HALIFAX, MONDAY, APRIL 1, 2019
SUBCOMMITTEE OF THE WHOLE ON SUPPLY
THE CHAIR: Good afternoon everyone. We’re going to call the committee to order.
We will continue with the Estimates of Communities, Culture and Heritage and Seniors, and we will start with the NDP for 58 minutes.
The honourable member for Dartmouth North.
SUSAN LEBLANC: Hello again everyone. In the minute we shared last Friday I didn’t get all my questions in so here we go. I was beginning by thanking you for your opening comments and I had a couple of comments about your comments, and I just wanted to ask a couple of questions based on your comments, minister.
The first one was about the land acknowledgement - you may remember that I was starting to ask about that. I notice, and I’m grateful, that the province has started doing a land acknowledgement, but I’ve noticed that the province uses the words “the traditional territory of the Mi'kmaw people.” In most other places that I go to, I hear the acknowledgement as the “unceded territory.”
I was wondering if anyone from the province had consulted with the Mi'kmaw community or communities about the particular wording of the land acknowledgement and, if so, was this the preferred acknowledgement or has there been a choice made or was it just - has there been discussion around it? I just wanted to ask you about that.
HON. LEO GLAVINE: I thank my colleague from the NDP for that question. First, I have to state clearly and strongly how pleased I am, and I see so many others now at the federal, provincial, and municipal government level making this acknowledgement.
This has really come out of the Department of Communities, Culture and Heritage in a very, very strong way and a lot of it really came to life with the Culture Action Plan, where pillar number one is to awaken Nova Scotians to the many, many attributes of the Mi’kmaw culture. First and foremost, we wanted to make that statement of honouring a shared treaty relationship and, really, it’s part of what has been developing nationwide as well.
So that’s part of the advancement, but there’s an element here that needs to be considered and that is the terminology is subject to ongoing confidential negotiations. So, for that reason it doesn’t get the unceded reference, and also what can be considered again, legal language, is not somewhere government and the department wanted to go, needed to go, so we remained respectful around the land acknowledgement.
It’s interesting that so often, in fact today when we had the opening ceremonies, the smudging ceremony and a full Mi’kmaq opening at the 45th Provincial Volunteer Awards that the Mi’kmaq leader used that very term of the traditional lands. So, they themselves again, in many contexts, that’s what their using. So that’s where we are at the moment with that reference.
SUSAN LEBLANC: Thanks, and just to clarify what you said about the confidential negotiations - do you mean to say that the province is in confidential negotiations about the land acknowledgement or something else? Are there other negotiations going on that may, as a result, affect the land acknowledgement?
LEO GLAVINE: There are, constantly, negotiations with the Mi’kmaq people with any of the developments that go on in the province. We are now very respectful of making sure that the archeology component is there. Do we have, in fact, the Mi’kmaq granting permission for a particular development to even take place? It’s part of that general negotiation - not as traditional, in any way, legal discussions about their lands.
SUSAN LEBLANC: In the news this weekend, well actually in Dartmouth North this weekend, there was a meet and greet with the CFL about the stadium that is being built in Dartmouth North. One thing that I noticed in the Herald article this morning that came out of that, and I wasn’t able to attend the meet and greet, was that there’s new information that the CFL and the developers - I don’t know exactly the body, I forget what they are called - is now going to partner with Sport Nova Scotia.
The way it sort of was worded in the newspaper article this morning was that, given that the stadium would not be used for CFL use for very many days in the year, perhaps Sport Nova Scotia and the higher level Sport Nova Scotia teams like Soccer Nova Scotia, Rugby Nova Scotia, you know, those types of teams, would be able to make use of the stadium and that it would be considered a community stadium.
I’m wondering if you can talk about that and let us know if there is money in the budget that is going towards that stadium through Sport Nova Scotia.
LEO GLAVINE: There would not be monies directed or dedicated in the 2019-2020 budget for the proposed football stadium. In many ways, this could become a reality in our province, but we don’t see us as one of the partners involved with the stadium.
SUSAN LEBLANC: My understanding is that you do fund Sport Nova Scotia though. Do you have an understanding of the monetary relationship between Sport Nova Scotia and maritime football?
LEO GLAVINE: At this time, I certainly don’t know of any discussions that Sport Nova Scotia may have. Sport Nova Scotia is certainly away from the Department of Communities, Culture and Heritage and its involvement in sport, fitness, and recreation. There is a body of money that comes through the Atlantic Lottery Corporation as part of support for sport, and whether or not in time there could be some relationship there or even something relating to the stadium that’s totally apart from the Canadian Football League - all of that at the present time really it would be just speculation as to what may emerge there. Certainly at this point in time, our government has made no commitment whatsoever around the CFL stadium.
SUSAN LEBLANC: Okay, thank you. In your comments on Friday you made mention of the work that the department is doing to intentionally act to eliminate systemic racism - the work that you’re doing, the new hires that were made last year for the Department of African Nova Scotian Affairs or that office. Last year, we spoke about systemic racism as well and street checks as well and you said you were working with Justice and collaborating with them will be a very basic part of what you do.
Here we are again a year later and we have just received the Wortley report on street checks. Given the findings of Dr. Wortley’s report, have you intervened with the Department of Justice to advocate to an immediate stop of street checks or, at the very least, an immediate moratorium?
LEO GLAVINE: It’s certainly an important question, a very relevant one and perhaps a very timely report that has come our way. In the department and certainly with the work of ANSA, we know that we have to work directly on systemic racism and, to that end, we’re investing an additional $120,000 in the department to all ANSA to extend its reach out across Nova Scotia. This is a first-time endeavour where we’re saying that many communities across the province do need to be supported and this is one of the areas in which we feel that we can do very strong work with dealing with systemic racism.
There’s no question that the Department of Justice is the lead on this file and it was important to really read the report, know its intention, and then have discernment around the direction that this will go. I think the first two steps taken are certainly important ones that will take place immediately, and I know that we’re not too far away from something further coming from the Department of Justice with very clear direction around street checks. I know that with being responsible for ANSA and hiring a person who will be directly involved with the issue of systemic racism, certainly our conversations will be part of developing the response.
Certainly, as a minister - both in Health and Wellness and in this department - I don’t ever take a report lightly, but by the same token I’m not one to jump immediately and say we will do this tomorrow. I believe in really strong opportunity for discussion, to know the intentional purpose of statements and recommendations made, and I know we will not be very long as a government where the decisions around street checks will come forward.
SUSAN LEBLANC: Thank you for that. I would respectfully voice the concerns - without being the voice of the African Nova Scotian community, of course - but what I heard from the African Nova Scotian community at the release of the report and also this past weekend when there was a youth-led response to the street checks report at the library in the north end of Halifax, is that this report gives no new information. This report is what the Black community has been living for decades and decades, and to quote one of the speakers: They didn’t need a white guy from Toronto to tell them what they’re living every day.
We’ve been calling for a ban or a moratorium on street checks until this report was released. We’ve been making all kinds of calls to stop this systemically racist practice and I have to say that I think it is very hard to hear that the Black community must wait even longer now to have some justice. I hope that that decision is made as soon as possible.
Last year we also spoke more generally about systemic racism and you had said:
“The first step for us in Communities, Culture and Heritage is to actually look within our own department and see what polices and programs we have that could be limiting access or limiting participation by any group in Nova Scotia society. We want to look at whatever change, adjustment, greater accommodation, greater support for the marginalized and minority groups in our province for sure.”
Could the minister update me on that work and how it’s going?
LEO GLAVINE: Thank you very much for that important question. First of all, I would say that until Deputy Minister Taweel came along during a period in which the Cultural Action Plan was being developed, the department was not well-funded - ANSA and that work. I think getting the additional money as a base for operations was important. New divisions have been added and with that, programs and processes were inherited and added to what we already had in place.
I think, more than anything, it was to review our programs to ensure they are meeting those needs, and certainly the additional $120,000 that will be now going to part of our outreach, because there are about 50 communities in Nova Scotia that are predominantly of African Nova Scotian descent, so that additional work is a very, very strong part of the Cultural Action Plan that we are now committed to.
Just to take a look, the result of the program review will address some of the weaknesses that were discovered. That report is still in process, but we are looking at risk analysis, evaluation, performance indicators, linking final reports, and developing check lists and assessment tools, as far as the program evaluation goes.
One of the areas that hadn’t been done for some time was actually that internal look at what we were doing that was actually effective and leading to better outcomes? That goes right down to the kind of grants that we are actually giving groups and organizations. With some of that analysis going on and program review, I think it is a strengthening process as a result of the Cultural Action Plan, so there is both additional monies and that director of community outreach is really the key person. They are going to work directly with the deputy minister’s office. Their role each and every day is, what do we need to be doing next with systemic racism? That is really the sole mandate of their office.
I also think, and I would hope the member would agree, that the work being done in a number of our communities to get these land claim titles settled - in many ways that’s part of systemic racism. We’re not giving you title, we’re not giving you the opportunity in Lincolnville and Sunnyville and Cherrybrook and North Preston and Lucasville, we’re not giving you an opportunity to even own your own land. That sense of ownership and title to the land is really a key part of what the African Nova Scotian community needs to have. I think that work that has gone on - those community meetings were well attended, a number of claims now have been established and taken care of, and people can actually speak now in terms of the land title.
If you wanted something a little further on that, there is a great more detail. I’ll let you, member, develop your next question.
SUSAN LEBLANC: I just wanted to dig a little deeper into the broader department in terms of the diversity work that is happening. As you know, I come from the theatre community and I’ve been watching our community become a little more diverse. There’s more diversity on stage, although there’s still a long way to go.
I was wondering about a couple of short things on the way grant programs are managed around this issue. How is the department increasing the diversity of grants recipients? Are there specific steps being taken to make sure that more people of diverse backgrounds are getting money?
LEO GLAVINE: I highly regard the question you just asked because if they are going to be centre stage, if you wish, and if they are going to have those opportunities to develop, whether it is theatre, dance, film, the music world - it’s like the money we give to Neptune and to see something like Cinderella is a wonderful piece that I think we need to celebrate.
One of the areas that really allows for what can happen on the ground is through our regional reps. Our six regional reps across Nova Scotia have been given that kind of training to make sure that the groups in their community that represent and are part of the diversity of those communities, when they have specific needs to express themselves through the culture sector, that they certainly are well represented.
I’d have to go down through those grants, but I know that one of the areas in the past year that allowed for some very specific work to take place was through the $1.5 million of the CultureLink program because it was all about how further we could embrace diversity, and through a whole range of opportunities, we certainly saw that emerge. We can get you more details around that if you so wish.
I thought the creation of the Screenwriters Development Fund was another way in which diversity showed up when we had that specifically fully subscribed to - a great opportunity for young, emerging screenwriters to develop, and again diversity in our African Nova Scotian and Mi’kmaw communities were certainly part of that.
In fact, one of the main focuses of the fund is developing Nova Scotia filmmakers, writers and producers of local content and to encourage diversity and gender parity. That, in fact, was part of the mandate of the $262,000 that was given to young emerging screenwriters in particular.
To give you a couple of examples, the fund supported the award-winning writer- director-producer team of Ashley McKenzie, Nelson MacDonald, and Grassfire Films. There are a number of developments that also brought out diversity in that particular fund.
SUSAN LEBLANC: I’m glad to hear that. I believe Ashley and Nelson are both Caucasian so you’re talking gender parity in that case, I suppose.
Just a quick answer on this one, if you don’t mind. The community outreach people that you’re talking about - those six positions, those “regional reps,” as you call them - are they specifically for helping people in diverse communities access funding, or are they sort of just regional reps who help anyone, and they happen to know that information?
LEO GLAVINE: I’m not sure if you would have met yours, but every year in elected office I’ve had at least one meeting - sometimes two - with my regional rep and get that opportunity to actually direct a project that I think would be valuable to my community.
One of the ones that I’ll reference here in a moment, or maybe I should go right into this - where we had probably through the regional rep information that would allow a group to know the scope of the community’s facility support fund, the Culture Innovation Fund. That person actually is able to be the first guidepost to pretty well all of the programs that will go on in our department.
There are a few in particular that I think the member would be quite interested in - Business is Jammin’, a program developed by the Black Business Initiative to grow and foster the business mindset of African Nova Scotian youth to take action and create innovation. This project saw 15 high-school-age African Nova Scotians spend a day at Dalhousie in the School of Architecture. This was a hands-on approach to architecture, graphic design, and planning. The Woods professional hip hop dance society staged a show which used hip hop and street dancing to explore concepts, physical and mental health coping mechanisms.
They included generation immigrants from Antigua, Ghana, Greece, India, Kosovo, as well as Acadian and African Nova Scotia communities. We also funded the Atlantic Film Festival $10,000 for Africville in Black and White, an interactive documentary experience set in St. Matthew’s United Church. This is the kind of on-the-ground program that that regional director would have said you meet the criteria, get your application in - sometimes, it’s really advancing just a straight-up proposal. It’s not a long 10-page form or anything to fill out, but our regional director would guide them in that direction.
SUSAN LEBLANC: Great, thank you. Does Canada Council for the Arts have a disability arts officer? A disability arts officer is someone who basically provides assistance for people if they actually need help making applications, if they are visually impaired or have other disabilities where they can’t actually even get past the application process but also the office provides assistance to equity-seeking grant applicants. Do we anything like that here and, if not, would that be something could be considered?
HON. LEO GLAVINE: A great question especially since we’ve moved into a stronger area and a time when accessibility has become very central, and not just for our government. I think Nova Scotians want to be leaders in moving us to 2030 and a much more accessible province. At the moment, we don’t have such a position, but we have $1 million to support accessibility, especially in the business community, and that’s in addition to some of the community facilities funding that will go towards a range of disabilities. I believe this is the very area that we absolutely need to address and one that our department now is starting to broaden - the disability requirements of Nova Scotians. We’ve moved well beyond getting somebody in a building, to how they can participate.
I know at this stage we would be supporting more people in the community who would work with those disabilities to enable them to support getting a grant. One of the most remarkable evenings I have had recently is going to the Chester Playhouse and seeing the performance put on by 26 members of Bonny Lea Farm who have severe intellectual disabilities. Again, at this stage, it was somebody who could help them get a grant to be able to use the Chester Playhouse and then worked with them for several months to be able to do this production called Something's in the Air.
I think you’re absolutely right, member, in that we need to also look after those who have a range of other disabilities as well to allow them to independently look at funds that can support their area of cultural expression.
SUSAN LEBLANC: My next question has to do with juries of grant programs - in those programs that use juries. I say this as someone who has sat on a jury before and, I’ll tell you, it’s not that fun - number one, pay the juries more. (Laughter) I’m wondering if you’ve had discussions around policies to make sure the juries themselves, have granting programs in particular in the culture programs are there, that there’s a diversity on those juries.
