MADAM CHAIR: Let's get started. I will call the meeting to order and maybe Jerry Pye will join us eventually.
I had a call from Mora last week suggesting that we meet this morning to firm up the details around the public hearings with respect to social assistance reform. I think that the communications people had expressed some concern, as well as people in the Committees Office, that the time-frame that we were working with may be somewhat problematic for doing any publicity prior to going on the road. So we need to examine that today.
As well, I met with [Speaker] Ron Russell and you have a copy of the two letters that he subsequently sent with respect to budget for these public hearings. So we have been allocated $45,000. These are things we need to discuss. Mora.
MS. MORA STEVENS (Legislative Committee Coordinator): Thank you. What I did with a note on Maggie Marwah who will be here momentarily and Joey Gillis from Communications, is we looked at what money there was and what spaces would become available and for the dates that the committee wanted to travel. Maggie and Joey put together an estimate for the advertisement and the size and when it could go in the papers and Joey was calling the places to book them, the community halls and the fire halls and things like that. It still looks like the committee can travel on September 16th and go to Sydney.
The estimates page looks like this. It is the estimated budget for the ad. There is a second page that has what is the workers' compensation ad. The ad would be this size. They have changed some of the things. Maggie just did up a draft yesterday so you would know what it would look like. We would have to get the ads, everything finalized by Friday to be able to get these ads in the paper and the first date of the ad would be September 9th before we would travel on September 16th. That is for the Chronicle-Herald, the main paper. This outlines the dates and the papers that it would appear in and we have it down to $9,599. It is an estimate. It shouldn't be over $10,000 for that size ad which is down considerably from, I think we had the last set was about $29,000. So that is certainly down in price and we have cut out a few of the papers as well.
Joey put out today, just one of the top sheets and these are the tentative locations for the hearings which we are going to firm up by Friday if these are all right. It is just one sheet. It should be at the top of your piles and that is where the committee would be going if those places, and as you can see, there are some that are tentative and one is tentative depending on wheelchair accessibility. One is for access of Legislative Television. So those are the places we would be looking at going for the road show.
When it comes to budgeting, it is going to be a tight budget. As I said, I have the newspaper advertisements down as $10,000. Hooking onto the government website, and Maggie wants to go over that in a little while about what is actually on the website and the content of the website, is down to about $500. I have allocated $5,000 for the venues and the hotels and from what I understand from Joey this morning is we have anywhere from no money to about $100 for the community halls and things like that. So that is very good. The only things that will really cost us would be the Cambridge Suites and that is Sydney. So that is the only place and that will be because MLAs will also be staying in the hotel because of the scheduling.
Legislative Television is $1,000 a day. So that is $10,000 for 10 hearings. One of the things we wanted to talk about is the report writer and how the committee wanted to handle that. That is a big expense to the committee. Maggie has some suggestions on that, that when she arrives I am sure she will want to address, and the printing of the report, that is standard. That is printing and postage and that might be able to come down a little. The MLA and staff expenses, I have $5,000 and then a contingency fund of $2,000. We are hoping that that will have everything allocated properly but that is going to mean travelling back and forth with MLAs so it is hard to judge what the cost will be on that for road travel. In conversation with Dale Robbins of the Speaker's Office, we thought about $5,000 would cover that for the day. That is also your meal allocations of $55 a day. When you are on the road, you do get your full allocation for meals, as if you were in the House.
The e-mail address is yet to be determined. We will have it hooked up through the same system we have the WCB hooked up. This will be a little confusing for our office because we are going to be asking people to identify which committee they are calling in for
because the Workers' Compensation Committee is still going on and will continue to go on. So we are going to use the same toll-free number so there are no expenses incurred to any of the witnesses, the same staff. If you hear of a little confusion, that is what it is about. We will be asking what they are calling about. We are hoping this won't be too confusing for the people calling in. We will try to establish from the top which committee they are calling in about in reference to.
In the venues, the one thing that we definitely need is the wheelchair accessibility and, of course, bathroom facilities. We are getting coffee, tea and water, will be there for MLAs as well as the guests, and the parking. We are working all of this out. We discussed Legislative Counsel or legal counsel for the committee. That is one of the questions we have. With the $45,000 budget allocation, there is no money for legal consultants. We have one of the Legislative Counsels, Gordon Johnson, is travelling with the Workers' Compensation Committee and Gordon Hebb really can't afford to lose another member of staff at this period of time. A suggestion that I had, if the committee was wanting to take this under discussion, would be if he put together some type of letter for not only the witnesses, I mean we have a witness letter that sort of outlines their protections but if the committee wanted some legal advice as to what type of questions and areas they could discuss, but it all depends what your terms of reference are going to be. We might be able to have Gordon come in and discuss what things you would like but it is such a short time-frame and he was unavailable today. That is something you might want to think about.
MR. JAMES MUIR: I am sure that he said last time in the terms of reference that I just read here, this is the same as a committee of the House and it has the same protection of the House. Therefore, what is discussed in the committee is totally protected as long as it is in the hearings.
MS. STEVENS: It is totally protected. We have always expressed to witnesses that when they come before a committee, they have to realize it is public and whatever they do not want in public and do not want said in public, they should not say it before a committee because once those transcripts are available, they are mailed to everyone who requests them. They are on the Internet. That might be a consideration that maybe at the opening of every meeting, you might want to stress this as the chairperson, the only problem with some of the legalities and questions that people had on their testimony and things like that. So, hopefully, us reassuring the witnesses and being able to send something out to them and putting something together that will allay their fears and not make them stop to say, no, I am not coming before the committee. So it is just trying to liaise with the public and reassuring them at that point.
