MR. CHAIRMAN: I welcome everyone to the Standing Committee on Community Services. There are a few members who will probably be a little late, who will join us later. At this time, for the record, maybe we can go around the table for introductions.
[The committee members introduced themselves.]
MR. CHAIRMAN: Today we will be hearing presentations on accessible transportation for persons with disabilities, after which we will have time for questions and answers. At this time I would like the presenters to introduce themselves to the committee and then I will open the floor up for their presentations.
MS. STEPHANIE VOGLER: My name is Stephanie Vogler and I am from Kings County, Nova Scotia. I am the Executive Director for the Kings County Alternative Transportation Services Society. I am also Chairman of the newly formed Nova Scotia Community-Based Transportation Association.
MS. NANCY WRIGHT: My name is Nancy Wright and I am a board member of the Guysborough/Antigonish Dial-A-Ride pilot project and also the facilitator for the Nova Scotia Community-Based Transportation Association.
MR. CHAIRMAN: So whoever wants to go first, can.
MS. VOGLER: In the packages in front of you, I have put a basic overview with some pertinent information that I pulled out of my files that I felt you might wish to see and may find very relevant to what we are discussing here today. One of the other pieces of information that I have in front of me that is not included in your package is some statistics with reference to persons with disabilities in Nova Scotia. I am sure that many of you are familiar with these, but if you would grant me a few moments just to run down through these because I do think they are very relevant.
Nova Scotia has the highest percentage of persons with disabilities, 3.7 per cent higher than the national average in 1986, and 5.8 per cent in 1991. The majority of persons with disabilities are over 55 years old. The second largest group is between 35 and 54 years old. Mobility disabilities account for almost one-third of all disabilities in Nova Scotia; agility disabilities account for almost another one-third. Although most are mild or moderate in nature, severe disabilities account for a full 17 per cent to 19 per cent of all disabilities in both Canada and Nova Scotia.
In the Annapolis Valley and Hants, 1991 figures show 23,795 persons, or 22.5 per cent, with disabilities. Estimating at 60 per cent, which is less than two-thirds, we can expect to find over 14,000 persons in Annapolis Valley, Hants, with disabilities relating to either mobility or agility. Unemployed persons with disabilities in Nova Scotia who are seeking either full-time or part-time employment is 92 per cent, or 8,550 persons, in 1991.
Now if I can call your attention again to the package and to the first series of pie charts that I have prepared, which provide some specific data to Kings County Alternative Transportation Services. The first pie chart indicates our membership as of February 12, 2001. It is just a breakdown within Kings County of which regions our population that we serve come from. Basically we have the Kentville area, Wolfville and Berwick, which are the three major towns in Kings County, and the municipality would make up the rest.
The second pie chart makes reference to our membership for 1999 and 2000. I guess the important point that I would like to make here is that in 1999-2000, we had 244 members and as of February 12, 2001, we have 469 and as of about two days ago, we have 507. So, as you can see, the need is not going away and we are doing our best to try to meet that need.
The third pie chart is Drives Completed For Persons With Disabilities. This covers the time period May 1, 2000 to February 28, 2001. The total drives that were completed by our volunteers in that time period were 7,754. You can see the breakdown. Employment is running around 50 per cent of our drives and those are employment drives all for persons with disabilities. Job training and education is the second highest at 17 per cent. Job training and education in Kings County encompasses folks travelling by wheelchair in our wheelchair-accessible van attending the community college, attending literacy upgrading and training, as well as attending the Annapolis Valley Work Activity Centre where they are
encouraged and supported in maintaining an education level that makes them more employable.
Family would break down to, the purpose for the family is, helping folks with disabilities to access their family by providing them with transportation. Recreation, the same thing, only for recreation purpose. Household is assisting folks by providing transportation to take care of their own household errands. This, I think, has a big impact on folks maintaining a certain level of independence and taking part of their community. Medical for persons with disabilities is 13 per cent.
The last pie chart that I have is Drives Completed For Seniors and the time period that it covers is October 16, 2000 to February 28, 2001. The reason that it kind of pops up there halfway through our fiscal year is that on October 13th, we officially amalgamated our transportation service with our local Annapolis Valley Branch of the Victorian Order of Nurses who had a PEP program and we came about to make this decision. The previous year both of us had gone to our local municipal unit, the Municipality of Kings County, looking for funding. The amount of funding was pretty close to being equal for both of us and through council and their deliberations, they were coming at it from the point of view that we were both providing transportation - it was a duplication of service - but we were able to convince them and educate them that providing transportation for a senior population is different than providing transportation for persons with disabilities.
The next piece of information is our Mission Statement: "We are a non-profit organization providing alternative transportation services to persons with disabilities and seniors who live in Kings County."
The next piece of information that you have is an article that was submitted by our local HRDC office in Kentville, Human Resources Development Canada. It was in a booklet, Building from the Ground Up. It was a series of success stories that came about at the community level because of contributions from the federal government and other community organizations and the receipt of their support. We were one of the 11 chosen success stories.
The next part of my presentation is simply just to run over a few facts that I have been able to gather in the last couple of months with regard to the health of Nova Scotians and the commitment from the provincial government. The document that I am looking at was the newsletter, autumn of 2000, that came out from the Provincial Health Council of Nova Scotia. I would just like to go over a couple of their goals.
"Management: Ensure that the resources needed to support health are managed wisely and fairly. Our taxes pay for the people, programs, equipment and facilities that support health. These and other resources will be used in ways that are open, effective, efficient and accountable." The part that I am, I guess, bringing attention to is the community level programs, such as transportation.
The other goal is, "Social Justice: Ensure that all Nova Scotians have the opportunity to achieve health. Poverty, unemployment, racism, illiteracy, violence, rural isolation and other issues, make it more difficult for some people to be as healthy as others. The policies we put in place must address these factors that affect our health."
The last part of my presentation, and again it is with reference to the Provincial Health Council's, Health for Nova Scotians, the result of a public consultation process, Volume 1, the report, and it is dated June 2000. I would like to bring your attention to Recommendation # 11 out of that report, "That government enhance public policy and action around provision of public transportation that will support access to health services and opportunities for healthy living for all Nova Scotians."
I guess in closing I would just like to talk to you for a few minutes about what we do in Kings County and how we do it. I am not sure how I am doing for time. Is there time to do a quick wrap-up?
MR. CHAIRMAN: Sure, we have plenty of time.
MS. VOGLER: In Kings County, our service basically is able to operate because of the gifts that our volunteer drivers give us. We have a team of about 12 active volunteers that are the true service delivery people. What they get in payment for their service is a mileage reimbursement at 31 cents per kilometre. Their time is a free gift to us. If we had to equate that to 12 paid positions, we would not be able to afford to operate. So it is important, I think, that when decisions are being made that affect the community, that the people who are working in the community, such as our dedicated volunteers, are part of that big picture. Many of our volunteers aren't looking for a paycheque and I know from an organization point of view, we are simply looking for some sustainable dollars that will allow us to continue the work that we have done over the last three, going on four years. We have the genuine support of our community. We have a wheelchair-accessible van, for instance, that was purchased 100 per cent by the good graces of our community.
The provincial government, we took advantage of a grant through ATAP, the Accessible Transportation Assistance Program, and we did receive the grant of $10,000 to make our vehicle wheelchair accessible. Before we had that vehicle in place, we had to turn people away because we could not help them. That was very sad. So we went on a fundraising campaign. We went to the EKM Health Foundation, we went to the foundation at Valley Regional Hospital, the local Rotary Club, our own members fund-raised for us. Our members who have disabilities raised $1,200 that went directly into the purchase of our wheelchair-accessible van.
So there are a lot of good things happening in Kings County and other counties across the province but what needs to be there that is not a guarantee is sustainable funding. We are trying to build a lot of bridges, we are trying to make as many partnerships as we can to
prevent duplication of service but while providing a very quality service to the people of Kings County, especially people with disabilities and seniors. A lot of them fall through the cracks. I think if the government took a look at what it would cost to maintain someone in their home, it is much less than if someone, because they don't have transportation or their health declines and they have to be institutionalized, that is a much greater financial burden on the budget, on the taxpayer, and it removes that person from their community. In a lot of cases, their ties to the community are their well-being. Thank you.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Maybe we can hear the other presenter first and then we can go around and ask questions.
MS. WRIGHT: I want to talk about two things. The first is I would like to give you a bit of an overview of the Guysborough/Antigonish Dial-A-Ride pilot project. It was part of the province's inclusive transportation program. There were three pilots that were selected: Colchester, Yarmouth and Guysborough/Antigonish. Those pilots now, as most of you are probably aware, are wrapping up at the end of this month and we are moving into a transition period of trying to establish a more long-term organization to continue the work of the pilot.
