MADAM CHAIR: Good evening and welcome. This is the third evening for the Standing Committee on Community Services to be talking with people from the Halifax area. My name is Maureen MacDonald and I am the chairperson of the committee. I am the MLA for Halifax Needham. The process we use is one where we have an agenda of people who have indicated that they would like to talk to us. In some cases, people have a formal, written presentation that they feel comfortable reading from, or just summarizing, hitting the highlights. There is also an opportunity for people who are not on the list, at the end of the evening, to talk to us as well. You can indicate to Kim - the woman in the front row with the purple jacket on - if you would like to do that. There is still plenty of time to get on the list.
We don't have all of the members of the standing committee here tonight because people have had other things that they have had to attend. We do have one or two MLAs who will be joining us as the evening unfolds. We will get started first with introductions from members of the committee.
[The committee members introduced themselves.]
MADAM CHAIR: Thank you. I should say before we have our first presentation that there is tea and coffee over here and there is a tray that the community college has provided, free of charge to the taxpayer, so please feel free to help yourself. We should pass on our thanks. For those of us who have not had supper, it is great.
Our first presentation is from the Nova Scotia Rehabilitation Centre, Brian Tapper.
MR. BRIAN TAPPER: Madam Chair, committee members, I would like to thank you for this opportunity. When discussion of welfare reform first began and then the announcement of your committee travelling around the province, it struck me as being the first time in about 30 years that social welfare issues really took on a prominent position in our society. I think that is a positive thing. The review offers us an opportunity to evaluate the system we have in place and to really plan for the future.
The thing that brings me here tonight is that I work as a vocational counsellor at the Nova Scotia Rehabilitation Centre, which is one site of the Queen Elizabeth II Health Sciences Centre. I work as one of three vocational counsellors whose responsibility is to work with persons with either physical or cognitive disabilities, who are referred to us through the health care system. We work with individuals who have spinal cord injuries, traumatic brain injuries, strokes, progressive neurological disorders. We get referrals from rheumatology, cardiology, chronic pain and orthopaedics, to just give you a sample of the population that we would work with. Some of our clients have never been attached to the workforce, some have never been considered candidates for the workforce, and others are disconnected from the workforce because of their illness, whether it be a progressive disorder or because of a trauma.
Rather than reading my report, I am going to make comments. Based on the people that we see, I would say that people with disabilities are seeking a more complete participation in our economic and social components that make up our society. People with disabilities would be able to participate more fully in society and the economy if barriers to training and employment were removed. When I talk about barriers, I am talking about economic barriers, I am talking about systemic barriers, I am talking about limited resources, and I am talking about barriers that arise out of ill-informed attitudes. People would be able to participate more fully if they had adequate access to disability-related supports and if services were put in place.
In the letter which makes up part of the document around welfare reform, the minister said that we have made considerable progress in strengthening Nova Scotia's social assistance system. Perhaps we have, but it is not always evident at the level of the person who is in receipt of benefits. We need a system in place that is fair and promotes equity. We need rules that are not so rigid that they fail to recognize individual need, or take individual needs into consideration. We need a system within welfare that improves the coordination between income support programs and departments providing education and health services because when you are dealing with issues around disability, it is very difficult to put up dividing lines around where one responsibility ends and another begins. We need a system in place that provides for the basic needs of individuals and provides for disability-related needs.
In the document I gave you, I used two brief case examples. One young man who lives just outside of the city, not quite within HRM, and he was referred to me with a chronic back condition which prevents him from doing physical labour. When the physician referred him
to me, we were asked to determine if it was viable for this man to work and, if so, what supports did he need. It became really evident that in order to be prepared for a light or sedentary occupation, he needed more education. We made application to a community college and he was accepted. We made application to a program that I will discuss a little later, called Employability Assistance for Persons with Disabilities, and he was accepted.
The problem was, when we made application in 1997, the demand for services was outstripping the resources that were available and, by August 1997, several hundred persons with disabilities were on waiting lists and unable to access training. We had to turn to other sources, and we turned to a federal program you may have heard of called the Opportunity Fund. It is $30 million a year over three years. It started in 1997. They funded his cost of tuition, and they funded his cost of books, but to travel from his home to the community college, we required additional money, so we made another request for $100 a month to cover travel. As an individual on income assistance, living at home, he was receiving $94 a month. The entire $100 that was allocated for his travel was clawed back; it was no longer available to him. We advocated and, over time, we were successful in recovering the $100.
The first thing I would say is that shouldn't have to happen. If we want to promote people into becoming independent and self-reliant, we can't, through our system, be putting up barriers that could stop somebody in their tracks. Transportation is a real need if you are not on a bus line and you don't want to be dependent on an Access-A-Bus system that is not very reliable.
The second person is a person in a similar situation who lived just outside of the HRM, did academic upgrading, again through the Opportunity Fund, and was accepted into community college. This time we were successful in receiving sponsorship through the EAPD program, but he had to relocate - this is a person earning $94 a month on social assistance - he was required to travel to a new community to find a place to live, have the landlord sign a form, travel to his home community, have his social assistance worker approve it, have a cheque issued, and then go back to this community.
There is an expense associated with that and, yes, people have to be responsible for their own education but, again, when you are on income assistance, there are limits. When this person settled in his new community on income assistance, he was given $144 a month for food and miscellaneous and $350 for rent. You do the math: $144 works out to $4.65 a day for food. I wouldn't want to try it.
Secondly, as a sponsored person through EAPD, he was eligible for a training allowance of $275. Regulations around income assistance say that all of that money has to be clawed back and applied to costs of living. The intent of that money is to cover the cost of being in school, whether it be footwear, lab coats, whatever. When you take that money away, you have effectively severed a link with the community college or wherever the person happens to be training. For four months now, we have been arguing that this client ought to
be able to keep at least part of that to cover costs such as travel and footwear. To date, we have been unsuccessful. As I sit here tonight talking to you, I have been told that he ought to be applying for student aid.
What I would say and I am saying to the welfare system is that you can't have it both ways. You can't sponsor somebody through a program that is prepared to cover the entire cost of training and, at the same time, expect them to double-dip by applying for student aid. There is something fundamentally wrong. If you want to take back all the costs associated with training, then the system has to have an obligation to cover the special needs like footwear. A person shouldn't have to choose between wearing shoes or eating.
There are opportunities for local level assistance workers to provide those benefits. The big question for me is if we are looking for equality across the welfare system, why are the rules applied differently if you live in Halifax or Windsor or Lunenburg? There is something fundamentally wrong, and I think we really have to look at that.
If we want people with disabilities to access employment and training, they need access to career counselling and career development and they need access to specialized supports. We need to address barriers that act as disincentives. I think the few things that I just laid out to you are classic examples of a few disincentives that lay in the path of people with disabilities trying to re-enter the workforce.
In my report to you, there are other issues that are outlined there. I think I listed 12 in no particular order. For some people, the barrier is being able to get access to self-managed attendant care, and for other people, it is being able to get access to technology. We don't really have a technology loans bank in this province and, for some people, it is the thing that is going to make or break it.
If we are going to promote access which, really, many of those documents spoke to, we require collaboration between government departments, we require collaboration with business, we require collaboration with service providers, and we need the client to be an active partner in this.
At the end of my document, I make the comment that I am referring people, as an example, to EAPD, who are on Canada Pension or maybe on appeal with Canada Pension. Many of the costs get downloaded to the province because of lengthy appeals. I would like to see a process put in place that if the province were to pay for people's training, and a client were successful in his or her appeal with, let's say, WCB, or Canada Pension through its rehab programs has money available, why can't part of the cost to the province be offset by funds coming out of other government departments? Canada Pension is just one example. It is developing a rehabilitation program for people they think can get back to work within 18 months. If we are providing training to somebody on Canada Pension and there is $8,000
sitting somewhere else, then we ought to be able to reimburse the province so that money can be directed to another person in need.
Employers. We have to find a way of making employers a partner in this system. Many employers react negatively to disabled people who are coming through their doors, who, for example, communicate in something other than a conventional way, who maybe need some kind of board or some kind of device to key in what they have to communicate. That is not a reflection of their ability to do the job, but employers do not know how to react to that. Employers have difficulty dealing with people who might look different because of their physical disability. It may make them uncomfortable. They have difficulties being in the presence of a wheelchair because they don't know how to relate to the person sitting in front of them. People who are in positions to hire have to deal with their discomfort of learning to relate to people with disabilities.
Our discomfort or our ignorance should not be a reason for denying people access to work. We need ways of creating employment opportunities and training partnerships. There are some businesses that are coming on the market, are being promoted here, like call centres for an a example, and I have clients working in them. I will say here and now that I do not want all disabled persons working in call centres, but it is an example of an environment that could be modified for people. If you can modify a call centre, you can modify almost any other environment, whether you are using voice-access technology or putting in customized desks to allow people to work or modifying duties. I think it goes without saying, but I will say it anyway: throughout the planning process, from beginning to end, the client has to be an integral part of it. If they are not, it is not going to work.
It is really hard to get good, reliable statistics - and I'm going to give you many - but for a lot of statistics you have to look back to the 1991 census because the 1996 census did not collect a lot. Based on 1991 statistics, persons with disabilities having university education was about 4.9 per cent of the population, that was down from 5.4 per cent in 1986 - we are going the wrong way - that compares to 13.5 per cent for the able-bodied population, by the way. There is a significant gap there that we have to find a way of spanning. A 20.8 per cent of persons with disabilities reported having a certificate or a diploma; that compares to 25 per cent of persons without disabilities.
There are just a couple of more stats, because I think it really makes a potent case for how we have to think about this. About 45 percent of new jobs created in the decade of the 1990s require more than 16 years of education and training. As of 1993, less than half of the adults between the ages of 25 and 44 had university or college education. Between 1990 and 1993, jobs held by university graduates increased by 17 per cent; jobs held by those who had not completed high school decreased by the same amount. More than one-third of Canadian adults lack the reading skills needed to cope with everyday reading demands and more than
one-third have trouble with basic math skills. If you look at those issues and the issues related to them, this can dramatically affect people's willingness to learn, their ability to be trained, and can limit how well they adapt to change.
