Printed and Published by Nova Scotia Hansard Reporting Services
Mr. Graham Steele (Chairman)
Mr. James DeWolfe (Vice-Chairman)
Mr. Mark Parent
Mr. Gary Hines
Ms. Maureen MacDonald
Mr. David Wilson (Sackville-Cobequid)
Mr. Daniel Graham
Mr. David Wilson (Glace Bay)
Ms. Diana Whalen
[Mr. Howard Epstein replaced Mr. David Wilson (Sackville-Cobequid)]
Ms. Mora Stevens
Legislative Committee Coordinator
Mr. Roy Salmon
Auditor General of Nova Scotia
Nova Scotia Business Inc.
Mr. Stephen Lund
President and Chief Executive Officer
Mr. Pat Ryan
Vice President of Financial Services
Mr. Peter MacAskill
Director of Corporate Services
Mr. Martin Walker
Director of Small Business Growth
HALIFAX, WEDNESDAY, APRIL 6, 2005
STANDING COMMITTEE ON PUBLIC ACCOUNTS
Mr. Graham Steele
Mr. James DeWolfe
MR. CHAIRMAN: Good morning, ladies and gentlemen. I would like to call to order this meeting of the Public Accounts Committee. We're very pleased to have with us today guests from Nova Scotia Business Incorporated and I would like to recognize Mr. Stephen Lund, President and Chief Executive Officer. Mr. Lund I would like to ask you to introduce the colleagues that you have with you today.
MR. STEPHEN LUND: On my left is Mr. Pat Ryan, Vice-President, Financial Services; on my immediate right is Peter MacAskill, Director, Corporate Services; and Martin Walker, Director, Business Growth.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Thank you, very much. I would like to now ask the members to introduce themselves, starting with the honourable member for Halifax Needham.
[The committee members introduced themselves.]
MR. CHAIRMAN: Mr. Lund, you now have up to 15 minutes to present an opening statement.
MR. LUND: Good morning, ladies and gentlemen. Let me say that we are pleased to be invited to speak about Nova Scotia Business Inc.'s Payroll Rebate Program and the Auditor General's Report about it. I want to explain this tool which NSBI uses, specifically for investment attraction. First let me set the broad context.
As the province's business development agency, NSBI works with growth-oriented companies that have a strong business case. Our staff use tools such as NSBI's Financing and Export Development Program to help grow these businesses. NSBI's business advisory team members live and work throughout rural and urban parts of the province in communities from Cape Breton to Yarmouth. Much of NSBI's work is with small business, in fact, about 80 per cent of our work of the past year was with small business.
NSBI's client base is roughly balanced in every region of the province. NSBI's business development executives work beyond Nova Scotia's borders to attract top-notch, global companies to do business from here.
Different provinces, states and other jurisdictions use many tools to attract global companies to invest and relocate to their territory. At NSBI we continue to find the Payroll Rebate Program to be a very effective tool. To briefly illustrate this point, NSBI has put it to good use in Liverpool.
The community needed to fill a state-of-the-art building the town had built. Liverpool needed someone to be a long-term investor in that community's future. Lightbridge is a leader in mobile and on-line cellular solutions. The company needed a location for a new customer career centre. The town had the right business case for Lightbridge and NSBI offered a five-year payroll rebate commitment for the creation of up to 280 jobs.
Another great example is the recent announcement about Clarke Inc. Clarke is the leading North American transportation/shipping, information technology and investment holding company. Clarke is relocating its headquarters to Halifax from the Toronto area and will hire up to 95 people. The average annual wage of these headquarter employees will be $83,000, including benefits. The company is growing its business here because Nova Scotia is a cost competitive jurisdiction, we have a talented and educated labour pool, the lifestyle here is balanced, and NSBI is helping Clarke's growth through a payroll rebate of a maximum of $1.9 million.
Clarke represents a significant addition to this province's transportation infrastructure. It represents an important addition to this province's business community and Clarke's relocation from Toronto speaks volumes. It sends an important message to Canadian and American markets about the strategic advantages of doing business from Nova Scotia.
NSBI's Payroll Rebate Program has been a vital tool in these and other investment attraction efforts since the corporation's inception. Even before NSBI started, payroll rebates existed under the previous Economic Renewal Act. These transactions were brought to the Minister of Economic Development and the Executive Council for approval. These procedures continue to this day and NSBI has applied further rigour in the process since then.
Currently, payroll rebate deals must pass several hurdles. These include our internal investment committee; the investment committee of the board; and the full board of NSBI before a recommendation is made to Cabinet, and Cabinet has the final say. To date, 25 payroll rebate transactions have proceeded after being authorized through NSBI and Cabinet.
Half of these transactions have meant added employment in rural areas of our province: three in Cape Breton, one in Canso, three in Colchester County, two in Cumberland, two in Southwest Nova Scotia, one in Cornwallis, and another in West Hants, Windsor. The other half of the payroll rebate transactions have helped companies increase employment in the Halifax Regional Municipality.
Since the inception of NSBI, forecasts for the payroll rebates will see companies create over 7,000 jobs and retain an estimated 2,500 jobs. It gave Nova Scotia a total annual gross payroll impact at maximum, full-time equivalent, FTEs, of $232.7 million, an average return on investment of almost 70 per cent. It's important to note that payroll rebates are disbursed only after the companies have created and maintained these jobs.
NSBI's mandate is to grow the economy and the reality is incentives are a fact of life in order to attract business. There are exciting things happening in business today in Nova Scotia, in part, due to the effective and strategic use of the payroll rebate tool.
In December, the province's Auditor General's Office tabled a report which reviewed the administration of the Payroll Rebate Program. The audit was positive with respect to overall management and control by NSBI.
The report noted that our policies and procedures for financial management and due regard for economy are adequate. The same was said of NSBI's procedures for verification and documentation of compliance on disbursement. The report also found that changes NSBI had undertaken and implemented have resulted in improved delivery of the Payroll Rebate Program.
The Auditor General's Report made five recommendations and NSBI has taken action to implement them. One, to ensure consistency of process from client to client and to distinguish the difference between payroll rebates and loans, NSBI has agreed it would be beneficial to have written procedures documenting the policies for the risk assessment of payroll rebates. Two, NSBI will make a change to the current proposal format to ensure clients are asked whether they are in receipt of any other sources of government financing. This information will be included in the proposal for consideration by NSBI's board and by the Executive Council of government. Three, NSBI has formally documented the steps used in the payroll rebate disbursement process, augmenting the board-approved disbursement policy and the account manager checklist. Four, NSBI has implemented the recommended change to improve the wording of the standard terms and conditions, to clarify the reporting requirements of the client's auditor to ensure the required assurance is received on all future
disbursements. Five, lastly, NSBI will ensure that its payroll rebate guidelines are included in the corporation's annual business plan.
As NSBI continues to work on improving this already successful business development tool, the advice in the Auditor General's report is appreciated. Since inception, NSBI's work has secured deals that created and maintained more than 11,000 jobs and generated return of investment of $40 million to the Province of Nova Scotia. NSBI's work is helping Nova Scotians and is helping the economy grow. Thank you.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Thank you, very much. We will now turn to the questioning. The first 20 minutes belong to the NDP caucus.
The honourable member for Halifax Chebucto.
MR. HOWARD EPSTEIN: Thank you, Mr. Lund, for the presentation. You've emphasized to us that there is a positive role to be played in the economy for the kind of incentives that you outlined, that is to say, payroll rebates. In talking about this, you emphasized to us that there is an opportunity for employment in rural areas, which is an objective with which I think we would all agree. You pointed out the attractions of the educated workforce and the lifestyle balance that we have in Nova Scotia. Yet, of course, the same is true with respect to keeping companies here and not just attracting companies from outside. One could say exactly the same with respect to companies like Snair's, as you put it in the context of Clarke's, that's a company that you said came here, but we have many companies that we would like to keep here. I think the numbers always look good if you think only of the additions and if you don't include the subtractions, that's not very helpful. Of course, we are losing that particular company, Snair's is moving to another province.
I'm wondering if you can tell us first, whether you keep records of the companies that have approached you for assistance. That is, is there a full record and file of all the companies that have come, including, of course, those that you turned down for assistance?
MR. LUND: You raised a lot of questions . . .
MR. EPSTEIN: There's only one question, do you keep records of those?
MR. LUND: . . . so I'm going to ask Pat Ryan to take that last question and comment on the deals that he sees in his group.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Mr. Ryan.
MR. PAT RYAN: So if I understand your question, Mr. Epstein, you're curious about record keeping related to transactions that we're not able to complete. Is that correct?
MR. EPSTEIN: I would be surprised if you were going to tell me that you didn't have files for all the companies that approached you and that you turned down. I'm sure the answer is yes, is it?
MR. RYAN: That's correct.
MR. EPSTEIN: So you do keep full records. Do you happen to know the details of that, for example, could you tell us with respect to the last 12 months the number of companies - particularly I'm interested in those already located in Nova Scotia - that would have approached you but which were turned down for one reason or another?
MR. RYAN: I don't have the number here with me today. We can certainly provide that.
MR. EPSTEIN: Could we have an undertaking that a letter will come to the committee? That certainly would be a big help.
MR. RYAN: You certainly may.
MR. EPSTEIN: Even though you don't have the exact number here today, I wonder if any of you might have a ballpark figure for that. Any idea?
