MS. MAUREEN MACDONALD (Madam Chair): I will call the committee to order and apologize for the delay, and thank our guests for their patience. This morning we have representatives from HRDC, Human Resources Development Canada. I would like to thank you for coming. I am Maureen MacDonald, the MLA in the North End of Halifax, and the vice-chair of the committee, sitting in for the chairman this morning. What we will do is go around and have each member introduce themselves, and have each of you introduce yourself. This helps our Hansard recorder know what microphones people are at. Then, I understand, we will have a presentation, and we will open it up for questions and answers, and discussion.
[The committee members and witnesses introduced themselves.]
MS. JEANE KING: Madam Chair, thank you very much for giving us the opportunity this morning to talk about our programs and services. While I will be making the main presentation this morning, my colleagues are here to assist with questions that you may have after the presentation. We are here today to explain HRDC programs and services. We will be giving you an overview of the priorities of the Nova Scotia Region of HRDC for this fiscal year, and we will also provide information on the HRDC programs and services that may be available to Nova Scotians.
As you can see on the map, HRDC's mission is, "To enable Canadians to participate fully in the workplace and the community." We strive to accomplish this through a community-based approach, consisting of a network of offices across Nova Scotia. Those are the locations on the map. There are 19 Human Resources Centres of Canada of various sizes, divided into four networks, as indicated on the map on the overhead. Through these centres, individuals can apply for income security programs or employment insurance. They can also obtain labour market information, information on career options, as well as electronic information on job opportunities.
The Human Resources Centres also deliver active employment programs. Individuals can also receive help in searching for work and writing resumés, at the Human Resources Centres, or be referred to organizations in the community that provide this type of service.
As you can see, HRDC has four program business lines: labour, income security, employment insurance, and human resources investment programs. The labour program promotes a fair, safe, healthy, stable and productive work environment within federally regulated work sites. The labour unit administers programs such as occupational health and safety, employment equity, fire prevention, and industrial relations; the latter through a federal mediation and conciliation service office. The income security program provides income support to Nova Scotians through the Old Age Security Program, including the Guaranteed Income Supplement for those who qualify. HRDC also administers the Canada Pension Plan, which includes retirement pensions, benefits for disabled individuals and survivors, and death benefits.
The Employment Insurance Program supports unemployed Nova Scotians in getting back to work by providing temporary financial assistance while they are looking for employment. The Human Resources Investment Program helps the Government of Canada promote its employment, youth, learning and literacy agendas by enhancing Nova Scotians' employability, helping unemployed people find and keep jobs, and by delivering, in co-operation with the province, active employment programs.
These active employment programs enable eligible employment insurance participants to upgrade their work skills, improve their job search skills, assist them in starting their own business, and provides work experience. To be eligible for employment benefits, a person must have established a claim for employment insurance or have been on a claim that ended within the last three years or have been on a maternity or paternal benefits claim that started within the last five years.
Meanwhile, other programs are available to all Nova Scotians. For example, employment assistance service is a program to support individuals looking for work by improving their job search skills and resumé writing abilities. The labour market partnership program supports and encourages employers and communities to improve their capacity for dealing with human resource requirements and labour force adjustments.
Also, HRDC has programs which focus on youth, the homeless, persons with disabilities and Aboriginal peoples. Under Canada's Youth Employment Strategy, HRDC has programs such as Youth Service Canada and Youth Internship Canada. These two programs are designed to help young people make the transition into the labour market by providing the skills, work experience and knowledge they need, as well as access to relevant labour market information. Priority youth are the focus for these programs. By this we mean young people who face multiple social and/or economic challenges that prevent or may prevent their full participation in their community, school or workplace. HRDC also administers the
Student Summer Job Action Program that provides a wage subsidy to employers who wish to hire a student for the summer months.
For those persons with disabilities who are not employment insurance eligible, the Opportunities Fund is available. It assists these individuals in preparing for obtaining and keeping employment or becoming self-employed. They can also access the Employability Assistance for People with Disabilities program, or EAPD as we call it. This is a cost-shared agreement between the Government of Canada and the Province of Nova Scotia, which enables persons with disabilities to become employed following a period of assessment, career counselling and training. The Province of Nova Scotia delivers this program.
Through the Supporting Communities Partnership Initiative, or SCPI, if you have heard it called, HRDC works in partnership with nationally-identified communities to develop an action plan for those who are homeless or are threatened to become homeless. This program is available in the urban areas of Halifax and Sydney. Under the Aboriginal Human Resources Development Strategy, HRDC has two agreements. One with the First Nations, which serves on- and off-reserve members of the Nova Scotia First Nations communities, and the other with the Native Council of Nova Scotia, which serves all other Aboriginal persons in the province. Each organization designs and delivers labour market programs to its clientele.
After the presentation we will leave you with the HRDC 2001-02 business plan which addresses our priorities for this fiscal year. They are organized in terms of ongoing commitments and key commitments which are specific to this fiscal year. Today I will focus on those that may be most relevant to you.
Service delivery and quality implementation. These two commitments are closely linked. HRDC is committed to delivering quality-driven programs and services in a manner that respects the needs and values of clients, communities and citizens. Quality implementation refers to principles such as accuracy, fairness, timeliness, clarity of communication and client satisfaction. This year's business plan includes specific performance indicators, on which we will report publicly. We are committed to meeting or exceeding these standards in all of our business lines.
Skills agenda. This initiative reflects the need to ensure Nova Scotians have the necessary skills to be competitive and to participate in labour-market opportunities. HRDC Nova Scotia will contribute to this priority by strengthening regional labour market information products and expanding relationships with employers, employee groups and educational institutions, as well as supporting the skill requirements of individual Nova Scotians.
Federal-provincial relations. HRDC works with various federal and provincial departments in a collaborative manner to assist Nova Scotians to meet their employment and employability needs. For example, we work in partnership with the province in the following priority areas: information technology, literacy, early years and youth.
Under partnership, HRDC is working with other levels of government and community groups by encouraging collaboration and leadership on labour market and human development issues that support social and economic development. An example is our work with African-Nova Scotians and persons with disabilities through community-based committee structures. These committees are operating throughout the province addressing the employment needs of their respective communities.
To conclude, I would like to again stress the close working relationship that HRDC has with Nova Scotia's communities and citizens through our local offices. Should you require more detailed information our Web site is on the screen, and I understand that you have some information in front of you that Darlene provided. In addition, I will leave some handouts on our programs and our business plan at the end of the session. Thank you for your time, and maybe we will open it for questions.
MADAM CHAIR: Thank you very much. We have a good amount of time to ask questions so I will be fairly liberal, if you'd like, with the amount of time that people might take. I will start over here with Mr. Carey, if you have any questions.