So I would like to talk about the Guysborough pilot so you can get an understanding of how this program has worked on the ground and whether or not it has been a success from that point of view. Then I would like to talk a little bit about the provincial association and the network and how we are starting to try to build that.
The Guysborough/Antigonish Dial-A-Ride sort of came together from two quite different projects that were emerging. The Antigonish Disabilities Organization was working on trying to provide services for persons with disabilities. They had done a needs assessment and were beginning to try to look at developing a transportation program.
At the same time, in Guysborough County, I was working with a seniors group who had done a needs assessment throughout the county and found that the number one issue facing seniors, that they were most concerned with, was transportation. The second most important issue for them was health and the third was housing. That group was starting to develop a volunteer model of delivering transportation services just to seniors. So at some point when this pilot project emerged, the two groups tried to move together and look at trying to provide a pilot project for Guysborough and Antigonish which, as you can imagine, given the size of both those counties, had enough difficulty just in terms of geography.
We were also trying to move from looking at just the needs of seniors and persons with disabilities to looking at an inclusive model which would mean we would also be addressing the needs of low income families, children with special needs, anyone in the community who found themselves at a transportation disadvantage, and that is the definition we are trying to work with. So the program would be accessible to anyone - if they had money but no car, if they had a car but could not drive, any combination of factors that would
contribute to an understanding that they are disadvantaged in some way in terms of transportation.
The Guysborough/Antigonish Dial-A-Ride attempted to try to provide that kind of service and we began with a volunteer model. We were able to recruit 24 volunteers who began to deliver this service, basically the same as Stephanie, they are doing it for free. We are not even giving a mileage rate to our volunteers. They get paid $5, $10, $15 gas reimbursement depending on the distance they are travelling. If they drove from Guysborough to Halifax it might be $50 or $75, but there is no sort of revenue coming into the program. The drivers are paid directly by the people who are going to be able to provide for them a service.
Our volunteers, at the end of six months of really working are burnt out. They are tired. They have done an extremely credible job. They have provided quality. There are people who have made witness to the fact that their lives have changed considerably because they are able to get out of their homes. They are able to participate and make their health appointments, employment appointments, were able to take care of some of the social needs. It is making a difference but there are definitely some challenges that we faced, and I want to outline a couple of them.
The access by social assistance recipients has been pretty much non-existent. Seniors have used this program, and persons with disabilities. We have invited our local Community Services staff, Harold Roberts, the local supervisor, to be on the advisory committee and he has agreed to do that. We are starting to work through how we begin to provide a service to persons who are on fixed incomes, particularly long-term and short-term social assistance, and I am not sure quite how to phrase this, but without going backwards in time to assist in where we give people vouchers or where we question their income level or we have to deal with issues around human dignity.
We want to provide a service that anyone can use without having to say why I don't have this money and I cannot afford to hire a taxi or I cannot afford to pay for a shuttle. We are trying to work that through and find a way, and particularly with the new changes to the way that social assistance is going to be provided as of August, we certainly see the budgets are going to be quite significantly different than they have been in the past. The $18 a month for long-term recipients has not made anybody be able to use the transportation system. One appointment a month and it is gone. From what I have learned from Harold about the way the program is going to emerge, that is going to be significantly improved and we are really pleased to see that. Now we need to find a way to make that money accessible so that people can feel confident using a volunteer transportation system and that they are going to be able to access that system.
One of the other issues we faced is insurance. There has been some real questions about volunteer insurance. In fact, some insurance companies have taken our volunteers off the road. They are not comfortable or confident with the fact that volunteer drivers should receive coverage for doing what they are doing. They see them as being paid. So we have certainly had to negotiate a couple of issues. The board liability has been a real problem. The program insurance has been a problem. We have had to sort of fight to try to find ways to explain to insurers what it is that we are trying to do in providing this kind of service to the community.
The organizational capacity of the groups who are trying to provide services has been a real issue. We have brought all kinds of partners together, but they need to do things like trying to understand how to do planning, how to do business plans, how to develop the organization. There has been lots of board development work that was needed, and I think that needs to be part of any ongoing program where new transportation services are being developed. The groups need to have the training and education to be able to provide a strong organizational base.
Another challenge that we faced is inclusivity, and by that I mean we have not been able to serve persons with disabilities well. We have volunteers driving their cars; we don't have accessible vehicles. We are looking at partnering, and have already begun to partner with a local businessman, who has been in the transportation business for his family for 65 years, who has accessible vehicles, who is now going to join us in terms of making his vehicles accessible to us. We have also partnered with a nursing home that is willing to allow their vehicle to be used for our purposes. We are trying to build it in so that we can provide every range of transportation service needed to the people who have those disadvantages.
The last issue for us, that we faced, is around the education and awareness raising. We really expected to have higher ridership than we had, but by the end of the pilot our ridership numbers are quite low. I think what we are facing is a change in culture. If you are a senior living in your community and you know that the person down the road, if you can get him, might take you once a week, you have more assurance that that is going to be a reliable service than this Dial-A-Ride thing, this new program that could be gone next month.
People have been hesitant to really feel the commitment. They know it is a pilot, they know it could be gone, and so we haven't been able to build the community confidence that this is going to be here in the long-term. I think the fact that the province is looking seriously at an ongoing program will certainly take care of that issue that we face, and that is the feeling that it is going to leave again, it is a grant, it is going to be over.
We are trying to build something that is long-term. The organization, right now, finishes its pilot at the end of March. We have formed, as part of our transition, an advisory committee who, actually by the end of the day today, will have incorporated as a new board of directors who will take on the transition project. They are now going to move towards
trying to secure more funding, look at expanding the service to include some regular bus routes to some of the rural areas, and are going to try to build some of the partnerships with Health and Education.
Health and Education have been the two areas where we expected to be able to build more partnerships, providing transportation for school boards and being able to do some of the transportation needed from the nursing home that ambulances now provide. We think there is a way to provide different services that are more economical, and those partnerships still need to be developed. I think the new board is really going to have their work cut out for them. Hopefully with the support of a provincial program, I think they will have the time to be able to develop that.
I would like to switch now to talk quickly about the provincial association and tell you a little bit about how that happened. As most of you know, one of the key activities of the provincial pilot was a conference held here in Halifax last October. That conference spoke loud and clear about the ongoing need for government involvement at every level in transportation, and also that it needs to be community-driven. One of their recommendations was to move forward in developing a provincial organization that would look at community-based transportation.
I was asked, as a facilitator from the St. F.X. Extension Department, to bring that group together and to begin the development process to put that organization in place. We have been meeting since last fall. The organization now has representatives from every area of the province, from Cape Breton to Yarmouth. We have persons representing organizations who work with persons with disabilities, and we have had some involvement from people who work with seniors' organizations. We are trying to cover all of the groups of people who need transportation services, but trying to cover geographically all of the areas as well.
The organization had their official launch February 1st; we had a press conference. The board is now incorporated - I think Stephanie is carrying the certificate - and ready to move forward with a vision for providing transportation services to people in Nova Scotia who are disadvantaged. If you look through your package, I have outlined the mandate and the mission and the criteria. That group is going to be focused in the coming year on trying to move forward on the education and policy development issues and also, in particular, to look at how to develop services that we can offer to other groups.
There are now probably 20 groups in the province, maybe more, and there are new ones springing up every day that are trying to look at transportation issues in their communities. We want to provide resources for them, kits, packages, training, how you get your group started, how you develop partnerships, what kind of board structure can work, and how to get a business plan together that works for your community. In particular, one of the criteria we are looking for is that the needs are community-generated. The needs arise from a process of consultation. It is not a group of people in a community who sit down and say,
I think this is what we need. It is not a municipal council, it is not a seniors' group. We are looking at groups who are inclusive, who really do the job of needs assessment at the community level adequately and also who are really prepared to then take that and build partnerships in the community and create community-based transportation organizations that we feel are going to become more and more common across the province.
Certainly other provinces in Canada have transportation systems. We have heard about the systems in the U.K. and also in the United States and we learned that we are sort of beginning at something that is well-established in other areas but that we want to do a Nova Scotia version. We want it to be our kind of program so that it meets the needs of our rural populations, it meets the needs of the larger communities and that it is flexible enough to be able to do that.
So as this new association develops, it is going to: try to provide the resources and support to the organizations who are coming forward and also to reflect on policy; look at what the province is doing and how it impacts on the community groups; enter into a good ongoing dialogue about how to make the program work, how to make the program accessible, what kinds of evaluation measures should be put in place; and how to really create a service in Nova Scotia which is not just badly needed, it is way past its time. We think that Nova Scotians will support and put their confidence behind it because it is going to be built by them. It is going to be built by the people in the community who know what they need and who are willing to put their time in.