MR. RYAN: From a finance point of view, we're in touch with dozens of prospects and existing clients each quarter. Some opportunities are ones that we're able to pursue and others we're not able to. When we're in front of a prospect, let's say it's a new client walking through the door for the first time, the first thing we need to determine is whether they're eligible for financing - and I'm speaking about financing specifically here because there are other kinds of services that we do provide to business in the province - pursuant to our Act, and there are a number of restrictions in terms of the kinds of companies that we're able to finance. If they are eligible, then we will do a preliminary assessment of the risk factors associated with that.
MR. EPSTEIN: I think I understand the process, we've had discussions on previous occasions about the process. I was wondering if you had ballpark figures for the numbers of companies that you might have contact with during the course of the year and roughly, what percentage got turned down.
MR. RYAN: That's a good question. I haven't got that statistic in my head.
MR. EPSTEIN: When you let us have the numbers, do you think it might also be possible to differentiate between companies that are already in existence outside the province and those that are inside the province? Would your records tend to that as well?
MR. RYAN: They would tend to that but 99 per cent of the activity that we're engaged in is inside our borders, so it's unusual for us to become engaged on the direct foreign investment side of our business. Most of our engagement in the unit that I'm responsible for day-to-day is domestic.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Mr. Lund.
MR. LUND: If I could clarify. In terms of financial assistance, in terms of a loan or an equity investment, we would deal with companies within Nova Scotia. In terms of companies that would be outside of Nova Scotia looking to come here, we don't provide operating assistance in terms of loans or equity investments, we use the payroll rebate, as we talked about. So there's quite a distinction between the companies outside of the region versus the companies inside the region.
MR. EPSTEIN: The ones inside the region, you're saying are eligible for equity investments?
MR. LUND: And loans with that financing, yes.
MR. EPSTEIN: Of course. Well, thank you, I look forward to receiving that information. One of the other major concerns I've always had about NSBI has to do with the matter of transparency and accountability. Really, this is in the ballpark of openness. One of the purposes of having the Auditor General have a look at what it is that any government entity does is so that there's a dimension of public accountability, that's the whole point. It's why committees like this exist, it's why there are annual reports, that's why there are Orders in Council, that's why there are public statements made.
I'm wondering if you can tell us whether you have a policy with respect to making public announcements when financial support is offered, be that payroll rebate or be that a loan guarantee. Is it invariably the case that NSBI will make a public statement, because it seems to me that there aren't always public statements made - is there a policy?
MR. LUND: We have a policy internally that whenever we do a financial transaction we would make it public. There are transactions that we would do within NSBI that would be within limits established through our board and there are transactions, for example, payroll rebates that need to go through Cabinet through an Order in Council. We publish whenever we do a transaction.
There may be situations where there are minor amendments that I'm not sure we've actually gone out with press releases, but any significant transaction that we've done, we've published through a press release.
MR. EPSTEIN: So you're not relying only on the Order in Council as the means of public communication?
MR. LUND: That's right.
MR. EPSTEIN: Normally, you're saying, particularly the first time that some form of financial support is offered . . .
MR. LUND: We have to distinguish between payroll rebate transactions and loan financing. Everything that we've done appears in our annual report. Any type of financing that we've done in terms of payroll rebate, we make an announcement. In terms of the areas that Pat's group handles, he can probably handle that better than I can.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Mr. Ryan.
MR. RYAN: Just to be clear, Mr. Epstein, every loan that we make, every equity investment that we make, every guarantee that we provide is a public matter, so that's available to the public. Every transaction of that sort would appear in our annual report so it's published at that time.
MR. EPSTEIN: My concern is timeliness here. I understand it would come out a year later or 10 months later or whatever the case may be, but as I understood from the two responses I've heard, it would be that when we're talking payroll rebate generally the process is there's a public announcement at the time the decision is made or authorized by Cabinet, and that's in addition to the Order in Council, but that for guarantees, loans, equity positions, they may not be announced at the time. Is that roughly what we're being told?
MR. RYAN: They may not be announced immediately but they'll be public.
MR. EPSTEIN: Okay, that's fine. Public in the sense that there's an Order in Council?
MR. RYAN: No, public in the sense that there may be a transaction that doesn't require an Order in Council, but as a minimum it will appear in our annual reports, disclosed publicly.
MR. EPSTEIN: I'm talking public at the time, so there might be a delay, all right, I think we understand that, overall. I'm asking this because I'm curious about some of the amendments that have been made to existing payroll rebates and other forms of financial support. I've been looking through the Orders in Council for the last couple of years and I found at least eight Orders in Council where there are amendments that have been made to existing financial arrangements. The interesting thing about this is that I don't think these
really were publicly announced at the time and what's also interesting is that not a lot of information is offered here.
Our office's experience in dealing with trying to get more information with respect to this is that immediately it is suggested to us that there are certain FOIPOP barriers - that is Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act barriers - and that although some of the details are forthcoming when we get the documents, they're heavily edited and the essential pieces of information are usually missing.
I'm just going to point out to you the typical form of an Order in Council, which is the extent of what's easily made public about one of these amendments. This one that I'm going to read to you actually dates back to 2002, it has to do with Pure Energy Battery Incorporated - I read it because it's included in our background briefing materials today, and some of the other amendments are there as well - and because it's 2002, the terms of the Order in Council are no different than what we've typically seen more recently.
What it tells us is the date of the order, the order number, that the Statute is your Statute - that is the Nova Scotia Business Incorporated Act - and here is the actual text with respect to this particular Order in Council. It says, "The Governor in Council on the report and recommendation of the Minister of the Office of Economic Development dated May 31, 2002, pursuant . . ." - and it quotes certain sections of the Acts - ". . . is pleased to consent to the decision of Nova Scotia Business Incorporated's Board of Directors to amend the terms and conditions of the existing loan to Pure Energy Battery Incorporated in the manner contemplated in the Report and Recommendation of the Minister of the Office of Economic Development" and a date is given.
That's zero information, I have to tell you. It doesn't tell us why there was an amendment, it doesn't tell us the details as to amount, or the security, or the rate of interest if there is one, it doesn't tell us if there's equity, it doesn't tell us anything, nothing of the real details. When we have requested a FOIPOP for any of these, what we've been given is - as I say - a heavily amended document.
I'm going to point out to you other kinds of amendments that we've seen and of the ones that I have seen, there only seems to be, I think, one or two of the eight where the amounts might be specified. ECI Medical Technologies; CanJam Trading; Eastern Protein Foods Limited; MacTara; Staples; Ocean Nutrition; Pure Energy Battery, which I just read to you; and Bell Bay Golf Developments Incorporated all had amendments. So far as I can see, the only one where the amount was specified is the one for MacTara, where we were told that the additional loan guarantee was $2.5 million and there was an additional loan of $1 million, if I read the document correctly, and that's on top of the $8.5 million of loan guarantee that was already in place.
What I want to know is, why is it that the details are not specified as to even the kind of financing and the amounts, at least, as an entry point, in these Orders in Council? Can you tell us why they're not specified?
MR. LUND: We don't set the freedom of information legislation but it's really what information is considered commercially confidential for the client and what information would be shared in the public domain. We comply with the current legislation.
In terms of what we publish, many of the amendments are not material in nature and in terms of if it goes to an Order in Council, it's public. In terms of what you get from a freedom of information request, again, you have to take into consideration commercial confidentiality.
MR. EPSTEIN: You've just suggested that some of them may be non-financial in nature. I'm pointing out that only one of these Orders in Council actually has dollars in it. Are you suggesting to us that all the others are non-financial?
MR. LUND: I don't know the answer to that, I would have to review them all. The process is when we have changes to a payroll rebate, we have to go through the whole process and there may be a change from the full-time equivalents and how you measure a full-time equivalent for a client, which we'd have to go through the whole process to get approved. So it may be not material in nature, but we still have to go through the whole process again.
MR. EPSTEIN: Is this a defect in your legislation?
MR. LUND: I don't think so.
MR. EPSTEIN: You're happy that non-financial matters that you regard as trivial or purely administrative have to go back up through Cabinet?
MR. LUND: We're constantly reviewing the process. We have a very extensive process in place with many steps involved. Will you try that one, Pat?
MR. CHAIRMAN: Mr. Ryan.
MR. RYAN: Just to address your question about amendments, anytime there is an increase in terms of the level of financial assistance that's being provided, that would be disclosed as it was, I think, in the case of the MacTara Order in Council that you mentioned. In other circumstances we may have amendments - I think what Stephen characterized as non-material amendments - in the nature of the transaction, very often our client's circumstances will change, markets will shift and we'll need to make adjustments in our
financing structures to accommodate those changes, provided that we believe the risks associated with that continue to be manageable.
MR. EPSTEIN: In fact, looking at my notes I find that there's a second one that seems to definitely have a financial dimension which is CanJam Trading. So CanJam and MacTara seem - at least on the face of the documents - to be two in which there was a clear financial dimension in which either the loan guarantee portion was increased or the loan itself was increased. Do you have any recollection, either of you, of the particular eight that I've listed, as to whether on top of those two, that is on top of CanJam and MacTara, there was a financial dimension?
MR. RYAN: To be clear, CanJam Trading wasn't a transaction that was completed by Nova Scotia Business Inc. so I can't comment on that. As to the other transactions that you mentioned, I don't recall the details of all but I do recall that there was no additional financial assistance that was provided by way of any of those amendments that you mention. So those typically would have been restructurings related to repayment terms and matters of that nature.
