MADAM CHAIRMAN: Good morning. I am going to call the meeting on Community Services to order. You will have to be patient with me; this is the first time I have done this. We have with us this morning Ms. Tracey Williams, Executive Director of Income Assistance and Employment Support Services, Department of Community Services; and with her is Mr. Steve Bone, Communications Adviser from Communications Nova Scotia. Welcome.
For the benefit of our guests, can we introduce ourselves?
[The committee members introduced themselves.]
MADAM CHAIRMAN: We will turn the meeting over to you, Tracey, for a presentation and then we will have some questions.
MS. TRACEY WILLIAMS: Thank you very much and good morning, everyone. Just to begin, most of you will know - and when I look at the faces around the table, I think most of you have some degree of familiarity with this program - it is a federal program and, obviously, Nova Scotia has a very important role to play as part of that federal program. So I will attempt to answer any question that might be posed to me but please, I beg your indulgence; if there is any I don't, I will take it away and ensure that the answer is provided to you at a later date.
Just to begin, in terms of the objectives for this morning, I really just want to provide you with, as a starting point, an overview of the National Child Benefit, then try to ensure that you have good information with respect to how the Nova Scotia Child Benefit fits and what our role is here in Nova Scotia with respect to that program, and also to provide you with an opportunity to ask any questions that you might have.
So by way of a starting point in terms of the National Child Benefit, I had an opportunity recently, and I don't know any others of you who might have had the same opportunity, to have a look at a publication out of the Caledon Institute by Ken Battle. It is actually a really good piece and it talks a lot about income security programs in Canada, their histories and driving factors and that sort of thing. But in that Ken talks about some of the history of social policy in Canada. He makes reference to the National Child Benefit as one of the more important developments in social policy in the last 25 years. When you look at the history of social programs, particularly in the last part of the 20th Century with governments struggling to survive, an economy starting to pick up, this was really one of the only programs that was introduced at that time.
One of the other distinguishing features of this program is the fact that it marked for the first time a shift away from an intrusive lack of consistency, for sure, kind of programming each province had with respect to its children's benefits to a more centralized, more consistent means of providing benefits to children across Canada. Certainly the federal government had recognized that for some time and provinces and Territories were struggling with their meagre attempts - mostly - to try to address child poverty in terms of the way that they were providing benefits to children.
By way of continuing to provide you with an overview of the National Child Benefit, you will know probably that it is a joint program between the feds, ourselves and the Territories. There are three objectives that I think are important to keep in mind and these were really the principles on which the whole foundation of the program is based. The first one, which is perhaps the most difficult in trying to be able to really address, is to help prevent and reduce the depth of child poverty.
The second is to promote attachment to the workforce. In terms of what this province has tried to do with respect to the introduction of the new bill in our social assistance program, certainly there is a consistency with that particular principle. The main focal point of that is to hopefully have fewer families having to rely on social assistance and helping them to be better off by working not to have a dependency on the system.
The third overall principle of this program was really to try to reduce the lack of consistency, the overlap and duplication in all the different kinds of children's programs that were provided, and try to somehow standardize that or bring together an approach that made sense not only from a federal perspective, but from a provincial or territorial perspective.
The other essential component of this is the fact that the federal government has made a commitment. The program was announced in 1997 and began in 1998 and the government at that time made an announcement of $1.7 billion in terms of its commitment, and that was over the next three year period. Since that time in the mini-budget, and then on in the regular budget, there were some further announcements about some ongoing commitments.
So you have a program - provinces are actually agreeing upon some basic principles, and this was around 1996-97 in terms of when these discussions were taking place. What happened next was an agreement was struck with respect to the actual implementation of the National Child Benefit. The federal government made some commitments and the provinces were, as well, expected to make some commitments. At that time the federal government made the commitment and has since increased the Canada Child Tax Benefit, the CCTB, making sure that it targeted low-income families that were in receipt of the National Child Benefit-S, meaning supplement.
At the same time the implementation strategy also focused on provinces ensuring that they would re-profile or decrease social assistance payments for families with children by the amount of the National Child Benefit. At the same time there was an expectation that any re-profiling of money would be in the form of reinvestment, that it would be given back out to low-income families in the form of different benefits and services. Of course, all this was conditional that families on social assistance - because they would obviously be part of the low income target group - would receive at least the same amount of monthly income before the National Child Benefit. That's probably the one part of the agreement that provinces have struggled with the most, particularly in terms of their own fiscal policies and social policies.
Nova Scotia's reinvestment strategy. As often happens in these kinds of agreements the federal government wanted to ensure that it could respond to the regional differences, being sensitive to provincial differences and try as much as possible to provide parameters, but ensuring that flexibility was also a part of the arrangement. So up until July 31, 2001, the way the program worked was that the amount that social assistance received for the National Child Benefit was charged as income, meaning they received that much less on their cheque. But that money, in the amount of $25 million was re-profiled - $22 million went back out
to the Nova Scotia Child Benefit and that was a benefit - and I will talk more about the details of that program - both to people in receipt of assistance and people who weren't, and then the Healthy Child Benefit Initiative.
The Healthy Child Benefit Initiative, I don't know if many of you are familiar with that. It is often a hidden part of the whole program, but it is a program that is really dedicated to early intervention kinds of programs, community-based intervention. The 50 portable daycare seats that we announced last year were part of that funding arrangement and that program continues today. But I think, in earnest, it took awhile for it to get started. So, really, since the beginning of 1999, there have actually been some programs. There were a few started in 1998.
What does it look like today in Nova Scotia in terms of the recent changes? I don't have to tell anybody in this room about last year with respect to the Employment Support and Income Assistance Act being proclaimed. As part of that, we recognized that certainly the clawback, as it became known, was probably not the best way to deliver the services and that the government, at the same time, had made a commitment to address that issue and also to
ensure that we were addressing the needs of all low-income Nova Scotians who, in fact, met the eligibility criteria. In terms of if you reflect back on the actual objectives that were established for the program, we really had to take a look at the way we were delivering the program and we saw this as an opportunity.
So as part of that, the new design of the program allowed us to be able to extract the amount that we provided for the personal allowances for kids in the Social Assistance Program and to re-profile that to establish a standardized benefit. What that meant was basically taking around the $22 million that we provided for food, clothing and shelter for children and using that to re-profile, reorganize our program so that we in fact were meeting the objectives of the program and to try to eliminate the clawback that had been around for some time.
Part of our objective consistent, as I mentioned earlier, with the major objectives is to attempt to support families differently and to help make sure that they can make the leap to work a little easier. What this program does now with the restructuring of the benefits - while you are in receipt of assistance, you get it. When you leave, you continue to receive that benefit. The way it used to work, obviously, you got your children's benefits as a recipient of the program and when you left, you basically got zero from us. So that allows people to continue to receive that benefit on an ongoing basis, as long as they continue to qualify from the federal government.