LEO GLAVINE: This is one of the areas that, through our program evaluation, our juries and boards are being reviewed to make sure we have certainly competency associated with those and after the Auditor General did his report that, in fact, criteria is very well stated and articulated for the juries to be able to use in their deliberations. That is ongoing.
I am not aware of any complaints we’ve had that perhaps we’ve been lacking around our juries in particular, but certainly it’s another one of those areas we have to be very sensitive towards to make sure diversity is well-represented right across the spectrum.
Also, it’s a priority for ABCs. I would say that during the past decade, right from the start of the NDP Government, I would say diversity on our boards is at a very different pathway than what I would look back on the previous decade. Now, we would not appoint members without having that as part of the lens when we are looking at.
I think to make sure we have people who represent the LGBT community as part of diversity and that cultural diversity is certainly changing in the province and we have to be very cognizant of juries and boards to make sure that in all cases there is very, very strong representation of our founding people, our Indigenous community, our Acadian community, but now we need a spread even much greater than that.
SUSAN LEBLANC: I was kind of making a joke earlier when I said that it’s not fun to be on a granting jury. I will say this: It actually isn’t fun because it’s a ton of work but it’s important work, though. It’s a lot of work to ask a peer of the artist to do but, that being said, I obviously fully support peer-assessed granting programs.
I would say that because it is so much work and artists are generally underemployed, that if we do want to make sure that there’s diversity on our juries, it would be - a very serious suggestion would be a very good idea to actually look at the budget that people are paid. I get the $100 for the day or whatever, but there are hours and hours of preparation work, if you want to do it properly and well, and that’s important, too.
I’ve had this discussion with the city, as well, when they brought in their peer-assessment program finally, which was awesome that they did that, but they weren’t paying the juries at all and I think it’s a bad idea.
I think we should pay our juries a good wage for the amount of hours they are working, especially to make sure that we have diverse voices on those juries.
I’m going to back track now to the discussion of small venues. When we talked last year, you talked a lot about the Culture Link project because it was in the works and I pointed out that although I was excited about it and I still am, that it wouldn’t necessarily fill the spectrum of spaces that are needed in Nova Scotia.
Again, I will reiterate that I’m very excited about the Culture Link project with the caveat that I wish that the province owned the building and that it wasn’t sold to a developer because that does put it into some jeopardy down the road. I’ve heard a lot of feedback from the arts community and this is exactly what I kind of suspected, that the Cultural Link will fill a lot of the need but not all the need. The need it’s not filling is for small organizations with low operating budgets, if any operating budget at all. We still need small community arts venues, like the Bus Stop Theatre.
The Cultural Link doesn’t provide the type of performance spaces that emerging and small independent artists need and it’s highly unlikely that the Cultural Link will be as affordable of the smaller venues, in spite of all of the business plans and what people are saying. The theatre that is being built in the Cultural Link is, I believe, an 1,800-person theatre. That is bigger than any theatre we have in this city, which is great for lots of things, but it’s not good for local theatre. I think Neptune only has 700 seats or not even and they have trouble filling that during the run of a show.
Small community-run venues play a vital role in both community building and creating affordable spaces for experimenting and new and emerging artists, and for marginalized artists and arts. Without the role of that small venue in the arts ecosystem, there wouldn’t be the local talent to then perform at Cultural Link in a big concert.
So of course, there are two venues that everyone is talking about right now and that is the Khyber, which is a super exciting development in the Khyber’s life, and the Bus Stop Theatre. I know, I’m sure you’ve received all the emails that have been sent. I’ve only received some of them, but I’ve received tonnes and tonnes of emails in support of the Bus Stop. The Bus Stop is teetering between an exciting revisioning and closure and if the Bus Stop closes, there will be exactly zero small venues in Halifax for our arts community.
With all that being said, can the minister update us on where the conversations are in the department about provincial support to make sure both the Khyber and the Bus Stop can flourish?
LEO GLAVINE: That’s a really important question. I’d certainly like to context that the Culture Link will have an important presence in the central part of our city. I think it will help make sure we maintain some of the programs we currently have going, like This Hour has 22 Minutes; we’re hopeful that will transition there. The 1,700-seat theatre that is proposed, it’s basically a music-performance hall, for that music that no longer wants to be presented in an arena or a stadium, but a smaller more intimate audience. I know at first people thought it was going to be competing with Neptune, which is not the case whatsoever. Our department as you know, supports Neptune.
The Bus Stop has been around as long as I’ve been here at Province House. We both started in the same year. The Bus Stop is thriving, but maybe I’m a little bit more perhaps, on the way out. I see a very, very bright future for Bus Stop. It was really important to make sure that the $30,000 that the department gave was to develop a robust business plan and to know what the future is there. Again, the member is entirely right.
Last year I got to Two Planks and a Passion a couple of times. Last year when I was doing a provincial tour, the deputy and a few others went to Baddeck Theatre for a wonderful, wonderful evening of entertainment. I did that as I went around the province, without listing the others. We had a great time in Parrsboro as well, at Ships Company Theatre.
It’s part of my thinking that that small theatre venue - and Bus Stop is now iconic here in Halifax, even after that short 16-year journey, if you wish, and a very significant part of culture, heritage, and creative economy here in Halifax. Of course, it attracts people from outside of Halifax, which is what is so wonderful. When you are attracting upwards of 10,000 audience members over 250 days, that’s very significant, again with economic spinoffs.
Our department is going to work significantly with the Bus Stop Theatre on what its future possibilities are. I know the building is now on the cusp of being sold, so there has to be perhaps a quicker pace to negotiations. I know our department is prepared to take that on and see what the possibilities are going forward.
SUSAN LEBLANC: The Bus Stop is iconic for all the reasons you said. I will also say that it is like a living, breathing, cultural action plan. It is the Cultural Action Plan, embodied in a physical space. It is a platform for the Black community - not just the North end, but the HRM - the Mi’kmaq community, and the queer community. It is a place where groups from those communities can afford to use it, and it’s diverse in all of its makeup. It’s wonderful.
The ask from the province is $2.5 million. That would both save the Bus Stop and also give it some funding toward this expansion. By the way, I will also say that the Bus Stop is almost always booked. For a community that has lost a ton of other spaces in the last couple of years, this expansion into a second theatre would be the best thing that could possibly happen for independent performance. I’m wondering if you are going to make that commitment of $2.5 million.
LEO GLAVINE: I’m certainly pleased with the way the department is wanting to grow the culture economy of this province. I see the member for Sydney-Whitney Pier, and I believe the cultural hub that is going to emerge in Holy Angels is absolutely a game-changer, tying in with what I envision as part of the new economy of Sydney and area and its links as well to tourism, the cruise ships. The incubator for new talent and new opportunities in the culture sector is really marvellous.
We want to make sure that we have strong negotiations. We know we may have to quicken the pace. It looks like 2019 is that drop-dead period for what is going to happen to the building. Certainly, I’m committed to getting more first-hand knowledge of where they are and what other negotiations are going on. We need to be brought up to speed to April 2019 and see what negotiations are taking place.
We’re supportive of the Bus Stop Theatre. That is what I need to say right now. We will engage in the business review plan and have the strongest negotiations possible to look at its future.
SUSAN LEBLANC: Mr. Chair, how much time do I have?
THE CHAIR: You have 12 minutes.
SUSAN LEBLANC: Along the same lines, after years of community organizing and perseverance that show how important the old Khyber building is to the arts community - and this is now more the visual arts community, especially the queer arts community - the City of Halifax has thrown its support behind the rebirth of the building by selling it to the organization for $1 and then providing a grant. There is very exciting potential in the Khyber, but they will need provincial assistance, as well. They need to raise $3 million, which would be the estimated cost of the renovations, in the next two years, or Halifax can buy it back in the buy-back clause that they have in the contract. They are looking for at least $1.5 million to come from the provincial and federal governments.
Can you say how much the province is planning on committing to that and how you can support the Khyber in its pitch for federal funding?
LEO GLAVINE: The department has had discussions with this group, Khyber, in the past. We haven’t had recent discussions. If I am on the public record today, I would be saying we would welcome discussions to know what their needs are, what their plans are, and what kind of timeline they would need. That’s another valuable part of the cultural mosaic of our city and province, and we would welcome that. Certainly, as soon as this legislative Spring session concludes, some of those meetings will be a part of what will happen at CCH.
SUSAN LEBLANC: I wanted to talk a little bit about operating funding. Last year, we discussed operating funding, and you said that you would be reviewing operating grants. Optimistically, I took that to mean that you would be considering increasing operating grants, but it looks like Arts Nova Scotia this year has received a tiny increase of 0.2 per cent. With inflation and the cost of living, that amounts to a cut.
As I have said in the past, many times and places, we know that stable, long-term arts organizations are crucial to a healthy and thriving arts and culture community. I’m wondering if you can comment on why you haven’t put in new money - correct me if I am wrong, of course. Why is there no new money for operating companies? The exception, I believe, is Bus Stop getting on that program. I am wondering if you can comment on why you have made that decision?
LEO GLAVINE: I am a believer that in all departments, there are points in time, or junctures, where you do need to take a look at what we are doing. Currently, we are doing a program evaluation.
Everything that happens in a department will go under that review lens. We know Arts Nova Scotia and Music Nova Scotia are very, very, important parts of what CCH does. In fact, it is some of that encompassing work of Arts Nova Scotia and Music Nova Scotia, which used to have a whole lot of different one-off files and so forth - have embraced this organization. I believe that we need to take a look at what we’re doing before we invest further in any of the programs.
In 2018-19, 25 professional arts organizations did receive funding on an annual and multi-year basis. In 2019-20, there is an opportunity to fund up to two new clients in the program. It’s not expansive by any means, but again, we’re going in the right direction.
In addition to operating funding, many of these organizations have access to and benefit from resources allocated through support for sports, support for culture initiatives and, in this case, other departmental programs - for instance, the Community Facilities Improvement Program, community development grants, and Community ACCESS-Ability. We are now finding that we are able to assist these organizations in multiple ways.
With the emphasis on accessibility, we have been able to put out 40-something grants this past year to the business community and a significant number as well to community organizations. That’s certainly not as strong as Arts Nova Scotia would have liked, but I think at this juncture the $1.344 million is doing great work. We’ll have a couple of new clients, and we’ll see the program evaluation and what direction that gives us.
THE CHAIR: Ms. Leblanc, you have about five minutes.
SUSAN LEBLANC: I just want to confirm that we will carry on into the next hour, correct? Is that happening?
THE CHAIR: After your five minutes, we’ll go to the Progressive Conservatives. If the Progressive Conservatives don’t want their time, and you still have questions, we’ll go back to you.
SUSAN LEBLANC: In meetings, members of the department have indicated that one-time project funding can help artists, organizations, or community groups find further, more sustainable funding, for instance, by getting a project grant to hire someone to do a business plan, that kind of thing. I guess Bus Stop is an example.
Do you have any analysis to assess how true that is in practice, that those project grants can turn into more sustainable funding?
LEO GLAVINE: We would not have a fulsome analysis of where we can point to what has developed. One of the ones, however, that I like to use as an example is Two Planks and a Passion. They were able to get grants from CCH, and then they proposed a project in the schools of the Annapolis Valley Regional Centre for Education. They used education funds to take some of their programs into the school. In other words, that initial grant really led them to be able to say to the school, if we had an additional $20,000 - or whatever the figure was they received - then we could carry out this school-based program for you.
I think there are a number of those kinds of examples where there was that seed money, that start-up, or an annual grant, and there was additional funding. If we’re looking at a couple of our grant areas that I’m familiar with, where I actually was able to present details of a grant when I was on the scene. When I went to the Wharf Rat Rally, we were able to point to monies that we gave which then enabled a couple of other partners to come onboard to make sure they had a successful event and brought in the amount of music groups for the weekend that were required by the Wharf Rat Rally.
The Apple Blossom Festival is another great example where our grant was leveraged to get additional dollars to run an expanded program. They had been down to about 20 events during the Apple Blossom Festival, three or four days, due to a number of reasons. Last year, both with the monies that we gave them plus some of the expertise to do survey work, they moved up from 20 to 42 events last year, again, by getting additional dollars once an organization knew the base amount was in place. I think right across the work of CCH, we see it happening. We certainly feel the same way. A deeper, more exacting business analysis would really allow us to see how this happens on a regular basis.
THE CHAIR: Ms. Leblanc, you have about 10 seconds.
SUSAN LEBLANC: I have 10 seconds, so I’m going to speak very, very slowly and say that our caucus did an informal survey. I’m going to pick it up because I’m not getting stopped. We did an informal survey of medium and small arts organizations in HRM . . .
THE CHAIR: Order, the time for the NDP has expired. We’re now on to the Progressive Conservative caucus. Mr. MacMaster.
ALLAN MACMASTER: I’m going to be very generous this afternoon. I’m going to turn it right back over to my colleague with the NDP. I know she has some more questions. I’m going cede my time to her.
THE CHAIR: Ms. Leblanc.
SUSAN LEBLANC: Thank you, Mr. MacMaster. I think I’m going to skip what I was about to say because I am conscious that I’m only supposed to use a little bit of time.
THE CHAIR: You have another hour.
SUSAN LEBLANC: Yes, technically. I’m going to ask a question on behalf of my colleague from Cape Breton Centre. The Undercurrent Youth Centre in Glace Bay is doing really incredible work. Their programs for youth are doing great community development, and they have had lots of positive impacts in the community. They have seen a drop in drug use among youth with more programming.
Recently, they have worked to make all other programs completely free. The folks at the Undercurrent want to open a youth centre in New Waterford, and that would be a complete game changer for youth in New Waterford and the whole community. The youth centre needs support from the province to make that happen, and it’s not getting any.
Minister, you must know the challenge that youth in rural communities have. We see a declining youth population in rural communities. Youth are facing really high unemployment and lack of services. It’s not surprising that we’re seeing so many youths struggling with mental health issues. Youth centres, as we all know, can have a huge impact in addressing these challenges. I want to ask the minister: Will you and your department support Undercurrent to open a youth centre in Glace Bay?
LEO GLAVINE: I had a chat with staff because it certainly is not a project that has been brought to my attention. Just from the description and the background Ms. Leblanc has provided, it certainly sounds like a valuable area for us to take a look at and our community facilities project.
I would say, if there was $1.5 million that I was ecstatic about on many, many occasions - not that I got in front of the group to make any announcement because that really didn’t happen - it was as I signed off on organizations that applied for grants under the Culture Innovation Fund in particular, that were able to show something creative, something innovative about the work that they are doing, that went right across from libraries to theatre groups to the visual arts. It was magnificent how that went out to allow for an explosion of cultural events that I certainly didn’t think were possible. I actually came across a couple of those examples in the Valley community where groups had applied for them.