MR. EPSTEIN: Well, changing repayment terms, I think, would involve a financial dimension in my view. I want to point out something else about these eight amendments that have come out in the last couple of years which is that in the case of three of them, these are companies where either there is direct managerial responsibility, or corporate linkages with three members of your board. In the case of ECI Medical Technologies, its President, Mr. Boulter, had originally been on NSBI's board; in the case of CanJam, Grace White, its President I think is still on your board; and Ocean Nutrition, I believe, is one of Mr. Risley's companies.
I have to say that to find that amendments going through without - in my view - adequate exposure and detail in these circumstances is highly worrisome. I think that this is not good in terms of transparency, accountability and openness where the public's dollars are put on the line, be it in the form of loan guarantees or any other form of finance. I'm wondering if you have anything you want to suggest to us of ways to better serve the public interest here?
MR. LUND: First of all, I don't share your view with that. We have very strict conflict of interest guidelines at NSBI, we also have a code of conduct. The deals you're talking about in specific, predate NSBI. Again, we were not involved in the CanJam transaction. ECI Medical predates NSBI and ONC predates NSBI. Again, we do have very strict conflict of interest guidelines in place at NSBI and we're very comfortable with them. These transactions would be transactions that have gone through NSBI and gone right through requiring Cabinet approval.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Mr. Epstein, you have enough time for a short snapper if you choose.
MR. EPSTEIN: No, I'll get back to it, thank you.
MR. CHAIRMAN: We will now turn to the Liberal caucus for the next 20 minutes.
The honourable member for Halifax Citadel.
MR. DANIEL GRAHAM: Thank you for coming, Mr. Lund, gentlemen. It's nice to have you here to ask a few questions. I would like to start with a question that I've raised on previous occasions when the Office of Economic Development has been before this group. I'd like specifically to refer back to your founding in October 2000, when the Premier indicated that in establishing NSBI, we intend to get politics and bureaucracy out of the way, let businessmen make business decisions and create opportunities for prosperity. The day before that the Minister of Economic Development said that this is about getting politics out of economic development.
You have in the Opportunities for Prosperity 2000 document a release of the strategy which separates the responsibilities of NSBI and OED. It says, NSBI, "a private sector-led corporation, will manage and co-ordinate front-line business development functions such as investment attraction, trade, business retention and expansion and lending and finance. A second organization, the Nova Scotia Economic Development Agency, will be the lead department for all government economic growth activities, including in such areas as policy and evaluation, special projects involving communities in economic transition, business climate and changing labour force demands."
Now what that says certainly to me - and I'll bet that it said to many of you and it certainly said to Nova Scotians - that NSBI is in the business of business development. The Office of Economic Development is principally responsible for policy development and support. Do you agree that that was the original intention of these two organizations?
MR. LUND: Yes.
MR. GRAHAM: Do you agree that that has continued to be always the way in which this has come forward or whether the lines have now been blurred?
MR. LUND: Let me speak more specifically to NSBI. You talk about politics and bureaucracy and I think when NSBI was set up, it was set up to really take a business approach to growing the economy. I believe we've been very successful doing that.
I think what we see and what we recognize - and what I recognize coming from a private sector environment - is that there are many things that we look at and we're driven by our regulations in terms of what we can do. What we're finding is there are situations where we may review a file and not be in a position to assist a company. However, there may be a reason that the government may decide to get involved for reasons outside of a straight business case and maybe there's socio-economic reasons where they want to help out an area. I'm not sure that will ever change.
There are also situations where, because of some of the restrictions that are in place at NSBI, that if we're trying to put together a transaction, it may not fit within the parameters of NSBI and there may be another partner that might come to the table with us on a transaction. Whether it's OED or whether it's ACOA, whether it's a bank or other organizations, we work with many other organizations.
Within NSBI, we are very comfortable in terms of the mandate that was set for us and in terms of what we're doing with respect to that mandate.
MR. GRAHAM: Many people applauded back in October 2000 when this was indicated. I can indicate that personally, I was one of the people who applauded that there was going to be a separation of these responsibilities and that there was at least a stated intention to do things through an arm's length, more independent organization. That's a debatable point, I certainly think that there are other arguments that would suggest that there needs to be other levels of legislative accountability, I'm not here to argue about that today.
I am here to raise questions to you about whether or not those lines have been blurred, because four-plus years ago, your organization was set up to primarily drive business development. The Office of Economic Development was not intended to take on that role. I would suggest to you that those lines have been blurred more than it was intended to and more than I would suggest you, or others in your organization - I don't mean to ask you, personally, about this - or your board would have expected.
MR. LUND: The lines of economic development in Nova Scotia are clear in the minds of some and blurred in the minds of others. There are many organizations within Nova Scotia that have to work together.
In terms of setting up Nova Scotia Business Inc. to deal with businesses, I think it has been a great success and I think our record speaks for itself. The economy of Nova Scotia is doing well, we know the numbers speak for themselves. We work with many organizations.
I can't comment specifically on transactions that are handled within the Office of Economic Development, I can speak to what we do at Nova Scotia Business Inc. Will there always be a need for organizations within government to do different types of financing? Perhaps. I can speak to NSBI on what we do and what our role is.
MR. GRAHAM: One might have expected that the Office of Economic Development may have tinkered in the area of business development but not that it would take on a central role. Figures recently uncovered, as a result of Public Accounts Committee meetings, suggest that, in fact, the investments that are coming from the Office of Economic Development, the policy side, are greater than the financial commitments that are coming out of NSBI. Is that not the case?
MR. LUND: You know the numbers, I guess, better than I do. I'm concerned with what we do at Nova Scotia Business Inc., but there are two sides to look at. One is, when we talk to companies outside the region, the tool that we use is called a payroll rebate. Most of the transactions that we've handled with NSBI on the payroll rebate are done by Nova Scotia Business Inc. There have been a few occasions where we've had to partner with the Office of Economic Development, because we don't have the ability to do everything in their tool box, it's not available to us on some of those transactions. On other transactions, we would look at a client, an opportunity, and either provide assistance or, in some cases, we're not able to provide assistance.
It's certainly well within the government's purview to decide whether or not they want to assist a company for reasons that may be socio-economic in nature, may be business case reasons that aren't quite as strong as what we're looking for. So I can't comment in terms of the decision-making process that they undertake.
MR. GRAHAM: One of the things that NSBI would examine, as you look at whether or not the investment in payroll rebate, or something like that, is worth it, is whether or not there exists healthy competition in a particular industry. I would say that one of the problems in allowing things to drift outside of those kinds of criteria is that you get investments like CanJam, which I understand was turned down by NSBI, where there are more than 20 businesses operating in that sector and one is singled out as somebody who the Office of Economic Development, through an Order in Council, can make an investment in at a later date. It strikes me that it makes absolutely no sense, because you have a competitive environment, and this puts the other 20-plus fish processors that CanJam's in the business of, at a distinct disadvantage because they're not accessing business dollars, they're on a level playing field and one is being propped by an organization, by the Office of Economic Development through Cabinet, and that is clearly inappropriate.
I respect what's being raised by my friend, the member for Halifax Chebucto, but when one looks at the last several years and whether or not there were stealth announcements of stealth loans being done, it's clear that the Office of Economic Development, and the investments it has been making, has been more on the stealth side than NSBI has. Most of the times what comes forward from NSBI is done through a formal public release and the documents you present - and you made reference to the Auditor General's review of your financial statements - seem to suggest that you're keeping good books and that the accountability process is relatively sound. To have the Office of Economic Development
doing something that's more secret and doesn't get publicized and doesn't get reviewed, runs completely counter to the purpose of the setting up of your organization. I'm just wondering if you have any additional comments.
MR. LUND: I can't comment on that, Mr. Graham. NSBI, again, was set up with full accountability and to take a business approach to the economy. I can't comment on CanJam, we weren't involved in the file, and I can't comment on the rationale on why there was assistance supplied to CanJam. I apologize, but I'm just not in a position to comment.
MR. GRAHAM: The final point, before I turn it over to my colleague, picking up on the question that was raised by the member for Halifax Chebucto about public announcements, would you not agree that there should be a clearly followed policy that whenever a decision is made by your organization, there should be a public release of that, because in some respects it involves public dollars?
MR. LUND: I think you also have to consider what the materiality of it is. I'd have to hire three people to issue 30 press releases a day in terms of the decisions that we make. Again, there are many decisions that involve changing an FTE count from 1,900 to 1,920. Is that something that we would issue a public release on? No, but the information is always available. In terms of significant transactions that we've done, we've always issued a press release, but again there are many, many decisions that we make on a daily basis that show up in the public record at some point, it's just not through a public release of a document.
MR. GRAHAM: I think surely there's some opportunity to scope out what's reasonable and what's not. The example you cite with respect to FTE numbers is a reasonable response. It's obviously not what the public is looking for, I think it's looking for the things that are material. If that can be shaped, then I think it avoids any further questioning down the road of whether or not something is being done behind a curtain or being done transparently. Thank you for your time and your answers this morning.
MR. CHAIRMAN: I turn it over, with eight and a half minutes to go, to the member for Halifax Clayton Park.
MS. DIANA WHALEN: Again, welcome this morning, we're happy to have a chance to have some direct questions and get some answers. There were a couple of areas that I just wanted to explore with you a little bit more, and I'm just hoping to learn more about a couple of things.
In the beginning you talked about the account people you have working out in the rural areas, particularly, and that they provide some business counselling. Could you discuss a little bit - and I'm still looking at relationships - I'm interested in the relationship between NSBI and those field officers and how they relate to the RDAs, whose job really is to be doing a lot of business counselling and helping with business planning and so on. So it
sounds like a very similar function. I wonder if you could just give me your perspective on that.