So what all this means - and I have some charts and things I will go through, too; hopefully, that will provide you with some more information. Effective July 2001- and July was a month before the actual bill came into effect, but that is the federal year for the National Child Benefit, July to July, and we also wanted to do it a full month before the changes in the Social Assistance Program. So that is when everything came into effect, and not without a lot of complexity and challenge around its administration. I will talk a bit more about that in a moment. But what happened is the benefits came out of the Social Assistance Program and they were combined with the amount that people receive for the National Child Benefit. What was established was a standard benefit of $1,700 per year. The way it had worked in the past was you received a certain amount for one child, a lesser amount for a second and so on. What we have done is established a standard benefit so each child receives the same amount.
Some of the other highlights, although this highlight is really, I guess, an ongoing highlight in the sense that this is the basic eligibility criteria for the program, based on, of course, the income tax form that you file and your eligibility being determined by the feds. But the Nova Scotia Child Benefit is the full maximum benefits are paid up to $15,999 and the partial benefits are paid to families who have a net family income between $16,000 and $20,000. It is important to note that this is net family income. The National Child Benefit Supplement is paid to families who have income up to $21,744 in terms of maximum, and the partial is $21,745 to $32,000. Again, those are net family income amounts.
MRS. MURIEL BAILLIE: What's the difference between them, does it vary?
MS. WILLIAMS: Yes, it is on a sliding scale until you work your way down to obviously being in receipt of zero.
These are some recent changes, some of which have been ongoing parts of the program for some time. Eligibility is based on incomes, so it goes to whoever meets the income criteria. In Nova Scotia, there are approximately, give or take, depending on the average numbers per month, 35,000 families that receive this; 20,000 of which are not in receipt of income assistance. The remaining 15,000 are in receipt of income assistance.
I have already talked about this in terms of establishing a standard benefit in terms of removing the children's benefits from assistance. It is administered by CCRA, not our department at all. The other part of this is, in terms of addressing the clawback issue, obviously an important feature and the need to ensure that any increases that the federal government gives in this program - and it is an indexed program - go directly to families and that it is not clawed back and that it is not treated as income. In fact, since the original analysis that we did in the design of the program, there was a $100 per year increase and that has gone directly to families and will not be treated as income. That is an ongoing commitment that we have made to ensure that each year when those increases are made, that that will not be charged as income in the Social Assistance Program.
The Healthy Child Development Initiative continues at approximately $3 million. Those programs, in the past, were administered with the Family and Children's Services Division and different community-based agencies in Nova Scotia. That initiative continues in the same amount that it was previously funded. You might be interested to know, as well, that this is supported by regulations under the Income Tax Act and the piece that supports the removal of the children's basic allowances is obviously part of the Employment Support and Income Assistance Act that was introduced last year.
I will just talk a minute about some statistics with respect to the program. The average number of families, as in the benefit year ending June 30th - and this is an average amount - was about 33,800 families and with about 56,000 children. The range, with respect to the stats, varied. July is the month where there are often partial payments and different other payments are made so the numbers tend to be a little higher in that month, and that is usually the month where it is the highest, and they were a little over 35,000 and in August 2001, to a low of 31,000.
Seventy-seven per cent of the families receiving the Nova Scotia Child Benefit were single parents. That is no surprise, I am sure, in terms of the statistics in low-income families and the number of single parents that fall within that group. The numbers of families
receiving partial payments went up and that is obviously due to a good economy where more people are working and have access to greater net family incomes than they have had over the last number of years. Family size, anybody who knows anything about demographics, this is no surprise in terms of the breakdown, but 52 per cent have one child and 33 per cent, two children and so on. It just gives you a sense of what that group looks like.
The payments for our last benefit year were almost $20 million. With the re-profiling of the program and some increased payments, it is $1.9 million extra for the program itself, so it is $2 million, and an additional $3 million for the Healthy Child Benefit Program because we obviously don't have a re-investment strategy anymore, funded to the way it was in the past. So it is an additional $5 million that the provincial government re-profiled to put into that program and the rest of the money has been, as a result of just, again, re-profiling funds and also in terms of the way the program works for the federal government. When you look at the combination of the payments, it is about two-thirds funded by the federal government and one-third funded by the province. So this year, we expect to reach payments of about $30 million in the province.
Next, the chart gives you just a sense of family size and what it means. In terms of the Nova Scotia Child Benefit and the NCB combined, it's about $1,700 a year as I mentioned and $141.67, and then you'll see the total federal monthly cheque which just gives you a sense of the breakdown of those amounts. I know those of you who have done some analysis have seen this chart before.
I want to just take a moment to go through this chart, and perhaps the next one if we need to, just to give you a sense of the way this works. Before the National Child Benefit, so that would have been before 1998, you can see through the child tax benefit $170 in children's allowances in the Social Assistance Program - because what we're talking about is a social assistance recipient with two children aged 5 and 11 and how this would apply to them - that meant they got $421, and there was no NCB at that time so what they had for monthly income from those sources was $421.
In June 2001, just prior to implementation of the changes in the program, the base CTB had gone from $170 to $184. The government had introduced the National Child Benefit of $145.67, and the Nova Scotia Child Benefit that was paid was $60.17; that meant that there was a total of $389.84. The children's allowances that were paid at that time were $251, the subtotal of which was $645. The clawback that I spoke of earlier in terms of the way we counted the income of the NCB amounted to the $145.67 that appeared in the upper part of the column, which meant that the client had in their hand $495.17.
As of August there was a slight increase in the CTB, the NCB also increased, and the NSCB has increased, and that means that they got $469, the subtotal of which is $469. There is no longer a clawback, the total, and just to take a moment, I want to talk about the grandparenting.
With a re-profiling and the move to a standardized benefit of $1,700, what that means is, that depending on the number of children that you had and the age of your children, from the past way it was calculated, particularly in the Social Assistance Program, if we didn't add in an amount to bring up the total, it would mean families would have received less. We wanted to make sure that nobody was worse off as a result of these changes so that anybody who was in the system in July and was in the program in August would have continued to receive benefits at the same level so that their total monthly income at the end of the month was not less for that family. That's an important part of this.
So, there was some grandparenting that took place by us and some by the feds, but in this case it was $60.17. We didn't want them any worse off from the month before. You can see over the last number of years in terms of 1997, in June 2001 and August 2001, there were slight increases for the family, but you can see the actual progression.
The other thing I want to bring to your attention is where the working poor fit. If I do this and you see this line, the subtotal, this will give you an indication of, if we were talking about a working poor family they've gone to $170, then to $389.84 and to $469.50. That's the increase for the working poor family. I want to remind you that these are maximum benefits paid to a family that would have qualified for that lower-income bracket.
I won't go through the total chart again - unless, of course, you want me to - but that gives you an indication as well, and again the working poor families, those 20,000 families, what we're talking about is this amount here - $261.25, $569.92 to $710.75 - which we can't lose sight of in terms of it being one of the objectives of the program in terms of addressing low-income families generally. The changes for the social assistance families have not been great, but over time will continue to grow because the amounts will not be clawed back and they will receive those benefits directly.
