MR. CHAIRMAN: I would like to call the Subcommittee on Supply to order. As discussed yesterday, the Minister of Natural Resources had to be out of town today, so we now have the Department of Tourism and Culture before us.
Resolution E32 - Resolved that a sum not exceeding $38,847,000 be granted to the Lieutenant Governor to defray expenses in respect to the Department of Tourism and Culture, pursuant to the Estimate and the business plan of the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia be approved.
MR. CHAIRMAN: I ask the minister to come forward, make an introduction and make any opening comments and then we will open the floor to questions from the members.
The honourable Minister of Tourism and Culture.
HON. RODNEY MACDONALD: Mr. Chairman, to my colleagues around the table, I'd like to introduce, to start off, those who are with me in attendance. I have Kevin Elliott, Manager, Financial Services; David Ross, Policy Director - they are on my right and left - and Dianne Coish, Executive Director, Culture Division. Also with me, as I have Tourism and Culture, Sport and Recreation, and the Nova Scotia Liquor Corporation, Joyce McDonald, Director of Financial Services; Barb Palmeter is here from Financial Services; Sandra Chaddock, Budget Officer; Kelly Deveaux, Communications Division; Mike Arthur from Sport and Recreation, along with Angela Poole and Barbara Klass; and from the Nova Scotia Liquor Corporation, Bruce Rogers and Greg Beaulieu. I don't think I missed anybody; hopefully, I didn't.
I do have some opening remarks. As I mentioned to my colleagues in the Opposition, I believe it is around 25 minutes, just to give you the heads-up.
I am pleased to take the opportunity today to share information on the Department of Tourism and Culture's budget and priorities for 2002-03. In the coming year, our investments in tourism, culture and heritage will remain significant with this year's budget set at over $38 million. This investment will continue to stimulate economic growth, support our communities and ensure stewardship of our natural and cultural heritage. While our investment remains significant, our department has had to play a part in efforts to get the province's financial house in order. This has resulted in some reductions to some programs, while others have benefited from stable support.
I would like to reiterate that we are doing what we can to protect our investments throughout Nova Scotia and we are making additional strategic investments, which will have a significant and positive economic impact in the province. Our challenge in 2002-03 will be to remain focused on the priorities identified in our business plan, priorities that reflect the government's commitment to growing the economic and social significance of tourism, culture and heritage.
Before discussing the Tourism and Culture side of my portfolio, I would like to have a few moments to talk about the Nova Scotia Liquor Corporation and the Sport and Recreation Commission. I will begin with the NSLC. In October 2000, I announced a number of initiatives related to the Nova Scotia Liquor Corporation, at that time the Nova Scotia Liquor Commission. One of the major results of that announcement came on July 26, 2001, when the Nova Scotia Liquor Commission became a Crown Corporation to be known as the Nova Scotia Liquor Corporation.
A number of changes were required to the Liquor Control Act under Bill No. 20 and with these changes came new opportunities and challenges. The objectives of the corporation are clear. They are to promote social objectives regarding responsible drinking, promote industrial or economic objectives regarding the beverage-alcohol industry in the province, to obtain suitable financial revenues to the government and to obtain acceptable levels of customer service. We have appointed a new board of directors which will guide the corporation in meeting these objectives, and we will soon be appointing a president to lead the corporation on an ongoing basis.
A number of new initiatives and programs are expected in the upcoming year that will make the Nova Scotia Liquor Corporation even more customer focused, providing a better service and choice to customers and help to grow the Nova Scotia economy. These include continuation of the store within a store concept, which has proven both extremely successful for the Nova Scotia Liquor Corporation and very popular among consumers; establishment of private wine and specialty retailers later this year; increased support for the local wine, beer and distilling industry, which we expect will have a growing impact on Nova Scotia's
economy in the years to come; and working with the Tourism Division of my department to help develop a wine-related tourism product, which has proven extremely attractive in other parts of the world.
As well, I'm sure I will be getting a few questions on Sport and Recreation today. The commission's broad mandate aims at enhancing the quality of life of Nova Scotians through sport and recreation. In 2001-02, there were 70 recreational facility development projects funded and two major facilities were opened: Yarmouth's Mariners Centre and Antigonish's St. F.X. Millennium Centre. In 2002-03, the commission's priorities focus on four areas: increasing participation, especially among children and youth; increasing availability and sustainability of infrastructure; increasing leadership and the quality of leadership in sport and recreation; and increasing the commitment and ability of communities and organizations to provide sport and recreation opportunities.
The goal is to continue building on the progress and achievements in fiscal year 2001-02. Major commission priorities for 2002-03 include introducing a physical activity strategy for the province and announcing the findings of the research study on physical activity levels of Nova Scotia children and youth. As well, with Team Nova Scotia's improved performance in the 2002 Canada Summer Games, preparation has already begun for the 2003 Canada Winter Games.
Now I would like to make a few comments regarding tourism. First, I will provide you with a brief snapshot of some of the accomplishments of the past year and then I will outline some of the programs and services that provide ongoing support for the tourism sector and, finally, I will provide you an outline of our plans for the upcoming year, including investments and priorities from our business plan.
Let's consider the tourism industry's performance during the past year. Nova Scotia's tourism industry continues to generate significant revenues and export dollars in all regions and communities throughout this province. Whether you live in downtown Halifax or in HRM or whether you live in Cape North or even in Yarmouth, each and every area of this province is impacted from our tourism revenues. In 2001, the industry generated more than $1.2 billion in annual revenues and welcomed more than 2 million out-of-province visitors. This is the fifth consecutive year industry revenues have surpassed the $1 billion mark, with two-thirds of this revenue representing export earnings.
These are impressive numbers and while they represent a slight drop over last year's performance, the tourism industry continues to be a solid and growing sector of the provincial economy. As my colleagues know and as was announced in the fall, there was a 2 per cent drop, although it varied around the province, depending on what area of the province you were in. Our government recognizes the strength of tourism in its role in the province's prosperity. It's part of our platform as a government.
In the last couple of years, we've worked to strengthen our partnership with the industry. One example of this partnership is the Nova Scotia Tourism Partnership Council, which is a model of public-private partnership. The more than 50 industry volunteers who devote their time and expertise to the efforts of this council add an invaluable benefit to the work that we do.
This council reached a milestone recently when Nova Scotia's first-ever integrated tourism plan was released at the tourism conference in November. For the first time we have combined our annual marketing product development plans. The integrated plan represents the combined efforts of industry and government and is an excellent example of how we are collaborating and challenging each other to achieve our mutual goals of making the world feel welcome.
Another accomplishment that comes to mind is the successful negotiation of the signature resorts' contract. We have successfully negotiated a new contract with Newcastle Hotels to operate the province's signature resorts: Keltic Lodge in Ingonish, The Pines Resort in Digby and Liscombe Lodge in Liscomb Mills. Newcastle took over operations on February 1st and with this new contract in place, resorts will become a net contributor to the province's bottom line. Our new arrangement is enabling the province to protect Nova Scotia's investment in these valuable assets while gaining additional revenues for provincial priorities and at the same time, making greatly needed capital investments as well.
In addition to these major accomplishments, we continue to offer our tourism stakeholders strong support through a variety of programs and services. For example, we provide ongoing support for tourism industry associations throughout the province, including support for operations and investments in festivals and events and special projects in communities throughout the province.
We also continue to produce and distribute over 800,000 copies of the Doers & Dreamers Travel Guide, including of course, the French version. This guide is one of a series of publications designed to promote Nova Scotia as a tourism destination. Other guides we produce include - and I believe that each MLA in the House should have received one and if my colleagues have not received them, I will make sure they get one - the Festival & Events Digest, the Guide for Nature & Outdoor Lovers, the Nova Scotia Golf Guide and the Spring, Summer, Fall Value Vacation Ideas book.
We also manage Check In, the province's toll-free information and reservation service which is operated by CorporaTel. Each year we host travel writers and broadcasters who subsequently publish stories in magazines and newspapers or on television. The department directly generates its own material for publication. This so-called free ink has the dual benefits of being free and having greater audience credibility than advertising. We also promote and distribute a series of 11 how-to tourism development publications designed to assist entrepreneurs and tourism operators with starting and operating tourism-related
businesses. It is clear that the services and programs we provide the tourism sector are numerous and valuable.
After reviewing what we do and some of the accomplishments of the tourism industry last year, it's time to look ahead. I would like to provide you with a high-level summary of our investments in tourism in 2002-03. I'm proud to say that we will invest more than $18 million in tourism in 2002-03. This includes continued support for Nova Scotia's tourism, marketing and development activities, to promote economic development, industry competitiveness and positive economic spinoffs. As well, there will be continued support for the provincial Visitor Information Centre network, recognizing the important role it plays in welcoming our visitors and providing support to Nova Scotia's tourism industry.
In the upcoming year we will focus on increasing revenues through gift shops at our VICs and there will be stable support for the Tourism Partnership Council, a successful model of public-private sector partnerships and stable support for regional tourism industry associations in TIANS - the Tourism Industry Association of Nova Scotia - recognizing the important role they play in bringing operators together and advocating on the sector's behalf.
Our investments remain strong and our approach remains focused. In the upcoming year the Tourism Division will focus on the following priorities as outlined in our business plan. We will be implementing the new industry/government 2002 integrated tourism plan.
As I mentioned earlier, this is the first time we've combined our annual tourism marketing and product development plans. Highlights from this integrated plan include high-impact marketing campaigns in our core touring markets of Atlantic Canada, Quebec, northeastern U.S.A. and Europe; and a special Nova Scotia promotion in Boston involving Tourism and Culture, Bay Ferries and hundreds of private sector tourism businesses. I should point out that The Cat promotion - the last time it was done was in 1999 under the previous administration - was very successful, and we saw that as a strategic move forward in this upcoming year.
We will also continue our efforts to attract visitors with high-impact marketing campaigns in core tour markets of Atlantic Canada, Quebec, Ontario, northeastern U.S.A. and Europe. We're also looking at ways to be better connected and we will be taking steps to help our industry build on e-marketing success with new programs and promotions. We're also committed to building the business potential of NovaScotia.com. As well, we will be enhancing the experiences we now have.
As one example, we will be working better to emphasize the tourism potential of the Bluenose II, which appears on the cover of this year's Doers & Dreamers Travel Guide. The Bluenose is a tourism icon indeed in the province and a powerful Nova Scotia ambassador. I should say that if you have the opportunity, you will also see the listing of where the Bluenose will be in Nova Scotia for our visitors. It's a question that we are frequently asked and I believe we can make even better use over the next number of years with the Bluenose.
We will also be developing a living history program of historical sites, museums and we're working to further develop a provincial system of world-class coastal hiking trails. Clearly, tourism remains strong in the province, and through partnership and investment it will continue to grow and thrive.
Now on to Culture. I would like to provide you with a brief snapshot of some of our accomplishments in the past year in the Culture Division and then I will outline some of the programs and services that provide ongoing support in the culture sector. Finally, I will provide you with an outline of our plans for the upcoming year including our investments and priorities.
There is no doubt - and I'm sure I'm going to get a few questions today on the Culture Division - our culture sector here in the province is a driving force in economic growth as well as being very important from a social perspective as well. It contributes some $800 million annually to the province's economy. We recognize the significant growth and contribution and I want to make it clear that our department is an active supporter and promoter of Nova Scotia's culture sector.
We recognize the importance of our artists and our cultural community. In recognizing this, we introduced new culture programs in 2001-02 with a greater focus on community cultural development and cultural industries. This supports our government's commitment to increase regional cultural activities, market our cultural strengths and generate export revenues. Our new programming provides improved access and a competitive process for cultural investments.
Five new program areas have been defined: cultural activities, which will support any project that celebrates or invites participation in cultural activities or develops skills in the culture sector, of which we have had our first guideline this year - to give those around the table an idea, we went from 45 applications last year and now I believe with more people in the province knowing about the programs, there's now over 90 in the last round alone - youth, which will support children, the youth and arts; industry, which will support partnerships aimed at economic growth for cultural enterprise; anchor organizations which support strong infrastructure for the culture sector; and facilities, which will support facilities in Nova Scotia that are used for venues for cultural performances and events. One which comes to mind as an example, the Savoy in Glace Bay.
These five new program areas support four very specific goals. These goals are very straightforward and speak to the government's commitment to community cultural development, industry growth, artistic development and anchor organizations. In addition to our new programming we will also have the new Arts and Culture Council. The council replaces the former Nova Scotia Arts Council and brings with it a broad focus representing all arts and culture genres in all regions of the province. For weeks now, people from the arts and culture sector as well as members of the Opposition have been expressing concerns about the decision to replace the Nova Scotia Arts Council with the new Arts and Culture Council. I do believe that it has been the right decision and it is the right decision.
I acknowledge the time and energy spent lobbying and working for the establishment of the Arts Council for Nova Scotia and I also want to recognize the previous government's work in putting it in place. I also recognize the contribution that the council and its members had to the growth of arts in this province. However, as I mentioned earlier, I believe the focus with respect to the programs being in place and, something I feel very strongly about with regard to the peer assessment model, that we can move forward not only with those programs but also with respect to having even greater involvement in other programs within our department.
The qualified team of arts and culture leaders is currently in place to help shape the Arts and Culture Council. I'm confident that arts and culture will continue to thrive in Nova Scotia. We have produced world-class musicians, artists, writers, actors, dancers and craftspeople for years and this has not been by chance. We are a culturally rich province with a unique perspective on life and the world around us. With the introduction of this new Arts and Culture Council and continued investment, we will continue to grow and develop our local talent in each medium and region of the province.
Speaking of investments, we continue to invest in culture programs that benefit our theatres and events, our artists and musicians and book publishers, our film and media industries, our cultural organizations and facilities. I am proud to say that we will be investing over $5.7 million in culture in 2002-03. I would like to add that we are also investing over $1 million in the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia.
Now, for the members' information, I have just a few more pages left and I know that you are getting anxious for questions. I do want to get some things on the record as you can understand as well.
Now let's look at our priorities for the upcoming year as identified in our business plan. As I mentioned earlier, we are working with a culture sector team of arts, culture and community leaders to establish the new Arts and Culture Council. We are also working to implement new provincial cultural industry strategies in partnership with industry. Investments will be focused on developing export sales opportunities for cultural products and designs to use in media, music and sound recording, production crafts and publishing.
As I said earlier, with continued investment and partnership, the culture sector in Nova Scotia will continue to grow and flourish.
When it comes to our heritage resources, more than 28 per cent of all visitors go to museums, while over 35 per cent visit our historical sites. Hereto we are working to ensure continued focus on preservation and protection with investments in community museums and the Nova Scotia Museum network. We have been involved in extensive exercise to strengthen our vast network of heritage resources. We know our museum network is a source of economic activity, employment and pride. Each year we support our Nova Scotia Museum network and provide assistance to community museums throughout the province. We maintain and use over 200 buildings and 26 museum locations in the province. Hundreds of thousands of people visited our museums last year and over 40,000 children use one or more of our school kits that are sent out to schools to supplement the curriculum. These services and programs are valuable to the heritage sector and will continue to receive support.
In 2002-03 we will invest over $9 million in heritage. We will provide stable support for the Community Museum network and for locally managed museum sites throughout the province. The Nova Scotia Museum network is a source of economic activity, employment and pride. There will be some reduced funding support, approximately 4 per cent to seven provincially managed sites which include Sherbrooke Village, Ross Farm, Fundy Geological, Fisheries Museum of the Atlantic, Museum of Natural History, Museum of Industry and the Maritime Museum of the Atlantic. Reductions were made to these sites because it was felt they are best able to earn additional revenues from non-government sources. There will be a reduction in funding support distributed throughout the Heritage Property Program, a refocusing of the program with a focus on policy, advice and expertise. In the upcoming year we will focus on increasing revenues in our museum gift shops.