MR. LUND: Sure. There are many organizations within Nova Scotia providing some type of economic development help to companies - probably 190, something like that. We work with many organizations. We work with the RDAs, we work with CBDC, we work with ACOA, we work with the Office of Economic Development. It's really bringing together the resources and finding out who plays what role. In certain areas of the province, the groups do a great job, others could use a little bit more work. But our role is to work with companies.
For example, Snair's - you brought up Snair's - what happened is unfortunate, we were very, very disappointed in what happened. Unfortunately, we weren't in a position to help out. But what's missing is the work that went into that file for four and a half months with the organizations that worked on that file. I have an eight-page report from our person in the field, in point form, in terms of what he did with that file. He worked on that for four and a half months as a full-time job. That doesn't come out anywhere.
I'm reading his report. He pulled together a meeting of seven people in our organization to sit around and talk about what they could do to help out. Here's a guy who has 20 years of banking experience, working in the field, working with companies. There's nobody I would put on that file but this guy. So when you talk about the field, these guys are the real unsung heros and they work with the RDAs, they work with other organizations, so a lot goes on that we never see. When we do a Clarke announcement, the guy who does the deal for us stands up, gets a big pat on the back. The guy who worked on Snair's for four and a half months gets grief. So in terms of the field work, there are a lot of great people out there.
MS. WHALEN: It sounds like a very full field, though, in terms of other advisers. You've mentioned four groups right there and we didn't touch the partnership and some others, maybe the chamber of commerce and other groups that would be out there. But the ones that are really designed to offer assistance to companies, I don't think it's a one-stop shop which the RDA was intended to be, that a small business - particularly a small business in any part of the province, really - could access their RDA and get the full range of advice. So it occurs to me that the field is confused and I'm wondering if that's what your small clients tell you.
MR. LUND: That's a good question. Again, it's partly depending on the area and a lot of it depends on the people. We can point to great people in each area. Again, some of the organizations have different functions: many are focused on community economic development; some are focused on working with businesses, which is what our role is. For the most part, that I've seen anyway, the teams work together, and it's really Martin's area of expertise. Could there be some more clarification of roles? Yes, I think there probably
could be but in terms of funding, there are many organizations out there that do provide funding for companies. The whole access to capital issue is something that can be debated ad nauseam.
CFIB, which on one hand says government shouldn't be in the role of providing money to companies, would also tell you that when they survey their 5,000 members, access to capital comes down at the bottom, it's number six in terms of issues. It's hard to say but there are many organizations that do provide different types of financing and there also is the credit union program, which is a new effective program.
MS. WHALEN: I have another question actually, somewhat relating to access to capital, if we could go there. I know I just have a few minutes left. In the relatively new program that we have, the Nominee Program for immigration to the province, there is the economic immigrant who comes in and has to put $100,000 into a company in Nova Scotia. I understand that as part of that process, NSBI provides an advisory role of some sort. Could you describe if there is some sort of involvement by any of your staff or board members? Probably not your board members, I think it might be a staff member.
MR. LUND: I'll ask Martin to take that one.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Mr. Walker.
MR. MARTIN WALKER: Yes, as a matter of fact, NSBI is actively engaged with the Nominee Program that we, along with the Office of Economic Development, sit in on adjudication framework with the company that is recruiting nominees for business across Nova Scotia. We also play a role with our business advisory team in making referrals into the program. We see this as one of the key ways that we can quickly bring expertise to bear in situations where there's help needed right away, so . . .
MS. WHALEN: Can I interrupt for a moment? You mention it's bringing expertise to these companies but is it not giving them a big shot of capital?
MR. WALKER: Capital is certainly one part of it but I think that a feature of this program that is an unsung part of it is, quite frankly, the matching of skill sets in areas of need.
MS. WHALEN: Could you comment on how rigorous that match is? What does a company have to do to qualify and be approved as a company for a match with an immigrant?
MR. WALKER: It really is not too dissimilar from what we do in assessing a client in the early stages of an application for assistance of some kind. In fact, the manager of our business advisory team is on point with this program and he's, again, a person with 20 years' experience in adjudicating financial transactions. We take a very business-like approach to this.
MS. WHALEN: Did you have any impact or influence when the original program was laid out? We're a little bit unusual in that this $100,000 investment in a Nova Scotia company is not really an equity investment at all, it's just an infusion of capital to that company and the new Canadian loses that money, it's not an equity investment.
MR. WALKER: No, NSBI was not part of the creation of that particular delivery mechanism but we've certainly been very happy to participate in seeing that Nova Scotia companies can benefit from this program.
MS. WHALEN: Is it seen as a window of opportunity for capital to go into these companies?
MR. WALKER: Yes, but I can't underscore enough that there is also the human capital element that's very relevant and impactful.
MS. WHALEN: Yes, and I don't disagree that our immigrants to Nova Scotia come with wonderful skills and background and experience that can benefit our business community but I'm just concerned about the other aspect as well. I think my time is up.
MR. CHAIRMAN: It is, that's a good note on which to end. We'll move over to the Progressive Conservative caucus.
The honourable member for Waverley-Fall River-Beaver Bank.
MR. GARY HINES: Thank you, gentlemen, for coming in this morning. I think one of the problems that I found as a small business person was, you're so wrapped up in your day-to-day operation that sometimes you don't get the opportunity to find out where you may go when the opportunity to grow comes along. I had an example of that since I was elected with a fellow in my community, he was a second generation. The offshore industry and some other things have turned his life around in terms of his business and opportunities that may exist, so needing extensive capital he called me and said, do you know any area that I can go for help? I turned him over to you guys.
I haven't talked to him and I don't know what contact there has been but the point I'm making is - and I don't know if you feel it or not but my question is - do you feel that sometimes there's not enough information out there for small business people who are totally wrapped up in their day-to-day operations? Is there some communications piece that you people could become actively involved in so that small business is more alert to what might be out there for them?
MR. LUND: Mr. Hines, I think you're right. There are 33,000 businesses in Nova Scotia and 92 per cent of those are really small business. Many of them are two- and three- person operations so running a business is a difficult thing and finding out where help might
be is a difficult thing. There are many organizations that I mentioned that work with small business every day but I don't think they're going to hit all the 33,000.
In the energy sector, a beautiful example of a company coming in and working with companies locally is Anadarko. They had a job supplier session where they had 500 businesses from Nova Scotia attend. We play a role in trying to work with businesses. We met with close to 600 businesses last year, Martin's group, but, again, it is a great question and I think a lot of groups are trying. Martin, do you want to comment on what your team does in terms of small business?
MR. CHAIRMAN: Mr. Walker.
MR. WALKER: Yes, Mr. Hines, you're right. To Stephen's point about CFIB taking a look at what do companies really want, good quality information, good quality navigation are the key things that we do out there. There is no one-stop shop, that's a fact, unfortunately there's not a true one-stop shop.
Our team works on the basis of recognize and refer and where there is an engagement where we can stick and continue to add value to the opportunity, we're going to continue to engage with that client until we move the file in the direction that it needs to move. It is one of the key roles we play out there and where we try to add value to the total space is to make sure that we're apprised of all that's available out there, and we take that with us in our backpack when we go to visit our clients. We want to make sure that they're getting the type of information that's going to have a positive and needed impact on the business. It's really our raison d'être in the field, to make sure we're turning over as many stones as we can on a proactive basis and making sure that we're providing information from all of our partners that can help the businesses along.
MR. HINES: I guess as long as there is politics, you won't be able to get away from mixing what you do with politics, for the simple reason that our job as politicians is to find help for those individuals who need help and in so doing, we have to make reference back to you individuals because you're a help source.
One of the situations, I think, that we have to look at is the situation with Cornwallis and Canso, which were two areas that had lost big time in terms of their industry and in terms of the economy. The job of the politician is to come to you and see if there's some fix or something that we can do for those kinds of areas, to improve the socio-economic conditions.
A couple of areas I mentioned were Cornwallis and Canso. I wonder if you could give me a little bit of background into Convergys in Cornwallis and what the economic impact might be and job creation and so on, as well as Doppleganger Canso Inc.
MR. LUND: Let me ask Martin to comment but before he does, let me talk about politics. Any assistance that we get is very helpful, I think, in terms of doing financial transactions. The decisions that we make are made on a business-case basis and we can fully justify any of those transactions. What's really helpful is when we can work with a community and Liverpool is another example, when you think of what Mayor Leefe and the community did in that area in rallying the troops to bring in a company, Lightbridge.
In Canso and Cornwallis, the assistance of the MLAs, the wardens, the mayors is absolutely crucial when we work with companies. We bring companies in to meet with the community and if they're not comfortable in the community, then we're not going to be successful. I think if you take a look right across the province, there are some great examples of companies that have come in and made a significant presence. Also, just as important, is the spinoff effect and the additional work that has gone out to small business. Martin, if you can comment on those two specifically.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Mr. Walker.
MR. WALKER: Both these files are ones that we look to, I think, with a certain degree of pride but it didn't begin and end with NSBI. In both of those communities there was a - going back, in the case of Canso, looking back to the Summer of 2001; in the case of Cornwallis, even before that, the communities had expressed themselves a desire to attract contact centre investment. In the case of Cornwallis, it was left with a facility from a tire recycling project and so there's a piece of infrastructure on the ground that we were aware of, the community made us aware of it and working with the community to really define the asset base that could be brought to bear for such an opportunity in the contact centre industry, so it is a team sport at that level.