I wanted to provide you with a little bit of an overview, and this chart is a little hard to see, in terms of what other jurisdictions do. As a former boss of mine used to say, it's a dog's breakfast in terms of it being different for each jurisdiction, really. If you look at the chart that you have, the Social Assistance Offset, the first column means those jurisdictions that basically do charge the National Child Benefit as income in their budget so they claw back. So really you're looking at P.E.I., Ontario, Alberta, the Yukon, the N.W.T. and Nunavut; they are the jurisdictions that do that.
The next column is those who don't count the National Child Benefit as income, and that's New Brunswick and Manitoba. The next group is those that have restructured their program or re-profiled their benefits basically with an actual increase. So not only did they take the benefit outside the welfare program, they have provided an increase. As far as Saskatchewan goes, my understanding is that's on an annual basis and that's both in Saskatchewan and B.C.
Finally, in the last three columns are those systems that have restructured like ourselves, that basically provide the same level of benefits to those clients who - whatever they would have received prior to the changes - continue to receive after the changes. Newfoundland, ourselves - and Quebec is in that column because they really don't fit anywhere else because they have their own system, but it's really ourselves and Newfoundland. Newfoundland, as well, even when you compare ourselves with Newfoundland, we give $1,700. Newfoundland's is around $1,300, but they also have some other benefits, so it's hard because it's not comparing apples and apples. The context is a little different, but in terms of the basic part of the program, they have gone a similar direction to Nova Scotia.
This really shows you the flexibility. This is a chart that came from an evaluation that was done for the federal government, but it just gives you an indication of the varied ways that the different jurisdictions have moved. The federal government is very strongly pushing the provinces and territories to move to the last two columns in terms of restructuring with an increase in benefits to families or restructuring by providing them with the same level, so other jurisdictions will certainly have some pressure put on them to do that, to take it outside the Social Assistance Program.
Before I open it up for questions, the impact of the program. This information is information that comes from that evaluation through the feds and this is really the first and in many ways a very preliminary evaluation. The information that was provided talks about the evaluation in terms of how it met those three objectives that I talked about in the beginning; it talks about reduction in poverty in terms of the decreases: nationally, what it was before the program in terms of 20.5 per cent to 18 per cent in 1998; in Nova Scotia, from 22.4 per cent in 1997 to, looking back the full year, in 1998, 18.8 per cent. These are using the low income cut-off measures. It is really only one measure of this. There have been a lot of critics to say that perhaps it is not as rosy as this might appear, but I think it gives some indication of the fact that there has been some positive impact. I think as the program continues to develop and recipients and others in the low income group continue to get the benefits, you will see that improve even more.
As well, the integration of the children's benefits, one of the objectives really in terms of reducing overlap and duplication and making it a much cleaner and easier program to administer for Canadians, this has supported that whole objective, trying to make it less stigmatizing. Welfare, as everybody knows, is a very intrusive process and often, unfortunately, very stigmatizing to those who need to find themselves at the welfare door. What this does is removes that the criteria be based on needs; rather, it's based on income. It's done through the income tax system and it's a whole lot better for everyone in that respect.
Their NCB benefits are portable. So it doesn't matter where you go in Canada, you will continue to get the National Child Benefit and they're predictable. The government has made a commitment and we hope, as much as these things are predictable, that each year it's indexed and Canadians will continue to receive this benefit.
The other part of this, in terms of the transition or supporting people to move to work, the National Child Benefit - and, of course, it's coupled with economic growth in Canada and this province - has helped people to return to work and to, basically, not require assistance, or a lesser amount of assistance as a result. So very much by taking it outside, it provides for families and individuals in families to be supported differently than they have in the past; again, in a very much less stigmatizing way, which is one of the key features of this.
That's it in a nutshell and I'm sure you have lots of questions. It's complex in terms of the way things work, but that's a little bit of everything for you. I noted in your material that was prepared for you that you had a lot of information with respect to the program, but I will open it up for questions if anybody has any.
MADAM CHAIRMAN: Mr. O'Donnell.
MR. CECIL O'DONNELL: The clawback has been eliminated from the family allowance, but are there other jurisdictions where this clawback is still in place?
MS. WILLIAMS: Yes, if you look on that chart, the Social Assistance Offset, P.E.I., Ontario, Alberta, Yukon, Northwest Territories and Nunavut still charge it as income which is really a form of clawback. Now I also have to say in their defence because, obviously, it's something everyone would prefer to be done differently, that many of those jurisdictions also give other benefits to low-income families. But just in the context of this particular, in your question, they do charge it as income. They do claw back. That's that chart.
MR. PAUL MACEWAN: Is there an order, Madam Chairman? Are you going around the table one by one, or what do you want to do?
MADAM CHAIRMAN: If you want to do it that way, okay.
MR. MACEWAN: It doesn't matter.
MADAM CHAIRMAN: Yes, I usually just look for hands.
MR. MACEWAN: For hands.
MADAM CHAIRMAN: Yes. Did you have a question, Mr. MacEwan?
MR. MACEWAN: Well, I came here a little bit late. Now, I take it Ms. Williams is with the Department of Community Services.
MADAM CHAIRMAN: Yes.
MS. WILLIAMS: That's right, Mr. MacEwan.
MR. MACEWAN: I'm not sure just what benefit she's talking about. Is this the equivalent of the family allowance program that used to exist?
MS. WILLIAMS: The family allowance is really the Canada Child Tax Benefit, the CCTB. What I've been talking about today is really the National Child Benefit and the Nova Scotia Child Benefit as part of that.
MR. MACEWAN: Isn't this what people call the family allowance?
MS. WILLIAMS: I think when they get that federal cheque, most families do still refer to it as that, yes.
MR. MACEWAN: I would think so because that's what Joey Smallwood called it when he got Newfoundland into Canada and it was $6.00 a month. Now this is a cheque that all parents get, is it?
MS. WILLIAMS: No, it's based on your income.
MR. MACEWAN: Yes, based on those criteria?
MS. WILLIAMS: Yes.
MR. MACEWAN: You don't have to be on social assistance to get it?
MS. WILLIAMS: No.
MR. MACEWAN: Not at all?
MS. WILLIAMS: No.
MR. MACEWAN: How do you get it?
MS. WILLIAMS: It's through your income tax.
MR. MACEWAN: You just fill out an income tax return?
MS. WILLIAMS: Yes.
MR. MACEWAN: But you have to fill one out?
MS. WILLIAMS: That's correct.
MR. MACEWAN: To get the GST cheque, I know that.
MS. WILLIAMS: Yes, exactly.
MR. MACEWAN: Or the HST it is now.
MS. WILLIAMS: Yes.
MR. MACEWAN: Next it will be IST. But you fill out an income tax form and that gives it to you?
MS. WILLIAMS: Your eligibility is determined by the feds, whether or not you're eligible, that's correct.