I would say give our department the details around Undercurrent and what they are planning to do. Certainly, they’re sounding like a valuable group to support, but we need to take a look at more details about where they’re going.
SUSAN LEBLANC: Do youth centres generally get support from the province, or is there a line in CCH where support for youth centres would come from?
LEO GLAVINE: It would really depend on the nature of the ask. I know that in the community facilities area, we can help out with a community/school playground for example, to support a skateboard pad or a splash pad. The variety of work that can be encompassed by that is very general and, I would say, generous to organizations and communities that, on their own, could never raise that kind of money. We know that, as the member has stated, supporting youth is critical. I love some of the youth programs that are happening through our libraries. More and more, our libraries are hub centres in our communities.
The work, for example, that goes on at the MacPhee Centre actually probably has some synergies or some alignment and similarities as to what Undercurrent it talking about. I know our support of the MacPhee Centre - whether it’s a parent or whether it was the six young people who came to visit me to talk about what was going on at the MacPhee Centre and what a difference it was making in their personal life and their life in the community and all of a sudden an acceptance at school, which had not been there. We’ll certainly take a look at what they’re proposing.
SUSAN LEBLANC: Maybe I can follow up with you later about who might be the regional rep for that area so that I can pass that on to my colleague, and she can make sure they get in touch.
Back to my original question when I was speaking slowly. We have done an informal survey - very informal - of arts organizations around the HRM, and also the province actually. Executive directors or artistic directors - whoever is at the helm of these organizations - are making at most about $40,000 per year before taxes, and many are making less. That’s not a big chunk of change for a full-time job.
There is a lot of talk by the government about the cultural industries being an economic engine for this province. We hear it when we talk about business and we talk about tourism. We attract so many people to Nova Scotia, and they’re consuming Nova Scotia art and culture when they’re here. Then we look at places like the MacPhee Centre. Art and culture - I don’t want to exaggerate, but I know a lot of people who would say, doing that play saved my life, or finding a family of artistic people where I can be myself and express myself. I don’t want to be crass about it, but those things save us money, and they save us pain in this province.
There is a huge value of art and culture that we can’t evaluate very well, but we know it’s there. In terms of the budget for this department and the budget for arts and culture, in particular right now, there have been increases in the last couple of years. This year, it’s fairly stagnant in that realm of the budget. The increases are fairly small when you’re talking about what I’m talking about.
I’m wondering what the department is doing to make sure that the government revenue and the business profits that are generated by the arts, culture, and tourism industries are translating into living wages for artists and financial security. I know so many people who leave this province because they can’t make it work here as artists. That’s another thing we hear a lot about. We hear a lot about the youth leaving, and then the Premier talks about how, finally, the youth are staying, or coming back maybe. I don’t know. I haven’t seen it yet, but anyway.
What is the department doing to ensure that we can give artists and cultural entrepreneurs living wages or help them make living wages so that they will stay in Nova Scotia, put down roots and keep our province vibrant and exciting and a livable place?
LEO GLAVINE: I thank the member for a really great question and one that requires a lot of thought going forward in this area. One of the areas that I know was very challenging when I came into the department was to take a look at some of our physical facilities. Whether it be a small theatre in some part of the province, whether it be a museum like Perkins House, whether it be Culture Link, or whether it be Holy Angels and the culture hub of Cape Breton, we have had a huge ask around monies for physical facilities which we felt we needed to address. Again, in many cases, some had been neglected for a considerable period of time.
I think we’re well under way with addressing a number of those problems of magnitude in terms of dollars and scope of project. I went down and saw what our investment was doing at the Savoy Theatre, another iconic theatre in our province that needed new life, new opportunity, for the local productions that would be done there. We have put a lot of emphasis there.
In our program evaluation, I can tell the member opposite that, as we drill down on our mainstay year-over-year funding envelopes that go out the door to the range of the arts of community, we know we also have to address what would be in the grant that would allow for it to be more appropriate. Perhaps salary would be the way to look at it, not so much a five-per cent increase or whatever that may be, but rather what is appropriate. Where are we in relation to a national standard? How do we compare with our three neighbour Atlantic Provinces?
The program evaluation will be a great directional piece for the next decade, and that’s the work now that is going on in the department. I recognize and fully accept the premise of your question around salaries for people. When you go look at some of the productions that are done, they are truly professional. We’re talking about professionals in these cases, and therefore, they need adequate compensation if we want to keep them here in the province.
SUSAN LEBLANC: Yes, they’re professionals and university trained almost across the board.
I’m going to switch to a couple of quick questions just about the department. Actually, I’m just going to back up for a second and ask you: Do you have a timeline on that program evaluation? When will the program evaluation be complete?
LEO GLAVINE: We’re into the program evaluation now. In order to do what is an encompassing piece of work, it will probably be the best part of a year before we would come forward with the plans for change and new directions and policies around how we are going to make sure that the Culture Action Plan is brought into focus for our work moving into the future.
SUSAN LEBLANC: Last question - I do have many more, but I’m not going to take any more time.
Does the minister’s department engage in a gender-based analysis of the impacts of his department’s budget, and gender-based analysis of the programs?
LEO GLAVINE: I want to first thank the member for the strength as a critic, but also as someone wanting to understand and meet the people in my department who are the directors and influential, and for taking the time to come to our department and engage in conversation to get some of the insights that you needed.
If my immediate working environment is any indication - I work with only women in the immediacy of my department. If that is reflected in everything we do, then I would say we are in very good shape, but I know you are asking a bigger and more significant question.
I know that our department has now absolutely made that one of the lenses that we look through in the work we do on a daily basis. Again, it would be a question that I would hope that our program evaluation would actually be able to say concretely that here’s the change that has gone on and here’s where we are today in terms of the dollars that really have full gender parity in the work, but gender analysis, first, where are we in that regard.
I know that now, whether it’s the appointments to boards - and of course we have a number of boards that impact on our programs - we have worked very, very hard to have gender parity and diversity as part of that makeup.
From my observations of going around the province and speaking with our directors and lead team, I would say we are in pretty good shape there. But like you, I would like to see concretely how that translates into dollars around that area.
SUSAN LEBLANC: Thank you for that. It’s one thing to have in programs - I think it’s very, very important to be looking at evaluating programs with a gender lens, but also, in particular, it comes down to when budgets are cut or not increased and what the impact is on women, in particular, or diverse populations when budgets are not increased. Obviously, it is good for everyone when budgets are increased, but how does it affect people when there is a cut? We are trying to track that, because it’s really important.
I think I’m going to leave it there. Thank you very much for the time.
THE CHAIR: Thank you. Minister, we will now move to you for some closing comments and the reading of your resolution.
LEO GLAVINE: Thank you, Mr. Chair. I want to thank both the Progressive Conservative and the NDP Critics for the line of questioning and the questions presented.
As Ms. Leblanc has said, it would be nice to have increases in budget for the programs that are offered by CCH. I am a believer that in our department, we’ve started to really evolve in terms of what it means to have vibrant communities, and sport, recreation, the arts, and its diversity must be part of those communities.
Two areas that I’m very pleased with and really proud of that have emerged in the last year include being a co-lead with Seniors, which is also under my purview, to take on community transportation. This is a big investment of over $7 million. What it has started to do, and some of the results that we’re now hearing from those communities, are so positive.
The other area is some small, but again, significant, targeted poverty-reduction areas - making sure that the food bus gets out to those communities of need, and the pilot program that we have going with our seniors, where we buy food at very low cost from Loblaws and resell it at even lower cost to 10 physical areas of seniors in the HRM, again has proven to be great upstream work.
If we’re going to have strong communities, where I believe we increase well-being and reduce some of the factors that work against well-being, such as mental health issues that seem to be very prominent in modern culture - I believe the arts can be one of the greatest mitigating ways in which we can equip both young people and people across the whole age spectrum to have greater enjoyment of their life situation by what music, the arts, dance, and cultural opportunities can provide us.
Certainly it’s my hope to see that budget grow in the coming years. As I said, we had to offset dollars on the capital side for really valuable future investments with Culture Link and with the program and with the development in Sydney, the culture hub and renewal of buildings. But it comes as a time when you’ve got to invest in your human resources to bring those buildings to life and what they have to offer.
THE CHAIR: Shall Resolution E3 stand?
Resolution E3 stands.
Resolution E26 - Resolved, that a sum not exceeding $1,067,000 be granted to the Lieutenant Governor to defray expenses in respect of the Nova Scotia Home for Colored Children Restorative Inquiry, pursuant to the Estimate.
Resolution E38 - Resolved, that a sum not exceeding $2,721,000 be granted to the Lieutenant Governor to defray expenses in respect of the Department of Seniors, pursuant to the Estimate.
THE CHAIR: Shall the resolutions carry?
The resolutions are carried.
Okay, that is about it for you, minister. Minister Glavine, what was the original Resolution number for the Department of Communities, Culture and Heritage?
LEO GLAVINE: It was E3.
THE CHAIR: And what were the others?
LEO GLAVINE: E26 and E38.
THE CHAIR: Thank you very much, and thank you to your staff. Have a wonderful day.
We’ll do a quick turnover, so three minutes. Let’s go.
[5:54 p.m. The committee recessed.]
[5:56 p.m. The committee reconvened.]
THE CHAIR: We will call the Estimates for the Department of Energy and Mines.
Resolution E6 - Resolved, that a sum not exceeding $49,036,000 be granted to the Lieutenant Governor to defray expenses in respect of the Department of Energy and Mines, pursuant to the Estimate.
THE CHAIR: The honourable Minister of Energy and Mines.
HON. DEREK MOMBOURQUETTE: Thank you, Mr. Chair, and thank you to all the committee members. I’m pleased to be able to share with you today a little bit about the work currently underway at the Department of Energy and Mines.
I’d like to start by introducing a few staff members from the department. With me are Deputy Minister Simon d’Entremont, Director of Regulatory and Strategic Policy Kim Himmelman, and Manager of Financial Services Remi MacDonell.
As well, there are a few members of our staff throughout the audience with us. I want to thank them all for being here with me today, and for the work that they do every day on behalf of the province.
I would like to take a moment to thank all of these individuals, as well as the dedicated and professional staff supporting us at the Department of Energy and Mines. The work they are responsible for represents a significant contribution both to our province’s finances and to creating more opportunities for all Nova Scotians.
I’ll begin today by focusing first on the details of my department’s budget. Our estimated budget for 2019-20 is $49 million, with the following expenses for the department: administration, $1.6 million; sustainable and renewable energy, $2.7 million; business development and corporate services, $3.2 million; petroleum resources, $2 million; geosciences and mines, $5.5 million; Canada-Nova Scotia Offshore Petroleum Board, $4.3 million; and clean growth and climate change, $29.5 million.
The Department of Energy and Mines is focused on strategically managing and promoting our province’s resources on behalf of Nova Scotians. We are delivering on that commitment because a strong and growing economy is the foundation of a more vibrant and prosperous province. When we set the right conditions for the private sector to be successful, government revenues increase, and that allows us to invest in programs and services for Nova Scotians. It allows us to support our young people so that they can start their careers here. It also gives us the ability to invest in programs that reduce emissions and move us toward Nova Scotia’s cleaner energy future.
On that point, I think that it’s very important to note that the overwhelming majority of the department’s budget is allocated to clean energy, emissions reduction, and green infrastructure. As we continue our work fighting climate change, we also continue to merge the capabilities of Energy with the experience of the Geoscience and Mines division from the former Department of Natural Resources.
Having two teams with expertise in subservice development working together is already paying off for our province.
Lessons learned from the offshore are now being looked at for the purposes of mineral exploration onshore. Plus, we now have a new Mineral Resources Act and its associated regulations. This modern regulatory regime makes it easier for companies and prospectors to do business by reducing costs and cutting red tape. It also ensures responsible development and provides better enforcement.
Arguably, our biggest success to date comes from our energy-efficient programs. Nova Scotians are leaders in fighting climate change by reducing emissions. They have achieved this success by being the best in the country at using energy more efficiently and cutting their energy bills in the process.
Organizations like Efficiency Nova Scotia and Clean Foundation are doing a remarkable job of delivering these programs, and I want to thank them and congratulate them on their results.
Over the past 12 years, more than 16,000 low-income Nova Scotian families have received free home-energy efficiency upgrades. Thousands of other Nova Scotians have received discounts on their energy efficiency upgrades, and there are now roughly 500,000 energy-efficient products in Nova Scotian homes. More than 120,000 heat pumps have been installed in communities from Yarmouth to Meat Cove.
We have reduced our electricity use faster than any other Canadian province: a full 11 per cent since 2008. As a result of all these efficiency efforts, Nova Scotians are now saving more than $180 million each year on their electricity bills. In some cases, this means that homeowners can expect to save about $1,000 on their energy bills every year, plus we avoid more than one million tons of emissions annually from our electricity sector.
The energy efficiency sector now has hundreds of businesses that employ more than 1,400 people across the province. Efficiency Nova Scotia is internationally recognized for its work and is setting the example for other provinces. In fact, my staff have had discussions with several other provinces about duplicating the EfficiencyOne model.
In the coming year, we will spend $14.2 million to help even more low-income homeowners become more energy efficient through our HomeWarming program. This year, we are expanding the program for affordable rental units and First Nations homes. By expanding these programs, we are helping even more Nova Scotians save money and be part of our cleaner energy future.
The budget for the affordable rental program will increase from $1 million to $2 million per year. The budget for First Nations programs will increase from $750,000 to $1 million per year. In First Nations communities, this funding will also help people learn how to become energy efficient installers, so they can start new businesses and create even more jobs.
As part of our work with Efficiency Nova Scotia and the Clean Foundation, we have introduced two new solar energy programs over the past two years. I am pleased to report that both have been very successful. Last summer we created the SolarHomes program, which helps make solar energy systems more affordable for homeowners. The response so far has been outstanding. More than 700 people have signed up for the program, which will more than double the amount of solar energy being generated in our province. On average, a detached home will receive a rebate of $7,000 and the energy generated will save that family about $1,300 per year, every year.
In addition to saving Nova Scotians money and reducing emissions, the SolarHomes program is also creating jobs. Over the past six months, more than 30 installers have joined the program and more than 50 jobs have been created in the solar industry. This program nicely complements the Solar Electricity for Community Buildings Program that we started two years ago.
The Community Buildings program is open to organizations like Mi’kmaq bands, registered non-profit and charitable organizations, municipalities or organizations owned by municipalities, as well as universities and community colleges. These organizations can install solar electricity systems on their buildings and sell the energy they generate back to the utility. The amount of clean energy approved in this competitive process more than doubled last year, over the first year and I am pleased to say the program will again be accepting applications very soon.