The same situation obtained was evident in Canso, although the beginning point to be very honest was one of a community, perhaps to an extent, staring into the abyss. The first contact from Canso came from within the community, it came from an economic development officer working with the Town of Canso. Any occasion that I engaged in the community was always with every partner that has a mandate to deal with community or economic development.
These were both long-haul plays, both long-haul transactions. There was no immediate quick fix so it did involve constant communication and really, an understanding of role and responsibility in this.
NSBI has skill sets in the investment attraction side that proved to be useful but by the same token, the communities brought to bear their expertise and skill in how to welcome a client into a community and put those necessary conditions in place to ensure a soft landing and a successful carry on. These are two pretty good examples of how things occur in rural Nova Scotia.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Mr. Lund.
MR. LUND: One final point. What's interesting is if you take a look at all these areas where companies have set up, they've all come in with sort of an idea of what the labour force is, the number of people they can hire in the area, based on a formula that they've used across the country or in the States.
In almost every situation we've seen they came in and they're so happy with what they see that the numbers quickly skyrocket and they end up employing a lot more people than they thought they could. It's a good-news story.
MR. HINES: Thank you for that comment. I guess I have a final comment before I pass to Mr. Parent. As long as there is government you're going to have politics involved but it's also the part of the Opposition to put a bullet hole in a success story and that's playing politics too.
MR. CHAIRMAN: The honourable member for Kings North.
MR. MARK PARENT: If you'll excuse me, I'll be very parochial in my opening comments and then I'll move to exploring your support for small business and the payroll rebate. I make no excuse for being parochial because I've raised this with you personally before. When NSBI was set up there were no board members from the Valley area. Is it still the case there are no board members from the Valley area?
MR. LUND: Yes.
MR. PARENT: Do you think it's important to have board members that are geographically dispersed in order to represent the various areas and have input from that?
MR. LUND: Yes.
MR. PARENT: Then how do you intend to get someone from the Valley area?
MR. LUND: In fact, I've actually asked people from the Valley area to supply me with some potential names. When NSBI was set up, it was set up with 12 business people throughout the province. The process now is as terms come up, we look for change as well as continuity. If we have a couple of positions coming up, we try to look for some semblance of consistency and continuity, and at the same time we look to add new faces whenever we can.
When you look at a map of Nova Scotia, there are probably a couple of areas we need to take a hard look at in getting board members, the Valley is one, the Yarmouth area would be another. It's something that we're fully aware of and we hope to rectify.
MR. PARENT: The other comment I raised with you for several years and fortunately that's been rectified now, but probably even more important than a board member is a staff person covering the area. For several years we went without a staff person in the area for some unfortunate reasons. How do you think that impacted upon the projects in the Valley? Did it adversely hurt it or did the projects go ahead nonetheless?
MR. LUND: Martin can comment better than I can, but the Valley is an area that is working well, I think. There are a lot of great people working in the Valley on different parts of economic development. We had a situation that we couldn't change, as you know, and we have made some adjustments, thanks to your help. In terms of how it impacted, I'm going to ask Martin to see if he can cover that.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Mr. Walker.
MR. WALKER: What I'll say is that you do lose a certain degree of momentum when you don't have your own resource on the ground. To Stephen's point, we do have good partners in the area and we did - I think, with a certain degree of effectiveness - jury-rig a solution. We're happy with the business performance in the Valley, that it is one area where there are a lot of commercial transactions underway as compared to other parts of the province where you may see more community-space development. The Valley is one area where we have seen and continue to see good business development. As you know, Mr. Parent, we do have a person on the ground and hopefully we have regained the momentum that had been established with the initial presence.
MR. PARENT: Would it be possible at some time - you don't have the information now - to give me a breakdown of your various projects in the Valley and what percentage that is of your total projects provincially? Perhaps Mr. Whitty could get that information to me.
Certainly, I'm not being critical - I am being critical but I'm being critical in saying I want more of NSBI in the Valley, not less of NSBI in the Valley, so it's a sort of backhanded criticism, and I appreciate what you have done. I was at the Greatvalley Juices announcement with Craig Stanfield, for example, and there is an excellent use of the payroll rebate incentive. I want to come to the payroll rebate incentive because I'm not sure that Nova Scotians as a whole understand that it's not money given out ahead, but it's money based on performance and based on job production. Do you want to flesh that out a bit more for us because I think that is an important point?
MR. LUND: Sure, it is a very critical point. I think if you look at the scope of investment around the world, every jurisdiction that I'm aware of offers some type of incentive program, that's just a fact of life. When Bombardier gets a billion dollars in Quebec, they don't call it an incentive, they call it an investment. When GM gets $500 million in Ontario, it's an investment. When Dell gets $300 million U.S. to set up in the Carolinas, it's an investment.
In terms of what we do in Nova Scotia with payroll rebate, in many situations it's not the ideal type of instrument but it is the best instrument. It's a risk-free element really. We only return a portion of the salaries paid after people are employed, after the company sets up, and then we pay a portion of the salaries back after we have generated a return on investment. So it's really the best program that I've seen anywhere in the world and it has been very effective and it has generated millions and millions of dollars to the province that go into things like health and education, and the jobs that go with it. It has been a terrific tool.
MR. PARENT: In regard to other provinces and globally, really, where businesses are competing, I know in agriculture, for example, that's certainly the case. What other investment tools do other provinces use and how do we compete as a small province versus larger provinces?
MR. LUND: We compete every day, it's a good question. First of all, we have the best team - we really do - and secondly, we have a lot of things going for us in Nova Scotia that we might not realize. We have a couple of companies that we're looking at now that are headquartered in California that have operations around the world and are looking at Nova Scotia. The first question is, do you have the people? Do you have the right type of people, educated people? What is the turnover like? What's the cost of business? What's the infrastructure like? What's the business climate like? Every one of those factors go into play.
If you take a list of the factors, one of those criteria is incentives: will the local community, local province, or local state be at the table with us when we're talking? Many times, if you're not at the table, you don't get any chance to participate in an opportunity. We don't ever lead with incentives, you can call it almost a defensive strategy; if the business case isn't there, we don't want the business. But when you're competing against places like the U.S., where you can get for a manufacturing plant a $300 million incentive which includes, here's the free land, we'll build the road to your plant for you, we'll pass a plebiscite to raise personal income taxes in the area to help offset this, we'll give you some money up front, we'll give you a payroll rebate, we're not in that game, we never will be. All we are doing is we're at the table so our business case and our people can sell the day, and it works.
MR. PARENT: Small businesses in my riding, as it is in most ridings, are the real economic generator. We have some large employers, Michelin, for example, but it's really
small businesses that make up the bulk of economic generation. You mentioned that 92 per cent of businesses in Nova Scotia fall in that category. What percentage of employees does that represent, or do you have those statistics?
MR. LUND: I do have those numbers, 30 per cent of the people working in Nova Scotia work for a small business, as defined by 50 people or less. What that says is, 70 per cent of Nova Scotians work for a company which is larger than 50 people. There are 450-odd thousand people working in Nova Scotia, roughly 100,000 of those are working for the government, take that out so the numbers are 70 per cent. Seventy-five per cent of all the salaries generated in Nova Scotia are generated from companies with more than 50 people. So 33,000 companies in Nova Scotia, most of those are small businesses. I agree with you, small business is a critical component of our fabric in Nova Scotia.
MR. PARENT: I'm going to run out of time so I'll come back but my question I'll come back with is, what tools do you have to help small businesses.
MR. CHAIRMAN: We will now turn it back over to the NDP caucus. The next round will be 13 minutes in length.
The honourable member for Halifax Chebucto.
MR. EPSTEIN: Mr. Lund, I think I heard you say earlier that if NSBI was going to be engaged in full-scale publicity you would have to hire three communications staff. In fact, rumour has it that you've retained the assistance of a communications and corporate image advice firm. I'm wondering if you can let us know if what I'm hearing is correct?
MR. LUND: I'd like to know too. I think I know who you are talking about. We engaged a firm called Weber Shandwick from the U.S. We've engaged in a campaign, it's a near-shore strategy campaign which basically says, if you follow Lou Dobbs and the outsourcing world, what's going on right now is 80 per cent of U.S. companies are outsourcing some of their work and a lot of that work is going offshore right now. In fact, India alone last year did $8.7 billion worth of work outsourcing IT work.
We think Nova Scotia can be positioned as a world centre for IT outsourcing. What we're doing is we've got all the tools in place, we're capitalizing on that. Through the assistance and in partnership with ACOA, we've engaged a firm out of Boston with offices in New York called Weber Shandwick to help position Nova Scotia on the world scene for near-shore outsourcing. This is one of the biggest opportunities we have as a province to take advantage of the skill sets that we have, to position ourselves as a world leader and that is right through the province. We talk about IT, information technology, we talk about the skill sets in Nova Scotia, we can become, in very short order, a world centre for what we want to do.
MR. EPSTEIN: Is there any chance this will extend beyond call centres?
MR. LUND: The call centre industry has been extremely successful in Nova Scotia, employing about 16,000 people. The average salary in the call centre industry is about $26,000 to $28,000, which is slightly higher than the average salary . . .
MR. EPSTEIN: Sorry, I was asking if this would go beyond call centres. I think we all have an appreciation . . .
MR. LUND: It's an information technology strategy, it's not a call centre strategy but we leverage off with the skill sets of the call centre industry as we move up the value chain.