In the upcoming year one of the priorities outlined in our business plan is to work to increase our heritage expertise, information and advisory services to communities. This includes establishing a new function within the Nova Scotia Museum system with a primary responsibility to deliver and enhance expertise in coordination with the communities in research, training, preservation, presentation and promotion of local heritage. Efforts will focus on partnering with the communities to promote utilization of best practices and management of heritage resources.
In 2002-03 we will also partner with the federal government and communities to initiate a virtual museum initiative interpreting the heritage and culture of coastal Nova Scotia and supporting the province's position as a seacoast tourism destination. This includes increasing provincial and community heritage resources and information available on-line through the Nova Scotia Museum and the Nova Scotia Archives to promote educational resources and opportunities for Nova Scotians. We will also undertake a comprehensive analysis of the provincial museum system to identify measures and address gaps in the development, preservation and promotion of our heritage.
As for the strategic goals identified in our business plan for 2002-03, we will continue to develop the economic and export potential of Nova Scotia's tourism and culture industries. We will continue to support economic growth and the quality of life in communities throughout Nova Scotia through development of our culture, heritage and tourism sectors. We will continue to provide stewardship of Nova Scotia's heritage and culture identity through development, preservation and presentation of Nova Scotia's culture and heritage resources and institutions. We will continue to deliver effective and accountable corporate support through government records management, archival programs and protocol services.
Specifically, we will strengthen our investment and support in Acadian tourism, culture and heritage. This includes capitalizing on the significant economic opportunities of the upcoming World Acadian Congress and the related celebrations and events in Nova Scotia during 2003 to 2005. These events will encompass several years of celebrations and present us with an opportunity to draw visitors from across North America and of course Quebec. Specific actions and priorities for 2002-03 include working with the Acadian community and the private sector to develop product and market opportunities, creating on-line an exhibit and historical information through the archives of the Nova Scotia Museum. As you see, this encompasses all three sectors: culture, heritage, tourism. As someone who represents an Acadian area, I can tell you that the Acadian communities across this province are very much looking forward to the opportunities which will be in those years.
We also successfully launched the Order of Nova Scotia during the past year and before touching on it, I would just like to thank both Parties for their support in that initiative. I think it's a valuable initiative and I'm glad to see that they also think so. Mr. Chairman, I know it's an initiative that you were very fond of. Established in 2001 it is the highest honour that the province can bestow upon its citizens. Recipients will be recognized at a ceremony this summer and will receive the Order of Nova Scotia medal.
I must also take a moment to mention again the important role that NSLC plays in supporting the programs and services of government through its significant financial contribution each year. This coming year they have been given an ambitious target. The board and staff of the corporation have worked diligently to put together a plan that will achieve this target with a combination of sales, volume increases, internal efficiencies and pricing adjustments. I am confident that the NSLC will not only achieve its goals this year, but will also continue to transform itself into an even more customer-oriented and efficient organization in the years to come, helping to grow our economy with local industry.
In conclusion, I hope that my remarks have left you with a sense of some of the accomplishments, some of our challenges and some of the goals and priorities we have for the upcoming year and beyond. We have some fundamental strengths in our tourism, culture and indeed heritage, and I look forward to working in partnership with our stakeholders for
the benefit of all Nova Scotians. I look forward to the questions, and I'm sure there are many, by my colleagues in the Opposition. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Thank you, Mr. Minister. We will get underway with the questioning now. Who will be asking the questions on behalf of the NDP caucus?
The honourable member for Halifax Atlantic.
MR. ROBERT CHISHOLM: Mr. Minister, you went over your list of responsibilities and they are significant, without question. Your staff does a fine job carrying out those responsibilities in the different departments and divisions that you are responsible for. I don't think there is any question about that. The areas that you are responsible for have an important role in the Province of Nova Scotia and contribute to the life and the fabric and the vitality of this province. I appreciate that it is a responsibility that you understand and that you take very seriously.
We are going to start off today, Mr. Chairman and Mr. Minister, with some questions with respect to the Arts Council and the decision that your government has made to remove the Arts Council. There are a lot of other things that we're going to be talking about, myself and my colleagues, over the next few hours, that cover other aspects of your responsibilities. I do want to start, if I may, with the Arts Council and I do so because it is an example, perhaps, of an area of your responsibility that covers not only a great number of people and a great number of communities, but it affects the very fabric of this province in many ways.
When decisions are made by you and by your office, your department, that have a negative or a positive impact on that community, it's something that we need to talk about. I think you would agree that when you have made positive decisions we have not shied away from praising you and your government for doing those things. Likewise, when you make decisions that we don't agree with, we have been quick to try to understand those decisions and to suggest to you that perhaps there could have been other ways to handle them.
The decision that has been made by your department with respect to the Arts Council we feel is wrong, and part of what I'm going to try to do is to get at the basis for that decision. I think you get some sense of how wrong it was simply by the reaction that you've seen from members of the arts and culture community from one end of this province to the other and from one end of this country to the other.
Mr. Minister, I and others have talked inside and outside this House about the decision that was finally made by the former government in 1996-97 to establish an arm's-length Arts Council - arm's-length from government - with an important peer assessment panel review process, and we applauded that move. The late MLA for Halifax Fairview,
Eileen O'Connell, it was an issue that was very dear to her heart and to those who supported Eileen, and an issue that she spent a great deal of time working on, as did hundreds and thousands of people involved in that community over the past 20 years.
We were the last province in this country to establish that type of body and so we felt pretty good, all of us, I think, on all sides of the House about the decision that was made. It was recognized as a real step forward, a real mature step in the way that funding for the arts is handled by the provincial government. We don't have the greatest history in this province for funding, for handing out money, for distributing largesse in whatever area that is, and arts and culture has not escaped that reputation or that tarnish that the government has had in the past, that funding for the arts has been far too political. So it was a giant step forward.
While the legislation was an important step, I think most of us would recognize that the step in terms of funding was a modest step, that there wasn't a huge chunk of money put to it. That $1.5 million for distribution, many of us thought it should have been more like $7 million or $8 million, but it was a start. I think that maybe the thought of the government of the day was that establishing this Arts Council and how it functions and the processes by which it functions was not going to be easy. It was going to be difficult, that the Arts Council had to find its way. I have certainly heard from those involved who have said that that's in fact what happened, that they have spent many more hundreds of hours trying to get it right and that that was an ongoing process, right up until the point of the fateful decision.
The difficulty over the past couple of budgets is that while the administrative processes were put in place and they were trying to deliver responsive programs as a result of what they were hearing from the communities and from the arts and culture community itself, they were facing cutbacks in the last two budgets, fairly significant cutbacks, which meant that they were moving forward but then all of a sudden had to start moving back and trimming around the edges and making decisions to end some important programs, very difficult decisions. But I think remarkably, recognizing the problems that they had and given the challenges that they faced in delivering these programs, that the people involved in the Arts Council committed a great deal of energy and effort and time ensuring that what they did, they did well, that they did the best job they could.
I know that over the past year there have been discussions between your department and the Arts Council of shifting further responsibility over to the Arts Council that was originally being handled by your department, some other funds that were sent to other organizations. Other organizations, of course we think of the big four - an area that the Arts Council wanted to become involved in - Symphony Nova Scotia, Neptune, the Atlantic Theatre Festival and the - what's the fourth one?
MR. RODNEY MACDONALD: Mermaid.
MR. ROBERT CHISHOLM: Mermaid - sorry - and that there was some optimism, I think as a result of discussions with your department that that was going to happen. In fact I understand that as recently as January of this year, in a meeting with the Arts Council, you said the door was still open to that possibility. You have a pretty lean, mean machine there, I would suggest, in the Arts Council, administratively. You have used some figures which I will talk to later that you are going to save anywhere from $270,000 to $370,000 administratively as a result of this decision. I think there are some real questions about that and I am going to hopefully get to that.
I guess the point is that the level of administration, the administrative structure and the processes that were there, could well handle the additional responsibility of the big four and could handle additional money without any increase in administrative costs. In other words, while there have been the estimates that the administrative relationship to funding has been 17 per cent, which is high, admittedly if they were funded properly or appropriately in terms of the need to help deliver programs and funds to the arts and culture community, that percentage would be much less. On the one hand, the Arts Council administration has pared itself back to the point where it is extraordinarily lean, but all the while they've had the funds that they've been administering cut back, and so it makes it very difficult. I don't think there's any question that they could certainly deliver, administratively, a much greater sum.
Mr. Minister, the decision hit people like a ton of bricks, I don't think anybody saw it coming. Maybe that's a good thing. I don't want to say that your government has an overarching strategy on how to deal with funding cuts, but the Minister of Community Services tried that on the transition houses and women's centres and men's programs. I find it extraordinarily distasteful, frankly, that your government would treat people who participate with you in delivering programs with the greatest deal of faith and respect, and then they get treated like that, to have found themselves with the door to their office padlocked, with gendarmes standing outside, it's an ugly thing. I think you would have to agree, surely. I understand you are a reasonable man; you must find this distasteful.
Why was it done? Why did it happen? In January, when you indicated that the door was still open to an expansion of responsibilities for the Arts Council, when you had a consultation with people in the Province of Nova Scotia where there was not a word said about abolishing the current Arts Council, when you see the kind of disruption that's been caused by this decision, why did you do it?
MR. RODNEY MACDONALD: I guess I have to roll the clock back a little bit, as you have done, to when it was first created in 1996. At that time - and that's before my political career - I was a teacher and also a musician, somebody involved in the artistic and cultural community. At that time, I couldn't agree with you more, I thought that the forming of the council and those programs available were a great idea. I also thought the idea of peer assessment and the jury process was a great idea. In fact - we can read in today's newspaper -
I even applied to a program. (Interruptions) I didn't get it that time. If I hadn't gone into politics, I probably would have put in another one, because I saw the value of the programs.
In the last few months, there's no doubt, this is a passionate issue for people across the province. It's a passionate issue because a lot of people put a lot of time and effort into seeing that become a reality, as you mentioned. I think the foundation, the members on the council and the staff put in place, was a very strong one with respect to those programs.
In the new model, in the new Arts and Culture Council model, and I've tried to make the point as clear as possible, I've tried to do that in the House and in the press releases and with the media. Sometimes messages get out fully and sometimes they don't, as I know all members can fully understand. The programs that were in place under the Arts Council will be in place in the new model. As I said, I see the benefit of those programs, as you see the benefit of those programs. The peer assessment model will be in place in the new council. In fact, we will not only be utilizing the council with respect to the programs that were being put forward through the former Arts Council, we will also have the new council involved. I guess you could call it a broadening of the mandate. There are different words to describe it, I'm sure.
We will also have them involved in the Art Bank Purchase Program. The Art Bank Purchase Program - I'm not sure if you're aware - was under review. We had a team in place, and the first recommendation they put forward was to reinstate the Art Bank Purchase Program. This we have done. We will have the new council involved in that process, also with our Cultural Activities Program which was being done through the department.
In fact, I guess you can look at it that those involved in the arts and culture sectors across the province will have more opportunity, more say in the dollars that we give out as a department. I see value in that; I see value in that because there will be an opportunity for people within that process, from across the province, to have input into those programs and to have a say in where those dollars go.
I've been accused of making this a purely political decision, and I want to say quite clearly on the record that it certainly was not. If that was the case - and I have indicated, if that was the case - we simply would not have had the programs move forward and not had future involvement of people across the sector if it was simply a political decision. I think the evidence is quite clear that by putting forward the new Arts and Culture Council, we're now putting a team in place, I feel, of very competent people from across this province to help us move in that transition period.
You raised a good point, I did meet with the Arts Council in January. As you know from being in the House for a great many years, governments go through a budgetary process as well. We take a look at our priorities for the upcoming year. You mentioned as well about the Arts Council and how you would have loved to see $7 million or $8 million, well, I would have loved to see the Finance Minister give me $7 million or $8 million or $10 million or $15 million or $20 million, as I am a firm believer in investment in creation, in our cultural industries, in our organizations, and I think from a social perspective that investment carries over a long way for strengthening our communities and indeed strengthening the economics of our province as well.
During the budgetary process, in taking a look at the dollars we had available and having the responsibility to ensure that those dollars are being used in the most effective manner or way possible, we made a decision with regard to the Arts Council. You mentioned as well the consultation process. The consultation process was something that - when we went through the process last year, with respect to our programs, I indicated at that time, and made a commitment, that we would go out and have a discussion with respect to those programs, around the province. As well, at that time we were looking at having some advisory councils regionally.
The very reason we made that commitment, and I've also made a commitment that we will go out year after year. That's my intention, to make sure that we go out to the people of this province and say, listen, here are the programs we have available, and to let people know what programs are available, something that I don't feel we've done a good enough job of in this province during the last number of years. In many cases, if you look at our programming in the Culture Division during the past number of years, it seemed as though, when I first became minister, that a new program was coming up every day. One day there would be a new program for this, and the next day there would be a new program for that.
It seemed that oftentimes programs were made for organizations and people didn't have a clear opportunity to apply. People didn't have, I don't feel, a clear enough opportunity to see what was available and that's why I feel quite strongly about getting out there to regions and indicating what we have. That's why I mentioned earlier that you saw 45 applications last year for cultural activities in the first round, and this year, 90. I feel it's a direct result of those consultations, and I hope that next year there are 190. I think that will also show my Cabinet colleagues the importance of investing and future investment. By getting our financial house in order, I believe we will have that opportunity for future investment.
When the decision was made and when the change occurred, it was a difficult process. I know even looking and knowing that we are going to be going through this transition process that it's a difficult one for our staff and it's a difficult one for the staff that were involved in that process. That transition process is ongoing with respect to the staff. I'm sure my colleagues from the previous government who went through maybe not the same
type of change, but similar changes perhaps, in changing departments or so on, that they may have gone through changes with respect to ensuring that assets of the government, as such, are also secured in that process. That's a responsibility I would have as a minister and the government has in doing so, as well.
I don't know if I fully answered your question. I have tried to give you a background, I guess, of how we got to the decision. I'm sure you will have more questions with respect to it and perhaps I can answer part of another question, if there's a specific question that you have with respect to that process.
MR. ROBERT CHISHOLM: Mr. Minister, so you're telling me that you decided as a result of the budget process that, I guess, maybe, the Minister of Finance told you that you needed to cut some more money. (Interruptions) Go ahead.
MR. RODNEY MACDONALD: No, if you have a question, I can get into that a little more, if you would like.
MR. ROBERT CHISHOLM: You said two things there, I think. You said, number one, I think you suggested that the Arts Council wasn't doing the job as well as it could, that the new Arts and Culture Council that you have set up will do a better job. I guess what I'm wondering is, on what basis do you make those claims and if you had a problem with the Arts Council as it existed, did you ever talk to them about that? Did you ever share with them the concerns you had, if you had any, in fact, legitimate concerns, number one? Number two, on what basis did you say to the Minister of Finance, okay, I'll cut x number of dollars out of my budget and here's how we're going to do it? Did you come up with a plan? Did you do a line-by-line itemized statement of what you were going to save, on the one hand, and what it was going to cost you to bring all of that work in-house?
Come on, to suggest that you're going to continue to do the same things, you're going to administer the same amount of money and you are going to do it for nothing, I think that's a bit much, although I understand that the honourable member for Dartmouth South has been out suggesting to people who would participate on these peer review panels, that when asked whether they would be remunerated, he said, no, no, it'll be just like lawyers doing pro bono work. Well, of course, the problem is that lawyers tend to make some money, a fair chunk of money, and pro bono work is calculated in there as a bit of that and often as a bit of promotional work, not to be overly crass. Too often the case with people who work in the arts and culture sector is that if they're not working, they're not making money, they're not producing anything, they're not creating anything; they're not generating that type of situation for themselves.