We know we need to continue our fight against climate change and we must do so in an affordable way. This year, my department is committing $5 million to optimize funding through the federal government’s Green Infrastructure programs. The investments made through this fund will support Canada’s ongoing transition to a clean growth economy including using more renewable energy, climate change adaptation and mitigation, air quality improvements, waste water and emission reduction projects. Details of these projects will be announced with our partners at a later date.
This year, we are also continuing our $3 million a year commitment to maximize funding from the federal Low Carbon Economy Fund. This fund is currently supporting three projects: the SolarHomes program, expanding energy efficient programs, and the expanded smart products program. In total, Nova Scotians are investing roughly $50 million this year to reduce emissions and increase the use of renewable energy. Working with our federal and private sector partners, we will only build on and enhance our climate change success.
In terms of renewable energy, our province’s future is set on a solid foundation. Nova Scotia is a leader in renewable energy development and our accomplishments are impressive. We have met our legislative target of generating 25 per cent of our electricity from renewable sources by 2015, and we are on track to exceed our target of having 40 per cent renewable electricity by 2020. No one in Atlantic Canada has installed more wind-to-energy capacity than Nova Scotia.
Our efforts have been focused on reducing emissions from the electricity sector because that is our largest source of greenhouse gas emissions. Nova Scotia has made a significant investment in renewable energy and they should be proud of the results we have all achieved. Our work to reduce emissions and increase renewable energy has positioned Nova Scotia as a climate change leader. We are a national leader in reducing greenhouse gas emissions, and we’ve already met our national target of reducing emissions by 30 per cent below the 2005 levels by 2030.
In fact, Nova Scotia has one of Canada’s most ambitious greenhouse gas reduction targets, reducing emissions by 45-50 per cent below 2005 levels by 2030. At the same time, we’re engaging the federal government and our partners on regional collaboration. This will identify electricity infrastructure and programming that can help Atlantic Canada’s transition to sustainable energy. We will work together to affordably reduce emissions, encourage innovation, and support job creation as we transition to a new, clean energy economy. All of these successes are part of our 25-year electricity plan which is now in year four. My department is following through on that plan and the plan is paying off.
Nova Scotians said they wanted predictable power rates and greater accountability. The electricity plan is delivering. We are in a stretch of unprecedented electricity rate stability. The period of time has given us the opportunity to take a long-term view of Nova Scotia’s energy future. Power rates are important but they are only part of a much bigger puzzle that includes electricity, transportation, home heating, international commodity prices, incorporating more renewables into our system, and keeping it all affordable.
Our goal is to achieve overall energy stability and our plan is providing that and more. Today, Nova Scotia Power is more accountable than ever before. Performance standards are in place for customer service, reliability, and storm response. Plus, the Nova Scotia Utility and Review Board has the tools to ensure Nova Scotians pay only the lowest and actual costs of fuel for electricity.
Through our electricity plan, government is opening the door to innovation and development. Our work to implement the electricity plan continues with other innovative projects. We’ve invested in electric vehicle charging stations to lower emissions and to make electric vehicles more accessible to Nova Scotians. These are innovative projects that will lead to better overall energy stability.
Innovation is what leads to the ideas to make our businesses successful and creates jobs for Nova Scotians. It drives the price of renewable energy down. The result is cleaner, affordable electricity for Nova Scotia families and Nova Scotia businesses.
Innovation remains at the core of our commitment to tidal energy development. In recent months we’ve seen how the promise of abundant, clean and predictable renewable energy has struggled with growing pains. However, at the same time, new players with new technologies have entered the Bay of Fundy to test their concepts. This is the kind of development that will ultimately drive costs lower.
The fundamental promise of tidal energy has not changed. This source of energy is a potential game changer for Nova Scotia, Canada and the world. Our province remains at the forefront of this developing industry. We are building a world-class supply chain with significant potential to create jobs in rural areas of the province. The tidal industry also builds on Atlantic Canada’s position as the home of Canada’s Ocean Supercluster. Technologies developed for the tidal industry likely have applications in marine sciences, defence, the fishery and many other sectors. It is this kind of crossover that leads to commercial success, export development and economic growth.
My department continues to support this important work of the Fundy Ocean Research Center for Energy, also known as FORCE. FORCE ensures developers have the onshore infrastructure necessary to test technologies in the Bay of Fundy. Along with the Offshore Energy Research Association, FORCE is also helping the province collect data and make decisions based on sound scientific evidence.
As part of this budget, government continues to invest in sustainable transportation. Sustainable transportation is about creating options to get from place to place with the lowest possible emissions. Encouraging active living is important for so many reasons but in many communities, encouragement is only half the battle. The reality is that people are more likely to tie up their sneakers and get on the move when there are easily accessible and safe walking and bicycle-friendly options available to them. We want to make it just as easy to walk, run or cycle from place to place as it is to drive.
Our sustainable transportation program, Connect2, aims to create and promote active transportation options for trips of two kilometres or less, between community hubs and rural and urban parts of the province. These kinds of projects improve our neighbourhoods and help us build on our achievements as climate change leaders by continuing to reduce emissions. This year we are continuing to commit to Connect2 by providing another $500,000 for the successful program. Since 2015 we’ve invested $1.8 million, which has helped community groups leverage around $8.6 million. This investment has supported 78 projects and 61 kilometres of connectors between community hubs.
Mr. Chair, 2018 was an exciting year for mining in Nova Scotia. We saw commercial production at Atlantic Gold and increased production at the Donkin coal mine. Thanks to the dedicated prospectors in the province, we also have a vibrant exploration industry. Claim staking is up significantly in 2018 over 2017.
In addition to the advanced exploration projects operated by Atlantic Gold, Anaconda and Avalon Advanced Materials Inc., we have some exciting new projects creating interest and opportunities. Last year we launched the Mineral Resources Development Fund and this year we’ve more than doubled it. This year’s budget adds $800,000 to the Fund to bring the total available to $1.5 million. The Mineral Resources Development Fund is designed to encourage investment in development in the mineral resources sector. The Fund supports mineral exploration programs, professional development, innovation, university research, and training opportunities for young people.
Looking ahead to 2019, my department will launch a review of our minerals royalty regime and will draft a five-year geoscience plan. The plan’s goal is to provide new and innovative public geoscience information which will help industry make more effective exploration decisions. As always, the geologists in my department continue to study and report on the geology and mineral occurrences in Nova Scotia.
On the subject of geology, the Department of Energy and Mines continues to invest in leading edge geoscience for the development of our offshore. The oil and gas resources off our coast continue to represent a significant opportunity for economic development in Nova Scotia.
Looking back over more than a generation of exploration and production, our offshore has delivered for Nova Scotians. Over the past 20 years, our province has received about $4 billion in revenue - money that goes directly towards paying for hospitals, schools, roads, internet access, law enforcement, and services that Nova Scotians use every day. On top of that, oil and gas companies have spent more than $3 billion on goods and services in our province.
We have accomplished this with a workplace safety and environmental record that is second to none. Oil and gas developments have safely coexisted with the fishing industry and other sectors for 30 years. We have one of the strongest offshore safety and environmental protection regimes in the world. We are a model for other jurisdictions.
When companies come here, they do so under stringent rules that are strictly enforced by an independent regulator. We have confidence in the abilities of our offshore board, and staff there have almost 300 years experience in health and safety, environmental protection, engineering, and many other fields. When it comes to the environment and worker safety, we don’t cut any corners. We are tough and successful, and our future is bright.
Our investments in geoscience have resulted in work commitments from major international firms totalling more than $2.1 billion. The results of our offshore research are clear; we know there is more oil and gas out there. The Play Fairway Analysis told us more than 120 trillion cubic feet of gas and 800 billion barrels of untapped hydrocarbon potentially lie off our coast. We remain committed to working with industry to help find it.
My department is in year two of a four-year $14 million commitment to support phase two of the offshore growth strategy. We will continue to share the results of this work openly with industry and, with a little luck and a lot of hard work, we hope to continue to attract significant work commitments from major international players.
Mr. Chair, increasingly LNG and natural gas are becoming Nova Scotia’s biggest opportunities for petroleum resource development. East Coast Energy Products Inc., Goldboro LNG, and Bear Head LNG all have projects underway that are in the best interests of this province. These are projects that will create potentially significant jobs in rural areas. The Goldboro LNG and Bear Head LNG projects represent billions of dollars in potential investment for Nova Scotia. Both projects have reach milestones in their approval processes and we look forward to positive final investment decisions in the near future.
North America has an abundance of natural gas and the potential to help meet global demand. Our opportunities lie in finding a way to transfer gas from the supply bases in North America to markets all around the world. We recognize the value of natural gas. Nova Scotians have benefited greatly from this important resource.
Our offshore created the opportunity for our workers and businesses to develop new skill sets and those capabilities are now being exported all around the world. Companies like Secunda Marine Services Limited, Dominion Diving, Jacques Whitford, and many others are competing globally and winning. Natural gas is the fuel that heats many of our homes, schools, and hospitals; it also powers several key industries in our province.
Now that offshore production has ended, some may wonder about supply. I can tell you unequivocally that Nova Scotians will have access to the gas that they need. Government amended legislation to allow the URB to consider long-term gas supply contracts and as a result, Heritage Gas has entered into a 22-year deal to access low-cost natural gas from central Canada. This is very good news because ultimately natural gas will continue to be an important part of our overall energy strategy.
There is plenty of good news in Nova Scotia’s energy and mining sectors, and plenty of reasons to be optimistic about the future. Perhaps the best part of all of this is the opportunity it presents for our young people. Our oil and gas industry has created more than 1,100 co-op work terms for students and invested more than $50 million in training and education. That leads to more graduates choosing to start and grow their careers here.
There are jobs in manufacturing, research and development, engineering, project management and tech start-ups. These are just a few examples, but the point is that opportunity is all around us.
Through our training and scholarship programs, government is doing its part to support industry efforts to hire more young people. Our young people and our resource sector share one very big fact in common - they are both filled with potential. If government and industry continue to work together, I know we can, and we will, create a better future for young people and all Nova Scotians.
To conclude my opening remarks, Mr. Chair, I’d like to thank you and the committee members for the opportunity to outline the important work of the Department of Energy and Mines. Staff at my department are focused on working towards a more prosperous Nova Scotia. They are setting the conditions so the private sector can create jobs in a growing economy that can pay for programs and services that Nova Scotians count on. They’re ensuring that there are fair opportunities for all Nova Scotians and they’re giving all of us a reason to be optimistic about our province’s future.
I’d now be happy to take questions from members of the committee.
THE CHAIR: Thank you very much, minister. We’ll begin with the Progressive Conservative Party for one hour.
The honourable member for Inverness.
ALLAN MACMASTER: Thank you, minister, for your opening remarks. That was very positive, and I look forward to asking some questions.
In terms of energy consumption in the province, I’m just trying to get an idea of the total amount of energy consumed in the province. I think you mentioned in your remarks, there’s Nova Scotia Power, there’s home heating, automobiles. Can you break it down, roughly, sort of what the amounts of energy that we consume in the province on, say a yearly basis?
DEREK MOMBOURQUETTE: Thank you for the question. I can give you a breakdown just from the greenhouse gas emission perspective. I don’t have a set breakdown of specifically what you’re asking for, but if you’re looking at it from a GHG perspective, 45 per cent is generated through electric, through coal, so methods of coal and other sources; 45 per cent would be gas; and then 10 per cent would be classified as everything else. So that would probably be the best breakdown I could give you at this point.
ALLAN MACMASTER: When you say gas, you’re referring to gasoline for automobiles?
DEREK MOMBOURQUETTE: That would include gasoline and that would also include heating oil.
ALLAN MACMASTER: That gives us a good breakdown in percentage terms. If we’re looking at energy in the province and moving away from fossil fuels - I know for a lot of people out there, there’s no replacement to the fossil fuel they’re using to move away from, unless you can maybe afford an expensive electric car. Even if you drive an electric car, you’re charging up, so maybe 45 per cent of what you’re charging up is coming from coal anyway.
Is there an idea on the total amount of maybe litres of gasoline sold, litres of fuel, of heating oil sold per year, that sort of thing? So the total amount of energy Nova Scotia Power puts out in a year, just to get an idea of the total energy market?
DEREK MOMBOURQUETTE: More specifically, Nova Scotia Power at peak times is about 2,000 megawatts annually; 25 per cent of that right now is renewable. That is expected to jump to 40 per cent with the connection of the Maritime Link. That gives you a little more specific to what you were looking for.
When you look at the consumption of Nova Scotians, it’s interesting you mentioned electric cars because we’re actually in the process of doing some work around that. You’ve probably seen that they’re starting to actually pop up on the island now. There are some charge stations around the province that I’ve seen myself in travelling, so we know some people are interested in it.
The department does an extensive amount of work with industry, looking at the costs, because that has been a challenge. We’re starting to see some reductions in those costs and some more incentives that are coming forward; to look at residents and their aspirations to own electric vehicles. We know they want to.
This number that I give you now, we’re talking about peak. A lot of the programs that we offer will help drive those numbers as well. I mentioned in some of my comments about the money that we’re investing with Efficiency Nova Scotia. We’ve seen hundreds of homes access the programs.
I’ve used the number of $180 million annually in savings for Nova Scotians. So, as we bring more renewables onto the system, as the Maritime Link comes on stream, as we continue to promote and expand the programs that we offer to Nova Scotians - this year, for example, we’re expanding to rental units, trying to drive those savings onto residents who are renting. That’s a big step forward too.
We want to do whatever we can to provide these incentives to residents so that they can continue to access them and that they continue to save, not only on their energy bills, but also reduce the amount of energy that they’re actually using.
ALLAN MACMASTER: I guess in terms of automobiles - I think the two biggest ones are Nova Scotia Power and automobiles and I suppose a third would be home heating oil. You don’t have numbers today on the litres of home heating oil or litres of gasoline?
DEREK MOMBOURQUETTE: We don’t have them with us today, but I will ensure that we do whatever we can to get them to you as quick as possible.
ALLAN MACMASTER: The first question was about getting a handle on how much energy we consume in the province. My next question is: How much of that energy do we supply to ourselves domestically? What percentage would we supply to ourselves?
These questions may seem a bit abstract, but I think they’re important. The point being made is we’re all using energy, we have to use it, it’s everyday use. What percentage are we supplying to ourselves? I don’t think we’re really supplying any with home heating or automobiles. With Nova Scotia Power we’re probably providing some through coal, some through wind, some through hydro, nothing through tidal yet. Do we have an idea of what percentage we’re supplying of our own energy needs?
