possible for those students to get the education, which is number one, and then to find a way to have those bills or their tuition fees taken care of.
MR. ESTABROOKS: The kinder, gentler approach to students who find themselves in those difficult situations, there are some examples throughout the country we should be following, and I know that you're in touch with other institutions of a similar mandate, the mandate of young men and women who are being attracted to community colleges - and you can see, I think we've been joined by some students. It's of real significance to understand the fact that they're making a major investment income.
I want to turn to something else that drives me crazy in the school system called deferred maintenance. You said during your comments, Mr. Shedden, and I'd just like you to clarify them - maybe I didn't quite get it down right - you said you have a list. Could you clarify for me what that list entails when it comes to this topic of deferred maintenance? You know it's not glossy, it's not the sexy topic of the day, but I mean we have buildings, public institutions, falling down around the ears of kids, young men and women. Could you clarify this comment you've made that you have a list?
MR. SHEDDEN: Absolutely. One of the things the college had to do in preparation for the development process and the entire project, was to have a look at what the issues were. Recognizing that this infusion of cash from the government was not just for the Dartmouth site but indeed, was to cover all of our buildings across the province, we did an engineering review of all the buildings that we had. So we had a look at the infrastructure,
the engineering, the plant and equipment in all of our buildings and put together a long list of those issues that needed to be addressed.
I'm happy to report that approximately $10 million of the $80-odd million will be addressed as part of this development initiative and that will be done right across the province. So we're very fortunate in being able to not only improve infrastructure, but to correct some of these deficiencies that we've seen. The other part of the process, which is the remainder of the deferred maintenance, we ascribe to the processes that have been put in place by the Departments of Education, and Transportation and Public Works. We prioritized and we sent that information to those departments and we've shared this information with the departments.
The list I'm referring to is basically this document here, which is a working document. Essentially, what we're trying to do is keep track of those items that were identified and actually tick them off as we address them and we move forward. Again, we're addressing a number of them through the development project as we go through and we will continue to do so through the basic annual process with the Departments of Transportation and Public Works, and Education.
MR. ESTABROOKS: I see the chairman giving me hand signals and I listen to him. My concern always comes down to the fact of who that list goes to and who answers to the list, because you've mentioned two notorious departments that at times do not get along - let's call it like it is - the Department of Transportation and Public Works and the Department of Education. The list is provided to both of those departments, is that clear?
MR. SHEDDEN: Absolutely.
MR. ESTABROOKS: Thank you.
MR. CHAIRMAN: We will move on with the Liberal caucus.
The honourable member for Kings West.
MR. LEO GLAVINE: Thank you for coming in today, Mr. Ivany, Mr. Shedden and Ms. Payne. Also, a quick welcome to at least one teacher I see in the gallery, Colin MacEachern, and I think students from Prince Andrew. Welcome to the proceedings this morning.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Yes, if I may just interrupt, welcome to all our visitors in the gallery today. We are conducting a Public Accounts Committee meeting this morning and we have with us presenters from the Nova Scotia Community College.
MR. GLAVINE: Multi-year funding is becoming a major topic, certainly at the university level. Is that part of the picture as well for the community college structure in the province?
MR. IVANY: Yes, Mr. Glavine. As we responded on the long-term planning, with respect to the development project, that has helped us immensely in having that projected over six or seven fiscal years. On the operating budget side, we currently do an annual budget process between ourselves and the Department of Education. We have been in discussion - again, as per a recommendation in the Auditor General's Report - on how to convert that to a multi-year model as well. That would have benefits to us as an institution, from a planning perspective. It is on the agenda, it is something that rests between ourselves and the Department of Education.
MR. GLAVINE: I see that as pretty critical because while we have a great capital program starting into play now at all 13 campuses, there is still a lot of refurbishing that has to go on and we see tuition fees escalating. Are students perhaps in some way going to end up paying for some of the refurbishing?