So my question is then, if you made the decision simply on the basis of money, if you said we are going save this amount of money, I'd like you to show me, line by line, person by person, how are you going to save that money and not, in turn, spend it when you try to
deliver the program and, in fact, an expanded mandate, as you have so proudly described, that the new council will be involved in? Let's see if we can't square some of that a bit.
MR. RODNEY MACDONALD: That's a fair question. If you take a look at last year, we provided $1.2 million, $1,238,600.
MR. ROBERT CHISHOLM: What is it, really? You just gave me a few different figures. It's $1.2 million, right?
MR. RODNEY MACDONALD: Sorry. I was going to say roughly $1.2 million, but it's $1,238,600. We indicated earlier in the budget process that the council would take a 5 per cent reduction of $65,000, which would have taken them to, I believe, $1.169 million, roughly around there. If you take a look at last year in the Arts Council, we have gone through what was being spent. I don't have all the details on me today. I have no problem providing a copy to both Parties, as was asked yesterday in the Legislature. I knew I was going to get that question today, as well. I will provide a copy of that for you. You can understand that we're still going through a transition process in all of this, as well.
Last year, $424,655 was spent between program delivery and administration. Grants that went out from the Arts Council were at $813,945. There was more money spent on administering the money, as an example, than for individual artists and creation grants. I look at program delivery administration as administering dollars because dollars are not getting into the hands of the people in the front line. There was more money spent on doing that than there was getting out to the individuals.
We went through a structural change last year. We have a structure within the department. I guess, from a layman's point of view, as well, there's an office in the World Trade and Convention Centre and there's an office down the street; there's a duplication of space and administrative costs, as you know, with offices. Indeed, we have three staff within our department now, within the space that we have at present. Again, we're still going through that transition phase with each individual staff, as each circumstance is different.
This wasn't just simply about saving money for the Finance Minister, and I want to make that clear. If it was, that $270,000, roughly $0.25 million, he would have simply not have provided it for programs. I felt very strongly that that should be reinvested and that it had to be reinvested back into the programs. We will be able to provide those programs within the financial complement of that $100,000 to $120,000 and put those dollars back into the programs that are available in the arts and culture. I have no problem providing that for you.
Right now, in our structure, there are two FT positions that have not been filled yet within our division. Within that complement of the two positions, as well as another position, we will be able to to provide the administrative support, through those positions and through our department, that was being handled through the Nova Scotia Arts Council.
Of course, the new council is going to play an important role. That's why we have a transition team in place, as I mentioned, as well. They are part of this process as we move forward and their input is going to be a cornerstone to how we move forward on that. As I mentioned, I will, on a future day, be more than happy to provide those details, which I feel you deserve as a member of the Legislature as well and we will provide them for you.
MR. ROBERT CHISHOLM: Let me be real frank. I think the savings are negligible, number one; number two, I don't think there's going to be any savings for the year 2002-03; and number three, and perhaps the most important thing, on the basis of minuscule savings, I would suggest you have turned a principle of arm's-length funding and peer assessment in the arts and culture community on its head. You have taken us backwards. You have taken the Province of Nova Scotia, in the face of what's happening across this country, back 20 years with this decision.
You may say, no, no, we're going to keep handing out money, but you see, Mr. Minister, the whole principle behind this independent Arts Council was to have it away from politicians and politics, to have it in a place where the people who are directly affected by those programs can have direct input on the basis of what's real, on the basis of what's going on, on the basis of quality and performance, not on the basis of, well, we need to make sure we get a little bit in this constituency. That's the thing and that has always been the way.
I'm not suggesting that you're a bad fellow or that your staff are bad people and that they're going to be subject to influence or all the rest of it, but you like to present yourself as the new guy on the block, a young man and somewhat naive, but that's a lot of bunk and we know it is. You've been around the block and you're from a part of this province that knows politics as well as anybody else or anywhere else in this province.
You know why there was such pressure on the former Liberal Government to make this change. It was to get the responsibility for funding for these individuals and for these organizations out of the government sphere. Now, you may say that it's government money, it's taxpayers' money. It's true. It was when it was over there. The principle, though, is that out of respect for an organization, as we do in other spheres, we have said it is best for you to handle it. It is best under strict accountability rules and so on and so forth, that you know best because you're closer to the communities and you're closer to your own sector. You know best. People who work in the arts and culture sector know best what's good for the arts and culture sector.
That's what was said by the former government and by all of us when we applauded this move. We said the time has ended when we, government, big papa, are going to tell you how best to run your affairs with this. Let's recognize that it's not a huge sum of money, but when you're looking at women and men who are operating on annual incomes - as you know - sometimes who are working hard to reach double figures, it's important.
I know that the piece ran today and that you were questioned yesterday about the fact that you had applied and didn't get it. I don't question for a second that's why this happened, but the reason I bring it in is because you recognized, as an artist, how important it is to get some of that funding from your peers. You get turned down and you try to come back because you want the money, but you also want the respect that comes from that. That's what causes me such concern. It's that principle of respect.
You've said in a couple of your statements and you've said it in the House, you've said that we know best, that this is in the best interest of the arts and culture community. Quite frankly, the days should be gone when you, as minister - not you as an artist, but you as minister - decide what's right and what's wrong for that community.
What has happened, it's a mug's game, it's a circle that never opens because you just keep cutting them back, cutting them back and cutting them back, while at the same time talking about expanding their responsibilities. So, the Arts Council wants to deliver better programs, be more responsive to the community, so they have to maintain a certain critical mass and I think you would agree that the critical mass was pretty basic. You were also talking to them about taking on the big four, so they had to have some capacity to be able to administer that responsibility, but then all of a sudden you decide, no, you're costing us too much money and we don't want you anymore.
It flabbergasts me that you could, two things: number one, suggest that you're going to save much money, because I don't believe you're going to save much money this year or next year, and I will receive your figures and I will challenge those figures; and number two, that you could also say that somehow this is for the good of the arts and culture community.
Mr. Minister, you say on the one hand that you are doing what you believe is in the best interests of the arts and culture community, but then the arts and culture community in the Province of Nova Scotia lines up from one end to the other, a hundred organizations have come out against this decision, hundreds and thousands of people in that sector have come out against this decision. Notable individuals in this sector who you have given awards to are not opposing this for political reasons, but are opposing it as members of the arts and culture community who recognize the decision for what it is; it's a wrong-headed decision. The return to the government, supposedly, in dollars, is not anywhere near what the damage is that's being caused to the sector itself.
Now, what do you say to them? What do you say to all these people? What does your government say to the people in the arts and culture sector who are telling you that this was the wrong thing to do?
MR. CHAIRMAN: Mr. Minister, just before you proceed, an item of clarification. For everyone's information, quorum in the House has been relaxed by all-Party agreement with regard to the volunteer awards. Until we are advised otherwise, normally this room would require a quorum of six government members; however, depending on who's going to the event, the numbers may alter and that won't change the time. We have approximately 15 minutes remaining in the NDP's time.
MR. RODNEY MACDONALD: Mr. Chairman, the member for Halifax Atlantic raised some good points, and I want to say too that we have also had many phone calls with regard to agreeing with the direction that we have taken.
MR. ROBERT CHISHOLM: Any of them sign any letters or put their names down? Just curious.
MR. RODNEY MACDONALD: We have received e-mails and letters, yes. Again, you talk about it simply by the government saving money, but don't forget, as I mentioned, these dollars are going back to the arts and culture community.
What people are saying to me, and this is not just in the last couple of months or the last year and I have tried to make an attempt to get around as much as possible and to have discussions and I am a firm believer that having discussions, when you go into small communities throughout this province, with an artist or someone involved with the tourism sector or whatever the case may be, hearing from that individual, there is great value in that - people did say they believe in the programs, in the peer assessment process, and they said they would like to see more money; of course, more investment.
Those are three key components that were used in making this decision. Now we can disagree on the philosophy on the arm's-length and I can indicate - and as you mentioned that I would probably indicate - that as someone who knows, whose only job at one time for a while was as a musician, that the investment we make in culture is extremely important, that we need to get as many dollars as possible to those people. For me to sit here and say it's all right that we spent some $400,000 last year on administration - I believe it was shortly under $400,000, roughly around the $400,000 mark - I believe that we need to get more dollars in the hands of those people and less dollars into duplication of administration. Now, that's a belief that I have. I want to see those dollars get to the people on the front lines. That was a key part in making the decision.
Now, I realize, as I mentioned before, this is a very passionate issue for people. If you are an artist or a musician, next month, as an example - I want to mention that the applications that came in were being treated through the process and now are going through the process so that we see as smooth a transition as possible - you will put your application in as you did last year. You will know that the opportunity is there, not by the minister making the decision on who gets it - and to be quite frank, I don't want to make the decision on which individual gets it and I don't think I should make that decision on which specific individual gets it.
You will have the same opportunity through the peer assessment process; it will not be the Government of Nova Scotia, it will not be the Cabinet nor the caucuses. That peer assessment model, we will make sure that is in place and, as I've said, it's going to be in place through the new Arts and Culture Council to ensure that those applying know that it will be based on, as you mentioned, the creative excellence of that work. So, as an individual, as an example, as I mentioned, if you apply this upcoming year you will have the opportunity through the peer assessment process.
Something that I've felt over the years - and I'm sure it's the same in every Party, as well - is that there are often varying views, even around this province, in support of culture and the arts. As I mentioned before I believe that those investments are important and are key. For too long - and perhaps the line has gotten stronger - government and the arts and culture sector in many respects have been on opposite sides of the fence.
You talk about other jurisdictions in Canada. I believe we have an opportunity through this, in working with the new council, to put a model that every province across this country will take a look at and say, listen, that's an interesting model, and perhaps they won't even look at it at all. That's fair as well. I have actually spoken to some of the ministers already across the country with respect to some of the changes we are going through and given them a bit more information than they had previously. They are quite interested in seeing what model comes forward. I believe there is an opportunity for a real partnership here between the arts and cultural community and our division within culture to be working together.
I realize that the last few weeks have been difficult for people. I also believe in the long term that the model going forward will be a good, solid model, especially when taking a look at the individuals we have involved in this transition team. I believe they're very well respected individuals across this province and I believe the new council, when it's put in place, will be one that will represent the artistic community across the province.
MR. ROBERT CHISHOLM: I say this with the deepest respect, but what land are you living in? With all due respect, you talk about how we're going to develop a great partnership, well, you've just kicked the arts and culture sector in the Province of Nova
Scotia in the teeth. They've responded: we don't like the way we've been treated, we don't like the way this has happened, why have you done this to us? They've been outraged.
You, independently, on the basis of I don't know what - I've not seen a plan - are going to go your own way in terms of what else is happening across the country. Nova Scotia finally gets caught up with what's going on in the rest of the country and undoubtedly will be in a position to develop, as a result of the activities and the partnership that you talk about, to develop a model that will be unique and will be even more progressive than happens in any other jurisdiction in this country. But how can you expect to come along, kick the slats out from underneath these people, and then have them work with you? I don't understand it.
Again, it's this patronizing, patriarchal-based attitude that we know best. It doesn't matter that you're an artist, I'm sorry, but you're a Minister of the Crown, you're carrying out government policy. What you have done is you have turned back relations with this community. Given the economics of that sector, given what people like yourself - before you got into this high-paying job - face, if there was a sense from people in that community that there was going to be more money to distribute, don't you think they would be coming to you and saying, right on, Rodney, you got it baby; don't you think they would be? They're not. Why do you think that is?
I say to all government members, don't you hear what's going on? Just because your minister plays the fiddle - and I say that with respect - it doesn't mean that he knows what's best for other people who play musical instruments. His job and your job as government members and our job as members of this Legislature and ultimately, in particular, your job as minister, is to listen to what's being said. You've made a decision, you've gotten a reaction to that decision. In the face of you saying, we think this is best for you, people are saying, wrong, it's not best for us. We know what's best for us, or we have a pretty good idea is what people are saying. Women and men by the hundreds and thousands across the province involved in the arts and culture sector are saying they have a pretty good idea of what's best for them, and this ain't it.
It's a small part of their lives as performers, as performing artists, as creators, as people who are generating to the very fibre of this province and their communities, this is all about partnership with the government and making a contribution to their province, making a contribution to the organization of arts and culture in the Province of Nova Scotia. That's what these people are giving you, giving me, giving us, their commitment, their partnership. By doing this, what you're doing is you are turning your back on these people, you are telling them that you don't want their help, you don't want their ideas, you don't want their commitment, you don't want their passion because you don't believe them, you don't trust them, you don't think they're up to it. That's wrong. Surely you can recognize that is wrong.
You say you've gotten a few e-mails. I would like you to table those e-mails. I would like you to give us a list of the people who have called you - the artists, the people in the arts and culture sector. I would like the government members to table in this House a list of all of the people who have contacted you and said the minister is right on. Remember, there's no question that you are the minister and you have the responsibility and you're going to be held accountable to make decisions.
We have moved in a direction in this province where we have decided that with respect to the arts and culture sector, with respect to administering programs, we are going to allow that sector to do it with our assistance; not our guidance, necessarily, but with our assistance, as a partnership. That's what you've said. That's what we've said. To now turn around and say that all bets are off, we're going the other way, we're going back to the way it used to be, that's wrong, it's disrespectful. I believe that ultimately it's damaging to what this sector is able to do and the ability of any government to respond.
I understand my time is pretty much up, but the sad thing is that as a result of the decision that you made two months ago, you have created such an uproar in this community, such upset, such controversy, that people are distracted to the point where it's hard for them to focus on much else because they are outraged with the way they've been treated by you and your government. I suggest that you have to take some time to reconsider this decision and reinstate the Arts Council. Later, Mr. Chairman, we will talk about you absconding with the endowment fund and what you've done with the McConnell Family Foundation contribution. That will be for another intervention. Thank you.
MR. CHAIRMAN: With everyone's concurrence, we're just going to take a break for about three minutes, if that's all right? Thank you.
[10:44 a.m. The subcommittee recessed.]
[10:50 a.m. The subcommittee reconvened.]
MR. CHAIRMAN: The honourable member for Lunenburg West.
MR. DONALD DOWNE: Mr. Minister, staff, I am going to carry on with regard to the issues, specifically, with the Arts Council. You continually talk about savings, you talk about administrative savings, and quite frankly your department was set up by your government, taken out of Tourism and Education, as an administrative body, separate and above, in fact, increasing the cost of government in effect because you moved it from other departments, for the purpose of administering tourism and cultural activities in the Province of Nova Scotia. Now you're saying that this administrative construct issue is that you're trying to save money. Well, you were set up for the purpose of delivery of those programs, and you're almost talking against your own government's philosophy when it set it up in the first place.
There's a lot of bitterness throughout the community. Yesterday I saw people in the audience, clearly people who I would never have expected to come up to a rally, who were there because they feel that you have basically taken over the integrity of the arts community and the council by setting up this new body for what is perceived to be no more than your political will and reducing the arm's-length approach, which is very frustrating to a lot of people.
I want to walk through a few things with you to try to determine this economic analysis and also what brought this to the forefront. In 1995, 1996, after 20 years of working, a unanimous decision when the legislation was brought in for the Arts Council by all three Parties, yours included, that an arm's-length approach was the right way to go. Your government was quick to congratulate and support the initiative. Now, just a few short years later, you, in our view and in the arts community's view, are tearing it apart. When did you first realize, Mr. Minister, that the Arts Council was not, in your view, run as efficiently as it could be?
MR. RODNEY MACDONALD: I can speak to the last few months, in the budgetary process, and really taking a look at the priorities of the department, both in Tourism and Culture and with my other responsibilities. I just want to roll back to what you said earlier, about when we first formed government. We certainly did make some changes with respect to the number of departments in government, and quite clearly put it forward in 1999 that we would set up a separate department. As such, we moved forward on that. We have a smaller Cabinet than any other in previous history of the province, as well.