One of the issues in the discussion paper was should people have access to education. I think the answer for me is clearly yes. The question is how we facilitate it. It has to happen. A key role of our social welfare and our employment support system must be to assist clients to prepare for and manage change, but education or training alone are not the answers. I noticed in the discussion paper people said they were trained, but they were still not employed. The people who come in front of me normally have more issues to deal with than education and, unless you deal with all of those issues, your chances of being successful are severely limited. We have to have a system that allows people to take risks.
Any income support program must allow individuals to take risks, but also provide a safety net to ensure rapid reinstatement of benefits in cases where employment or even entrepreneurial activities are unsuccessful. If your ability to eat and pay your rent is contingent on having social assistance, if we cannot find a way to fast-track it, I guess we have to ask ourselves if we would take a risk if we were in that situation. I would say that if you look at the Canada Pension system at the national level, there was a time when if you volunteered, simply volunteered, you could lose your benefit; if you went to school, you would lose your benefit. They have been progressive enough to make those kinds of changes. That was one of the most difficult systems, I think, in our nation to change, and if they can start to be progressive, then I would hope that we could do that at a provincial level.
Access to disability-related supports is essential for full participation and for the well-being of citizens with disabilities. These supports are not a way of giving people extra benefits, they are a way of levelling the playing field so people's abilities can be applied. I think what I am about to say applies not only to people with disabilities, it applies to anybody on social assistance who is going to be looking for a job, or any unemployed person. People need access to what I would call an information clearing house to facilitate access to program information. If I want to upgrade my reading, where do I go? If I want to get career counselling, where do I go? If you do not know how to navigate your way through the system, the resources are not easy to find.
While perhaps this does not apply directly to welfare reform, I think it is intimately related. In the last few years we have seen a dramatic decrease in services that offer basic adult education. At one time I could refer a client to our Nova Scotia Community College system for anybody who had an educational level between Grades 0 and 9. Now, if you want to go to community college and do upgrading, you had better be at a Grade 9 or higher or you are not getting in. The difficulty was that nobody picked up the slack in the community. One of the few avenues my clients have available to them is tutoring. Tutoring is a good process, it is important to have, but it is slow, and people do not want to put their lives on hold any longer than they absolutely have to. Beyond the information clearing house, people need
access to support and advocacy services. I previously said technical aids, such as a loan bank, continued development of self-managed care, continued development of transportation.
Upon working with a client last week, on Friday I asked him to call Access-A-Bus so that we could go to an appointment on Monday. We couldn't get an appointment. We couldn't go to the appointment. You don't really appreciate how much that impacts you as an individual until you are there. As I just said, people need access to training and educational support.
Within our welfare reform system, if we are going to encourage people to go towards employment or training, when we talk about work, it is really important that we recognize work as a continuum. Some people will be able to work full-time, some people may only be able to work 20 hours, and some people may be able to work less. It is all valuable work, and if that is what the person can do, then we have to find a way of encouraging them to do that.
I just want to make a few comments about the EAPD program, and then I will wrap up my comments. Employability Assistance for Persons with Disabilities was announced in its current format in April 1998. It replaces the Vocational Rehabilitation for Disabled Persons program which found its beginnings in 1961. It is a cost-shared program, so for every 50 cents the province spends, the federal government matches it. The dollars we are spending today are frozen at 1994 levels. The contract is signed through to the year 2003; $168 million federally and $15 million in this province. Approximately $10 million going toward addictions.
By August 1998, we had over 200 people on waiting lists for training that couldn't get funding. That is two consecutive years. Never happened prior to that, never happened. If you want to look at trends, $15 million doesn't go as far as it used to, it is frozen at 1994 levels. The demand for the service is going to go up. We either are going to be prepared for longer waiting lists, or provide service to fewer people.
EAPD is one of those programs that involves staffing from community services, but also a lot of staff commitment from the Department of Education. EAPD is a wonderful program, if it weren't for EAPD, most of my clients wouldn't have gone to school or gone to university and wouldn't be in the workforce today. It provides access to funding for skills, for experience and for disability-related supports. If I have a client who is in community college, and he or she needs access to voice access technology, that is where I am going. To level the playing field is expensive technology, but if we get that person into the workforce, it is not going to take many years of being a taxpayer for us to have recovered that cost. I think if you look at it, the expense will justify the outcome.
I guess in conclusion, if we were to look at where we are going with welfare reform, our welfare reform system needs to be able to provide its clients with access to information. It needs to provide access to high-quality employment services. It needs to provide access to training and education. It needs to provide access to training without penalties.
If a person goes to school, something else shouldn't be taken away from them. It requires cooperation between governments. If somebody goes to work and, for example, needs to retain their prescription card, wouldn't it be better for them to retain their prescription card than not to work?
When we talk about partnering, there are a couple of things that have to be said. When you look at the EAPD program, the EAPD program had 14 counsellors spread across the province. Now, we are moving away from specialized counsellors who are knowledgeable about issues of disability, and we are moving to generic counsellors. So the role of a vocational counsellor is going to be picked up by somebody who already has other job responsibilities such as income assistance. Who is going to get service and who is not? Or it is going to be picked up by an employment resource centre, where people may not have the specialized training or knowledge required to help people with disabilities get connected to the workforce. We have to look at that.
We also have to look at how we can partner with community-based programs. We don't always have to create a new bureaucracy. We have work activities in different parts of the province. We have programs that are providing job coaching and job shadowing. We need to find a way of being able to pull those into community services and partner it with them. They are providing a service to many people that perhaps people at Community Services don't know how to provide service to.
So, in conclusion, in the system that is being developed, the policy framework must be one in which a decent standard of living means having sufficient resources to exercise control over decision-making in one's daily life. It means one that embodies empowerment of people and the right to dignity and to choice. Thank you.
MADAM CHAIR: Thank you, Brian. Questions or comments?
MR. JAMES MUIR: With regard to the EAPD program, you indicated there were a couple of hundred on the waiting list, and I guess we have probably all run into people who are on that waiting list. The criteria for the EAPD, are they sufficiently defined, or are they so fuzzy as to create some problem?
MR. TAPPER: I will speak from my experience. The people that come to us are clearly disabled. When you look at the criteria of people having a health issue that clearly interferes with their employability, I would say they are well-defined. Where it gets fuzzy, and this is an area that needs a lot of discussion, and the community frankly hasn't had this discussion, is in the area of things like addictions. People will often have significant skills, but they have a clear difficulty. Perhaps those kinds of issues, rather than being a Department of
Community Service's issue, it could be a health issue. I am not sure. I would say that if you talked to my co-workers, they would say that they are really well-defined.
MADAM CHAIR: Before we have our next question, I would like to mention that we have been joined by more people, and introduce them. Beside Mr. Muir, to my right, is Murray Scott, Cumberland South, and Howard Epstein, MLA for Halifax Chebucto, and Paul MacEwan, Cape Breton Nova.
MR. JERRY PYE: Madam Chair, first of all I want to thank you, Brian, for the presentation tonight. I think it is one of the most enlightening programs around the voc rehab and the EAPD program that has been presented to us thus far. You are absolutely right, there was a Ministerial Statement with the announcement of this, both jointly by the federal and provincial government each putting $7.5 million for a total of $15 million into this program. In my opinion, this program simply changed names. I don't know how true that is, and maybe you can enlighten me as to if in fact it did just change names. I did not see anything significant in the statement from the minister with respect to comprehensive educational programs in that new EAPD program.
If in fact I am wrong, could you tell me how this program differs any from the voc rehab other than it has a time limit of five years placed on it.
MR. TAPPER: I think people in the community would say that it has just got a new coat of paint on it. It is really the same program, I get access to the same services. Mind you, there is a phase in period where the services that EAPD will provide are going to be reassessed. We are offering some things in Nova Scotia that other provinces aren't offering. If you looked across the country, we are watching disabled people go after student loans so that they can go back to school. Now we can get into that discussion. Frankly, I don't have a problem with the system paying the cost of tuition because I don't think we need to put that burden on people who are already struggling in a system.
MR. PYE: Another comment, Madam Chair, and I know that you have alluded to it, if I can quote you, you stated that it was a good move and this is with respect to Canada Pension and its educational program. I want to tell you, and I think it happened about two or two and one-half years ago when Canada Pension brought this educational retraining program into scheme but if you will note, that many people are now under review because people first get processed through Canada Pension as severe and prolonged disabled individuals or individuals suffering a serious disease. As a result of that, Canada Pension has review officers out there reviewing individuals and saying no, you no longer fit that requirement that you are now able to be re-educated and so on and therefore call them in.
Since you made the comment, I am wondering if you can elaborate on the goodness of this because I see it as a ploy to take people out who legitimately - and I have had experience in that as well, deservedly and rightfully, had been diagnosed by their physicians and their specialists as being persons with prolonged and serious disabilities.
MR. TAPPER: I would have to say, to date, none of my clients have suffered from this. None. I have clients who have gone through community college and completed academic upgrading and pre-technology and two years of training and are now employed and if it weren't for that change, then they wouldn't be working today. Being able to go to school, at least without an obvious penalty up front, and know that their pension was protected, helped to reduce the risk for them. I would probably be sitting in front of Canada Pension, Mr. Pye, doing exactly what I am doing now if they did it to one of my clients and I thought it was unjust.
MR. PYE: Excuse me, that is based on the premise that they refused the program.
MR. TAPPER: You see the challenge you face with Canada Pension is right now, through its national rehab program, is looking for people who can get back to work in 18 months. Frankly, I am not working with any of those people. I think when you have had people disconnected from the workforce for long periods of time, 18 months is not a sufficient or adequate time-frame in which to help people develop the skills that they need and in order to get the supports in place that they need to be successful. Being the eternal optimist that I am, I would think that Canada Pension is going to have to review that. I would tell you now that I developed return to school plans for Canada Pension recipients and they have been turned down, even though the person wants to take the risk. The only way that Canada Pension would look at those people would be if the person contacted Ottawa and decided to go through a medical reassessment. My clients haven't done that.
MR. PYE: Thank you very much.
MADAM CHAIR: Are there any further questions or comments for Mr. Tapper.