MR. IVANY: I hope not. I think there are a couple of things that look positive in that respect. For instance on the capital side, as indicated, that is already set, so that is separate and apart from the operating budget. Per the Auditor General's recommendation, we provided the department, this year, with a business plan that extends over at least three years, I think maybe four if you're counting the one we're entering. Depending upon their response, if, in fact, we can get on a multi-year basis, then certainly our board's approach has been to try to make multi-year projections relative to tuition levels so that, again, if there was a shortfall you wouldn't see it passed on in a given year to students because you would already know what the tuition level would be in those out years. That would be our preference, if we could get to that approach.
MR. GLAVINE: We know about the nature of some of the outstanding programs that are at the different campuses across the province. Is there any particular campus that is posing an enrolment problem or concern? In other words, perhaps geography is becoming an overriding factor with the program.
MR. IVANY: It is something that we're always sensitive to. There are two considerations there, one is we have given you on enrolment dated from the mid-1990s on, every one of our campuses have increased enrolment over that period, so we don't have that kind of broad-based difficulty.
Where we have a greater challenge is when we're making academic decisions that often involve program shifting. Again, in parts of the Valley that you would be familiar with, this is an issue that we're currently dealing with. We have programs moving from one campus to another in a given year, therefore, until there is other programming developed at the site where the program is moved from, then you can have a short-term enrolment drop.
Again, if you look at the time period that we've been talking - from the mid-1990s to the present - we've had innumerable numbers of those moves and, again, the overall trend line has been upward. Something that is constantly in the mix, in terms of the decision making within the institution, is whether or not a given decision or demographic change in a particular area is going to impact one of our campuses.
MR. GLAVINE: If we take a sampling of students in front of us here, 83 per cent, when they go to post-secondary institutions, will go to university; 17 per cent, roughly, to community colleges. I feel, having been an educator, that guidance counsellors and guidance departments have a huge impact in assessing aptitudes and assisting students in moving forward. Have you worked directly with counselling departments because, again, we know the need to up that percentage for the future economic development of the province?
MR. IVANY: Yes, Mr. Glavine, we have. Two years ago now, for the first time, to underscore your point, we were invited in the annual conference of Nova Scotia guidance counsellors to formally present on the college and the changes that were occurring. There are a large number of one-on-one contacts between individuals at our various campuses and guidance staff in high schools. The college prep program that was mentioned earlier has connected the college and high schools much more strongly. I think the trend is in the right direction but, as per my opening comments, our starting point is significantly behind the kind of ratio that you would see in other provinces. It likely is going to take us some time to get to similar levels of other provinces.
MR. CHAIRMAN: We'll move to the Progressive Conservative caucus.
The honourable member for Chester-St. Margaret's.
MR. JOHN CHATAWAY: To our guests, we very much appreciate this opportunity to be brought up to date on the Nova Scotia Community College. This has been a good discussion, and certainly I could go on, but I don't want to waste all my time, to be very complimentary to you all. Mr. Ivany, you are indeed the quarterback, maybe not the same quarterback as they will have on Sunday playing for the Grey Cup, but I'm sure you would be one of the first ones to say no quarterback has won a game by himself or herself. You certainly have the team.
I very much appreciate Mr. Shedden going through the Auditor General's Report and the highlights of that. It was very interesting, very informative. Ms. Payne, you certainly pointed out that the board of directors are from all over Nova Scotia, and you emphasized how much it has meant to the college, because you have people from all over Nova Scotia, with expertise in all areas, guiding the whole situation.
Mr. Ivany, you've been the proverbial quarterback, the president. Can you tell me, in your own mind, what are the major changes, what are the major improvements and what are the major changes of attitude you've seen in the last two or three years? There are all sorts of changes, all sorts of improvements, all sorts of attitudes, I'm sure, but what are the ones that you feel are the most significant in your post?
MR. IVANY: Mr. Chataway, it's an interesting question. I think one of the major changes inside the institution has been - and I realize this is the Public Accounts Committee and is not focused specifically on the academic reforms, but one of the changes that we've made that many members, I believe, are aware of is our move to a portfolio model for all of our academic programs. In short form, every graduate of the Nova Scotia Community College must complete a portfolio that allows an exposition, if you will, of what it is they can do as a result of the program that they've taken with us, but also gives each one of those students an opportunity to reflect a bit on who they are in their lives and where it is they're trying to go and how they see learning helping them get there.