There is a question, and Maggie is not here yet, as to what the committee wants to have out there as their terms of reference, something to go in the ad. We need a focus and Maggie sort of looked through the transcripts and this was put together in conjunction with Darlene. It says Draft Release on the top and Terms of Reference. The committee might just
want to take a few minutes to read through this to see if this sort of puts together and gets the gist of what you would like out there. Once you go on the road you become one unit and it is very important that you have this focus because you will have people coming at you from all different directions. I am sure Hyland can state this and how important this is since he is on the road show with the Workers' Compensation Committee, that you need a very strong focus and work as a unit out on the road. So we wanted to get you to go over the terms of reference to see if this was all right with you.
MADAM CHAIR: Can I make a suggestion? You have three questions there in the ad and appearing on the website:
"What educational and skills upgrading . . .
What can we do to eliminate poverty . . .
What psychological and physical support . . .
What can we do to eliminate poverty among children, youth, and persons with disabilities?". I think single parents need to be included in that question as well because they are a significant group on social assistance and a growing group as well.
I am not sure that the next question, "What psychological and physical support should government provide or not provide?", really captures. I think it is too general and too broad a question. So maybe we can refine it in some way.
MS. STEVENS: As I said, Maggie wanted to be here for this and she just drew up from what she could see from the transcripts; as I said, this is just a draft. It is for a discussion point. Shall we deal with the single parents issue first and what type of question you would like to see within or just include them?
MADAM CHAIR: I would just include single parents as a very specific group: What can we do to eliminate poverty among children, youth, single parents and persons with disabilities?
MS. STEVENS: Okay, I will just put them in there.
MR. MUIR: Can we, Madam Chair, maybe go through those things one by one?
MADAM CHAIR: Sure. Would you like to start with the first paragraph maybe?
MR. MUIR: Yes. Well, perhaps half of that last sentence, it might be better to read something, hear your views on the province's social assistance system and how it can be improved rather than made to work better for all Nova Scotians.
MADAM CHAIR: Yes. Is that agreed, how it can be improved?
MS. STEVENS: We are actually looking at the advertisement.
MADAM CHAIR: It is on the second page. It has estimates on front. Yvonne.
MS. YVONNE ATWELL: Thank you, Madam Chair. The second part there that says what can we do to eliminate poverty, do we want to be specific? I mean seniors are poor. There are a lot of poor people. Do we want to be specific in terms of looking at just those groups?
MADAM CHAIR: The problem with including seniors is that seniors do not qualify for social assistance. It is a whole other area of social policy. It is Canada Pension. It is that kind of stuff, I mean depending on how you define seniors because seniors do not qualify for family benefits or municipal assistance.
MR. GORDON BALSER: Is that not part of the problem? That is the problem you hear continually. I am sorry, Madam Chair, but the problem is that the system does not address the needs of the elderly or the working poor, we will pick a group, and that is inherent in the difficulty in the system is that the system is not flexible enough, or whatever, so they can address those problems. So if the intent of that sentence is to define the group, then we have to make it as broad as possible.
MADAM CHAIR: But can I be clear about what we are doing on this committee? We are doing a review of the social assistance system in Nova Scotia as it currently exists. To examine poverty among seniors is entirely outside the mandate of social assistance legislation. There are jurisdictional questions around what level of government is responsible for what groups. Canada Pension and Old Age Security are federal responsibilities and federal pieces of legislation. The Social Assistance Act and the Family Benefits Act which are within our jurisdiction, are quite specific in terms of the categories of people that are eligible for those. They are for people in need who fall within certain categories. It is a category system although the department is hoping to go to a different system but we do not have the mandate to do anything about it. We do not have the jurisdiction provincially to deal with poverty among seniors.
MS. ATWELL: I just wanted to finish my point, thank you. When I talk about seniors, you have to be 65 before you can go on Old Age Pension. There is a group of people before you get there that are considered seniors who live on welfare. That was the point I was trying to make.
MADAM CHAIR: Like 50 and 55.
MS. ATWELL: Yes, and they are not disabled. They are just people who probably never worked and have always been on social assistance or had to stop for one reason or another. That was the point I was trying to make, can you fit them into this particular category or should we just leave it and if it comes up, it comes up?
MADAM CHAIR: Yes. What if we said what can we do to eliminate poverty among children, youth, single parents, persons with disabilities and others. Then that captures any other group that would qualify for family benefits or short-term assistance.
MR. MUIR: Madam Chair, I am a little concerned that if the ad goes out in the form that it appears there with those questions, people may see themselves limited to answering those things. I would prefer that one and two might be combined to say among the issues that people may wish to comment on are: How can educational skills upgrading programming, the delivery of these things, be improved for people? How do we address the problem of poverty in Nova Scotia? Are there particular groups for whom the system does not work? Are there gaps? However you wish to word it. What is the relationship between the federal and the provincial safety net? I guess we have all gotten questions about that with this Nova Scotia Child Benefit Program. These are examples of issues which people may wish to raise, they are not intended to limit. I am just trying to think of some of the things that are under the purview of the social assistance system.
MADAM CHAIR: Good morning, Maggie.
MS. MAGGIE MARWAH: Good morning, my apologies.
MADAM CHAIR: That is okay. Maggie, we are discussing the terms of reference really, what will appear in the advertisement, so that people will have some understanding of what it is that the committee is doing. We have been going through, primarily, these questions, education and skills, and what have you, and there have been some suggestions for change. I would say that we should eliminate that third question completely, it is too general. I think it is quite general.