MR. MACEWAN: I will tell you - one last point - I don't get many constituency inquiries on this matter at all because it seems to be very well-run. People say, oh, I get so much a month family allowance, and that's that and they're happy. They don't come to their MLA saying get me more, you know. I get a lot of other kinds of inquiries, but not that one. So I just wanted to ask how does it work? How is it that it seems to be working so smoothly?
MS. WILLIAMS: Maybe it is because the federal government is doing it, I don't know. But I think it's just because it's an automatic eligibility process for families and, you know, you file your income tax and you either are eligible or you're not. I think the challenge for us has been around the recent changes, the amounts that were determined and how those are paid.
The other part of the challenge is what about families that don't qualify that come into the Social Assistance Program? What that means is since it's based on last year's income, you would get basically zero or only a very small payment. What we've had to do to address that is, in fact, continue with a child benefit so that we do have - or a new baby is born, it takes three or four months to get on the system in terms of the federal government application process. So we have the ability in the Social Assistance Program to pay those 15,000 families; if any of those, or any more than those, require it, we can provide that. So there have been some ups and downs, I guess, around that part of it, but in terms of the overall sort of administration on that piece, I think it's pretty smooth in terms of how that operates.
MADAM CHAIRMAN: Ms. MacDonald.
MS. MAUREEN MACDONALD: Thank you for a very good presentation and overview. You know, I have always been a fan of the idea of a basic income or guaranteed annual income. In some ways this is what I think would be right for children.
MS. WILLIAMS: Yes.
MS. MAUREEN MACDONALD: So, it is quite an interesting program to study and to try to figure out whether or not it is going to make a difference and how that will work. You spoke about the grandparenting of people in the program at implementation.
MR. MACEWAN: Does that mean that grandparents get it too? I'll support that.
MS. MAUREEN MACDONALD: So, my understanding is that people in the program at the time, in that time frame, won't be worse off. Is it not true that new people coming into the system with the same circumstances, in fact, will be worse off because the bar has been set a little lower in terms of the amount of monthly income they will get? So, that is the first comment and the second thing that I would like to say is, is it not the case that in Nova Scotia we have made the assumption that the federal government will continue to put money in increasing the payments and that is how income will grow? That may not be an accurate assumption especially now in the context in which we have possibly a recession, shrinking economic pie and money being allocated in ways other than in social programs. Given that, what will the province's response be especially to new families coming on who are in fact worse off dollar for dollar?
MS. WILLIAMS: To begin with, your first question. That is correct and that is the challenge around grandparenting, is the inequity that it creates in any instance when you do agree to maintain one group of clients at an old rate. Anybody coming in the door new comes in at a different or lower rate. In the case of this we made a decision with the resources that we had. Those folks were used to getting that amount and we didn't want them to be worse off. The individuals coming in the door had not been in receipt of the benefit and we made a decision that that is the way we would work the program. There are obviously some inequities in that, but that was the decision that was made.
In terms of the federal commitment to this. Yes, an assumption has been made at this point and I guess it is a work in progress if, in fact, the federal government is not able to contribute to the levels that we had expected. I think we are going to have to obviously reassess what we would do here as a province and make some decisions accordingly. If we truly are ever to address child poverty, my own opinion is that we will need to maintain that commitment, but I think that will be a decision of the government of the day.
MADAM CHAIRMAN: Mr. Hendsbee you are next. I will go to Jerry Pye since you are not sitting down.
MR. JERRY PYE: Thank you, Madam Chairman. Tracy, I am just wondering myself here, and I am hoping that you can clarify some things for me. Prior to the National Child Tax Benefit program that actually came into place in 1997, I think it was - maybe before that, I'm not sure.
MS. WILLIAMS: In 1997 it was introduced, announced in 1997 and it actually started in 1998.
MR. PYE: There were two types of social assistance, that being income assistance and that being family benefits, and obviously then people were receiving child supports on different levels. There was a combination of different scenarios put out in those two programs that allowed the Department of Community Services to provide differing amounts of dollars. There used to be, I believe back then, from zero to six, which were termed infant children at that time, a lower amount given to children at that age, and then everyone over and above that age from six to 18 who qualified and were still going to school, under the Department of Community Services would receive increasing amounts of dollars over that period of time. I believe that now what has happened is that the children from zero to six receive more . . .
MS. WILLIAMS: That is correct.
MR. PYE: . . . and the children from six to 18 actually receive less. I guess I am wondering what kind of an impact that has, because prior to, for example, the national child program coming into effect, people, particularly teenagers who needed more money, between the ages of 13 and 18, I believe, were receiving $171. They now receive $133, if I am correct?
MS. WILLIAMS: It's $141.
MR. PYE: Yes, excuse me, $141. So that is actually a decrease in the amount that they receive, yet their needs are more and greater. I am wondering if you can clarify to me how that benefits the child and the family. Mind you, Statistics Canada says a child, in the definition of a child, is from zero to 12, but under the Department of Community Services, it is from zero to 18, because that is where you will contribute.
So I want to ask you a question. If in fact we combined a program that is supposed to benefit children and is supposed to give them better opportunities, how does it benefit people between the ages of 13 and 18 who are actually receiving less in a family today than what they were receiving some five or six years ago?
MS. WILLIAMS: A family that was in receipt of benefits has not seen a reduction, number one, because they were "grandparented" and they continued to receive it. It is the families who are now qualifying, who never got the benefit before, who are coming in the door at a lower amount. So in terms of that piece of it, it is not that they had the money and they don't have it now. I think that is important to note.
I think the other part of this is, I guess, the expectation that we have, or the assumption that we have made in terms of the commitment of the federal government who will continue to provide benefits, an increase in the benefit level each year, which will over the next number of years, on a regular basis, increase that amount. I think with the introduction of programs like the school supply program and other supports like that, we hoped that we could make a difference for families by providing some additional. Is it going to give them exactly the same amount as the families who are already in receipt of benefits as a starting point for this program? It probably won't. Over time though, over the next number of years, there will be significant increases, from what we understand, and there may be other things that we can do as well that will make a difference.
MR. PYE: Well, the school supply program isn't much. What is it, $100?
MS. WILLIAMS: Those are small helps for families though.
MR. PYE: Yes, but if they were to actually be receiving the increased amount over a month, it would be some $300 or more. So we ought not to paint a picture that that is a good thing because, in effect, it is bad; they are actually losing a few hundred dollars. So I don't want to sit here and think that there is something glamourous or beneficial here when in fact it is not. I see that the government has simplified the system. It has made the system more user-friendly so that people can understand it and it is readily available there, but I think the overall picture here is that the government has been the benefactor, because in effect you have utilized the dollars; you have not put out any more dollars, but what you have done is you have better utilized the dollars that you have.
So I don't think that this is any time to stand up and give yourself a big hug or ingratiate yourself by the fact that there is more of a benefit to people out there, because that is not true. That is what I am trying to say. In this day and age, based on the cost there is to live today, based on what it was previously, actually they are falling back and not going ahead. Excuse me for saying that, but that is only from my perception of what the program is here before me.
