Printed and Published by Nova Scotia Hansard Reporting Services
PUBLIC ACCOUNTS SUBCOMMITTEE
Ms. Maureen MacDonald (Chair)
Mr. James DeWolfe (Vice-Chairman)
Mr. Keith Colwell
Ms. Mora Stevens
Legislative Committee Coordinator
Mr. Roy Salmon
HALIFAX, WEDNESDAY, OCTOBER 19, 2005
SUBCOMMITTEE ON PUBLIC ACCOUNTS
Ms. Maureen MacDonald
MADAM CHAIR: Good morning. I will call the subcommittee meeting to order. I thank the Auditor General for joining us this morning.
[The subcommittee members introduced themselves.]
MADAM CHAIR: The purpose of this meeting this morning is to deal with some of the unfinished agenda items that we did not get around to the last time we met and to also discuss approval of potential witnesses so that Mora can continue to book the schedule. Let's start with the four items that we have. We will go in the order in which things are here in front of us, what was left, and then down to the new items, if that's okay with people.
We had a request from the honourable member for Hants East, John MacDonell, to consider AgraPoint International Inc. as a witness. I see that we also now have a letter from Mr. Colwell around the same thing. Mr. DeWolfe, do you have any difficulty with that?
MR. JAMES DEWOLFE: I question it, I guess. This issue was previously considered for the Standing Committee on Resources and, in my mind, I believe we should recommend this matter to the Standing Committee on Resources, that they consider the witnesses. It seems that it would be better suited to the Resources Committee, having previously chaired the Resources Committee in years gone by, I think that's a better fit. I guess I question why they didn't move on this themselves when it was brought up, they chose not to.
MADAM CHAIR: I confess I'm not sure why that decision was taken by that committee. Do you know, by any chance?
MS. MORA STEVENS (Legislative Committee Coordinator): I am the clerk for that committee. We had AgraPoint in a number of years ago, and it has been forwarded on the agenda but just as an item. They've been concentrating on fisheries and forestry the last little while. We are holding an agenda-setting meeting on October 25th, which is next week. So it might come up there. I'm not certain. They have been concentrating on other things, I know.
MR. DEWOLFE: I would suggest that that would be the first place that AgraPoint should be a witness.
MR. KEITH COLWELL: I don't agree with that. I think it's appropriate to come here where the Auditor General will be to hear our questions. There are some issues over where the money has been spent. At least our caucus has some concerns about that and, evidently, the NDP caucus has, as well. I would really like to see it before this committee when the Auditor General is here so that we can ask the Auditor General questions about this issue as well. The Resources Committee doesn't have that option available to them.
MR. DEWOLFE: Madam Chair, I'm wondering if the Auditor General has any input on it.
MR. ROY SALMON: I'm not familiar with the company. We certainly have not done any audit work around that company.
MADAM CHAIR: Apparently they're a Crown Corporation, are they not?
MR. SALMON: I couldn't answer that question. I'm not familiar with it at all.
MR. COLWELL: It's all the more important to bring it in then if the Auditor General doesn't know about it, and we have some concerns. It might be a good idea to bring it to this committee.
MS. STEVENS: From what I understand, they are doing a lot of the work that used to be done in Natural Resources and in Agriculture, and some of the funding is both federal and provincial.
MR. DEWOLFE: Are they down in the Valley?
MS. STEVENS: Physically, I cannot remember where they're located. I'm not sure if they're classified as an actual Crown Corporation. They might be.
MADAM CHAIR: I'm not sure either. My understanding is that the request made by John MacDonell initially was with respect to the financial expenditures. I think that does fall within our purview. I guess what I would say is this, since Mora is the clerk of the Resources Committee and they are having an agenda-setting meeting next week, if this matter could be
raised with them, in terms of whether or not they can hear it, but given that they are focused on other things, it would make sense that we focus on this. But let's just see what the possibilities are of putting it to this other committee. Then you can use your judgment. If they are continuing on in forestry and fishery, in terms of their focus, then we should certainly have it on our agenda here. Would you not agree with that?
MR. COLWELL: I think it should be on the agenda here anyway, personally. This is a matter of public monies being spent, and I think it should be on the agenda here. I'll make a motion to that effect.
MADAM CHAIR: Okay. I don't know exactly how this committee works. I've been trying to see if we can reach some consensus, as much as possible, if we can do that in the committee.
MR. COLWELL: I'll withdraw my motion, then.
MADAM CHAIR: But I would say that . . .
MR. DEWOLFE: I agree. Perhaps you could send a letter to the chairman of the Resources Committee, that we're referring this matter to them.