MR. JON CAREY: I have had some correspondence from people in my constituency who are off-reserve Aboriginals, the native Indian. I am wondering if there is a program or any agency set up that can help these people. The message I am getting from them is, and I realize various information can be slanted, although they are status Indians who don't live on the reserve, they are not getting the assistance and the direction that perhaps if they were on reserve that they would be getting. So is there something that is in the works that can help them or is that something already there, or is it being looked at?
MS. KING: As I have mentioned, we do have the two agreements and the agreements do cover services directly to all Aboriginal people in Nova Scotia. One agreement deals with the First Nations' communities in Nova Scotia and, the other, all other Aboriginal people. So there is provision to do that. Now, any individual can come into the HRCC as well, but there already are agreements in place to provide the whole range of programs and services
through those two agreements.
MR. CAREY: I am not sure whether they were aware. They have formed an organization and are trying to do some things that are off-reserve, but yet still retaining their culture and that type of thing. So they were looking for some direction and guidance, I believe, in that area. Anyway, I took it to the provincial division and I expect it will be worked through the system.
Another question I would have is, employment insurance, even though provincially, of course, we don't have much to do with that, but we do get a lot of calls on that. When there were changes in the programs a few years ago, the farming and the labour pool, the seasonal workers in the forestry and that type of people who had seasonal work, were felt to be disadvantaged, they felt, and I understand that there have been some changes. Could you elaborate a little bit on what may be coming down the line that might be more supportive of these people or changes in programs that they would see as improvements?
MR. DAVID KAY: Yes, there have been some changes to the employment insurance legislation. The intensity rule has been eliminated and this means that all claimants will receive at least 55 per cent of their maximum insurable earnings. So by that adjustment, claimants who have been perhaps adversely affected by previously drawing employment insurance, that has been eliminated by this recent legislative change. So all claimants will receive at least 55 per cent of their benefits. Some other change, this intensity rule was introduced in 1996 to discourage repeated EI usage and it also reduced the benefit rate for every 20 weeks of regular earnings that claimants had. So this change should assist in terms of what may have been deemed as a penalty for repeat usage as has been rectified through this legislative change.
MR. CAREY: In my particular riding we rely heavily on - well, 40 per cent of the agricultural products produced in the province are in Kings County. The seasonal workers and the harvesters are extremely important to us and a lot of them start in April and go until November and work very hard and long hours at what they do. I hope that you people will continue to support - I know full-time work is the goal for everyone, but we still have this produce that has to be harvested and it is essential that we use our resources of the people who we have here and I would hate to see programs be so limited that we would be bringing in offshore, for example, the way that Ontario has had to do.
I just would encourage you, if you have any input in that, although the objective is certainly for full-time employment for all our citizens, these people provide a tremendous service that is very necessary and some produce cannot be done by machine and it will always be a labour-intensive industry. To eliminate programs for these people means that we are not only hurting them, but we are also limiting the amount of produce that can be planted. Large farmers, we have examples of where people have reduced their acreage of strawberries, for example, or raspberries, or blueberries, because they cannot get them harvested and there is no point in planting something you can't get off the ground.
I would just perhaps put a plug in that if there is anything you can do to assist - not that we, as I said, don't want full-time employment, but there is a space and a need in our labour force for these people and they provide an absolutely vital service to the farming community and to the produce that needs to be harvested. I would just like to have that considered, if you have any opportunity to look at that.
MADAM CHAIR: Mr. Morash.
MR. KERRY MORASH: Just one quick question. The Canada Pension Plan disabilities. I do have some people who come in and have applied, or are in the process of applying, and typically I refer them to the MP's office because he deals with that on a regular basis. I always feel a little inadequate because I am not sure of the process or procedures that I should go through. Maybe you could just tell me, roughly, what is normally involved with applying for disability through CPP?
MR. KAY: If you would like, we can certainly have some staff in your area visit your constituency office and provide information to your staff or yourself; that can be easily arranged. In a nutshell the process is basically one of applying through our application for benefit, and the individual submits an application that has supporting documentation, including medical information from their physician and that information is assessed in our Halifax office for the Province of Nova Scotia by medical adjudicators who contact the client and obtain information, as necessary, to support the application for Canada Pension disability.
A decision is rendered based on that information, which may involve additional information collection by our medical adjudication staff around the specific disability, so the decision that is taken is based on all available information to them. Once that process is complete, the client is informed whether or not they have met the criteria under the Canada Pension Plan or not. That is basically the process in a nutshell.
The individual, of course, who is approved for benefits starts to receive benefits from the date their disability is determined. Those who don't are offered other information related to other supports, what have you, in their community, but are also given the opportunity to have that decision appealed or reconsidered at the first level. Then we will have our medical staff review that information. It is done independently of the initial review by another individual, to have another look at all of the information, and then another decision is rendered at that stage. Again, at that stage, the individual may be allowed benefit or not, and depending on that decision it can move, if the individual so desires, to another level of appeal, which is what we call a review tribunal, which is an independent body of government, a panel of three people who hear the case and render a decision. That is the process in a nutshell.
MR. MORASH: So there are two appeals after the first decision is made. I think the majority of people I have talked to - and there haven't been a great deal - have been when somebody has requested additional medical information, that usually seems like it is confusing to them, because they just feel they have put everything on the table that they have.
So that is helpful. It is probably good for me to maybe deal with some of the medical people, just to make sure that everybody is up to date.
MR. KAY: Actually, there are a couple more levels of appeal, just so you are not left thinking it is just the two. There is the first reconsideration stage, then there is the appeal to the review tribunal, and then a person has the right to ask for leave to appeal to the Pension Appeals Board. Then, of course, it can go on to the federal court, what have you. There are other opportunities for that.
MR. MORASH: The timeline for all these appeals, I suspect, is quite substantial.
MR. KAY: It has been quite substantial in the past, but the department has taken very strong measures to quicken up the process. We have implemented standards of time in the various early stages to try to quicken up the process. Yes, it can take some time as it moves up to the third and other levels.
MADAM CHAIR: Mr. Chisholm.
MR. RONALD CHISHOLM: I, too, would be interested in what Mr. Morash has been saying on the disabilities. If there is somebody in your office, in the Antigonish- Guysborough-Port Hawkesbury area, who could meet with myself and my staff, I would appreciate that as well.
The other issue that I have, I guess, that comes to me quite often is the training programs that are paid for in part or the whole cost is picked up by HRDC. I deal with basically three offices: Antigonish, Guysborough and the Port Hawkesbury one for my constituents. Sometimes there doesn't seem to be consistency, there are different programs. The biggest complaint I get is a person coming in that has been approved by HRDC for a training program, say at the Strait Campus of the Community College, and they get down there and find someone in the same program who is getting a different benefit. Usually it is a matter of a phone call to one of the offices. I have to say we certainly have a good working relationship with those offices, and the people there that we deal with.
There just doesn't seem to be consistency for the programs, for the level of funding. The active employment programs, does training come under that?
MS. EVELYNE POWER REID: Do you want me to speak to that question, the difference in level of support?