MR. EPSTEIN: We'll see. I heard you mention a report with respect to Snair's, an eight-page report. Can you make that report available to this committee?
MR. LUND: I can as long as there's no - we have to respect the confidentiality of the client - financial numbers displayed in there, unless Snair's approved of it. But the short answer is, yes.
MR. EPSTEIN: You're saying yes but in an edited form?
MR. LUND: The short answer is yes, in an edited form. If the Snair brothers would agree to us sharing any type of confidential information and the committee would like, sure.
MR. EPSTEIN: I'll get back to that. Let me also direct your attention to one of the other Orders in Council. You correctly pointed out, I think, that CanJam was not under your Statute, that's quite correct, but one that was, was the MacTara addition. In the Order in Council it said that NSBI was authorized to execute the guarantee and such other agreements, documents, instruments that may be required to give effect to the order. I'm wondering, of course, since this was last November, you've now executed the guarantee and any other documents in order to secure whatever financial assistance was authorized. Has that happened?
MR. LUND: Could I ask Mr. Ryan to respond?
MR. CHAIRMAN: Mr. Ryan.
MR. RYAN: Yes, Mr. Epstein, that transaction has been completed.
MR. EPSTEIN: Okay, fine. My question is will you file with this committee the complete, unedited documents that you entered into?
MR. RYAN: To the extent that it doesn't violate the rules of commercial confidentiality, of course.
MR. EPSTEIN: Let me explain something to you and this has to do with respect to the Snair's document and with respect to this document. If someone comes in off the street and says to you, I want your Snair's document, I want this document, you can say to them, I'm busy, go away or you can say, we'll give you an edited version, or if you go away and FOIPOP it, even then we'll give you an edited version. That does not apply when a Standing Committee of the Legislature asks you for documents. Your options in response are to say, no, I don't have the document, never saw it, you're wrong; or you can say, I beg the indulgence of the committee, please don't ask me for this or let us edit it; or you can say, let's go in camera and discuss it; or you can try to offer an evasive answer in the hopes that we will accept it. What you can't say is no.
In the Legislature, our powers go well beyond that of any member of the public or any individual member of the Legislature when we sit as an official committee or the Legislature as a whole. I'm going to ask you again for these two documents, the Snair's report and any
implementing documents for the MacTara amendment in their full, unedited form and I want your undertaking to file both of them.
MR. PARENT: Mr. Chairman, on a point of order. While I respect my colleague's legal expertise, I'm wondering in light of freedom of information and privacy legislation, what actually is the standing of committees such as this vis-à-vis that legislation which is fairly new, could we get a ruling on that?
MR. CHAIRMAN: The Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act wouldn't apply to a request of a legislative committee. I think my colleague has more or less fairly laid out the options that are available to a witness. However, I would also hasten to point out that the request of a single member of the committee is not the same as a request of the whole committee. Therefore, it seems to me that the most appropriate thing for me to do is to wait for the witness' answer and should the witness choose an answer other than full disclosure, at that point there would have to be some discussion, I think most appropriately on the Subcommittee on Agenda and Procedures first about how to deal with the particular document being requested. So, on that basis, I'd like to turn it over to Mr. Lund to answer Mr. Epstein's request.
MR. LUND: Sorry, not being a lawyer and not being familiar with what I have to or I'm not required to do, the short answer to will I provide all of the information, the answer is no. If I'm requested to and have to abide by that, then certainly I will.
MR. CHAIRMAN: I think the most appropriate thing, Mr. Epstein, is to take it under advisement to refer it to the very shortly upcoming meeting of the Subcommittee on Agenda and Procedures and we'll take it from there. I will ask you to move on from there.
MR. EPSTEIN: That was precisely my plan, although it seems to me there's an alternative available which is to make it clear that we might want to issue a subpoena and require that documents be brought and at that time filed. I would ask the subcommittee to think about this possible route in order to clarify the proprieties of it and indeed, I'm quite aware that a request would have to come from the committee as a whole. I'm happy to have the subcommittee discuss it and report back to the full committee. Thank you.
I do have one other point I would like to ask you about, I'm wondering if you can tell us whether you've lost any of your staff at NSBI over the last year. I'm not talking about support staff, I'm talking about your professional and managerial staff. Can you tell us about turnover on your staff?
MR. LUND: Yes, we have had turnover in different positions. Like any organization, we try to hire the best people we can possibly get and we do have a great team in place now. With the people that we hire, not everybody is the right fit and also, there are many options out there for good people and unfortunately we do, on occasion, lose good people.
MR. EPSTEIN: Can you tell us how many people have left? I was asking within the last 12 months.
MR. LUND: I don't have that number, I'd have to look and get back to you.
MR. EPSTEIN: Can you write to the committee and let us know?
MR. LUND: Sure.
MR. EPSTEIN: Had any of those people worked for NSBI for less than a year?
MR. LUND: I don't know the answer to that question. (Interruption) We're not sure, there might have been one. We're not sure.
MR. EPSTEIN: Perhaps you could include that with the information. Are you concerned about losing any of your staff?
MR. LUND: We always are concerned about losing staff. Most of the people we've hired come from a business background and we're in a very difficult environment, and it doesn't always work for everybody. We continue to try to get the best people possible and again, because they are good, many of these people have options outside the organization. We believe we have the right team in place now and I'm sure we will see over the next
several years, some additional turnover. We are positioning ourselves as an employer of choice, we work closely with our employees. There will always be turnover and like any employer, you try to minimize it and keep the right people.
MR. EPSTEIN: Good for you. Did you let any of these people go? Did you make the decision rather than the employee?
MR. LUND: I'm not sure I'm in a position to disclose confidential discussions that I would have with my staff.
MR. EPSTEIN: I wasn't asking you who, I asked you if any?
MR. LUND: The answer is yes.
MR. EPSTEIN: With severance?
MR. LUND: Yes.
MR. EPSTEIN: Thank you.
MR. CHAIRMAN: You haven't used up your full time but if you're done we'll just move on.
MR. EPSTEIN: That's okay, thank you.
MR. CHAIRMAN: We'll move on to the Liberal caucus.
The honourable member for Glace Bay.
MR. DAVID WILSON (Glace Bay): Mr. Lund, thank you for appearing here today. I'm sure so far you've felt it was an entire pleasure just to be here. I'm interested in finding out about NSBI's involvement particularly in the Cape Breton region. If you look at the situation in Cape Breton and take into account what is already there, and you included the Office of Economic Development and Enterprise Cape Breton Corporation, the Cape Breton County Economic Development Authority, the Cape Breton Regional Municipality, an economic development officer, ACOA and so on, you would think there are enough economic development agencies in Cape Breton that everybody should be working. I say that not in jest, there are enough there. NSBI is involved now as well.
I would like to know in particular what you've done in Cape Breton to date. Statistically, I would like to know how many jobs your authority has created, how they were created and if indeed the payroll rebate program was used in any of those instances, if you could?
MR. LUND: Sure. We appeared before the Committee on Economic Development about a year and a half ago, I believe, and were criticized for our lack of statistical effort in Cape Breton. I would like to say today that we're very proud of what we've been able to do in Cape Breton, working with our partners in Cape Breton. I'll give you some examples.
First of all, about 20 per cent of our client base is actually in Cape Breton. If we start in the Strait area, I think we would all agree that we've seen explosive growth in the Strait area over the last couple of years. We worked closely with EDS to set up a 450-person operation in Port Hawkesbury. We worked for a year and a half - probably closer to two years - with Federal Gypsum, to establish a new wallboard facility in the Strait area. We worked for three and a half years with Anadarko on a new LNG facility in the Strait area. We've worked with Richmond County. We've worked with the Port Hawkesbury area.
We, at NSBI alone, have invested over 5,000 hours in those projects, many of those working in the Strait area. We've worked closely with MacLeod Resources. We've worked to provide financing in the Sydney area. We worked closely with DynaGen to provide financing. We've worked closely with Techlink to provide financing. We've worked closely with PharmEng to provide financing. We've worked closely with Cape Breton Castings to provide financing. In terms of financing, DynaGen and Techlink would be equity instruments, PharmEng would be payroll rebate, EDS would have been payroll rebate, Cape Breton Castings would have been payroll rebate. Again, there are a lot of partners and we have to work closely with the people in the area. I'm very proud of what we've been able to do.
MR. DAVID WILSON (Glace Bay): I think my colleague from Halifax indicated earlier that there seems to have been a line that has become somewhat blurred between what NSBI - what used to be the Department of Economic Development is now basically an office with one person in it in Sydney, the Office of Economic Development - and the Office of Economic Development do. I forgot in my preamble to throw in the Cape Breton Growth Fund which is part of the scene in Cape Breton as well.
MR. LUND: And the Cape Breton Partnership.
MR. DAVID WILSON (Glace Bay): And the Cape Breton Partnership just recently created, you're absolutely right. With all of those and before I proceed along that line, the Stream call centre in Glace Bay did not use a payroll rebate, it was not offered to them, but that was pre-NSBI, was it not?
MR. LUND: It was.
MR. DAVID WILSON (Glace Bay): It always occurred to me why the payroll rebate program - since you're touting it as such a great program and previous to NSBI it was a great program as well - wasn't used in the Stream call centre operation in Glace Bay when it has
been used in other call centre operations as you indicated, and pre-NSBI it had been used in other call centre operations throughout the province. There's one in particular I can think of in New Glasgow, is that correct?