MADAM CHAIR: Well, no, that isn't really what I'm thinking. I'm not really thinking about referring the matter to them; what I'm thinking about is some clarification around whether or not they have other focuses on their agenda. I do agree that because the concerns are with respect to the expenditure of dollars, that's much more appropriately managed here than over there. If it was a broader kind of look at what they're doing and what their services are and how that fits into agricultural management and development, success in the agricultural industry, then that's different, but here this will be more focused on the expenditure of money.
In the letter from John MacDonell, he says it's a Crown agency. This Crown agency gets $2.2 million every year with no clear indication of the fee structure. The focus is very much I think as Mr. Colwell said, but just for the purposes of trying to be clear that this is the best place to deal with it, I think we should just run it by that committee . . .
MR. JAMES DEWOLFE: Agreed.
MADAM CHAIR: . . . and in all likelihood it will end up back here.
MR. COLWELL: I'm on the Resources Committee as well.
MADAM CHAIR: Yes. We had a request from Mr. Jim Gourlay - I think he's the publisher of Saltscapes Magazine - to consider calling the Nova Scotia Liquor Corporation as a witness in conjunction with their publication of a lifestyle magazine. So the floor is open for discussion on this request.
MR. DEWOLFE: This issue doesn't directly address the committee's mandate of post-audit, after-the-fact spending. It might be, again, better suited to another committee such as the Committee on Economic Development. That would be my thought on it.
MR. COLWELL: I would tend to agree with that in this particular case. I believe the issue is that the gentleman from Saltscapes is concerned about the Liquor Corporation publishing a magazine, which I, too, have a lot of concerns about, but it would probably be better to consider that at the Economic Development Committee where it's really an economic development issue.
MADAM CHAIR: Then we will make referral to the department. The only other thing I would say, I don't know what the practice is of this committee, but I understand there is a lawsuit underway. As far as I know, it's not the practice of committees to examine issues or areas that are before the courts.
MR. DEWOLFE: It's before the courts, that's correct.
MR. COLWELL: I would think that would be reasonable.
MADAM CHAIR: And I think that also could be a little problematic, but anyway we'll send it over to the other committee and they can make a decision.
MR. DEWOLFE: It's not to say that they can't hold it in abeyance until . . .
MADAM CHAIR: Yes, until there's some resolution . . .
MR. DEWOLFE: . . . completion of the court case.
MADAM CHAIR: Item number three. I guess it was in the Spring that NSBI was in front of the committee and there was a request for documents and they have not been forthcoming - is that the gist of this?
MS. STEVENS: When they appeared before the committee, at the time the committee requested the Snair's Bakery file because they talked in the meeting about the original agreements and the amendments to the original agreements, and they have a file dealing with the possibility of loaning Snair's Bakery money. Then they also talked about NSBI's dealings with MacTara and that they had agreements and amendments and, of course,
these amendments weren't public because they would go through Cabinet and they would change once the original agreements had been signed.
The committee had asked for them. NSBI said they did not want to hurt the company's position. So what the subcommittee did was they met on the issue and said, okay, give us the information and we'll send it to Darce Fardy, the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Officer, and he can look at it and then see what we should look at, so there was an independent person evaluating what applied. When NSBI sent the reply back, which I've attached, they have not forwarded the information. So it's now up to the committee, and Graham Steele has asked for the sub-committee to deal with the issue to say what the next step should be.
MADAM CHAIR: Okay. So the floor once again is open for discussion on this matter. Do you need additional information, Mr. Colwell?
MR. COLWELL: Just the overview is reasonably good. Basically what you're saying is that they ignored the request of the committee? That's not a very good approach. What reason did they give?
MR. DEWOLFE: Protecting the integrity of the company.
MS. STEVENS: Page 3 is their response.
MADAM CHAIR: Going to Mr. Lund's letter of July 14th to Ms. Stevens.
MS. STEVENS: Under the heading, Additional Documents.
MR. COLWELL: Can this committee have an in camera session?
MS. STEVENS: Yes, it can.
MR. COLWELL: An in camera session of course is not to repeat the information provided in camera session, right?
MS. STEVENS: Correct.
MR. DEWOLFE: Does that ever work?
MR. COLWELL: I know of one instance it didn't.
MS. STEVENS: When in camera sessions are held, there are a couple of choices. It can actually be recorded and a transcript kept in this office only, just for the sake of having
the information that can be referred back to if ever needed. Or, there can be no transcript whatsoever or you can have it so it just goes to committee members.