Mr. [Charles] MacDonald.
MR. CHARLES MACDONALD: Maybe just one, Brian, before you leave. I guess I see it as a process that we are going through, change or into change. I think the change, overall, has been better in many ways. There are still many obstacles with a ways to go yet, and with 200 people on the sidelines waiting to get into the program, it indicates there is indeed a far greater need for the financial side. If I understand you right, we need the commitment from the various departments of government to try and bring all the forces together to find solutions that each department may hold and that it doesn't all rest with one.
MR. TAPPER: I would agree with you and that is certainly what I believe. I believe we have to bring Community Services and Education and Health together. They all have different resources and different services that they can provide and perhaps if it falls on the shoulders of one department, the process of change is going to be all too slow. How do you get people to look at this process in a new or non-traditional way. That is the challenge we face and the people who are pursuing welfare reform. It is something they just have to take a look at or the process is not going to be complete.
MADAM CHAIR: Thank you very much.
MR. TAPPER: Thank you for your time.
MADAM CHAIR: Our next presentation is from Feminists for Equitable and Just Public Policy, Stephanie Hunter, Judy Hughes and Georgia MacNeil.
MS. JUDY HUGHES: Good evening. My name is Judy Hughes and I am now the chair of the committee that is called Feminists for Fair and Equitable Public Policy. Before I begin with the outline of our organization and a bit of a historical perspective, I would like to thank each of the panel members for this gruelling road show. I know that you have been all over the province. I have met you in Pictou County and I applaud you for your commitment and energy toward this most worthy cause and I beg you to take what you are hearing from the entire province, from hundreds and hundreds of presentations, to each of your caucuses and departments. To take this seriously and build the infrastructure that is absolutely crucial to develop the programs that are necessary within Nova Scotia.
Feminists for Equitable and Just Public Policy is an alliance of autonomous, equality seeking community-based women's organizations working in the public policy arena for the betterment of all women in Nova Scotia. We have a long and interesting history that actually starts in 1995. We have gone through many name changes but you will notice that the faces are the same. We have all hung in there since 1995 and I am sure it goes beyond 1995. I mean I have been around and lots like me have been around since 1973, harping on some of the same instruments as well as playing some of the same tunes. I was telling a woman tonight that we went to Ottawa in 1969 and I don't know if it is tenacity or foolishness why we are still around but if things don't change, then I guess we still have to keep playing the drum.
So in 1995, there were three reports produced in the province. The Department of Justice produced the Homicide Study. The Nova Scotia Women in the Law produced From Rhetoric to Reality and there was another study called the Tracking System of the Social Justice System. A lot of women were very concerned about the lack of equatability and response within the justice system so women started rallying around these three studies and met in Veith House. Women Leading Action Violence Against Women did a response and presented that response in 1996 to the Advisory Council on the Status of Women.
They were also very concerned at that point about the appointment process. That changed. Other women were also concerned about having a consultation model within the province that would be similar to the national justice consultation process that happens with feminists groups throughout the country once a year and we wanted a similar one to happen in the province. So there were many concerns that were coming forward. We were also concerned about the changes in Bill C-12 with regard to education and training. We were concerned about the social reform system in 1996. Education and training, once again, was on the agenda. Continued funding to women's community-based agencies and the women's reference groups, YWCA and other women's groups got together and started to organize a conference in 1996 that indeed led to a conference called Standing Up and Speaking Out, Women Reshaping the Public Policy Agenda and that, once again, was dealing with the three streams, social welfare reform, education and training and ongoing funding to women's community-based agencies.
That conference led to the development of a policy brief and a follow-up committee that was called the Standing Up & Speaking Out Follow Up Committee. It is important for people to understand that Feminists For Equitable And Just Public Policy did not begin last month. This has been a struggle that we have been living with, some of us dying with and struggling with forever to get on the public policy agenda so we will not have to chase bad public policy that does not work when it hits the ground. I know that Maureen and Howard and Jerry and Jamie, everybody around the table, you are now in positions of power, positions where developing public policy from the voices of what you are hearing throughout the province, is absolutely essential. I have been tracing bad public policy in this province since 1969, and to tell you the truth, I have had it. I am sick and tired of being sick and tired of lousy public policy that we pay for and we don't get, it is not effective and it is not efficient and the people who need it the most do not get it. I am not the only one in the room who feels this way, but I implore you that public policy is where rubber hits the road and people get the services that they need. If we don't have the policy to frame the allocation of monies, to frame the services, then you are wasting your time and everyone who has come before you in this province during this process is wasting their time too. So I don't want anybody to waste any more time.
This coalition has been building and building since 1995 and the Standing Up & Speaking Out Follow-Up Committee did present a policy brief in those three areas that I mentioned before, to the Premier and to six ministers within the Liberal Government and they were very receptive at that point. Then we wanted to expand the coalition and bring the historical perspective that was necessary to mobilize everyone and to reaffirm people's commitment to feminist public policy.
With that, I am going to ask people to hold their questions until Georgia MacNeil and Stephanie Hunter present, and then we will entertain questions, given the areas that we are going to speak to. So thank you very much and I would like to turn the mike over to Georgia MacNeil.
MS. GEORGIA MACNEIL: Thanks, Judy.
MS. HUGHES: You are welcome.
MS. MACNEIL: Thanks very much, again, for being here. Judy and Brian, before, have certainly illustrated the importance of public consultation and stakeholder input into the development of effective policies and I just want to reiterate that point. I think this is the beginning of a model that could become very effective for Nova Scotia.
I am going to identify some of the issues that our group had as we looked through the discussion paper on rebuilding the system. The brief that we have submitted has a detailed discussion and analysis around each of the goals within the discussion paper but we won't be talking about those tonight. We will give you a break on that.
Briefly, I just want to hit on four issues and then give you a framework for a bill of rights. The first issue we had, and many people have also discovered the same issue in their consultations around the social service restructuring initiative is, although upfront the discussion paper identifies that basic needs have to be met before people can be expected to move towards independence, the discussion paper leaves it at that. It doesn't make any indications that this is a problem or that the current system does not meet basic needs. Nor is there any mention of what they plan to do to assure that that foundation is laid for social assistance recipients. That is the biggest issue and I think that it needs to be addressed before any of the other issues can be effectively addressed at all.
So adequate levels of assistance really have to be in place and the concept of adequacy has to be expanded to include things like telephones, transportation, support for children to become engaged in extracurricular activities and educational activities in addition to housing, utilities, clothing, things like that. I don't think we are going to be able to break the cycle of poverty unless we can provide people with a solid foundation to work from. I think the whole government and the whole policy forum really has to change its focus and start looking at investing in people and developing a social infrastructure which will foster that. That, of course, speaks to the fact that Community Services can't do this alone. There certainly has to be cross-sectoral planning and cooperation in order to get this done, as the first presenter this evening also identified.
The second major issue we have with the discussion paper and with the policy direction so far is the clawback of the federal tax benefit. First of all, we don't agree that this is a good thing. If women and children were given the tax monies and given the choice to do with it as they wished, certainly this would go a long way to alleviating child poverty and to strengthening families. The fact that the government has taken a very patriarchal approach to this and is clawing back those funds in order to institute programs of their choice for high risk children, I don't think we will go anywhere toward meeting their needs. I could get into a lot of detail on that but I do think that people need to choose how to allocate their own resources. That is one of the things that needs to be done. People need to become independent. They don't need to become dependent on the government to decide what is best for them and, as the first presenter tonight said, people need to make their own mistakes. So that is another issue that needs to be considered. We don't agree that the clawback is a good thing and we have not heard anything about recipients being consulted about uses of those funds. It seems to be that the government is quite adamant that they are not going to reconsider the clawback, but we can still hope that if we keep pushing, maybe that will happen. Given that the government seems to be committed to developing programs, I think it is very important that potential recipients are consulted. Then I think that programs that are delivered for children should be universally available and not targeted to the poor or the welfare recipient poor because that marginalizes children and will not help them grow up to be contributing and effective members of society.
The third issue we see as problematic is family responsibility and support. We see this as a very serious mistake in direction. We think research shows that society's past attempts to intercede and dictate how families will relate and/or share responsibilities has not been successful and there are some terrible costs that have come out of that. We are particularly fearful for teenage mothers, disabled youth and adults, and single adult children and elders losing their rights and independence. In the long term, if this direction is followed, the consequences will not be good for these people. In many cases, families are not able to provide healthy support and our society has to be able to provide the disenfranchised and the most vulnerable members of our community the protection that they need. By forcing a young woman who is pregnant to be supported by her family, if it is a dysfunctional family, then her child growing up is going to be at risk and she as well. We think that the social assistance system has some responsibility to support people and not force them back into a family situation.
The fourth issue is education, retraining and moving people toward work. If independence and self-reliance are to become viable social objectives for Nova Scotians, education and retraining programs and financial supports to enable participation have to be available and accessible. There has to be sustainable employment at the other end as well and then this speaks to the support of community economic development which has to be in place, parallel to sending people back to retraining. By sustainable employment we mean stable jobs, full time, that pay in the neighbourhood of $12 an hour and up. We did a little bit of research that indicates this is a ballpark figure to be adequate to meet basic needs, although some
people might question that $12 an hour is enough. However, it is a minimum level that is needed for people to sustain their families.
People cannot be forced into low-paying jobs and then expected to provide adequate care for themselves and their families. Most of the jobs that are available at present to people just entering the workforce, who do not have higher education, are minimum wage jobs that are temporary, part time, seasonal and will not help people to take care of themselves or their families.
The other issue is that parental rights have to be protected, and parenting as work, has to be valued. Certainly for our children's well being and also for the well being of our communities. By forcing a single mother into a work situation that will not adequately meet the needs of herself and her family, is putting her children at risk and there is something wrong with the value system in place there. I don't know how, but I think somehow the economy and social objectives have to be restructured so that parenting is seen as the valuable activity that it really is.
I think the other thing we need to do is establish a collaborative decision making process with all the stakeholders, with clients, with employers, with community based organizations, educational institutions and governments. I think Stephanie will speak to that in greater detail later on. I think those are the four major issues. The last thing I want to close with is something we have just come across that has been around for a long time, but we thought that it really underscores our values and I would like to just read out the headings to A Social Assistance Bill of Rights. Then I will pass this off to the committee so you can have copies of it.