MR. DAVID HENDSBEE: For some reason, I knew that Mr. Pye was going to be a little antagonistic at times. Anyway, could you clarify and probably explain a little bit more about the administration done by the Canadian Customs and Revenue Agency and how the National Child Benefit, is it usually based on the previous year's income and a person has to file income taxes to have that calculated? But if a person's employment situation should
change before he files his next income tax, how does the province quickly make adjustments to that person's situation?
MS. WILLIAMS: In your scenario, the individual had filed the year before and was not eligible for any federal benefits, or was receiving them?
MR. HENDSBEE: Say a person is working at a $35,000 income, probably whatever the calculation might have been, but he lost his job and now he has to come to the province for immediate assistance.
MS. WILLIAMS: If that person has children, they would receive a benefit from us on an interim basis until they started to receive it from the federal government. So if it was August of one year, this benefit starts in July of each year, depending. If you have no eligibility for a full year, if this person's net income was more than $32,000, they would obviously not be receiving anything. So we would, on an interim basis, continue to provide an allowance for their children or if they have a new baby and they are not eligible, we would provide it on an interim basis. So we have, I guess, a fallback position in terms of we can provide a small benefit on an interim basis until such time as they begin to receive that benefit from the federal government.
MR. MACEWAN: They would have to apply for this. They would have to come in and say, I have lost my job.
MS. WILLIAMS: Yes, and at the same time they are applying for income assistance, we would assess them to see if they do get that benefit or not and we work quite closely with the federal government in terms of tape matching to make sure that we get the information we need to make sure families get the money they are entitled to from us and the feds and we go from there. But we do have an ability to be able to provide a payment for a child.
MS. MAUREEN MACDONALD: Do you have a written policy on that?
MS. WILLIAMS: Yes, we do. It is on the Internet.
MR. HENDSBEE: So in regard to a person who makes application for EI and everything else and it takes time for that to get established . . .
MR. WILLIAMS: Only if they come to our door applying for social assistance and qualify for our program will we provide that interim child benefit.
MR. MACEWAN: Only if?
MS. WILLIAMS: Yes, and we would do it as part of what we normally provide. We would also determine if the children require a benefit. But if it's somebody who doesn't require our assistance or has some other form of income, well, obviously we wouldn't be involved in it. So if they are applying for EI, often they do come to our door while they are waiting for that cheque to come in and we would provide that on an interim basis.
MR. HENDSBEE: You said the Nova Scotia Child Benefit is administered by the former Revenue Canada, the CCRA. How does that work?
MS. WILLIAMS: It is automatic. When you file your income tax, the government assesses your eligibility for that program and the client does not have to apply. They are advised then, the next July, if in fact they are eligible or if they are eligible whenever. If they file it in mid-year they would get it and they may get retroactive payments.
MADAM CHAIRMAN: John Chataway.
MR. JOHN CHATAWAY: Madam Chairman, I certainly very much appreciate this talk, Ms. Williams. I certainly don't claim to know all the answers in things like this, but every time you people have a talk with us, I very much appreciate it. It is more in-depth than what I understand. Basically, one of the questions that I am interested in is the Nova Scotia Child Benefit is obviously available for the working poor, but what real difference does this make in a family's monthly income?
MS. WILLIAMS: I could use that slide and just go through that again because I think that is a really good illustration of it. The working poor would have gotten $170 before the program started, $389 in June of this year and they get $469 now. The other slide, I believe, takes the family up to - again, depending on the size of your family, it is going to be different from the way the feds calculate it, but this shows you working poor here as well, $261, $569 and $710. So they have gone. So that is the difference it makes for those 20,000 families. That is just one example. If you had a five, 11 and 13 year old. That gives you a specific example. I can't tell you anything sort of at a higher level, but that gives you on the ground what it looks like in terms of how a particular family would be affected.
MR. CHATAWAY: It looks very meaningful to a family with those children. Basically, it is certainly an improvement. It seems to me, correct me if I am wrong, that more people are getting this benefit, per se. They are spreading out . . .
MS. WILLIAMS: That is the idea. The difficult part of this was in terms of standardizing the benefit. There were issues that have already been raised that had to be addressed, but part of it is spreading the benefit out and making sure that all low-income Nova Scotians who fit that income criteria actually do receive a benefit. The benefit being to those who are able to, I guess, provide for their families outside the system but can't seem to really get to a higher level. So this gives them that amount. There are 20,000 families, so
it has made a difference and they have seen a significant increase over the past year. That is a good part of the program. Sometimes we talk about the others that are affected and we know that is an issue, but in terms of the positive impact, that is certainly one of the main improvements in the program, if you will.
MR. CHATAWAY: I certainly applaud the idea, correct me if I am wrong, that it doesn't matter what level of income you have. Say you are on social assistance of some sort and you have various payments - but now it is for every child, as long as you are making less than $16,000 less $1.00, basically $1,700 per child. It is very good and it is very straightforward; they basically understand it and everybody gets treated equally.
MS. WILLIAMS: That is correct.
MR. CHATAWAY: We certainly would like to have lots and lots of money, but the big problem for us is we don't have lots and lots of money. I guess maybe just one more question, if I may. The Nova Scotia Child Benefit, of course, is available to many families in the province. Where has this money come from for this program? Is this extra or is it part of savings from reductions in family benefits?
MS. WILLIAMS: That is correct. It is really a re-profiling of the money that we had, both taking the money that was used to pay for the children's benefits in the Social Assistance Program. Obviously, that is part of where the funding came from. Also, the additional $5 million that continues to support the Healthy Child Development Initiative and the extra that this requires comes from some of the reductions in social assistance. Those reductions are as a result of people leaving caseload to take work, so there are less.
Actually, our caseload now, as of October, is 33,100 cases and that is down over time since 1995. In 1995, the caseload was 52,000 cases. So we have seen, and I think mostly compliments of the economy, a continued decline in our caseloads. So we have obviously had less payments on the social assistance line as a result and some of that money has gone to offset some of these costs.
MR. CHATAWAY: Maybe just one final comment. It has gone up. The total payments for benefits one year was $19 million and estimated the expenditures will increase $10 million. This year we are working on the $10 million a year?
MS. WILLIAMS: Yes.
MR. CHATAWAY: March 31st, we will have spent about $30 million.
MS. WILLIAMS: Yes, it goes from July to July, in terms of that year. But for the full year, it will be around $30 million, the investment for the province this year, and that is combined with what the federal government and ourselves pay. It is a fairly complex budget
in terms of the way it is financed, but it is mostly based on a re-profiling of the monies from the children's benefits.
MR. CHATAWAY: So that $10 million is Nova Scotia's payment?
MS. WILLIAMS: Yes.
MR. CHATAWAY: So we certainly have, I believe, shown some very - certainly finding money is a very challenging job, but we looked very carefully and decided we have to improve this. Thank you.
MADAM CHAIRMAN: Mrs. Baillie.