Stephanie is the first chairman for this organization and is going to be chairing for this first year. There will be an annual general meeting, I believe, within the next three or four months and hopefully, if any of you are interested in following up with that group, we would be certainly happy to see you and to answer any of your questions and requests.
In closing, I would like to say that I am really feeling confident that the new program that is being developed as a result of these pilots is one that I feel you should be confident in supporting. I think at the community level it is going to be seen as one of the most valuable contributions this government can make to Nova Scotians. Thank you.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Thank you and could the next presenter introduce herself for the record and proceed with the presentation.
MS. ELSIE CHOLETTE: My name is Elsie Cholette and I am Coordinator for Nova Scotia League for Equal Opportunities.
I sort of went a different way into presenting today. I did speak on the Accessible Transportation hearing here in the metro area and if I could just read what I have, will that be fine?
MR. CHAIRMAN: Great.
MS. CHOLETTE: NSLEO - that is our acronym, Nova Scotia League for Equal Opportunities - the top priority has always been accessible transportation throughout the province. Over the years we have presented in our report briefs to the caucus members on how vital it is to have accessible transportation for persons with disabilities. We have been fighting hard to get this and by doing so, little by little, three pilot projects were executed. One each in Yarmouth, Truro and Antigonish.
Our concern is that at the end of March 31, 2001, the time frame for the three pilot projects will terminate, funding will be stopped. Yet, on the other hand, I read in the Speech from the Throne that government will implement the rural and semi-rural inclusive transportation support program which will provide Nova Scotians with disabilities great access to transportation services in the less populated areas of the province.
Does this mean they will continue to help those that are in place now or set up other projects in the areas just mentioned above? Statistics Canada indicates that in Nova Scotia, 13.3 per cent of unemployed persons are in the rural regions where there is no access to transportation.
In October 2000, we had an inclusive transportation conference, very well-received and Nancy spoke on what came out of that conference. There is a committee which is now called the Nova Scotia Community-Based Transportation Association and I am proud to say that I am holding the position of secretary, in a way.
The reason why I say accessible transportation is very important is that it leads up to our next issue of concern. Transportation is a major component and plays a very important role in a transition to work, which is Bill No. 62. I am sure you are all familiar with that. Minister Christie says the best way for people to get out of poverty is to get a job and that is true in some cases. I would like to think that the government has thought this through, but it feels like they do not realize what some of the repercussions will be. Persons with disabilities includes not only mobility but mental health consumers, visually impaired, hard of hearing and so forth, all with very different needs.
The accessible transportation is only one component to employment. I am afraid there will be others such as job placements; are there good jobs in the private sector that can accommodate the needs; availability of technical aids; qualifying for training, do they fit in the guidelines that are already in place; and doctors, who are overworked now, to do another assessment on each and every disabled consumer.
What happens when a person with disabilities cannot keep up with the everyday activities that a job requires? He/she has to quit or gets fired. You will notice that in the design of the regulations a time frame has been implemented; six weeks' wait. If they refuse to accept employment the applicant or recipient is not eligible to receive or continue to receive assistance. How do they survive until money starts coming in? That's a long wait!
Medication is another concern, they will be covered for 12 months once they start work. Most mental health consumers rely on their medication daily, some cannot function without it. When they do get a job, totally appreciating what they are doing and can handle it, but what happens once the 12 months are up; they can't afford their medication, then their job is in jeopardy, anxiety kicks in with worry. After that - there seems to be a lot of afters here, because it is a lot of concern - the wages will not be that great for persons with a disability, they start at minimum wage. How can anyone afford the cost of monthly medication that some people need? In all reality, it would be reasonable to have the Department of Community Services cover the medication at all times, as they would be contributing to society by working.
Persons with disabilities may only get work, for example, at a call centre which has irregular hours, and this poses another barrier because the accessible taxis do not operate after 6:00 p.m. or on weekends. The Access-A-Bus drives you only if you are registered with them, also you must book in advance and if you are sick one day and cancel the pickup - they keep a record of all cancellations, I believe if you have five cancellations - you are penalized. So how do persons with disabilities get to work when they become employable? Another perspective, it seems like each individual case is determined by their caseworker for the item of special needs. That is on Page 12 of the regulations.
Our government needs to be held accountable to persons with disabilities in getting and sustaining worthy jobs in our society. They must work collectively with other partners to make this happen. When I say that I am talking about Metro Transit and the taxis, we do have two low-floor Metro Transit buses but they only go on two specific routes, which are Routes 3 and 7 and it may not even go near a call centre.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Thank you. At this time maybe we will go around the table and let the members introduce themselves for the record and then ask the questions.
MR. JERRY PYE: Mr. Chairman, I am the MLA for Dartmouth North. I just want to talk to you briefly about public transportation for disabled persons. First of all I want to tell you that many people, particularly in rural areas, whether they are disabled or not, feel a loss of independence as a result of not having an appropriate public transportation system. Particularly, it is stressed more for persons with disabilities. I guess the fact that you are now a provincial association with some 20 organizations, my question to you is, one, will you be drafting a report to the government on recommendations as an annual report? Two, are you keeping pace with changes across Canada and Europe with respect to accessible
transportation, and in the United States - well, anywhere, as a matter of fact - with respect to new ideas of providing transportation for persons with disabilities? Three, how do you see your process of involving volunteer services to provide a public transportation service by that of a mandate by a municipality that should be providing that public transportation service to its people? Do you see yourself as an interim step to provide a service that is now not provided by municipalities?
Miss Vogler, I believe it is, you have some very interesting charts and on one of the charts you indicated seniors, but you didn't say how many of the disabled people were seniors versus the number of disabled people who are not seniors who are using your public transportation system. I think it might be quite clear to see that. As the aging population continues to grow, more seniors are using the disabled transportation services.
Also, with respect to employment, you used a chart that said 50 per cent of those people who are using public transportation are people who are going to places of employment. Are those places of employment like sheltered workshops and so on, or do you refer to sheltered workshops as a training facility or an educational facility? How many of those individuals are mentally handicapped versus physically disabled individuals? I shouldn't use the term mentally handicapped, I meant mentally challenged. Excuse me for the inappropriate use.
I guess I would also like to know, and this is just for a start - I want to hear some of the comments from the rest of my colleagues - how much funding is put in by the provincial government, if there is any municipal funding at all, and how much are you expected to raise through charitable organizations, and how much does that take from your time of actual fundraising rather than the delivery of an appropriate service of transportation for persons with disabilities?
MS. VOGLER: What we have in our office is a filing cabinet and a database that keeps the two populations separate. If someone comes in to us, our application forms have a question that simply asks are you a senior. Usually during the telephone conversation we will ask them. The two populations, these two charts, they don't include a crossover. We have a specific group of persons with disabilities, and if it is a senior with a disability, they are still classified as a senior if that is the way they came in.
This all came about through the amalgamation with the VON. They already had a group of seniors who were using their transportation service; however, if any of them had physical disabilities, they were automatically referred to us anyway. For the majority, these numbers do speak specifically to a segment of our population who are persons with disabilities and persons who are seniors.
I am not sure if that answers your question entirely. We do keep them separate, and we don't try to count the same person twice; we certainly don't do that. If they are a senior with a disability, depending on the level and nature of their disability, if it is just that they can't go out alone, then they are a senior, but if they do require a wheelchair-accessible van, then certainly they are a senior with a disability, but when they came through the registration process if they identified as a senior, then they are a senior.
These two numbers are completely separate groups of people. The percentage of persons who have physical disabilities in relation to the persons with disabilities who have the mental disability, averaging over the last four years, each year we have seen a dramatic increase - obviously, according to the numbers I have shown you - I would say, right now, simply because we are able to provide a wheelchair-accessible service for persons with physical disabilities, we are running at about 60 per cent people who have varying degrees of mental disabilities, and some of those folks, probably 20 per cent of that figure, also have physical and mental disabilities.
A good percentage of these people who do have mental disabilities are going to sheltered workshops, but that is their employment; that is what they do for a job.
MR. PYE: Fifty per cent of employment is considered those people.
MS. VOGLER: Yes. That 50 per cent, those people are included in that number, but it certainly does not define that group entirely. We provide transportation to the Brain Injury Association of Nova Scotia. The Valley Chapter puts on every year, sometimes twice a year, what they call the Memory Book Program and it is a program that is specifically designed for brain injury survivors to basically re-educate themselves to a level where they can become more independent. Those folks would be included in the job training/education because that is basically what it is. It is education and some of them have actually come out of that being more employable.