DEREK MOMBOURQUETTE: On the oil and gas front, we wouldn’t because we’re not producing that here domestically. I’m going to get you the statistic on what that breakdown is from the 2000 megawatt. You’re looking specifically on the residential side of what we would consume of that 2,000-megawatt piece?
ALLAN MACMASTER: I was looking at sort of overall - not just Nova Scotia Power, but also energy used for automobile, transportation, everything. I certainly don’t mind it broken down because I know it would be easier to look at Nova Scotia Power as one example. That is probably the easiest one to look at because the sources of energy inputs can be tracked probably more easily through Nova Scotia Power.
I would be interested to know where our energy is coming from and how much of it is coming domestically. Is that information you can provide at some point?
DEREK MOMBOURQUETTE: What we’ll do, MLA MacMaster - I am going to provide you with some of the information you require, as a bit of a breakdown. I’ll also provide you, again, with some of the statistics and the information of Nova Scotians who are accessing the efficiency programs. I think that’s important as part of the conversation because there are some very significant savings that we’re seeing that are driving down that consumption. You’ll get an idea of why we’ve shifted certain ways because we know the demand is there.
The solar program, I used the number in my opening speech - we had more applications that are being consumed in solar usage in Nova Scotia right now, so we’ll pull those number together for you and get them to you as quick as we can.
ALLAN MACMASTER: Thank you, and I made an outreach about solar myself personally a couple of weeks ago - noting the generous rebate that is offered there now and to see if that works - so I am eagerly awaiting.
DEREK MOMBOURQUETTE: Through one of our Low Carbon Economy Funds, your community actually is looking at some solar programs as well. We just signed off on a grant for them so they’re going to be doing some studies in the community there as well. It’s actually great from a Cape Breton perspective because we’re starting to see a lot of progressiveness come from the municipalities.
I shouldn’t just say Cape Breton, but really right across the province. We’re seeing that the municipalities are looking at solar, they’re looking at electrification of their own transportation vehicles and stuff, so it’s great. Next question.
ALLAN MACMASTER: I can see the benefit in that it is perhaps diverting our demand for other types of energy, because my sense is that most of the money that we all spend on energy leaves our province. We’re probably only generating about 5 per cent of our own energy needs, maybe 10 per cent. That was what my earlier question was about: finding out what the total energy we’re consuming is, and how much of it we are generating domestically. It would seem to me that we’re generating a very small amount domestically to supply our needs.
I guess the question would be, is that a problem, or is that an opportunity that’s lost? I know there’s efforts made in recent years in terms of wind energy. I know in the past, hydro energy - and I don’t think there’re many more locations you can create hydro energy from anymore in this province. I may be wrong, but I’ve looked at it, and a lot of those good sites for hydro energy have already been found and are being used.
DEREK MOMBOURQUETTE: To your question, just to offer a few comments. We continue to look at our energy mix and we’ve seen a huge evolvement in it in the last number of years; that’s through successive governments that we’ve seen it. Every government has taken their own initiatives, because it’s been an important mandate for Nova Scotians for a long period of time to look at what our energy mix is. You see with Nova Scotia Power that we have our coal fire plants still operating. They will continue to operate for the foreseeable future as we transition to other renewable sources.
We’ve had a number of wind projects in this province. We’ve had municipalities partner on their own energy consumption goals. We’re going to continue to do whatever we can as a department to support the continuous innovation of what our energy future is going to be, and what the system can sustain at this point.
I guess to provide my own thoughts on it - since I’ve taken over the portfolio, I’ve seen a solid relationship with NSP and what the energy needs of Nova Scotians are and to ensure that Nova Scotians’ voices are heard loud and clear through that process. We continue to look at what their future goals are with renewables and what the system can sustain.
At the same time, I’ve seen that the biggest successes for us have been through the efficiency programs and the thousands of Nova Scotians who are now accessing those programs. We need to continue to evolve, especially there, so that everyday Nova Scotians can access it.
ALLAN MACMASTER: Just to confirm, we don’t know an actual percentage of the energy we consume that we produce domestically?
DEREK MOMBOURQUETTE: Just to give you a bit of a breakdown of what we’re consuming right now in the province as it comes to the mix: 25 per cent of what we generate and use in Nova Scotia is renewables at this point; about 50 per cent of it is coal, so it would be your more traditional sources; the other 25 per cent is oil and gas, which aren’t produced here locally.
Does that give you a better breakdown of what you’re looking for?
ALLAN MACMASTER: That’s helpful. With respect to Nova Scotia Power, it would be 50 per cent coal, some of which would be from Nova Scotia, but most of it from outside of Nova Scotia; 25 per cent renewables, which you could say is from here; and 25 per cent other oil and gas, which would be from outside this area. Okay, I’m satisfied with that. Then in terms of all the automobile energy consumption and home heating oil consumption, that would all be outside of Nova Scotia as well. Okay.
Is it is a problem for the province to be sending so many of our dollars outside of the province to all these sources of fuels that we were generating?
I know when the offshore was running, there was natural gas being generated here, consumed here and exported, and that was offsetting some of the energy sources we were buying from around the world. Is it a problem that we are producing a small amount of our energy needs?
DEREK MOMBOURQUETTE: I guess I will start out by saying - and I said it in my opening comments - that we had a very successful offshore. We did, and it created major economic benefits for the province, money that was used to support the building of hospitals, schools, roads. As you see now, we are investing in one of the largest broadband investments that you are seeing across the country.
It’s not lost on anyone what that has meant to the province, not only from a monetary perspective but, as I’ve said in my statements, what it has meant to young Nova Scotians who studied at our universities that their first positions were with Sable and they generated extensive experience. Hundreds of businesses and millions and millions and millions of dollars spent on goods and services, so it was very important for us.
As I’ve said in my statements, we are going to continue to do our work to promote our offshore and support our independent board to ensure that as opportunities arise again - and they will arise again - we are ready and that Nova Scotians are ready to look at those opportunities.
If we look at the gas side of things and the fuel side of things, I’ll say that we are continuing to make those investments and will continue to make those investments. We are going to continue to sell Nova Scotia around the world. But as I’ve said previously, one of the biggest successes that we are really seeing, when you talk about maybe we lost some - I don’t want to say “resources,” but we are in a downturn right now in regard to the actual development of gas.
We do have an emerging economy efficiency. We are seeing that 200 businesses now are engaged across the province in providing the efficiency programs that government is providing. Just on the efficiency side, there are over 1,400 jobs that have been created in the last number of years in efficiency. That’s growing because we continue to renew and redesign programs to fit the demand that Nova Scotians are looking for.
Not through our department but through other departments on the efficiency side, on the solid-waste front, hundreds of jobs are being created because Nova Scotians fundamentally believe in what all political stripes have done in getting us to being a national leader in climate change.
We are seeing more, and we are looking at those opportunities to put more renewables on the system. The investments we make in tidal and the investments we make in wind - I mentioned the solar program and the amount of Nova Scotian homes that have applied.
I really see a trajectory that sees a future in our offshore, but also the amazing growth in efficiency. We’re going to continue to promote our traditional resources, but at the same time, I think that while we go through that transition, we’re going to continue to invest in our efficiency and our clean programs to ensure that if we can employ Nova Scotians and plug businesses, we will.
ALLAN MACMASTER: What about energy pricing? I ask this question every year, and I think it’s important because, at the end of the day, people are consuming energy. Most people have no choice in what they consume. I think of the fishermen at home. They’re going out in their boats. Well, they haven’t invented boats with solar panels that can run the boat yet. They have to buy fossil fuels to run their boats.
People who are coming here as visitors to the province for tourism, which is another big industry in my constituency, are flying here. Then they’re getting in cars and they’re driving. They may be driving around to see the Cabot Trail. They’re all consuming energy, and a lot of it is fossil fuels. The thing I think about is sometimes there’s no choice for those people.
For Nova Scotia Power and the energy mix they’re using, there is some choice - you’re procuring the power and then you’re sending it out over the grid, and there’s more flexibility to produce power with other forms of energy inputs. But right now, what is the price of those inputs for, say, Nova Scotia Power? Does the department have an idea?
If the department is encouraging certain types of energy procurement, one thing I always keep in mind is affordability. Is the policy the department is using and encouraging Nova Scotia Power to use taking into account the cost of the various energy inputs? I think of coal, natural gas, hydro - there’d be various projects, but maybe there’s an average wind. I know there are big wind and smaller wind projects. We know what those rates are, and Muskrat Falls, which I think is 7.8 cents per kilowatt hour, whenever it starts to come through.
Can you give a rundown on what the prices for each of those energy inputs are right now?
DEREK MOMBOURQUETTE: When you talk about the specific commodities, whether it’s coal or gas, that’s an open process through the URB. Their mandate is to control that process, to ensure that we’re keeping the prices in mind and controlling any potential spikes to ensure that there’s stability for Nova Scotians in the rates.
We have experienced rate stability for three years now. It’s been predictable to Nova Scotians. As a department - and as the minister of that department - we want to continue to ensure that remains so, that there is stability in the system. That we respect the URB process, to ensure that those commodities that drive those prices are - that’s within their realm. They’re going to be a big part of that.
For us, one of the biggest things we can do as a department and as a government - and really as MLAs, regardless - is to continue to push and pursue efficiency programs for Nova Scotians so that they can heat their homes more efficiently, ensure that they take advantage of these energy installs to help reduce energy consumption. As I’ve said, we’ve seen $180 million in savings annually for Nova Scotians - and from a community perspective, which is important because we are receiving a lot of applications from municipalities and communities all over Nova Scotia.
We have communities that are talking about electrification of their services. They’re looking at transferring from your traditional gasoline products to natural gas, so we continue to have those conversations with municipalities across the province, and we’re going to continue to do it. It not only allows them to reduce their GHG emissions and save money but provides more options to residents who are visiting those communities to ensure that if you do fly into Port Hawkesbury to go golfing and you have an electric car, the ability is there for you to have that infrastructure, whether it be Inverness or anywhere in between.
Again, for us, we’re going to continue to advocate stability within the system and we’re going to respect that URB process, but we’re going to continue to push programs that Nova Scotians are using day in and day out that are helping to reduce costs for them and helping to reduce our carbon footprint.
ALLAN MACMASTER: So would the URB be the best place to ask about pricing for all those various energy inputs for Nova Scotia Power?
DEREK MOMBOURQUETTE: Yes. That’s the process. That’s their process, so I would say yes.
ALLAN MACMASTER: The environment out there, in terms of energy and mines, seems pretty dead. Does industry - and maybe better, does the public - have confidence in our environmental policy? There doesn’t seem to be a lot of activity out there in terms of generating energy domestically.
DEREK MOMBOURQUETTE: I’ll respond, because I think you have both energy and mines in that question. Again, I’ll go to the energy part first, and again, I’ll talk about the amazing growth we continue to see in efficiency and the 1,400-plus jobs that have been created in the last number of years to support the efficiency programs that government is investing in - again, over $14 million this year, expanding the programs further into First Nations communities and looking at how we can support residents who rent.
We see investments in wind and in solar. We’re very excited about that. We’ve seen 700 applications for the solar program, so we’ve seen an additional 50 jobs generated from that most recently. We’re seeing a lot of conversations around how municipalities across the province can access programs to support electrification and solar programs to reduce their electricity consumption and their GHG output.
Again, in regard to resource development, when it comes to the offshore, we’re in a bidding process now. We have an independent board that I have tremendous faith in. We’ve seen billions of dollars through that. The actual extraction may be done now, but the investments are continuing to happen within the province when it comes to the royalties that have come from offshore.
I see great potential continuing through those investments that will spur economic development in rural communities. I think about home, and I think we have had these conversations before about Internet access and what that means for rural communities. There are some great entrepreneurs up on your side of the island and across the province that will receive the ability to grow their businesses finally because of those investments the government has made and the resources that we received in return.
On the energy front, I’m very optimistic. On the mine side, we see Atlantic Gold, which is employing 250 direct jobs in its facility. We’re seeing the potential in Guysborough Country for the operations there. We have hundreds of exploration licences out all over the province looking at our mineral footprint. We’re going to continue to promote that. I think it’s great. I think the combination of Energy and Mines, to put all of that expertise under one roof, is going to pay off.
We have great staff who are out promoting, all over the world, the potential for what we can do here in Nova Scotia and, of course, not only promoting the opportunities that we have in resource development but also promoting our strong environmental record in the work that Nova Scotians have done. It is Nova Scotia’s work. Hundreds of families were involved with our offshore resource development. We have hundreds of families involved with our mining sector. Actually, the number is over 5,000 right now who are employed directly or indirectly in the mining sector across our province. We’re going to continue to promote it. I have great optimism for it, but we’re going to do it in a way that is cognizant of what Nova Scotians expect in protecting the environment.
ALLAN MACMASTER: Minister, would you say there’s a huge transition away from the traditional energy and mines development expertise that you would have in your department towards what we’re seeing now? Atlantic Gold has those 250 jobs, and I know there are exploration licences out there, potential for other things. Aside from Atlantic Gold, it’s pretty dead out there.
It seems to me that the expertise that would have been in the department traditionally in looking at mining and energy projects in the province, there has been a movement away from that to more of a focus on energy efficiency and renewables. Would you say there has been a massive change over the last five to 10 years?
DEREK MOMBOURQUETTE: In response, I would disagree that there’s a loss of expertise, or there’s shift with technology. Industry learns, and you learn new ways to do things. We’re all very much more cognizant of the environmental protections that need to be in place in resource development.
To give you some examples, we have the example that I mentioned of Atlantic Gold. They have other sites in Nova Scotia that they’re gearing up for production. We have Anaconda in Guysborough County; that is another development. We look at exploration licences - there are over 1,300 exploration licences, doubling in the last year across the province.
As a department, I have full confidence in the expertise that we have there. We know that they’re out actively engaged with prospectors across the province.
Our new Mineral Resources Act is now in place to look at red-tape reduction and to try to streamline the permitting process and, at the same time, providing more enforcement to our officers to ensure that as resource development takes place across the province that it is done correctly and it is done within the very strict rules we have in regard to protecting the environment.
The conversations that I’ve had with prospectors have been very positive and I see a bright future for resource development in Nova Scotia.
ALLAN MACMASTER: Minister, I would expect to hear nothing less than a bright outlook towards development.
If we go into sustainable and renewable energy, one of the divisions of the department, there are just a few questions. I think solar is pretty obvious, we are seeing the subsidies for that. Tidal is kind of in an experimental phase, wind is pretty established, and geothermal has some success with that in the northern part of the province.
What about biomass? Is biomass still seen as actually being renewable energy? Is there a future for it? Do you see it beyond the by-product of pulp and paper making, or should it be limited to just that?