I think any legislation that is developed should incorporate a bill of rights for recipients, such as the right to a universal and equitable social security system, the right to an adequate income, the right to freedom from enforced poverty, the right to a secure income, the right to refuse employment or training for a valid reason, the right to be treated with dignity and respect, the right to a just and speedy appeal process.
I will not take it any further. I will leave this for you to inspect. I would like to pass it off now to Stephanie.
MS. STEPHANIE HUNTER: I also want to thank everyone for the opportunity to be here this evening. I think it is essential and I am to talk a bit about our vision. Interestingly enough, this is a bit of an image that goes with our vision, since what we are mainly seeing and want to see more of, is government and communities working together. This process itself is a start on that. The handout we passed you regarding our vision has a picture, a figure, or a schematic, an illustration, that I have included which I hope will facilitate the process as I am explaining what we see our vision as.
I would like to start with a quote that I read a few weeks ago by Albert Einstein that just seems so apropos. He said that you cannot fix today's problems with the same thinking that created them. I would hope to emphasize that in our vision, as well. We are looking for new ways, new ways of doing things for our complex problems. Although some of the problems have been around for a long time, they are more complex and we do need to look at new solutions.
First of all, I would like to say that in our vision what we hope to see are strong government and community leadership. We believe that by working together and by client and community involvement, we can best reach solutions that will work for everyone. We believe that our health and social well being is shaped, basically, by the kind of society we have, by the nature of the supports we provide and the type of community support networks available to children, youth and adults in our community. We therefore believe that social policy and financial policy have to be looked at as interrelated. There has been a lot of discussion lately on community economic development, on community capacity building. We sometimes have a tendency to look at economics and social as separate from social development and they are interrelated. The holistic approach to a community has to take in all aspects and sectors of the community. In the framework that we envision, then social policy and financial policy are looked at as interrelated and working together.
We then see the social policy framework, and I describe it as a general because this is just a start on what we hope would happen and it would develop from there. Obviously, it would develop through collaboration. We certainly do not have the answers on our own. The social policy framework would involve community-based organizations and agencies, local health boards, school boards, parent associations, if that is appropriate. All relative provincial departments would be involved in this framework, depending on the issues which are involved. For example, you may have Housing, Municipal Affairs, Education and Culture, Justice, Labour, and Finance, if they are relative to the issues and the initiatives being looked at. Also, relative municipal departments, perhaps, and relative federal departments so that they are working. We would look at recipients and consumers, family representation essential to the social policy framework. We realize that what we are asking is a change, in the sense that one has had a tendency in the past to have governments working independently, the departments more like a silo effect. We believe that to really deal with these issues we have to start looking at the cross-departmental, the horizontal model. We have to look at reaching out to all sectors of our communities and that the only way we can truly share and utilize resources effectively without the duplication to meet the client needs is by the different departments and the different sectors working together.
Research has shown that our problems are linked to a faltering economy. There has been a tendency in the country to blame it on social programs and it has to be seen clear that in some cases our deficit has been reduced on the backs of those that can least afford it. So it is time to look at social reform not as a consumer of finance but as an investment, an
investment in our people, an investment in our communities, and an investment in the social infrastructure that will let us strengthen.
We feel there has to be a shift in the social policy framework so that we are looking at forward, future-orientated programs, that we are strategically thinking. Sometimes you hear a lot about strategic planning but strategic planning, if we are not thinking strategically, really will not exist. So I think that takes some change and a shift in attitudes as well. We believe that only by investing now can we actually protect, nurture and sustain individuals and our communities. We believe that the only way social policy reform is going to work is if it is client focused, if it is family centred, if it is horizontal and cross-departmental, and if it is multi-sectorial. We see a social policy framework that isn't unlike this in which you sit down with the stakeholders and work towards solutions that work.
For an example, if we took something like children's growth and development programs, you would have to involve in a framework like this, education, health, social services, housing, recreation, environment, and then incorporate schools, families and community networks. Those would all be involved actually to reach solutions that would work.
It has been at times, as mentioned earlier, it seems like we are chasing after things and we are repeating and we are back doing the same things, but I think this evening and I think a discussion paper going out in responses from the community gives hope. So I think tonight we are here with a spirit that says let's collaborate, let's make some changes, let's make this work and, hopefully, more of this will happen in the future.
We believe that to be equitable and fair our policy and reform must acknowledge women's multiple roles, must look at the gaps and barriers that are needed to be addressed, the varying needs of women and their families. Often women are sort of looked at as a homogenous group. We are far from that. There are different realities and different cultures and we have to take that into consideration as well. The only way that we are going to get long-term client-based solutions are if the clients are involved and if the communities are involved.
So if we start to see a community economic development and capacity building as taking into account both our social and our economic well-being and how closely they are related. So in our framework we hope this would happen. We also believe that by having a framework of this nature that then we decide as a society, we establish our clear objectives, what type of society do we want to have. Once the objectives are established, then you can have programs flowing from the objectives but if we don't first answer the question, what type of a society do we want, where are our core values, where are our beliefs, then we are not going to be able to work together.
We also believe that in this framework there must be accountability and I will use the term social accountability, and by that I mean that one accepts the assumption that all social policy is really about is meeting social needs and, therefore, you would measure and look at all policy, based on the objectives you set in formulating the society you want. It would be both the foundation and the actual criteria for evaluating your social policy.
We are asking that the movement in social assistance restructuring initiative that has been ongoing, cease until this process and the value of this process is heard and until a full public discussion is recognized and a collaborative dialogue and process is established. Now, one can't say exactly what kind of a social strategic plan will come out of the social policy framework but I think one can say that throughout history it has not been unusual that team and consensus and collaboration is an effective tool in communities. I think Nova Scotia has a history, if you look at the Antigonish movement and some of the other things, we have had a history to show how this really will work. So let's not forget our roots and what we are effective at and that we can use that greatly today.
In closing, I would just like to point out, along with the vision we have included at the end of our presentation a series of questions for response from the Department of Community Services which you have also received. I am not going to go over them individually. You have the list there but I would like to point out that of the 16 questions, four specifically refer to adequate assistance and are asking questions about that, eight are about client and community input because we feel that is a major emphasis if we are going to have a social policy framework, again as mentioned by the first presenter as well, and I am sure throughout the province we do have to have the input. Then we have one also directly about parenting rights. We are concerned that parenting rights not be sacrificed for fiscal restraint. Two others are dealing with our vision and questions about a social policy framework.
So I would mention just a couple of them. We have asked specifically what are the mechanisms to ensure that the direct experience of consumers are incorporated, and the active members of community agencies are establishing social policy with program initiatives. So we are asking that those questions be answered - where is the involvement of the community in these developments?
We are also asking specifically if social determinants of health will be incorporated into this reform process by whom and how. We are also asking if steps are being taken at this present time to develop collaborative relationships and what are those steps? When will they be initiated, and who will be evaluating and how will accountability be measured? Those are the issues we have asked. We have also asked specific questions about clarification around things like what is meant by a range of healthy child development initiatives. What does that mean? Who decides what it means and those sorts of questions. Basically, that is all I have to say and just that I hope there are more chances and that we see collaboration happening on a major scale very soon.
MADAM CHAIR: Thank you.
MS. HUGHES: Just a couple of comments in closing, I would like to thank Georgia and Stephanie and also emphasize a couple of points before we turn over to anybody that has questions. We do need to emphasize respectful and new ways of working together to solve our complex social and economic problems. We need to seek financial support to work collaboratively with governments and to develop gender-based analysis guidelines for policy development and program initiatives.
We also need to seek the standing committee's support in establishing a social policy development framework, incorporating client-focused family-centred approaches and encompassing all sectors of the community and all relative government departments. I would like to close in reiterating what Stephanie said, we can't fix today's problems with the same thinking that created them. Thank you very much for your time. (Applause)
MADAM CHAIR: Thank you very much. Questions or comments for the presenters? Mr. Pye.
MR. PYE: Madam Chair, my question is a question that has been troubling me since I have been a member of the standing committee and touring the province. It is the question of how you get everyone involved. Now, you said all stakeholders should be involved in a comprehensive policy that will shift a direction and restructuring of social services or welfare reform. We are now at our 12th meeting. We know how many people are, in fact, in receipt of family benefits and/or income assistance throughout the Province of Nova Scotia. We do know that very few of those individuals who, in fact, have a direct reason to be here and very few have showed up. I guess my question is, and each of you can answer it, that you are actively involved in the community through many organizations and I know Women's Centres Connect and so on. You see the crisis situation that has developed in the years out there. How do you bring these real people to a standing committee and make them feel comfortable that their issues and their concerns are going to be addressed so that we can fully understand the kind of problem that they really truly do have, without coming through or being vented through another avenue?
MS. HUGHES: I know as far as our committee is concerned, the three of us and the history of our organization, or our present organization, includes hundreds of women across the province, so we are not speaking as Stephanie, Judy and Georgia. We are speaking for hundreds and hundreds of women across the province.
MR. PYE: Excuse me, Judy, I know you are, but my question was how do you get the real people who are, and I know there was a letter sent out with their benefits cheques telling them that welfare reform and restructuring was, in fact, being considered by the Department of Community Services and that if they wished to respond, they could respond. I know the number of people that you deal with, but my concern is that they are not here at
the standing committee, the real people, and not that you don't represent those individuals, my concern is . . .
MS. HUGHES: I would suggest . . .
AUDIENCE MEMBER: I am one of those individuals. I don't have the money to come here. I don't have the money for transportation. I didn't have the money for food to eat before I came here. I didn't have the money to write the paper. I didn't have the money to go to Veith House to get the discussion paper and I didn't have the money to buy the paper and the pen to write the answer to the discussion paper. So, therefore, I went home saying I hope they are doing okay.
AUDIENCE MEMBER: These meetings are not well advertised.
AUDIENCE MEMBER: I can't afford to buy a newspaper.
AUDIENCE MEMBER: They are not in the newspaper.
MR. PYE: I think I spurred something.