In moving forward on the decision, again, as I mentioned earlier in my remarks, we had to take a look at getting our financial house in order. Of course, in any decision, as I know you as a former Finance Minister know probably all too well, there are decisions which have to be made when you're going through the process. The decision that we have taken, that I've taken and the government has taken, is one that is enabling the programs to continue, is enabling the peer assessment process to continue, and what I see as duplication in many areas, we are able to use those dollars and get them to those individuals within the arts and cultural community across this province for investment.
MR. DOWNE: Mr. Minister, the question is, how long ago did you find out that all of a sudden this Arts Council in your view was not administering the dollars as efficiently as it should be? It has been in the last two months or three months?
MR. RODNEY MACDONALD: No, what I'm saying is that in each year, as you know, going through the business planning process, you take a look at where the investments are being made and you have to make some decisions. The decision with respect to this change officially came about during the past couple of months. It went through Executive Council in making this decision. It was part of the process. Don't forget, we've also gone through a process within our Culture Division, a structural change and a program change.
We've gone through a fairly significant change, and the reason why was because people didn't have access to programs, people didn't have the knowledge of what programs were even available. It's something that before getting into politics I was fairly critical about in my own area, feeling that we could never find out what was available, what programs were available, what were the deadlines, where are the applications. I can tell you that that is something I felt very strongly about coming into government, making sure people knew the information. As I mentioned earlier, I applauded your government for setting up that peer assessment model, but I also was critical with respect to not knowing what programs were available for Nova Scotians.
In the business planning process and in the budgetary process, during the last few months leading up to the budget, this was in front of the Executive Council, and the Executive Council made the decision to move forward.
MR. DOWNE: Mr. Minister, so what you're telling me here is that you sat down around the Cabinet table when you were going through the budget process, and the Minister of Finance said this is your budget target, now you cut to make it fit, and you decided that the Arts Council was one area that you think you can cut and roll it under your wing to save money. If that's not the case, then what is the case for making the change? You're telling me two different things in your answers. Is it because of peer review? If it's peer review, then it's based on substantive cost analysis. I asked for that yesterday, I have asked you before about it. I want it now. Your staff is here, so I want that information now, factually, of why you made that decision. Or was it simply a matter of the fact that the Minister of Finance gave you a target, and you have to cut it to make it work?
MR. RODNEY MACDONALD: As you know, as a former Finance Minister . . .
MR. DOWNE: I know very well, as a former Finance Minister, the process. I'm asking you the question, you're telling me three months ago that you found out that the system doesn't work?
MR. CHAIRMAN: If we're going to maintain decorum here, can we ask a question and then allow it to be answered.
MR. RODNEY MACDONALD: Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman. As I was saying, I was simply going to say, as you know, as a Finance Minister, you do provide a target to each department. In looking at the target that we had available for the upcoming year and taking a look at each program, and as I mentioned we have done so because we felt there was a lot of needed change because of the history, where people didn't have access to programs and didn't have what I believe was the opportunity to apply for many programs. We went through that process, as you are well aware, and I and my staff, ultimately - I mentioned the Executive Council because it did come to Executive Council following the
process of getting to that point - took a look, and I saw the opportunity, there was duplication there.
During the consultation process, there were things heard. I mentioned them earlier and you mentioned them, about dollars getting out to the people who are putting applications in. That's one of the things people said, we want more dollars. Well, as a government we had to get our fiscal house in order, which we have done by balancing the budget, but also to see where there's duplication, to eliminate as much of that duplication as possible, but to ensure that the programs are in place.
As I mentioned earlier to the member for Halifax Atlantic, we see the same programs in place, there are peer assessment models that are going to be in place and are in place, and the fact that we're actually being more inclusive in our other programs. If it was simply a political exercise, we wouldn't have put forward, with respect to the new Arts and Culture Council model, that peer assessment process. I stated earlier that it's a process I feel very strongly about. I know your government felt very strongly about, and each Party felt strongly about, when the decision to set up the original Nova Scotia Arts Council was taken. We felt strongly at that time about the process of individuals having the opportunity to evaluate their peers and we will continue that process. In fact, we're expanding that process.
I believe fundamentally that as a member of the Executive Council and being responsible for those dollars with respect to the taxpayers, that I have a responsibility to ensure that the dollars that we have available are getting out to those across this province. I feel this was the right direction for getting those dollars out to those involved in the arts and culture sector. I'm sure we can disagree on philosophies of how that should be done and that's fair. I believe at the end of the day, as was mentioned by the member for Halifax Atlantic, the taxpayers of this province will make a decision in the next general election and if it's the plan of whatever particular Party they want to see move forward, then they have the right to do so. I think we've clearly outlined that we do not want to see that duplication. We want to see those dollars getting into the hands of the people across this province.
MR. DOWNE: Mr. Minister, I have a number of questions and I hope you're not going to give a speech each time you give an answer. What I'm hearing from you, number one, this is an OIC decision. So you can't hide behind an OIC decision. You're the minister who brought the proposal to Cabinet. Cabinet agreed with you. So, yes, John Hamm and the whole crowd of you are in agreement that the Arts Council should have been cut. That's the first thing you admitted. Number two is that it was a financial issue because you're doing peer review and you say that it's not efficiently run. Have you ever gone back - and you just came to this realization in the last few months, from what you said - to try to work with the Nova Scotia Arts Council to find ways to be more efficient, if that is the case that you're basing your decision on? Just yes or no.
MR. RODNEY MACDONALD: Mr. Chairman, it's not simply yes or no and I would like the opportunity to respond, if that might be my opportunity. Certainly, there were discussions between staff within my division and staff, specifically the executive director, just regarding various issues, regarding the programs that we offer through the Culture Division and then the programs that were offered through the Nova Scotia Arts Council and that relationship and on moving forward in the future. I had the opportunity to meet with the council, as was mentioned, back in January and had some discussion on various items. Again, it's simply not a matter of - certainly we're going through a change. The new council, as I mentioned, will have the same opportunity for programs with those dollars not being spent on duplication, but getting into the hands of people. I certainly think that's important.
I had the opportunity last week to meet with the Inverness County Council of the Arts in my own area. They had concerns and they had questions. I met with them last Friday and went through the new model and some of the changes that were taking place and had a very good discussion. Once we sat down and went through it, I believe that the feeling coming away from the meeting was one that was a change. As one person mentioned to me, that's a change in the government's model somewhat, but we will still have the same opportunity through programs and peer assessment. They were quite happy to hear that. Once going through it, they had an understanding that this would be beneficial to that organization and, hopefully, individuals in various areas around the province.
MR. DOWNE: It's great that you had a chance to talk to a group a little while ago, but you didn't have the nerve to go out and talk to the group that was here yesterday that wanted to have some answers to questions very specifically about the Arts Council, Mr. Minister. The proof that I've asked for repeatedly, I will ask that that proof of cost savings be tabled today. Obviously, if you've made a decision, you went to Cabinet, you had to go through the Treasury Board, you had to prove where the cost savings would be and I want to see them.
I want to know what the severance allocations were for the people you let go. I want to know what you've done about the rent obligations that were there. I want to know about whether or not new staff are going to be hired in your department to pick up the workload. I want to know what the staff currently there were doing before then. I want that analysis done because you made a decision that has torn the heart and soul out of the Nova Scotia arts community based on something, and you're saying it's economics. I want to know what those economic analyses are if you've made that decision, or maybe you had another political agenda. So I asked yesterday and I'm asking again today, will you provide that information to this group today, yes or no?
MR. RODNEY MACDONALD: As I indicated to the member for Halifax Atlantic, I will provide that information and it will be based on audited statements that were used. I have no problem providing that. I don't have the full information on me today and understand too, as well, we're still going through a transition process with respect to the
staff. I mentioned within our model in the Culture Division that we have two FTs available there and then we will have an additional FT that will come onstream and we will be able to deliver these programs and provide the administrative support for them.
I indicated my willingness to provide that information and to provide it in its full detail for the member and for all members of the House. I will do that on a future day. There are still discussions with regard to various organizations with respect to that transition process, but I can indicate, quite clearly, that during the sitting and as soon as possible that I will provide the full details. I want to ensure that the member does have the full details, as I know he would like to have.
MR. DOWNE: Mr. Minister, we are looking for the proof of why you made this mistake in your career. In the last two years, you've reduced the budget of the Arts Council. Clearly, you must have realized over those reductions that if you're going to cut the funding for it, it's going to have some implication. During that time, had you ever met with the Arts Council to talk about how you could make administrative savings so that the Arts Council could maintain its arm's-length integrity and go forward? You've been the minister now for three years, almost.
MR. RODNEY MACDONALD: During the last couple of years, I had the opportunity to have discussions with the executive director, with the chairman. We talked about a variety of items. We talked about everything from going through with respect to programming, talked about the peer assessment model and had discussions on a variety of items.
In fact, you're right, the first year we came into government, we reduced the funding at the Arts Council and this year we indicated a 5 per cent reduction, a $65,000 reduction, much like the federal government did in the early 1990s to get their financial house in order. They made some decisions and made reductions in key areas and then balanced the books for the country and then were able to make investments. I see getting the financial house of the province in order is very important and I'm sure the member would agree that by balancing the books of this province, it will enable us to make future investment in areas like culture. I believe that there will be future opportunities for investment. I would hope, and I will certainly encourage my colleague, the Finance Minister, to make those investments.
MR. DOWNE: Mr. Minister, I hope you play the fiddle as well as you rag the puck because you're not impressing anybody here by not trying to answer these questions. I have a list of questions and I'm asking for straightforward answers. They're not complicated questions. I think you can understand them and they deserve just a simple response because there's a logic behind them.
You mentioned the federal government. It's interesting that there are thousands of artists and citizens throughout all of Canada and throughout the world that have maintained an arm's-length body to deal with the arts community. You know, in Nova Scotia we fought for 20 years to have it brought forward. It's supported by organizations throughout the province. The arts councils are protected from political interference in Canada, as you know, and they're protected in Australia, New Zealand and much of Europe.
Canada, a long time ago, realized that the arts and media organizations such as the Canadian Arts Council, the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, the National Film Board, should be at arm's-length of government. Now, it didn't matter. I mean they had to go through all sorts of Mulroney disasters and they had to deal with the financial problems of the country and state, but they didn't bring it back into a political realm to find a solution. They left it as an arm's-length body. So don't use that argument from a national perspective. You can still deal with this on a provincial perspective and keep it arm's-length and still be fiscally responsible. You haven't even sat down and tried to work with the community to find solutions. The Nova Scotia Arts Council always operated in a financially and administratively responsible manner. Is that true, yes or no?
MR. RODNEY MACDONALD: Last year, as I mentioned - and I will provide that audited statement for the member - $424,655 was spent between program delivery and administration. There were more dollars spent on administering funding than there was that got into the hands of artists through the individual programs. As I mentioned, we went through the process. We felt that there was duplication, that those dollars could get into the hands of the people applying for various programs, and made the decision that those dollars should be spent on people and not simply on administration. That was the decision of the Executive Council. It's one that I strongly support and, you know, we can argue the philosophy behind the decision and I'm sure that, although we may share similar philosophies on some issues with respect to this decision, with respect to programs and peer assessment, we vary on some other parts of it.
MR. DOWNE: Don't hide behind the OIC. This is a Rodney MacDonald decision and it was supported by your colleagues and you sold them but you haven't sold anybody else. To answer the question that I asked, they filed three-year plans. In those plans they provided budgets, audited financial statements to you, and in every one of those budgets that they presented to you they were in the black. They were never in deficit. Your department has had all that information. Yet when they brought out their three-year plan, you never sat down and said, by the way, we think we can make some savings in administration, let's work together to try to find a solution.
What you did is you sent a bunch of security guards from DOTPW, Department of Transportation and Public Works, down to their office, locked the doors, gave the people their pink slips, and made sure that all the incoming calls were redirected. Is that what the OIC agreement was? Is that what the Cabinet decision was, that we are going to do a coup
on the Arts Council and we're going to come in - it's almost as if there was criminal activity going on here - and overpower the Arts Council and take that facility over? Is there any reason why, Mr. Minister, you thought that was the way you should have dealt with the Nova Scotia Arts Council instead of simply sitting down and talking to them as the minister responsible? Why would you use that tactic?
MR. RODNEY MACDONALD: First of all, I would like to say that you're talking about the staff and there's no doubt, this is a difficult process and it's a difficult process on staff.
MR. DOWNE: Locking the doors and bringing in security guards is . . .
MR. RODNEY MACDONALD: As I mentioned, there are three staff within our division at present working with us through this transition process. You mentioned about the day the decision was made and there's no doubt that going through that change and going through that transition is not easy. We also have the responsibility, as I mentioned earlier, to ensure that assets of the Province of Nova Scotia are secured as well.
MR. DOWNE: Do you think they're going to rob the place? Do you think they're going to go in and rob the place?
MR. RODNEY MACDONALD: Again, as I mentioned, there are three staff still presently within the division working with us on the transition process and we will continue in that process to ensure that the process is done as smoothly as possible for the people, the clients, the people across this province in that process, to ensure that we avoid as much duplication as possible, to make sure that the dollars that we spend as a province and as the taxpayers' spend are simply not being spent on duplication but on people.
MR. DOWNE: Mr. Minister, you know I don't think anybody in Nova Scotia would feel that the Arts Council should have been treated the way they've been treated, going in and locking up and doing the things which you did, with security guards and all that. I think it was a little bit overpowering and a little bit - well, very much an absolute insult to the community and a lack of respect for the people who have been for the last six-plus years doing a phenomenal job and was supported by a number of organizations.
You know, when you think about the Atlantic Federation of Musicians, the Atlantic Theatre Festival, the Black Loyalist Heritage Society, the Canadian Actors' Equity Association, Canadian Arts Presenters Association, the Labour Congress, the Coastal Communities Network, Dance Nova Scotia, you know, the list goes on and on and on in this province, that says to you that you're wrong, that you've made a dumb decision; you've made a decision that doesn't make sense.
If it's a fiscal matter, then why didn't you at least have the courtesy to work with the community to find a way to bridge that issue? You've got staff. You could second or whatever it is you needed to do, but leave it at arm's-length. Leave it with the integrity that it was set up to have, leave it so that the artistic community has the freedom to go forward and realize that their applications are not going to be massaged by you or by some of your political friends or whatever. They want that integrity, they want that independence and you have now taken that away. Mr. Minister, why have you for the last two-plus years dragged your proverbial feet on reappointing people to the Arts Council unless you had a plan two years ago to dismantle the Nova Scotia Arts Council?
MR. RODNEY MACDONALD: In fact, when the decision was taken, there were 11 out of 15, I believe, positions that were filled on the council at that time, and certainly it was something that we as a division were looking at to see how we could expedite that process in a quicker manner, although I do also feel that we have a responsibility to ensure that that process does go as quickly as possible, that the quorum was there with the 11 out of 15 members for the previous council when the decision to make a change was taking place.
MR. DOWNE: You know, Mr. Minister, you have a responsibility to get your names in and push them through the process to make sure that the complement is filled. You can't blame anybody but yourself for not filling those positions and the council was asking you why you weren't filling those positions and the applications that had been made to you time and time again, you know, why was it that you were so reluctant to take the industry, the community's names forward? Was it because you wanted to pick individuals yourself? Did you have some special friends in your constituency or some politically-aligned individuals you wanted to put on there?
Every other minister appoints people. I sat on the Human Resources Committee. Nobody else had as many problems as you, you know, and they have got a multitude of portfolios to look after. You've got supposedly the easiest workload of any minister in Cabinet and yet you couldn't get those people appointed. Were you too weak in Cabinet or was it that you didn't want them appointed? What was the problem? Why didn't you appoint them?