MADAM CHAIR: Actually, that's one of the suggestions. That's the last suggestion that Mr. Lund makes is that the documents be released but it be done in camera, in order to present.
MR. COLWELL: We're only talking about Snair's Bakery, is that correct?
MR. DEWOLFE: Yes. Snair's Bakery has left the province for P.E.I.
MS. STEVENS: Yes. And there's the MacTara Limited file as well.
MR. COLWELL: Let's talk about them one at a time. We talk about Snair's Bakery. They've already gone. I have concerns about releasing information about companies. I really do, in this forum or any forum. At the same time, we have Snair's Bakery which is a long-standing company in Nova Scotia which is gone now, and we really need to find out why. We need to know financially why they have left. I'd like to see all this information come to this committee on Snair's Bakery, where it's an issue that really needs to be addressed because, if this has happened once, it will happen again. As employment drops in the province, we're going to be in more and more trouble. MacTara is a different issue. They are, hopefully, still a real solid company in Nova Scotia. I also would like to see the agreements between them, but those would have to be definitely in camera because I would not want anything to happen that would jeopardize their competitive position in Nova Scotia or beyond because they export.
Snair's Bakery is a different issue. If the NSBI didn't handle this case properly and it resulted in Snair's Bakery moving to Prince Edward Island, I would sure like to know about it so it doesn't happen again to any other Nova Scotian company. Maybe we could do both of them in camera. If there are issues that come out of Snair's Bakery, then we could have a separate public meeting with them to discuss that, depending what information we get. I would suggest we proceed with both of these, especially Snair's Bakery, because that was a very unfortunate situation, whatever the situation was. Now when we hear from NSBI we might say, yes, that's fine. You did the best you could and the government did all the due diligence it possibly could do and you made the right decisions and, if that's the case, in camera, that's the end of it. It's all over. If, however, they didn't do due diligence . . .
MR. DEWOLFE: I think you're going to find that that was the case. They did due diligence.
MR. COLWELL: You could be very well correct.
MR. DEWOLFE: You will see that if you move forward with - sorry I was just butting in. You can rein me in anytime. We previously agreed to get this material from Snair's Bakery and we should continue to do so and at the same time respect the spirit of the FOIPOP rules and restrictions. I'm like you Keith, I really don't want to drag any company's dirty laundry out into the public domain. I would feel pretty bad, I think, if a personal loan application for me was brought out into the public, that's personal, and companies can't operate like that and governments can't operate like that. So whatever we do, my gracious, it has to be in camera, agreed.
MADAM CHAIR: So we would invite NSBI to share their documents on these that they have previously been asked for in camera? We'll ask for an in camera session? Take the third option.
MR. DEWOLFE: Yes, and no documentation; I would agree to it if we didn't have it recorded.
MADAM CHAIR: Sure. Well I'm taking that to mean what in camera will mean. We'll have an in camera session with them. The third option that they offer here, to receive the documents in confidence and to review and discuss them in camera in order to preserve the third-party confidentiality and no recording - I mean they don't say no recording - but I have no difficulty with that.
MR. DEWOLFE: I agree with that.
MADAM CHAIR: I mean, I think that's our understanding of why we're doing it in camera, you know.
MR. DEWOLFE: Yes.
MR. COLWELL: All I'm really interested in with Snair's Bakery, personally, is I want to see if they messed up, literally NSBI, if they messed up and didn't do their job properly, that's what I'm looking for. I'm not interested in the information, personal information. When I say personal, the corporate, either one of these companies, because it's information I personally don't want to have.
MADAM CHAIR: Okay, so that I think deals with the sort of left over business or the outstanding business. Now we can move on to discuss proposed additional witnesses we have in front of us.
MR. COLWELL: Just so I'm clear on this, we're going to bring in Snair's Bakery in camera as well as MacTara Limited? Or, just Snair's Bakery?
MR. DEWOLFE: Just Snair's Bakery . . .
MADAM CHAIR: My understanding is we go after all of the documents that were referred to, that they agreed to provide, but it's going to be in camera, without a record. One of the things that I think is really important is to try to maintain the integrity of the Public Accounts Committee and the role that we legitimately are supposed to play. If an entity doesn't want to participate in that process - I'm not saying that NSBI don't want to participate - I think we have to maintain our role. There were these references made to files in the Public Accounts Committee last Spring in an open forum. Documents were requested, agreements were made and then not kept. I think we really need to forge ahead but with those protections. You know, I think we've tried to be reasonable considering what it is that they have to say about what their concerns are and we accept those are legitimate concerns. We'll try to accommodate their viewpoints, but we still need to maintain our integrity as a working group.