MS. STEVENS: Would you like something that, as Mr. Muir was stating, among the issues that people may wish to comment on, and then forget about the questions, but just have sort of a list, because we have to do the space. That is one of the things, keeping the ad this size keeps it at that price. If we go any larger, we are looking at a lot more money, that increases by thousands.
MR. MUIR: There is another thing that we may wish to include, the relationship among the various branches of government that deal with these issues, health, community services, education.
MADAM CHAIR: The administration of . . .
MR. MUIR: Yes. Another one is the relationship between the departments and those service agencies which are in communities that are NGOs, like the women's centres, and things like that that do support, they will all be there, I expect.
MS. STEVENS: What we can do is if it doesn't all go in the ad, we will put something quite broad in the ad, as long as we have something we can discuss when people call, because they will call asking questions concerning this ad. We can go through the whole list and certainly reassure them that anything that they wish to speak on and sort of try to direct them as to what the committee wants to do. They find that very comforting. They will see the ad, they will see the number, and then they will call to ask the questions, so that doesn't all have to go in the ad, but certainly as long as we know what you would like them to hear, because you are the ones who will be getting the feedback on that.
MS. MARWAH: Who will be putting that together, where will that be coming from? I agree with Mora in the fact that the ad is not the place for some of what you have suggested in terms of structure, the NGOs and so forth, it is just too much to fit in an ad. Besides them having the information here, it probably should be on the website as well.
MR. MUIR: What we are going to do, Maggie, is eliminate a lot of what is there.
MS. MARWAH: I threw that out there simply to fill space, quite honestly. We just needed something to start with.
MADAM CHAIR: I think what has been suggested, and it seems like a good suggestion, is that we will get rid of those three questions, and have just bullets that say things like education and training, the administration of social assistance, gaps in services, whatever. We will have a number of issues that we know to be issues, and then highlight those as issues that people may want to comment on, but also indicate that they are not limited to those, that these are among, as you say, some of the many issues that people may want to speak to.
MR. MUIR: Maybe if I could rephrase what I had suggested for Paragraph 1, it might wish to read, Nova Scotia Standing Committee on Community Services is holding public hearings across Nova Scotia to gather your concerns, ideas and recommendations about how we can improve the province's social assistance system. That combines one and two.
MADAM CHAIR: And then among the issues that people . . .
MR. MUIR: And then the bullets.
MADAM CHAIR: Agreed? Okay.
MR. LAWRENCE MONTGOMERY: I guess it would be identifying the problems first.
MADAM CHAIR: Yvonne.
MS. ATWELL: In the ad, I see there are eight locations, there are supposed to be 10. (Interruption) They won't go in the ad?
MS. MARWAH: We just threw those in. Those locations have nothing to do with this actually.
MS. STEVENS: Those are just WCB.
MS. ATWELL: Okay.
MS. MARWAH: They will be fitted in somehow.
MR. BALSER: Just out of curiosity, with regard to the locations, are they reflective of geography or past practice? Do the locations for the hearings in any way correlate either with recommendations from Community Services around where problem areas may exist, or correlate to demands that are placed on the community service system, so that what we are doing is locating our meetings in areas where there are problems as opposed to holding a meeting because that is where we have always held them?
MADAM CHAIR: No. We are actually holding meetings where meetings have been held by standing committees in the past, and we have added two locations. The two locations we have added are in Black communities, in Preston - or accessible to Black communities - and Guysborough. Those are the changes that we have made from past practice. Outside of that, we are going to Sydney, Port Hawkesbury, obviously these are centres that are accessible, and have been used in the past as places where people will have access.
MR. MONTGOMERY: Geographically, it's a pretty good set-up, I think.
MR. BALSER: Would it be difficult to look at correlating meetings with locations that appear to have problems? It would seem to me that if you have a particular area where there seems to be concern around how effective the system has been, you can balance geography with that consideration as well, and perhaps look at moving locations. Because we have always done it, doesn't necessarily make it the best location. I don't want to make mountains out of molehills.
MADAM CHAIR: I am not sure we have, first of all, access to that information; part of our job is to gather the information. In terms of caseloads and where the problems are and all of that kind of stuff, I am not sure that we would know that.
MS. STEVENS: One of the things, if I may, is we try to hit the major centres because people usually have more access to those centres but when we receive a number of phone calls that say, could you come to this area, and you can look at the WCB, we have added another hearing in Sydney and we are also going to Amherst now, because of the concerns that were raised by people. We are always open to put forward to the committee, you have had 20 requests to go to this specific area, it might not have been a place that you thought would want to have a hearing or would have the need to have a hearing. So that always remains an open option for the committee.
Right now with scheduling, as I said at the beginning of the meeting, everything has to be determined by Friday to get these ads in the paper. It looks like a very balanced set of hearings, just from the experience I have had but we are always open to adding a place, if that need arises.
MADAM CHAIR: Right. Okay?
MR. MONTGOMERY: You have already indicated that we will be identifying the problems. Is there a need for identifying the solutions and asking each person or group that comes before this committee what the solutions are, as they see it with regard to social assistance. That opens it up pretty much so that there is freedom to speak on any given issue.
MADAM CHAIR: I think that in the preamble Jamie Muir was suggesting, and it is there in the draft, we are asking people about their concerns, their ideas, and their recommendations. People who are calling in, that will be reinforced that we want to know what your experience is but we want you to make suggestions for what you think should be done about it as well.
MR. MONTGOMERY: I just thought, even if it was repeated, identifying the problems, couple that with solutions would be more or less a conclusion, so that we can then gather the recommendations from those solutions.
MADAM CHAIR: That is right. Of course, when people actually come and make their presentations to the committee, we will all have an opportunity to ask them questions and that can be part of the process, asking people, what would you suggest, what are your recommendations?