MR. RONALD CHISHOLM: Yes, if you could.
MS. POWER REID: You are right, people will go to training in different institutions and find that other people there are receiving different levels of support. The reason for that is, once someone has gone through the process of developing a personal action plan and a career plan and found what training they do require, we have a consistent process through which we determine the level of financial support that person requires, which is based on the incremental costs they will incur to participate in that training and their ability, from their own resources, to support themselves in their training. That can vary greatly. It can be anything from just receiving their EI benefits, and there could be supplementaries required due to child care, transportation costs, having to reside in a different location, et cetera. So, it does vary, but the process through which they proceed for that determination is consistent across the province.
MR. RONALD CHISHOLM: Another area, too, I think part of the program, to qualify you have to either be on benefits now or have been on benefits in the past three years. There are some programs, maybe, especially for people in a constituency like Guysborough, maybe a homemaker stayed in the home looking after her children, a program she would want, maybe a home care program that is delivered at the Strait campus, cannot get any help in funding because she doesn't qualify because she hasn't been on benefits for three years. Is there anything in the system to help people like that?
MS. POWER REID: With respect to HRDC, eligibility for our programs is linked to that attachment to the Employment Insurance Program. For people who have been home caring for children, the reach-back period is five years, but that is as far as we go.
MR. RONALD CHISHOLM: I have had a couple of - I wouldn't call them complaints - enquiries, and I have referred them on to the Guysborough office or the Port Hawkesbury office. It seems like there are some people who may be falling through the cracks there, young people maybe 35 or 40 years old who want to upgrade their training. With the home care system now, it seems to be where a lot of people are trying to get more training. There are a lot of people out there who I feel should qualify for that; maybe they don't and they fall through the cracks.
MADAM CHAIR: Mrs. Baillie.
MRS. MURIEL BAILLIE: I agree with Mr. Chisholm that there are a lot of people who don't fall into that category, or another category is listen to the job lines. You have to be on EI or had been on EI, and if not they can't qualify for those jobs. That is also kind of a sore spot.
Just a couple more questions. Is there an amount of money that a senior can have in their bank account that will not hurt or interfere when they are on a supplement? This woman bought a $5,000 GIC and it was for her funeral expenses. Then she was getting interest from that, and the first thing she knew her supplement cheque was cut back $30. Now $30 is not
a lot of money to some people, but to this person it was quite a bit. So is there a figure they can have?
MR. KAY: The Guaranteed Income Supplement is income-tested so that all income including interest or other earnings are included in the yearly assessment of the Guaranteed Income Supplement payment. In the individual's case you are talking about, the interest would have been included in the income or the redemption of an RRSP, or something of that nature, and would affect the amount of the GIS for that particular year. However, the next year the income would be assessed on exactly what the individual was getting. It would go back to the original amount, but it would be affected by any fluctuation in the current in terms of income.
MRS. BAILLIE: So there is not an amount that they can have in their bank account?
MR. KAY: If the money is left in the bank account, it wouldn't affect their Guaranteed Income Supplement. If there is money withdrawn through interest or other payments, as long as it is income and reported to Revenue Canada it would be included in the assessment of what an individual would be entitled to.
MRS. BAILLIE: I am not getting my point across, am I? Seniors save a little, they want to be able to bury themselves. So this is what I hear, that because they are saving this and they get this little bit of interest on it, their supplement is cut back. So what they do, they will keep that money at home or in a safety deposit box where it won't show up and that is not a good idea, keeping that money at home. Do you see what I am saying?
MR. KAY: Yes, I see what you are saying.
MRS. BAILLIE: So they can't have $7,000 in a bank account for burial, and then get the regular supplement?
MR. KAY: Any interest that is paid is included as income in the current year. It is included in the assessment of the earnings of an individual and does impact the amount of Guaranteed Income Supplement that an individual is entitled to.
MRS. BAILLIE: So they will continue to keep it in a safety deposit box or whatever.
MR. KAY: As long as that particular provision in the legislation is there, yes.
MRS. BAILLIE: I know you have to have some safeguards. Another question I have is people who are on CPP with no other income, they are living very poorly, have a low level of living, and I am thinking of a particular case, a diabetic who didn't have enough money to get medication. Sometimes Community Services will help, but sometimes they can't. Can you think of anything along that line that would help these people?
MR. KAY: No, there is nothing in the Canada Pension legislation that provides for expenses or medical help. It is a straight payment system based on an individual's contributions to the Canada Pension Plan.
MRS. BAILLIE: Sometimes they are getting a small cheque. Not that they can't apply for social assistance, but yet not enough to really live comfortably. That is all. Thank you.
MADAM CHAIR: Mr. Pye.
MR. JERRY PYE: First, I apologize for coming in late on your presentation. As a matter of fact, you were wrapping up when I came in. I was on the other side of the harbour and it doesn't seem to matter how many bridges there might be across that harbour, it seems to be a ritual this time of the year that there is always some sort of a backlog or some sort of construction taking place on those bridges. So I do apologize for being somewhat late.
I want to thank you for being here today. I think the single most important issue that concerns me is that many of us are politicians and were politicians at the municipal level, and federal Human Resources Development Canada seems to deal primarily with federal MPs and there seems to be a reluctance not to pass on some of that information to local MLAs, and some you are restricted to pass on. Yet, people who come through our doors don't relate or signify us as being an MP or an MLA or a councillor, they come to us simply because they are comfortable with us and they believe we can best resolve their issue. Often they may not go to their councillor or to their MP, but come to us.
Often we do not have the expertise or are somewhat inexperienced with respect to the number of programs that are offered by Human Resources Development Canada, particularly with respect to the Canada Pension Plan disability, income supplements and EI programs. I think it is important that Human Resources Development Canada look at setting up an individual who is able to go forward to these constituency offices and sit down for an hour or so, or whatever it takes, to educate and train the CAs, constituency assistants.
Most of us are out of the office, we are in the Legislature, we are at special meetings, the whole process, and we rely upon our constituency assistants and individuals within our offices to assist the people who are coming through the door. We try to see as many people as possible but that is not necessarily the case. I do know with respect to the Canada Pension Plan disability, actually we did call and we had some success of having Deirdre Kulanek and a gentleman come over, because we were frustrated with this process of making appeals and making applications for appeals and the whole mechanism that follows that. So, we had them come over and explain to us the process with respect to that and they did an excellent job, particularly for my office. It certainly helped us out, because often the client who comes through the door will want us to attend their appeal hearing process.
I will deal, first of all - I am glad you gave me some latitude, Madam Chair, I really want to get a sense or a feel of this issue, particularly with respect to Canada Pension Plan disabilities.