MRS. BAILLIE: I guess I relate to Mr. MacEwan over there; I think of it as family allowance. When it first started, it was $5.00 or $6.00 and everybody got it; it didn't matter. Now it is on your income.
This is just a little curiosity on my part. I want to look at the other end of it. Today, in a lot of families husbands and wives are both working and there are some people that don't get this child benefit. What is the cut-off? What does your income have to be so that you do not qualify for the National Child Benefit?
MS. WILLIAMS: Well, it is basically $32,000 net income, so gross, whatever that would be. Whatever line that is, I can't recall in terms of the way that is calculated. But it is not necessarily net of everything, but net in terms of the calculation of your income tax.
MR. MACEWAN: It is the number on the bottom of Page 2 on the income tax form.
MRS. BAILLIE: Now is that combined or just one person?
MS. WILLIAMS: No, it would be total family income.
MRS. BAILLIE: So husband and wife, if they are making $32,000 then they don't qualify?
MS. WILLIAMS: Net, yes.
MRS. BAILLIE: So the feds must save a lot of money then.
MS. WILLIAMS: I don't know. That is the national . . .
MRS. BAILLIE: Okay, just curiosity on my part.
MS. WILLIAMS: Ours are even that much lower.
MRS. BAILLIE: That is a lot of people, a lot of couples today.
MS. WILLIAMS: It is.
MADAM CHAIRMAN: Mr. O'Donnell.
MR. O'DONNELL: Thank you, Madam Chairman. It is not really a question, but maybe you can clarify for us. Since the child benefit is going to be based on our tax returns - our tax returns are for the year gone by.
MS. WILLIAMS: That is correct.
MR. O'DONNELL: So actually from January we have until the last of April to return our tax returns. I could become a millionaire and I would still be entitled to the Child Benefit?
MS. WILLIAMS: That is correct.
MR. MACEWAN: It depends on how you get to be a millionaire.
MR. O'DONNELL: Well, I was hoping . . .
MR. MACEWAN: If it is by way of inheritance, it is not income.
MR. O'DONNELL: No, well, that is true. Regardless of how I got the $1 million I would still be entitled to my child benefits.
MS. WILLIAMS: Yes, that is the way it works.
MRS. BAILLIE: And I'll bet you would want it too. (Laughter)
MR. O'DONNELL: Oh, yes I would. No question.
MADAM CHAIRMAN: Mr. Pye.
MR. PYE: Well, I think I just want to make some clarifications with respect to MLA Baillie, who thinks the federal government might be quite pleased that there are two income earners. I think you ought to recognize that in Nova Scotia 50 per cent of the population earns less than $20,000 a year, the working people in Nova Scotia. A lot of those people are two income families, as Tracey will know. There is a large number of two income families who are on that line called the working poor and who are funded through the National Child
Benefit Program. I think that we ought to realize that Nova Scotia has a significant number of people who in fact rely upon that benefit program to come forward.
I think it is also important to recognize that it is a failure of the business community to provide adequate income for those people who are working so that their incomes are basically supplemented through - and that is the reason why we have working poor people. I think we have to recognize that as well.
Also, there is another point to recognize in this. Even though you make application after a newborn child, it is about three months before the Canadian Child Tax Benefit falls into place, but in fact Community Services will provide the assistance to those in that period of time. There is no loss to the Department of Community Services; that money automatically goes back to the Community Services . . .
MS. WILLIAMS: Yes it does.
MR. PYE: . . . by way of the federal jurisdiction. There is not a benefit here in any way that these people are going to reap a benefit for that three month period, because it is not true. It is automatically syphoned off as it comes through the system and back.
MS. WILLIAMS: It is the same thing we have done for years with the . . .
MR. PYE: Absolutely.
MS. WILLIAMS: Well, the EI program . . .
MR. PYE: I just wanted to make that clear, Tracey.
MS. WILLIAMS: It is our policy.
MR. PYE: As a clarity so that we didn't understand that there was some sort of a benefit creeping in here as well, and that is the kind of thing that sometimes people think happens which in effect doesn't happen. There is also the money that comes through those programs for early childhood intervention programs and so on that is all a part of this National Child Benefit Program. I don't know, and my question to you is, are there measurements or is there a formula whereby there are measurements that measure the success of these programs? And how are they measured and how frequently are they measured to see if in fact we are getting the benefit of the dollars that come forward? If each of us looks at the social services budget that was passed last year, we will know that there wasn't any significant increase in the social services budget last year as opposed to any other year. It was - I call it a reinvesting; I think that you call it something else, restructuring.
MS. WILLIAMS: Re-profiling.
MR. PYE: Re-profiling.
MS. WILLIAMS: Same thing.
MR. PYE: Yes, the new phrase. Re-profiling of those dollars. And that is the kind of thing, the kind of language which says oh, this is something nice, it is glamourous, these descriptive adjectives that you place in front of it as well that make it look as though it is something grandiose when in fact it is not. It is actual dollars that are being just reshuffled around. I guess that is part of this, Tracey, of doing an evaluation, a formula assessment or whatever the case may be, and I guess what I'm saying to you is if you have done them, do we as politicians get the opportunity to see a report on how those assessments were done and the successes of them and so on, per programs?
MS. WILLIAMS: Evaluation is a normal part of what we do and I would need to check with my colleagues in Family and Children's Services and also the federal government to find out if, in fact, the Healthy Child Benefit Initiative's evaluations have been completed, but that's a normal - and when they are completed, normally they are made available and they certainly could be forwarded to you. I will have to go back and find out if there has been any evaluation on those specific programs at this time.
In terms of your comment with respect to the reinvestment, re-profiling what have you, and that the child benefit that we pay is not a benefit, our policies have always been that if the person was entitled to a benefit at the same time that we were providing - and Mr. MacEwan writes often to talk about overpayments in the Canada Pension Plan and that sort of thing - we do expect to be reimbursed. So we provide the benefit because there is nothing available to that person at that time, but administratively of course we collect because the federal government is paying that benefit and pays us directly. The client is not paid twice, if you will, in terms of the way that particular piece operates, but if there have been any evaluations, I would certainly be glad to pass them on. I can go back and find that out.
MR. PYE: I believe that the federal government, I think all the agencies and organizations that fall under their umbrella do it on a monthly basis. They have to put in a monthly assessment report because of Minister Jane Stewart's problems with respect to allocations of funds and grants and so on . . .
MS. WILLIAMS: Yes, I will go back and check for you.
MR. PYE: . . . which certainly came under question, so the thing is, my concern, I guess my wanting to fully understand the whole process is at the provincial level.
MS. WILLIAMS: Sure.
MR. PYE: If I'm going to be the critic in this field, then I think it is important for me to understand how programs are implemented, what's the criterion set out and the process by which you implement a program and then after the program has been implemented, what is the criterion you use to measure the program's success. That's the bottom line, I think. That's what's important here, so that we all are fully understanding of all government programs, not only Community Services but . . .