MS. MARWAH: Excuse me, Madam Chair, my apologies, I have to leave. This air crash has sort of thrown off my schedule. My apologies. Joey will phone you . . .
MADAM CHAIR: Okay. I will talk to you later, Maggie. So is there anything else on that? Should we discuss the website?
MS. STEVENS: Yes. We should go over everything that you have before you here. I think near the bottom, you will see a number of pages with website at the top corner. Again, Maggie drew this up just from some discussions that we had had concerning going over the transcripts that we had available to us. With the changes in the ad, we can certainly add these changes into the website. Is there anything that you would like to see removed from this versus anything that you would like to see added, besides the changes that we discussed this morning?
MADAM CHAIR: Should it say something about people who require translation?
MR. PAUL MACEWAN: From what languages?
MADAM CHAIR: For people who are deaf, people who require signing. I think we have money in the contingency fund for this.
MS. STEVENS: We try to make it as accessible as possible. When people do call up, I know we have done it in Halifax, I think it was two people for one full evening, it was $150 per person, so it is not too expensive. We used the service that the House of Assembly uses. We can certainly ask them if they would like to identify any special needs.
MR. MUIR: Just a point, that first sentence there, "The House of Assembly's Standing Committee on Community Services is holding public hearings to consider Nova Scotians' views . . .", or to hear Nova Scotians' views.
MADAM CHAIR: Change consider to hear?
MR. MUIR: And it may, if it is going to be on the website at the end as Laurie Montgomery has suggested, i.e. what are some problems and what are some suggested solutions, just to paraphrase it.
MADAM CHAIR: Jerry.
MR. JERRY PYE: I do apologize, Madam Chair, for being late, I don't know how. I realize this meeting was 8:30 a.m., I thought it was 9:00 a.m., nonetheless I am here. The second question, on the website, unless you have made some changes that I am unaware of, it says, "What can we do to eliminate poverty among children, youth, and persons with disabilities?". I don't think that covers the entire realm, does it? Did we change the language?
MADAM CHAIR: We actually did change it.
MR. PYE: The language will be the same on the website as what will be in the advertisement?
MR. MUIR: There are going to be questions on the website, there aren't going to be questions in the advertisement, as I understand now.
MADAM CHAIR: As I understood what you said a moment ago, these questions will be eliminated and they will reflect what we are doing in the ad. It will be the same. Jerry, for your information, the suggestion has been made that we just have some bullets that say, among the issues that people may wish to comment on are, and then a number of issues, like education and training, the administration of social services, gaps in services, the relationship of the department to NGOs, or whatever. People will be told that these are just some of the issues, not all, that they may want to speak to.
MR. PYE: Okay. It is all-encompassing.
MADAM CHAIR: That is right.
MR. MACEWAN: At some point, are we going to discuss these estimates for various publications?
MADAM CHAIR: I thought we had done that.
MR. MACEWAN: I didn't hear it done.
MADAM CHAIR: Let's do it now then.
MR. MACEWAN: Two points, Madam Chair, I was wondering if we could have a translation of the first half, from the Chronicle/Mail Star (Full Buy) down to the NG Evening News (Display), that section. The second thing I would like to talk about is the weekly newspapers. I see that there are two weeklies in Bridgewater that are both getting $429.89 apiece. Maybe I should start a newspaper in Bridgewater and get my $429.89 too, because that seems like a little bit much for two in one community to both be getting that while I see other well-known weekly newspapers, such as the New Waterford Community Press, which are not on the list. I protest the discrimination against the New Waterford Community Press, I think it too should be on the list, and a number of other publications too. There is nothing here from Victoria County, there is nothing here from Richmond County; various areas in the province are ignored and yet Bridgewater gets two. I want to know why?
MS. STEVENS: If I may, they have a standard they go through for Communications Nova Scotia. The point on the Bridgewater Bulletin versus Progress Enterprise, that is a Lunenburg-Bridgewater area, whereas the Lighthouse also goes down to the South Shore and Yarmouth. It also certainly does cover the Bridgewater area, I just happen to know that. I am not sure how they determined which ones went off the list. We had to cut it from $30,000 down to $10,000.
MR. MACEWAN: I appreciate that, Mora. I am not trying to be difficult. It just seems that if you have two publications in one community both getting an ad, and then other large areas, say Victoria County, are completely ignored. I know you are just having one hearing in Sydney, I know you are having one in Port Hawkesbury too, it seems that Cape Breton is relatively under-represented here. That is the point.
MS. STEVENS: I think they thought the Cape Breton Post would certainly take care of that area but I can relay the concern back to Communications, saying, what are the problems with cutting out say the Lighthouse Log and putting in something that is in Sydney, a local?
MR. MACEWAN: That is one point. Can you translate the top section, what does all this mean? Is the total budget the $9,599.95 at the bottom? Does that reflect the $4,200 plus $2,700 plus $2,600?
MS. STEVENS: Yes.
MR. MACEWAN: All right. Well, could you explain what this means? You are running two inserts . . .
MS. STEVENS: Yes.
MR. MACEWAN: . . . not one, in say the Daily News?
MS. STEVENS: Yes, because those are the standard weekly papers and we find that most interest comes, most people see from the Chronicle-Herald and the Daily News.
MR. MACEWAN: Let's stick to the Daily News now. My supplementary question is if you have a budget here for one insert in the Daily News, and it is $481.07, and then you have another budget for two inserts at $962.14. Why are the $481 and the $962 both included in the grand totals? It seems to me like you are budgeting for triple rather than double insertions.
