2010 Legislative Session: Second Session, 39th Parliament
SELECT STANDING COMMITTEE ON PUBLIC ACCOUNTS
MINUTES AND HANSARD
SELECT STANDING COMMITTEE ON PUBLIC ACCOUNTS
Wednesday, June 9, 2010
Douglas Fir Committee Room
Parliament Buildings, Victoria, B.C.
Present: Bruce Ralston, MLA (Chair); Douglas Horne, MLA (Deputy Chair); Spencer Chandra Herbert, MLA; Kathy Corrigan, MLA; Guy Gentner, MLA; Rob Howard, MLA; Vicki Huntington, MLA; Richard T. Lee, MLA; John Les, MLA; Norm Letnick, MLA; Joan McIntyre, MLA; Lana Popham, MLA; John Rustad, MLA; Shane Simpson, MLA
Unavoidably Absent: Ralph Sultan, MLA
Others Present: John Doyle, Auditor General; Cheryl Wenezenki-Yolland, Comptroller-General; Josie Schofield, Manager, Committee Research Services
1. The Chair called the committee to order at 10:04 a.m.
2. The Committee considered the Auditor General Report, Report No. 12, 2008/09: Planning for School Seismic Safety
• Malcolm Gaston, Assistant Auditor General, Governance and Accountability Portfolio, Office of the Auditor General
• Keith Miller, Assistant Deputy Minister, Resource Management Division, Ministry of Education
• Doug Stewart, Director, Capital Management, Ministry of Education
3. The Committee considered the Auditor General Report, Report No. 5, 2009/10: Managing Knowledge: A guide to good practice
• Norma Glendinning, Assistant Auditor General, Health, Justice and Social Services Portfolio, Office of the Auditor General
• Laura Hatt, Senior Manager, Health, Education and Social Services Portfolio, Office of the Auditor General
• Wendy Taylor, Executive Director, Office the Chief Information Officer, Ministry of Citizens' Services
4. The Committee recessed from 11:48 a.m. to 12:31 p.m.
5. The Committee considered the Auditor General Report, Report No. 7, 2008/09: Home and Community Care Services: Meeting Needs and Preparing for the Future (and status of follow-up)
• Morris Sydor, Assistant Auditor General, Sustainability and Environment Portfolio, Office of the Auditor General
• Laura Hatt, Senior Manager, Health, Education and Social Services Portfolio, Office of the Auditor General
• Heather Davidson, Assistant Deputy Minister, Health Authorities Division, Ministry of Health Services
• Leigh Ann Sealler, Executive Director, Home and Community Care, Ministry of Health Services
6. The Committee considered the Auditor General Report, Report No. 16, 2008/09: Homelessness: Clear Focus Needed (and status of follow-up)
• Morris Sydor, Assistant Auditor General, Sustainability and Environment Portfolio, Office of the Auditor General
• Shayne Ramsay, Chief Executive Officer, BC Housing
• Molly Harrington, Assistant Deputy Minister, Policy and Research, Ministry of Housing and Social Development
7. The Committee considered the Retention and Disposal Applications
• Gary Mitchell, Chair, Public Documents Committee and Provincial Archivist
8. Resolved on division, that the five resolutions recommended by the Public Documents Committee in November 2009 be adopted as presented. (John Les, MLA)
9. The Clerk Assistant and Acting Clerk of Committees briefed the Committee on the upcoming CCPAC/CCOLA conference in Quebec City which will be held in August 2010
10. Resolved, that a British Columbia delegation attend the CCPAC/CCOLA conference in August 2010 and that costs be kept within the budget identified. (Joan McIntyre, MLA)
11. The Committee adjourned at 2:58 p.m. to the call of the Chair.
The following electronic version is for informational purposes only.
The printed version remains the official version.
REPORT OF PROCEEDINGS
select standing committee on
Wednesday, June 9, 2010
Issue No. 8
Auditor General Report: Planning for School Seismic Safety
Auditor General Report: Managing Knowledge: A Guide to Good Practice
Auditor General Report: Home and Community Care Services: Meeting Needs and Preparing for the Future
Auditor General Report: Homelessness: Clear Focus Needed
Records Retention and Disposal
Canadian Council of Public Accounts Committees Conference
* Bruce Ralston (Surrey-Whalley NDP)
* Douglas Horne (Coquitlam–Burke Mountain L)
* Rob Howard (Richmond Centre L)
* Richard T. Lee (Burnaby North L)
* John Les (Chilliwack L)
* Norm Letnick (Kelowna–Lake Country L)
* Joan McIntyre (West Vancouver–Sea to Sky L)
* John Rustad (Nechako Lakes L)
Ralph Sultan (West Vancouver–Capilano L)
* Spencer Chandra Herbert (Vancouver–West End NDP)
* Kathy Corrigan (Burnaby–Deer Lake NDP)
* Guy Gentner (Delta North NDP)
* Lana Popham (Saanich South NDP)
* Shane Simpson (Vancouver-Hastings NDP)
* Vicki Huntington (Delta South IND)
* denotes member present
Josie Schofield (Manager, Committee Research Services)
Heather Davidson (Ministry of Health Services)
John Doyle (Auditor General)
Malcolm Gaston (Office of the Auditor General)
Norma Glendinning (Office of the Auditor General)
Molly Harrington (Ministry of Housing and Social Development)
Laura Hatt (Office of the Auditor General)
Keith Miller (Ministry of Education)
Gary Mitchell (Provincial Archivist)
Shayne Ramsay (CEO, B.C. Housing Management Commission)
Leigh Ann Seller (Ministry of Health Services)
Doug Stewart (Ministry of Education)
Morris Sydor (Office of the Auditor General)
Wendy Taylor (Ministry of Citizens' Services)
Cheryl Wenezenki-Yolland (Comptroller General)
[ Page 141 ]
WEDNESDAY, JUNE 9, 2010
The committee met at 10:04 a.m.
[B. Ralston in the chair.]
B. Ralston (Chair): Good morning, Members. We have an agenda before us, which is a fairly detailed agenda. We will break at 11:30 for an hour, and there will be a lunch brought in at that time.
The only other business, other than reports, will be at the end of the day. There are a couple of outstanding items, and there's the issue of the annual conference of Auditors General and public accounts committees, which we'll deal with as well.
I believe Ralph Sultan has sent his regrets. He's out of the country. I think everyone else is here. Vicki Huntington is on her way, I believe.
If we can begin with report No. 12, Planning for School Seismic Safety. You will have had the presentations circulated to you in advance. I'll call first on the Auditor General to introduce Mr. Gaston and the report, and then we'll hear from Mr. Gorman, deputy minister for the Ministry of Education, and Keith Miller, assistant deputy minister in the Ministry of Education.
With that, we could begin.
Auditor General Report:
Planning for School Seismic Safety
J. Doyle: Good morning, Chair, and good morning, Members. It's my pleasure to speak about the Planning for School Seismic Safety review that we conducted and published some short time ago — December 2008.
Southwestern British Columbia is an earthquake environment similar to that of the coasts of Japan, Alaska and Central and South America. I think all of us are aware of that. There are nearly 750 schools in 39 school districts that have been identified as requiring seismic upgrading.
There are many players involved: the Ministry of Education itself, school boards, teachers, parents and, obviously, the students themselves. Whilst each group brings their own priorities to the table, one priority is shared by all, and that is to ensure that British Columbian students go to school in buildings that are safe.
Our review focused on how well the Ministry of Education has developed processes for managing the seismic mitigation program. This report was released in December 2008, and since that time the Ministry of Education has provided one follow-up report.
The follow-up report showed that three of the recommendations we made have been fully or substantially implemented, whilst four have only been partially implemented. When the report was released, some 80 seismic projects had been completed, were under construction or were proceeding to the construction phase. The ministry's website now shows — and this is as of May — that some 120 seismic projects are in completion, under construction or proceeding to construction, so work is continuing.
I might add that I had originally planned to consider a second report focusing on the implementation of the seismic safety or mitigation program based at the school level, to look at capacity at that level. My thinking at the moment, however, is more towards looking at the ministry's overall capital framework or capital support framework. I have no plans yet to do that, but I'm in the process of bringing that forward for consideration. So this current report will be the first of several in a stream of reports covering this broad topic.
The director responsible for this particular report has now retired from the Office of the Auditor General. Malcolm Gaston, one of the assistant Auditors General, has agreed to step in and make a presentation to you regarding our findings and the report itself, so I'll turn it over to Malcolm.
M. Gaston: Thank you, John. Good morning, Members.
Public interest in this area has always been high. Following a report by this office in 1997 on earthquake preparedness, the Public Accounts Committee held public hearings and then issued its own report. Many of the witnesses were from the public school system.
In 2004 the boards of education carried out assessments of structural risk in B.C.'s schools located in high seismic areas. The boards used an assessment tool developed by the Association of Professional Engineers and Geoscientists under a contract with the ministry. Nearly 750 schools in 39 school districts were identified as being at medium or high risk. In March 2005 the Ministry of Education announced the seismic mitigation program to be carried out over 15 years at an estimated cost of $1.5 billion.
So what is seismic mitigation? It is about minimizing the impact of earthquakes and has two main components. Firstly, structural mitigation, which relates to the components of a building that resist loads such as gravity or, in this case, an earthquake, and includes elements like columns, beams, foundations and load-bearing walls.
The second element is non-structural mitigation, which relates to every other part of the building and its contents — for example, ceilings, windows, office equipment, light fittings and so on. This component is important, as many injuries can be sustained during an earthquake from the result of non-structural components moving.