MS. WILLIAMS: Sure, absolutely.
MR. PYE: . . . in this particular case, Community Services.
MS. WILLIAMS: Yes, I agree.
MADAM CHAIRMAN: Ms. MacDonald.
MS. MAUREEN MACDONALD: I don't know if you had this same briefing package we did . . .
MS. WILLIAMS: No, but I've seen most of the material.
MS. MAUREEN MACDONALD: In our briefing package there is, I would assume, a federal government report, The National Child Benefit Reinvestment Report 2000 . . .
MS. WILLIAMS: It is.
MS. MAUREEN MACDONALD: . . . and I took some time to read through the report and I noted that many provinces have made a lot of different choices in the features of what it is they're doing compared to what it is that our government has done. One of the things that certainly caught my eye was diabetic supplies to children in low-income families, that the Province of Alberta certainly is providing these supports, and I have to say that this is an issue that I've had to deal with on numerous occasions in my constituency. It strikes me as being a really important issue because it is a life-and-death situation, and it is a health care issue for children and their families.
I want to make a pitch here that the department and the province seriously consider this aspect of life for families in our province. It is a very serious situation and the costs to families, and I would assume there will be new families come onto the benefits program in the province and with a reduction in the money that's available to them, their situations are even going to be further disadvantaged, if you will, when they have children with childhood diabetes and no protections whatsoever, not only for their food budgets, but for the medical supplies that they are absolutely required to have.
MS. WILLIAMS: I think of in terms of if they are in receipt of benefits, that is one. But you are really referring, I think, to those 20,000 families, for example, who might have children outside the Social Assistance Program.
MS. MAUREEN MACDONALD: Absolutely.
MR. MACEWAN: Could I ask a question? Subsequent to what Maureen just asked, I recall that for years there was a program for the provision of diabetic supplies. You got a yellow card. The lady you applied to for it was Carol LeBlanc, although she is now retired. What happened to that program and why didn't somebody else succeed Carol LeBlanc when she retired?
MS. WILLIAMS: That is a good question. I can't answer that because I have only been with the department since 1993, but the diabetic supplies program, it would have been probably about 10 years ago, maybe, a decision was made . . .
MR. MACEWAN: I think it was in the Buchanan years, but I am not sure. I think it was during that time. There was a rather wide range of . . .
MS. WILLIAMS: I am not so sure about that, but I think it was, at that time anyway, the program was stopped. The people who were in it continued to get diabetic supply assistance, but there were no newcomers for some time. I can't tell you when that happened.
MS. MAUREEN MACDONALD: It is a desperate situation.
MS. WILLIAMS: It is, I know, for diabetes. It is a good time to be raising that, during Diabetes Month.
MS. MAUREEN MACDONALD: Absolutely, it is just that people are desperate in these situations.
MS. WILLIAMS: We will pass that on to our colleagues in Health as well. Thank you.
MADAM CHAIRMAN: Are there any further questions? Thank you very much, Tracey. I think we have all learned quite a bit today. Thank you both for coming.
MS. WILLIAMS: Thank you very much and thanks for the opportunity. It is nice to see everyone and they were very thoughtful questions and I certainly appreciate it. I will get back to you with that other information.
MR. MACEWAN: Is this gentleman the next witness?
MADAM CHAIRMAN: No, he was just . . .
MS. WILLIAMS: I should just mention two things. Very soon, for any of you who are interested, the federal government is going to announce in two weeks that there is going to be a Web site completely dedicated to the National Child Benefit Program. That is going to be a wonderful site to get access to information on a timely basis. So I don't want to pre-empt there, but I just happen to have a copy of the news release. That is going to be happening very soon. I also want to mention that yesterday some of you may have seen in the news an announcement that the Ontario Government made with respect to the provision of $100 per child under the age of seven in terms of an additional benefit. That is why that chart is sometimes difficult because there is yet another benefit that a province has decided to provide. So I just wanted to mention that.
MR. STEVE BONE: I'm sorry, Mr. MacEwan. I was introduced at the beginning as the Communications Adviser and I was here to take any questions on communications, but none came up.
MR. MACEWAN: It was a well-communicated message here this morning anyway.
MADAM CHAIRMAN: Do you want to take two minutes and then we will go on to the business meeting?
[10:08 a.m. The committee recessed.]
[10:11 a.m. The committee reconvened.]
MADAM CHAIRMAN: In the second part of the meeting we have to determine future witnesses.
MR. MACEWAN: Can I close the door, or is that important, if it doesn't bother you?
MADAM CHAIRMAN: No, it doesn't bother me.
MR. MACEWAN: A breath of fresh air . . .
MADAM CHAIRMAN: Absolutely, Mr. MacEwan.
I think you all have a copy of the letter that we received from Ed Cramm. The problem with hearing the Black Task Force at this point is that there is virtually not much to hear. The report has been submitted. The internal government committees are ready to release a comment on the report in the very near future and until that happens, does anybody have any suggestions? I guess, if you want to, we can get a couple of members of the now-disbanded Black Task Force to come in and give us a history lesson, but since the report has
been submitted, is there any valid interest in doing that or should we wait for the committee that is now studying the report to render its recommendations?
MR. HENDSBEE: Well, Madam Chairman, since I was the person who put this on the list and everything else, I would recommend that we probably defer hearing from the Black Task Force until that interim report from the interdepartmental committee has been filed. Until that time, I wish to defer this until that report has been tabled. Then we can probably at that time have representatives from the interdepartmental committee as well as from the former Black Task Force to perhaps respond or give a reaction to whatever the departmental findings are. So I would suggest we defer this indefinitely until that report is ready for us to critique.
MADAM CHAIRMAN: Any other comment?
MR. MACEWAN: Mr. Hendsbee, you're not considering what was done with the assets and the liabilities of the Black United Front when you're raising that subject?
MR. HENDSBEE: No.
MR. MACEWAN: Because as far as I know, that matter was never really closed.
MR. HENDSBEE: If that's one of the elements that's in the report, I'm sure that we'll discuss it at that time.
MR. MACEWAN: All right. I can't pre-empt the report, but the last President of the Black United Front is a personal friend of mine since childhood and I know that he never got paid his mileage, among other things. I won't say more about it at this time.
MADAM CHAIRMAN: Thank you, Mr. MacEwan. So do we need a motion on that? Fine.
The other topic that I believe had been previously approved was - let me see your list - impact of changes on income assistance for single parents, persons with disabilities and mental health consumers. That also is an issue that keeps getting deferred. The dates keep getting pushed back. So in the interest of allowing Community Services to finalize how they're dealing with those groups of people, is it agreeable that we also allow the dust to settle on that issue until we have somebody to come in and talk to us about it?
MR. PYE: Madam Chairman, if you don't mind my saying, I think the Minister of Community Services has made an announcement whereby it won't even be finalized on January 1st now, but it is going to be extended further. I think that we need to have the organizations come forward anyway and I think that they need to tell us the present circumstances and the conditions that exist there presently so that at least we hear, or at least
get some information from them with respect to where the government is going because I don't know if the government knows where it's going.