MS. STEVENS: No, it is because the one on November 1st is more expensive. I think that is because . . .
MR. MACEWAN: If you only ran one time in the Daily News, you pay $481. Now, you are going to go twice. So you are going up to $962. That is fine but why keep the $481 in column one?
MS. STEVENS: No, it is because the first insert on September 13th cost $481. The second insert, because it is the Sunday Daily News, is $962.14.
MR. MACEWAN: That heading there is misleading. It says two inserts. It should be a second insert?
MS. STEVENS: Second insert.
MR. MACEWAN: All right, now I am clear.
MR. MUIR: Madam Chair, do these prices include tax?
MS. STEVENS: Those are all-inclusive as far as I know and these are ones that Communications gives us. I just looked at the September 13th date and it is Sunday as well and that is $481. So I would have to check where it comes from. As I said, these are estimates that they put together through their services, Maggie tells them the situation and they run these off. So these come from them. I mean I can certainly check . . .
MR. MACEWAN: I accept your word that a Sunday Daily News insert may cost more than in the regular Daily News but if you look at the Chronicle-Herald, you have one insert at $1,098 and then two inserts, $1,759. The dates that are proposed there are not Sundays, I do not believe. It is a Wednesday. November 4th is a Wednesday and September 9th is a Wednesday.
MS. STEVENS: It is a Wednesday again, yes.
MR. MACEWAN: So it would seem to me if the Chronicle-Herald charges $1,759 for two inserts on two Wednesdays . . .
MADAM CHAIR: It is a second insert.
MR. MACEWAN: Well, the second insert is not going to cost you $700 more than the first insert. I think those numbers, I think we are being over-billed here.
MS. STEVENS: As I said, those are just standard numbers that come from Communications Nova Scotia and . . .
MR. MACEWAN: Maybe I am not expressing myself correctly. I think the $1,098.36 and the $481.07 should come out. I mean that is $1,500 that we are being told we are going to have to pay but I do not think we are going to have to pay it at all. To run two inserts in the Chronicle-Herald, it is going to cost you $1,759.41.
MR. MUIR: I think you are right.
MR. MACEWAN: If you run two inserts in the Daily News, $962.14.
MS. STEVENS: I would have to check with Communications as I said.
MR. PYE: Can I ask for clarification? The two inserts is a total cost. So it is actually reduced. If you give one insert, it is . . .
MR. MACEWAN: If you run the two inserts, Jerry, you take the cost of the one insert out of your estimates because it is an either/or. So you are freeing up $1,500 reported here as costs that we do not have to spend that we could apply to some of those weeklies that have been ignored like the New Waterford Community Press. We could do five weeklies if we took this $1,500 out of these estimates.
MS. STEVENS: Yes. Let me check with Communications and find out how they did it. As I said, these are standard figures from them and Maggie is not here to say.
MR. MACEWAN: There could be one in Victoria County.
MS. STEVENS: But you said Victoria-Richmond and New Waterford.
MR. MACEWAN: I rest my case.
MS. STEVENS: Let me find out from Maggie what they are.
MR. MUIR: I wanted to tell you, the other thing is if you add up the last column there, you will find that they are out a digit too.
MS. STEVENS: Oh, are they? I don't know.
MR. MACEWAN: They should go to the Nova Scotia Teachers College and learn mathematics. (Laughter)
MS. STEVENS: As I said, these were what they put together. So I will check into that and I will find out and I will set aside $10,000 and I said do it and see what the numbers come up with. So if we have got any money to play with, we will put other advertisements in other papers but I know it is very important we have two in the dailies. It is very important.
MR. MACEWAN: I agree.
MADAM CHAIR: Is there anything else we need to discuss? We have done the newspaper advertisements, the text and the costs of distribution are going to be re-examined. We have talked about the website text. Do we need to do anything else on website? The cost is estimated at $500 and that is fine.
MS. STEVENS: I think that is it.
MADAM CHAIR: Venues, we have the tentative meeting locations. I have a question about the Halifax meeting. We are meeting at the Community College, which is fine, but I am wondering if it would make a difference cost-wise if, when we are in Halifax, we actually met in the Legislature, in the Red Room, if we are tight for money, just in terms of the Legislative Television and what have you, would that make a difference?
MS. STEVENS: I will have to check with them. As I said, I think when I passed this over, and Joey did most of the booking, we just said since we are going to community halls stick with that . . .
MADAM CHAIR: Keep it consistent.
MS. STEVENS: . . . so it is a theme.
MADAM CHAIR: Yes.
MS. STEVENS: I know a lot of people find the Red Chamber very intimidating and I think that was one of the concerns that I had certainly outlaid if it is a matter of $100 but we would have to determine that by Friday. Would you prefer the Red Chamber?
MADAM CHAIR: I just raise it as a question for committee members maybe to comment on and we will decide because you do need to know.
MR. PYE: No, Madam Chair, I think it is quite appropriate. I think it is in keeping with the efficacies who presented themselves before a hearing and that they would prefer an informal setting wherever possible.
MADAM CHAIR: What are we going to do about report writer? Maggie has left.
MS. STEVENS: I have an idea about what she wanted to discuss. There is outlined here, it has at the top Terms of Reference, Report of Nova Scotia's Standing Committee on Community Services, and there is the introduction and statement of work. This is generally what is put together for anyone who applied for the writing of the report.
A few people in the standard network were contacted to see if they would be available or interested in writing a report. A possible solution, and Maggie came up with this, was that if depending on what type of report you want, are you looking for something that is very detailed? Are you looking for something like we had on National Unity which was an overall view, we have to know that for the statement of work, or is the committee willing to take it on and as she pointed out we have very experienced people in the committee itself. She has offered her services and the services of Communications Nova Scotia to go through and edit. That is what usually happens with a writer, but is a member of the committee willing to do
this because of the budget that we are looking at? It would be $7,500 that we could certainly save.