MR. CHAIRMAN: Honourable member, we are speaking to the estimates.
MR. RODNEY MACDONALD: I guess weakness is in the eye of the beholder and I guess you could say that we could be weak as a province and not balance our books, or we could be strong and balance our books as well. It's certainly something that we, as a government, have confronted and I believe we have done a good job.
As I mentioned, there were 11 out of 15 members in the Arts Council, there was a quorum and we were moving forward with respect to that process. I will agree with the member that perhaps we should have been quicker with respect to that process, and as the
minister responsible, that is my responsibility and if the process was not being expedited quickly enough, then of course it falls on the minister's shoulders.
MR. DOWNE: We've established the fact that you've dragged your feet for the last number of years on the appointments of individuals to the board. Secondly, you went out and did a public consultation. How long did that public consultation take?
MR. RODNEY MACDONALD: The public consultation started in mid-February, I believe, about six weeks.
MR. DOWNE: During that six-week period - mid-February, so you would have been starting your negotiations on your budget with the Minister of Finance already; you would have started probably in November, December, January - was there ever in that public consultation anybody saying that the arm's-length integrity of the Nova Scotia Arts Council should be dismantled? Was there anybody who recommended that?
MR. RODNEY MACDONALD: As I mentioned earlier, I made comments that people were indicating that they believed in the programs that were administered through the Arts Council. But don't forget that the consultation process was a process that I indicated last summer when we were putting our new programs in place that we would go out and talk about our new programs and talk about the potential for these advisory councils. We didn't go forward on the advisory councils because people indicated they didn't want to see them, people wanted to see that peer assessment model. People indicated that they wanted to see more dollars and less on duplication and wanted to have the opportunities to apply for programs not only within the Arts Council, but also within our own division to get a better opportunity to hear more about those programs.
We're going to be putting a report out, I believe it's next month. We indicated as well through the consultation process that a report of the consultation process would be made available. I will table that report once it's all pulled together in this coming month, during the sitting of the House. I will make it available to all members.
MR. DOWNE: So the answer is that nobody suggested to gut the Nova Scotia Arts Council, to destroy the integrity of the Nova Scotia Arts Council by being arm's-length of government; nobody suggested that to you?
MR. RODNEY MACDONALD: As I mentioned . . .
MR. DOWNE: You can just say yes or no.
MR. RODNEY MACDONALD: . . . the integrity that people wanted to see was in programs. They wanted to ensure the integrity of the peer assessment process and they wanted to ensure that more dollars were getting into the hands of the people and not
administration. Those are the very things that we are seeing with respect to the new Arts and Culture Council, that we will see when it's put in place, as our transition team moves forward on that.
MR. DOWNE: I guess this report's going to come out after the vote on the budget, which by then the Nova Scotia Arts Council, as we've known it, will be gone unless you wake up to the realization that the arm's-length integrity of that council is better than what you're trying to sell to Nova Scotians right now.
MR. RODNEY MACDONALD: The report, as I mentioned, will come out next month, in May, and we're putting it together now because . . .
MR. DOWNE: The budget will be voted on by then.
MR. RODNEY MACDONALD: . . . obviously there's a lot of input during that process. As I mentioned, I will table it in the House of Assembly, the member has my assurance of that.
MR. DOWNE: Mr. Minister, you're also responsible for Sport and Recreation as well?
MR. RODNEY MACDONALD: Yes.
MR. DOWNE: What does it cost you to administer grants for those programs? And do you have a peer review process involved with that?
MR. RODNEY MACDONALD: There is not a peer assessment process. There is a process within the Sport and Recreation Commission as was done by the previous government. We continued with a similar model of working with the various organizations available in Sport and Recreation, whether it's Sport Nova Scotia or Recreation Nova Scotia and working with them, with what dollars we have available, with various organizations. It's the exact same process, in fact, as with the previous government and working with each organization, not only for one year, but also putting a process in place as was done - a cycle. If memory serves me correctly, it's either a three- or four-year cycle.
I don't know if you're going to ask many questions about sport and rec, but I may have a staff person join me at the table.
MR. DOWNE: My question would be if staff would be able to provide - Sport and Recreation has done an excellent job, I'm very supportive of the people and what they do. I just want to know what the comparative numbers are. We're not comparing apples and apples here, by the way. If they had to deal with the whole issue of the peer assessment process, I would dare say that the administrative costs of that program would be substantially
higher. That's the point I wanted to make so you're not comparing - you know, when you're comparing savings, I don't see that.
MR. RODNEY MACDONALD: I won't talk too long. I want to agree with the member that you're dealing with a different program delivery in each situation. As you know, the regional people do a fine job across this province in those various programs.
MR. DOWNE: Mr. Minister, under this new proposed make-up of the council, you will have more power to direct the direction of dollars and the type of art activity you would like to see fostered in the province. Certainly, it won't be under a separate arm's-length body of the community, it will be under a controlled mechanism. Are you trying, as Minister of Tourism, to tailor the arts development grants program to match your strategy on tourism?
MR. RODNEY MACDONALD: No. During the last number of weeks, many people have indicated that this change is simply to gear these tourism dollars and we're going to be working with the transition team that's in place in putting forward that new Arts and Culture Council. It's simply not a matter of doing that. I know that there were strong feelings with regard to the creative side of the programming that was available. It's certainly something that has to be maintained in the new model. We will be working with the transition team with respect to the programs already in existence along with two other programs which were administered through the department: cultural activities and, as well, in the Art Bank Purchase Program. It's certainly not simply gearing it towards tourism.
MR. DOWNE: It is very possible, under this new framework that you're talking about, that the grants, the seed money, the money that you hand out that's so important to the communities, could very well be tailored to one aspect more so than others. As a part of the arts community, we're talking about the creativity of a number of disciplines. We're talking about the freedom of expression, we're talking about the mosaic of aspects of our cultural identity as Nova Scotians, as Canadians, and it is very clear that where the community does not have the controlling ability of where they go, that means that you as the minister and as a government then in fact do have the ability to control where those dollars go and could very well be manipulated to tie into a four-month cultural season, and then that's it.
I think there's a legitimate concern that that could very well be a reality, and I would like to know what mechanisms you are going to put in place to make sure that doesn't happen, and that the freedom of expression, in fact, will be continued. I want to know what you're going to do to guarantee that to the community.
MR. RODNEY MACDONALD: As the member mentioned, there is a mosaic of a variety of disciplines across the province with respect to arts and people and the creative process and how important that is, and how there's a variety of individual expressions of
their creativeness throughout this province in a variety of disciplines, whether it's in the visual arts or whether it's in music or whether it's in theatre, or whatever the case might be. In working with the new transition team, the opportunity for the cross-section will be maintained. That is something we will be working very closely with the transition team, and with the new council when it's put in place, to ensure that those opportunities are there.
Certainly in the change process, we wouldn't want to lose that. I know how valuable that is. We're certainly not going to focus on just the visual arts or just focus on one specific item. I think you have to ensure that those who are involved in the arts and the cultural community have that opportunity to apply for things that are within the realm of their creative works, whatever they may be.
MR. DOWNE: I don't know how many people trust you on that, not to be disrespectful to you personally, but after what has gone on, locking doors and security guards and shutting down and not consulting and not trying to find a solution as a minister, not trying to work with the council to find a solution to maintain its arm's-length, I think it's going to be a big pill for some people to swallow, to think that you're not going to be able to manipulate that process, and the fact that you dragged your feet on appointments of individuals, and the list goes on and on.
I believe there has been a plan. I believe you have had a long-term plan on this issue. I think your plan is now being brought forward. That plan is like an onion, the more you peel it, the stronger it gets and the more you start to cry. (Laughter) That's what we're starting to see happen right here. It's a sad commentary on your ministry at this point. Have you ever personally tried to influence who sat on the Arts Council, ever?
MR. RODNEY MACDONALD: As the minister responsible, I have an obligation to sign off on the names put forth, and have an obligation to then take them to the Executive Council and then to Human Resources. If the member is indicating that I simply indicated that you should put so and so on the council, that I have not.
MR. DOWNE: So you have never tried to influence who sat on that council?
MR. RODNEY MACDONALD: I guess that's kind of a very broad question.
MR. DOWNE: It's not broad. Have you ever tried to influence, to have a certain person on the Arts Council?
MR. RODNEY MACDONALD: No.
MR. DOWNE: Have you ever tried to influence the process to not allow an individual to go on the Arts Council?
MR. RODNEY MACDONALD: The process put in place with respect to . . .
MR. DOWNE: Have you rejected names? I should rephrase that, excuse me, have you ever rejected a name that came forward by the arts community that would go forward for an appointment?
MR. RODNEY MACDONALD: Through the process, there were names provided to me that didn't continue to move forward. I don't recall if it stopped before the Executive Council or stopped before myself. Yes, there were names put forward to me, and under my authority as minister those names either go forward to Cabinet or they don't, the ones that went through the process.
MR. DOWNE: In all of what you've just done here, the answer is yes.
MR. RODNEY MACDONALD: Yes, as I indicated there was an occasion where there were names put forward to me, and not all the names went forward to the Executive Council. I must admit right now, off-hand I don't recall if those names all went forward to the Executive Council and didn't get through there or if they didn't get to the Executive Council. I believe that it was before they got to the Executive Council.
MR. DOWNE: Mr. Minister, you keep trying to bring up OIC, you're trying to put the blame over to Cabinet. You're the minister here, and no matter how you want to try to pass it off to that Minister of Finance or that Minister of Justice or that Premier, they are wearing it as it is anyway. Ultimately you are the one who fights for the portfolio you're responsible for. In fighting for that portfolio, part of that responsibility is maintaining the integrity of the Arts Council that was brought in and supported by your government.
Not being able to bring those names forward because it didn't meet somebody's acid test around the Cabinet shows how politically motivated this process that you're bringing in now will truly be. It will be a process of which Cabinet Ministers will say - and you - this board will be made up of PC1, PC2, PC3, and we will now control what's going on in the arts community. That's what you're admitting to here today.
MR. RODNEY MACDONALD: No, what I'm saying is that, as the member knows, and I'm sure the member is not going to sit here and tell me that every name that was ever provided to him through government - perhaps he wants to share that with us - was put through to the Executive Council. Perhaps that was the case under the previous administration, I can't answer that because I wasn't in the Executive Council then. Through the process, as was set up by the previous government, that process was put in place with respect to the sign-off of the minister, and then to move forward to the Executive Council and then to Human Resources. That process was put in place and followed as it was put in place.
MR. DOWNE: Has the minister ever asked that the council submit several names to positions to the board instead of the normal process?
MR. RODNEY MACDONALD: If you mean in the case where there might be four positions, asking for additional names, yes.
MR. DOWNE: I've asked about the savings here a couple of times, Mr. Minister. Just to refresh me, you will provide the detail, and I'm talking about . . .
MR. RODNEY MACDONALD: I will make sure that you get an audited statement.
MR. DOWNE: No, I'm talking about the detail analysis that you did to justify the decision you made, because you're saying it's based on cost savings. That means the detail of that. I'm fully aware of the cost-benefit analysis, how that's done. That's what I'm asking for, because that's what you're saying the decision is based on.
MR. RODNEY MACDONALD: I will make sure that the member has a statement, as will all members of the House, showing the costs related to this change and to the savings in the administrative component. I have no problem doing that, and I will make sure every member of the House can obtain that.
MR. DOWNE: What's the budget for the new council?
MR. RODNEY MACDONALD: The budget for the new council, specifically with respect to programs or just overall?
MR. DOWNE: Both.
MR. RODNEY MACDONALD: It would have been $1.176 million this year, I believe. There will be, because it's within the framework as well, an additional $100,000, as I mentioned. It was about $370,000 for - we're adding up some numbers here for the member because the new council will be involved in two other programs: both the Cultural Activities Program and the Art Bank Purchase Program. We're just adding some of that up now, so I will give you the figure in a moment.
MR. DOWNE: You and I will be back together again later on today so maybe staff can analyze . . .
MR. RODNEY MACDONALD: I can provide that later, just to give you a good handle on it.
MR. DOWNE: Without knowing the answers to the costs here, I guess, Mr. Minister, people are wondering, will there be a peer assessment body established under the new structure?
MR. RODNEY MACDONALD: Yes.
MR. DOWNE: Will they be paid?
MR. RODNEY MACDONALD: The intention, of course - we're going to be working with the new transition team on that - would be to provide the expenses for the individuals with respect to being involved in that process, as is done in many agencies, boards and commissions.
MR. DOWNE: So that new structure is going to have x number of staff that are currently in your department and you've costed those out and you're going to have the peer assessment body that will be paid. How many peer assessment bodies will be established around the province?
MR. RODNEY MACDONALD: That's a question, to be quite honest with you, I don't have the number on that yet. That's something we're going to be working on with respect to the new transition team and with respect then to the new council. So I can't give you a figure off the top of my head, but I can tell you that, as you mentioned with the staffing, within the current model, we have two of those positions that are in the framework that we have already and there will be an additional staff person. We will ensure that we live within the target that we have set and that is something we will be working on because the new council may have some additional ideas with respect to how they're set up and perhaps they will use the exact model, but we will be working with them to ensure that the peer assessment model is in place.
MR. DOWNE: Mr. Minister, you mean to say that you're shutting down something that took 20 years to build, that has the respect and credibility of the industry in Nova Scotia and across this country, because you've done the economic analysis of that and you're putting up a body for the new system and you don't even know whether or not that new system is going to be more cost-effective or less cost-effective or even more effective in providing the quality of assessments throughout the province? It seems to me, Mr. Minister, that you don't have a plan of what you're doing here. You made a decision to shut down the Arts Council, for whatever reasons we haven't seen yet, and maybe it's because of the people on the council. Maybe it's something in the Cabinet discussions that made you feel that that was the way Cabinet wanted you to act. But the bottom line is, you don't have a plan of how you're going to go forward.
MR. RODNEY MACDONALD: With regard to how the peer assessment model is set up, I think it's important to be working with the new transition team and we're going to be setting up the new council and working within that process to ensure that we're doing that model in the most effective manner, while making sure that the peer assessment panels are of the quality that they should be. That is something we will be working on with the new council. As I said, people serving on those peer assessment panels will be provided with the expense of getting to the meetings and so on.
MR. DOWNE: Will there be organizations and individuals on the peer assessment committee or not?
MR. RODNEY MACDONALD: That's something, obviously, that we will be working on with the transition team. I would expect in the peer assessment panels that we will see individuals who are with organizations involved in different creative disciplines, whether it's in music or visual arts or whatever the case might be. Of course, I think that would be expected.
MR. DOWNE: Mr. Minister, could you at least indicate today that you would want to have both on that peer assessment process? Will you confirm that there will be both on each one of those assessment groups?
MR. RODNEY MACDONALD: Obviously, in working with the new transition team with respect to this, I believe it's important that we work with the transition team on that process. But as I said, you will see people from various organizations. You will see people from the creative disciplines who will be involved in those panels. I think that's important, especially if you want to see the best work possible and be given the opportunity to get that investment.
Mr. Chairman, if I might have another moment, a "Baker break", if that might be possible, for a moment. Is that okay with the member for Lunenburg West?
MR. DOWNE: Yes.
MR. CHAIRMAN: If it's acceptable, then we will take a two-minute break.
[11:47 a.m. The subcommittee recessed.]
[11:50 a.m. The subcommittee reconvened.]
MR. CHAIRMAN: We will reconvene and proceed with questions from the NDP caucus.
The honourable member for Timberlea-Prospect.
MR. WILLIAM ESTABROOKS: Mr. Minister, we have a number of questions. Of course, in the limited time with the various responsibilities that you have, some will continue to revolve around this ongoing issue, unfortunately - I think you and I both know that this is not a personal thing - revolving around some of the credibility with a particular issue at hand. We have some other issues that we are going to bring up during the limited time that we have.