Our review focused on how well the Ministry of Education has developed processes for managing the
[ Page 142 ]
seismic mitigation program. As part of our work, we visited four boards of education from as close as here in Victoria to as far as Haida Gwaii. The seismic mitigation program focuses on the upgrading of existing schools, so we did not include new school buildings in our review. Our review also did not include independent schools.
Moving on to our findings. In relation to the policy framework, we found that assessment tools and retrofit methodology had been designed and continued to be refined. Significantly, though, we found that the original budget for the program of $1.5 billion would not be enough in current conditions to remediate all the schools in the medium- and high-risk categories. Unforeseen construction cost escalation and project scope changes have contributed to this situation.
We found that the ministry was still working to finalize its own human resource requirements to deliver the program. Although a lot of risk management activities were carried out, we found that they were not pulled together into a comprehensive risk management framework.
In relation to establishing program priorities, we found that the objectives of the program are consistent with government's policy goals. However, the ministry had not yet found a program delivery model that was workable for all parties involved. We found that clear roles and responsibilities had been established for the ministry's relationship with boards of education, and these seemed to be well documented and understood.
While the ministry has a technical assessment tool on which to base planning decisions, it lacked an integrated capital planning framework that reflects multiple demands from other requirements — for example, asbestos remediation.
In relation to monitoring and evaluating performance, we found that, firstly, in relation to structural mitigation, school districts were providing adequate performance reporting information. In terms of evaluating project performance, due-diligence reviews had been carried out, and planned post-implementation reviews should identify an evaluation of lessons learned for improving future processes.
However, in relation to non-structural mitigation, we found that the ministry did not set targets or gather information about the status of non-structural projects.
In our last area, on accountability relationships, we found that the ministry did not have a proactive information strategy to inform the debate around seismic goals and priorities, which reduced the likelihood of informed public debate. There were no formal processes for obtaining public input on how elements of the program should be delivered. It's interesting to note that this was one area we referred to in our report on public participation, presented to this committee around the same time that this report was published.
From our findings we made the following recommendations: that the ministry should identify how much of the program it can deliver within the available budget and use this information to confirm future priorities and funding for the structural program, that it should confirm whether the current levels of funding to school districts for non-structural remediation are sufficient to address non-structural needs, that it should consolidate its current risk management activities into a comprehensive risk management framework, and that it should evaluate all options for a program delivery model and make it a matter of urgency to implement this and make sure it has sufficient resources.
Our last recommendations. In relation to the monitoring of non-structural programs, we recommend that the ministry require boards of education to collect information about the progress and status of non-structural mitigation programs and use this information to assess whether the status and rate of progress are acceptable and funding is adequate.
Lastly, we recommend that the ministry work in partnership with boards of education to develop and implement an information plan to inform the public about seismic hazard, risk and the constraints around the program, and also to give the public opportunities to provide input on future program objectives and priorities.
This concludes our presentation.
B. Ralston (Chair): Thanks very much. I think we'll proceed now to the deputy minister and the assistant deputy minister, Mr. Gorman and Mr. Miller. Then we can open for questions.
K. Miller: Good morning. I'm Keith Miller. I'm actually assistant deputy minister of resource management for the Ministry of Ed. James Gorman, our deputy, wasn't able to be here this morning. He's got another commitment, so I've come to provide…. I'll walk through the presentation with you. I've also got Doug Stewart, who's our director of capital planning. We'd also, of course, be happy to answer any questions you might have.
With that, what I thought we would do, after Malcolm's presentation, is just kind of walk through, recommendation by recommendation, talking about the actions we've done to date and what we're planning on doing. You'll get a sense of where we've been and where we're going. There were six recommendations. I'll just walk through each in turn.
As Malcolm had mentioned, we've worked pretty closely with APEGBC. This is the Association of Professional Engineers and Geoscientists. We were first asked to pull together this program back in 2003 — I think in the fall of 2003. We'd gone to Treasury Board and were asked to come back with a plan for the follow-
[ Page 143 ]
ing year. We actually engaged APEGBC, the structural engineers, to assist us. What we ended up doing was using them and UBC to develop an assessment tool. We then trained about 110 engineers in the province and assessed many of our buildings over the summer of '04. That work resulted in a plan that was then approved by government and announced in the fall of 2004.
We've got a pretty close relationship with them. One of the things I'll talk about a bit in one of our other recommendations is some further work we're doing to upgrade some of those assessments. That work was basically what formed the basis of our first approval that was announced. There were, as I mentioned, 95 projects that were rolled out that time. Since then we've had a number of other projects approved. We've got, as Malcolm mentioned, about 120 projects underway. We've also got another 20 or so projects that have been supported but are in the preplanning stage, which we expect to proceed. That kind of encapsulates the program to date.
Most of those projects I just referred to — these are the structural upgrades that Malcolm referred to — are both minor and major projects that are looking at making structural improvements to buildings. They range from upgrading load-bearing walls all the way to replacement of buildings. There's quite a range in terms of what has to happen to our schools to structurally repair them over time.
The non-structural work, though, is also work that we are doing. Over the last four or five years since the announcement of the program we've probably spent something in the range of about $25 million on non-structural upgrading. We have done work prior to this. There has been a lot of work in the education system, actually going back even to 1990, on non-structural upgrading. We had a tool up to about 2003 which actually monitored the work that boards are doing, but boards found it very, very cumbersome.
What we have been doing to address the recommendation of the Auditor General is not only to provide boards funding but also to build a better tool for assessing what needs to be done on these buildings. We have engaged, for example, a company called VFA Canada.
We are doing some building condition assessments of all of our schools. As part of that work, what we've done is again engaged UBC and APEGBC to develop a specific tool that we are implementing as part of that program, which will identify the work that has to happen, non-structurally, on the building. It will effectively prioritize that work and identify the cost of doing it, which will give us a much better tool to estimate how much money going forward we need to be allocating.
As I mentioned, $25 million. It's been about $5 million a year. It may be less; it may be more. But this tool will assist us. It also will help us to record the work that's done. That's important, obviously, so that we don't do it again, but also, should there be such an event, you've got a record of the kinds of actions that we in government have taken to protect the occupants of our buildings.
The last thing I want to mention with respect to that. This will take a bit of time. The system we're integrating, which we call CAMS, capital asset management system. We've got about a third of it. We're near to completing about a third of the province. We're doing every school in the province as part of this. We're nearly one-third complete, and we'll have the balance of our buildings done over the next couple of years. As I say, we're integrating this piece of work as part of that overall implementation.
The recommendation around consolidating our current risk management activities into a comprehensive strategy. We're actually doing a number of things in this area, coming at this in a couple of different ways. One way, at a program level, is that we have done a lot of work, again, with APEGBC over the last year, actually looking at reassessing some of our buildings and upgrading our risk assessment. They have actually done some real state-of-the-art, world-beating research around this.
UBC civil engineering has been actively engaged. They've been doing a lot of simulations, for example, out at UBC of different types of school buildings, whether they are manufactured with wood or they are clay brick masonry structures. They've actually looked at different parts of the province and identified the types of earthquakes which are most probable in those various locations. They've also identified the probability of those events occurring. They've also done some work — and this is fairly novel — looking at specific soil conditions and how our buildings, these schools, react in those various locations sitting on various soil conditions.
What this work is now moving toward is basically an updated assessment methodology. It's not complete yet, but we're very hopeful it will reduce the risk quite significantly across our asset base, which we think will be very helpful to the overall program, the overall feasibility of delivering this program in a reasonable time basis.
The other thing we've done on a project basis is that we do have what we all call our capital asset management framework. We've made some improvements to that. I'll talk a bit about it under the delivery piece, but the basic capital asset management framework is that we require boards to go through…. When we support a project, they've got to go through feasibility-type processes.
Subsequent to those feasibility studies, which identify scope and cost, we enter into basically agreements or contracts between the minister and the board around the delivery of those projects. In those agreements we've done a fair amount of work to identify some risks and uncertainties that still exist in those projects, and try to account for that. So we've made some improvements to that overall framework which we think allows us to manage risk in a more effective way. That's what we've done at the project level.
[ Page 144 ]
The delivery model that we have been using within the K-to-12 sector for capital we've had in place probably for 20 or 25 years. Under the School Act, boards do own our assets. Boards engage the designers and the contractors to actually build and upgrade buildings. What we do is that we're effectively the bank, and we also effectively provide oversight on these projects.
That delivery model, since 1990, has probably delivered about $6 billion or $7 billion worth of capital in the province. It has its strengths; it has its weaknesses. It's a comanaged system that we think works reasonably well in many cases.
The role we play, which I talked about, is that we provide oversight. We do that in the context, as I mentioned, of the capital asset management framework. We've got a fairly well-known set of rules that boards must follow in the delivery of capital projects.
I talked about the feasibility studies. Another recent improvement we've made around that is that we've asked boards in their capital planning process — and I'll talk a bit about long-range planning in a minute — to do significantly more work to define the scope and cost of projects before they're supported in the capital plan. They then go through a fairly rigorous process in terms of leading up to the agreements that I talked about. That process does work reasonably well in many cases.
Our biggest customer is Vancouver, and many of the buildings…. We think that even when we complete our reassessment of these buildings, we're going to find that most of the work we need to do is in Vancouver or the Vancouver area.
We know that in Vancouver, for example, they've got probably 60 clay brick masonry-type structures built around the turn of the century. We've got some of those in Victoria; we've got some elsewhere in the province. These are our higher-risk buildings. But again, the majority of this work is going to be in Vancouver, so we work very closely with Vancouver. I know Doug and I meet, for example, with that district on a monthly basis to work through some of their capital issues.