DEREK MOMBOURQUETTE: It’s part of the mix but I guess, really, if you are going to be into the business of biomass, I believe it should be more on the wood waste side and not the high value of the tree. If you are going to use product, that’s the product you should be using for it. It is part of our mix, but, again, it’s a case of if there’s wood waste and you are using it, great, but we encourage that if you are going to use the forest, that it be used in a manageable way.
ALLAN MACMASTER: Minister, is there a vision to increase use of biomass, keep it about the same, or to reduce it, would you say?
DEREK MOMBOURQUETTE: At this point, we are not actively pursuing it. Again, biomass would be part of that URB process when they look at their mix, but for the department, we are not active on that front at this moment.
ALLAN MACMASTER: Thank you, minister. That’s great.
Run-of-river hydro, small projects like that - I know there are probably some around the province, but I have no idea how many there would be. They don’t generate a lot of energy. One of the concerns I’ve heard raised is that the licensing fees only are generating maybe $500 to $1,000 worth of energy per year. It still may be valuable energy, but from what I understand sometimes the licensing fees to use, say, a river on your property can be into the hundreds of dollars, which eliminates the benefit - and it’s not easy to procure that energy.
A lot of times, it’s custom-made equipment that’s being used, and even if it’s being purchase from somebody who specializes in it, it’s pretty much a custom design every time. Have you any thoughts on that, or has the department considered looking at those fees to see if they are discouraging that type of energy procurement?
DEREK MOMBOURQUETTE: I think I’m going to follow up with you, and you and I can have a conversation on this one. It’s just one I haven’t heard of - we’re in the title but if I can get some more specifics, you and I can have a chat tomorrow. Okay?
ALLAN MACMASTER: Sure, thank you, minister. If we were to look at all of those types of renewable energy and if we were to look at targets for them to replace fossil fuels, I guess we would just look at what the department is saying around emissions reductions to see what kind of targets the vision is or what the vision is of the department in terms of increasing the use of these types of renewable energy.
Would that be the case or do you have targets that you want to, say, reduce the amount of automobile gasoline consumption in the province over the next ten years and how that would be done - do you have anything more specific like that or do we just look at emissions targets?
DEREK MOMBOURQUETTE: We have our overall broad targets so that you have your 40 per cent by 2020. That’s the next target, but I think it really is going to be evolving. We’re going to continue to talk to our communities and talk to Nova Scotians about the programs that they want to see that will even help reduce that number even more.
That’s why we continuously evolve the programs that we have. That’s why we continue to invest the amount of money that we do to support fighting climate change. We’ve seen that in the solar program, in the amount of Nova Scotians who are accessing the efficiency programs, and in all of the installations across Nova Scotia when it comes to heat pumps and thermostats and other products and services that the people can utilize.
We see the huge potential and growth in what a green industry and a green economy looks like with Efficiency Nova Scotia and Clean Nova Scotia. That number of 1,400 is a significant number, and 200 businesses is a significant number across the province that are now just accessing and utilizing the investments that government has made to support Nova Scotians in their wants to upgrade their homes and in their community halls, and active transportation options as well.
That’s another part of what we do - we do a lot on the active transportation front. There’s great potential there to even drive that number lower and, again, it really comes with an evolving technology. You see the price of what an electric vehicle costs and then you see new technology come that drives that price down, so of course there’s going to be more demand because people want to see those options. We need to be able to react to those requests.
We see municipalities - Halifax and others - looking at electrification of their fleets, which is something that is very important to them. Our department is talking to them on a daily basis, and we’re talking to industry about some of the new technologies when it comes to battery storage and things that we know are going to come on in the future. We continue to push that because Nova Scotians want that. Again, we’re going to have a mix of our traditional resources, but at the same time we’re going to continue to grow that. Whether it’s this government or successive governments, we’re going to continue to grow that green economy because Nova Scotians expect it.
ALLAN MACMASTER: If Northern Pulp goes kaput in January 2020, how will that impact the goal of 40 per cent renewables - or 40 per cent reduction in emissions by 2020? Actually, that’s not 2020 - 2030, right?
DEREK MOMBOURQUETTE: To answer the question, I think it is important regardless - 40 per cent of our electricity will be generated by renewables by 2020. That’s the target regardless, so that’s going to be the mix in Nova Scotia, 40 per cent by 2020.
ALLAN MACMASTER: I’ll ask a clearer question. I know one of the things you look at is emissions. I’m sure Northern Pulp puts out a lot of emissions; they use a lot of energy. I remember when Port Hawkesbury Paper was looking at that, it almost went kaput and then it did for about a year; it stayed on hot idle and then it came back to operate. I know it consumes about 10 to 15 per cent of the energy in the province, so if you have a reduction of that amount of energy consumption it’s going to significantly affect the amount of emissions that are put out in the province each year.
Has the department done analysis on Northern Pulp? If it doesn’t stay operating past January 2020, what impact will that have on emissions for the province?
DEREK MOMBOURQUETTE: Your question will be better directed to Environment because they would be the ones measuring if they were doing analyses. It would be coming through that department.
ALLAN MACMASTER: Thank you, minister. I guess maybe in terms from an energy perspective, how much less energy would the province be consuming, or how much less energy would Nova Scotia Power have to generate? Right now, it’s about 2,000 megawatts per year. If Northern Pulp goes, what would be the annual consumption of power for Nova Scotia Power?
DEREK MOMBOURQUETTE: We’ll follow up because we know that Northern Pulp is a different energy mix than Port Hawkesbury Paper would have. I don’t have those numbers in front of me, but we’ll see what we can get to you.
ALLAN MACMASTER: Okay, I await the numbers. Would you say it might be 100 megawatts per year - 150 or 200? Is there a rough estimate your department would have?
DEREK MOMBOURQUETTE: I don’t have it estimated for you, but I can say this much: the energy mix is very different with the two. The energy consumption would actually be less in Northern Pulp because they use more natural gas in their facility. Their consumption levels - if that’s what you’re looking for - would be much lower, but we’ll try to get you some more specifics on it.
ALLAN MACMASTER: Thank you. I’m sort of running out of time here. So, the Petroleum Resources Division has a budget of about $2 million and 11 people. I know with the offshore you can’t stop working on these things because if you never work on them, nothing will come in and you’ve got nothing in the pipeline - no pun intended. What is the hope this year for that investment of $2 million and for those people who are working in that division - what is the hope for accomplishment at the end of the year?
DEREK MOMBOURQUETTE: That department is still very active; they are engaged. We have a competitive bid process that’s ongoing, so they would have a role in that work. Looking at the investments that government has made in geoscience in the offshore, that work continues. We’re in year two of that so they’re going to be engaged in that.
There is the marketing side of this as well as you go through this process for bids. We have staff that are engaged all over the world to talk about the potential of Nova Scotia, not only from potential resource development but talking about marketing the expertise that we as a province have gained and obtained in the last 20 years with the Sable project, working with those Nova Scotia companies that are engaged all over the world. That work will continue because we continue to see, and I feel confident in the potential of what our offshore can produce for our province as it has done.
It has employed hundreds of Nova Scotians over a long period of time. It has invested millions of dollars in hospitals and schools and the services that Nova Scotians utilize on a daily basis. It has given over 1,000 students coming out of university their first job in Nova Scotia. It has supported programs to protect the environment around Sable. We have learned a lot; we have gained a lot through that experience and Nova Scotians have benefited greatly, families have benefited greatly from the employment.
It’s been a success story not only from an economic standpoint, but from an environmental protection standpoint as well. I’m very optimistic about the work that’s going to happen in the division.
THE CHAIR: Mr. MacMaster, you have two minutes.
ALLAN MACMASTER: There’s not a lot of time left here but I just might ask a quick question. The clean growth and climate change - what are your sourcing revenues from there? Is that just from general revenues to the province or are you sourcing it through federal money that’s from carbon taxes being collected? I think there’s 1 cent per litre on gasoline being collected. Can you explain where the revenue is coming from and how much it is?
THE CHAIR: Time has elapsed for the PC caucus. We will now move to the NDP caucus. Ms. Leblanc.
SUSAN LEBLANC: Thank you, Mr. Chair. Thank you, minister. Welcome everyone - I am sorry I missed your introductions but thank you for being here. Minister, you just missed a great theatre, and I was going to use the young people who just came in to sort of support my opening comments, which is that the future is now. The future is now, and we have to move quickly to make sure that those kids have a world to be in.
I wanted to start by making a couple general comments about your comments around the oil and gas industry and the offshore exploration, and the op-ed that you wrote - am I allowed to address you as “you”?
THE CHAIR: I believe so.
SUSAN LEBLANC: Thank you. Regarding the op-ed you wrote at the beginning of the year where you talked about the offshore exploration - I’ve been listening to you talk and I feel like I’m in a little bit of an upside-down world here.
When I came in at the beginning of your comments, you were talking all about Efficiency Nova Scotia and the Clean Foundation and all of the work that’s going on there. I too have used the programs of Efficiency Nova Scotia - I’m on the waiting list for the home I live in now, which is a good sign. This is not for solar, this is just for the regular efficiency test. It’s a really good sign and I know that in my old home, the very basic work that we did saved us about $1,500 a year on power and it was power heat, but it also reduced our energy consumption, more importantly.
I agree with you on oil and gas jobs - it’s not an agreement, it is fact. Oil and gas jobs have provided jobs and revenue that have been very important to Nova Scotia and still are important to Nova Scotia. However, the global economy is shifting and I feel like we need to shift with it quickly and faster than we are right now. There’s not been any recent rush to explore our offshore and what exploration has occurred has not produced any results. It’s not surprising that we’re currently in the longest oil drilling investment slump since the 1980s, and the offshore is seeing the slowest recovery of all.
According to Rystad Energy, we’re not expected to see investment in offshore drilling recover to the 2014 levels until 2027. That’s a long time to wait for this big payoff, and in the meantime we could see tons and tons of change in renewable energy and the rapidly growing industry that that is. I’m worried that we’re putting a lot of eggs in a basket that may not even be there when there is oil to be found, or when something occurs again in that industry.
Yes, that is what I was going to say - the other thing is that you talked about that everything is heavily regulated by an “independent” regulator, which I believe you are referring to as the CNSOPB, which is not really independent when there are many members of that organization from the oil and gas industry. I think that’s a funny description - and maybe I’m wrong about that, but I feel like that is a dangerous word to use when it comes to that board.
Also, you were talking about the very strict environmental regulations around the offshore exploration. We know there has been safe and good relationships with the fishing industry; you have listed the history. However we also know that if there was an accident, then we would be in a serious situation and our fishing industry could be wiped out because of the fact that the capping stack - we don’t have one around here and I’m pretty sure it’s Norway that it would have to come from. I’m very, very concerned about all of that and so I am just going to say that and then I will begin my questions.
The priorities that the minister has expressed in the op-ed are reflected in the budget that we have seen. There is a total of $6 million directly invested in oil and gas - $2 million in the petroleum resources budget line and $4 million for the offshore petroleum board. In contrast, there is less than $3 million in the Renewable Energy and Sustainable Energy budget line. If that is inaccurate - I know you’ve been talking about bigger numbers than that - I’d love to hear where I am going wrong here.
I am wondering this: As we approach 2030 for our first climate emissions targets responsibilities, do you think that it makes sense that we are investing twice as much in oil and gas compared to renewable energies?
DEREK MOMBOURQUETTE: The actual number for the department is $31 million on the clean energy side and that would include the number you referenced for that. Also, if you look at what we spend, we will spend over $14 million this year just on the HomeWarming program, the efficiency side of things, and that would also be part of what we would spend on the clean energy side.
As well, when we look at the investments we are making in tidal and in our other projects to support community organization, and looking at the conversations around electric vehicles, we are going to be spending resources on promoting and supporting the industry. That number is actually very much higher than the petroleum side of it.
Of the $6 million that you did reference, $4 million of that is actually recoverable to us through industry, and that is pretty consistent to what we have been spending throughout the years on the offshore. Just for clarification, the amount we are spending on efficiency far outweighs the amount of money we are spending in offshore resource development at this point.
Staff are doing incredible work. We have a department of extremely progressive folks who are talking every day to communities and talking to the future leaders about their thoughts around technology and what we can all do to support electric cars, more solar and wind opportunities - more clean energy opportunities. It’s a lot of fun actually; I really enjoy the work. The work they do, it’s pretty fantastic.
SUSAN LEBLANC: Thank you for the clarification. I will ask more detailed questions, I think later, on about some of those numbers. That’s my sense from the people that I know who are working in the industry, that it’s super exciting, and that’s why when I was saying it’s a little bit of an upside-down world. You spent a lot of time in your opening comments talking about the offshore exploration, so to me it doesn’t really make sense.
If you’re spending all of this on renewables and exciting innovation, there are so many more places to go in that area with good investment, real investment, and we could meet our targets for 2030, but also meet the targets that we need to meet now which is 50 per cent of emissions below the 1990 levels by 2050. I would really love to see the province sign on to that commitment. Not only is it what is required in order for the Earth not to go into catastrophic climate change, but investing to get there would mean our economy would be booming for years and years, and years.
Speaking of that, I want to talk about the cost of renewables. The unsubsidized cost of renewables now has already dropped 50 to 80 per cent. The Town of Bridgewater has calculated that they can create 4,000 jobs, cut greenhouse gas emissions by 80 per cent and achieve $2 billion in energy savings with a $375 million investment. Just the energy savings there makes that worth it, even without thinking about the job creation and the reduction in energy poverty - less than half a billion would mean $2 billion in savings. As part of their plan, Bridgewater calls on the province to ensure that 100 per cent of Nova Scotia’s electricity is provided by renewables by 2040.
Is that a goal that you can commit to and, if not, what year does your department foresee 100 per cent of our electricity coming from renewables?
DEREK MOMBOURQUETTE: Bridgewater, actually yes, they just submitted a project to us that we’re funding that’s looking at their energy future, their consumption and their mix. We’re happy to support them in that initiative. I’ve had the opportunity to know the mayor for a very long period of time; we have had a very open dialogue both in Municipal Affairs and Housing and now in Energy and Mines. If they want to have a conversation with the department, we can do that.
In regard to the targets, we’re going to continue to pursue as a province to be the national leader. We’re leading the country right now in integration to renewables, and we’re going to continue that work. When you look overall at the integration of renewables into the system, there are some pressures that we’re very cognizant of when it comes to the system and what it can sustain as you integrate into renewables. As well, looking at the affordability of some of that technology to ensure that we do it in a way that is affordable for everyone to move along that journey.
I’m very excited about the work that we do and how far we’ve come as a province over an extended period of time. Nova Scotians have made it clear they want to continue down this path for us. We’re going to do it in a way that is sustainable for Nova Scotians and, at the same time, utilizing new technologies that come every day to us. Our staff are out in communities across Nova Scotia talking to elected leaders and other community leaders about what they can do to look at their transportation services, the other services they provide, the facilities they operate.