We believe that that has been a signature piece in our college. It's something that distinguishes NSCC. We believe that it enriches the learning experience. Post-secondary education, we talked about participation rates earlier, I believe in that old aphorism of education for good citizenry. So, yes, it's about skills, yes, it's about expertise, but we also want our graduates to be great citizens, and we believe that the portfolio model actually allows both of those things, both the skill base to really shine but also their own personal development. That's one that absolutely stands out for me.
I think the other major change, the one that we've spent a fair bit of time, and I really appreciate the committee's willingness to do so, and that is the attitudinal change and the awareness level in our province, broadly, of the value of applied education. I believe your government's decision to make a major investment in the college was founded on a recognition that if we were, as a province, going to succeed economically and socially, then having a college that was significantly further developed than where the baseline was was an essential ingredient in that.
I think there's been a groundswell of that recognition, and it's an important piece and it needs to continue, as per our discussions here today, because our work is not complete. That process will likely need to continue at least for another decade, I think, to kind of re-equilibrate the mindset around the role that colleges play in a modern society. I think both
of those things stand out in my head as just major fundamental change that has occurred in the last number of years.
MR. CHATAWAY: I think we all appreciate your answer to that, and I think you are living proof of a good attitude. I think you've convinced many other people in Nova Scotia, not just students, not just staff, the whole province that this is the way we should be going. Of course we cannot have anything happen overnight, it has to be done on a long-term basis, I think, and I compliment you all for going in that direction.
My last question, has the Nova Scotia Community College enrolment changed since 1996? We have improved, how much have we improved? Then, also, where will we go?
MR. IVANY: Since the 1997-98 year, we are up by 28 per cent over that period of time. It brings us to a full-time enrolment of 8,495. I want to indicate there's another 10,000 or so students who we come in contact with through part-time and customized studies. When we complete the development cycle and project that we've talked about at length here today, we'll be at about 10,500 students, somewhere in that range.
MR. CHAIRMAN: We do have some business to take care of. Perhaps I'll say it now, I would ask the members from the community college if they could just sit tight after we're through, and then we can bid you farewell at the end of the meeting. Mr. Ivany, I was wondering if you would provide us with perhaps up to five minutes of closing remarks. I think it's only fitting that we have future students for the community college system in our gallery today.
MR. IVANY: Mr. Chairman, you've been very kind and gracious in giving us an opportunity to respond at length to some of your questions, so I'll try to make up a bit of time in my concluding remarks. I very much appreciate the positive comments that members have provided. I will pass them on to my colleagues.
I do believe that we have an incredibly committed faculty and staff who have worked exceedingly hard when you have given them the opportunity, particularly during this period of investment to make up for that lost time, and I want to acknowledge, as we sit here today, my colleagues who aren't here. Again, that old saw in changed management literature about changing the tires while the car is moving, that challenge of not stopping but continuing to reform and change, I have said to our board of governors before, my colleagues inside the institution have done that in a way that I have never seen before and I want to thank them for it.
I want to go back to my opening comment. The developmental challenge that was put in front of us, all of us in this province, to go from being essentially a two-decade late start to giving Nova Scotians and many of the students who have joined us here, a range of choice in post-secondary education that simply did not exist in Nova Scotia a few short years ago, is still the goal. In some ways we are already there but to be fair, as the Auditor General has pointed out and as Mr. Shedden also deals with a lot of the processes and systems in the institution, we are still putting some of the pieces in place. I give you our commitment that we will work diligently to continue to get those pieces in place because the goal is actually for students who are going to be in our province for years and years to come and we want them to have the same kinds of choices that would exist as if they lived in any other province in the country. We think it is just a fundamental issue and that is the goal we are in pursuit of.
I also want to acknowledge, and I think it was appropriate that we spent a significant amount of time on this, the catalyst that we are talking about has been the significant investment the government has made in the college. Without the $123 million investment in capital, in infrastructure improvement, you talk about attitude change. One of the things that people needed to see is they needed to see a different face of the community college rather than our historical face in the vocational high schools. Secondly, the commitment the government has made on the operating budget increases to allow that capacity to merge in the college.