I want to share with you, first of all, that I am the father of a first-year student at NASCAD. She saw you on TV last night, and she knows her father is famous for comparisons, but I'm not going to compare you to Graham Townsend and I'm not going to compare you to Don Messer, but her comments were that if you are going to have a future in politics, why aren't you listening to these people? That's an impression which a young artist who has looked at other role models wants to continue.
I hear the good Minister of Economic Development go on at length about the Nova Scotia Business Inc. and arm's-length and we must not be directly involved in making decisions, and then of course we see that a board is created. Some of the members I don't necessarily agree with, but here is one member of your Cabinet, of the Premier's Cabinet saying these things, yet perception and reality in politics often become one and the same, and here you are as another minister who, from my perspective, is doing the exact opposite of what the Minister of Economic Development is about. What do you think of that? Am I off base with that particular line of thought?
MR. RODNEY MACDONALD: I think that's a fair question actually. In fact I was thinking about it earlier, and thinking about some of the discussions that were held during the setting up of Nova Scotia Business Inc. and how members of the Opposition as well indicated that we didn't need that process, that in fact we shouldn't be putting that arm's-length process in place. I guess there are a variety of voices. I can only speak to what I'm responsible for.
I guess it's always interesting in politics to look at what is said, at times, during discussion, debates, and I am sure we can go back to Nova Scotia Business Inc. and see some of the comments made with regard to that. Perhaps I will do so at the end of the day, and take a look at some of the comments made by my Opposition colleagues as well. I do recall them indicating concerns about an arm's-length process as well, as I am sure you would agree with - perhaps not yourself - but I'm sure we can point to many examples where people disagreed with setting up an arm's-length process in making decisions.
MR. ESTABROOKS: You have a - and this is important to us in various other interest communities - reputation as a hands-on minister. For example, I've been asked, how come the Yarmouth arena would get that amount of money, or how come the Digby Wall of Fame would get that amount of money, yet the St. Margaret's Arena, on the other hand, doesn't seem to be in that particular - what shall I say? - line of contributions. The answer
comes back, you have to have the ear of the minister. A comment on another one of your responsibilities.
The comparison that I'm coming to here is, are not some of the rumours and innuendoes surrounded with some other responsibilities that if you do have the ear of the minister in sports and rec, then you also now need the ear of the minister in arts and culture, because you as a hands-on minister are going to make sure that other particular interests are going to be looked at, because that's the innuendo here, that's the concern, the concern that this minister is going to meddle, this minister is going to have his arm right to the elbow in there making sure that his and his government's agenda gets assistance. That's a concern by people all over this province who, of course, are concerned about arts and culture.
MR. RODNEY MACDONALD: I will go back to your comments regarding St. Margaret's Arena; in fact, I've played in your area as a hockey player. You as an individual hold sports and recreation in this province in high regard. In fact I was in your area just the other night, Wednesday evening, just near the area.
MR. ESTABROOKS: And how were the roads?
MR. RODNEY MACDONALD: The roads were much better than those in Inverness County. I will be sure to mention that to the Minister of Transportation and Public Works. With respect to the Yarmouth arena, although we've made investment over the last few years, the announcement for that, in fact, came before we came into government. It was announced, I believe, shortly before or shortly after the call for the election in 1999. I cannot answer the question with respect to the announcement for that. That was made previously, as was Antigonish, although they recently opened, and I believe they're fine projects.
I know the St. Margaret's Arena has put in an application through Sports and Recreation with regard to their facility. I know HRM has identified it as a needed facility in the area because of the ice time that is required given the growing population. It's certainly something we're taking a look at, as we are with many other projects, as we are, for example, with Springhill because of the roof collapse there. In that respect, it's certainly - and I go back to the peer assessment model. If this was about the minister simply handpicking who was going to get an individual creation grant or whatever the case might be, we wouldn't be putting that in and leaving that process in.
MR. ESTABROOKS: But that's an example that you know about specifically, and my daughter in particular is concerned about the fact that when the time comes for her to apply for a particular piece of assistance, the minister will, because of your reputation that you are involved in these decisions, not the St. Margaret's arena and the decision there, the decision of why you are going to, because your reputation as a minister is going to grow, you're going to be directly involved in making sure that the right decisions are made and that
the people who will be on this new Arts and Culture Council will be answerable to you, and that's the concern.
I want to turn to something, if I may - I have heard you say this - administration costs, controlling them, so important, we must make sure that we are always in line with where we are going with administrative expenses within the bureaucracy at any level, yet I want the minister to know that there's a person in your department who has won the travel lottery expenses. In my way of looking at budget estimates, and I know I can be, at times, rather critical of other items in other departments, but Dennis Cochrane, as the Deputy Minister of Education, has $17,188 in travel; Tom Ward, the infamous traveller with a credit card that always works, the Deputy Minister of Health, has $22,988 in travel.
Hopefully I will not be - well, it could happen regardless of how I deal with this, but I would like to draw your attention to a person in your department named Minto Stewart, who has a salary listed at $66,500, but Minto Stewart has put in $42,637 in travel. I know there will be people, some of them in this room, who will say, well, here's Estabrooks again, picking away at small things. What's the message when you're saying we really have to have control over administrative costs, we have to make sure - well, your Premier has said, your Leader has said - every dime counts, yet there is a person in your department who clocked in with $42,637 in travel? I guess the inevitable question is, you're the minister, you're responsible for signing off on some of these expenses, what does this person do? Are they ever in your office or in your department and where haven't they been?
MR. RODNEY MACDONALD: Actually, that's a very good question and I thought one that would be raised today with regard to Minto Stewart, who is no longer with the department now.
MR. ESTABROOKS: Excuse me, the person is no longer with the department?
MR. RODNEY MACDONALD: That's right. She is down in the United States. I think she's gotten married or something. I'm not sure.
MR. ESTABROOKS: But she left on her own volition.
MR. RODNEY MACDONALD: Yes. She was the Manager of Sales Market Development and as you would understand, one of the key aspects of the Department of Tourism and Culture is marketing this province. Her position, that would be the position that would be doing the most travelling within the department, whether it's going to the States or going to Europe. I can provide you with some details with respect to the trips that she was on for the department.
As one example, in the year 2000, airfare to Vancouver to attend a sales meeting for Rendezvous Canada, for various steering committees on behalf of the province; the Canadian Tourism Commission meetings with respect to another one for Rendezvous Canada; going to Germany and dealing with the export market that's available in Germany, and then going to London; the Atlantic Canada Tourism Partnership Council meeting in Charlottetown, going for another gathering, together with clientele, with regard to putting tours together with respect to the province.
I certainly have no problem providing you with a detailed outline of where she went and where the dollars were spent. But given that position from a marketing perspective, that's what we're doing, selling the province. That's what that position is geared towards and that's why you see such a large difference in her expenses compared to others.
MR. ESTABROOKS: But in past years, how many of those trips were out of the country? I'm not talking about trips to Charlottetown here, although it probably costs us more to fly to Charlottetown than it does to London, England these days. But what's the message here? The message is that in this electronic age, with how we communicate and how we move information around, there will be people, I being one of them, who are saying that you as the minister have obviously signed off on a member of your staff with those sort of travel expenses. What's the message that's sent to Nova Scotians?
MR. RODNEY MACDONALD: I think the message is that being we're in the tourism business and being we're in the marketing business for the province, we have to be out there working with the travel-trade industry not only close to home, but indeed our core markets in Ontario, which represents 20 per cent; Quebec; the New England States; and Europe. We have to be getting out there and without having somebody in a position to do so, whether it's working, as an example, with a touring group or working with respect to the Canadian Tourism Commission, we would miss out on a lot of opportunities.
I would go so far as to suggest that by having this position and having that individual doing that, it's helping to bring in significant revenues. It was over $1.2 billion last year and knowing the individual that we're discussing, she provided many tremendous opportunities for this province. In the detail that I will provide the member, you will see some of those opportunities that she would have been working on because it varied, obviously, with each trip. That's a key part that we have identified in our integrated tourism plan with the Tourism Partnership Council, to ensure that we do have someone out there representing the province in this capacity. So it's a very key position, a very important position for us as a province.
MR. ESTABROOKS: So will this Ms. Stewart's position be replaced or has it been replaced? I'm concerned about the fact that if this marketing is so important - and I understand that - but I come back to the fact that it's of some real consequence that when we hear the name Tom Ward, dollar signs appear in my head. I've seen his travel. In fact, it's posted in a very prominent place in my office how many trips to Toronto, how many places,
and when I first met him, I had never had the opportunity to meet him, but the situation that we're talking about here is that a member of your staff has one - I don't mean to be particularly sarcastic about it, but it's coming out that way, unfortunately. You're going to replace Ms. Stewart. Are you going to assure people, I guess the voters of Nova Scotia, that you will have better control over the expense accounts of people on your staff?
MR. RODNEY MACDONALD: I certainly disagree with the member. That's the business we're in. We're in the business in tourism of getting people here to the province and specifically in the core markets that are identified in the plan, which is done with the Tourism Partnership Council, made up of 14 industry representatives and two from our department. That plan has identified these core specific markets. That is the business we are in. We are in the business of working with our partners. We are in the business of getting groups. We are in the business of the trade shows. We are in the business of bringing media in from all over the world to write about Nova Scotia. That is the business. Perhaps we could even be spending more on having business in this manner, going out and doing so.
This is well recognized throughout each and every province. This is not unique to Nova Scotia. This is done throughout every province and it's a very important position for us, strategically, from a marketing perspective. I think it is important, as I mentioned, with each province, but not only each province, indeed it is a global market and our competitors are out there doing this and if we don't do it, we will lose out on visitors. We will lose out on revenue for the province and we wouldn't be doing our job as a department if we didn't have an individual such as this going out and helping to grow the industry here in the province.
MR. ESTABROOKS: So, God willing, and with the assistance of the voters of Timberlea-Prospect if we have an election, next year at this time I will be questioning an expense of that amount from a member of your staff who has met the travel commitments of Ms. Stewart?
MR. RODNEY MACDONALD: Of course, I don't know what the number will be next year right offhand, given the various opportunities which come up, but I would suspect that that member can be assured that between the person in the new position, and perhaps another position, that similar dollars will be spent with regard to that. So many of the opportunities that the individual had represented the province within her position - and that's identified very clearly in our plan in each core market - you will see similar numbers next year, I would suggest.
MR. ESTABROOKS: I would like to move on, however, I think it's of real importance. I have heard you say that we're trying to control administrative costs. We're making decisions on the basis of common sense, hard facts, dollars and cents, all those types of things. I think that it's contradictory to allow a member of your staff in this age of
electronic communications to have that amount of travel and I point it out as an example that jumped out at me, anyway.
I want to move to another topic of concern, and I'm speaking again as the father of a daughter who is attending NSCAD. One of the reasons that she became highly interested in art, aside from the fact that her mother, my wife, is a graduate of NSCAD, is that she was fortunate enough to have people come into her school as she went through the public school system and have artists, because I'm fortunate enough to live in an area of the province where there are role models nearby, and I can mention various other examples of course, where my children have been fortunate enough to attend school. Yet, the endowment fund from the McConnell fund - and I believe this is Arts inFusion and ArtsSmarts - because of the fact that when my children suddenly had the opportunity to become involved in this, it was great, and of course you're taking time from people's lives and we have to compensate them appropriately.
However, now the concern comes forward that because of your unfortunate, regrettable decision, there are people in the arts community who believe that no longer will there be the arm's-length, no longer will there be the independence when it comes to the allocation of funds, that there has been roughly $300,000 over the last three years left in the Arts inFusion program and I'm under the impression that this is going to really become a controversial issue in terms of withdrawing any - the message is this, Mr. Minister, and I'm coming back to it and, you know, it's not personal, but what is the minister doing to control these funds? That is a concern for the people who have worked towards endowments all across this province and this one in particular.
MR. RODNEY MACDONALD: I thank the member for his question. I'm trying to think what aspect of it I will go to first. He mentioned about the programs and there's the Arts inFusion program. In fact, we're meeting with a representative of the Canadian Conference of the Arts in the next couple of weeks, to discuss a proposal with respect to the McConnell Foundation. I will have a future update as well for the member if he would like that, I would certainly provide that as well. We also have the PAINTS program which is another opportunity within the education system. With respect to the endowment fund, the endowment fund is being protected through a special fund and, you know, I've made the commitment that certainly not a penny would be spent until we had the new council up and running and I think that's extremely important. Obviously, in going through the change, whether we agree with the change or not, it's important to ensure that those dollars are protected.
MR. ESTABROOKS: But you see here's another example of a reaction to your decision, a reaction where the people involved are suspicious and do not trust you, and that must concern you personally.
MR. RODNEY MACDONALD: In fact, you raise a very good point and if I wasn't in my position, I guess I might be out there saying - well, I would be asking the same types of questions you and many people are asking. If you look at the framework around the endowment fund, the framework is outlined in the Financial Measures Act with respect to how it was to be used when it was set up and that framework will still be in place. In fact, that framework is outlined very clearly and so on. Now, the intention will be to utilize and to treat the endowment fund as it had been intended, and the framework is outlined and established for that. That will be something obviously for discussion with the new council.
MR. ESTABROOKS: Mr. Chairman, I would like to allocate some of this time to my friend, the good member for Sackville-Cobequid - it's his birthday today - and if he doesn't use it all, I will be back with a few other things.
MR. RODNEY MACDONALD: Just before you start, member, I don't know what your questions are going to be geared towards, if it's towards Tourism and Culture, then I will leave staff here, but if it's towards something else, then we will get some other staff. Is it towards liquor? Okay, Bruce Rogers will be coming up with me, as well Greg Bealieu.
MR. CHAIRMAN: The honourable member for Sackville-Cobequid.
MR. JOHN HOLM: Mr. Chairman, I'm changing topics, not because I don't share the concerns of previous questions about the Arts Council because I assure you I do, and they might have been a little bit more polite than I would have been if I was expressing my opinions upon what the government has done and why, but I'm going to switch to the Liquor Corporation simply because that's a part of your responsibilities that I'm the critic for and I just would like . . .
MR. RODNEY MACDONALD: And a very good critic.
MR. HOLM: Thank you very much, a very good critic and buttering me up may get you somewhere, but I'm really just going to be fishing for certain bits of information and clarification on a number of things if I can at this point in time. Budget estimates, of course, are projecting that the corporation's revenues will increase from, give or take $200,000, about $145 million up to about $160 million. A number of reasons in the budget documents indicate that that's in part because of price increase, volume growth, warmer summers - so I see that we have weather predictions in here as well - and economic conditions. I'm wondering if you could tell me of that approximately $15 million, a 10 per cent increase, how much is as a result of the price increase?
MR. RODNEY MACDONALD: If the member can hold on for just a moment, we're just going to get that and give you a figure.
MR. HOLM: And while you're looking up the figures and so on, I would like to know, how much of that is supposedly as a result of the volume growth?
MR. RODNEY MACDONALD: There's a 9,000-hectolitre volume increase.
MR. HOLM: That's a lot of bottles.
MR. RODNEY MACDONALD: That's a lot of bottles and by increasing slightly the prices, it varied with respect to each product, 5 per cent . . .
MR. HOLM: But if the price had stayed constant with your projected growth and all those other things still in there, you have to figure out, when you're coming up with your revenue estimates, how much additional monies you consider . . .
MR. RODNEY MACDONALD: Out of the additional revenue what is the figure? I'm trying to get an accurate number for you so you will have it.
MR. HOLM: Give or take a few hundred thousand.
MR. RODNEY MACDONALD: Approximately $12 million.