MS. HUNTER: I would like to say one thing. For example, I went to the South Shore for a meeting with Poverty Coalition there, myself, and I went to the Pictou area and met with recipients of social assistance. One of the things that came out, and I will share this because this is a factor, is many of these women said they were comfortable to come to the women's centre and share what they thought and have us take it. Not all of them felt comfortable coming here.
So I think that some of the responsibility lays in setting something up and finding out what will make people more comfortable, I agree. I think that is part of the responsibility. I think that it is looking at how do we get those voices more involved. I don't have all the answers but I think working together we can maybe come up with them and create a comfortable level, Jerry, that will let people come.
MADAM CHAIR: Mr. Epstein.
MR. HOWARD EPSTEIN: A couple of points; one is I don't think Jerry Pye's comment was meant as an attack on anybody.
MR. PYE: No.
MR. EPSTEIN: I think he was, in fact, looking for suggestions as to how to widen the consultation process. It wasn't meant to blame anybody at all but as he correctly observed, I guess, it did spark an active response. Maybe my question will spark an active response as well.
Here is the problem I have and I am also looking for some help and maybe I will take the unusual step of both posing the question and then telling you what I expect the answers are going to be. If I get the answers wrong, you tell me. I am looking at your paper on Page 16 and here is what it says. One of your main issues is that there should be adequate social assistance to meet the real needs of recipients.
My function in the Legislature is to be the Finance Critic. So I look at this and I say to myself, however much I agree with you and I agree with you completely that this should occur, I look at it and I begin to think about the cost implications and the financial implications for the province. So the question I have is, how much does it cost and what do we do about that?
Now, hear what I think your answers are. I think there are three answers and tell me if I get it wrong or if there is something else. One is, I guess the first answer might be you don't know. You might not have done the actual calculation but it is possible to calculate if the people perhaps have ideas in their heads as to what is the appropriate level and so a calculation could be done. I don't know if anyone has done it. I have seen some papers that might suggest numbers but I don't know if a current number exists. So that's the first part.
The second was, it doesn't matter what it costs because it represents our values as a society and if this is what we as a society intend to do, it is a priority and it is my problem to find the money, it doesn't matter. So that might be the second answer and the third answer might be that, again, no matter what it costs, it is cheaper than any other alternative because it is already costing us a huge amount in society not to provide adequate supports for people who really need them. That is my understanding of the problem that I am facing. Are there other answers that I am not aware of, or do you have a problem with any of those answers that I suggested?
MS. HUNTER: No. I think you have covered all the bases there.
MR. EPSTEIN: Okay. So, it is my problem to find the money. Thank you.
MS. HUNTER: I would probably add only one thing, in the sense that I think if we can pull several departments together and look at resources, sometimes being shared, we might be able to use what we have more wisely, more strategically.
MS. HUGHES: I also think that we do have the money in this province. We allocate it ineffectively. We do defer taxes for big business, we do a lot of things in the province that we feel are not investing in our future. They are investing in corporate big pictures as opposed to the investment in people that we need to make, to make this a really have province.
MR. EPSTEIN: I think that is a very good point, and there was a fascinating article, at the first it was supposed to be a series, in Time Magazine, I think, November 9th, that looks at the system throughout the United States of incentives to business and essentially making the point that many of them are wasted incentives. Anyway, thank you.
MADAM CHAIR: Are there any other comments or questions for the presenters?
MR. MUIR: I just have one. You had tossed out, Georgia, the $12 per hour minimum wage, and I think you indicated that wasn't hard and fast.
MS. MACNEIL: No, it was a bit of a thumbnail research, sitting down and figuring out how much you needed to earn to actually pay the rent and keep the car running and get the kids to school, and . . .
MR. MUIR: I asked this someplace before with one group, are you suggesting a guaranteed annual income?
MS. MACNEIL: Personally, I would support a guaranteed annual income. We haven't discussed that as a group though, so I can't go there.
MS. HUNTER: I would like to ask just one thing perhaps. There was an interesting article in May and June in Harvard Business Review, and the title of the article and a couple of the points were about managing government and governing management. It is an interesting article. I think it is worth reading. One of the myths that it talks about is the fact that government is not all bad and business is not all good. Sometimes we forget that business can learn from government. I want government to be more than say, I am not just a customer, I am not just a client, I might be the customer at Canadian Tire, but I expect more from government than what a customer expects. I think sometimes we underestimate and realize that government has a true public purpose and that business can learn from it.
MADAM CHAIR: Thank you. Our next presentation is from Veith House, Nancy Anderson.
MS. NANCY ANDERSON: Madam Chair, members of the committee, I am Nancy Anderson, Director of Veith House. Veith House is a multi-service non-profit agency located in the north end of Halifax since 1972. Our mission is to support and encourage the personal growth, independence and self-empowerment of mainly low-income individuals and families in the Halifax Regional Municipality.
We offer a pre-school, an in-home parenting program, a supervised access program for non-custodial parents for visitation with their children, a men's intervention program for men who are abusive to their partners, counselling, advocacy and trusteeing of clients' accounts. We serve over 1,000 clients in the course of the year.
Veith House is yet another community-based agency that spends more time than it ought in coping with the fallout of the demise of the Canada Assistance Plan in 1995. Specifically the drawing up of federal dollars and the downloading of social spending onto the province and municipalities has meant increased requests for services, uncertainty of funding and a deepening sense of hopelessness for our clientele as resources dry up. At the same time, there has been a rise in the rhetoric of what I call poor-bashing on the one hand and volunteerism on the other, by volunteerism I mean volunteers will do it all. I am sure you have heard this. I have noticed, for example, that since the mid-1970's, whenever there is a downturn in the economy, there is increased interest on the part of governments in catching "welfare frauds". Resources which are desperately needed elsewhere are allocated to this effort, always with the same finding, 3 per cent to 5 per cent of the caseload commits fraud. I doubt other sectors of society would fare as well under this kind of scrutiny. In terms of Mr. Epstein's question, this is one clear area where an allocation of money is maddening to say the least.
Given what we have seen in regard to the inequalities of a two-tiered social assistance delivery system, we were hopeful when, in 1996, the Department of Community Services stated its intention to reform and restructure the social services delivery system. We saw this as an opportunity to make positive and progressive change and believed that those on social assistance and the organizations who advocate on their behalf had something to offer to the process. I am sorry to say that our experience has been that of a lack of consultation, poor process and a long delay in the release of the social assistance restructuring initiative discussion paper. On a more positive note, low-income individuals and groups and community-based organizations involved in the delivery of social services in the metro area formed the Community Advocates Network and have used the intervening two years to collectively develop policy in regard to social assistance reform. Veith House is a member of the Community Advocates Network and endorses the resulting position paper and it is attached to the presentation that you have. I would like to go over it briefly, because I think that the network should be proud of what they have developed here.
MADAM CHAIR: Could I stop you just for a moment there? The Community Advocates Network was here on Tuesday night and presented that paper.
MS. ANDERSON: All right. I won't go through that.
The voice of those living in poverty needs to be the most clearly heard in this process. I appreciate your question, Mr. Pye, in that regard. It is a question I struggle with as well. This is what Veith House hears from its clients on social assistance on a consistent basis. Most, regardless of age or gender, report that they do not receive enough money to meet their nutritional needs. Parents are going without so that their children's needs are met. Bear in mind that the food allocation part of the assistance allocation is the only flexible area. This often means that the money is spent on some other basic need and the parent goes without food. Single people on assistance cannot find safe, liveable accommodations on $225 a month and will take some of the food allocation so they can pay for reasonably safe accommodation.
Most say that medical, dental and basic personal needs are not adequately met. Training programs are either non-existent or inadequate and certainly there is no continuum of service delivery in this regard. Most cannot afford a telephone or transportation and, therefore, find it impossible to get in touch with their assistance worker. Many are depressed and feel hopeless. Overwhelmingly, people want to work, support themselves and their families and to be seen as contributing members of the community.
I think that this hearing has provided an opportunity for the community to speak frankly about its concerns and frustrations in regard to social services delivery and also to offer insights, suggestions and recommendations in regard to a consistent, more equitable, responsive and complete social assistance delivery system. We at Veith House feel that this is probably the major piece of social policy in the last 20 years. I know that you are taking these consultations very seriously and we certainly wish you well in terms of your deliberations.
In conclusion, there has to be an honest dialogue with those directly affected by social assistance delivery and the organizations who support them if welfare reform is going to work. This simply reiterates what you have heard from the previous two groups who have presented. I am sure you have heard it across the province.
Veith House welcomes the opportunity to present these concerns to the Standing Committee on Community Services. Thank you.
MADAM CHAIR: Thank you. Mr. Pye.
MR. PYE: Madam Chair, it is going back to when I first spoke with the group, the Feminists for Equitable and Just Public Policy. The question that I posed to those individuals simply wasn't because I didn't believe that they were delivering a sincere message to this standing committee, it was because I represent an area in the metropolitan area that has more than its share of individuals who are social service recipients, who are persons with disabilities and individuals who find themselves in a disadvantaged position. The reason I asked that is because I wanted to hear if, in fact, you people were getting the same kind of message from those individuals that I had.
Most of them asked, what was the sense of coming? They would never be heard, simply because over the years it has been entrenched in them that government comes, they do these reports, they do these consultations, they seek information, they never do anything, it sits on a shelf and away it goes. A number of them have also brought to my attention that they fear repercussions. It is unfortunate that in Canada and Nova Scotia in this day and age that people are fearful of that, but that is a reality folks, and that is what I thought that maybe I would hear from some of you, that very reality that people have told me in my community. As a matter of fact, individuals who want to volunteer but can't, and do those kind of things say that they are fearful of that very thing as well.
The picture becomes loud and clear as to why their presence is not here. My reason for asking that, once again, without sounding redundant was to see if that same message was coming through you people, who deal with these individuals as well.
MS. ANDERSON: Yes, certainly. We hear consistently those two refrains, repercussions, and we have done this before at great personal cost. I would agree.
MADAM CHAIR: Mr. Muir.
MR. MUIR: Veith House, where do you get your funding? Do you get a grant from community services or are you in the fund-raising . . .