Actually, I was listening to your conversations about theatres - we’re actually looking at stuff in Cape Breton right now in regard to some of the local theatres and what we can do to try and support them because operation costs are a big challenge for them. We’re always talking to various organizations about what we can do as a department, how they can apply through our Low Carbon Economy Fund to support those initiatives, so we’re going to continue down that path.
I think we’re going to continue to reduce our footprint, but it has to be done in a manageable way. We’re still leading the charge and as a department we’re going to continue to push the fact that we are a national leader and we want to continue to be a national leader in the work that we do.
SUSAN LEBLANC: Earlier you said the target for the emissions is 40 per cent by 2020 and you are on track to meet that. That’s just next year - what is the department doing to set new targets and when will we hear about new targets?
DEREK MOMBOURQUETTE: We continue to work with the Department of Environment to look at what targets we want to put in place. I can say that we are very optimistic about what we’re seeing from our federal partners in regard to the resources they want to put in place to help with our climate change aspirations.
We’re seeing the federal government invest millions of dollars across the country. We will access some of those funds ourselves to look at what we can do to match and support significant projects across the province to really drive that number even lower.
We are on target for 2020. I am confident we are going to hit that target and we’re going to look at ways we can continue to drive that number down. We know that we are going to continue to provide resources on our end to support that work, but we know that is a large priority for the federal government as well, that we’re going to utilize it.
SUSAN LEBLANC: Speaking of the federal government, according to our greenhouse gas regulations, by 2030 our electricity sector cannot emit more than 4.5 million tons of greenhouse gases. However, the more recently passed federal regulations associated with the coal phase-out may put an emissions cap for the Nova Scotia electricity sector of about 2.4 million tons by 2030.
Can you clarify which emissions cap you see as the 2030 target for our sector, and can you update us on where we are and whether we’re on track to reach the 2030 target, whichever one it is?
DEREK MOMBOURQUETTE: The equivalency information runs through the Department of Environment. Energy and Mines plays a big role in driving down that GHG reduction through the programs we provide to Nova Scotians. Some of your questions should be forwarded to Environment, but we work closely with them because we want to do our part to support programs and services that Nova Scotians can utilize to support fighting climate change. At the same time, it has to be done in a way that doesn’t pass all of the costs on to Nova Scotians, so again we’re very cognizant of that.
The staff is doing exceptional work in looking at programs that we can continue to expand and we’re going to continue to do that work.
SUSAN LEBLANC: Thank you. I’m wondering if you’ve given much thought to or looking at lithium, where we can go with battery power and battery storage. The cost of lithium batteries has fallen by 70 per cent since 2012. Florida has just announced that they are putting these giant batteries in and they’re going to store solar energy and are going to replace two natural gas plants. The people of Florida are going to be able to have cheaper reliable energy that they produce within their own state.
In Nova Scotia, we have a project in Elmsdale that’s installing Tesla batteries in ten homes and installing one grid-scale battery. This sounds awesome and great, but I’m wondering why we couldn’t take that to a much larger scale. How many home batteries and how many grid-scale batteries does this government plan to install this year?
DEREK MOMBOURQUETTE: Thank you, and the department agrees. We expect that as funding becomes available, that we will receive applications for this. Battery storage is actually a big part of backing up wind so it will be an enabler of other technologies, and help support and continue the work that we’re doing in the department. We fully expect that this going to come. Nova Scotia Power actually has a pilot project now in Enfield that they’re working on. There is some work that we’re working in collaboration with them on to look at the technology, and we know that the cost is coming down on these.
You’re starting to see communities looking at battery storage, whether it’s in Canada or North America. We will be looking at it too. It is coming. It’s like the electric car, it is going to happen. We’re seeing it now in communities, so we expect that we’re going to start receiving applications on it, and I think we all agree that battery source is going to play a part for sure in the future.
SUSAN LEBLANC: A major issue for Nova Scotians is power liability. While Nova Scotia Power continues to make big profits, the number of power outages are increasing and Nova Scotia Power itself has said that the blackouts are due to changing weather because of climate change. Nova Scotia Power has continued to profit and yet we are continuing to pay for less reliable power, and so here are some ways that making investments to switch to renewables will give us more reliable power.
Renewables power generation will be distributed throughout the province and will have community scaled grids, as you just said, maybe even using the batteries and that means when there’s a failure fewer people will be affected. Investing in renewables will mean investing in smart grids which will mean power failures will be easier to avoid and faster to fix. With distributed renewable power generation, many more Nova Scotians will have large, efficient batteries in their homes that will act like a clean version of a generator - meaning that when there’s a blackout, many homes will be able to continue to run.
What is your department doing to make sure that Nova Scotia Power starts investing more - and maybe you just alluded to this a little bit - in delivering more reliable power to Nova Scotians?
DEREK MOMBOURQUETTE: I’ll start off by saying there are a couple of initiatives that government has implemented in the last number of years under new Acts and regulations that hold Nova Scotia Power to account when it comes to outages, and there’s a structure that’s in place if they don’t meet with what’s in those regulations. Of course, they can measure storms and the amount of storms - and I actually had a bit of an experience working with their group when I was in Municipal Affairs and Housing, they’re located over in Dartmouth as well at the centre. I’ve actually experienced one outage as minister of this department and I will say to Nova Scotia Power that they acted quickly.
Staff was out in the height of the storm trying to restore power to communities across the province, so I had the opportunity to publicly thank the employees of Nova Scotia Power as well. They were in communities across Nova Scotia doing great work every day.
Specific to your question of how we hold them to account, as I’ve said, the Act that was passed in 2015 puts a number of steps in place to ensure that Nova Scotia Power is accountable when this happens. As well there are steps from the URB that they must follow, and we have a very open line of communication with them to ensure that in the event of an outage that they act, that our staff is aware, and that we’re doing everything we can to ensure that Nova Scotians are updated on what’s taking place.
As I said in previous comments, Nova Scotia Power is working with the department on a number of initiatives, one of them being the battery storage demo in Enfield, because that is the future. One way of tackling future outages is to have the storage capability and we’re going to continue working on projects with them to that nature, but there are a number of steps that are in place to hold Nova Scotia Power to account.
SUSAN LEBLANC: Since 2015, Nova Scotia Power rates have stabilized, but this is the last year of that stabilization plan. This year, Nova Scotia Power will be going back to the URB to get future rates approved - and this could obviously mean a major increase in power rates.
What are you doing to prepare for that and are you doing anything to ensure that the increases are limited, or are you doing anything to prepare to offset the potentially high cost of power for Nova Scotians?
DEREK MOMBOURQUETTE: Essentially, at this point we still are in a phase of rate stability. For me as minister, it is my mandate to ensure that we do whatever we can to ensure stable rates for Nova Scotians. As well, one of the biggest things we do as a department is to continue to drive bills down. So, while we’re having the conversations about rates, we’re also expanding efficiency programs to ensure that as many Nova Scotians as possible can access them.
As I said in my opening remarks, Nova Scotians are saving $180 million a year on their energy bills because of the programs that are being implemented. We’re expanding those programs into our First Nations communities and to Nova Scotians who rent, to ensure that the savings flow to them.
We’re going to continue that work on a daily basis. We do it in partnership with Nova Scotia Power a lot of times, when we look at some of the programs that we’re offering. I can say as the minister, I will do whatever I can in my authority to ensure that Nova Scotians’ voices are heard loud and clear when it comes to rate stability, ensuring predictability for all Nova Scotians.
SUSAN LEBLANC: Thanks for that answer, but if rates go up, then the savings that we see and efficiency measures are not going to amount to anything. We know that dropping of power bills and the lower amounts to have to pay are the incentives that many people need to take those efficiency measures. I really hope those things don’t level out because of rates going up.
I’m happy to hear that the efficiency programs are expanding into rental units. I had heard that was a pilot program, so maybe you can quickly confirm that is not a pilot program now, but that is something that all renters can access, those efficiency programs.
DEREK MOMBOURQUETTE: It’s no longer a pilot project. It’s funded at $2 million a year.
SUSAN LEBLANC: That’s for multi-unit buildings?
DEREK MOMBOURQUETTE: Yes, that’s correct.
SUSAN LEBLANC: As many as 40 per cent of Nova Scotians experience energy poverty, meaning that they pay more than 10 per cent of their incomes on heating their homes and transportation. We know that deep retrofits can cut Nova Scotians’ heating bills in half.
The Premier has said that there is $14.4 million in this budget for energy efficiency, but the clean growth and climate change budget that covers Efficiency Nova Scotia has only increased by $11.7 million. Can you clarify where and what the $14.4 million for energy efficiency is?
DEREK MOMBOURQUETTE: The $14.4 million is for efficiency - that’s for the HomeWarming program. I announced that actually about a week and a half ago. That is funding we’ll be spending this year. As well, there is approximately another $12 million in the department that we use for other programs - through our solar program, through the programs that we offer to communities when they look at reducing their carbon footprint, whether it’s community buildings, with our First Nations communities. (Interruption) Connect2, yes.
There are a number of programs that that $12 million represents, but the $14.2 million is specific to the efficiency side.
SUSAN LEBLANC: Are they clearly delineated in the budget? I don’t have the budget in front of me, sorry. It appears that the clean growth and climate change line has only increased by $11.7 million.
DEREK MOMBOURQUETTE: We actually paid for this year out of last year, so we accelerated the money and what you’re seeing is the $14.4 million that we announced is money that we’ll be spending in this year’s budget. The other number you’re referencing is for the other programs that we offer through the department to support communities across Nova Scotia.
SUSAN LEBLANC: I would like to ask the minister how many households can expect to benefit from the current year’s investment?
DEREK MOMBOURQUETTE: On average, just probably over a thousand homes. If you want to run averages, if you look at - really since 2007, you are looking at 16,000 low-income homes that were supported by it. You are looking at about 1,000 homes a year.
These are significant numbers and they continue to grow each year as we continue to expand programs. As we’ve said, through the efficiency side of things, outside of the employment numbers, we’ve seen thousands of installations across the province in our First Nations communities and new businesses pop up, as well. Nova Scotians are utilizing the program, so I would be confident in saying you will see over a thousand homes will benefit from the programs.
SUSAN LEBLANC: Thanks. I realize I made a mistake earlier when I said that the emissions targets we had to sign on to were 50 per cent below 1990 by 2050, I believe I said - I meant to say 2030. I just saw that number again and I was like, oh, I think I messed that up, but anyway. The point is that in order to limit global warming at 1.5 degrees, we need to cut our emissions by 50 per cent below 1990 levels by 2030. To do that, we need to invest a lot more in building retrofits, renewable energy, and fast, affordable public transit.
You have outlined all the things that you are doing. I would like the ask the minister if he thinks that investing 0.2 per cent of the provincial budget in these things will get us to 50 per cent below the 1990 levels by 2030?
DEREK MOMBOURQUETTE: We are confident, and I am confident, in saying that by 2030 our targets will be between 45 and 50 per cent. We know that through the work that all of government is doing and we know through the investments we are seeing from our federal partners in looking at ways we can support critical infrastructure or expanding programs as we continue to do.
I go back to the example with the efficiency programs this year. We are expanding into rentals, we’re expanding our fiscal envelope with our First Nations partners, so we are going to continue to do that work. We know through technology that communities are talking about electrification of their fleets. These are projects that we are very interested in working with communities to obtain. We know municipalities - if they are not looking at electrification, they are looking at transitioning from traditional gasoline to natural gas in some of their fleets. These are all initiatives coming forward we are working with our colleagues across government to do whatever we can to spend our resources and leverage other resources from other levels of government to support that work.
I’ve seen some great opportunities come forward when it comes to the stuff we’ve been talking about with battery storage, with electrification of vehicles. This is outside of the already amazing work that’s being done at a residential and community level, to continue to upgrade buildings, retrofit homes and reduce energy consumption. I’m confident that the work is going to continue; innovation is still going to drive a lot of our decisions and we’ll hit our targets.
SUSAN LEBLANC: I just want to clarify though, you just said you’re confident that by 2030 you’ll have targets between 45 and 50 per cent below what year’s levels?
DEREK MOMBOURQUETTE: 2005.
SUSAN LEBLANC: That’s concerning - that is something, that is better than where we are now - but we know that the international community and climate scientists all around the world have said that in order to stop catastrophic climate change, we need to drop those levels to 50 per cent below the 1990 levels. That’s 15 years difference; think about the industry that was producing emissions in those 15 years. Can the government commit to that target?
DEREK MOMBOURQUETTE: What I can commit to as the minister of this department is that we’re going to continue to be the national leader in reducing our carbon footprint and fighting climate change. We’re going to continue to look at our renewables and what we can do to continue to expand on them.
We’re going to look at ways that we can work with our municipalities who are coming forward everyday with new projects that are significantly going to reduce their energy consumption. We’re going to continue to expand programs that Nova Scotians can use everyday to reduce their energy consumption and do it in a way that is affordable for them.
As I’ve said, Nova Scotians - for successive governments in many years - have told the rest of Canada and the world that they’re leaders in climate change and looking at ways that we can support future generations in reducing our carbon footprint. That’s my commitment and will continue to be the commitment of this department.
SUSAN LEBLANC: The province is contributing $7 million to a Green Fund as part of the Canada’s New Infrastructure Plan. Can you explain more about that and what the federal contribution will be, what the funds will be used for, how they’ll be accessed, and when they’ll be accessible?
DEREK MOMBOURQUETTE: That’s the Green Infrastructure Fund - it’s $5 million from us and $7 million from the federal government. The investment is geared towards new infrastructure projects focused on reducing GHG emissions from electricity, transportation and buildings. We’re still working out the timelines. There will be an application process and we know communities are very interested in submitting projects to us.
SUSAN LEBLANC: How much of the $1 billion federal investment in energy efficiency will Nova Scotia be getting? Is that the $7 million you just referred to?
DEREK MOMBOURQUETTE: I’m just trying to determine the billion-dollar number. I can say that on the efficiency side we’re now maximizing every dollar that we can get from the feds. We’ve put the money forward, as a government, to ensure that any money we can receive on the federal end for the efficiency programming, we are. That’s why you’re seeing our investment match with theirs. It’s allowing us to support a lot of programs. It’s allowing us to also revise some of the programs that we’ve been offering, as we’ve seen this year.
SUSAN LEBLANC: Geoscience and mines have been transferred from Lands and Forestry, but it also looks - and again, correct me if I’m wrong - like that’s getting 15 new staff positions. Is that correct? What will those staff people be doing? That’s not correct?
DEREK MOMBOURQUETTE: What you are seeing there is reflective of - it’s the same complement that was in the Natural Resources that is coming over to us. I believe it is 38 staff coming over in total to form the new Department of Energy and Mines, but that’s not additional.