We're very actively engaged with them right now in looking at how Seattle's seismic program is being delivered and trying to develop kind of a reservoir space that might allow us to manage the Vancouver situation better. We're thinking that if we can do this in Vancouver and do it well, then there's an opportunity for some of the other districts in the area — whether it's Coquitlam, where we have some projects but not the same number as Vancouver; Richmond is another with a few projects; Surrey. We can then begin to bring some of those districts into this kind of arrangement.
That's where we've kind of been focusing our efforts in the past year or so — with Vancouver and their project delivery itself.
B. Ralston (Chair): Just before we open for questions, in the April 2010 update that the Auditor General did, there was, I think, a suggestion that only one of the recommendations had been substantially completed. So I wonder if the Auditor General or Mr. Gaston wanted to make any further comments. Perhaps we could get the response from the ministry and then open to questions from the committee.
K. Miller: Sorry, Chair. Do you want…?
B. Ralston (Chair): Perhaps if there's anything further Mr. Gaston wanted to add to the April 2010 update. On page 33 in the update it says that only one of the recommendations is substantially complete and all the rest are partially complete. Given the length of time that's passed from the delivery of this report, that may generate some comment.
J. Doyle: The current status as at the 10th of May, 2010, which is after that follow-up report you mentioned and subsequent to the April follow-up…. The current situation is that a number of recommendations have in fact been fully or substantially implemented and that four are in the process of being implemented.
The ones that have been implemented. We can go through the detail, but I was hoping that the ministry itself would actually identify those as part of their presentation. It is our expectation that when we do the October follow-up, the situation would be that all the recommendations would have been implemented by that time.
I think we've got to be aware that the gestation period for some recommendations is longer than others. Some of the work that needs to be done needs to be done slowly, carefully and be properly researched so that the risk assessment process that is required is based on evidence — that that evidence means that as the ministry and the school districts go forward, the work they're undertaking constitutes value and in fact work is not done in places where subsequent better tools indicate that it may not be as high a priority as previously considered.
My own view on the recommendations at the moment is that we will continue to monitor how well they are being implemented, and we do have discussions with the ministry in regard to that.
B. Ralston (Chair): I think I may have inadvertently cut Mr. Miller off before he completed his presentation.
You took a very long pause there, and I drew from that that you'd concluded. I didn't mean to interrupt, so perhaps you could just continue, and then we can open it for questions.
K. Miller: That's fine. There are just two to go, and then we can open it up for questions.
[ Page 145 ]
The next pieces are on the long-range-planning elements — recommendation on long-range planning. We have, in effect, issued instruction to boards. We do expect boards to develop long-range….
Let me just back up a little bit about some of the context around this. When the program was first rolled out, 95 projects were approved. You can consider them all stand-alone seismic work. The attempt there, in effect, was to try to focus the work on seismic upgrading. We know that as boards engage in those projects, there will be cases where it'll make good sense to do additional work. We want to expand the scope of that.
These are older buildings. In some cases, while you're there, it will make some sense to do some of that additional renovation work. Also, though, it will be a challenge, because in some cases boards may want to do some things…. It's a kind of judgment call, you know, of what additional renovation work to the seismic upgrading you should be doing at the time you're doing the seismic upgrade.
It is a bit of a challenge, so we introduced, for example, due diligence reviews, where if we had a disagreement with boards, we would go back independently and look at that to try to reach agreement on the nature of the work. The more renovation work we do, the more we erode our ability to deliver the program for the $1½ billion. So we're trying to create some tension, if you would, in that.
One of the effects, though, was that when that program was approved, we had — I'll give you an example — about six projects. Since that date about 60 schools have closed. We know we've been going through a period of downsizing. Enrolment's been reducing. Sixty buildings across the province have closed. Many of those were on our seismic upgrading list when we did those original assessments. Six of them we actually approved as part of the '05 announcement.
What we have now done is that we're saying to boards: "We expect you to develop a long-range plan. So you look at your long-range requirements around new capacity or where you're looking to close, as difficult as those issues are, looking at where you may need to renovate or replace buildings, and then integrate your seismic request in the context of that plan." We've effectively done that now. We issued that instruction about a year ago.
A number of boards are on the program. Vancouver, as an example, is quite well advanced and will have a significant piece of work done, we're expecting, by this October. So that is one recommendation we feel that we've been pretty actively working on.
Then lastly, on the public communications side of this, to develop an implementation plan and educate the public, we've been doing several things. One of the things we are looking at doing right now with APEGBC is using their good offices. We're building some joint websites, where on their website there might be some information on the types of earthquakes that you'd expect to occur in the province, the potential risk to schools and explaining what that risk means. That'll also be linked to work we're doing at our public affairs end. So there's a fair amount of work we are doing to try to provide better education to the public around the nature and the risk of these events as well as the effects on our buildings.
I think that concludes our presentation.
B. Ralston (Chair): Thank you. Questions, then?
K. Corrigan: Yes, I do have a couple of questions, and thanks for both the presentations.
I have three questions. The first one is…. I noticed that on page 27 of the original December report that of the projects to date that were looked at, the costs were 102 percent more — in other words, slightly more than double — than the 2004 cost estimates. I'm wondering if the ministry has a sense of what the overall budget is going to be of those projects that are in the works right now.
K. Miller: Yeah, we do. I want to go back. Timing in life, as we know, is often everything. When we did this work…. We did our assessments in 2004. If you look at our capital program over the…. We can go back to 1990. We had very little cost inflation. We were building elementary schools even up to 2003 for $5 million, $6 million. Now we're looking at $14 million to $18 million. We were building secondaries for $22 million. We're now looking at about $40 million to $45 million.
Since 2004 we know we've seen pretty well unprecedented cost inflation in the construction sector, and that certainly has had a big impact on our schools. So about the time we were doing the assessment work of prioritizing this work, trying to come up with a reasonable estimate….
This was, at best, a class D cost estimate of what's required. That's what the $1½ billion number was based on. It was based on a 2003 value. We slowly have seen construction values effectively double. We have seen them recede a bit, but they probably have effectively doubled over the three- or four-year period that we're now trying to implement this program.
That was one set of challenges that kind of hit us very hard. The other one is the issue I talked about earlier about managing the scope of this work.
The $1½ billion. We did try to factor into that…. There was the cost of directly structurally upgrading the building. We did try to estimate some of the related renovation cost, but we tried to minimize…. We didn't build…. We weren't assuming we were going to be replacing all of our buildings, for example. We assumed a reasonable level of renovation.
In effect, when we look back at many of our projects, it's been more challenging to manage that scope.
[ Page 146 ]
Some of them have had an increased amount of renovation work that we probably needed to do as part of those buildings. In some cases we've actually ended up replacing a number of these buildings. So the structural costs off that $1½ billion are quite a bit higher.
The program we have underway right now, which is roughly the 120 projects we talked about. We've spent about $450 million to date on those. They're under construction, and when we finish over the next three or four years, it'll probably be in the $900 million range when we're done — right? — for that first group of 120 projects.
K. Corrigan: Thank you for that. My second question was…. I'm interested in the capital asset management framework that you're talking about. I know that the province has a capital asset management framework, and I know that, for the most part, Partnerships B.C. is the agency that oversees that framework. Is this the same framework that you're talking about, or is this a more specialized framework?
I'd also be interested in what Partnerships B.C.'s involvement is now in the seismic upgrading projects. I do recall a few years ago that it was taking the lead, but it doesn't sound like that is the case anymore.
K. Miller: Yeah. Thanks for that question. The capital asset management framework you're referring to was one that the Ministry of Finance introduced in around 2002. We as a ministry are pretty actively involved in the development of that framework. I think we were one of the first adopting districts. We very quickly built our capital asset management framework in the context of that.
Basically, the process, very quickly, starts off with feasibility study. Effectively, when boards are building capital plans, they — board and other government sectors — are doing enough work to identify the full scope and cost of these projects. That's kind of the stage 1 requirement of the capital asset management framework.
Once we get through the feasibility study, the key part of that for us, I think, is entering into an agreement, which I talked about — an agreement that's a legal agreement between our minister and the board, which lays out more precisely the scope of the work that's being approved, the estimated budget for that work, schedule B, the budget that we expect.
Inside of that, we also build in, in the budget, some contingencies. So there's a fair amount of work we do through our boards with consultants to identify risks that we might come across as we go through design, as we go construction. We build appropriate contingencies in for that.
We've also approval processes in place so that we sign off that. That's kind of the due diligence and overview that we provide as part of it.
There's also, though, some project management requirements that are often set inside that agreement. If it's a less sophisticated board, for example, we want to make sure that we provide them with ample consulting resources to deliver this project successfully. Other districts, like Surrey, can handle this a bit more independently. We also have some reporting requirements, and then we have some audit requirements. That, in effect, is our capital asset management framework that I'm referring to, which is in concert with what the Ministry of Finance has established.
You are correct. We actually did engage Partnerships B.C. in early days, in looking at some…. We're referring to them as bundling options. We did experiment a little bit with this with a couple of districts — Surrey, Coquitlam and Vancouver, particularly. One of the issues that we came across there was a bit of a reluctance among the construction sector for us to bundle these projects. In a way, they felt that it really limited the competitive appeal of some of these, so there was a bit of blowback to us on that. We did do some pilot work around that, but we haven't really pursued that work any further.
K. Corrigan: I also wanted to ask about where we are with the balance between — you referred to it quickly earlier — at what point a project becomes so expensive to do that you decide that you're going to replace the school. I know that when I was on the school board on Burnaby, we reached that point with Burnaby Central, where it became so expensive. I think there was…. Was it a 75 percent cap? If it got over 75 percent? I'm just wondering where we are with that now and how that kind of fits into the whole picture of prioritizing projects and how we make decisions about what projects we're going have.