I would think the government has introduced a program here, you know, and they've automatically assumed that they would be able to finalize all this particular issue around persons with disabilities and mental health consumers. What they found out is that on one-on-one it is one heck of a job and each individual's needs are particular to those individuals and significantly different, whereas I believe that they thought that they could put them in a box and just simply square the box up and ship it out and then it would be finalized as a neat package. That is not the case and the government knows that in another six months from January 1st, and further on, that that is not going to be the case. I think this is the kind of thing that is going to continue to be deferred until such time as it is out of our minds.
I don't think the government has really gotten a handle on what is going on here, Madam Chairman. Excuse me for saying that, but if they did they certainly wouldn't have shifted it from October 1st until January 1st, and now it is indefinite. The minister himself doesn't know when this is going to be finalized; he specifically made it clear that he is not aware. So I think what we need to do is we need to have representatives of these groups come forward to give us some indication of what they believe is happening now out there as a result.
MADAM CHAIRMAN: But going back to the item that was approved for discussion, which was the impact of changes, and until there are changes how can we discuss impact?
MR. PYE: Well there are some impacts of changes, I think, taking place now, gradually, with some individuals who are disabled particularly, and I will just mention one particular area where, in fact, those individuals who are on Canada Pension Disability, who in fact are income supplemented by the Department of Community Services, are disabled individuals who are now encouraged to go into small options homes or supervised apartments and so on, and low-income apartments. What happens is these individuals then have a reduced shelter component, so that therefore reduces and they are cut off from social assistance and therefore are no longer getting the benefits.
I want to cite to you a most recent case that came into my office without mentioning a name, where an individual has a very serious injury. The individual is partially blind; he runs into posts and so on. The Department of Community Services indicated to him that it would be better for him to go into a supervised apartment, so he went into a supervised apartment and the rent was lower. He was automatically cut off of social assistance and now doesn't get the benefits for a bus pass or anything and the individual is left alone on their own. There is an impact as a result of this perceived change; there are things going on out there that we are unaware of.
I think there are agencies and organizations out there who can tell us what is going on now with respect to this, even though there isn't a finalization of this program and even though there hasn't been a complete evaluation of each individual. There are things going on out there that we certainly are not aware of that we should be made aware of in this committee. I think it is important that this committee know that, what is going on.
MADAM CHAIRMAN: Okay, how about if I write to the Department of Community Services and cite specifically the group receiving Canada Pension Disability Benefits as an example and ask them if there are groups to date, such as this group, that they are in a position to discuss changes to benefits to and see what kind of response we get?
MR. PYE: Great. It might also be wise to ask the Department of Community Services, within the last year how many individuals were in receipt of income supplement over and above their Canada Pension income who are no longer in receipt of that. We would get a good picture then, wouldn't we?
MR. MACEWAN: You know, there are so many questions one could ask. I like being on this committee. I always ask to be put on this committee because I am interested in what is going on in this field of community service. It is a great learning experience. I learned a lot this morning that I obviously didn't know before with my family allowance orientation. But if we could find these people and bring them here to ask them and hear them, it would be much better than not meeting or meeting twice a year or something like that, if we had a nice program of regular activities.
MADAM CHAIRMAN: Absolutely, I agree with you. Fine, then I will write such a letter to the Department of Community Services and we will see what sort of response we get from them and we will go from there.
MS. MAUREEN MACDONALD: I would like to just add to that that it may make sense to invite representatives from the Disabled Persons Commission to come forward because this is the group that advises government with respect to programs for people with disabilities, and this is the group that is in direct contact with many of the consumer groups in the disability field and they are always on top of the various trends and how they impact people with disabilities.
MADAM CHAIRMAN: That would be a group in connection with that particular topic.
MS. MAUREEN MACDONALD: Yes.
MADAM CHAIRMAN: We will see what comes back in response from Community Services. We should be able to have that for our next meeting and then we will set up some sort of a program to go forward with this particular topic. We had no other topics approved
for discussion, so I am going to make a suggestion. Since I wasn't on this committee before and the list of topics, particularly from our Party's perspective, was a little slim, I came up with a few new ideas. I will throw some of those out and I would like to approve one or two of those, plus a topic from the other two caucuses, and I have suggestions.
Teen smoking. We have a new initiative or developing initiative, plus we have just heard from the Premier's Youth Task Force, that he appointed, on some of their recommendations. I would be very interested in getting Mr. Ungurain from the Department of Health and maybe one of the representatives of that teen youth group in to talk to us, since that is a very timely issue. (Interruptions)
Another group that I thought sounded very interesting, again youth-oriented. I read a report, or an abbreviation of a report somewhere, that was done by a youth group. I believe it must have been Youth in Care Network and the report was titled The System: It Doesn't Work For Us. I would assume it would be members of the youth group itself that I would be interested in hearing from. Do you think that sounds like an interesting topic?
SOME HON. MEMBERS: Yes.
MADAM CHAIRMAN: At the same time, I am interested in the NDP caucus' child care, particularly. They have made a number of changes, especially in the area of portable spaces. I would like to get some kind of an indication as to how well they think that is working and if it going to be expanded and what that would look like, and from the Liberal caucus, the Senior Citizens' Secretariat. So do those sound like topics that we would - and that puts four more things on the agenda, in addition to the two that we are trying to schedule around.
MR. HENDSBEE: Madam Chairman, I would just like to make a suggestion with what Maureen suggested earlier about the Disabled Persons Commission. Perhaps there might be another group out there, the Metro Resource Centre for Independent Living. I think they are affiliated with that organization, and I think they may want to be invited because I think they have some proposals that would be quite helpful to this committee to hear.
MADAM CHAIRMAN: Okay, we will take a look at that in connection with the same; it might make for a couple of back-to-back meetings.
MS. MAUREEN MACDONALD: Can I suggest that with the child care issue that we look at Child Care Connection. They are sort of an umbrella organization of child care providers and parents, and researchers I think, in the area of child care.
MADAM CHAIRMAN: Would some of those people be on the round table?
MS. MAUREEN MACDONALD: Yes.
MADAM CHAIRMAN: Okay, do we need a motion for . . .
SOME HON. MEMBERS: Agreed.
MADAM CHAIRMAN: Okay, good enough. The next meeting, I am hopeful we can get - a couple of these folks aren't too far away - I would like to suggest that we try to get somebody scheduled for November 29th.
MR. HENDSBEE: Don't we have November 22nd?
MADAM CHAIRMAN: Well, November 22nd I am out of town, and since I am suggesting some of these topics I would kind of like to be here for them. Where one of the next two presenters is going to be brand new to our list, giving an extra week to shore things up, I don't think is - okay, November 29th at 9:00 a.m.
Motion to adjourn.
MR. HENDSBEE: I so move.
MADAM CHAIRMAN: We are adjourned.
[The committee adjourned at 10:25 a.m.]