MR. DEWOLFE: Can you refresh me on the MacTara Limited issue? What was the main thrust of the MacTara issue? Mora?
MS. STEVENS: NSBI had an original agreement with MacTara Limited and subsequent to that, a number of changes were made to that agreement, which were not made public. They just went through Cabinet and they were under R&Rs, which do not come out. That was the question - what changes are you making? You made the very public announcement, but then you're changing it and the people do not know what the actual agreement is now.
MADAM CHAIR: It's great to know somebody's paying attention.
MR. DEWOLFE: That's why we pay her the big dollars, Madam Chair.
MADAM CHAIR: Okay, so we have now some suggestions from the various caucuses for additional items. Because the Liberal caucus, there's only one item - no, two.
MR. COLWELL: No, we have three.
MADAM CHAIR: Oh, three, sorry. Two, Gardner Pinfold, the energy study? Oh, maybe there are two in that first one. Gardner Pinfold Consulting, economics and Service Nova Scotia regarding the energy study - is that one?
MR. COLWELL: That's one.
MADAM CHAIR: That's one, that's the gasoline. Department of Education regarding school user fees?
MR. COLWELL: Yes.
MADAM CHAIR: That's two.
MR. COLWELL: I want to add one more too. Purchasing at the QE II and VG.
MADAM CHAIR: Okay.
MR. DEWOLFE: Purchasing?
MADAM CHAIR: All purchasing? Okay.
MR. DEWOLFE: Purchasing agreements and so on with companies?
MR. COLWELL: Sort of a broad . . .
MR. DEWOLFE: Is there something you're zoning in on?
MADAM CHAIR: It would be the Capital District? Capital District Health Authority.
MR. COLWELL: Yes.
MADAM CHAIR: Okay, now we'll go through the PC list. We have the Department of Education Special Education; Chapter 4 of the Auditor General's report, June 2005; the Resource Recovery Fund Board Incorporated; Chapter 10 of December 2004, Report of the Auditor General; Department of Transportation and Public Works or Department of Finance; the federal-provincial Transportation Agreement and federal gas tax revenue; Department of Finance, the Nova Scotia debt repayment plan and credit rating; and the Office of the Auditor General, the annual review and appearance before the Public Accounts Committee.
The items that are still left on the NDP caucus list, we've already scheduled Service Nova Scotia and Municipal Relations around the Keep the Heat rebate program; Department of Community Services, housing and repair programs, and I believe that has been scheduled as well. Was that scheduled as well? (Interruption) No, okay. Office of Economic Development, the Industrial Expansion Fund; the IWK Health Centre, their business planning process; Emergency Health Services, ambulance fees. We've now agreed to AgraPoint International, that will be dealt with.
MR. DEWOLFE: And just going back, No. 2 was previously approved, wasn't it?
MADAM CHAIR: I thought it was.
MR. DEWOLFE: We can check on it.
MADAM CHAIR: I can't remember, I thought it was, but maybe not, and Atlantic Lottery has been approved as well. The Strait Regional School Board forensic audit has been removed since the last time we met.
MR. DEWOLFE: Yes, it was.
MADAM CHAIR: We've added the Department of Community Services regarding the funding of small options and residential settings, and their overpayment policies and practices. One of the things we had talked about, Mr. Colwell, the last time we met was trying to bundle up sometimes some of the topics for efficiency purposes, but also because sometimes a topic won't take the full two hours, but you do want to get some information around expenditures. So we've been trying to look at ways that we might do that. We've also talked about the possibility of having fewer meetings, but longer meetings occasionally, maybe not all the time, but once in awhile so that you can really delve into an issue in more detail. So how would you like to proceed? I think, without any question, we do have to have the Office of the Auditor General appear before us in terms of the annual review and certainly, I don't know when that would be scheduled.
MR. COLWELL: I would agree with that.
MR. SALMON: We are aiming to table our next report in December, hopefully before Christmas. I was going to raise a point of information for you.
MADAM CHAIR: Yes, please.
MR. SALMON: Claude Carter, my Deputy Auditor General, had major surgery last weekend. He had his gallbladder removed and will not be available to me for a month. That could impact on our ability to finalize it, but we're trying to work around that.
The annual review, if that's referencing the review of the office performance, we would table our business plan and performance report towards the end of March and the last number of years, that's when the annual review has been scheduled. So that's an item for later on in your agenda, but the December report, yes, we would want to appear to discuss that with you in December.