MS. ANDERSON: We have a variety of funding sources, Community Services, the Metro United Way, the Halifax Children's Foundation, which owns the building that houses us. We raise some monies through program revenues, but one of our principles of operation is that all programs are accessible, so we have to be careful with that one. We fund-raise, we accept donations. It is a mixed bag.
MR. MUIR: One other quick question, Madam Chair. Most of your clients are female?
MS. ANDERSON: I would say about 75 per cent.
MR. MUIR: Thank you.
MADAM CHAIR: Are there any other questions or comments?
MR. CHARLES MACDONALD: Just a comment. Veith House is really one of the oldest institutions, I shouldn't say institutions, founded on support. That was the idea behind it when it was originally built, was it not?
MS. ANDERSON: Yes, I believe so. The building used to be the Protestant Children's Orphanage until the late 1960's.
MR. CHARLES MACDONALD: Yes. But when it was originally built, I think it was built for the ladies and the history of it was in support for young women, I believe, or in that area. That is going back.
MS. ANDERSON: I am not sure of that. I think that after the orphanage, it became Veith House, a community centre.
MR. CHARLES MACDONALD: It has quite a history behind it, I believe.
MADAM CHAIR: I think it was the orphanage after the Halifax Explosion, was it not?
MS. ANDERSON: Yes.
MR. CHARLES MACDONALD: But the lady that originally founded Veith House, it was based on support. To me it was one of the original support groups in Halifax.
MS. ANDERSON: That is possible.
MADAM CHAIR: Are there any further questions or comments? Thank you, Nancy. Our next presenter is Danielle Faureaux.
MS. DANIELLE FAVREAU: I want to thank you for giving me this opportunity to be here tonight. Having children should not be a poverty sentence for anyone in any circumstance in Canada. Let me tell you, it does not matter which language you speak, the most important thing is what you think. For the sake of respect and clarity of presentation, and since it was possible to have someone to translate my text, I have with me Mr. Larry Steele, professor at Mount Saint Vincent University.
Bon soir. Mon nom est Danielle Favreau et je vous présente ce soir un exposé, à titre personnelle, qui se veut un appel à la solidarité nationale.
[Good evening. My name is Danielle Favreau. I am here tonight to present a personal appeal for national solidarity.]
MME FAVREAU: Quand ont songe que plus de 20 pour-cent des enfants canadiens vivent dans des familles considérer comme pauvre, ou à la limite de la pauvreté, il me semble qu'il est temps où jamais de redonner à la famille canadienne une place dans notre société. Il faut encouragé complètement celles est ceux qui ont le désire de s'assurer une avenir à notre pays.
[When you consider that more than 20 per cent of Canadian children live in families that are on or below the poverty line, it seems to me it is high time we make Canadian families full members of our society. We need to support the individuals who envision a brighter future for our country.]
MME FAVREAU: Les enfants, que beaucoup n'ose plus faire, sont la base de la société et, pourtant, être parent éducateur est un travail si peut reconnu, si peut valoriser. Dans un monde où travailler parfois a toute valeur, il faut redonner plus que de l'espoir à ceux qui ont un but dans la vie, à ceux qui s'en cherche un.
[Children are the foundation of society - although many people no longer dare to have them - yet the job of being a parent educator is poorly recognized and commands little respect. In a world where work sometimes has no value, we have to give more than hope to those who have a goal in life and to those who are searching for one.]
MME FAVREAU: Les parents, donc les maigres revenues les empêchent trop souvent de faire valoir leurs opinions ou recommandations, devraient pouvoir compter sur des ailiers politiques issue de leurs rangs, où à tout le moins favorable à leur développement dans un monde en pleine mutation donc ils sont les premières victimes et les premiers boucs émissaires.
[Parents with low incomes rarely express their opinions or ideas. They should be able to count on political allies from their ranks to help them in this respect or, at the very least, who will foster their personal development in a rapidly changing world, a world in which they are the first victims and the first scapegoats.]
MME FAVREAU: Ils y a plusieurs années, le gouvernement fédéral promettait de réduire la pauvreté. Vous savez, comme moi, que les derniers rapports étaient de taux croissant en ce qui concerne particulièrement la pauvreté des enfants, donc des familles. S'il y a eut un effort pour améliorer les allocations familiales au fédéral, ces sommes se sont plutôt retrouver dans les poches des propriétaires que sur la table des ceux qui ont faim.
[Several years ago the federal government made promises to reduce poverty but, as we all know, the latest statistics clearly show an increase, particularly in child poverty, and therefore in family poverty. Although the federal government raised family allowances, this money usually ended up in the landlord's pockets rather than on the tables of the needy.]
MME FAVREAU: Estomac vide ne donne pas de rai. Ainsi, on s'assure que les pauvres ne revendit pas la justice sociale qui est trop souvent vue comme de plus en plus irréalisable en regard avec le nombre de cas de plus en plus loure, dit-ont, auxquelles les services sociaux doivent répondre en premier. Voilà pourquoi il est temps que les citoyens se prennent en main et fasse de l'accès à la justice sociale une priorité pour tous les citoyens, enfin que notre démocratie reprenne son souffle à l'ouvre du deuxième millénaire.
[The poor are often ignored by society for they rarely demand social justice, which seems more and more unattainable given the number of serious cases social services have to deal with. It is time for citizens to unite in making access to social justice a reality for all, so democracy can regain strength at the dawn of the new millennium. Now here is a quote from the National Council on Welfare.]
MME FAVREAU: "In 1989, the House of Commons resolved to eradicate child poverty by the year 2000. Only a few years before that target date, (in 1996), child poverty had risen to 20.9 percent, the highest rate in 17 years.".
Parmi les plus toucher par la pauvreté, il y a bien sur les jeune mère célibataire. Rien détonnant à cela, car la maternité a devenue un facteur de la pauvreté en sois, plus que le privilège d'être mère est toujours directement relie à l'origine sociale. Autrefois, on enlevaient les enfants aux mères célibataires. Maintenant qu'il existe le divorce, la nouvelle technologie de reproduction, l'adoption internationale, sans oublier l'avortement, on leur laisse leurs enfants, mais on perpétue la tradition en les abandonnant.
[Since motherhood has become directly linked with poverty and the privilege of being a mother is directly related to social class, it is not surprising that single mothers are among those most affected by poverty. In the past, children were taken away from single mothers. Today, with divorce, new reproductive technologies and international adoption, not to mention abortion, we let them keep their children, but we are perpetuating the tradition by abandoning them. Here follows another quote from the same source.]
MME FAVREAU: "Single-parent mothers under age 25 had a poverty rate of 91.3 percent.".
Bien souvent, la maternité est une façon de s'ouvrir au monde, dans faire parti. Les grossesses juvéniles répondent à un besoin inconscient de réalisation pour beaucoup de jeunes filles n'ayant pas, où trop peut, accès aux utiles de développement personnelle. La délinquance s'inscrit bien souvent, elle aussi, dans un contexte tous les choix sont restreint aux maximum. L'aide sociale, c'est trop peut trop tard. La seule façon de procéder à une restructuration efficace du système est de faire de la prévention active une priorité plutôt qu'un dernier recours.
[Motherhood is often a way to open up to the world, to feel a sense of belonging. Many teenage girls who have little or no access to any support systems resort to pregnancy as a way to fulfil their unconscious desire for personal growth. Delinquency is often a result of their severely limited choices in life. Social assistance provides too little, too late. The only way to effectively restructure this system is to make preventive action a priority rather than a last resort.]
MME FAVREAU: "The National Council of Welfare believes that...Myths and stereotypes about poverty and poor people are deeply rooted in our society. We have to help dispel these misconceptions and promote a better understanding of the millions of people who do not share the great bounty that Canada has to offer.".
Je voudrais vous parler de fierté, de compassion, et de bénéfice du doute : Trois éléments indispensables, antisociales qui peuvent faire toute la différence quand ont prétends vouloir aider un pauvre en s'en sortir. D'abord, il faut contribuer à déculpabiliser le forte pourcentage de ceux qui se sentent impuissant et coupable d'être pauvre. Bien sûr que toute une génération a appris à tirer sont épingle du jeux. On l'aurait apprit a quêter sans demander son reste. Ce n'était pas étonnant que plusieurs se soient créer une mode de vie en conséquence : à la guerre comme à la guerre. Pour survivre il faut s'adapter. Mais que cela ne vous empêche pas de voir que beaucoup se sont accrocher à un espoir, à un rêve. Et c'est d'abord avec ceux-là, et pour ceux-là aussi, que nous devons procéder à une transformation en profondeur de la proche en intervention sociale. Le mot même 'd'être sociale' pourrait devenir quelque choses comme 'support collectif'. Mais jouer sur les mots ne suffirait pas à soulager les mots.
[I would like to talk to you about dignity, compassion and giving the benefit of the doubt. These are three essential and inseparable elements that can make all the difference if we really want to help the poor. First, we have to help allay the guilt of the large percentage of people who feel powerless and ashamed of being poor. Of course, an entire generation has learned how to play the game well. We taught them how to collect money with no questions asked and, consequently, it is not surprising that it has turned into a lifestyle for many. People have to make the best of things and they have to adapt in order to survive, but don't let this stop you from noticing that many of them still hope, still have a dream. We need to work with, and for, these individuals to initiate major changes in social services. The expression 'social assistance' could become something like 'collective support', but playing with words is not enough to alleviate the suffering.]
MME FAVREAU: Il faut déstigmatiser les enfants. Que le développement intellectuel, culturel, sportif, artistique soient accessible entièrement, complètement, autant pour l'enfant née dans un foyer revenue modeste, que pour vos enfants. La réalisation d'un rêve d'enfant, de tous nos enfants, mérite d'être considérer comme un investissement à la création d'un meilleur Canada. Et pourquoi pas commencer ici en Nouvelle-Écosse et devenir la province canadienne qui aurait, la première, éliminer la pauvreté des enfants? Pour paraphraser quelqun de célèbre, "I have a dream.".
[We have to destigmatize the children. Intellectual, cultural, athletic and artistic development should be as accessible to a child born in a low-income family as it is to yours. The fulfilment of children's dreams, all our children, should be considered an investment in the creation of a better Canada. Why not begin here in Nova Scotia and be the first Canadian province to eliminate child poverty? To quote a famous line, "I have a dream.".