As far as our funding goes, right now from the Municipality of Kings we get $24,000, or got last year and we have a request in again this year. That sounds like a large chunk of money or did to me when I got the first cheque, but it does not go very far when you look at to date with the drives for seniors, for instance, up to February 28th, for almost a five month period, we have already completed almost 2,000 drives and each one of those drives, depending on the kilometres, has a 31 cent per kilometre price tag. So basically the breakdown of the municipal funding for us is $14,000 to cover the cost of the mileage to reimburse the drivers who drive for the seniors and the other $10,000 is to support the other half of a position in our office that Human Resources Development Canada was supporting. So it is a partnership position.
Provincial funding, we don't receive anything currently from the province. We are certainly hoping that with an announcement in the Throne Speech and on the horizon a provincial program to address community-based transportation that we will. I understand it is going to be an application process like anything, but I think, based on our four years of experience, we certainly have the numbers that will add up to some real dollars. What monies we do receive from the Department of Community Services are per trip and we are not making any money on them.
MR. PYE: Excuse me. Is that based on a per diem rate?
MS. VOGLER: No, no. Again, we are trying to in Kings County with my organization work through that, with the local heads of the departments, to get a better understanding from where we are coming from and what costs are associated with our service delivery and try to entice them to support a community initiative. Yes, I know it is just as easy to get a cab for these folks and we are not there in Kings County to take any business away from the cab companies. We actually partner with them whenever we can if it saves us some money, but the real matter of it is that person who is arranging the transportation at the Community Services level, that caseworker, they are the ones calling the shots, how that person goes, and I think they really need to be educated that to maintain someone in their community, maintain their health, make them employable, you need to support the community initiatives that are out there.
Federal funding for us right now is a little bit shaky to say the least. For the last three years we have been funded federally by HRDC under an employment assistance contract which basically covered my salary, the mileage for the drivers, the rent for the office, basic operation expenses. We have been told that when our contract ends on July 31st and should we choose to write a new contract because that is how these things go, it is year to year, there is no guarantee. You can be doing the best job you can do, but there is no guarantee that there will be any funding in place for mileage for volunteers and that is our critical beef at the moment. I am not the service provider, I am at the administration level, I am making this service happen by pulling things together, but it is the volunteers on the road who are actually the service delivery agents for our organization. I know that I cannot even begin to put a value on them. They are priceless as far as I am concerned, but this is the state that we face.
I know some of this has to do with the extensive review of their files that went on last year. What I have been told by HRDC is basically that the terms and conditions of their current contracts no longer afford them the ability to provide us with that money. So, in a sense, what it is going to mean if we cannot work out some kind of a partnership with HRDC, potentially if provincial dollars are not enough, the rest of it is going to fall on the backs of the community once again. I think from where I sit in Kings County, our community is basically tapped. Because of the various programs that have been cut over the years that government used to subsidized or 100 per cent fund, those are now gone and the volunteers have picked up the slack.
Unfortunately, when you go to the Lions Club or the Rotary Club or any service club in my area, and I would assume it would be the same mostly across the province, the cheque that maybe you used to get - now this is just purely an example because we were never this lucky - for instance, if you used to get a cheque for $5,000 for your goodwill that you were doing for the community, you may now get $500 because they have so many people knocking at their door. Many of them have many of their own causes. I know the Berwick Lions Club has Dogs for Sight, a wonderful project, but there are many other needs in the community as well and they just are tapped.
MS. WRIGHT: Can I address the questions of municipal role? I have in the past served as a municipal councillor for the District of Guysborough and chaired the Community Services Committee so I am quite familiar with the issues around municipal taxes, their process and how that is handled. From what I have seen, not just in Guysborough but from talking to groups across the province in our discussions, the responsibility for transportation for municipalities is in principle and it is not in practice; yours is one exception. Municipalities at this point are seeing themselves as integral to this process of providing inclusive transportation.
The Guysborough Municipality gave $2,000 to the seniors' group as start-up funds. That has been the extent of the involvement. How we have tried to remedy that, certainly in the Guysborough pilot, is we have made a strong effort to involve every municipal unit by inviting them to send a representative to the advisory committee and now to be actual members of the board and we have had good response. The Chairman of the new Dial-A-Ride board is actually a councillor from Antigonish County. We have a member from Canso. We have a member who is coming from Guysborough, from the nursing home board. We certainly have someone from the District of St. Mary's and we are working at having a good representation of the municipal councils as part of the process and at the table.
Now whether or not that turns into money, whether or not it turns into ongoing funding, I think we have much more opportunity for that to be seen as part of a program that they are developing with the community. I think it is going to take some time, but there is a model, and I don't think our program in Nova Scotia has been based on this because I have not yet seen the detail, but the Province of Manitoba, the way they deal with this role of municipalities is they don't grant community-based organizations to do transportation. They give the grant to municipalities. Municipalities then grant that money and provide that money to community organizations.
One criterion is that the community group has to come up with 62 per cent of the funds themselves by fundraising, by soliciting service clubs, by fees; 25 per cent of it is supposed to be fees, but the municipal unit is responsible for the deficit of that transportation service. They receive a grant from the province. They are the ones who authorize the community groups to develop the services, but they are underwriting the deficit for those transportation programs. That is one model and it is certainly not the one that I think we are
leaning towards here, but it does impose a bit more accountability to municipalities because they are involved in the process of encouraging the program and in trying to implement the program at that level.
I certainly would say that there needs to be more municipal involvement. I don't think it is seen yet. I think municipalities can opt it, you know, we don't have any money, or we are not a rich municipality, or we have to provide essential services first and this isn't one of them, or we are not in the business, you know. I think transportation is a key service, and I mean in rural municipalities there is going to need to be some education and awareness and certainly some models for how they can become involved in it. It is not just the municipality setting it up - how do they become involved in working with the community as a joint partner in really trying to make these programs work - because, as Stephanie said, it is going to come down to the core funds that are needed to operate the dispatchers, the office, the coordinator, you know, not just paying volunteer costs, but the insurance, I mean $2,500 a year right off the bat for our insurance. It is not easy to sell quilt tickets for that. You cannot expect the volunteers to do the driving and raise all the funds for the operation of the programs.
Your other question about reporting to government in terms of the provincial association and I think, you know, Stephanie, as the association, gets - I mean, they have really had one meeting since they were formed, but in the lead-up to that there was certainly an understanding that one of the first projects that would be undertaken is a province-wide consultation with groups who are now doing transportation, to get some understanding of what their needs and requirements are, what they feel about the programs and what kind of support services they require. I think making some request to have that information shared with government would probably be well accepted by the association. I think that is where they want to go; they want to go out and talk to groups and find out what they think is needed and then to be able to bring that back and move forward. And a volunteer tax credit I think would be great. I think our volunteer drivers should get a Nova Scotia tax credit, some recognition for their time and effort. I think that is the backbone of the programs.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Mr. Wilson.
MR. DAVID WILSON: Mr. Chairman, I don't have as many questions as my good friend to my left here, but I have a few. First of all, I guess it is an understatement to say that funding is your major problem and where it is going to come from and what is going to happen. In terms of where you hope for it to come from, do you have any idea of where you are headed if HRDC is telling you that they are reviewing their budgets and there is a possibility you may not get it? If new regulations regarding social assistance are affecting you as well, and charitable donations, where do you see the future of your organization headed right now, in terms of funding?
MS. VOGLER: Well, as far as HRDC and that whole picture is concerned - I am actually meeting with them here in Halifax tomorrow and I will know a little bit more after that meeting - the picture that I have at the moment is that there are other programs and one of them that was suggested to me is a labour market partnership.
Part of that contract would involve research. There is a research piece to it that would basically permit you to receive some funding. I am a little sceptical of that simply because it is taxpayers' dollars. I have been doing research for the last three, going into four years on how a community-based transportation service should operate, and I would feel as though it were not my place to just take a paycheque and continue doing research that I have already done, rehashing old things, just to have a job.
I think what HRDC needs to understand is that if the provincial government has made a commitment that was in the Throne Speech to put some dollars into recognizing the need across the Province of Nova Scotia, then I think HRDC needs to reach maybe one level above to the federal government where that magic pot of money is, that we keep hearing about every now and again, and create a new program in partnership with the province that would allow funding from that level, not maybe out of their individual HRDC budgets. But I am getting tired of being patted on the back and saying you are doing a great job and all of this. I don't need to hear that anymore; obviously, if the service is working, I am doing my job.