We have noted, and I have been to a few hearings myself, I am sure you might be aware of that, Mr. Kay, and I have sent letters off through you and to other individuals as well, with respect to appeals. The problem I have had on many occasions is that I don't happen to be a lawyer, and yet you need to be a lawyer or a specialist in the field in order to address these issues, particularly to successfully win an appeal at the appeals board. Often, they will cite Section 42 which says that the disability must be severe and prolonged and they give the definition of severity and they give the definition of prolonged, that whole process. Yet, the medical reports, even from their specialists, will imply that this individual is disabled to the point where it meets the criteria. It may not be exactly the same language as you and I know, but it will be there in the sense that the definition could fit in. Yet, Canada Pension disability, for some apparent reason, denies applications almost at will.
The other day I heard on the news that 70 per cent of the applicants that go through, fail to succeed in their application to receive Canada Pension disability. That is a significantly high number. Hopefully, I guess there is a new commissioner appointed or will be appointed to oversee the Canada Pension Plan?
MR. KAY: There is a new commissioner . . .
MR. PYE: That is right. And I believe that was his comment that there needs to be some flexibility within the program because of the high ratio of people who are not receiving the benefits even though they appear to be legitimate. That is a concern of mine because I think rigidity has set in with respect to Canada Pension disability, particularly on the disabled side, particularly when their specialists, who are specialists in the field, do not appear to be successful, yet the specialists who are assigned by Canada Pension disability are successful.
I want you to elaborate a bit on that and I want to know if you can possibly send out individuals and if you do send out individuals to enlighten constituency - not only the MPs - but constituency offices as well, and even other agencies who may need your help and they probably do get that.
The other concern I have is with respect to EI. As you know, there are a required number of weeks and after what many people term, the EI has run out, which is actually the expiration of their qualified weeks, that is the actual terminology that should be used, but many people come in and say my EI has run out. There is no program available for them. Once it has run out, from what I understand and some of the people who come through my office - you can correct me if I am wrong - they have lost out if they have waited until the end of their EI program. They can't walk into an EI office and get an education training program
or whatever. There may be some corrections to that and I would certainly hope that you can enlighten me on that.
Also, a couple of members on the other side of the table have addressed a very important issue too; the length of time in which you have not been a benefactor of EI programs eliminates your opportunity to take a Human Resources training program because you have had to be an EI recipient for a period of time. That needs to reflect some sort of change. I would hope you don't wait for your MP to bring in legislative change, that you would make those kinds of recommendations after hearing from us and other people.
Also, with respect to income supplements, I want to know as well with respect to income supplements, every year a senior receives an application form that tells them that their income supplement has been at such a rate and if there has been a significant change, then it is adjusted to that year. Mrs. Baillie made comment with respect to individuals who have investment income and because that is investment income, the income is calculated as income, as part of the senior's income. That can reflect in a depreciation, regardless if there is a need for an emergency in the future or not. The individual can no longer save for an emergency because once that money is put into an account - whether it is a bank account or whatever and it is drawing interest - then, they are penalized for that and it is considered income.
I want to know as well, how much of the income is exemption and if, in fact, you meet the exemption requirements as set out by Revenue Canada? Revenue Canada may require some exemptions. Yet, they may not qualify as exemptions for seniors or persons with income supplements and I want to know if you can correct me on that or make clarification to that.
There is also another area that I want to briefly touch on and that is with respect to grants available through Human Resources. I have to tell you that the federal MP and I have a good working relationship, but what if it was a situation where you don't have a good relationship with your federal MP and you didn't know what grants were available and so on. I think there needs to be some simple clarity of language set around how a person makes applications for grants, whether that is a disabled person, an advocacy group in a community, or an individual or agency or organization. I want to know just exactly if in fact there is a brochure out there telling people how they can make application for grants and if you have - you probably do have it, I would suspect you do - a list of all the grants that are available and the criteria that were set out for those grants. I think I better shut up here for now and try to let you clear up that area and see what happens.
MR. KAY: Sir, if I can, I will try to respond to the two areas around the Canada Pension and the Guaranteed Income Supplement and I will refer to my colleague for the other two areas you have raised. As far as the issue around information available to MLAs, we are as concerned with information to MPs as to MLAs. So we don't differentiate between the two
and in fact this year we have a number of initiatives planned to improve the information available to citizens around the Canada Pension disability. That does include visits to MLA offices. So I will certainly ensure that that message is sent throughout our networks that were referred to earlier. As well, I would encourage you to contact your local Human Resources centre and our staff would be more than happy to come to visit you or your staff to give information and we do have booklets that are very easy to follow available that we can leave in your office.
As far as some of the issues around information and lack of awareness, I guess, on an individual's part concerning a disability program, like I said, we do have a number of initiatives underway that will hopefully improve that level of understanding, as well. I think you raised an issue, particularly around the appeal process, so what we are intending to do is to have an early release of the case to those clients who appealed to the review tribunal. In the past, that information has been held back to just before the hearing. So individuals were coming to hearings not really understanding what the minister's case was. So it is our intention to release that information earlier to the client so that they have all of the information that we will be presenting at the review tribunal. So we hope that the individual will have all of that information, be able to be in a better position to understand exactly what it is that we have concern with.
In addition to that, we are going to start to contact clients earlier on in the application stage. So we will be calling clients who apply for Canada Pension disability to explain to them up-front what the requirements are and to give them information just to help them understand exactly how the application process will occur. This has not been done in the past and clients were well on in their application process before they were hearing from us. So we want to contact them earlier on so they know exactly what the process will be.
In addition to that, we are going to look at the content of the letters that we send to individuals and we are going to try to improve the legislative references and make those letters much more friendly in terms of helping clients understand where we are coming from. So those are a number of initiatives that we have underway to address the points that you have raised. Again, like I say, I would encourage you to have that kind of relationship with our local offices. Deirdre Kulanek, who you had referred to, is our local officer in the Halifax area, and she has a team of staff who would be more than happy to come to visit you and give information, and there are other teams in the local networks that were described on that map, in other constituencies, who will do the same.
MR. PYE: I just wanted to say to you, it is not necessarily important to make the letter friendly, it is important to make the letter legible, understandable, so that people can understand the language and the content of the letter. It is important that Revenue Canada not allow the rigidity to set in that has already set in. I do know, with respect to the changes, in
January - I believe, 1997 - there were changes to the Canada Pension disability Act, which throws a whole loop into the picture of people making applications to qualify when they don't qualify simply because the period of time is a factor; that is one.
I wish I had brought some of the changes with me so that I could have better articulated this to you. I am sure that you are aware of what I am talking about. Some of the things that cause restrictiveness and enables, automatically, an individual not to be entitled to a Canada Pension disability, even though he or she may have paid up, prior to five or six years, or that, yet suddenly became disabled and now is out of the loop because their application was somewhat late in getting in and has not met the qualifying period of time.
MR. KAY: The contributory requirement that you are speaking of was actually changed in 1998, and it went from two of the last three years or five of the last ten years to four of the last six years. This change was a contributory requirement which was part of a balanced package of changes to ensure that the Canada Pension Plan remains affordable and sustainable to all Canadians, including those with disabilities. It was a comprehensive package that was put in place to ensure sustainability of the Canada Pension fund.