Danielle would like to add that she recommends to the standing committee that the Department of Community Services should consider offering grants to the non-profit organizations and charitable agencies who assist in intellectual, cultural, athletic and artistic development of children aged eight and over.]
MME FAVREAU: Je le dit maintenant en français. Je recommande donc la création d'un organisme particulièrement charger de veiller à ce qu'un enfant en Nouvelle-Écosse puisse toujours avoir accès au début de développement, donc ils soient de se servir pour son épanouissent, sens que l'aspect financière soit l'obstacle infranchisable.
J'aimerai combat la raciste économique. I would like to fight the economic racism. Will you help me?
So, as you can see, with the documentation, I have a project in my head for now and I want to ask if I can have support from the province. I have already met Mr. Pye about that. In Quebec, 10 years ago, I had a similar project, but it worked only during six months because at that time, 10 years ago, the children were not a priority.
Je vais continué à parler en français. Particulièrement quand on veut faire de la prévention, c'est difficile de convaincre les gens. Que même si les enfants n'on pas encore commis d'acte négatif envers la société, nous devons faire quelque chose avant. J'ai été mère célibataire à dix-sept ans. Je sais de quoi que je parle. Souvent j'ai été mal reçu par les organisme. Je parle du Québec. Parce que quand vous voulez combattre un problème, et que vous vivez vous-même la situation, les gens qui travaillent souvent dans les organisme se sont mal préparé à vous accueillir. C'est comme un médecin qui aurait découvert un nouveau médicament sur le cancer, et qu'il aurait lui-même la maladie.
[Especially when you want to do prevention, it is difficult to convince people. Even if the children haven't done any acts that are negative against society, we have to do something before. I was a single mother at seventeen years old; I know what I am talking about. I was often received pretty badly by organizations - I am talking about Quebec now - because when you want to fight a problem there, and when you are living in the situation yourself, facing it yourself, the people who work in these organizations are often badly prepared to meet you and take care of you. It is like a doctor who has found a new treatment for cancer, and he had the illness himself.]
MME FAVREAU: Donc, si vous avez des questions. (Applaudissement)
MADAM CHAIR: Thank you very much. Who would like to start?
MR. PAUL MACEWAN: Je veux vous remercier pour ce que vous avez dit. C'est très, très intéressant. Je suis agréable avec tous que vous avez dit. Demeurez-vous ici dans la Nouvelle-Écosse maintenant?
MME FAVREAU: Oui, je suis à Halifax depuis un ans.
[I have been in Halifax for a year now.]
MR. MACEWAN: Très bien.
MME FAVREAU: Et peut-être pour très longtemps, je l'espère, car j'aime les maritimes. Je suis bien ici.
[She likes the Maritimes; she is staying.]
MR. MACEWAN: Bon.
[Hopes to anyway.]
MADAM CHAIR: Mr. Pye.
MR. PYE: Bon soir, Madame Favreau. Pardonnez-moi pour communiquer en français. Madame, MLA Paul MacEwan, I told you about him earlier, that he could communicate in French. It is indeed a pleasure to have you here. You are correct, I have spoken with you earlier. I was hoping that you might enlighten the standing committee on exactly why you would like to see a grant to non-profit organizations. It is basically to set you up so you can tap into the private sector, I do believe, for funding that would help individuals enhance their artistic, athletic and intellectual abilities.
[Il veut bien que tu l'éclaire sur pourquoi tu veut enfin des subvention pour les organisme. Il dit que c'est peut-être plutôt pour marcher dans les secteur privés.]
MME FAVREAU: Bien, moi, je pense qu'il y a plusieurs façon de le faire.
[I think there would probably be several ways of doing it.
La question c'est, pourquoi une bourse?]
MME FAVREAU: Parce que, moi, je vois ça comme on parraine les enfants dans d'autre pays, on pourrait adopter cette méthode. Et je crois que c'est d'ailleurs de cette façon là que je tâchais de fonctionner au Québec avec l'organisation. J'ai tentais de rejoindre des
gens qui avaient des capacités financières qui pouvaient supporter d'autre enfants que les leurs.
Mais c'est sûr qu'il y a tellement de façon. Quelqu'un qui enseignerait le piano pourrait donner des cours au prix réduit. Dans le document, il y a un exemple très concret. Il y a quelqu'un en Nouvelle-Écosse qui a fait ça pour un seul enfant. Il a vraiment travailler pour cet enfant là de la façon dont nous l'aurions fait là auprès à la foundation. C'est-à-dire que l'enfant voulait vraiment exercer une activité en particulier, et l'enfant n'avait pas la possibilité de défrayer plus qu'une partie des cours, et de plus l'enfant n'avait même pas de moyen pour se transporter jusqu'a son cour. Alors, cette personne a aider à ces deux niveaux là.
Mais dans un autre cas, l'enfant pourrait avoir son moyen de transport, mais ne pas avoir le mesure de défrayer l'activité. C'est quelque chose qui, à mon sens, peut être très personnaliser, si nous voulons vraiment être efficace. Parce que, moi, étant une personne qui a vécu la situation d'avoir des enfants et de vivre sur l'aide sociale, et de savoir que même on peut se trouver avec le frigidaire vide, c'est bon et c'est rassurant quand on peut, à l'occasion, se donner une chance comme si on était comme les autres.
[We sponsor children in other countries and that is the way I tried to work in Quebec with other organizations and children. I tried to reach people that had money, the financial means to support other children with problems.
There are so many ways. Somebody, for instance, who could teach piano could offer courses at lower prices. In this document there is a very concrete example, there is somebody in Nova Scotia, for one child did this. The way we did it, the child wanted to do one activity in particular, but the child could only pay for part of the course and the child lacked the financial means to transport himself to this course, so this person helped both ways.
So, it is possible the child could have the transport there, but not be able to pay for the activity. It should be very personalized, therefore, because there are lots of ways this can happen if you really want to be effective. As for me, knowing what it is like to live on social assistance and have children in that situation and you can sometimes find your fridge empty, it is good and reassuring when you can give yourself a chance as though you are like the others.]
MR. PYE: I guess then, Danielle, it is fair to say the Favreau Foundation was named after yourself as an individual who encountered those difficulties and wanted to make a difference.
[Il a dit que la fondation a été nommé d'après toi, bien sûr, comme un individu qui voulait faire une différence et connaît ces situations.]
MME FAVREAU: C'est ca. Mais aujourd'hui, ici en Nouvelle-Écosse, c'est a vous à me le dire comment je pourras le faire. J'ai besoin de l'aide de tous ceux qui voudront bien aider.
[Here in Nova Scotia, it is different. It is up to you to tell me how I ought to take this on. I need help from anybody who can help.]
MADAM CHAIR: Are there any further questions or comments?
Thank you, Danielle and thank you, Larry.
Our next presenter is Sally Campbell.
MS. SALLY CAMPBELL: I would like to thank the committee for seeing me. I am sorry, I do not have a formal presentation, but I am a desperate woman. I am one of the stakeholders or welfare recipients. I am afraid to speak before the committee. Maybe I should give you a little background.
I am a single mom who has a learning disabled son and I also have hepatitis C. I was able to get myself into a research group and I am having treatment, but I have no guarantee that the treatment is going to work, although I might extend my life several more years, and my quality of life, because I have done this. The province is not paying for my treatment.
My worker has told me that there are six people in my area who have hepatitis C, and I certainly am aware that there are no extra monies from social services for me for food or anything like that. I am now in a situation where my landlord, which is the municipality, has told me - it is Mr. MacLeod, Simpson MacLeod - that my building, on the corner of Robie and Spring Garden, is going to be put on the market and, because the municipality is not looking at housing and they are leaving it to the province, I am concerned that I am not going to have a place to live.
For the moment, this place is very convenient for me because it is only two blocks to the research place where I can get my treatment three days a week. I know that there is money from the federal government that has been transferred to the province for social housing and I am just wondering, if that is the case, what happens to someone like me who really doesn't have a place in this new welfare reform? I had surgery in 1984, 1985, 1988, 1990 and 1993. I have no idea if I would even qualify for any kind of money from the federal government. That has not been settled yet, even to the point where the forms have not even been made available to people to apply to see if you can, in fact, get any monies if you qualify.
I have a 16 year old son and I do not see in this paper where I fit in. I am three credits short of a degree. I don't know if my treatment will enable me to go back to school, finish my degree and get a job, or if I will ever work again. What is to become of my son? In the
meantime, being calm - it isn't good for my health or for the treatment that I am trying to get in order to stay well, stress is one factor - I am worried about housing. I think that everyone has a right to affordable housing. I have lived in this particular building for five years. I have lived in the south end of Halifax on and off since I was 16 years old, I am now 49. I don't know if I am going to live 5 years or 10 years. What happens to someone like me and where do I go from here?
I have a worker. The worker hasn't told me if there is anything available for me or will be. The clawback has lowered my monies that I could use for rent. I live in housing that is $658 a month, my monies that I get are $800-something a month. The area that I live in is an area that I am used to and that I like. There isn't any affordable housing in that end of town. I am wondering how the committee can help someone like me? What do I do? Where do I go?
I didn't have a formal presentation. I don't even know if I am capable of doing a formal presentation anyway. I have a pen and a piece of paper, but I don't even know if I am mentally capable of doing this.
MADAM CHAIR: It is okay that you don't have a formal presentation, first of all. Secondly, I think that you have presented a really clear example of a number of issues that have not been adequately handled by government. The first one, obviously, is compensation for hepatitis C people who are caught in a process that has not worked; one where the provinces and the federal government have been unable to reach agreement in a timely fashion that would result in adequate and just compensation to people like yourself who are hepatitis C victims.
I think that is obviously one of the issues that you have presented, and unfortunately it is outside of the focus of this committee, although each and every member of this committee, I think, and the House of Assembly has had an opportunity to speak to those issues, and many of us have been, in this spring session and in this session, asking about action for hepatitis C people today. This process has gone on for too long. That is the first thing.