MR. HOLM: Okay, approximately $12 million of the $15 million increase is as a result of the price increase. So very little of it is because of the warmer summers or the economic conditions, whatever they might happen to be.
MR. RODNEY MACDONALD: Obviously a warmer summer would affect the volumes and such, as well as even to go so far as to say economic activity in the province, I'm sure. But as we mentioned, $12 million out of the $15 million.
MR. HOLM: I'm interested in some of the other things in terms of what some might call efficiencies, some others might classify it another way. I have a list of the numbers of employees who work for the corporation. Could you tell me how many full-time employees work for the Nova Scotia Liquor Corporation?
MR. RODNEY MACDONALD: We're roughly constant at about 752 FTEs.
MR. HOLM: Okay, but I want to know how many of them are actually full-time employees and how many of them are casuals and part-time workers. It takes two part-timers to make one full-time equivalent.
MR. RODNEY MACDONALD: The number of permanent full-time NSLC employees is approximately 485.
MR. HOLM: Okay, about 485 full-time and that means then that we would have probably an equal number of part-time and casual workers in order to get up to 752 full-time equivalents.
MR. RODNEY MACDONALD: Yes, the 752 minus the 485 would give you the number of part-time and casual employees. I can give you a specific number on the part-time . . .
MR. HOLM: I understood what you said was that we had 752 full-time equivalents.
MR. RODNEY MACDONALD: Yes.
MR. HOLM: If somebody is only working 20 hours a week, they're not a full-time equivalent - they're a 0.5 equivalent. I'm trying to figure out if that is 752 total numbers or if that is full-time equivalents, as you said earlier.
MR. RODNEY MACDONALD: There are 485 full-time, there are 277 what you would call casual employees. It varies obviously - one worker may be working different hours than the next, but using that together, that's how you would get your . . .
MR. HOLM: Okay, so it's not 752 full-time equivalents, it's 752 employees.
MR. RODNEY MACDONALD: It would be the FTEs - I guess it's based on 40 hours per individual would be the 752. The 485 would be full-time and the 277 would be the casual employees.
MR. HOLM: On top?
MR. RODNEY MACDONALD: On top of the 485.
MR. HOLM: I must admit I'm a little bit confused. You're saying then . . .
MR. RODNEY MACDONALD: I'm just confirming the numbers. I think I may have given the member a wrong number with respect to 277. Here's perhaps a more accurate picture for the member. I apologize, there was a little bit of confusion. The regular full-time, 467; the regular part-time, 160; the casual, 564. I can provide that information if the member would like a copy of it. It's almost about 1,200 employees roughly.
MR. HOLM: Okay, that makes more sense.
MR. RODNEY MACDONALD: I apologize for a little bit of confusion there.
MR. HOLM: Where I'm coming from on this one is the fact that we have certainly a lot of part-time and casual employees who aren't working the 40-hour weeks, who aren't getting the benefits that a full-time employee would get. Some of us are critical sometimes of the private sector - you can work for a fast food outlet and they call you in and you're supposed to be there for 10 a.m. and they let you go at noon and bring you back at 4:00 p.m. and you're supposed to work until whenever and you're supposed to be happy with that without any benefits.
It's been suggested to me that the Liquor Corporation operates somewhat the same way, that employees come in, they go out, come in, come out and as a result of that, you have some significant turnover in staff because obviously people would like to be able to have a regular, full-time job that they can talk about. I would like to know if it's the policy of the corporation not to be hiring people full-time but to keep them on casual and part-time.
MR. RODNEY MACDONALD: The trend actually started during the previous administration, about 1993-94.
MR. HOLM: The Liberals are bad, too. Keep going.
MR. RODNEY MACDONALD: I can only respond to what I'm responsible for. The trend at that time was to move with regard to, in many cases, casual employees. As you mentioned, it's a trend that's seen throughout the private sector as well; of course, based on the need for the number of employees needed and the situations and the hours in each store. The turnover rate is actually - and I can get an accurate figure for you, I don't think we have it here - very low with respect to employees at the NSLC. Of course, as well, by having those casual employees it provides the opportunity, especially during the busy times, on the weekends as well, where those casual employees would be utilized. Based on a business case model, there's going to be a certain number of full-time employees and a certain number of casual employees to ensure the flexibility is there within the organization.
MR. HOLM: I appreciate there are certain times of the day and certain busy seasons when you need to have additional employees and that there are very valid reasons for having people who are part-time and casual. I'm not disputing that. However, I don't think that the liquor commission should be a McDonald's. If you're trying to make a career and the government would like to have loyal employees who can expect that they are going to be making a reasonable living - they're not getting rich, that's for darn sure on the wages that are being paid to them, but if they're going to be committing themselves to working for the corporation, they're public employees, they're making money for the province through their labours, I think that it's only reasonable to expect that they should be able to be moving into full-time employment.
In another life, before you came here, you used to be a teacher. I believe that you were on a part-time basis. I don't think you had received a permanent contract yet.
MR. RODNEY MACDONALD: I didn't receive a full-time contract but I must make it clear that I was full-time.
MR. HOLM: You were full-time, yes, you may have been full-time. Of course you were full-time, so they didn't call you in for two classes in the morning, send you home and tell you to come back in the afternoon.
MR. RODNEY MACDONALD: No, I've done that before though. I did that earlier in my career actually. I did that very thing, as you just suggested, on a percentage-wise basis.
MR. HOLM: You had done that? But you probably wouldn't have stayed doing that for your entire career or been happy to do that for your entire career. You might have wanted to go on to something else where you could be a little bit more independent.
MR. RODNEY MACDONALD: Perhaps. I guess we will never know.
MR. HOLM: Oh, we will never know. Or we may know.
MR. RODNEY MACDONALD: Or we may know sooner than I realize.
MR. HOLM: Or you may, options can change. My point is I'm not saying that there shouldn't be some casuals or some part-timers to meet special needs, but I also think that it is only reasonable for a business that is making - and that's what it is - $160 million a year in profit to expect that people who are working for that corporation, if they are going to stay there, if you want their employment, that they should have the option within a reasonable period of time to be able, if the jobs are there - and the jobs are obviously there because you're not employing those 500 casuals, 160 part-time people only during the busy seasons, they're being employed on a regular basis throughout the week, regular shifts.
MR. RODNEY MACDONALD: Yes, especially on the weekends where you see about 50 per cent of the sales. That's where the real pressure comes in and that's where you see many of the casual employees getting their number of hours, depending on what those are, because it's based on the business model and it varies in each store and it varies throughout the province.
MR. HOLM: But I'm suggesting to you that if you took a look at the business plan and if they wish to do so, a number of those could be brought in and their positions could be converted to a full-time status so that they would enjoy the benefits. It would appear that the corporation's plan, for bottom-line reasons, wishes to keep as many people as casuals and part-time, rather than moving toward full-time status. That is something that appears quite obvious and something that I disagree with.
MR. RODNEY MACDONALD: I can only say that we are provided the target that's expected by the province and by the Finance Minister and we work within that to have a social responsibility, but also a financial responsibility, as the member can understand, as well, ensuring that we provide the best service possible. I agree with the member 100 per cent that the staff at the NSLC perform in a very professional manner when dealing with our customers and certainly generate great revenues for the province. I would certainly take the member's advice. I believe that is what the member is indicating, that he would like to see more full-time individuals, many of those casuals. We don't want to lose that flexibility either, especially where our pressures exist. So it's not as easy as just . . .
MR. HOLM: Well, I won't belabour the point anymore, but just to say that I don't think that the corporation should be trying to act like a fast food outlet, a McDonald's or whatever, and just trying to, I won't just say take advantage of employees, but not provide the employees with the benefits to which they should be entitled, people who are working well and long for us. The rate increase that went up, I haven't got the minister's statement here, but when the price went up, you said it was the first time that the prices have increased across the board in how many years?
MR. RODNEY MACDONALD: I will give you an example, Smirnoff - which I'm not sure if the member is familiar with or not, or perhaps you have heard the name before - a 750 millilitre bottle in 1993 was $21.90 and today it's $21.90.
MR. HOLM: My point is and when the minister made the announcement, or when there was an announcement that prices were going up, something to the effect that it was the first time there was an across-the-board increase in so many years, how many years was that? Was that seven or eight years?
MR. RODNEY MACDONALD: Ten years, across the board, like that. Obviously, we've seen fluctuations in prices for a variety of reasons over the last number of years.
MR. HOLM: My point is, how many times over the last 10 years has the price of domestic beer increased? How many times has the price of wine increased? How many times has the government increased the cost of spirits?
MR. RODNEY MACDONALD: Okay, I can give you an example of Smirnoff. That's the one I was using before, I believe.
MR. HOLM: Yes, I heard of that before, not too long ago.
MR. RODNEY MACDONALD: I can show the member and provide the member with the figures as to fluctuation.
MR. HOLM: I'm not only interested in Smirnoff's.
MR. RODNEY MACDONALD: Okay, for example, a 12-pack of Keith's, we can show you the fluctuation over the years from every year that's showing, how the price was affected since 1998 and I can provide that to the member if you like.
MR. HOLM: I would like to get that, but I guess the point that I'm trying to get at is it sounded when the release came out like the government hadn't increased the prices and the revenues hadn't increased. That was my feeble interpretation of what the minister was trying to put out there - it wouldn't have been the minister. I wouldn't want to leave any of those . . .
MR. RODNEY MACDONALD: I don't believe it was actually my press release that time. I believe the press release came out from the corporation, so, I would have to look at the press release, but I believe it did say 10 years. I think the indication was that it was the first time in 10 years that we've seen an across-the-board like that. But I would like to add, as an example, that $16.60 is the lowest price of a 12-pack in Canada. I'm sure you will go out and buy one right now. See, I'm always selling and encouraging you, in a socially responsible manner, to enjoy your birthday and go and buy some of the cheapest beer in Canada. Perhaps you could treat your colleagues, as well.
MR. HOLM: I might tell the minister that my response wouldn't be very suitable, I will probably celebrate it by having a glass of homebrew, which is my specialty brand of wine.
MR. RODNEY MACDONALD: So we hear. You're a legend in the Leg.
MR. HOLM: We are going down to the issue of certainly talking about the prices and so on. I would be interested in getting that. I also just want to talk a little bit about these agency stores and so on. Could you tell us if you have breakdowns in terms of profitability of the agency stores compared to the average of the non-agency private stores?
MR. RODNEY MACDONALD: Of course, we have figures as to what is happening in the agency stores. What we're doing and what I've asked the board to do is to move forward in the next few months and to come back with a report this summer and to do a report on the agency-store model and to look at the cost comparisons, as you're asking for. We have opened a one-year time frame so we will have an accurate picture over the 12 months, and I will provide that to you.
MR. HOLM: I would like to see those figures when they become available. Does the government have any intentions of establishing any more agency stores?
MR. RODNEY MACDONALD: Right now, we will be moving forward, as I mentioned in the release at the time . . .
MR. HOLM: On the what?
MR. RODNEY MACDONALD: On the specialty stores. So you're going to see a few specialty stores, specifically here in HRM and perhaps a few others around the province. That will be happening. We should be going out with that in the next six to eight weeks.
MR. HOLM: Who will the employees work for?
MR. RODNEY MACDONALD: It will be a similar model as the agency-store model. So it's an agency-store model and that was previously announced. The intention is to have the study completed before making further decisions. I did mention, also, when I announced the direction the government will be taking, we would be making sure that the model which would move forward in a new-store concept would make sense, obviously, from a dollars-and-cents point of view, to ensure that we get the most profit possible.
There has been one area specifically that always seems to come to my attention and that is on the border between New Brunswick and our province; that is seen as a potential area for another agency store. Other areas come up, but that's one in particular. It certainly is something that I have had discussions with the new board about because it has been arranged that, although the study will be ongoing, they possibly would like to catch the summer market because if you lose out on that opportunity, it could mean a loss of potential income for the province. So that is one specific issue that is being looked at, although the study will be done.
MR. HOLM: Well, there are a lot more things I could ask the minister about, but my colleague wants to go back to some other things. I look forward to getting those particular reports and I will say, in closing, that I'm glad you didn't privatize the warehouse.
MR. CHAIRMAN: The honourable member for Timberlea-Prospect.
MR. WILLIAM ESTABROOKS: Mr. Minister, I would like to go back to tourism. I know that could affect your staff.
MR. RODNEY MACDONALD: Sure, could you just give us a second to make some switches.
MR. ESTABROOKS: Yes, absolutely. Mr. Minister, I'm very concerned about the fact that Judith Cabrita is someone - I'm not concerned about the fact that I worked with her as a teacher and I certainly respect her opinions, but it must have been of some real concern to you that Ms. Cabrita made some statements regarding the terrible conditions of roads and particularly on the Eastern Shore, and I know the good member for Eastern Shore probably was very quickly aware of the connection between tourism and roads. There has to be some priority in that department. What kind of influence do you have with the Minister of
Transportation and Public Works when it comes to looking at - I mean, you must sit down with him once in awhile and say, look, you can't forget - only an example now - the Prospect Road, Mr. Minister.
MR. RODNEY MACDONALD: I know the Prospect Road is an important road to the member asking the question and I know my colleague, the minister, I'm sure you will be asking him that very same question during his estimates. I can tell you that indeed we have met and we do discuss those particular issues with regard to tourism and the effect that it has and that's why I was so pleased to see a significant investment go into our roads and our bridges in this fiscal year, and indeed if I might add a particular project in my area . . .
MR. ESTABROOKS: Yes, sure.
MR. RODNEY MACDONALD: . . . along the Cabot Trail, which is a sure sign and the Margaree Harbour Bridge, which is a significant investment by the province on the Cabot Trail, one that has been asked for for many years and is a huge tourism icon in the province, a significant investment over the next few years of $10 million and, indeed, I believe that's a recognition of importance. I believe there was paving in the member's own area either last summer or the summer before, in particular, perhaps right by his door, I'm not sure about that.
MR. ESTABROOKS: No.
MR. RODNEY MACDONALD: No, not by your door, pretty close . . .
MR. ESTABROOKS: Don't go there, Mr. Minister. You've got the wrong facts.
MR. RODNEY MACDONALD: But you know I certainly agree with you and ironically, as the Minister of Tourism, you would think I would hear a variety of issues, but the issue I hear significantly more often than any other is that of roads across the province.
MR. ESTABROOKS: Mr. Minister, are we in the golf business or are we out of the golf business because if I look at some of the items on Pages 153 and 154 in the Supplement to the Public Accounts, I see - and I would assume this is advertising money - that Golf Nova Scotia is $54,000, Golf Supply House Inc. is $7,000, Golf Atlantic Canada is $25,000 - and I just use them as an example - Birdies Eagles & Seagulls Golf Group is $9,000. Now, I was under the impression that this government was getting out of the golf business. I know it's an important part of attracting people to this province. In fact, I would suggest that there's a famous little sandbar just across the Northumberland Strait that is an example to follow - I'm talking about Prince Edward Island - that markets itself primarily as a golfing destination. So could you explain to me those expenses for golfing?
MR. RODNEY MACDONALD: Depending on each specific item, you mentioned a number, but . . .
MR. ESTABROOKS: Let's look at Golf Nova Scotia, $54,000.
MR. RODNEY MACDONALD: It's all marketing related, the dollars, I can get the specifics but what we do is we partner with, as an example, on Golf Nova Scotia and here's a copy of our Golf Guide.
MR. ESTABROOKS: Yes, I've seen it.
MR. RODNEY MACDONALD: It's used specifically in our marketing and to get that niche market. So the costs associated when you see the word golf being used, if we're in the golf business from a marketing perspective, the answer is yes.
MR. ESTABROOKS: So there's a supplemental, of course, and I'm not leading you through it but, you know, what is the measurable result? Is it possible for you, and I don't expect you off the top of your head, to tell me how many non-Nova Scotians travel to this province for the reason of going to a particular or a number of golf courses?