We look at this as the time to make the progress that the developmental gap required and part of the experience of being here today, part of the work with the Auditor General and his staff, who I also want to thank - and that's why we vacuumed up everything that they have put in front of us and said, if it makes us better, if it gets us there more quickly, then let's do it and we will continue to do that.
My final comment is really about, it's a language we have used that is not perfect by any means but you have heard Ms. Payne, our board member express it this way, that the development of a modern, national calibre college in this province is not an option. It's a necessity for the reasons that you probed in many of your questions today. We have paid a price for the late start, but thankfully we have been given the opportunity to erase the deficit, if you will, of that late start and to achieve that particular goal.
To be honest, that has less to do with the Nova Scotia Community College as an institution and it has more to do with your work as elected officials and legislators around the kind of province we want to have. If we've made some progress towards that, then that's something we're going to feel very gratified about. I thank you for the time, we very much appreciate it and will look forward to continuing to work with you in the time ahead. Thank you.
MR. CHAIRMAN: I want to thank you, Ms. Payne and Mr. Shedden, for appearing here today. Mr. Ivany, I know you are moving on to greener pastures at the end of the school year, so we're going to have you around for the Winter, until October. I do want to say that during your tenure, we've seen the Nova Scotia Community College move to one of the largest and most diverse educational institutions in Nova Scotia. I know you've worked closely with all members of the Legislature and with government, to help move the college forward. I can speak from my perspective that any association I've had with you has been very productive and I thank you for that, it has been a pleasure. I admire your mindset and have yet to figure out where you get all of your energy - I don't know if it's Duracell or Energizer - but you certainly have lots of energy and have been very dedicated to the cause. In fact, I think all members would agree that you will be missed and we wish you every success in whatever path your life takes you and your future. Thank you.
Having said that, we will move on to some business we have to deal with. We have some correspondence from Canada Revenue Agency and I think all members know . . .
MS. MORE: I wanted to present two certificates summoning Marilyn Gaudet, Director of Programming for the Atlantic Region Office of the Canada Revenue Agency and also Robert Russell, Assistant Commissioner, summoning them as witnesses to appear before this Public Accounts Committee.
I feel that this is the only course of action we have left after this sort of peek-a-boo game that CRA has been playing with us and this is not to be viewed as a hostile action or approach. They did agree to appear and we intended to have a good discussion with them about many matters of interest to Nova Scotians, and they decided on very short notice not to come to their scheduled appearance.
I don't feel there is any value in having the Canada Revenue Agency appear with the Department of Finance because every time we've asked the Nova Scotia Department of Finance questions about the tax collection system, they have told us to seek answers from CRA, and that's what we have been attempting to do all along. So CRA has left us with no choice but to compel them to appear. I would be interested in opening the floor for discussion by other committee members.
MR. CHAIRMAN: I will ask the clerk to collect the certificates. By legislation, certificates have to be presented in order to complete a summons, so just for information purposes and just for the record, as a very brief review, I was just looking over the documentation. On January 19th it was indicated by the chairman of this committee, and I'll read the last paragraph, "We might be prepared in future to summon CCRA officials before the Committee if there is no other satisfactory way for us to obtain this information." On March 10th, "The Public Accounts Committee has authorized the insurance of a supeona,
should the CCRA decline to appear voluntarily." On September 24th, the CCRA agreed to come, ". . . CRA are willing to come to speak to the Public Accounts Committee about GST/HST compliance issues on November 10, 2004." On October 7th there was an in camera request by the assistant commissioner of the Atlantic Region. On November 3rd - and the date to come was November 10th - this letter went out that says, ". . . we regret we will be unable to attend . . ."
So that, ladies and gentlemen, is where we stand today on this issue. Is there any discussion from other members?
The honourable member for Chester-St. Margaret's.