The second thing is with respect to housing and the adequacy of the income that you receive at the moment. The committee is looking at how we can change social assistance policy to address people's real needs. I don't know if the committee is in a position to assist people with their individual situations where the policy would not address your shelter costs. You are saying your rent is $658 and your total income is $800-something. Well, my guess is that the shelter component that you are given isn't anywhere close to what your actual rent is. Is that the case?
MS. CAMPBELL: Yes, that is the case.
MADAM CHAIR: Those rates are set by law. This committee doesn't have the power to change that to make different provisions. Those rates are already set. Certainly, we are looking at questions of the adequacy of benefits, but it will be some months before this committee writes its report and makes recommendations. In the meantime, you have this situation you have presented us which obviously is something that is very difficult for you. Mr. Muir.
MR. MUIR: I had spoken to Sally earlier today. I think what she is really trying to present here tonight is, as you have described it, the inadequacy of housing. We had talked about co-op housing and you had made the statement, when we had spoken, that some of this money was already tied up, and could you just describe that a little bit, just to give the committee a little bit more context of your . . .
MS. CAMPBELL: From what I understood, the federal government has given housing to the provincial government. That means that there is something like $250 million in transfer payments, and part of the social housing area is concerned with co-op housing. There are co-op houses in the south end of Halifax, in the north end and all over. If you don't qualify for co-op housing, then what happens? Unfortunately, I might not qualify.
I have lived in co-op housing. There was a disagreement with, I believe it was seven members of a 12 member board. They decided that they didn't want me in the co-op, and I was gone. The dispute was over a $32 can of paint to begin with, unfortunately, at the end it escalated to something else. When lawyers and the co-op got involved, things got out of hand. Co-op housing doesn't always suit people, or maybe it does if there are co-ops that would take me in. I am in a desperate situation. I feel like, what kind of housing can I get?
MADAM CHAIR: I will have a go at this one. I think that the housing question is a complicated one. There is a lot of co-op housing in metro. There aren't very many subsidized co-op housing units left. This is a problem. It is not all that difficult getting into co-op housing anymore, because there is a fair amount of vacancy in a lot of co-operatives. The problem is that those vacant units do not have subsidies attached to them anymore because the subsidy program has been phased out. So the amount of subsidized housing in co-op housing is almost non-existent. It is already tied up by people who are living in subsidized units. The cost of co-operative housing units is as great if not greater in some cases than what is out there on the private market. That is my experience as an MLA in the north end of Halifax, with more co-op housing in that constituency than any place else in the province. So that is the first thing.
The second thing is, there is public housing. There is housing . . .
MS. CAMPBELL: Not in the South End. There is no public housing in the south end of Halifax.
MADAM CHAIR: That is right. But there is public housing, there is another non-profit organization providing housing, not as far as I know in the south end of Halifax, but Harbour City Homes is non-profit, it owns a fair amount of non-profit housing throughout the city. It used to be a department of HRM actually.
MS. CAMPBELL: Actually Harbour City Homes was looking at buying the building or taking my building, because they are going to lose the John MacDonald building, because of the bridge. But they decided not to look at the building on Robie and Spring Garden because they really need the cash. If the province would not sit on those monies from the transfer payment, and do something about co-op housing, at least open it up so that you could have a new co-op start or people like myself who maybe can't get into a co-op would be able to get into a co-op. What is happening to those monies? It is for social housing and social planning.
MADAM CHAIR: You have raised really good questions, good points. I am not sure that anybody here has the answers; maybe Mr. Scott does.
MR. MURRAY SCOTT: I don't know if I have the answers or not. Sally, thank you very much for your presentation. I have run into a couple of situations similar to yours in my area. I don't know, but I think it depends on availability. We have managed to get a few people in the situation you are in into the seniors' complexes. Even though you are not of the age where you have an illness or a disability, you could qualify for a seniors' complex, where the rent is based on your income, either 25 per cent or 30 per cent. Have you ever applied to get into a seniors' complex based on the fact that you have an illness?
MS. CAMPBELL: No, I haven't. I don't know if I would qualify because I have a teenage son.
MADAM CHAIR: They will do it for single people.
MS. CAMPBELL: It is difficult when you have teenagers. Plus, my son has a learning disability.
MR. SCOTT: Well, it depends who you are working with. It still wouldn't hurt to apply. Who is the MLA for your area?
MS. CAMPBELL: To be frank, I am concerned about the fact that (Interruptions)
MR. SCOTT: Peter's area. It wouldn't hurt just to sit down with Peter and make the attempt, because unless you try, you can't be told no until you try. I am not trying to give you some false hope, but I think if you get some people to work with you, they might be able to help.
MADAM CHAIR: Susan.
MS. SUSAN LAFORT: I just wanted to make a comment. There are some units with two bedrooms for caregivers.
MR. SCOTT: That is right. That is what I am saying to you. Don't say no and discount it, try it. I know a couple of cases myself where the rules can be . . .
MR. PYE: I think the rules can be changed at 54 years of age. I think there is actually an age limit on that. Although you are not 65, I believe there . . .
MADAM CHAIR: No. No.
MR. PYE: Okay. I stand corrected. I am just absolutely surprised that there are no subsidized apartment units in the South End of Halifax. I am surprised.
MR. EPSTEIN: Can I check something?
MADAM CHAIR: Yes. Mr. Epstein.
MR. EPSTEIN: I have actually talked with Sally on and off for the last couple of years because I was on HRM Council. Can you just tell me, has HRM given notice to the tenants now or . . .
MS. CAMPBELL: Yes. We formally got notice today. It is going before council Tuesday, in the committee in the afternoon. They have had two written proposals from people who are interested in the building and Simpson believes that they are very serious proposals and staff is recommending that the council seriously look at selling this particular building because it is the one that has the most commercial value.
MR. EPSTEIN: I know the building. What I meant, I think, was, have the tenants been given notice to end their tenancy?
MS. CAMPBELL: No.
MR. EPSTEIN: So the only notice you have been given so far is just that HRM is still considering selling the building?
MS. CAMPBELL: Yes, and the worst scenario is that it could go by January.
MR. EPSTEIN: But then you would still have to be given notice about the termination of the tenancy and so on. Okay, I understand your problem. It is essentially the one we have been dealing with for the last two years. Okay. Good. (Interruption) I think the nature of the
problem, the question that was asked for the tape that is recording is, does it take two years to find her a place to live?"
I don't think we have been looking for another place because I don't think Sally ever asked me, on the basis that she wanted another place to live, in the two years that I have been talking with her about this, while I was on HRM Council; in fact, I think it was her desire to stay exactly where she was. My impression was that she liked it a lot, and felt secure so long as HRM continued to own the building. Before this evening, she never raised the possibility of another place. I think what we discussed was the security of tenure inside that building, that was the problem.
MS. CAMPBELL: Well, you know it really concerns me that there isn't any affordable housing in the South End of Halifax. You have people who have to work downtown, who work as support workers in hospitals, who don't work as doctors, they are not lawyers, they work as library technicians. They are needed in the city. Is our city going to become like Aberdeen? When the oil came in there, there is not one person who is a native Scot living in Aberdeen today. Is that what is going to happen, that in the city downtown there are not going to be any native Nova Scotians? I don't mean Mi'kmaq either. There is not going to be any Nova Scotians living in the peninsula because there is not going to be affordable rent?
MADAM CHAIR: There is a long history of housing development in Halifax around socialized housing and affordable housing. The reality has always been that it has been extremely difficult for social housing groups to acquire land in the South End to build social housing on. I know that, having been active in social housing for many years. We were often in a situation where we could only acquire land in the North End of the city at a price that we could afford to build housing on.
So there is a legacy here and you raise a very valid point and a very interesting point. I think what we need to do is refer you to Peter Delefes, who is the MLA in the area, if you have not already been in contact with him. Certainly the whole issue of housing, affordability of housing, accessibility of housing, those issues, will be something that the committee will look at very seriously.
MS. CAMPBELL: I thank you for that.
MADAM CHAIR: Is there anything further?
Thank you very much, Sally.
At this point, I would like to indicate that we have no further presenters on our agenda for this evening. This is not the last public hearing that we are having in the Halifax area. Just to clarify for people who do not know exactly what happened - when we started out these hearings, we scheduled 10 around the province and one for Halifax. It soon became very clear that one evening was not going to do it. We added two additional nights and the staff associated with the standing committee was booking people into after-midnight time slots and that was giving people 10 to 15 minutes to present.
As a committee, we felt that, first of all that was not a respectful way for people to come forward and say what it was that they had to say, and secondly, because we are sitting in the House of Assembly right now, we did not feel that by two o'clock in the morning we would really be all that receptive to presentations.
So, what we decided to do was add dates after the House has recessed. Now, the House is still in. We don't know how much longer we will be sitting. Those dates have not been set yet because we are just waiting to get through the process of the House of Assembly. Once that happens, we will meet as a committee, we will set additional dates. All of the groups and individuals who have been in contact with us, we have kept very good track of, and we will be back to, to set more dates.
Now, the location of those hearings will change. They will not be here. They will be downtown in the Red Room at the Legislature and that has a lot to do with budget and budget overruns and those kinds of things. The House will be able to accommodate us there without lots of added expenses. The rent is right.
MS. LORNA PENDLETON: May I suggest that you do this somewhere more accessible to the people who are using the system and are somewhat hesitant to go to certain areas?
MADAM CHAIR: We have talked about that. We were given a limited budget for these public hearings. We are up to the absolute maximum of that budget. At this point, our choice is either - because we don't have any more money to spend - not to extend the hearings and have people heard or go to the Red Room. (Interruptions) It is not, no, that is not the issue. The issue is the Hansard, the cost of the staff and the Hansard bringing (Interruptions) yes. It is set up in the Legislature so that this can occur without cost. It is not an option for us. We could come back here, because we are getting this building on a very low rate, but it is the cost of the recording that we have to deal with. Okay?
Tomorrow, I believe, is the last day for people to call in and get an appointment. That is right, yes. That is essentially what is happening. I am going to, at this point, thank people for being here tonight. Stay tuned. Further dates will be announced in due course. Thank you.
[The committee adjourned at 9:32 p.m.]