MR. RODNEY MACDONALD: I don't have the figure, but I will certainly get it for you, but I can tell you that it is identified in the tourism strategy, golf being clearly a niche market and one that perhaps, I know many people in the province indicate that they would hope that we would emphasize even more and the "Fabulous Foursome" is perhaps a great example of a clear strength that we have in this province from a marketing perspective.
MR. ESTABROOKS: Mr. Minister, what is the strategy in co-operating with New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island and our own tourism marketing? You know I recently was on a road trip and I saw some advertising - and I use the P.E.I. example again - I mean they were promoting it big time, okay, but let's face it, we live in a region where people come from, let's say if they come from the Boston States - or New England as I should call it - they're not just coming to Nova Scotia?
MR. RODNEY MACDONALD: No.
MR. ESTABROOKS: So I mean is there co-operation in the strategy? Do you meet with your confreres from those other provinces?
MR. RODNEY MACDONALD: For sure and actually it goes back to exactly the question you were asking me earlier about the individual who had the high expenses.
MR. ESTABROOKS: Yes.
MR. RODNEY MACDONALD: And we work closely with the other provinces. One example is the Atlantic Canada Tourism Partnership that we have in place. We market with the other provinces on a variety of initiatives specifically aimed at markets where people will not just come to P.E.I., not just come to Nova Scotia. As an example, in Europe we would do that and we do that in conjunction with the Canadian Tourism Commission and so we leverage dollars through there. Perhaps another example would be the Bay of Fundy Product Club; we have a partnership with New Brunswick on the emphasis of the Bay of Fundy, and that has proven extremely well. It's also identified in our marketing plan and I would be happy to provide the member if he doesn't have a copy of that plan.
MR. CHAIRMAN: You have one minute remaining in your hour allotment.
MR. ESTABROOKS: And I know you're going to give me extra time, Mr. Chairman. I'm going to go to a topic and I noticed it is a line item and it jumped out at me again. That's the Boston Globe Specialty Products Inc. on Page 153, $49,159, and I'm just interested in what that amount is because I asked the same thing of the Minister of Education. The Specialty Inc. wasn't there, but this was advertising for some teachers arriving, or I forget the answer. So that's my question on a very fitting note.
MR. RODNEY MACDONALD: I can get you further detail that's related to marketing and postage costs with respect to marketing and it's specifically for pieces of literature. I can get you more detail on that and I will have staff provide that to you.
MR. CHAIRMAN: I will now pass the time over to the Liberal caucus. I will just remind you we will be running out of time at 1:21 p.m.
The honourable member for Cape Breton West.
MR. RUSSELL MACKINNON: Mr. Minister, I just wanted to focus on the museums in Nova Scotia. Obviously, that's a topic I keep bringing up repeatedly. Would you be kind enough to give an undertaking that you would provide the revenue streams for the museums for last year and this year?
MR. RODNEY MACDONALD: I don't have the exact figure here, but I will provide it to the member. Would you like an overall number or site-specific?
MR. MACKINNON: Well, there's a list of the 26 museums.
MR. RODNEY MACDONALD: We will provide the member with the number.
MR. MACKINNON: Consistent with the rap sheet that the department provided to myself last year.
MR. RODNEY MACDONALD: For the Museum of Industry? We can provide that number for the amount of revenue generated. In fact, we're going to be focusing on that. As I mentioned, there's a 4 per cent . . .
MR. MACKINNON: I believe you indicated there was a cut right across the board.
MR. RODNEY MACDONALD: Yes, 4 per cent on the seven sites and one of the things that we're looking at is to generate more revenue. We believe there are opportunities there and partnership opportunities through gift shop sales and there are a number of other areas that we can generate more revenue.
MR. MACKINNON: Perhaps with that, if I could, again, flag this issue with regard to the Museum of Industry and I believe Sherbrooke Village. Neither of those two institutions provided their total revenue streams. The issue with regard to donations was not included in their revenue streams. I believe I raised that in Question Period earlier in the week.
MR. RODNEY MACDONALD: Regarding the cash donations to the Museum of Industry, it is reported under our general revenue account.
MR. MACKINNON: But I notice it wasn't included for the two years that I inquired, 1999-2000 and 2000-01. They hadn't included it. They were the only two museums in the province that hadn't included their total revenue streams. It took 11 months to get that information from the Director of the Museum of Industry and we saw that there was a considerable amount of money there that really, I think, if it had been included, it would have given yourself and people within your department . . .
MR. RODNEY MACDONALD: In 1996, with respect to the Nova Scotia Museum Endowment Fund, there was - and I don't know all of what happened in 1996, but apparently many of the volunteers and many of the people who were in various positions in putting dollars towards museums around the province, had, I guess strong objection. They wanted to see the dollars they were donating go to their local museums. As I mentioned, the cash donations are identified as donations in the general revenue account and, certainly, if the member needs any additional information, we will provide it if he's concerned about . . .
MR. MACKINNON: It's just that it's ironic that they're the only two institutions of the 26 museums that do not include in the revenue stream under the column donations what amount of money was donated. All the rest do. It was only after I received that additional detail from the Director of the Museum of Industry I found that there was an additional $119,000 for capital repair on that other building in Stellarton, or New Glasgow, for a
storage facility, as well as an additional $10,000 to the cost of defraying an additional employee, plus the donation dollars and so on. All told, it came up to an additional $189,000 that at first glance you wouldn't even know it was there.
MR. RODNEY MACDONALD: I think what's important to note is that the storage facility that we acquired there wasn't for the Museum of Industry, specifically, although they would obviously have some large pieces of equipment. It's to serve the entire Nova Scotia Museum family and given its location and given the opportunity, we took advantage of that opportunity and perhaps we could do an even better job and we've actually had some discussions, since you raised this, of separating it almost from the Museum of Industry so it can be seen as such. In fact, they're taking a reduction this year. I believe it's $16,500, roughly, at the Museum of Industry for operations this year. So they're not seeing an increase, they're actually seeing a decrease. The other money was for the entire museum family.
MR. MACKINNON: You've noted that and I certainly appreciate that, but although last year it did receive an increase while the bulk of the museums received a decrease.
MR. RODNEY MACDONALD: Not last year, no, not the bulk of the museums. I don't believe - and I can get . . .
MR. MACKINNON: Perhaps when we see the detail from the revenue streams from last year and the projection for this year. Anyway, that's my recollection on it. I just thought that if we're going to provide detail, it should be uniform right across the board. It's unfair that some museums have to provide that detail and others don't.
MR. RODNEY MACDONALD: We will certainly ensure that we take note of that and I will make sure the member gets the information he requires.
MR. MACKINNON: That's fine. The point made, as well, on another issue that I was working on is the 15,000 pieces of coal fossils that are being housed at the University College of Cape Breton. It might be more. It might be closer to 30,000, I don't know. It's quite significant, in any event. The Department of Tourism and Culture has all but shut the tap off in providing any assistance there, with the exception of what's being provided through the university in terms of covering just the cost of heat and lights and that sort of thing.
The individual in charge of that project was written a letter that indicated that if the university couldn't house those 15,000 pieces of fossils, then certainly the province would be more than willing to take custody of those. I think the suggestion was even made, not directly in this letter, but through general conversations, that they could very easily be transferred up to Stellarton. It wouldn't seem very appropriate to transfer coal fossils from the Sydney coal fields to Pictou County when they're better off there reflecting the fabric of
the community. It's a good tourism promotional thing, as well. So I wanted your thoughts on that and maybe some of the information I'm providing is a bit fragmented, but maybe you could provide some clarification.
MR. RODNEY MACDONALD: I must admit to the member, I don't have all the information with respect to the situation. To my memory, I believe the gentleman was a professor at the university and I believe he was retiring and he had looked after this collection for the past number of years.
MR. MACKINNON: He still does.
MR. RODNEY MACDONALD: This was, I believe, an initiative that the gentleman took upon himself, I believe, to gather this. So, in essence, it was a collection that he had taken. Now we had provided some funding throughout the last number of years, as was the case, I believe, during your administration, to help with some of those costs, to defray some of those costs. We're not the owners of the collection and we did indicate at that time, if memory serves me correctly, that rather than see the collection let go, that we would provide an opportunity to protect the collection. I can certainly get more information with regard to it and provide a note, perhaps, to the member.
MR. MACKINNON: I mean, it's not like we're looking at a lot of money. I think he was only asking for about $3,000 a year just to cover the heat and the lights and that sort of thing.
MR. RODNEY MACDONALD: I believe he was receiving some funding.
MR. MACKINNON: He did up until last year, I believe, and then, for whatever reason, the well went dry.
MR. RODNEY MACDONALD: I will have to look into the situation. I don't recall now what the . . .
MR. MACKINNON: I believe you will find, Mr. Minister, there's a proposal in the Sydney Mines area that could certainly see some positive benefits on that and I will refer that to the member for Cape Breton North because I don't want to undermine that opportunity.
MR. RODNEY MACDONALD: They're working on that proposal, I believe, with respect to it. Now I recall; they're working on that proposal with respect to that initiative. I've indicated that it is certainly something we're willing to get involved in, at least in the discussion process, to see if there's a role we can play or perhaps in providing the staff expertise to deal with collections like that.
MR. MACKINNON: If we could shift our hats just slightly over to the Liquor Corporation. Not that we want to get into that too heavy, but several weeks back we had representatives from MADD, Mothers Against Drunk Driving, before one of our committees here at the House. I stand to be corrected, but I understand that the Liquor Corporation no longer allows them to put their donation boxes at liquor stores at Christmastime. They used to up until this year. They indicated that they were given notice that they're no longer allowed to do that. Is that correct?
MR. RODNEY MACDONALD: No, we deal with them every Christmas. There has been no change in that. We deal with them every Christmas.
MR. MACKINNON: No change, okay. So there must be a breakdown in communication on that. With regard to the profits, what expected increase in profits do you foresee over last year?
MR. RODNEY MACDONALD: A $15 million increase. Most of that is coming from the price of . . .
MR. MACKINNON: Is that a 5 per cent increase?
MR. RODNEY MACDONALD: Approximately, and most of that coming from the increase that we had announced, or I guess that the member for Lunenburg West had helped me announce a few short weeks ago.
MR. MACKINNON: I will just ask one more question.
MR. RODNEY MACDONALD: Is it an NSLC question?
MR. MACKINNON: Well, I will finish off on that topic. I believe when you made the announcement for the private franchises, you indicated the objective was to have a liquor store within a 15-minute driving frame. Am I correct on that?
MR. RODNEY MACDONALD: At that time we used, with respect to those areas which were identified at the NSLC, I believe it was a 20- or 25-kilometre radius. I don't recall specifically offhand, but a radius where areas like Advocate, like Bass River, like Iona or Whycocomagh would have the opportunity, and many of those areas have been asking to have that service.
MR. MACKINNON: That's about 15 minutes, unless you're driving on roads in Cape Breton, then it's half an hour.
MR. RODNEY MACDONALD: For example, in Whycocomagh, you're probably about half an hour or 25 minutes away. So it would vary from place to place.
MR. MACKINNON: I notice your tourism promotional dollars are down.
MR. RODNEY MACDONALD: Okay, you're on tourism. I am going to get a couple more staff to come up.
MR. MACKINNON: Just in general, I notice that aspect of your budget is down. Do you have new strategies that you can do more with less, or what's . . .
MR. RODNEY MACDONALD: I think I know the gist of where you're going. I believe I have the right page here. Are you specifically talking, under tourism, the difference?
MR. MACKINNON: Yes.
MR. RODNEY MACDONALD: There are a variety of reasons for the shift, everything from, as one example, we've gone to the Tourism Partnership Council and asked them for input with regard to where they would specifically take dollars out or shift around, and one of the areas was in the Quebec market. So we've taken some of the dollars that we would put into the Quebec market and they will not be in the Quebec market this year as identified through the council. But some of the opportunities will not be affected this year - I'm not saying this fiscal year, but in 2002, so it's actually for next year - and the feeling was that there may be an opportunity as we went into the new budget year, as well, to offset.
So that's one of the areas, but there are various differences because you would have the Tattoo, where it usually got $210,000 is getting $170,000 this year, and a number of other reductions like in a conversion study, Rendevous Canada, $35,000. So it's bits and pieces and movement of some things from Tourism to Culture and vice-versa. So there would be some fluctuations like that.
MR. CHAIRMAN: I understand you're passing your time now to your honourable colleague. I just wish to advise members we have about five minutes remaining in our time. The House will be rising in five minutes and we cannot sit past that time. So we will be continuing on with the Department of Tourism and Culture on Monday evening, unless the caucuses are finished today.
The honourable member for Lunenburg West.
MR. DONALD DOWNE: I would like to thank my colleague for the questions. Mr. Minister, the $1 million endowment fund, you indicated that individuals who want their money back, who put into that endowment fund, will be able to do that. Are you going to write everybody who made a donation to the endowment fund and communicate that to them and, if so, when, and are they eligible for interest on their money when the intent of the fund has changed?
MR. RODNEY MACDONALD: Right now, with respect to that, we're going through an audit process and following that process, we will, obviously, identify those who would like to see some of their dollars returned and from there initiate a process which is acceptable, obviously, with regard to guidelines around which we are able to, I guess, from a financial perspective, move in a direction that they can get those dollars back, if that is their desire. Now, given the framework around which the endowment fund is still going to be maintained, I would hope that people will leave their contribution there but, understandably, if they have a concern, it will be given back. I won't have the exact detail until the audit is completed.
MR. DOWNE: So will you undertake to write everybody who has made a donation, corporately and/or privately, a letter indicating that they are entitled to have their money returned, if they wish?
MR. RODNEY MACDONALD: Yes.
MR. DOWNE: And will there be interest paid to them on that money or will it be just the principal?
MR. RODNEY MACDONALD: With interest.
MR. DOWNE: I believe it's the McConnell Foundation that provided $100,000 a year . . .
MR. RODNEY MACDONALD: For the Arts inFusion program.
MR. DOWNE: Yes. You indicated, when I asked the question in the House the other day, that you're under negotiations with them. Can you enlighten me as to the status of that fund?
MR. RODNEY MACDONALD: There are representatives coming on behalf of the foundation from the Canadian Foundation for Heritage and the Arts. They're coming within the next week and a half to two weeks to meet and talk about a go-forward plan with respect to this. I'm quite hopeful that something will be able to be worked out. We've had some fairly positive conversations with regard to it and we're very hopeful that we will be able to move forward on it. The indication given to us is that we will be able to do so. It's an important program and, indeed, it certainly makes a difference and I want to see it go forward.
MR. DOWNE: I wish you good luck on that. In the event that they don't, you have committed that you would find the $100,000 somewhere to offset that program if they decide that they cannot support a non-arm's-length entity?
MR. RODNEY MACDONALD: I've indicated that no program would be lost in this process with respect to that, so it would protect the program.
MR. DOWNE: Where are you going to find the money?
MR. RODNEY MACDONALD: I don't have the exact breakdown of the $100,000 at my fingertips, but as I mentioned, I feel quite confident that we're going to be able to come to a resolution and the indication is that we are. So I believe it's something that we're not going to have to answer. I believe the dollars will be there for that and that's the indication they've given to us.
MR. DOWNE: Well, good luck, Mr. Minister, and I hope it continues. It's a great educational program for students and I will resume questioning on Monday evening. I look forward, with interest, to going into some other issues, as well. Thank you to you and your staff.
MR. RODNEY MACDONALD: Thanks for the questions.
MR. CHAIRMAN: I would like to call this meeting to adjournment. We stand adjourned until Monday evening. At that time, the Minister of Tourism and Culture will be back, with the Minister of Natural Resources on standby.
We are adjourned.
[1:10 p.m. The subcommittee rose.]