K. Miller: It's an excellent question. We've used a rule of thumb over time, at 70 percent, but it's only a rule of thumb. At 70 percent, typically, we need to be looking more closely at replacement. What we expect, though…. If a board comes back and, "Look, we're over 70 percent," you really need to do a full life-cycle cost analysis. What we should be doing is looking not only at the capital upgrade that might be required when you're sitting at 70 but what the operating effects are. What are the operating potential savings? We do take boards through some of that.
There are times where boards will make an argument through the analysis. Vancouver is a classic case of that. They may argue that spending up to 100 percent of the cost of replacement still yields a better building — right? These buildings that are seismic risks, which may have been built in 1910 — they've been around for a hundred years — with the proper upgrading will last another hundred years. If we were to replace that building — if we could, given the heritage values — you might be
[ Page 147 ]
building a building with a 60- to 70-year life cycle. Their argument would be that you'll get another hundred years out of that building. And it's a better facility than you've got in terms of some of our newer buildings. So it really is a bit of a value….
I think that even though we use it as a rule of thumb, when we get near that mark, more analysis really needs to happen to make that decision.
R. Lee: Can you elaborate on the Seattle model you are using for the Vancouver assessment?
K. Miller: I can a little. I wish I had Vancouver here to help, because they actually made a tour. They went down to Seattle about a month ago to take a look at it. I've not been down there, not spoken to them myself.
What Seattle has basically done — they are at a different funding place than we are — is set up a very large project office, so they've engaged a wide range of professionals that work with the Seattle board. They've got architects, engineers, people that are expert in tendering practice and tendering projects. They've even got communications staff and other professional planning staff that work on their seismic program.
We really feel that when you look at the magnitude of Vancouver's program, their capability is…. Even though they're a large district and they've got a fair amount of capability, they still need probably some additional resources. So we've kind of wanted to look at that model to see: how is Seattle staffed? What kind of staffing resource have they got? Then once we have an opportunity, we'll look and see how we can, if possible, resource Vancouver to create, say, effectively, a project office to assist them in delivering this program.
The thing, though, that is different that I think we all have to be a little wary of is that our funding model is slightly different. I mean, Seattle goes to the taxpayer. I think through referendum they raise money. They have money bylaws. So they've got a fair amount of ownership in the game, so to speak, around that, where of course 100 percent of the capital of Vancouver school board is provided by the province. There's less skin in the game, so to speak, at Vancouver. Our funding model is quite different.
I think with the Seattle funding model there's a fair amount of accountability at the board end to want to minimize the scope of that work and maximize the number of projects, where at our end capital is seen as a bit of a free good because 100 percent of it comes from the province. So it's a bit of a challenge we have to be wary of — that their interests might be a little different than, say, provincial interests.
S. Chandra Herbert: First, I want to thank the assistant deputy minister for acknowledging the importance of heritage schools in Vancouver, specifically, since that's one of the big challenges we have in the seismic upgrades.
I'm just trying to work through the numbers a little bit, and so please feel free to correct me if I've missed something here. From what I heard, I think you said that there would be about 40 projects about to be completed at $900 million. Is that…?
K. Miller: That's 120.
S. Chandra Herbert: Sorry, 120 projects at $900 million. I'm getting all these different numbers confused here.
I understand that there were about 750 schools in 39 school districts at risk, according to the Auditor General's report, and that the original scope was about $1.5 billion to do all of those projects. Do we have a rough estimate of what it would take to do all those projects yet, or is that coming out in the fall or…? You know, $1.5 billion doesn't look like it's going to do 750 if we only spend $900 million to do 120.
K. Miller: If one was to extrapolate where we're at with the 120 to finish off the 750, you're probably in somewhere…. Depending on where costs go over the next few years, you're probably in that $3 billion to $4½ billion range — somewhere in there. But there is some hope here.
I referred to the work we're doing with APEGBC around our risk assessment. We're early days here. We're not quite in a position to know the full effects of this, but we're pretty hopeful that that work is going to result in a significant risk reduction across our asset base.
We're hearing, for example, from APEGBC at this point on wood-frame buildings. We have a number of wood-frame buildings we thought we had to upgrade. We may not be upgrading too many of those. Wood-frame buildings perform extremely well in earthquakes. Stone structures are…. No, not stone. Clay brick masonry structures perform less well.
B. Ralston (Chair): Stone is a bit of a sensitive point in these buildings.
K. Miller: Yeah, I understand that. They perform a little less well, but even in some cases we understand that some of them, depending where they are in the province and depending on the kind of earthquake and the kind of forces that could affect those buildings, might perform okay.
I guess the point here is that even though we initially identified 750 projects, $1½ billion will not do all those projects. I mean, it's clear to all of us. When this work completes itself, we'll have, I think, a more precise number of the number of buildings, and I think it'll be a
[ Page 148 ]
subset of the 750. And then we'll have, also, a fairly precise estimate of what the cost to complete the balance of those buildings will be.
So I think there is some hope here on the horizon around this, that we may not be having to do all 750 schools in the next ten years.
S. Chandra Herbert: Great. I'll just try to be quick with the two remaining questions I have because I know that there are others that have questions, but they come off of this. So I guess the original timeline had been 15 years. Has that been changed? Is there a plan to…?
K. Miller: It's 15 years.
S. Chandra Herbert: So we'll get them done in 15 years, no matter what. All right.
Now, I understand that there was discussion around the non-structural upgrading necessary. I believe you mentioned that it would be about $5 million a year that we put in and that one of the recommendations was that we need to check if that funding level is sufficient.
The question, I guess, would be either to yourself or to the Auditor General. I understand that last year we had about $110 million in cuts to the annual facility grant. Some of that money would be used to do things like upgrading lighting systems which could fall and hurt people — kind of the non-structural side. So if we saw about $110 million cut — and I know not all of that would go to seismic upgrades for non-structural areas, but a chunk would — where are we at in terms of funding? It seems like we've taken a huge step back if we're only spending $5 million a year, yet we cut $110 million in just one year. I understand another $50 million to $60 million this year has been cut as well.
K. Miller: What, over the past five years…. What I'd mentioned is that we had allocated about $25 million to non-structural upgrading. That included this current year. So there is $5 million out there on the boards. That was in addition to the $110 million AFG that you're referring to. You're absolutely right. We did go through a period last year, given our difficult economic times, where we didn't provide boards $110 million. We actually asked them to use their cash reserves, but that wasn't…. The $5 million I'm talking about was on top of that.
But you're right. On the AFG side, we did have about $98 million in reserves as of March 31, '09, so we asked boards to use that. We also had $54 million in capital reserves that we suggested to the boards to come forward and get the minister's approval, which many did. So we were trying to draw down some of that cash. A lot of that was done. Most recently, on March 15 our minister did announce a $110 million program for the AFG for the current year.
S. Chandra Herbert: All right. That's fine for me at this stage.
B. Ralston (Chair): Guy Gentner. I don't have anyone else after that. I have one question myself after Mr. Gentner.
G. Gentner: Spencer sort of stole some of my thunder, but I wanted to ask…. You talk about the allocation capital based on what's driving it — budgets; the age of the building; probability; liquefaction, for example; geography. I would assume, and maybe you can correct me, that when you look at the high-risk seismic zones — the west coast of Vancouver Island, Queen Charlottes, Victoria — eventually we get to Chilliwack. I guess it's rated.
From those very high-risk geographical areas, are there some school board areas that are delinquent in working with you and making sure that those upgrades are delivered first before we go to other school districts, or is it first come, first served? And if there are those that are delinquent, how do you deal and insist that those higher-risk areas are met sooner than later?
K. Miller: It's an interesting question. I don't know if I would say that any of our districts are absolutely delinquent, but I think there might be some variable motivations as you go from district to district. I know Vancouver, for example, is pretty highly motivated. I think Victoria, as a school district, is pretty highly motivated. What we tried to do…. Well, what we did when we announced the program back in 2005 was we tried also to distribute the work. So we had made sure we had some projects in Chilliwack, projects in Coquitlam. So we kind of spread that out. Having said that, we also focused on where the high-priority work needed to be done in Vancouver.
But I think there probably is a bit of a variable interest from board to board. As you move east, on the outside of Chilliwack…. I'm thinking as you move further east, we've only got about 37, 39 districts that are in high-risk seismic zones. So this is not a completely provincial issue. But I think districts along the coast and on Vancouver Island we're seeing are maybe more motivated than some districts in the north that may have fewer resources.
Nonetheless, we try to focus our efforts where we can to make sure we're providing projects across those zones and then to resource them where we can to make sure that they deliver the work.
B. Ralston (Chair): Thanks very much. Before I recognize Shane Simpson, I had a question myself. On page 38 in the initial report the Auditor General gives an example of balancing the value of heritage values. I think this would particularly apply, as you said, in Vancouver and in Victoria and seismic safety. I remember speak-
[ Page 149 ]
ing with someone from APEGBC, and at a certain point the cost of preserving a heritage school escalates very rapidly.
So how is the final decision made on remediation and rehabilitation versus shutting down the school and building a new one? Who makes the final decision on that?
K. Miller: It's typically been our minister up to this point, subject to the feasibility study work that I talked about.
There is a risk. There's no doubt. In Vancouver where, you know, you could see…. Because of the heritage value, they've got about, I think, 54 buildings or somewhere in that range that are of significant heritage value. You could get to the point where some of those replacement values, or the renovation value to retain that building, could exceed replacement.