What we need - and I am sure right across the province what everybody needs - is sustainable funding. This writing your proposal for a 12 month period, it is hard to maintain staff when you have a criteria like that. What kind of morale do you have when you hire somebody and you say you have the skills, you are great, you are doing a wonderful job, but by the way you only have eight months left of your contract, and we don't know if it is going to be renewed.
MR. WILSON: There is a bigger picture here though. I mean, you are dealing with pilot projects that don't cover all areas of this province. Is there one of these, for example, that operates in Cape Breton?
MS. VOGLER: Not yet. There are some organizations providing transportation . . .
MR. WILSON: I would suggest to you that most people with disabilities and seniors who live in my riding are nothing short of prisoners in the nighttime and on weekends . . .
MS. VOGLER: Yes.
MR. WILSON: . . . because this type of service at peak times is not available to them, and the municipality's service is, well that is another story for another day. I would be worried if I were you about levels of funding and promises in Throne Speeches and so on
because sometime they are not all that they are made out to be, okay? I would be very worried about a level of funding there.
Just one final question before I let my good friend here take the floor. Had you made application to the charitable fund that had been available from the casino charity in the past? Would you have been able to make use of funds like that in your organizations?
MS. VOGLER: I did not know that one existed.
MR. WILSON: It doesn't now, but it did.
MS. VOGLER: I think that is part of what we are talking about here today. There needs to be some dissemination of information down to the levels in the community where people can make use of those types of things. I am an hour and a half away and I did not know that program existed.
MR. WILSON: Your levels of funding, I would expect, you are no different than anyone else, your levels of funding as a charity, as you were saying, would be on the decrease as well, because organizations are being hit by everyone these days and they have less money because they are having problems raising funds themselves.
MS. VOGLER: We have in our budget this year $40,000 of self-raised revenue. So, we have a couple of very successful projects on the horizon, but $40,000 is just a small hole in a $237,000 budget for 2001-02.
MR. WILSON: Thank you.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Mr. Samson.
MR. MICHEL SAMSON: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I am Michel Samson, MLA for Richmond. I apologize for us being late. We were in an extended caucus meeting, so I do apologize for missing the beginning of your presentation. I certainly appreciate the concerns you are raising on sustainable funding. I have a couple of community economic development groups in my riding and they echo the same sentiment. They are doing a great job, it is a wonderful service to the community. Unfortunately they go day-by-day not quite sure where the money is going to come from and long-term planning is extremely difficult. I have no doubt that is the same issues you are being faced with.
I am also pleased to say there is an organization which has been formed in Richmond-Inverness; a Richmond-Inverness persons with disabilities. That has been formed, and they are starting to become active and, in fact, I know they have already started to do fundraising
to try to get a wheelchair accessible van which is completely non-existent in my county and I believe it is the same for Inverness. As said by my colleague, people with disabilities, in my county, truly are prisoners and it is extremely difficult for them to get out to any functions.
You did mention there are three pilot projects underway in the province. I am curious, are those being directed by the province or by HRDC?
MS. WRIGHT: It is a provincial pilot project and the co-ordinator for that program is Grant Brennan. I think he has a report he is trying to pull together now for the end of the project, and he would be the best person to speak to about the details of those programs.
In our case, in the Guysborough-Antigonish project, there were a certain amount of funds that came from the province, but we also accessed CRP federal funding, HRD funding, a little bit from the municipalities, so the overall program had a piece of provincial funding. It was not completely funded by the province, but the piece the province provided enabled us to be able to lever all the rest of them, all the rest of the components in the rest of the levels of government.
Just for your information, from your riding, Bill Martin is the member that is on the provincial association representing the Richmond organization. You probably can keep in touch with him.
MR. SAMSON: Yes, I am very familiar with Mr. Martin, and he is very quick to raise the concerns of people with disabilities.
MS. WRIGHT: He will be representing your area.
MR. SAMSON: Good, I am pleased to hear that. Mr. Brennan, I take it he is with the Department of Community Services, is he?
MS. WRIGHT: No. What is the new name? I keep wanting to say municipal affairs. It is Service Nova Scotia and Municipal Relations.
MR. SAMSON: Service Nova Scotia and Municipal Relations. To date, for example, I know that with the Richmond-Inverness association, the executive director there is also being funded by HRDC. I am curious, with your experience in Kings County, how much funding has come from HRDC for your organization?
MS. VOGLER: Our budget last year, that will end July 31st included about $107,000. Now I will explain that. Our original contract was for about $92,000. We were located in the Miller Hospital building near Valley Regional Hospital in Kentville, and that building was slated for closure and all of the non-government services had to vacate. We had to move downtown, we had to find a wheelchair accessible office, so there was rent; before we did
not pay anything. So we went back to HRDC and again, they agreed we were too good of a thing to lose, so rather than see us close our doors they came up with the additional funding that it would require to the end of this contract, to see us through.
We have taken advantage of other programs through HRDC as well that did not entail any dollars exchanging hands. We have been very successful in hiring people on job creation partnerships and trying to get the maximum weeks that we can, so that we can fundraise like mad the money that it will take to carry that person on in a full-time employment capacity. We have grown, three and a half years ago, from one and a half staff to six. I will tell you, there are no frills in our budget. It takes that many people just to keep the place going. When we moved and took over the senior population, we had to add a new phone line, we had to do a lot of things, we had to get a staff person in place who could deal with the extra workload. Again, there were no dollars attached with that. We managed. You find a program, you make it work.
MR. SAMSON: I am pleased to hear that, and I am not surprised because I know that the organizations in my district have had a wonderful relationship with HRDC. They have gone the extra mile and they have done the extra that needed to be done to assist such organizations. It is unfortunate that the department has gotten such negative publicity on other issues. The fact is they do a tremendous amount of work with organizations such as yours and with other community organizations.
As for money up front, as in cash value up front, has the province provided you with any funding in that sense?
MS. VOGLER: No.
MR. SAMSON: None at all?
MS. VOGLER: No.
MR. SAMSON: Have they given any indication that there is going to be that type of funding coming to you?
MS. VOGLER: The only comment I would have on that is that in the Throne Speech, once again, there was the announcement of the provincial program. I would assume there would be an application process and the amount of dollars that one would receive would be based on the geographic area they are trying to serve and the numbers within. I certainly have nothing in writing that indicates that we are going to be receiving anything from the province.
MR. SAMSON: Were you consulted in any way in the development of this rural incentive program that they discussed in their Throne Speech?
MS. VOGLER: I have more or less been involved at arm's length along the way. I remember the day that the application for the original pilot sites arrived in my office, and I had 11 days to get it pulled together. I knew that was a very daunting, impossible task, judging what was required to be in the proposals. The biggest part was to have security on paper from your municipality. We had, as of that time, not yet secured that, so that was a major barrier that we had to overcome. I called Grant Brennan, and I said, listen, this is what we are doing in Kings County. If you are ever up this way and would like to talk to me and if there is any information that I can share with you, any experience I can give you, I am willing to do that. It has basically grown from there.
I have been very much an arm's-length contributor, from experience. I have received nothing out of it other than the pleasure of working with a group that has put together pilot programs that have obviously determined that this can be done. There have been a lot of people along the way who have assisted me, and it is only right, in my role, that if I have information and keep it to myself not everybody benefits, but if I share it a lot of people benefit. I learned from Grant, what he was doing and queried him on some things, some issues that we were having, and he would provide me with some advice from his experience. It was a mutually good relationship.
MR. SAMSON: A final question, one of the biggest concerns facing us in the province right now, as legislators, are the recently announced regulations with the changes to Community Services, especially the impact it is going to have on people with disabilities. I am curious, prior to the drafting of those regulations and the announcement, were any of your organizations consulted by the Department of Community Services before these regulations were announced?
MS. VOGLER: My organization was not.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Mr. MacDonell.
MR. JOHN MACDONELL: I enjoyed your presentation. I apologize for coming late, I had an extended get children off to school meeting. I really find this quite interesting. The problems around transportation in my constituency are severe enough, it is something that I have been concerned about since I became an MLA. Hants East is my constituency, and it has a large rural area. Not only are there problems associated with seniors and the disabled, but quite often it may be a single mom or it could be a case of someone at home and the partner gone with the only vehicle all day long so to have some co-ordinated system would be great. I think the Municipality of East Hants has looked into this, at least I've asked that they have and I heard that they were, how much they've done I am not sure.
I'm curious as to what the first step is, to get the ball rolling. Would that be to go to the province with this new program and have them come out to hold a public meeting to give information, do you think that would be a right first step or what?
MS. VOGLER: Are you speaking from the point of a new service just trying to get off the ground?
MR. MACDONELL: Yes.