MADAM CHAIR: Now, one of the ways we could proceed is we could take an item from each of the lists that are here. We could look for some commonality across lists where similar or the same items appear on two or more lists as a way to do it. How would you like to do this? Would you like to go from one priority item from each list?
MR. COLWELL: Maybe do both. Why don't we look at the things that have a common ground first and then maybe one item from each list or something like that.
MADAM CHAIR: Okay. I see an energy theme to some extent. We have the Keep the Heat rebate program and you have the energy study coming out of Service Nova Scotia and Municipal Relations on your list. I suppose on some level you also have, Mr. DeWolfe, the federal gas tax revenue. These all have some connectiveness.
MS. STEVENS: If I may, what Service Nova Scotia and Municipal Relations and the Department of Finance are coming in for next week are energy issues; heat rebate program, double taxation on fuel and petroleum product pricing. So that doesn't include the Department of Energy. That's just Service Nova Scotia and Department of Finance.
MR. DEWOLFE: Who do we have coming for them?
MS. STEVENS: I know the deputy ministers of both departments are coming. Service Nova Scotia and Municipal Relations has sent me a list, but I don't know who is coming from Finance.
MR. DEWOLFE: Okay.
MR. COLWELL: How long is the meeting going to be, just the regular two hours?
MS. STEVENS: It's scheduled for two hours.
MADAM CHAIR: I think we should hold that to two hours with those witnesses but maybe we could, down the road, look at having people from Transportation and Public Works and Finance back to talk about the federal-provincial transportation agreements and federal gas tax revenue, as a possibility.
MR. DEWOLFE: Okay, so am I of the understanding that you would agree to that one, number three on my list then?
MADAM CHAIR: Yes, absolutely. I think it's an important issue. I think it has some connectiveness to the concerns we have around revenue, taxation on fuel tax and reinvestment and infrastructure. What do we know about the Department of Community Services - Housing and Repair Program? Did we approve that last time?
MS. STEVENS: It actually wasn't even mentioned. I looked through my notes and it's just not something that was on the list. I think it was read through once and then people focused on other things.
MADAM CHAIR: Oh, okay.
MR. COLWELL: Okay, if we back up again to this, you're talking about this transportation of energy. Yes, I wouldn't have a problem with that. What we should add to that is the provincial revenue from the gas tax.
MADAM CHAIR: Okay.
MR. COLWELL: So whoever we have to call in for that. That would be the Department of Finance would it?
MS. STEVENS: Yes.
MR. DEWOLFE: I just assumed that that would be all part of the package anyway.
MADAM CHAIR: Okay.
MR. DEWOLFE: I just want to make sure it's on there.
MADAM CHAIR: Would you also then want to look at the Gardner Pinfold energy study, if we're going to sort of try to deal with some of the energy issues?
MR. COLWELL: I'd like to have that on the agenda for that. It's going to take some time, that issue, and we may be able to address it. Is there time to bring Gardner Pinfold in for next week? Is Service Nova Scotia and Municipal Relations coming?
MS. STEVENS: Service Nova Scotia and Municipal Relations is coming and I have the study and the package. I can always ask if there is a representative that would like to come from them, but I couldn't certainly guarantee it.
MR. COLWELL: Because that would satisfy what I need to do, or what I'm interested in finding out, I should say. If that's not possible, it would be fine with the other one. We would have to have Service Nova Scotia and Municipal Relations in again, along with the Department of Transportation and Public Works and Finance and that gets sort of cumbersome. That's the only thing.
MS. STEVENS: Would Service Nova Scotia and Municipal Relations come in maybe with Energy then on that separately?
MR. COLWELL: No, this is a Service Nova Scotia and Municipal Relations issue.
MS. STEVENS: Oh, that's true, it is.
MADAM CHAIR: Do you have a copy of the schedule or do I have that here? I know I have it all written in my book, who's coming in?
MS. STEVENS: We have Service Nova Scotia, next week. The week after is a briefing on the health issues. On November 9th we have Nova Scotia Health Information System; the following week we have Economic Development on the Industrial Expansion Fund.
MR. COLWELL: Where did that list come from? It's a whole different list than I got on September 29th.
MS. STEVENS: It changed. I had more people calling . . .
MADAM CHAIR: We had the Department of Tourism, Culture and Heritage initially for November 16th, right?
MS. STEVENS: We did and we had ALC for today, but there were a zillion changes.
MADAM CHAIR: Yes, that's right, the Department of Health back in November.
MS. STEVENS: Yes, and I re-issued that list with the changes. After Office of Economic Development we then have the audit performance indicators for Health and then we don't have anything scheduled until January, where we have ALC and Tourism, Culture and Heritage. So, hopefully, a couple of these items will be available for one of those dates.