At the end of the day, as long as we've been within replacement — most of them have been — we've typically taken those to our minister. We feel, though, that if it goes beyond replacement, that's probably a decision for Treasury Board.
B. Ralston (Chair): Have there been or are you prepared to give any examples where that kind of decision has been reached — where the heritage value is not worth saving?
K. Miller: We haven't yet, but we do have one in the works, Kitsilano Secondary, which is coming in probably $10 million or $12 million more than replacement value. For those of you that may or may not know, Kits Secondary…. The 1927 block is ranked as probably one of the highest-priority heritage blocks in the city. It's 25 out of 25 in the heritage…. It's one where we're going to hit that issue, and so it's one we're going to have deal with over the coming months.
But our sense is that that won't necessarily go to our minister. We think we need a broader discussion inside government to make that call.
S. Simpson: Two questions. First of all, coming back to the question of decisions that are made when a seismic project is going ahead in a school. As we know, districts and schools often will identify the non-structural issues and the number of things that are requiring repair or upgrade and are more efficient to do if the resources are there when you've opened the walls up, when you're doing the seismic work.
The question I have there…. I know that there have been some challenges around having that, realizing that and getting it to move forward. Has the ministry done…? Does it have a process of assessing the cost benefit of going in and doing that work at that time? And then, presumably, dollars would not come from the seismic pot. They would come from this additional $5 million or from capital projects or from some other pool of dollars.
K. Miller: That's right.
S. Simpson: How does that work to determine the cost benefit of going in and doing work that there's a recognition needs to be done — that there may not be dollars for at that time, but that it might make sense to do for efficiency purposes when the seismic work is in play?
K. Miller: Yeah. That is the million-dollar question, literally. I talked about the feasibility study processes that we've put into place, so where we would pick that up is in the feasibility studies that each board has to go through on an approved capital project and on an approved seismic project. They would look at that, and we would work with them and try to come to some arrangement.
Each one of these will vary. Each one of these projects is different, and we try to come to a mutual agreement on what makes sense to be including as part of the renovation on this school and where we push back. In some cases, as I mentioned earlier, we've done due-diligence reviews where, if we can't agree, we'll then bring in an independent set of consultants and take another look at it.
This is a challenge for us. There is no doubt. It's challenging for us, and it's challenging for boards. But we do have a process, we think. We try to work our way through that.
S. Simpson: A second question. It regards the question of public process. When I look at the December 2008 report in reference of the review conclusions, one of the things that the Auditor General says is that "although the public has access to the boards of education through attendance at board meetings, there are no similar forums through which they can readily communicate with the ministry. As a result, we have recommended that the ministry work in partnership with boards…to develop and implement an information plan…to facilitate public input on program objectives and priorities.
Could you tell us how that is being implemented? What work is being done to allow parents at a particular school or parents in a district to be able to engage, not the board…? They have access to that now at board meetings or committee meetings of the board. How do they get to access ministry officials over decisions that are being made around seismic priorities or around these kinds of conversations around doing those additional improvements at a point when a seismic project is moving forward?
K. Miller: First off, the direct engagement is not with the ministry. We work through our school districts. We've got 60 districts out there. They're the primary agent responsible for delivering the project, so we're working with them. On all of these projects, it's a pretty democratic design process.
Kitsilano Secondary is an example. Parents are actively engaged. Parents are involved in review of options. There is a significant amount of public consultation that goes on with these projects right across the system, particularly in Vancouver.
Again, we work with the board, trying to get some agreement on the options that we think all make sense, but at the end of the day, there is a fair amount of parental involvement. There is fair amount of community involvement in reviewing the options going forward.
S. Simpson: Just as a quick supplemental to that. I appreciate the ability to engage the board, but I know full well that when parents come forward with recommendations, at some point the board's response is: "The dollars come from the province, and we are doing what we do with the dollars." Those parents and those taxpayers have no opportunity to engage the banker, as you called yourself earlier, around priorities.
The challenge I have with your answer is that they still don't get that opportunity to talk to the banker. Is there a way for that to occur?
K. Miller: One of the challenges in this program is scope management. I talked earlier about trying to minimize the cost of renovation, because the more we spend on renovating buildings…. I said earlier that some of this does make sense, but the more of that we do, the more we erode our ability to do more projects for the $1½ billion.
We have created some tension in the system between us and boards around trying to do the right thing but minimizing some of those costs. At the same time, that tension gets played through, I think, with parents, because certainly people in the school might have a view and teachers might have a view: "While we're here, let's do a lot more." Again, some of those things make complete sense — to do that work. In other cases it's something that should be done but may not be as critical.
Again, there is some tension in the system that we try to create to do the right thing but make sure that we don't push all of our buildings to replacement, which could happen as you do more and more renovations as you're trying to do the seismic upgrading.
It is one of our big challenges in the system, but we think it's important to create that kind of tension, or we'll be spending a lot more money to deliver some of these projects.
B. Ralston (Chair): Thank you very much, Mr. Miller.
Did the Auditor General want to have any concluding remarks? No?
Okay, well, thank you very much. If we can take a brief recess for a couple of minutes, we'll move on to the next report.
The committee recessed from 10:58 a.m. to 11:02 a.m.
[B. Ralston in the chair.]
B. Ralston (Chair): The next report is report 5, Managing Knowledge: A Guide to Good Practice. I'll let the Auditor General introduce the presenter from his office.
Auditor General Report:
A Guide to Good Practice
J. Doyle: Knowledge management. We live in a world where people can connect through technology across organizational and regional barriers or boundaries with relative ease, and where the speed and amount of information people receive is increasing rapidly. At the same time, the aging population is changing the face of the workforce, and many organizations, including the B.C. public service, will need to manage the loss of experienced and specialist staff.
The management of government's knowledge assets, such as employee knowledge and other more tangible assets, is essential. This report was created as a good-practices guide — it is not an audit — with a self-assessment tool to both increase public sector awareness of the importance of treating knowledge as a strategic asset and assist organizations in gauging their current level of capacity in managing knowledge to support improvement in this area.
This is a first. It's a totally web-based report where the content can be enhanced over time, and we expect to be monitoring this report as we go forward into the future and adapting it.
It has also generated a lot of interest. We have had organizations within the province use the tool. It has been integrated into training arrangements, and we have expressions of interest and a desire to use the tool from other provinces across Canada.
The project was completed by looking at practices in B.C. and elsewhere and conferring with a number of senior leaders across government. Our team encountered many enthusiastic leaders from across the public sector who provided valuable insight into this guide. In particular, I would like to thank the office of the chief information officer and the Ministry of Forests and Range for their cooperation and support for this work.
We have not directly evaluated the B.C. public service's management of knowledge, nor do we make any
[ Page 151 ]
recommendations regarding this subject area. Therefore, this presentation is for information only.
We undertook this work because we recognized that knowledge is a significant and increasingly important asset, and we knew that we would have to do audit work into the future. Like many mission-critical assets, effective management is needed to achieve organizational goals and objectives and meet the public's demand for efficient and effective services.
Increasing the ability to generate, share and use knowledge has many benefits. For example, having the right knowledge shared at the right time can enhance decision-making, ensure better informed policy and increase the efficiency and effectiveness of operations through supporting and sharing innovation. Because of this, we will have a continued interest in the management of knowledge across B.C., the B.C. public sector, and this resource can be used by the office to evaluate organizations into the future.
To my left is Norma Glendinning. Norma is the assistant Auditor General whose portfolio did this work. To my right is Laura Hatt, the senior manager responsible for this work, whose passion has actually driven it through and made it all happen. I'd ask Laura to actually say a few words now and do a brief presentation in regard to our work.
L. Hatt: Today I'll just provide you with a brief introduction to the office's knowledge management guide. I'll introduce you to the concept of knowledge and the concept of the management of knowledge, and I'll discuss the framework we have developed, which is the basis for the self-assessment tool that makes up the guide. I will end the presentation with some of the impacts the work has had to date.
In terms of understanding the good practices guide, the easiest way for me to show you is to actually go directly to the website. I will click on that now.
As John mentioned, this is a fully web-based tool. There are two ways in which users can navigate through the tool. On the left-hand side you can go through the traditional method of clicking through page links, but we also created this graphic interface. The graphic interface really outlines all the different aspects of the tool.
The central driver of the work was to develop a self-assessment. The self-assessment is really the brain that's in the middle of the graphic. On the right side of the brain there's an interactive self-assessment tool, and organizations can click there and take a survey that takes approximately 30 minutes to complete. It provides them with a report card that identifies areas for improvement. On the left side of the brain is some more information around how to use the self-assessment tool as well as how to interpret your results.
The other sections of the tool provide both practical guidance as well as some additional information that organizations may be interested in. In the "What and Why?" section, we just define what knowledge is and describe what the strategic management of knowledge looks like in practice. We also talk about why knowledge is important and, in particular, why public sector organizations should consider this.
The "Good Ideas" section and the case studies both provide practical examples of how many of the concepts can be implemented, and the toolkits provide areas where organizations can drill down to gain more experience and understanding of different concepts. There's a definitions section, an extensive bibliography to allow users to really drill to other websites or other areas that may support them — as well, a list of definitions. The guide was really developed to be flexible and allow users to find what they needed.
How does one begin to define the idea of knowledge? At first it can seem like a difficult concept to grasp. One of the first things to consider is that it's not data or information. So it's not the kind of information that's collected in the databases of governments, for instance, or statistics. We need knowledge to interpret that information, and that information in turn helps us create knowledge, but it's not necessarily knowledge.