MS. VOGLER: I would say that would be one of the big steps that would certainly help. I know in Kings County what it took for us to get started, now again I wasn't there for the first year, but certainly I am familiar with their history. It took a need in the community and a group of caring people to recognize that that need existed and to step forward and try to do something to address it. If that is anybody's first step, it is a big one, but it certainly is the first step that needs to be taken.
You need to have the buy-in from the community or it isn't going to work, because the community is going to be your supporter when you go to those funding sources. You are going to need that buy-in and support from the people that you are trying to help. Certainly once a program, if it does come to fruition, is established, I almost think that that may be under the mandate of the association or whoever. But it would need to be done.
Community consultation is going to be a big first step. Certainly just getting out and talking to the community. Now just last week I had a meeting in my office in Kentville with the new coordinator for Hants West. They have a transportation service that's up and going. They are just out of the gate, they are brand new. About a year and a half ago I went down and did a presentation to the Hants West group that were interested and they asked me the same question, how did you get started? I said, well, it's very easy, you identify the need, you find the people who are willing to help you meet that need and then that's when the hard work starts. It's putting together all the pieces that it is going to take.
MR. MACDONELL: If I could identify the interested people, would you be interested in coming out to speak to them.
MS. VOGLER: I will say what I always say, it's not in my organization's budget to send me all over the country talking but hey, if you can cover my mileage, I will be there.
MR. MACDONELL: My colleagues who have been in government before are certainly willing to spend my money. I want to ask, Nancy, you're not a bureaucrat, no, so do you work for the association?
MS. WRIGHT: I will explain what our relationship was and where I am with it right now. Up until a month ago I was a full time employee of the St. F.X. Extension Department as a community development field worker. In that capacity I worked with the Guysborough group to develop their needs assessment, to do their organizational development and to support the pilot project. There was no contract, no exchange of funds, it was a service provided by the university.
At the next level, when we went to the provincial association, I was contracted to provide the same kind of facilitation and development services to the provincial organization and that contract was paid for by the pilot project funds. The pilot project also paid for the expenses, the cost of all the members to meet for the four months leading up to the incorporation and covered the expenses of the development of the association as an initial launch to get this group up and going. The pilot project is over and those funds are finished. I am currently working just as a volunteer with the Guysborough Dial-A-Ride Board of Directors.
MR. MACDONELL: So the association, does it have representation across the province?
MS. WRIGHT: Yes, actually I probably have a list of all the members, the current members and I am wondering if we could leave that to be copied for everyone and if you would like to know who is representing which areas, then I think we would be able to certainly let you know who is there. We don't even want someone from every county, but we feel like we have the ends, we are moving towards the middle and we are trying to cover most regions.
If I could, I would like to just add something to the last question, about what needs to happen to get started. One of the things that I have really noticed in the few processes I have witnessed to date is the whole issue of how to do the needs assessment. In some communities they understand and know what that means; other community organizations don't. I think there needs to be some integration. I don't know if they have been involved in other areas, but I think there is a role here for the regional development authorities.
I think this is a community economic development project. I think the skills, the language, the tools that these groups need are economic development tools. They need to understand business plans, how to organize, how to develop partnerships. I think the RDAs could certainly play a role in providing resources and support to these organizations, because they are going to need that capacity and they are going to need those skills. I think it would be a really good role. I don't think any of them have been involved to date.
I know in Guysborough County they didn't see transportation as an economic development need, they saw it as a social-health-seniors' kind of issue and didn't become involved. It didn't look like an economic project, but it is actually very vital to the economy of all the rural communities, that transportation services are provided. They may be a resource in place that the groups may be able to tap into.
I also think they need to use a process of asset mapping. What I mean by that is not just to determine need but to determine what the community already has that can be applied to that need. Do we already have vehicles? Do we already have buildings? What do we have that we can take advantage of now, without needing new money to do that? Really tap what
is there, and I think Stephanie has done that. She has taken everything possible out of that area and put it to the use of this organization.
I think the responsibility of the community needs to go beyond saying here is what we need, here is what we have. Then look to government for the gaps between those two things. I think that is the responsible way to proceed.
MR. RONALD CHISHOLM: I know quite well the service that was provided in Guysborough County, and the start-up . . .
MS. WRIGHT: Aren't you one of our drivers?
MR. RONALD CHISHOLM: . . . with the Dial-A-Ride. Actually I am, I haven't all my paperwork back in yet, but I am one of the volunteers for that program. There has been an enormous amount of work that has gone into that program by Nancy as well as Kay Williams. There are a number of people who have been involved.
A concern I have is the insurance for anybody who volunteers. You said the Dial-A-Ride board provides for insurance to . . .
MS. WRIGHT: Two kinds of insurance. There are actually three things that are needed: the board of directors needs liability insurance; the board of directors needs program insurance for the actual program that they are delivering; and then the individuals need to have their own personal insurance cleared by their insurer. They have to be informed that they are driving people, not for money but for a donation for gas. We need a certificate from each insurer saying that they know that this person is driving in our program, and that certificate has to be on file with our organization for our insurance.
There is this domino kind of effect where all of the insurers have to come together to an understanding of what it is that we are trying to do. One of the roles the association is going to play is really looking at and maybe being able to get insurance policies that cover every volunteer in the province; maybe we can get discounts for our board liability insurance. If we have 20 or 30 groups province-wide, there are economies that could be reached by having an association negotiate with insurance companies, with carriers, with people we are getting gas from, with people we are buying vehicles from.
Insurance is one of those things that every group shouldn't have to struggle with individually. If we can find some common ways to approach that, to help the new groups be able to deal with that - insurance certainly has taken up more than its share of our volunteer time, trying to sort that out; in fact they have taken people off the road. Kay spent weeks on the phone negotiating with insurers to let the volunteers drive. It is touchy.
MR. RONALD CHISHOLM: If the volunteer is not prepared to take a donation for gas or whatever and give it back to the association, the Dial-A-Ride board, would that have any bearing on the insurance, like you are not accepting . . .
MS. WRIGHT: We haven't had that situation at this point. I think it would be seen as a donation, not a payment. We can't accept it as a payment, but that is our particular model and I know other models are doing it.
MR. RONALD CHISHOLM: But anyway, I guess the model that is in Guysborough and Antigonish is operating quite well and providing a good service to the community. I was surprised to hear you say that maybe the numbers were not what you had thought?
MS. WRIGHT: The numbers are quite low, yes.
MR. RONALD CHISHOLM: But I realize that Antigonish-Guysborough is a large area.
MS. WRIGHT: We have just come through the winter months and a lot of the seniors did not want to leave the house. We know icebound is a problem. People are concerned about going out in the winter.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Mr. Chataway.
MR. JOHN CHATAWAY: It has certainly been a fascinating presentation. Certainly I get the impression that you have started and it is changing and, hopefully, it is improving. Basically you look at three pilot projects that started and the idea is, of course, they are going to continue or stop and I am sure that they are going to continue on things like that, but I guess the thing is, just maybe naively, a person who uses this system, a disabled person or a senior, or both, or whatever, do they make any contribution to paying their way or do they get it by a charity or do you actually have a fee per se or what?
MS. VOGLER: In Kings County what we have done, when we originally had designed the program, we put in place that only members, there are 507 of them as of a couple of days ago, they all pay a $5.00 registration fee annually. What that registration fee does is it gives them the right to call and book a drive. We used to call it a member fee and then once we amalgamated with the VON, we realized that in-house we had to change that because we were then providing other services that members per se were not actually physically accessing.
For instance, when we amalgamated with the VON, they do a specimen or blood collection pickup. They go into the home after the home care nurse has been there, drawn the blood, and our volunteer goes in and picks it up. We are not actually transporting the person, but that person has accessed the service to have us pick up their blood, so we changed it to
a registration fee. So that is one source of income that we have. The other source is the user fee. Our members each pay $3.00 per trip in Kings County with a driver.
MR. CHATAWAY: So if I was in that boat, first, I pay $5.00 annually?
MS. VOGLER: Yes.
MR. CHATAWAY: And every trip that I took would be $3.00?
MS. VOGLER: Yes. So it is $3.00 for you to leave home and go wherever it is you are going and then another $3.00 to bring you back.
MR. CHATAWAY: You have met with 20 groups, or something like that - or more than 20 - are they pretty well working the same line or do you know?
MS. VOGLER: No. There seems to be a varied way of dealing with this. We have never had the insurance issue. I certainly cannot speak to that. I should say we haven't had it yet and I don't know why that is because most everyone I speak with is having it, but we have been given a heads-up so we are speaking with our insurer on a regular basis, making sure that whatever they need us to be doing, we are doing so that we are not pulled off the road.
MR. CHATAWAY: Okay, you are with Kings County, so do other groups have the same problems with insurance?