MR. LUND: No, you're right and it's a good question. I don't know the answer to it, why it wasn't used with Stream.
MR. DAVID WILSON (Glace Bay): Let me continue along those lines, how do you differentiate, how do you tell people - and I think one of the complaints that I've heard from Cape Breton in particular is that we go looking for help from economic development agencies but where do we go, who do we go to, how many are out there? Why isn't it that in this day and age there isn't some form of a one-stop shopping centre where business people or those interested in creating business and economic development can go - if it's NSBI or whatever the case may be - and say, here's what I'm looking for now, where is the help?
MR. LUND: It's a great question. Martin, I'm going to ask you because you were closer in the team.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Mr. Walker.
MR. WALKER: The Canada/Nova Scotia Business Service Centres - there are 13 of them scattered around the province, many of them co-located with RDAs - are a good first stop for a business or an entrepreneur interested in establishing a business, they are a great source of information. I think to put a finer point on it is that it's passive. A business person tied up in their day-to-day, they're very busy, it is incumbent on you as a business person to get up, leave your business and make your way to the Canada/Nova Scotia Business Service Centre.
Maybe I'm making it too black and white, but I think my observation is that there are resources available, set up in a way intended to be a one-stop shop but it is up to you to find your way there. Since the inception of NSBI, with our regional account executives, we have tried to get out, meet with business and encourage them to avail themselves of the resources that are available. I don't see a shortage of resources. What I see is sometimes that the directions on the map are not as clear as they should be and that is, quite frankly, a role that we play pretty effectively, being the navigators in that space.
MR. DAVID WILSON (Glace Bay): It can stymie those people who are looking for that sort of help not to be aware whether there is an NSBI, or whether there is a growth fund, or whether there are the agencies that you mentioned to start off with. I have run across potential businesses that have been frustrated and they've gone to let's say ACOA or ECBC and they've been turned down, and they've gone to the Office of Economic Development and
they've been turned down. That frustration eventually leads to people not even bothering to look to locate to an area, such as the former industrial Cape Breton area.
I'll give Mr. Lund a chance to hear more of exactly what's happening in, what some people now refer to as the metro area of Cape Breton, because a lot of the industry has left. It is still referred to by some as the industrial Cape Breton area and in particular, not that I'm against economic development in the Strait area or anywhere else on the Island but in particular, I'm very interested in what's happening within what used to be the industrial centre of Cape Breton.
MR. LUND: First, you do raise a very good question with your first question around small business. Even though there are many organizations and agencies out there, sometimes when someone has their head down all the time, wants to lift their head and find out who to talk to, it can be an issue. I do take your point and I would love to chat further about what we can do.
MR. DAVID WILSON (Glace Bay): If I can, Mr. Lund. In my personal experience what I have found is who it frustrates are local people most of all, not the people coming here from outside of Nova Scotia looking to set up industry. It is local people who are looking to create small business, as everyone here is saying is the backbone of the economy. These are people looking to set up businesses which employ two, three, four, five people but they become so frustrated trying to cut through the red tape of an ACOA, an ECBC, or an Economic Development that they give up their dreams of opening up a small business to employ people in their area. That becomes very frustrating for them, I think there's a lot of opportunity being missed in that area, that's my own personal opinion.
MR. LUND: And it would be frustrating for you to hear from people. I know the CFIB, in their survey results, the second biggest issue that their clients talk about is red tape and who do you talk to, so that's a good point. In terms of industrial Cape Breton, there are many organizations working in the area. It is important to make sure the groups are working together. It is important that we have local leadership. If we're going to attract companies, or if we're going to grow local companies, there has to be business leadership and political leadership. I'm not so sure that there is on all fronts there.
We work with the companies, we work with the organizations and there are some really good people there. I think there are some exciting things going on but I think that there could be more things happening.
MR. DAVID WILSON (Glace Bay): Thank you, Mr. Lund. Mr. Chairman, I'd like to give the remaining time to my colleague.
MR. CHAIRMAN: The honourable member for Halifax Clayton Park with a little over three minutes to go.
MS. WHALEN: That's not much time left. I would like to go back and explore a little bit more about what role the Nominee Program might play in your tool kit, as you talk about having these various programs available. How do you see that working for you and for your field officers? I think it's Mr. Walker.
MR. LUND: I'll turn it to Mr. Walker first, but immigration is a hot topic and all the numbers that you see point to the fact that we do need immigration and we can point to some examples across the country where it works. We only have to look as far as Ireland to see that for a century they exported their people and now they import 40,000 to 60,000 people every single year. The timing is probably good for the immigration strategy and the work that goes in it. Our role, I think, will be progressing as we find out more. One of the keys for people is that the jobs are here at the end of the day. Martin, do you want to take it?
MR. CHAIRMAN: Mr. Walker.
MR. WALKER: The Nominee Program is an important part of our tool kit. Our account executives regard their tool kit really, in all honesty, as those tools that are available for all business from all organizations in Nova Scotia. We spend a lot of time making sure that we are prepared to talk in an informed and intelligent way about the resources that are available to support business and small business in Nova Scotia. The Nominee Program is an exciting one. We see the business fit right away because when we're engaging with business, we're trying to understand need and gain some sense of a vision for the future. We can see the clear fit between this program and movement forward in that context. So it is a tool in our kit, it's an important tool, but it's one among many that are provided from a number of different sources.
MS. WHALEN: The comment I would have really about the program is that I have severe reservations about the idea of asking people coming from other countries to put $100,000 with the proviso that they would be paid a minimum of $20,000 for working with that company for six months. I think it really looks exploitive and I think that the kind of medium-size business people we're talking about coming over, if you're not wealthy, if they're good business people, they won't want to throw $80,000 of investment potential away for that opportunity to come here. If they have a lot of money, perhaps they will, it won't matter to them.
I feel that it's Nova Scotia companies benefiting and that is good, it may be providing some capital for them. I just feel that maybe it hasn't been properly examined about how it's working and who's benefiting. I think that we may be losing good immigrants as a result through this program not being broad enough and not being a true investment program.
MR. WALKER: I honestly can't comment to that aspect of it. We certainly see the fit on the business side to the point that you made earlier. In a broader sense, I would love to see a number of different doors opened into Nova Scotia to try to create a greater stream of immigrants to this province. We all know what the demographic picture is, on our own, our population will begin to, quite frankly, decline. From a purely pragmatic business sense, there is a fit there.
MS. WHALEN: Perhaps what I could suggest is - and I'm sure this will happen when the office becomes fully staffed - maybe you will be one of the stakeholders helping to guide some additional programs that will help business.
MR. WALKER: That would be the ideal engagement for us in that context.
MS. WHALEN: I think that's the way to go. Do I have any time left?
MR. CHAIRMAN: You have none. In fact, you slipped in a question over the time. (Laughter) We'll move on to the Progressive Conservative caucus for the next round.
The honourable member for Kings North.
MR. PARENT: I just want to come back with the question that I ended with, what tools do you have for small businesses, if you could just quickly elaborate them for me?
MR. CHAIRMAN: Mr. Walker.
MR. WALKER: I had a chance - after you raised it earlier - to think about this a little bit. There are many tools out there available for business in Nova Scotia. Stephen alluded earlier to 190 programs and entities out there driving resources to entrepreneurs. In fact, the CBDC had done an analysis a couple of years ago, I was sitting in on some policy consultations in the entrepreneurial space, there were 198 programs out there.
We are a recognize and refer organization but where we can engage to add value, we're going to consult with companies, we're going to mentor as we can, we're going to make suggestions to the business that from our standpoint, we feel, in our professional opinion, will help that business move forward. Perhaps it could be as simple a suggestion as to how you're handling your accounts receivable, so there is that just from an engagement to that level, to an engagement to the level of, should we be looking to bring in the resources through a manufacturing consultant to see what kind of improvements can be made on the plant floor.
We provide business planning, support, market intelligence, we're trying to promote business networking within the province, we're certainly part of the overall supplier development initiative that's underway and have been doing a lot of work with Nova Scotia
companies to help them put their best foot forward to purchase from government, export readiness coaching, trade mission support, the matchmaking piece, the market development piece. We go into a client's situation feeling comfortable that we represent professionally the services and tools available from all of our partner organizations. We will engage our partners when appropriate in that situation.
Nova Scotia Business Inc., in many ways, what we do is we're agnostic: big business or small business; what we're looking for is business growth. In the shop that I work in most of our business is with small business. One particular focus that we have and a tool kit that we have built since the inception of NSBI, are our export development tools. We have Prospector Plus programming, we have just introduced in a soft-pilot basis, a service export program that just ran over a two-month pilot and it is getting some traction out there.
We're looking for business growth potential, so whether it is to service just internal market needs, we know where to refer a client to help them there. In terms of looking to the outside world, outside of Nova Scotia, this is an area that excites us particularly with our colleagues on the provincial trade committee and the broader Trade Team Nova Scotia. There are resources out there, we are the front end in many instances for the tools and resources of all of our partners out there.
MR. PARENT: Thank you very much for a very full answer, I appreciate that. My colleague is quite eager to ask some questions so I'll just end with a comment more than anything and that's in regard to the agricultural sector. The agricultural sector itself realizes - and I agree with them - that we need to view agriculture as an industry that's renewable, sustainable and employs many, many people and has spinoff jobs. I was going to ask you about agriculture but we're going to run out of time and my colleague - we have nine minutes left? A very quick snapper, can you just respond to me about your support for the agricultural sector?