MR. MACEWAN: Maybe we could pay the chairman of the committee to do that job? It sounds like an attractive fee.
MS. STEVENS: It was a suggestion that was put in.
MR. MACEWAN: In all seriousness, I would see no harm in the Chair, herself, if she wishes to, to write up the report and subject to the approval of the committee. I have no difficulty with that at all. She may.
MR. MUIR: That is another story.
MS. STEVENS: It was just something that Maggie thought we should discuss.
MR. PYE: I guess, Madam Chair, I would want to know how much credence we are giving to this particular road show anyway. First of all, we have severely slashed the dollars and now if, in fact, they are just going to put some kind of a brief report together, a temporary report, or whatever, I am just wondering if it is all worth it if that is the case. I think there is a significant point here from my perspective anyway. We are going across Nova Scotia looking at welfare reform in the Province of Nova Scotia and yet we are hamstrung by what we can and what we cannot do simply because of the dollars that are available. In my opinion, I did not join government to do such things as that. I think quite too frequently we find government does things in a haphazard way and, therefore, the public are left with many years of trying to get the kind of results from government that they should be getting. It is my opinion that we should take a serious look at the direction at where this Community Services Committee is going and what we plan to do as an end result.
MR. MACEWAN: Madam Chair, may I speak. I think the question is who should write up the report of the committee. Is that not the question that you are seeking enlightenment on?
MADAM CHAIR: That is right.
MR. MACEWAN: Do we have to know that right now?
MS. STEVENS: Yes, because if you want to hire a writer, they need to travel with the committee. They need to hear everything that is being said.
MR. MACEWAN: All right, I will defer to that advice. I appreciate the point that is being made. All of our deliberations, of course, are transcribed. There will be a record to anyone here or elsewhere can check to see what was said, including the testimony phase.
My only concern is that I think it is very difficult to anticipate at this point what kind of a report the committee is going to bring out because that is up to the committee. We cannot decide it now that we are going to have 18 volumes or we are going to have 18 paragraphs. We do not know. We will decide that. We do not have any idea what kind of an impression is going to be made on us by the input that we will receive at these hearings or what our own independent evaluation may result in. Perhaps everybody sitting around this table may have a personal dissertation that they want to table and incorporate into the report. I do not know how we could possibly know this.
If we want to hire a writer to travel with us, well and fine, but it is not necessary in my view. It is not strictly necessary in order for this committee to ultimately produce a report of some substance and some worth. It might be desirable but it is not absolutely necessary.
MADAM CHAIR: Can I ask what the past practice has been with other committees with respect to writing reports and what have you? What is the practice?
MS. STEVENS: The last couple of road shows, as we call them, we have had the writers travel whether they are someone from Communications or an outside writer that has been hired, simply for the fact that in just reading the transcripts you really do not get the feel of the meetings and to ask someone to go in blind, we are not going to get them for $7,500. What that figure includes is a $5,000 honorarium for the actual report and then the rest is travel fees and things like that.
In my experience over the last couple of years if you want, and you are going to be so busy because if you look at the time, the House is back in session, if you want to have a view that is from the outside, someone coming in afresh that would write the report, it is best to have them with you because you just cannot get a feel from reading those transcripts. A number of committees have done that over the last few years. I would say from 1993 on, any of the large reports, you have somebody that sits in and actually will write it for you.
MR. MACEWAN: Mora, you have it here in the budget, $7,500 and there is nothing to stop, I would think, the Chair from engaging someone to carry out that function and to travel with the committee as a clerk, basically as a secretary perhaps, secretary to the committee, for the purposes of the writing of the report. So are we debating whether we ought or ought not to do this?
MS. STEVENS: We have the funds to do it. It is just if you wanted to take the option of not spending that $7,500 and having a committee member, or the committee as a whole, write the report.
MADAM CHAIR: Hyland Fraser.
MR. HYLAND FRASER: Thank you, Madam Chair. Just because I am involved in one that is preceding this one and still in progress and will be for the next couple of weeks, or three weeks or so, I do not think that anybody could get a feel for what is going on in the hearings unless you are with them. I cannot see you taking transcripts. I know we do not ask a lot of questions but the Workers' Compensation Act Select Committee, people who come forward are talking about their personal lives, and this committee I expect is not going to be any different. We all know when you set up a forum like this here, not everyone wants to come to talk. If you just stand around for a bit of time afterwards, all of us have people coming up and saying, look, I just can't get up there, but I just want to tell you my story. Part of our job, I think, is not just to sit there from 3:00 p.m. until 5:00 p.m. and then walk away. If you stay around a few minutes, people will come and talk to you.
Those things are not on record. You have no feel for what is going on in the committee, especially on personal items, where people will come and tell you. Even though, and as I mentioned before, the protection of the House and all that, people are really turning their lives public, and not everybody wants to do that if they are on community services or have problems with it. Some people, I think, because they feel beaten down in one way, shape or form, they feel that if they come public, there are going to be recriminations. If they don't like the social worker or they don't like the worker's adviser in WCB, that because they went public, it is going to make it worse for them.
I don't think we want that to happen. If people want to come up to us afterwards, and the writer travelling is going to get the same thing, they are going to have the opportunity to talk to people, because they want to hang around afterwards. When they make an official presentation, we give them a time limit, there may be other things they want to say off the record. I think you just don't get the feel for it, as if you do if you have somebody travelling.
MADAM CHAIR: Mr. Pye.