MADAM CHAIR: So next week we have Service Nova Scotia and Municipal Relations.
MS. STEVENS: Yes.
MADAM CHAIR: Keep the Heat rebate program is essentially the focus, and you're suggesting that we might also bring in Gardner Pinfold at the same time and that Service Nova Scotia and Municipal Relations is there at the same time and it would be to discuss the report.
MR. COLWELL: Yes. We're going to have some overlap here, I think, because they're talking about - which I don't have any issue with - the PC proposal to bring in the Department of Transportation and Public Works and the federal-provincial transportation agreements, the gas tax and all that. That's going to be an overlap with the double taxation on fuel that we're going to have next week.
MADAM CHAIR: Yes.
MR. COLWELL: So that will be an overlap. The two of them are quite similar and the one that I want to put on there for the energy study all ties into the same thing, but if you tie all that together in one meeting, two hours, there's no way you're going to get through it and I think these are very topical at the present time. So we could either have two meetings in a row with the same people there - it would give us four hours or we could extend the hour of that meeting, we could start at 8:00 a.m. and go until 11:00 a.m., an extra hour, you know, something to give us time because these are big issues for all of us, I mean every one of us as elected representatives.
So I don't know what your wish is, but I've been on the Public Accounts Committee - and it has been a long time since I've been here - and sometimes you just get to the heart of a matter and the time is up . . .
MADAM CHAIR: Yes, the time is up.
MR. COLWELL: . . . and I don't want to see that happen on this particular issue because this is an issue that affects everybody in the whole country and, particularly, a lot of people in Nova Scotia.
MR. DEWOLFE: I would suggest we just have an additional meeting.
MR. COLWELL: Two meetings, put one behind the other.
MADAM CHAIR: I think we should do an additional meeting.
MR. DEWOLFE: We're "met to death" and Wednesdays are busy days, I think, for all caucuses.
MADAM CHAIR: Well, I think the only problem I see is with the House in next week, trying to do a four-hour meeting would probably be a little bit much.
MR. COLWELL: Oh, I agree.
MADAM CHAIR: Especially if we're here until 10:00 p.m. the night before - no prep time really.
MR. COLWELL: If we could reschedule and if we could put November 26th, what you have here, and then November 27th move in all the other stuff, or blend them somehow, because we can probably deal with Service Nova Scotia and Municipal Relations on the issues I've got in the originally scheduled meeting with what you're going to talk about, and then bring in the others, the Department of Transportation and Public Works, Finance, and those guys the following week to deal with the rest of the issues that are left behind.
MADAM CHAIR: I don't think we can do that because we have people already lined up. We have people lined up in slots and the clerk has had such a hard time, as it is, getting people to accommodate those dates. It's always a problem. So if we start undoing, we would have to tell Health not to come, we would have to tell other groups not to come. So we're going to have to, I think, stick with what we have, but put that issue on the agenda. I would agree it's an important issue; I think Mr. DeWolfe agrees it's a really important issue, so we have consensus that we should hear from these people and as soon as possible. So we'll give that advice to our clerk and see if she can organize it as soon as possible.
MR. COLWELL: I'm sure any of these organizations that are called here would love to get a cancellation.
MS. STEVENS: They don't mind that.
MADAM CHAIR: So that's what we'll do then, we'll say the Gardner Pinfold study and Service Nova Scotia and Municipal Relations as part of that. Do you see anybody else beyond Service Nova Scotia and Municipal Relations? It's Service Nova Scotia and Municipal Relations you want?
MR. COLWELL: I want Service Nova Scotia and Municipal Relations, and actually I can address my issues with that energy study with Service Nova Scotia and Municipal Relations. If we could ask Gardner Pinfold to come in, if they can come, I mean it's short notice. If they can't come, that's fine, too.
MS. STEVENS: Okay. So that will be dealt with next week and if there's any follow up . . .
MR. COLWELL: Then we can go from there.
MADAM CHAIR: Well, I would like to ask about the possibility, if it could be managed, of bringing Community Services in with Service Nova Scotia and Municipal Relations when they come to do the heat rebate program, to also have the department there to talk about the conservation piece.
MR. COLWELL: I have no problem with that. The meeting is going to be so long, that's a problem, you're not going to get through it. That is not going to do any of us any good.
MADAM CHAIR: Too jammed. Okay.
MR. COLWELL: I think it's a great idea and it's one that really has to be addressed. It's going to jam it so bad that we will walk out of here without the information that we had hoped to acquire.