The way in which the literature defines knowledge is through different categories. We've identified the two main categories as being explicit and tacit knowledge. Related to tacit knowledge is the idea of employee know-how.
Explicit knowledge is those knowledge assets that are really tangible. They're the things that you can document, store, retrieve — things like audit reports, policy documents, those types of assets. Tacit knowledge tends to be things that are much more difficult to define yet still very important to the organization.
Related to that is the concept of employee know-how. It's how employees know how to get something done and how to get something done well, and related to that are things like knowing when — a sense of timing; knowing what, which could be generalist or specialist knowledge about a particular area; knowing why — why something occurred or strategic thinking.
These categories are really important because once you understand the categories and the type of knowledge that you're wanting to manage, it allows you to identify the types of strategies that you should be putting in place.
On this slide we define what the strategic management of knowledge is. One of the things that I'd really like to point out about this particular definition is that it's a systematic approach. It's not something that just happens. You have to put some effort into it, and you have to think through some of your strategies. It's also
[ Page 152 ]
not something that you do for the sake of managing knowledge. You do it in order to improve your organization's performance.
The knowledge that you want to capture or create or generate or use needs to be related to the kinds of business outcomes that you're hoping to achieve. I put this quote in from Lynda Tarras, who is the head of the B.C. Public Service Agency. Sometimes when people think about knowledge management, they automatically think about building a large information system. Really, that could be part of your strategy, but it's also related to…. There's a human element in connecting your workforce.
How do organizations begin to go about managing their knowledge? As I mentioned, in the beginning the capability model was really the framework that we used to develop the self-assessment tool, but it also can be used to help organizations begin to identify strategies or approaches that they can start to undertake.
Leadership and strategy and culture are kind of overarching elements. Leadership sets the stage, provides the direction and provides the time or the resources to carry out some of the processes. But it's also the culture of the organization — how employees are connected or engaged within the organization — that keeps things moving.
The centre boxes — "Networks and communities," "Experiential learning" and "Knowledge base" — are actually practices that organizations can put in place. Networks and communities are really about sharing knowledge across organizational boundaries, connecting maybe different people in different offices, for example. Experiential learning is really taking innovations and learning that people have identified in one area and spreading them throughout the organization. Knowledge base is about using technology and other tools to really capture and share your knowledge across the vastness of many organizations.
In terms of the impacts that we've had today, the interactive assessment tool was released in February of 2010. We've had 14 organizations undertake the self-assessment. We've had over 2,100 hits on the site. The B.C. Public Service Agency is using it as a basis for developing a training tool for managers and supervisors across government. We've also had a number of requests for presentations from ministries. As John mentioned, we'll continue to monitor the site and update content if it's appropriate.
Thank you very much. That ends my presentation.
B. Ralston (Chair): Thanks very much.
Wendy Taylor, who is the executive director of knowledge and information services, office of the chief information officer, is going to respond. Is that correct?
W. Taylor: Good morning. It's a pleasure to be here today to acknowledge the work done by the Office of the Auditor General in terms of this report. We had the pleasure of working with him on this project. I work within the office of the chief information officer, and the area that I am responsible for is called knowledge and information services.
In this area we are striving to see how we can maximize the use of knowledge and information across government in terms of evidence, informed decision-making, policy and sharing of information for continuous improvement models in the work that we do.
This resource has really helped us emphasize the need for strategic knowledge management and use of assets across government and stresses the point that we're continuously trying to promote — that government is rich in information and knowledge and the opportunities we have to share this information to better inform the policies in the work that we do.
One of the challenges in terms of getting knowledge used or the awareness of where knowledge is, I think, really feeds into the work that we're trying to do.
Use of such a tool and resource that this has provided provides ministry staff and individuals working in government and public sector partners to actually go in and use the tool and assess themselves in terms of: what is the current status? What are the opportunities? What are other things that other people are doing, and how can we maximize the use of knowledge in terms of the work that we're doing?
The point was also made that our workforce is changing, our demographic challenges in the years to come. Also, the work that government does today is no longer silo-based. We have to work on complex problems that really require solid access to knowledge and information to better inform the work that we do.
In terms of the report itself, it's really important in terms of not…. When we work within our office, as an example, we have developed a course that we deliver across government called "Evidence-Informed Decision-Making." We're working with policy analysts and researchers across government on how they can access knowledge and information to better inform their decisions, and how to use knowledge and information at various parts of the policy and program development stages. Such a tool feeds right into this strategic approach that's underway as well.
We have two other initiatives we've been currently working on that, again, build on, recognize and leverage this resource. One of them is the Bridge. Several years ago in government, through our office, we felt it was really important that there was knowledge existing across government, whether it be through research studies, program evaluations, lessons learned, policy modelling or different toolkits and resources. But the challenge was: how do we build a way for everyone to access this information and share it corporately?
[ Page 153 ]
A web-based tool has also been developed called the Bridge. It's about bridging information across government and access to knowledge and information resources. On there you will find evaluations, research studies, different resources that can better inform and help us share knowledge across the public service.
The other one is that when our office was originally established within the OCIO, there was limited access to academic journals and other sources of information resources available to government staff. Now, we're pleased to say, we have a cross-government initiative where all government employees in the public service have access to EBSCO to access academic journals and other studies.
That's just two corporate examples of how we're trying to build on this resource and also demonstrate the importance and need for knowledge.
I just want to end and provide the support that we believe it is a systemic approach in terms of how we use knowledge, that we have to continue to find ways to share information and knowledge across the public service but also how we can share corporately. We also build upon a strategy of communities of practice in terms of how we can work together, sharing our ideas and human resource knowledge across government. Thank you.
B. Ralston (Chair): Thank you. I'll put myself first to ask a couple of quick questions.
The two examples that you chose. The one in the public sector was the B.C. Forest Service, and the private sector one was BP. The BP one, in light of recent events, is an interesting choice. I'm wondering whether you have anything — and I mean this seriously — additional to offer in the way of reflections on the comments that you make about BP, because they're fairly laudatory in the report. Obviously, one might say there's a bit of a systems failure at BP.
The second question is on the B.C. Forest Service. You've mentioned tacit knowledge. What are the consequences when there are the kinds of staff reductions that are taking place in the B.C. Forest Service for the preservation or the ongoing existence of tacit knowledge? One assumes that part of knowledge is carried with individual employees and collectively as a group. As you lose those people, to what extent do you lose the tacit knowledge that might be used for future corporate and social value for the service and for the public?
J. Doyle: First of all, BP. It's a classic example of just because you've got a very good knowledge system, it doesn't mean to say you do the right thing the right way at the right time.
I think it's just unfortunate that the engineering challenges they've currently had and the risk management as they moved into deep-sea drilling operations weren't reflected as well as it could be in their risk management structures. They have been known as very good in this area of knowledge management, and that's why we included it as an example in the report and on the website.
The work that's being done in Forests was very innovative, and we felt there was a very good story there to explain how an organization had identified an issue about generational change and how they could share information from one group of employees to another over a period of time.
They are very proud of what they've done, and they should be. It is a very good structure that they put together. It's clear that as they go forward and the ministry starts to shrink even more than it has up to now, the collation of that knowledge so that it can be deployed by individuals within the ministry itself is critically important.
That is an early litmus test for the province in regard to how there should be this transfer of knowledge from one generation to another — not to repeat the mistakes of the past but to actually build on what has been learned in the past and not go through expensive or unnecessary diversions into reinventing knowledge that in fact is already available. Tapping into the great expanse of knowledge and understanding and capability — that is, our rapidly retiring workforce — is something that might involve not just a repository of knowledge within different systems but also going back to these individuals and keeping links with them.
There may be other issues that government would like to comment on, but those are my responses.
W. Taylor: There is one strategy that Forests has implemented, which I think we should highlight. They have developed a system by which, when they have identified problems or challenges that they're trying to address in terms of their work, they have found a way to communicate and build ideas and information-sharing and ways to address throughout the whole area within their workforce.
They've developed different communication tools and idea-sharing. I think it really demonstrates the ways that they've been able to build within their existing knowledge base in a shared experience to address problems, not just from one sector within the organization.
K. Corrigan: Thank you. I found this fascinating to read, and I really appreciated it. I think as individuals, you can certainly look at this, as well, and think about any organization that you've been involved with. There's a lot there.
It's interesting that I found it a little bit less accessible and usable than most paper documents that we get. That probably says more about me than it does about the report itself. Those of us who are older are happier with paper.
[ Page 154 ]
I wanted to ask a couple of questions. The first one I wanted to ask is about the challenge to government in balancing protection of information with this desire to keep lines of communication open. I think, for example, of the comment of a former high-level staff person in government saying that his policy was to delete all e-mails. I think there are cases in government where there are policy issues involved in trying to protect privacy. Information is not being retained, for political purposes, which otherwise might be retained and might be valuable.
I'm wondering if there is any comment, first of all, on the balance and the problem with the balance of trying to maintain integrity of information and knowledge as opposed to trying to protect the secrecy or trying to not have information out there.
W. Taylor: Well, I guess it depends in terms of how you see the knowledge being used. That would be the way I'd sort of approach that question. When we're looking at this resource and this type of information, our office is also responsible for the oversight of the FOIPPA legislation in that area.
But in terms of the actual use of knowledge, I think the change here is really looking at: what do we consider to be knowledge sources? When you look at knowledge sources from a policy or decision-making support approach at the operational level within the public service, we traditionally would look at one or two academic resources. An example: you contact other jurisdictions. You find out what is happening in their areas. You try to learn what's happened previously.