The other question that you had, concerning the Guaranteed Income Supplement, the income that is reported is consistent with that that is considered as income for the Canada Renewal Agency, or Revenue Canada as we all know it better. We do use information from Revenue Canada, actually, to determine the level of the Guaranteed Income Supplement. What we introduced last year, in order to help clients, is we changed the year to better enable clients to get that information into Revenue Canada, so we moved the commencement of the Guarantee Income Supplement payment to July, which we have had a very favourable reaction from recipients in terms of not having to just get in under that wire. We, again, are doing that this year.
MS. KING: On the issue of a client whose EI claim terminates, those individuals are still eligible for what we described to you earlier as our active employment measures. Again using the three year time frame for those who had attachment to the labour market and had an active EI claim, and for those who were out of the labour market for maternity or paternity leave purposes, the five years, so indeed while they may not have any more continued income support through the EI claim, they may qualify for other active measures.
MR. PYE: Excuse me, they may qualify - and I don't know how consistent this is - but you do have people come into your office and say, I have gone through the EI office, to Human Resources, and they say I don't qualify for that program or I don't qualify for that service because my EI has run out. Now, you tell me how best I can serve that client who walks through the door; just briefly, if you can.
MS. KING: I think in that case I would refer directly. Without having the details of individual cases, and I think we are here to describe our programs and services and not deal with individual cases, but in terms of understanding the fact that the claim - and again I don't know what individuals mean by saying my claim has run out - you may stop getting the income support because your claim was established for a period of weeks or months, but even after that has terminated, for the active employment measures that we described to you earlier, that individual still does qualify for the three years within the time frame and five years if they were on an EI claim due to maternity or paternity. Evelyne, do you want to add anything else?
MS. POWER REID: I would say that the practice within HRCCs Human Resource Centres is to encourage people to look at what interventions they need as early as possible in their active claim period, and they are actively engaged in that at the local level, so it is a rare instance for someone to go all the way through their benefit period without having had an offer of service. They are, as Jeane described, eligible for that programming for an extended period past the period for which they receive EI benefits. Do you want me to tackle your other questions?
MR. PYE: Yes, go ahead.
MS. POWER REID: I just want to reiterate what David said around the offer of information to MLAs. Certainly, with respect to employment programs, managers, local office managers and senior program officers are actively engaged with a variety of community partners, MPs and, in many cases, MLA offices to provide information. That offer is always available and always open to you. Certainly, if there is anything we can do on a more proactive basis, we would like that feedback so that we can do that with you.
With respect to the length of time for reach-back, you made the point that you feel the three and five year reach-back period for eligibility for our programs is inadequate. We will take that feedback forward, just to let you know that we will do that. On the last item that I have written down, the need for clear language around how to apply for the contributions that local HRCs can provide. There are grants and there are contributions. Local Human Resource Centres provide contribution programs, and we do have a sponsor pamphlet available that outlines what the different programs do. As with many documents, having the interaction with an individual in a local office, after having reviewed that, is the best way to develop a proposal or to look at what program might be suitable to support an initiative that a community member might want to start.
MADAM CHAIR: I guess it is my turn. I have, like many of the members here, both issues that arise out of my constituency experience and then some more general issues and questions. Maybe what I would like to do is start with some of the more general things that are of interest to me. I don't know if you will be able to answer these questions, but if you can that would be very helpful. One of the things that I am quite interested in knowing more
about is what, in fact, are the labour market trends in Nova Scotia? If you could answer what the biggest challenge is, in terms of the Nova Scotia labour market, and perhaps speak to the issue of the potential shortages, where the shortages in labour supply have been identified, both in terms of the sector and maybe the geography, and whether or not there is a plan to address labour market weaknesses, shortages or whatever. That certainly is one thing I would like to know a little bit about, if you could help us with that.
The other thing I specifically would be very interested in is knowing about Cape Breton. That may not be a fair question to ask you - and I know you have people in that region - but I think that Cape Breton and the situation for people in Cape Breton is critical, and it is an area that is causing a lot of concern, I think, among all of the members of the Legislature, in terms of the immediate situation in Cape Breton and the long-term problems that that region, in particular, faces. Is it possible to hear a little bit about that?
MS. POWER REID: I will tackle the question you had around labour market trends, because it is something we are obviously actively engaged in. There has been a lot of media coverage, especially in the last 18 months with respect to specific sectors, trying to highlight their labour issues, in terms of shortages. HRDC is involved in intergovernmental effort around labour market information to address what the skill issues are in Nova Scotia.
In terms of the actual trend, the issue is not isolated to one industry sector or another, it is a reflection of the demographics that we have happening right now. We have an older population and a shrinking number of youth entering the labour market. That is just the reality of our demographic and that is not unique to Nova Scotia. It certainly is captured in provinces across Canada. As a result, with a thriving economy and a growing economy, there is more and more demand for fewer and fewer skilled workers. So what we have to do is put our efforts, in terms of what HRDC is doing, in looking at the available labour supply and ensuring that they are prepared for the changes in the labour market so they can take advantage of the opportunities available to them in Nova Scotia. That certainly is the direction of the partnerships that we have with industry through our sector councils, with communities, with training institutions and with the Province of Nova Scotia through their federal-provincial Labour Market Information Committee. Does that answer your question?
MADAM CHAIR: It does in a very general way, but I am wondering then if you could provide a little more detail in terms of are we talking about the IT sector, are we talking about the service industry? What exactly is it we are talking about? Is it the entire labour market that we are talking about? There have to be, I would think, particular sectors that right now are experiencing some labour shortages or pressure, that would be my guess, as well as an oversupply. There must be an oversupply and we don't have a perfect labour market with everything matching up. So what does that look like, quite specifically?
MS. POWER REID: We are involved with nine sector council partnerships and we are finding the same shortages reflected in our dialogue with all of those sector councils. So there are obviously opportunities of different kinds in different sectors. In terms of the specifics on that, we have information on the supply and demand issues with each industry, but we are not finding one particular industry. Obviously, there is a high profile concern around skills related to oil and gas, but it is not unique to the oil and gas sector.
MADAM CHAIR: I actually did have a question about the oil and gas industry and that is the lack of women working in the offshore. I tabled in the House, a few weeks ago, statistics that looked at women in the offshore over a period of time. First of all, it is a very small number, but it is also a decreasing number over time. So it seems to me that that is an area and I am wondering if that has been identified, for example, if there is any plan to address this?
MS. POWER REID: Specifically with the offshore, it hasn't been a piece that has emerged. But broadly across most of our industry sectors, with HRDC, one of our focuses is to provide access to opportunities in the labour market to women, to aboriginal people, to African-Nova Scotians, to persons with disabilities. We do indicate those principles and those goals very clearly with our sector partners.