MR. DEWOLFE: We're already the busiest committee in Canada.
MADAM CHAIR: That's why they pay us the big bucks, Jim.
MR. COLWELL: Starting when?
MR. DEWOLFE: Check Newfoundland and Labrador on that one.
MADAM CHAIR: Maybe if we could get that on, as well, at some point when you can, because it is a very big issue, the retrofitting.
MR. COLWELL: I would agree with that because that is a real issue.
MR. DEWOLFE: So here we are, essentially our main purpose is to address issues coming out of the Auditor General's Report, and the Resource Recovery Fund is incorporated as one that I had on my list, Chapter 10 of the December 2004 report. I would suggest that's one area that we should address.
MR. COLWELL: So we're going back now to each one of us . . .
MR. DEWOLFE: Well, no. It's just everybody kind of jumping in. This is a subcommittee of three and it's a little more informal.
MR. COLWELL: No, I just wanted to ask that question because I have no problem with that, approaching it that way.
MR. DEWOLFE: I'm just trying to speed things up. I have caucus.
MR. COLWELL: I do, too, and I am chairman.
MADAM CHAIR: Fine, let's ask that we look at scheduling them. I see the Department of Education, regarding school user fees and special education, Chapter 4. Why couldn't we bring in the Department of Education to talk about some of these, the Auditor General's Report and school user fees?
MR. DEWOLFE: I agree.
MR. COLWELL: Yes, I think that would be good. That will satisfy what I want anyway. Actually the one I have on there is - I don't want to interrupt here - Department of Health, regarding purchasing at the hospitals. We already have them scheduled, so that will satisfy what I want as well.
MADAM CHAIR: Okay. We have the Department of Health coming to talk about the procurement policies for . . .
MR. COLWELL: Purchasing policies.
MR. DEWOLFE: You should contact them and tell them that is going to be part of the agenda.
MADAM CHAIR: Let them know.
MS. STEVENS: I will. Would you like that with the Hospital Information System, or maybe we can let them decide?
MR. COLWELL: Well, why don't we do it with the Hospital Information System. Why don't we see if we can get the purchasing agents in, whoever is the chief purchasing agent for the QE II and VG, if there is one person that does that or if there's two people or whatever the case is as part of that meeting, and that will satisfy what I need here.
MS. STEVENS: Okay, and then they have an alternate date of two weeks later. They could do one meeting or the other. Would that be okay?
MS. COLWELL: That's fine. As long as they get them in there so I ask them a couple of questions, that's all I need.
MS. STEVENS: I'll contact Hal.
MR. COLWELL: It's scary, we're making progress.
MR. DEWOLFE: We are, we always did in the subcommittee, it works very well.
MADAM CHAIR: This is, I think, why trying to use the consensus model will . . .
MR. COLWELL: It makes a lot more sense.
MADAM CHAIR: Yes. We can be mean and nasty when we get into the committee.
MR. COLWELL: We wouldn't do that.
MADAM CHAIR: Never.
MR. DEWOLFE: No, it's not us, it's our colleagues.
MADAM CHAIR: That's right, yes, it's those other bad guys. I'm wondering then, back to the NDP list, we would be I think really keen to get some information on the Office of Economic Development, the Industrial Expansion Fund as well. Do you have any problem if we looked at doing that at some point?
MS. STEVENS: It's coming.
MADAM CHAIR: Is it coming? Oh, good.
MS. STEVENS: It's coming on November 16th.
MADAM CHAIR: Excellent.
MR. COLWELL: So I guess we can move on.
MADAM CHAIR: That's good. That's excellent. There are still a few items left over, but I think you have more than enough to keep you busy for now.
MR. COLWELL: That's going to keep us busy well into the new year.
MADAM CHAIR: There will also be new additional issues, I'm sure, that will come along. We may want the Department of Energy to come in at some point, after we have all this information about various programs.
MR. DEWOLFE: And I think it's a tradition that the next subcommittee meeting should probably be held in Barbados in March.
MADAM CHAIR: Okay, I didn't know about that tradition.
MR. DEWOLFE: No, and that's why I'm bringing it to your attention.
MR. COLWELL: And the Auditor General is going to pay the bills so we don't get into trouble.
MADAM CHAIR: Is there anything else?
MS. STEVENS: Just a question concerning how late you want to meet into December 7th and 14th, the first two weeks in December. Again it might depend on when I can book people, and also starting up again in January.
MR. COLWELL: I personally don't want to meet too late in December because December is a really busy time as MLA and January, you're sort of getting relief and a little bit of rest from what happened in December. So maybe towards the third week in January.