MR. PYE: I don't actually think there is a need for a motion, it is already factored into the cost. I would just simply say that this has been discussed, and we wish to continue to keep the report writer as a budget item.
MADAM CHAIR: Is that agreed?
MS. STEVENS: Usually what happens at this point is the committee will leave it in the hands of the Chair as well as myself and someone from Communications. Usually we go out and ask certain writers that we know of, and Maggie is very good in the field, and she has a supply, and then it is just discussed with the Chair, if that is all right with the committee. That makes it a lot simpler process.
MR. PYE: If I may say, I believe the final reporter document gets the blessing of this committee anyway, does it not?
MR. MACEWAN: Absolutely, line by line, word by word.
MADAM CHAIR: I can't wait.
MS. STEVENS: Again, in the terms of reference, that is the draft copy, Standing Committee on Community Services, is this all right? This is just something that was drawn up, it is a standard terms of reference. The only thing I can see that you might want to change is the first paragraph. This is more for the Internal Economy Board as well, just to give them an idea, they are asking, what are your terms of reference per se. This was a draft copy that was sent over to them to say, this is what we are looking at. We always like to give them something finalized.
MR. MUIR: I think the first two paragraphs need to be edited.
MS. STEVENS: I thought you might say that.
MR. PYE: I don't see anywhere in the second paragraph where it makes a reference, and you have made it all-encompassing again, but I don't see a reference to single persons on welfare.
MS. STEVENS: We will definitely add in all of the things that we discussed into these documents, so if we miss them going over, single parents, we will certainly have those there. I notice in this, again I didn't draft this up personally, but persons with disabilities, seniors and unemployed. From the discussions this morning, it looks like taking that seniors out, or . . .
MADAM CHAIR: I am not sure given what Yvonne Atwell's intervention was, that people who are 55 for example are often considered seniors.
MR. PYE: Looking at the draft terms of reference, the same thing applies in the first paragraph, it is what I have just previously stated, from the former terms of reference. I don't see a reference with respect to single persons, that can be male as well as female who are on social assistance.
MS. STEVENS: Single persons, also single parents, that we had discussed.
MR. PYE: Or single parents, right.
MR. MUIR: I think, the Standing Committee on Community Services will be holding public consultations to hear suggestions on social assistance reform and restructuring. The committee will be examining the concerns of all Nova Scotians, with regard to the efficiency
and effectiveness of the social assistance programs. It might be all aspects of the social services programs. I don't know if you want to get specific. If you get specific then, as Jerry Pye has pointed out, we are going to be omitting someone. You make reference to people who are covered by the current system or who ought to be covered.
MADAM CHAIR: And eliminate all of this, among children, youth, blah, blah. Covered. (Interruptions) Yes. I think that makes a lot of sense.
What about the other, the various points that are laid out below? Are there any changes that you would like to have made there or additions? These were developed in an attempt to reflect the discussion we had two meetings ago around the community advocates correspondence and what have you, so that we could be clear that the meetings were public meetings, that the media will be in attendance, that they are recorded for the purposes of Hansard, the privileges that members of the committee have are extended to presenters, et cetera.
MS. STEVENS: When the budget was approved, we put together this draft so that the Internal Economy Board knew that this was going to be a typical road show with all the rights and freedoms of any of the hearings. They were in total agreement with that. That is why the necessity of putting this together. Also, this does go out when people call and ask, what are the terms of reference for the committee. It is something we can send out to people, so they know that they have the protection of the House, and go over this with them. It is important that if there is anything you find missing, that we can add it in there.
MADAM CHAIR: Any changes? Any additions?
MR. PYE: I am wondering if we allocated any funds, I guess we did, under the contingency fund, for mail outs, signs and postage, and so on, for particularly interested groups that may not get the message by way of the media or by way of the newsprint media or the electronic media, but may want direct mail sent to them. Have we considered that cost at all?
MS. STEVENS: Usually any requests that come in for such things, I do have the mail out there for people. When they call, we will mail them as much information as we can. In the contingency fund, I have held a little money there for mailings. What other committees have done, such as unity, in the last . . .
MR. PYE: Did we place any money in that fund for people who want the discussion paper on the restructuring of welfare reform? If they wanted to pick up that copy, have that copy sent off to them before . . .
MS. STEVENS: Well, certainly we can mail that to them. That is no problem. Anything that they request, we use the internal systems that we have because for the reports in Community Services and things like that, there is a number to call to just say this is the address of a person who it needs to go to. So some of that will not even be taken up by the committee. There are internal systems that do take care of it plus there is my other budget within the office for requests such as that because all requests for reports that we receive we have money in our own budget as the committees' budget. So we would not have to take it out of necessarily this budget.
MR. PYE: Finally, people who are apprehensive about making a comment or statement with respect to repercussions will get a summation of what the freedom of speech entitles them to say and so on?
MS. STEVENS: Yes.
MR. PYE: Thank you.
MADAM CHAIR: Yvonne.
MS. ATWELL: I just wanted to go back to location. This is not a confirmed location yet, is it, East Preston Recreation Centre for Preston?
MS. STEVENS: Let's see, let me check. Yes, I do believe that is a location.
MS. ATWELL: I wanted to suggest a location that would be more inclusive of the three communities plus the surrounding areas which would be the Black Cultural Centre or Graham Creighton High School.
MS. STEVENS: The next thing, and we are getting very close to the end here, is the draft release. This would be a draft press release. Now, Maggie put this together and, as you said, standard procedure is making up quotes for the chair and then having them approve them, such as the draft release. So that is why that is in there but this is in conjunction with if the committee wishes to have a press conference on this issue.