MR. CHATAWAY: I certainly would be in favour of passing this motion because it is very important. To have them - to use the term - dancing around this sort of thing, basically, they should come forward. The other thing is I was a bit insulted that they said yes, we will possibly meet with you people as long as it is in camera. My goodness. The Public Accounts Committee has to bring forth things so that everyone can know them. I'm sure we don't always agree but it is very important that they not run away and say, sorry, we can't see you. Canada Revenue Agency finally said yes and then all of a sudden - I don't know what inspired them - no, we won't see you people. I think it is high time that we have them come in, just be straightforward and if they feel that we're asking out of their thing, that's fine. Nobody can solve a problem by running away from it. I certainly will support that motion.
MR. CHAIRMAN: I would ask Mr. Hebb for any comments he may have at this point regarding the certificates and proceeding with it. Are there any legal aspects that the committee should be aware of?
MR. GORDON HEBB: The certificates having been filed, it is then up to the committee to make a motion directing the subpoena to be issued which would then be signed by the chairman of the committee. The committee should decide on the details that will be needed for the subpoena which will be when the individuals are to appear before the committee. Other than that, I don't think there is anything further.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Thank you.
The honourable member for Dartmouth South-Portland Valley.
MS. MORE: Mr. Chairman, I'm moving that motion.
MR. CHAIRMAN: So you're moving that the certificates be accepted and we proceed.
MS. MORE: Yes, and am I hearing there should be a timeline on it?
MR. HEBB: As to when you want them to appear before the committee because those details will be needed in the subpoena to indicate when they're to appear before the Public Accounts Committee.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Should we perhaps move forward with just the motion first and then a discussion as to when, or do you want to include that in the motion. I know, Mr. Graham, you wanted to talk on this.
MS. MORE: Well, I was going to suggest before the end of December 2004.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Okay. The motion is that we move forward with the certificates and the dates that are free right now are December 8th and December 15th. Would you like to include in that motion then that December 15th would be the date that we would ask them to give them as much time as possible? I know they've had a great deal of time but this is a new direction that we're going in.
Having said that, discussion on the motion. The motion should be seconded.
MR. ESTABROOKS: I second the motion.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Mr. Graham.
MR. GRAHAM: Mr. Chairman, I think the committee members are disappointed to have to come to this unusual step. I'm not sure if it has been done at any time in our recent past. We clearly now have the authority to issue subpoenas to federal officials. In these particular circumstances, while I don't consider the genesis of this particular problem to be one of the most important issues that the Public Accounts Committee has dealt with, it nonetheless is a matter considered by a number of members of our committee to be a serious one. The work of this committee is serious and this has been a protracted matter. Our feelings of exasperation, I think, are reflected in taking this step.
Two final points that I would make are, first, the response of November 3rd, frankly, was thin. It did not provide the level of detail that I think the committee should be satisfied with to warrant our giving them the pass that they are seeking. The final point is with respect to the motion itself, I think it would be available to us to pass the motion on the language that was suggested by Ms. More in the first instance, that it happen sometime before the end of December because we don't want to be faced with some of the administrative and logistical problems of people physically and obviously being unavailable and we have to jam something into December 15th.
I think that a motion from this committee that says that they are to appear at some point before the end of December is sufficient, that precise authority be given to the chairman in consultation with our subcommittee on agenda setting to determine the precise date. That gives us enough authority to do it and it avoids the potential of having to bring the whole committee back to undo a motion that we have narrowly put in place. So I would suggest a friendly amendment to what is on the table to suggest that this happen by the end of December instead of specifically December 15th, the date to be determined by the chairman in consultation with committee members.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Is there any other discussion?
MS. MORE: I'm not sure there is such a thing as a friendly amendment. (Laughter) My original intent was the end of December.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Okay, Ms. More. Do you want to just tailor your original motion then to take out any reference to date but it will be before the end of December. From what I understand, the subcommittee will then deal with it. I won't discuss that because I am on the subcommittee but I am in agreement to that, Mr. Graham. I will say that from the Chair. Okay, so the motion is forward then and it is quite clear.
Would all those in favour of the motion please say Aye. Contrary minded, Nay.
The motion is carried unanimously.
Thank you very much. That ends our Public Accounts Committee meeting for today. Next week we have the Department of Finance here and we will be discussing the Taxpayer Rebate Program.
The meeting is adjourned.
[The committee adjourned at 11:03 a.m.]