MS. STEVENS: Yes, that would be January 18th and Tourism is available then.
MADAM CHAIR: Great.
MS. STEVENS: Or do you even want to meet in December? Sometimes we've gone, if it's December 1st, or sometimes we haven't met in December at all.
MADAM CHAIR: Tuesdays in December are the 7th and 14th.
MR. COLWELL: We're meeting on Tuesdays now, are we?
MADAM CHAIR: Oh, sorry, Wednesday, December 8th, 15th, 22nd and 29th. So, obviously, we're not going to meet on December 22nd or 29th. Do you want to not meet on December 15th, but meet on December 8th. Oh, no, there's December 1st as well. Oh, I'm looking at 2004. That's December 2004. Oh, here we go. So it's December 7th, 14th, 21st and 28th.
MR. COLWELL: What about we just meet on December 7th.
MADAM CHAIR: We could meet on December 7th, yes.
MS. STEVENS: Pending booking people.
MADAM CHAIR: Yes, and we'll return on January 18th.
MR. COLWELL: I would say that would be fine, sure.
MADAM CHAIR: Is there any other business?
MR. COLWELL: It has been a very pleasant experience actually, I would like to state that, it has been a very pleasant experience.
MADAM CHAIR: Well, welcome to the subcommittee, it's very nice to have you here.
MR. COLWELL: I had no idea what I was in for.
MR. DEWOLFE: We will have to have the consensus of the larger group, but still all we're doing is making recommendations to the larger group, but as a rule it has been accepted - the committee's recommendations.
MADAM CHAIR: Yes.
MS. STEVENS: What would happen from this is a report that I'll put together of what happened at the meeting, and send it to all of you for approval, just to make sure I have everything correctly because, of course, it takes a while for the transcript. Then it's approved the following week by the Public Accounts Committee. The only thing that wouldn't apply for that is the adding on of Gardner Pinfold because that would actually take place the following week.
MR. COLWELL: Yes.
MS. STEVENS: That would just be done automatically so it's actually approved and that way the full committee, and if they want to add things and a discussion happens there or if they want to change a few things as a whole then they do that. Usually they're accepted without change.
MR. SALMON: Mainly as a point of information, you may want to consider the terms of the process that's in place here to replace me. Two weeks ago, the Government of New Brunswick appointed a new Auditor General. I have no problem with the individual's qualifications, but he is moving from being the controller in the Department of Finance to become the Auditor General which means, as you can assess, that he's going to be auditing and commenting on his own systems and decisions that he made. We, as an audit community think it's totally inappropriate, but there's not much we can do about it.
MR. COLWELL: I have a question as well. I'm caucus chair so I've been asked by our Leader to sort of suggest somebody to sit on the committee that's looking at the new Auditor General.
MR. SALMON: The oversight committee, to replace Danny Graham? Yes.
MR. COLWELL: Yes, to replace Danny Graham. How far along is that committee now? What have they done?
MR. SALMON: What have they done? They wrote to the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Nova Scotia and the Nova Scotia Barristers' Society asking them to nominate two from the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Nova Scotia and one from the Nova Scotia Barristers' Society to the search committee. They went out with an RFP and hired a search consultant - Robertson Surrette. They have placed ads in the newspapers, both nationally and locally, advertising the position. It felt strange to me to see my job being advertised. It's well along. I believe the search committee has been formed and so the oversight committee really is not active to my knowledge. The process is in place.
MR. COLWELL: Now, when it finally comes back, what's the process when a recommendation is made?
MR. SALMON: The search committee will recommend a candidate . . .
MR. COLWELL: Or candidates.
MR. SALMON: No, one.
MR. COLWELL: One candidate.
MR. SALMON: To the oversight committee. The oversight committee, as Graham Steele portrayed it to me, will likely just rubber stamp that. That recommendation would then go forward to Executive Council. Executive Council would ratify it and . . .
MR. COLWELL: Or change it.
MR. SALMON: Yes, not likely though.
MR. COLWELL: Not likely, but they have the power to do that, right?
MR. SALMON: Yes. Then they would take that to the Legislature and there would be a vote in the Legislature to appoint the candidate.
MR. DEWOLFE: So it goes through quite a few checks.
MR. SALMON: The whole objective was to make it an independent process. Non-partisan, non-political.
MR. COLWELL: As it should be.
MR. SALMON: That's how I was appointed as well 14 years ago. A very similar process.
MADAM CHAIR: We've had good results from that process, hopefully we'll have good results again. Thank you very much.
[The committee adjourned at 10:04 a.m.]