SUSAN LEBLANC: I’m going to change course and talk about the French River Watershed gold mine. As I am sure you are aware, about 1,000 residents have signed a petition opposing developing a gold mine on Warwick Mountain in the French River Watershed that provides the sole source of water for the whole Town of Tatamagouche.
Residents are deeply concerned about the possible impacts a gold mine could have on their watershed and the local ecology. Can you update me on the state of the possible development of a gold mine in that area?
DEREK MOMBOURQUETTE: I had the opportunity to meet with the SuNNS group. They came in. It was one of the first meetings I had when I took over as the new minister.
No final decisions have been made yet. They have expressed a number of concerns about the watershed and the community. I’m cognizant that there was a petition that was also placed in the Legislature.
I’ve taken all that information under advisement. Some of their concerns around the actual production within the watershed - that was one of the concerns they brought up.
It’s always a balance between development and protecting the environment. There are a number of steps - the next stage of it is actually the public consultation piece. That would be the opportunity for the community to come back and the formal part of them providing feedback to us in regard to their thoughts around the project. I’m very cognizant that that would be the next step before there would be any production or development of the mine.
Under the new Mineral Resources Act there are steps now that give actual powers of enforcement in regard to development. There’s a community consultation piece that has to happen. There’s water monitoring. There’s a whole number of steps that are involved leading up to the eventual production of any mine, whether it’s there or anywhere else across the province.
Specific to Warwick, I met with the group. We’ve been very open with them about feedback. We’ve taken that feedback in looking at what a request for community feedback would look like. We’re still going through that work, and I’ll have some decisions to make in the future, but at this point right now we’re very open. I had a great conversation with the group.
SUSAN LEBLANC: If community consultation is next, does that mean that a request for proposal for a company to develop a mine has not been issued, or has an RFP gone out?
DEREK MOMBOURQUETTE: Essentially what would happen as part of that community consultation process is there would be a draft RFP that would go out. It would go out for feedback, so that would be an opportunity for the community and residents to provide feedback on that request for proposal. That would be the next step.
SUSAN LEBLANC: So they would be given a draft form of the RFP that then wouldn’t go out until it was edited or changed based on the feedback?
DEREK MOMBOURQUETTE: The first step is the public consultation process, so we would design that and that would be based on some of the feedback that we’ve already received from residents in the area. Of course I met personally with the SuNNS group, and I know that council has had some conversations down there as well, so that would be the next step. There is a step for community consultation that would happen next.
SUSAN LEBLANC: These residents don’t have confidence in the province to adequately enforce the environmental standards to protect the watershed. There’s a long history of gold mines saying that they will meet all the standards and then there’s still significant ecological damage. The residents see a conflict of interest in the province when it’s both promoting the gold mine development and regulating it.
Their confidence is not increased by the exploration drill hole that’s been leaking arsenic on Warwick Mountain for years. The province knew about the leak for a year and did nothing about it, and then finally when a CBC article made the issue public, the province paid to have the hole sealed.
Are you concerned about the message that sends to residents, that the province only takes action after there’s media attention?
DEREK MOMBOURQUETTE: There are a couple of points in that question. The first one was on the actual hole that was leaking. It was on private land, so once we found out about it, once I found out about it, we reached out to the homeowner. I believe it’s actually been there for a number of years. We worked out a solution with them and it was resealed, so that’s important.
Part of the new Act deals with a lot of these specific to that, like holes and reclamation and ensuring that when development is done, the land is reclaimed. There are a number of steps that the new Act provides that not only look at the promotion of the industry but at the same time make it quite clear that there are steps that companies and that anybody who wants to explore need to take to deal with situations like that, that deal with what the future use of the land is.
We now have enforcement mechanisms within the new Act to ensure that rules are being followed and that communities are consulted along the way.
These are a number of steps that have been taken to ensure that we continue to support an industry that employs thousands of Nova Scotians daily, that has a long-standing history, and has significant employment numbers within rural communities. But done in a way that balances the protection of the environment to ensure that communities are part of that process and that we’re doing whatever we can to enforce the rules.
You mentioned a conflict. There are mechanisms under the Department of Energy and Mines with which we work with our prospectors, whether it’s through the Mineral Resources Act or whether it’s through the Mineral Resources Development Fund, where we support research and exploration. The Department of Environment plays a big part in that regulatory process.
For us, there’s a process with a mine. The next step for us is community consultation on the RFP, but there are a number of steps that a potential site would need to go through with the Department of Environment to ensure that all the environmental approvals were in place before they could move towards development.
SUSAN LEBLANC: Can you confirm that you did know about the leak though for a year and then you didn’t act on it until the CBC article happened?
DEREK MOMBOURQUETTE: We found out about the leak. It was on private land. We approached the private owner about closing it. They declined at the time. We went back and we sealed the hole. That’s the quick description of it. We’ve known for about a year, but we’ve taken all the steps that we could to ensure that the hole is sealed and now it is.
SUSAN LEBLANC: Thanks for that clarification. The Atlantic Gold Corporation mine in Moose River has had a major tailings spill just 18 months into its operations - again, we got this information from a CBC report. In early January, there was a leak in the tailings pipeline just outside the plant. It allowed 380,000 litres of treated sludge to escape, possibly containing cyanide and arsenic.
When accidents like this are happening in Nova Scotia and we’re finding out about them on the radio or the TV, how can the minister assure residents of Tatamagouche that mining there will be any different?
DEREK MOMBOURQUETTE: Specific to that issue that arose, Environment acted immediately in that department. They issue the directives when a situation like that happens; they play that role. That situation occurred, environment was informed, environment set the directives for it to be dealt with. At the end of the day, that’s the big role for the Department of Environment that they play. We have strong relationship with them so, we hear of these things, too. For us, we ensure if the situation arises that it goes to the appropriate authorities to be dealt with as quickly as possible.
SUSAN LEBLANC: Members of Sustainable Northern Nova Scotia say that not only will the mine pose a threat to the watershed, but it will also undermine other economic development. Before a mine is developed - well, you’ve already answered this, sorry - will the minister commit to support community consultation that includes the cost-benefit analysis of a possible gold mine and how it will impact other businesses in the area?
DEREK MOMBOURQUETTE: This was a conversation I actually had with the SuNNS group as well. This was one of the concerns they brought up with me. Again, the next step for the development would be that request for proposal, which takes into account the concerns they expressed to me at the time to ensure when it goes out for community consultation that people can provide feedback to that.
That’s a very important step in this process, whether it’s there or any other mine. Communities know the importance of resource development but, at the same time, they want us to ensure we have all the steps necessary to do our environmental part as well. That community consultation is the next step.
SUSAN LEBLANC: Last question. What class of environmental assessment will occur before a gold mine is approved - Class 1 or a Class 2?
DEREK MOMBOURQUETTE: I’ll go quick so I can answer your question. So, essentially, environment again plays a big part in this. What I can say is, depending on the size of the mine, the tonnage - every mine is different, I guess. Specific to any mine, there would be a number of things that would go into determining what that assessment would be.
Generally what happens, and we’ve seen it, is that there is a joint provincial-federal assessment that would go into it. That would kind of be your first step before you would move.
These things can take an extended period of time and there are a number of things you have to take into effect when you are in this industry, but generally, it is jointly federal and provincial. That would be the first step.
SUSAN LEBLANC: Last question. I would like to ask the minister if he engaged in a gender-based analysis of the impacts of his department’s budget?
DEREK MOMBOURQUETTE: Quickly, but if you want to ask, I can give you a better answer.
THE CHAIR: Time has expired for the NDP.
DEREK MOMBOURQUETTE: I’m going to answer that question.
THE CHAIR: I’m going to pass over to the Progressive Conservative caucus. Maybe they will let you finish that answer.
ALLAN MACMASTER: Sure, let the minister answer the question.
THE CHAIR: What a gentleman. Mr. Mombourquette.
DEREK MOMBOURQUETTE: There is not an analysis we’ve done specifically by the department, but when we make submissions to Treasury Board and Cabinet where we would look at submitting for government support for programs and services, that is the lens that we put on those submissions to ensure that as we provide resources for programs and services, that is part of our discussions.
ALLAN MACMASTER: I will move right back into kind of where I left off. I was looking at the Clean Growth and Climate Change division and there was a program that was discussed last year - the Low Carbon Economy Fund. I had a note here that it was going to be $3 million per year for four years and it started last year.
I presume that budget is within this Clean Growth and Climate Change division. If it is, can you give us a little rundown of - I think you mentioned in your remarks that the SolarHomes rebate program was in that. I would like to ask the minister for a little run down on how money was spent last year and how money is going to be spent this coming year?
DEREK MOMBOURQUETTE: The total there is the $17 million. That’s the $3 million from us and the $14 million from the federal government. That funding expends the access to Efficiency Nova Scotia programs.
It broadens the programs to extend the installation of new GHG reduction technologies and systems. It supports our Low Carbon Community Program’s focus on capacity-building in Nova Scotia to jumpstart projects by funding feasibility studies, plans, and engagement activities, including the low-income solar program for multi-residential buildings, as well. That’s the quick breakdown for you.
ALLAN MACMASTER: Would that be $17 million of the $29,563,000?
DEREK MOMBOURQUETTE: Yes, that is correct.
ALLAN MACMASTER: So, I guess if we look at revenue sources for that division, $14 million is coming from the federal government for that program alone. Is there any other federal money coming?
DEREK MOMBOURQUETTE: So five of it is from the provincial government, seven is from the feds, and that is the green infrastructure funding we will be spending on projects as well. This is the one that looks at the GHG emissions from electricity transportation in buildings. That’s where that money will be going.
ALLAN MACMASTER: Minister, can you clarify? If we take out the Low Carbon Economy Fund, are you talking about the remainder of funds? You said $12 million. Would that be the remaining funds in that division that you were just describing?
DEREK MOMBOURQUETTE: There’s the $12 million - that’s the fund I just mentioned - which includes the buildings and electricity, and there was a third program that that was involved with. There’s another $2.7 million in the department that is used for other programs that we offer to Nova Scotians, so the overall envelope is about $31 million. There’s the $17 million for efficiency, the $12 million for the Green Fund, and then there’s an additional about $2.7 million that is used for departmental programs and services that we offer.
ALLAN MACMASTER: I’m having a little bit of a challenge following that. So $17 million for Efficiency Nova Scotia, and - maybe I’ll let the minister clarify. Maybe you could take me through - I’m seeing on Page 8.6 an estimate of $29.563 million. Maybe you could just take me through one more time, for my question.
DEREK MOMBOURQUETTE: Through you to the member: you are looking at the $29.563 million, you are looking at the Low Carbon Economy Fund of $17 million, you are looking at the Infrastructure Canada investment program of $12 million. Those are the three specific targets I was talking about when it comes to electricity and buildings and transportation.
Then there are additional monies for sustainable transportation and additional money for Clean Growth and Climate Change. These are all programs and grants that we would offer through the department for this year, so that’s your $29 million.
ALLAN MACMASTER: Okay, I’ll move to something different now. I know we don’t have a lot of time left here, but the mineral rights tenure system - can you tell me a little bit about that?
DEREK MOMBOURQUETTE: Mr. Chair, through you to the member, there’s a process to apply. The Province of Nova Scotia owns the minerals, so there is a mineral tenure process that people can apply for called NovaROC. It’s online. It’s a process you would need to use to receive mineral tenure, if you are looking to explore.
ALLAN MACMASTER: I notice one of the budget highlights was $800,000 more to expand the Mineral Resources Development Fund to support the growth and development of the mining industry, for a total of $1.5 million. I guess that’s a fund to try to encourage people to look at NovaROC and to make bids on parcels to explore for resources.
DEREK MOMBOURQUETTE: This has been something that we have been working with the industry and prospectors on for a while. It supports a number of initiatives, so important work. It’s not just about exploration. It’s about research and development and technology. We have applications that come not only from industry. We have applications that come from universities and experts within those institutions, geologists to look at rock formations and our geology across the province.
That’s a commitment of this government. It’s not just about promoting resources, but it’s also about promoting and protecting the environment as well. We’re spending resources to ensure that we’re getting the best information possible and the best expertise possible, so if we’re going to move forward on a development, we have all the tools in front of us necessary. It’s an important fund. It is, and it’s one that is subscribed to fully every year, and we expect the same this year. The industry is actually very excited that we did this.
THE CHAIR: Two minutes left for the question part of this, Mr. MacMaster.
ALLAN MACMASTER: I think I have pretty well exhausted my questions. I’m going to leave you the last five minutes to do closing comments and your resolution.
THE CHAIR: We’ll give you the five minutes, and I’ll give a one-minute warning to read your resolution. The floor is yours, Minister Mombourquette.
DEREK MOMBOURQUETTE: I was hoping that we were going to have a conversation about the golf course in Inverness and how it used to be a mine back in the day. It’s a great success story.
First of all, I’ll say I appreciate this process, what we do. It’s a great opportunity for all members of our Legislature to learn more about the departments that Nova Scotians utilize every day. The questions are important, and the discussion is important. I always welcome the opportunity to be here to do that. Thank you for the opportunity. It’s important that Nova Scotians not only know what’s happening in our department but departments across government.
I also want to thank all of the staff within the Department of Energy and Mines. They are a wonderful, progressive staff who do excellent work - very technical work at times - to support our goals as a government. They are goals that have surpassed successive governments in looking at not only our resource development but the amazing work that’s happening to make Nova Scotia the leader it is in reducing greenhouse gas emissions and supporting new, innovative technology. To all the staff from Energy and Mines, I can’t thank you enough for the support that you provide to me personally and that you provide to government and to all Nova Scotians.
I think I’ll say that it has been a good transition. It has been a year of change for the department. As we have seen the merger of energy and mines, it has been a benefit to have that expertise under one roof. Again, it’s very technical work. They’re looking at our energy consumption and what the future holds for energy consumption in Nova Scotia, the variables that impact what we do on a daily basis because we all consume energy in one way or the other whether it’s through our homes or through our cars or through our feet or through our bikes.
We want to do whatever we can as a department to support Nova Scotians in their endeavours. On the mines side of things, as I have said, over 5,000 Nova Scotians are employed in our mines directly or indirectly every day. These are huge opportunities in communities across Nova Scotia that generate great economic opportunities and growth. Also, as we go through these processes and as we work with our mining industry, we’re learning new technologies and safer ways to extract the resources that we have as a province.
There will always be great potential. There will always be industry. We need to support it, but we need to do it in a balanced way.
THE CHAIR: Shall Resolution E6 stand?
The resolution stands.
That’s it. It’s been fun.
[The committee adjourned at 8:35 p.m.]