Where I see this resource building upon are ways to work with the public service and collect knowledge from lessons learned. When we've tried to address this problem in the past, what has happened? What works? What doesn't work? How do we use a number of information resources and knowledge bases and bring them together to interpret new knowledge to do a better way of doing something?
Yes, there are privacy rules in terms of personal information and appropriateness of sharing. But I do think that the use of knowledge to better inform decisions within the public service and to build on the human resources can be done in a very appropriate way, managing privacy rules.
K. Corrigan: My second question follows on that a little bit. I was really interested in hearing and reading about the Bridge. I was wondering, as a former researcher who was just slavering when I saw what there is available: is this available to the public or, say, to opposition MLAs? Who can access these resources?
W. Taylor: The Bridge has been in a pilot stage, just developing it. You know, it was based on a resource developed in the U.K. called the Policy Hub. I don't know if you've had an opportunity to go to that resource, but it's a fascinating resource. They've been developing this for many years. We were really building on their expertise and leadership in terms of how we could move forward in this way.
Within the U.K. they started it on an evidence-informed, knowledge-based mandate back in 1999-2000. Part of that was developing what they called the Policy Hub, bringing together the research and knowledge across government and resources.
When we started developing this, we looked to them for the leadership on how to do this. They strongly recommended that until we have it working — we've collected the resources and have everything working well in hand — to make sure we do it internally, because we don't want it to fail by making it publicly available and having things on there that we haven't handled properly or researched appropriately.
We're getting very close to having it well operational. The positive thing for us — I have to say to this day that I just appreciate their support on — is that they actually provided someone from the UK. They came over here at no cost to us and worked with us for a month helping us develop this resource, to help us finalize.
So we are hoping that all the resources and knowledge on there will be available. To date it has just been limited to the pilot stage to make sure that everything is available and that we have collected across government. We're close. The goal is to make it available for everyone as a way of sharing knowledge and information.
R. Lee: This is the first web-based report or initiation. How many ministries are actually committed or close to committed to going to this knowledge management model? In your office, in your experience, how far are you going into the management, the maturity matrix? Which stages are there?
W. Taylor: We're moving our way up. Like I said, this has been relatively new for us in the past two years. We started the evidence-informed course to really move forward and develop the policy, evidence-informed will that acknowledged the different types of knowledge and information. We've been implementing this course for a year now. We have actually provided the training to every single ministry across government.
There have been 368 policy analysts and researchers from across government who have attended. Now we're working on the next stage, which is working on how to build knowledge through outcome evaluations and continue the cycle for informed decision-making.
Right now we are going to be offering three more courses. There are three more full that we are going to be moving forward on, so our hope is that through the training, we get them to use the resources more and
[ Page 155 ]
build the capacity across government. We're hoping to have 600 trained by the end of this year.
R. Lee: One follow-up question. The community of practice is expanding, as you said.
W. Taylor: There are many communities of practice.
R. Lee: The organizations in this model. Some are private that are using this model, and some are government. Is there any mix, or are there any concerns on crossover or whatever?
W. Taylor: I think in certain areas of government — for example, in the science areas — there are very close partnerships and working relationships in terms of communities of practice trying to identify best practices and ways to address issues. The communities of practice that I was referring to are very much developed about bringing policy analysts together across government, researchers together across government and evaluators together across government. Bringing sectors together to share information and knowledge and try to work more collaboratively and share and problem-solve together is what we've been doing to date.
R. Lee: So it would be including government departments and ministries and academics and everybody out there?
W. Taylor: Correct. For example, the research community of practice has developed a partnership with academics within post-secondaries around the province.
G. Gentner: I guess I can start off talking about doorknobs. Vicki has heard this one before. When I was at city hall, somebody had a bright idea of changing the doorknobs because they looked better than the old ones. What they did was they changed them and realized it was a limited edition. Lo and behold, they went back to the store and couldn't find them anymore, the point being that had stores stuck to the universal type of doorknob over and over again, we would have been cost-effective.
Knowledge is in many ways the same way. Sometimes we want to reinvent the wheel when we have a lot of good experience here available. Obama, through his stimulus packages, has developed transformational practices, scalable, collaborative….
I'm wondering: what is the government's position — I haven't seen it in the Auditor General's report; maybe I missed it — relative to employee know-how, the culture built on experience and the use of secondment? How is cross-pollination…? Is it occurring, and are we able to move employees — not just senior members of the government — that can find out what cultures are working, what systems are working and how to improve? Some departments are very successful, and some are struggling. Are we using secondment as a means to improve our knowledge and our employee culture?
W. Taylor: I can't speak for all of government. I can tell you our experiences. Currently in my office, as an example, I have three people on secondment and TAs in our office. I think it's encouraged.
You know, my background is working within Citizens' Services and Public Safety and Solicitor General. My practice to date has been that many opportunities are provided for cross-learning and opportunities for staff development through this process.
G. Gentner: So it's encouraged, and you have numbers to show what percentage…?
W. Taylor: Yeah. Within my office at the present time I have three individuals on a temporary appointment or secondment basis.
G. Gentner: And they move from department to department or just within?
W. Taylor: Well, from other ministries. But I can't speak for all departments — right? I'm just giving my experience.
V. Huntington: I would like to go back to Kathy Corrigan's question with regard to access. You have commented that by the end of this year you'd like to have 600 policy analysts and researchers trained to use the system and that you have other community sectors out there working with government individuals to access and use the system and contribute to it.
I want to know when MLAs and their staff will be trained and have access to the system. If you're already anticipating a pool of 600 within government and you've already got sectors from outside government working with your staff and contributing to it, then I have no compunction in saying that any MLA, government or non-government, and their staff should have access to it too.
I'd like to know specifically when you anticipate opening it up and why this sector isn't part of the contributory discussion, because it's a sector that can greatly benefit from the information and not just for partisan purposes.
B. Ralston (Chair): Just before you answer, I think it's a good question, but I'm not sure that you…. You may not wish to answer that. I don't know whether that's something in your area or….
[ Page 156 ]
V. Huntington: Sorry, I don't mean it to be an antagonistic question. I just mean it….
B. Ralston (Chair): Oh no. I think it's quite a legitimate question. I'm just not sure that I want to put Wendy on the spot in that sense.
W. Taylor: Maybe not to directly respond but to provide some feedback, the role I've been describing has been to develop capacity — right? To use knowledge, information and resources within the public service has been our initial focus. We do other things in terms of cross-government research, trying to pull information together.
At no time was I saying that this was a resource or an approach that government is taking broadly. It's just been one way that we're trying to build on the use of knowledge within the public service and really trying to ensure that we have information and resources available to staff to better inform the work that we do. If I made it seem bigger or broader than that in any way, that's not what I was anticipating.
In terms of information resources being available, like I said, the anticipation in terms of the Bridge was just a place to bring the information resources and the knowledge together. Our hope is that it will be made broadly available as it develops. It's just in its early stage that we are currently trying to pool all the information together. I don't know if that answers, but that's what I can provide at this time.
B. Ralston (Chair): That may be something that's available to the Legislative Library at some point as well.
S. Simpson: My question is to Mr. Doyle, and it follows up somewhat on Vicki's question. The Auditor General has — and we saw reference to it in the last report about seismic upgrading as well — been looking at the question of public participation, public engagement with the provincial government and how that works. The question I have is…. Maybe I'll put both of them at once, and then the Auditor General can deal with them both.
First of all, I would like to ask the Auditor General whether, in his thinking around the development of these guidelines, he believes that members of the Legislature and their staff should in fact have access to this and be part of this — the sharing of knowledge. Following up on the question that Vicki asked, I would ask the Auditor General that.
The second is the question of other organizations. When you talk about public participation and the engagement of the public with government and how that works, the question I have there — and certainly on this one I'd be happy to hear from Ms. Taylor as well — is on public engagement. How do we begin to open up this process, and how important is it for public participation and public engagement to open up this process?
I'm thinking of to the broader public, but more specifically to those significant stakeholders in the community — and there are a range of them — around issues and having them be able to access this information as well — certainly that of it that wouldn't be restricted by privacy issues, and their ability to access this. How will that work?
I guess my question to Mr. Doyle is: as the work was being done to put this together and the thinking about how this evolved as the guide was put together, how important are those two components — allowing MLAs and their offices to be engaged and being able to access and better do their jobs by accessing this resource, and access by legitimate stakeholders outside of government who are engaged with government on an ongoing basis?
J. Doyle: Thank you for the question. It's my view that the better informed MLAs are, the better a resource they are and, arguably, the better they'll be able to serve the public in what they do. How that plays out in access to whatever it is that they have access to is not really a question I'm going to answer.
As a former academic, it seemed to me many times that if I wanted to research something, then I had to develop tools, skills, capabilities and a number of other things to actually access the information I needed in order to form a view. I followed a similar line of action in regard to my management responsibilities when I was a CFO in organizations.
What suited me, if you like, was limited to my capacity to take that information in and use it — to synthesize it and then make decisions. Everyone is different. Just making information available doesn't necessarily mean that it's synthesized correctly.
It seems to me that the Legislature has access to library services, and the question that you have asked should perhaps be addressed to them — as to how they could set you up to succeed both as an individual and as a broader pool of people. I don't have a view other than that I think, obviously, the best decisions are made based on evidence-based, but that's as far as I can go.
When it comes to public engagement, the document that we actually produced on public engagement or public participation was designed to say: "Whoever is seeking public engagement, just say what type of engagement you want." That would then be informed about the kind of information that was required from different stakeholders. All we did in that document was actually say: "If you want this level of engagement, this is what it looks like."