MR. WALKER: Very quickly, yes. In fact today - and I'm sure you're aware, Mr. Parent, in the constituency that you live in - the global economy meets the Nova Scotia agricultural sector head-on. This is not a surprise but it is something that has happened very quickly. Over the last two years, we've been actively engaged with our colleagues at Agriculture and Fisheries, to begin to look - and the beginning point, quite frankly, was with Avon Foods and Carriere and the movements there.
Really, I think what we're seeing is a more eyes-wide-open view of the industry and its context in the global economy. We are engaged. We certainly see single points of failure across the manufacturing layer in agriculture today that is of concern to us, so to that end we have engaged in several situations over the past few months, to provide assistance there. This is an industry where our producers are good producers, they have been trained and resources are brought to bear to help them to be very good in that context.
One area where we do have work to do, and I know this is talked about around policy tables, is that there are good farmers but sometimes maybe we need to bring other resources to bear to help them to become good business people in this fast-moving world.
MR. PARENT: Thank you very much.
MR. CHAIRMAN: The honourable member for Pictou East.
MR. JAMES DEWOLFE: Thank you, again, for joining us here today. Mr. Parent finalized his comments with a statement and I will start mine with more or less a statement. I just wanted to refer back to some comments made with regard to Snair's Bakery.
I would like to say that I think it's a dangerous course when we hear suggestions from Opposition members to micromanage business decisions of arm's-length agencies such as NSBI. I believe it is inappropriate for Opposition politicians to pressure government into making loans which do not fit appropriate criteria. Although that wasn't directly said, to micromanage also involves looking at the criteria that was used in the decision making.
I believe, Mr. Lund, you indicated that a former banker worked on this file for some four and a half months, to the degree that you could probably discuss certain aspects of what happened in the Snair's Bakery case, but it was, indeed, refused. I believe that it was refused for a good reason, it was refused because it was determined that perhaps it wasn't the best use of taxpayers' money, that there was a certain risk involved. I sort of question to what value the information leading to that decision-making process would be to this committee. I think that is very confidential and very private. It's like someone getting turned down for a bank loan that is very close to us and we say, the person should really get it, but there are reasons why they don't get it.
I believe that NSBI is doing an appropriate job with the resources that they are provided with on behalf of the taxpayers and the development of this province and the businesses within. Having said that, it was enlightening for me to have a visit from one of your staff on Monday past.
Lynn Coffin, a field officer from my area, spent an hour with me and she said, I know you understand quite a bit of what goes on at NSBI. I said, I think that you should brief me like you would brief anyone else, so that I do have a better handle on it. She did and it was most interesting.
Of course, Ms. Coffin is full of enthusiasm and incidently, we worked together quite a number of years ago at the Department of Natural Resources, she moved on to Economic Development. So she has a good background in economic development which is probably
a plus and now she has her finger on the pulse of the business community in Pictou County, Antigonish and Guysborough. She has quite a territory there and those constituencies are more of a rural area, a rural flavour and again, the small businesses are the ones that I have to focus on because my constituency really is a constituency made up of small businesses where the larger businesses are only probably 35 to 40 employees and mostly they are either ma-and-pa operations, or small forestry operations with very few people. It was interesting to hear some of the comments you made with regard to the small businesses in the area.
There is a big difference between an economic development agency that's run by civil servants and NSBI or the old Industrial Estates model which uses business experience of business volunteers on the NSBI board to make arm's length decisions for economic development. I guess me question is what are the main differences between the former economic development agency models and NSBI's model?
MR. LUND: I'm not entirely familiar with all the previous models, although there have been many. I think I can comment more on how we position ourselves in the world. I think if you look at what is the model of economic development in the world today, you'd have to point to Ireland.
Ireland went from the basket case of Europe to the leading economy in Europe, if not the world today. Economist magazine recently just named is as "The Best Country in the World" and it has had phenomenal growth, particularly in the last 10 years it has led Europe. I was there recently and the two economic development agencies there, Enterprise Ireland and the IDA are responsible for economic growth.
In total, there are 1,200 people there with a budget of $750 million. They're structured the same way as NSBI, both organizations are arm's length, with private sector boards of directors. They have shown absolutely phenomenal success. When I look at the model, I say, we're set up like that and in fact, our results compare favourably with those of Ireland. That's the model that we look at and there are many different structures of that model around the world.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Thank you, that concludes the time that was available for the Progressive Conservative caucus. At this point I would like to invite Mr. Lund to make any closing comments that he wishes to make.
MR. LUND: I have a few points just to follow up on our discussion. Nova Scotia's Minister of Economic Development, Hon. Ernie Fage, has pointed out something everyone should be pleased with, more than 9,000 new jobs were created throughout Nova Scotia last year. I think this is an important number.
The economy showed job growth in every location around the province last year. Nova Scotia led the country in job growth last year and our unemployment rate is the lowest
it has been in 30 years. So I think we have a lot to be proud of, a lot of work has to be done, but generally speaking, I think we're doing pretty well as an economy. It is a result of a lot of things, including business climate, and a lot of work done around the province by a lot of players.
All the agencies, government departments, community groups, private institutions have collectively contributed in unique complementary ways. In NSBI's most recent fiscal year, companies have committed to the creation and maintenance of approximately 4,000 jobs with help from NSBI's involvement.
Looking ahead, forecasters have been predicting Nova Scotia's economy will grow this year by 2.5 per cent. I want to share with you how Nova Scotia stacks up against one of the world's economic success stories.
I talked about Ireland and they went from 15 per cent unemployment to 4.7 per cent unemployment with a GDP per capita of roughly Cdn. $55,000. Again, the organization is set up very similar to Nova Scotia Business Inc., they have shown phenomenal growth and I think when we compare ourselves to any other organization, we're quite proud of what we've been able to achieve. I think we should be proud as a province of all the organizations, and all the players that have contributed to the growth of the economy.
Although we didn't talk a lot about it, it's encouraging to see the Auditor General's Report. Looking at NSBI's administration of the Payroll Rebate Program, he confirmed that we do have the proper procedures, protocol and track record in place.
NSBI is an evolving organization, we will continue to work to achieve success, we will continue to work with the players in the room, with the agencies and with the organizations around the province. We are uniquely positioned because in many respects, Nova Scotia is an easy sell.
The challenge that we face in the economy today is, we know about the Canadian dollar, we know the impact it's having on some of our companies, we know we have to be more competitive, we know that we have to work on our productivity levels which are low - they're 80 per cent of the Canadian average, which is 80 per cent of the U.S. average. So a lot of work has to be put into place in working with our companies around the province. We also have to focus on bringing Nova Scotia to the world, not just bringing companies to Nova Scotia, but bringing Nova Scotia to the world. We have to encourage more companies to export.
Provinces will not be successful by focusing inward. There is no example of a success story that I know of that can do that. It is critical that we work with our companies, we expose them to what's going on in the world, we help them get established in certain
markets, we make sure that we also augment that by bringing in the right companies, at the right time, the right fit in the communities and I think we've done a pretty good job.
The single biggest issue that we face as an organization is awareness outside of Nova Scotia, it's awareness. Who knows about Nova Scotia? Do you have an airport in Nova Scotia? Do you have buildings more than three stories high? It's a serious issue. The more we can all work together to get the word out, hey, we have a lot of things going on in Nova Scotia. Once business people, once companies get to Nova Scotia, it's incredible what they see here when they walk into the communities, what the communities are able to pull together to rally the troops. Until you go out and see what's going on, it's really hard to get a sense of how we do.
I'm fortunate, and I hope others are, that when you see what goes on elsewhere you realize that we actually have our act together. Lo and behold, we actually have great people here, we have a low turnover, we have a dedicated workforce. We can compete with anybody in the world. We're actually talking to companies now from the U.S. that have operations in India, that are looking at bringing them back to North America, not to New York, not to Chicago, not to Boston, but to Halifax. This is unheard of.
We are going to be positioned as a world centre for IT and we need to make sure that every area of the province can capitalize on that. We have to make sure that Martin's team and others are working around the province. There are issues that we face, we don't know where the dollars are going to go, nobody does. We know that we have productivity issues. We know that we have succession planning issues that we never talked about. Many of the small businesses with two or three people are facing succession issues. We know that work has to be done to open up new markets. We know that we have to expose our companies.
A lot of work has already been put into growing the economy and a lot of work has to be done. Really, I'm proud of what we have been able to do. I'm proud of what Nova Scotia has been able to do. We're pretty optimistic for the future. Again, Mr. Chairman, thank you.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Thank you, very much, to you and your colleagues for coming in today. I did want to make a couple of notes for the committee's benefit. Your Subcommittee on Agenda and Procedures is meeting next Tuesday at 2:00 p.m. and we will be discussing the agenda for the rest of the year up to the Summer break. Please be in touch with your representative on the committee if there are particular topics you'd like to see on our agenda between now and June.
This committee's annual report is still awaiting any comment. I'm going to ask the clerk of committees if no comments are forthcoming, to circulate the document for everyone's signature at the next meeting, next Wednesday, because we do have to get it done and tabled in the Legislature.
Next Wednesday, April 13th the Office of Health Promotion and the Nova Scotia Gaming Foundation will be in to talk about gambling. Are there any other items of business requiring the attention of the full committee before we adjourn? If not, a motion to adjourn.
MS. WHALEN: So moved.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Would all those in favour of the motion please say Aye. Contrary minded, Nay.
The motion is carried.
The meeting is adjourned.
[The committee adjourned at 10:56 a.m.]