MS. VOGLER: I had a call from someone, I forget who it was, but they were not connected with the association in any way - it was in Annapolis County, there is a service in Annapolis County - and they had just run into the same thing with the insurance companies and they lost, I think, three volunteers because of it.
MR. CHATAWAY: I think you know personally about Kings County, maybe just for an opinion, this is a great service obviously, you know. I am sure the people who use it are very thrilled that you are doing this basically and I think everybody hearing your presentation thinks this is wonderful. It is great just sitting down with you people to explain the situation. Out of all the people that you could service, do you actually service most of them or - and I forget your numbers - is it 50 per cent of the people who could use the service are using it, or is it 100 per cent - would you expand more or less - or do you think you give good service to the people you are serving?
MS. VOGLER: I will tell you, right now, these charts represent the population that we are currently serving. In Kings County there are roughly 60,000 people who are disabled/non-disabled. Out of that group of people we concentrate on the population of persons who do have disabilities and of that population we reach 507 people as of this date.
Other avenues that we could open up, sure, we are right there, we are willing. Two years ago we put a proposal together and presented it to our local Community Services Office. Every so often I pick up the phone and call them to see if it is still being considered and never get a phone call back. What we are offering is, you know, sometimes if they have people going at different times of the day, the scenario is this, either a staff person is leaving the office to drive that client, they are out of the office so they are not there, plus they are getting mileage. So, to me, that is a heavy burden on that particular office's budget. I know I have talked to the caseworkers and I mean they are just bombarded and overworked.
So, to me, it would be more imperative to keep them in the office rather than out driving clients around and that is where I see where we could come in. We have enough drives on the road right now in the run of any given day that we could pick almost anybody up anywhere, anytime, and piggyback them on one of our drives at very little cost. The other side of that . . .
MR. CHATAWAY: So there are methods of improving, you know, I mean . . .
MS. VOGLER: It is partnerships, right.
MR. CHATAWAY: Yes, exactly, and it is very important that you don't have two groups, you get together . . .
MS. VOGLER: That is right.
MR. CHATAWAY: Yes, good idea.
MS. WRIGHT: I just want to add something to that. I think that some of the hesitation around the involvement of the Department of Community Services has come from a real lack of clear direction on how to do this at the community level. I know in our case I think the staff have been kind of waiting to be told how they are going to integrate their needs with these community-based services: will we be providing transportation for women who are going to court; could we provide transportation for parents who are going to have supervised visitation with children; could we be helping with mental health appointments; and all those kinds of transportation that Community Services and, in particular, child welfare families and clients take advantage of, they are not connected. They don't know how to use us.
I know from my experience in daycare that once a daycare was licensed and the Community Services staff felt that it was validated and that it was considered to be an appropriate and a quality service, they will make the referrals and our supervisor has said he will make the referrals, but he needs to know that the services is in place, it is quality, it meets their needs for confidentiality, that it is financially reasonable, that they can put their trust in it. I don't blame them one bit for not making referrals to services that they don't know
yet are credible, that are provincially sponsored, that are either licensed or are in some ways coordinated and I think that will come, but I think they have been looking for, and I am only speaking certainly from Guysborough County's perspective, some direction at a higher level on how this is going to happen, how this is going to be integrated province-wide on all levels of Community Services staffing with this community program. I am hoping that as a provincial program rolls out, that it is seen to be an interdepartmental approach and that their policy is written for each department on how they use and access and contribute to those services.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Mr. Clarke.
MR. CECIL CLARKE: Thank you to the presenters here today to be part of this consultative process with the province. One of the things I concur on is the difficult nature by which organizations across the entire province have to deal with the federal departmental funding. It is imposed that there are only year-to-year funding obligations and that is difficult, but I do agree that throughout this province at the regional and local delivery component, the staff have been more than accommodating and understand. I think they definitely will work within the means they have, but I understand your point with regard to, I think, the labour market sponsor partnership on the research component and while in your specific area that may be something, as you say, you don't want to be researching for the sake of filling a position, but I think the provincial association may be in a position because there are two very clear things.
There is a rural strategy and there is an urban strategy required and there may be some ability for your organization to strengthen your position as to how this happens by utilizing some of that funding that is in place and utilizing the research you currently have with other jurisdictions throughout the province, for instance, in Cape Breton County, to assist in getting other people up and running so that they don't have to go through the same process that you have endured, however they may benefit. So there may be ability there. I think the new rural and semi-rural transportation program will be something you will gain from, and it is more than just a Throne Speech acknowledgement. I think one of the other things with the province is it is difficult when you look at a federal government that is year by year, how do you get into long-term programming with regard to resources. I think that is something, at a provincial level, that the minister has to raise with his counterparts at the national level and with the federal minister.
As well, the province has been working and one of things, what is the role of municipalities with regard to providing continuity and consistency? While there are differing opinions, I think that is why this government, on equalization, is trying to ensure that all municipalities have an equal footing with regard to their cost structure and how they can manage municipalities so there aren't going to be inequities from one region or one
municipality, and how they can provide the delivery of services for people with disabilities. I think there is a need for more research on that. I think what it is is taking what you know and what you have in your consultative processes and linking them from an urban and rural process.
I know that as a member of this government, we are committing to ensure that those things fit, so those frustration levels are diminished. I think the federal partners who are on the ground would probably be receptive to helping your provincial association provide this government with some clearer direction. I think this government will be able to ensure that the equalization at the provincial level will provide a solid base as well.
MR. RICHARD HURLBURT: Mr. Chairman, they always leave the best for the last. I have some insight into this because in previous years I was a warden for the County of Yarmouth. I worked with HOPE, the organization in Yarmouth. We had a transportation system in Yarmouth before it went further. In Kings County, you say you have been operating four years?
MS. VOGLER: Going into our fourth year.
MR. HURLBURT: Have you had any funding from the provincial government?
MS. VOGLER: No.
MR. HURLBURT: From start-up?
MS. VOGLER: Actually that is not true. We did receive, through the Department of Housing and Municipal Affairs, a CB-TAP grant, $15,000, which enabled us to develop a Web site, and look at doing research that was necessary at that time. Then the provincial government, through ATAP, which was the Accessible Transportation Assistance Program, when we purchased our vehicle. Those were grants, those are not renewable, those are not operating day-to-day, and they are gone.
MR. HURLBURT: It hasn't been just in the last year of government, it has been in your four years . . .
MS. VOGLER: In our whole history.
MR. HURLBURT: Exactly. That was my point. We had a transit system in Yarmouth, Argyle Transit, that covered three municipalities. The funding from that was cut off, just like that, from the province five years ago. Then the volunteers of the community - to help the people with disabilities - the community and the volunteer organizations jumped in and tried to put a transportation system in place. This pilot program now in Yarmouth, took a year and a half to come into place; a year and a half. It wasn't when this government
took over, it was a year and a half prior to that, putting all our ducks in line to get that pilot program going.
You can talk about today, but you have to look back in history here. There have been people around the table today who are criticizing the Throne Speech. That is only natural. With some people here, it doesn't matter what is in the Throne Speech, they are going to criticize it. I think that you will see - I don't know the contents of the budget - but the meat of it will come out today, and people in this room will criticize it, no matter what. You people should be happy . . .
MR. WILSON: Mr. Chairman, on a point of order. I think we should be hearing from our guests here today about their problems, instead of trying to score some political points at this meeting, and grandstanding, as the member is doing now.
MR. HURLBURT: Mr. Chairman, those people had their say, and I feel that I have the right to have my say.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Okay, let's just keep it civil here now.
MR. HURLBURT: That is exactly what I am doing. This budget that is coming down, I feel it is going to address the needs that you people are putting to this committee today. You talk about consulting with groups, LEO was involved when we looked at accessibility in this province, when we first took office. That is consulting with the groups. I think you will see, after the budget comes down today, that it will address the transportation issue in this province. Nothing is going to be perfect but I think it will come out. Ma'am you talked about the RDAs, I can tell you the RDA in my area has been working with all organizations and trying to make transportation a key element in our community.
MS. WRIGHT: It is a really appropriate use of their service.
MR. HURLBURT: Maybe your RDA could contact our RDA in southwest Nova Scotia and get some input from what they've done because they have met with all groups and it has worked very well. I thank you people for coming in today and I assure you, Mr. Chairman, I wish we would have had the stats from the other two pilot projects from Yarmouth and Truro here today. That would have been very good for you to pass on to the two ministers responsible for this program.
MR. CHAIRMAN: One short question.
MR. PYE: Well, Mr. Chairman, I don't think it is one short question but I think the member from Yarmouth is quite right, we all tend to politically grandstand and he has no right to be any different and I don't think that he is politically grandstanding at all. I think that
he is pointing out and I paid close attention to not criticizing the budget when I came here today with respect to what was in its content.