The timing is short. The press conference, because of where the ads would be placed on September 9th, would have to be on Tuesday, September 8, 1998. So that is next Tuesday at 11:00 a.m. Does the committee want a press conference? Do they feel that the press release would be all-encompassing? The Workers' Compensation Board did a press release and then Communications Nova Scotia took care of having contacts for the chair and would set up interviews. That seemed to work very well for the Workers' Compensation Board. So you might not want a press conference. In a press conference what it would be, it would be all nine of you sitting in the lobby of Province House announcing this, but is it something that you want to do?
MADAM CHAIR: What do members of the committee want to do?
MR. MUIR: Madam Chair, I certainly think a release is very appropriate because it is a free means of publicity if nothing else and it will be picked up. A press conference, I don't know the usefulness of that particularly.
MS. STEVENS: This was just, if you want one, that is the date it would have to be. It is something we always put forward. It was not something they really thought in Communications that with the press release, they are finding that has been handling it but it is still an option that is open to the committee if they wish to take it.
MADAM CHAIR: I don't hear an overwhelming response to the need for a press conference so let's go with the release, is that agreed?
MS. ATWELL: Yes.
MS. STEVENS: And maybe if we could get you in touch, Ms. MacDonald, with Maggie just to make sure on quotes and things.
MADAM CHAIR: Yes.
MS. STEVENS: And if you would like to change them and get your schedules, so when this does go out, you will be available for interviews and things. That is all I had. Oh, one other thing, we need to choose a vice-chair in case for some reason Ms. MacDonald is unable to chair a meeting, there needs to be a vice-chair appointed for the committee.
MR. PYE: I would so move Jamie Muir.
MADAM CHAIR: Are there any other nominations? Okay, that is all.
Would all those in favour of the motion please say Aye. Contrary minded, Nay.
The motion is carried.
MR. MACEWAN: Is that it, the meeting is adjourned?
MADAM CHAIR: I think that is it. Are there any other matters?
MR. MUIR: Just, Madam Chair, the letter that did come back from the Speaker's Office, which you have there, which did indicate about the frame of reference of the committee that had been raised again last day. I guess that probably takes care of the question Mr. MacEwan raised.
MADAM CHAIR: Yes.
MR. MACEWAN: I personally do not feel that it does but I am not going to pursue the issue. I feel that the Rules of the House can only be amended by the House, not by the Internal Economy Board. I was chairman of that board for three and one-half years. I never dreamed to try to change the Rules of the House from the Internal Economy Board.
MR. MUIR: You didn't? Do you mean those things they said about you were not true?
MR. MACEWAN: I never tried to change the Rules of the House for the Internal Economy Board at all but I respect a fait accompli and I am not going to push the point.
MADAM CHAIR: I was not here at the last meeting. I am not sure if we have scheduled any other meetings or if we are just starting on the road and these are our next meetings but we have a bit of a problem with respect to the VLT study, the socio-economic study. The closing of proposals is September 11, 1998, and we need to set some time to review those proposals and make some decisions around that, the awarding the tenure.
We have that very tight six month time-frame that was given to us by the House. It seems pretty clear we are not going to meet that six month time-frame but nevertheless we need to deal with that. So before we leave I think we should talk about how we are going to handle reviewing those proposals.
MR. MACEWAN: Well, I will first of all raise the question, do you have the money to do anything on this? By the law passed by the House you do not. You had $5,000. Now, the Internal Economy Board, which is by the way Opposition-controlled, increased that to $45,000. I do not know what they are drawing that $45,000 on but that is what they have awarded you, and the Speaker in his letter of August 27th asks that any calls for proposals be submitted to the Internal Economy Board before any action is taken to sign contracts.
The Internal Economy Board is not a taxing body. It does not have the power to raise money by way of taxation. It can only pass its costs on to the Office of the Speaker's budget which is already given a ceiling by the Appropriations Act passed by the House. So, I don't know where the money is going to come from unless everybody here is prepared to give up 10 per cent of their salary or something to support these unfunded costs on the public Treasury but I would caution you that if you don't have the money, don't do it, because you will get into a lot of trouble.
MADAM CHAIR: Just let me remind you that the study was assigned to this committee by the House, unanimously.
MR. MACEWAN: But the funding was not.
MADAM CHAIR: Well, unofficially, after speaking with the Speaker, they do have a ballpark figure that they are looking at for this study. They are looking at something in the vicinity of $35,000 which may or may not do it. I told the Speaker when we met that we as a committee were reluctant to set a figure. We wanted to see what people, what researchers who have the skills and experience, would say that they required to do such a study and if there are people who can bring a study in around that figure, then, fine. If not, then we will have to go back to the House and lay out the situation there and take our direction at that time but we still need to proceed with this process.
The time-frame has been set and all I am looking for at this stage is an opportunity for the committee to review the proposals and how we could do that. I am not sure what the practice is again. Would it be the practice to make copies of all of the proposals and circulate them with the members? Maybe the first thing we should do is after the date is passed, then a package will be made for each member. Perhaps while we are on the road, we can arrive at a time when we can meet to actually priorize, having read the proposals? Does that sound like a reasonable way?
MR. PYE: I am just wondering when we will get the time to read the proposals, because I am sure there will be at least five to seven proposals. Those will be in-depth proposals, I am sure. If we are on a road show, and then we are expected to do this at the same time as well, it is certainly going to impede how we perform. There is no question. It is difficult.
MADAM CHAIR: Then that is what we will do. We will set a meeting to review after everybody has the packages, and has a chance to read them. Meeting adjourned.
[The committee adjourned at 9:52 a.m.]