MADAM CHAIR: It is making it happen. It is going the next step beyond saying we would like this to happen to actually having it happen that is of concern to me and I think probably to all of us. I want to ask a question about the self-sufficiency pilot projects. They must fall under HRDC. They are attempting to take people who have long-term unemployment, weak labour market attachments, and actually attempt to get them back into the labour force. I understand there is a pilot project in Cape Breton, one of the self-sufficiency pilot projects has been in the Cape Breton area. I don't know if that is the right label for it, but it is something like that. Do you know about that? It is from the income support section of HRDC?
MS. KING: I am not sure if we are talking about the same thing. There are some national pilots and I am not sure that we would have the details today to sufficiently answer your question. There are also some provincial initiatives as well and I really am not - Karen, you may be aware. It is not registering.
MADAM CHAIR: So local people wouldn't be involved in any aspect of these national pilots, is that what you are saying?
MS. KING: Well, again, I am not sure if we are talking about the same thing. There are some national initiatives that are nationally funded that may be happening in Nova Scotia and, no, we would not have intimate involvement with that.
MADAM CHAIR: Because I think they are, I think these pilots are . . .
MS. KING: Probably nationally funded.
MADAM CHAIR: Nationally funded, yes. Maybe you won't know about this either, but there has been some talk about a guaranteed annual income. The idea rears its head from time to time and I am wondering if that is an area where there is research going on inside the department with respect to the implications and the possibilities of a GA.
MS. KING: I guess we understood our role today was to describe the existing programs and services, and at the regional level that is what we do. We deliver programs and services in this province that are designed nationally, so we would not be aware.
MADAM CHAIR: You can't answer that. Then the other area that I have some concern around in a general way is there has been a drop in the number of immigrants in Nova Scotia, and MISA is in my constituency. I am always quite interested in terms of the programs that we have available to assist immigrants who come here, or newcomers who come here, to get established and participate in our economy and in our labour market. I am wondering if there is an explanation for why there has been a drop in the number of people who come, what we do about retaining people who come as well, because quite often people come here but they don't stay here. They move to other parts of the country, perhaps because there is more economic opportunity elsewhere. So I don't know if you can answer that one or not.
MS. KING: The programs that we described to you are HRDC. Citizenship and Immigration I understand does have some programs for immigrants. What we described to you are programs that are available to those Nova Scotians or Canadians who qualify under EI, persons with disabilities, aboriginal people, HRDC does not have a mandate for immigration. I believe that rests with Citizenship and Immigration.
MADAM CHAIR: I understand this, but it is curious I suppose in some ways if you consider the whole idea of taking down the silos, you know, between departments and trying to develop more partnerships that make sense for people. So you are saying that inside HRDC there are no initiatives at all that focus on integrating immigrants into the labour force, that that is left with Citizenship and Immigration?
MS. KING: Well, we actually do provide services that are available to sort of all Canadians, but in terms of specific programs for immigrants, no. But HRDC does provide a range of programs and services available to help people with, as I mentioned earlier, skills - I am sorry, not skills, but résumé writing, that type of thing - improving their knowledge of the labour market, and that information is available to all individuals. Is there anything specifically that you wanted to add, Evelyne?
MS. POWER REID: I was just going to say that, obviously, this is an issue. I have been aware of the recent activity with MISA and that the Province of Nova Scotia is involved in what they call a provincial nominee committee to accelerate immigration to the province within some key occupation areas. We partner with the province and with community stakeholders in identifying what those opportunities may be.
MADAM CHAIR: I guess the last things I will go to are constituency related. I represent the North End of Halifax where there is a substantial African-Nova Scotian population. The Black Community Work Group certainly is one of these community-based organizations you have talked about, I think without specifically referring to it, around capacity-building and what have you and working more directly with communities. They certainly do a terrific job, but my concern I guess - and I think this would be shared by the work group and by others in the community - is that they have a huge geography to cover with resources that get spread pretty thin in that process.
African-Nova Scotian populations actually aren't provided with service because there isn't enough resource that is channelled through that organization to deal with some of the many needs and the many issues. I will give you a very concrete example I think. Mulgrave Park is a large public housing development in my constituency. The Statistics Canada data from 1996, from the last census, shows that it is a primarily Black community with very low income, quite often female-led, in the households.
This public housing area has a tenants' association and they partnered with Veith House which is a community-based organization centre in the North End. They developed an initiative that was the only one of its kind in the country; I think it was a pilot where four young people, young students or people who had recently graduated, were hired and provided with laptop computers as well as a stationary computer system within Mulgrave Park where people from that community, students and people who were doing job searches, could actually learn and get access to the Internet and to computers. This project was funded for nine months by HRDC, and at the end of nine months it disappeared.
It was a very successful program. It was successful in the following ways: young people who were in high school without a computer at home were able to do their homework and do their research; young people who were going to community college, or in university, also had access; people in that community who were looking to do job searches, who weren't so young, who were probably my age, really got access to a lot of the technology. It really created in that community a sense of hope I guess in some ways, that something really exciting was happening in that community and for that program to collapse at the end of nine months, or no longer to be there at the end of nine months, I think it is a real tragedy and it is a source of frustration for the community. The Black Community Work Group does not have the capacity to fund this in an ongoing way.
My concern is that some of the initiatives are so short-term. They are so short-term they don't provide the time frame to allow an organization to look around for additional resources. It took three months just to get the infrastructure in place, hire the staff, get them familiar, get the word out in the community that it is there, get the routines organized, have people come and have access and make it an equitable process of getting access and all of that kind of stuff. Then it is over. I know that I have experienced this with some other initiatives, but this one was very stark for me in terms of the limitations, I guess, of some programs. I don't know if you could comment on that, but I would appreciate it if you could.
MS. POWER REID: I will try to answer this, but if I don't tackle it, I am sure you will let me know. With respect to that initiative, there were three pilots in Nova Scotia and we referred to them as the computer camps. It was increasing access to communities which were furthest across the digital divide in trying to increase access and build some capacity in communities. It was of very short duration. The monies that were provided to us, we generate the ideas here in Nova Scotia, but they were national monies for a very short duration and we recognize that. We also recognize the success of those pilots. We have had similar feedback from the other two pilots and we are engaging now in establishing six more in this coming fiscal year. Yes, looking at the sustainability issues is a key piece because we do have limited duration to the program that we can engage in, but by engaging a cross sector of partners, governmental and non-governmental, to develop some sustainability around that.
MADAM CHAIR: This is a community that has a lot of capacity, but no resources. If this community can't tap into the enormous wealth that the federal government has available to it in the EI surplus, in the surplus more generally - I know these aren't your decisions, but this is very, very critical and the enthusiasm that this generated, I mean to lose that enthusiasm just demoralizes people who get their hopes up so high. It is wrong, in my view, that we can't follow through.