I believe and I certainly hope that in fact when the Speech from the Throne says that it will put an infusion of more dollars into public transportation for persons with disabilities that that's in fact what it will do.
My question that I want to ask the witnesses here today is, across this country there is a national transit association, I do believe, transportation association. I have it back at my office and I am sorry I didn't bring it here today. I believe they may be meeting in Halifax in June. They deal with all phases of public transportation. I am just wondering if in fact you have touched base with that organization to see what kind of up-to-date programs are available across this country as a matter of fact?
Also, I want to make note that you did say there was a $3.00 user fee for individuals using disabled transportation. Is that consistent with respect to the public transportation service that's provided? Is it 50 per cent more, 100 per cent more or is it 25 per cent more or can you not rate it simply because of the distance in which you might be transporting persons with disabilities?
MS. VOGLER: The unfortunate part of the fee is that it is only $3.00 and part of our mission statement was that we were to remove barriers and we just chose that. Putting a barrier up of cost was not an option for us. Regardless of where we take the person, it is still $3.00 each way. The local transit system that runs through the Valley floor used to be 3.00, they just lowered it to $2.00 for anywhere you want to go on the public transit. So we were on par with the bus, we were not there to be competition to them. We were there to provide a service that they were not equipped to provide and that's why we get their support each year, because we prevent them from having to put $150,000 into a wheel-chair accessible, low-floor bus on the route.
MR. PYE: Just finally to Elsie Cholette, I know that the metropolitan area, particularly the urban area, has low-ride buses. There are two low-ride buses as you have indicated earlier. There is the intent to purchase more. Do you have input on the disabled persons committee with the municipality?
MS. CHOLETTE: At this point, no, I do not, but I can get in touch with Charlie MacDonald and he will certainly give me the information that I need.
MR. PYE: Or Councillor Jerry Blumenthal, you might want to talk to with respect to that as well. Thank you.
MS. CHOLETTE: I have just one more thing to say to the MLA in Yarmouth. I wasn't criticising the Speech from the Throne or anything like that.
MR. HURLBURT: I never suggested that. Absolutely not!
MR. CHAIRMAN: I would like to thank the presenters for taking time out of their busy schedules, I am sure, to meet with us and express their views and concerns on this important topic and if it's agreed by the members, can we take a two minute break just so we can take time to. . .
MR. HURLBURT: Mr. Chairman, before we adjourn from this part of it, could we ask Darlene to get the stats from the other two pilot programs that are out there, from Yarmouth and Truro. I think that would be good information for this committee to pass on.
MR. CLARKE: She just made mention at the end that they did request those two to be available today but they didn't get them in time or something to that effect.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Is it agreed that we take a two minute break so we can grab a cup of coffee or water and come back and finish our agenda?
[10:40 a.m. The committee recessed.]
[10:49 a.m. The committee reconvened.]
MR. CHAIRMAN: I call the meeting back to order and we need to get at least a couple of more topics to put on the agenda for the next couple of meetings and that would give Darlene a chance to notify the proper witnesses and whatever we have to go along with it. (Interruption) Pardon me? Mr. Chisholm.
MR. RONALD CHISHOLM: I would like to see them (Interruptions) What list? You have a list, you presented a list.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Even if we could pick a couple to start with. Now, Mr. Chisholm.
MR. RONALD CHISHOLM: Okay, Mr. Chairman, I would like to see us bring in some people, families with children with disabilities. I guess a while back one of the first things we had we talked about autism, somebody that is involved with that, some of the family members or community groups.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Is that agreed by the other members?
MR. PYE: Are we talking about child care?
MR. CHAIRMAN: No, we are talking about families with children who are disabled. Children with disabilities.
MR. SAMSON: That would be your third topic I take it, on your list.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Right. Yes. Mr. Chataway.
MR. CHATAWAY: I would certainly like to see us trying to learn more about the Secure Treatment Program. Basically, it is being developed in Truro. It is very important. As far as I know, there are 20 kids who are sent out of the province for whatever reasons and they are going to be in Nova Scotia. Obviously, they may or may not be happy, but certainly their family would be very happy to get them closer to here. Obviously, families often help somebody out and I would like to know more about that whole thing. They are opening in the fall I understand, this fall, so let's find out about them and what they are doing.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Mr. Hurlburt.
MR. HURLBURT: Mr. Chairman, what about somebody from HRDC to come in and give us a brief; what is going on with their programs, what new programs are coming out so we will know for our communities such as groups like this? No one has any idea what is going on with HRDC and what funding is available, what applications or who qualifies or . . .
MR. CHAIRMAN: Mr. Samson.
MR. SAMSON: If I could amend that, I think that is a good idea and if we are going to get into the funding aspect, I know that the presenters today mentioned even a few provincial programs that I had never even heard of. So I would suggest that it even be a joint presentation between whatever provincial representatives are there and the federal. They obviously must work together on some of these files, but get both of the agencies in and we would learn what these programs are. Certainly, there were some mentioned today that I have never heard of.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Is that agreed then? Okay, so that will give you three. Yes, Mr. Samson.
MR. SAMSON: I will raise it again. I raised it at our first meeting and I think time is ticking on this as most of the members know. The Minister of Community Services has asked his advisory committee on the Family and Children's Services Act to make some form of presentation to the minister and to the government to amend the Adoption Act. All the caucuses have been contacted by them asking for presentations and that, but it has not been made very clear as to what their mandate is, will they be holding public hearings, will they be meeting with people, anything like that.
I still think it would be interesting for this committee to ask the chair of that committee, even some of the members, if they would come in and just give us a bit of a presentation on how they view this or, I guess, even what structure they are using in this case so that we ourselves know that as elected members how to tell our constituents if they wish to make presentations or if there will be any hearings or how it is going to take place. At this point, there is still a lot of confusion around that.
MR. CHATAWAY: This is more a format of the way it is setting up rather than real opinions.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Okay, is that agreed?
MR. CHATAWAY: If they can explain it well, it may be just as easy for them just to show up here and give us 15 minutes.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Agreed? Okay, can we set up our date for our next meeting?
MRS. DARLENE HENRY (Legislative Committee Clerk): April 12th.
MR. CHAIRMAN: April 12th? That is a Thursday. Is that another two weeks?
MRS. HENRY: Yes. I believe the committee agreed to meet biweekly so that would mean the next meeting is in two weeks.
MR. CHATAWAY: Basically, I would certainly like to get to know my own riding. I know it is very busy. This is another meeting. Basically, I would rather have it a monthly meeting.
MR. RONALD CHISHOLM: Mr. Chairman, I think I tend to agree with my colleague here as to the monthly meeting. I cannot see a problem now that the House is in session with meeting every two weeks, but once the . . .
MR. CHAIRMAN: Is it biweekly while the House is sitting and then in the summer do we, I am kind of green at this, so . . .
MR. SAMSON: If I can, Mr. Chairman, I would suggest that we hold off until the House is done and that the committee make a decision at that point. At this point, we don't know what is going to be on our agenda. There may be some pressing issues that need to be dealt with, so I don't think it would be wise for this committee to make that decision at this point.
Just as a point of interest for the member for Chester-St. Margaret's, I certainly appreciate his concern and wanting to get back to his constituency, unfortunately many of the members in our caucus see our constituents on weekends only because of the sittings of the House. I am sure, Mr. Chairman, you are aware of some of the repercussions of the fact that this committee did not meet for so long.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Yes, I heard something about that. It seems to me it was four or five years that they didn't meet.
MR. SAMSON: I would strongly suggest that the government members not suggest this committee meet only on a monthly basis at this point.
MR. RONALD CHISHOLM: Mr. Chairman, I will be making a motion at the appropriate time that we do meet on a monthly basis. I don't mind doing it right now because we are into the House, but once the House is not sitting, I can't see any reason why we can't meet once a month. For four years, it wasn't important enough for this committee to meet. We have to spend some constituency time as well. (Interruptions)
MR. CHAIRMAN: Order.
MR. MACDONELL: Mr. Chairman, the member for Guysborough-Port Hawkesbury clarified my question, so thank you.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Our next meeting is April 12th, from 9:00 a.m. until 11:00 a.m.
MR. SAMSON: Mr. Chairman, again, I guess it would depend on any change in the hours of the House that we may have to amend that.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Yes.
MR. PYE: The list of witnesses and presenters will come from the topics that we have suggested today.
MRS. HENRY: Yes.
MR. CHAIRMAN: The meeting is adjourned.
[The committee adjourned at 9:56 a.m.]