The other thing I would just like to put a plug in for is the inner-city initiative. The North End Council of Churches, as you probably know, has an inner-city initiative and I believe it is largely supported through HRDC. I am not sure under which program. They are a group of folks from my riding right now who are in Flint, Michigan looking at what they have been able to do in an inner-city area where there is a lot of unemployment and where there is a lot of early school leaving and racism and different issues they have to deal with in an ongoing way. They will be back shortly to report on this. I think that we will be knocking on your doors a lot looking for support for a number of ideas that the community has to develop a more coherent strategy around life-long learning in our community.
I want to raise this issue because people in non-profit organizations in my riding raised this with me, the need to streamline the paperwork and the amount of documentation now and the requirements to demonstrate what can be very difficult to demonstrate, outcomes and what have you, which often take a lot of time to percolate through the process or the system, is an issue that non-profit organizations certainly raise and especially after some of
the issues and some of the controversies around the need for accountability, which everybody accepts. If you are spending public dollars, there is a need for accountability. But many of these agencies generate quarterly reports and annual reports and do all of the paperwork and it just seems that they are being buried by paperwork.
MS. KING: I will comment on that. As you know, HRDC did have an internal audit that identified some issues with the way we were managing projects and certainly some of the accountability and audit trails were not satisfactory from the viewpoint of both the internal audit and the Auditor General. So definitely HRDC - it was a very public forum, I am sure you all recall - took immediate steps to address those concerns and issues that were raised. As a result, our administrative practices had to be strengthened.
In Nova Scotia, we have what we call "can do" and what we are attempting to do, what is expected of us as public servants in terms of our financial accountabilities and within the mandate - the terms and conditions, as we call it - we are trying to apply the maximum amount of flexibility to be able to accomplish what our citizens in our communities and our non-profit organizations need, recognizing though that we must also stay true to the accountabilities that are expected of us. So certainly we continuously review what adjustments we can make. I can assure you that we are aware of these concerns and we are doing our utmost to ensure that we can find a balance between satisfying our accountabilities, that they are well documented, and also meeting the needs of individuals, communities and organizations.
MADAM CHAIR: I am going to stop now. There are a number of other things I could go on about, but I won't. I will ask one last time if there are members who have another question. Mr. Carey.
MR. CAREY: Further to what Madam Chair was suggesting, the federal and provincial governments, as you are well aware, do projects together and usually part of the problem is the time frame, but with the federal government, at least in our opinion, sometimes the vision is not long-term enough. We realize that you can only support things for a certain length of time. Government is trying to do things long-term now in the educational aspect of it, training people, different programs.
There rarely seems to be an agreement between federal and provincial in the length of time that one will support, and going hand in hand with this, the province is required, in most cases, to be a 50/50 partner, which might, on the surface, appear fair, but we are all aware here in Nova Scotia that we are the poor cousins. It is sometimes difficult for the government to carry out sustainable long-term projects. They can get them up and running with the assistance of the federal government, but then the support isn't there and we are just not financially in a position to do it.
Again, I realize that many of these things probably are political decisions, but is there any move afoot where you people would have input and continue to support - I would think you might support this, I am sure you will tell me - that we need longer term sustainable projects. We have many projects that have been started in co-operation with the federal government that just, in my opinion, don't have the proper time frame to play out to find the success that we would have for our people. I think Madam Chair had one in particular that was very short. But I think there are a number of those that have happened.
I think there has to be a realization that we are not financially in a position to do some of the things that we know are absolutely necessary for our people. I think everyone needs to understand there is only one taxpayer and whether we call it federal or provincial or whatever, it is the same person.
MS. KING: We have certainly understood your concerns and we will raise them if we have an opportunity.
MR. CAREY: I realize again it is probably political, but do you have an opportunity to have much input in that type of thing or is it strictly political?
MS. KING: As you know, as MLAs, legislation is formulated through an elected representative process. Certainly when we do evaluations, I am sure that these kinds of concerns are picked up and that is probably the basis of looking at future adjustments. There are many forums to capture information, but in terms of direct linkage, I think you understand the process probably better than I do.
MR. CAREY: I know you people over the years have had experience and I am sure you have seen where I believe that programs would have provided access to people, and were serving a good portion of our population, where they just needed this helping hand. There is sometimes a lack of support and I would hope - provincially and federally - that politicians and governments would listen to the input from the people at the front lines who are providing it. Thank you.
MADAM CHAIR: Mr. Chisholm.
MR. RONALD CHISHOLM: Just one question, Madam Chair. The FRAM program, is that a program that is within your jurisdiction?
MS. KING: It was. The FRAM program terminated March 31, 2001. It was sort of for a period of time and so the last of the interventions and so on and everything were finalized by March 31st for HRDC.
MR. RONALD CHISHOLM: Is there anything in place of that program now? I am getting requests from different organizations for letters of support, I guess they are applying to the FRAM program, and if it is not in place anymore . . .
MS. KING: Within HRDC, it is completed.
MR. RONALD CHISHOLM: Is that a program that maybe has been transferred to ACOA?
MS. KING: There were various partners, but the HRDC portion - it was, as you are well aware, to deal with the adjustment in the fisheries - the termination for the kinds of interventions that HRDC was responsible for has completed.
MADAM CHAIR: Mrs. Baillie.
MRS. BAILLIE: I have just one question for Ms. King, maybe a clarification of terminology. I heard Mr. Pye use this. When clients come into my office, when they are on EI, they say no more cheques, their EI ran out. Ms. King, you said no, it didn't run out. What was the terminology? There is a difference of terminology here.
MS. KING: Yes, language is always so interesting. When an individual comes in, they are entitled to direct income support for a period of weeks, based on where they have worked and so on and length of time. After the direct income support, when their cheques run out, within that three year time frame and that five year time frame, if they were out of the labour force for maternity or paternity reasons, they can still come into the office and, for example, get skills upgrading. They are still entitled to the active measures and services that I described in the earlier part of the presentation. If they are still unemployed, of course, they may not be getting any more direct EI benefits, as we call it, but they are still entitled to partake of the active measures and services that we described to you earlier.
MRS. BAILLIE: So, their cheques never run out?
MS. KING: No. The cheque may run out, but within three years of that claim being established, if they were not on maternity or paternity claim - because if they were on maternity or paternity claims, it is extended to five years - they may still come in, for example, and qualify for a training intervention and be provided with some supports that would assist them in partaking in a training intervention. So it is not a question of never running out. One part, the benefits may stop, but as Evelyne had mentioned earlier, most claimants get involved in what we call active measures, because while you are on claim, you want to regain attachment to the labour market.
So you may look at what other things do you need to do to find another job. It may be a wage subsidy with an employer. It may be a training intervention. It may be that you are interested in self-employment. But even after the cheque runs out for that three year period, you can still partake of those kinds of services. After the three years or the five years then you are no longer what we deem EI eligible. But within that time frame, yes, they are still eligible for our programs.
MRS. BAILLIE: So when somebody comes in and tells me their EI cheque is no more, when they tell me it ran out, I will say, oh no, it didn't run out?
MR. KAY: The cheque they get every two weeks they complete cards for is straight employment insurance. That could run out. I think what Jeane is referring is if they go into an office and look for assistance, they are still eligible to receive income support but it wouldn't be in the form of the reporting cards they send every other Friday night and get their cheque every other Wednesday. It would be in the form of income support while they are involved in an intervention, like skills training, what have you.
MRS. BAILLIE: I know what you are saying, but to that client out there they will still say it ran out. You know, just being a little trivial.
MR. PYE: I will try to be brief. I have a couple of questions. First of all, you made reference to maternity and paternity leave. You didn't imply that individuals other than those who are on maternity or paternity leave have the same opportunity to qualify for EI programs. You didn't state that. I made note of that twice when you spoke. The other concern I have is, yes, Human Resources had been under fire with respect to allocations of money about a year or so ago, and being more accountable. I think that you might have gone to the extreme.
I want to say when Madam Chair MacDonald was speaking about the issue of concern with respect to community programs, you know there is the Family Resource Centre in Dartmouth and there is a Growing Together program, and because that Growing Together program did not meet the specific number of requirements there was certain funding that had to go back to Human Resources. You have communities that have socio-economic disadvantages and because of that it takes a long time to get those people up to being comfortable with a program you bring in and wanting to be a part of it simply because they have been downtrodden for a long period of time. I don't know if, in fact, Human Resources takes that into account. So I am wondering if you would seriously consider looking at some of the sensitivities around that.
The other issue, just briefly, is the issue around encouraging employers to hire persons with disabilities. I am wondering if you can just briefly tell me how you do that, if you have had a success rate in doing that and if you do keep numbers and figures, would you pass that off to my office because I would certainly like to know because there seems to be a high number of well-educated disabled persons unemployed in this province. I think that
that is a serious issue that ought to be addressed by levels of government and, particularly, if Human Resources provides the educational funding through an educational EAPD program and so on, I think there is a movement that you ought to extend yourself a bit farther and to make sure there is a success rate down the road. So if you can provide me with that information I would be more than pleased to know. I would like to know how you track the success and the failures of that.
MS. POWER REID: I will try. With respect to the issues you raised around communities where there are significant disadvantages and a need for looking at the long-term, Jeane you referenced the whole approach of having a "can do" approach in Nova Scotia which we would look at; what is the continuum to get to that long-term outcome and, within that continuum, what pieces can HRDC play a role in supporting? So we are very conscious of the different needs of different communities and looking at long-term versus short-term, and applying that consistently across the province. It is a growing piece, it is a piece which requires our continuous work with communities so that we are aware of all of the barriers and all of the issues presented in those communities. So with respect to the sensitivities, we take your point and we are working on that.
With respect to persons with disabilities, yes we will contact your office around the data. There are a variety of programs. They are not limited to simply providing access to training. There are significant efforts, whether it is through the EAPD, or the Opportunities Fund which we administer, and Employment Assistance Services which is available to all unemployed Canadians. A variety of services are available to facilitate that transition from, okay you have the training, now how do you access the labour market, how do you access employers, and those can take the form of simply preparation for the workplace, because that often requires access to specific equipment to facilitate their access to the workplace in order to use the education that they do have.
It can also take the form of a targeted wage subsidy, a wage subsidy that that person brings to the workplace to help the employer learn how to accommodate the skilled person who has a barrier and facilitate their placement in the labour market that way. So there are a variety of programs, and what we do, as you are aware, is we have Persons with Disabilities Partnership Committees throughout the province, and those are the vehicles through which we hear the community and will be facilitating programming that meets their needs so that they can attach to the labour market in a successful and sustainable way.
MR. PYE: I just simply would prefer having the data, the information, of success of employment with respect to persons with disabilities.
MS. POWER REID: The data, okay.
MR. PYE: It is okay to provide a program, but if the employer takes a program and takes advantage of it - much like the 1970's Local Initiative Program, LIP program - and only for the period of six months or a year gets the benefit and then the person goes out the door, that to me is not success. If you can provide me with the information.
MS. KING: Sure, and just for clarity, HRDC administers the Opportunities Fund and that is the information we will provide to you, and the Employment Assistance Program for Persons with Disabilities is actually administered by the province. On your other issue, I think you had one for me, I referenced certain clients. For our active measures there has to be an attachment to the labour market and therefore EI, and then we also have a program for persons with disabilities, we have youth programming, and we have a program for Aboriginal, First Nations people. We have noted your concerns about the gaps, you know the homemaker who has not been attached to the labour market and doesn't fall into any of those categories; we have noted those concerns.
MADAM CHAIR: Thank you very much. This has been I think very useful and I appreciate the time that you have taken away from very busy days, I am sure, and it is nice to be able to put faces to names that we see in our offices as MLAs. You, no doubt, will be hearing from some of us, or all of us, with specific issues that may arise in our constituencies. This has been useful for us and I hope it hasn't been too taxing for you.
MS. KING: No, thank you very much. We have also enjoyed the opportunity to be able to share the programs and services that we have available to our clients, Nova Scotians, who are also your constituents, and we would really encourage you to continue the close relationship that you obviously have with our HRCCs, where your clients will go to get service. I think that will hold both parties in good standing.
MR. KERRY MORASH: I am a fill-in member so this may happen anyway, but the information that Mr. Pye had requested, I was wondering if that could be distributed through this Committees Office so that we all might have the benefit of it.
MADAM CHAIR: Certainly.
MR. MORASH: That would be helpful.
MADAM CHAIR: Well, again, thank you very much. We can take a minute and just reconvene to deal with the next meeting, the business that will be on the agenda and when.
[10:50 a.m. The committee recessed.]
[10:52 a.m. The committee reconvened.]
MADAM CHAIR: Basically we just have to decide on the next meeting date, and what we will have on the agenda. It has been suggested that we meet on May 31st, which is a week from today, if that is agreeable to people, if it is possible. We had scheduled Joanne Bernard from the Society for Women Healing from Addictions and Abuse, and had to postpone this. I am not sure about Judy Jackson, from the Department of Community Services, whether that had been scheduled and rescheduled; I think it probably had, as well.
MRS. DARLENE HENRY: (Legislative Committee Clerk): They were to come in together, that was supposed to be a merged meeting.
MADAM CHAIR: That is right. I know we have some people here today substituting for regular members. I don't know if you feel comfortable in saying that next Thursday would be okay or not.
MR. MORASH: Next Thursday would be wonderful. (Laughter)
MADAM CHAIR: Next Thursday would be fine? Yes. We will have this on our agenda. Agreed.
I will ask for adjournment then unless there is any other business.
MR. RONALD CHISHOLM: Madam Chair, I so move.
MADAM CHAIR: Thank you, very much.
We are adjourned.
[The committee adjourned at 10:54 a.m.]