We never said at any point or time that you must do it this way, you must do it that way or you must do it an-
[ Page 157 ]
other way. It's a tool. It's just that the clarity around the tool was that if you want a referendum, then that's one level of engagement. If you just want to inform, that's at the other end of the spectrum. Those tools need to be picked up by different individuals in regard to how they wish to communicate or engage with stakeholders and others.
You will see as a feature in a lot of the reports done by my office that we believe that accountability is very important. Indeed, it's built into much of the legislation that you see being generated by the House over a number of years.
Frequently we say that accountability needs to be played out properly. Nowhere will you see in regard to engagement — other than observations about, "Do what you want to do" — comments like: "The engagement should be at this level" or "It should be at that level." That's still a management judgment call, and they need to pick up the tools that are suitable in order to be able deal with that.
If a particular agency says, "We want this level of engagement," my only observation would be that it should be that level of engagement if that's what they've said. Which level of engagement they choose is entirely up to them, but I will come along afterwards and have a look and say: "Well, how accountable are they? How is that communication link going between what they are doing and what is reasonable and appropriate to be made available to the broader group of citizens within the province?"
When it comes to accessing information, there are boundaries. Privacy boundaries are an obvious one, but there are also boundaries about what knowledge is generated within organizations that they may or may not wish to share at any given point of time.
I understand those boundaries, and so does the Legislature, because they've given me the right, under my legislation, to go and ask for those kinds of documents. But then they have firmly closed the door and said that I can't talk to anyone else about them. So they've built in the balance between yes, I need the access, but no, I can't just spread that information far and wide, which is right and appropriate. When I write my reports, it may include some of that information, but it's following a discussion process, before I would do that.
There are some secrecies in regard to the body of knowledge that does exist. Some of it is public. Some of it is learned papers that people should access easily. Some of it is documents that have been put up, which should be available to anyone who wants to go and have a look at them.
Other parts and other documents are less public. I don't think there is ever going to be a situation for people looking inside from the outside where they would necessarily easily access every document at this stage in the development of the FOI legislation.
I do have a foundational view, and that is that good decisions are made based on good information. It seems to me, from what I understand about not only the theory of management but also the practice of the public sector, that if a decision is made, there should be articulated somewhere in the record the reasons for that decision and the evidence collected to support it. That is an issue that I have reported on in the past, and I still think that is valid for good government.
I think what you're asking is: should that information then be made available to everyone, so when they're doing research…? I don't think I've ever gone that far, nor is it a topic I particularly want to make comment on because it's policy. I don't comment on policy.
W. Taylor: Just in terms of public involvement, in terms of accessing research, information and knowledge, we partner very closely with post-secondary institutions across the province. We work on several initiatives during the year.
For example, with the schools of public administration, both at UVic and at Simon Fraser, we provide some key government challenges and problem areas. Students come together and make presentations to us on their research, their findings, the knowledge they've brought together. We bring together government ministry staff working in these areas. These presentations have been well received and very informative in terms of helping us access new information and research in terms of moving forward.
The Auditor General also mentioned another point, which is that research is great. But how do we apply it to policy and decision-making? How do we get individuals to look at huge research studies and take the learnings and the information to better inform our decisions? We've been really focusing a lot on partnering with post-secondaries and researchers around the province to say: how can we work together to interpret it into applied summaries that can actually be used?
We've been working a lot — hiring young researchers and students working with our office — to develop what we call scoping reviews, which are snapshots of existing research, existing knowledge and information summarized on key issues. We provide them to groups working on key issues, and I'm happy to share those as well.
That's how we've been trying to interpret and make the learnings and the knowledge more applied.
B. Ralston (Chair): Thanks very much. I think everyone would agree that that was a fascinating presentation on a topic that probably people in our positions don't think enough about.
I'm going to suggest we recess now. We are scheduled to come back at 12:30. Given that the reports are substantive, I'm just going to stick with the 12:30 unless there's a widespread protest here. No? Okay, great. We'll reconvene at 12:30.
[ Page 158 ]
The committee recessed from 11:48 a.m. to 12:31 p.m.
[B. Ralston in the chair.]
B. Ralston (Chair): We're going to deal with report 7, Home and Community Care Services: Meeting Needs and Preparing for the Future. This is a report prepared by the Auditor General, and I'm going to ask the Auditor General to introduce those who are with him from his office. Heather Davidson, assistant deputy minister, health authorities division, Ministry of Health, will be responding on behalf of the ministry.
Auditor General Report:
Home and Community Care Services:
Meeting Needs and
Preparing for the Future
J. Doyle: To my left I have Morris Sydor, who is the assistant Auditor General responsible for this report, and to my right I have Laura Hatt, a senior manager who is going to make the brief presentation in a few minutes.
Home and community care services are a major consumer of health care dollars, and these services are provided to some of British Columbia's most vulnerable citizens — those who have acute, chronic or rehabilitative health care needs. Services range from support services for daily activities, such as dressing and meal preparation, to medical intervention, such as rehabilitation and nursing. Services are provided in clients' homes, throughout communities and in health care facilities.
At the time of our audit, the ministry allocated about $2 billion to the five regional health authorities to deliver these services to over 100,000 clients, and 70 percent of these clients are seniors. Because of the aging population, these services will become increasingly important as we move forward.
Having the right services at the right time and the right location supports improved health outcomes and can reduce the need for higher-intensity and more costly services — for example, within a hospital. To manage and support these services requires clear direction, good information for analysis and planning and adequate accountability in the service delivery.
This particular report focused on the Ministry of Health Services' role, because as steward of the health system, the ministry has an important role to play in preparing the system for the future to analyzing and forecasting future demands and making sure that they are met in a timely, efficient, economic and effective way.
The report itself was released in October 2008, and my office has followed up twice on the report. Earlier on this year, January of this year, the ministry had reported that all but one of the original eight recommendations had been fully or substantially implemented.
I'll now ask Laura to make a brief presentation in regard to the report. Thank you, Laura.
L. Hatt: Our audit purpose was to assess whether or not the Ministry of Health Services is effectively carrying out its stewardship role to help ensure that the home and community care system can meet the needs of B.C. residents now and in the future.
We concluded that the Ministry of Health Services was not adequately fulfilling its stewardship role in helping to ensure that the home and community care system has the capacity to meet the needs of the population.
Although the ministry had taken action, timely completion of these activities was required. Specifically, we reviewed whether the ministry had set a clear direction through vision, strategy, legislation and policy for home and community care services; had the necessary management information systems in place to support data collection and analysis; had a comprehensive planning framework in place to plan for services; and had provided adequate accountability information to the public.
We found that the current vision and strategy needed to be updated and a new strategic direction established. The vision was set in 2001 and did not encompass end-of-life services. In addition, the strategic direction was focused on building residential, assisted-living and supportive housing units and was not inclusive of the other critical services offered in clients' homes and in the community.
We found that there is legislation and policy in place to define services. However, updates to the policy manual were required to better reflect the services that were delivered.
In most cases the roles and responsibilities between the health authorities and the ministry were clear, and the ministry had developed ways to work collaboratively with the health authorities. It was through these means that the ministry was working to develop a new strategic direction and update policies for the home and community care program. However, these activities were not finalized at the time of our audit, so therefore, we recommended that the ministry set timelines for both the new strategic direction and updates to the policy manual and complete the work.
Secondly, we found that while the ministry had clearly defined its information needs and reporting requirements, the management information system used to collect and report information from the health authorities was not meeting the ministry's needs. In 2005 the five regional health authorities agreed to transition from the existing management information system and establish their own client information systems to meet the revised and expanded reporting requirements of the ministry.
[ Page 159 ]
However, only one of the five health authorities had done so, and as a result, the ministry did not have the information it needed to effectively plan and monitor the system. Furthermore, the ministry had not taken a strong leadership role by setting and communicating clear timelines to the health authorities for the replacement of the system. We did find that processes for ensuring data quality were in place but that the ministry could improve how it documented these processes as well as the roles and responsibilities.
The ministry, in conjunction with the health authorities, was also in the process of developing a more comprehensive information management and technology plan that was expected to identify and set priorities for the upgrade and/or replacement of systems. We agreed with this direction and recommended that they complete this process. In the meantime, we also recommended that the ministry improve the documentation of roles and responsibilities related to data quality processes.
In terms of a comprehensive planning framework, the ministry had taken steps to develop a planning framework that coordinated the planning efforts of the health authorities and across resource areas such as capital, human resources and information technology, but more needed to be done to integrate planning. The home and community care program branch had undertaken system planning, but efforts were not finished at the time of our work; nor were they integrated with the ministrywide planning processes.
We found that the ministry also needed to enhance the information it used in planning and evaluating services. For example, the ministry had a significant amount of data on service utilization — outputs of the system — but overall, the capacity indicators used to monitor the system are not comprehensive enough to identify critical system pressures or issues across all of the core services.
The ministry had developed two models for forecasting future demands. However, the analysis of future demand could be refined by incorporating current and reliable information on population, health trends and system costs. We also made recommendations for the ministry to finalize the planning framework and to diversify and expand the information that has been used in planning and analyzing services.
In terms of public performance information, we found that the ministry is providing limited information to the public about home and community care programs and the health authorities were not reporting both actual and achieved results to the public through annual reports. As the ministry improves the information it has on home and community care, and as health authority reporting expands, we would expect that the level and quality of performance information made available to the public would also improve.
We made recommendations that the ministry develop performance measures that provide a more comprehensive picture of how the home and community care system is performing and to report publicly the critical few measures that best demonstrate this performance. We also recommended that the ministry require health authorities to publish both service plans and annual reports.
That ends my presentation.
B. Ralston (Chair): Thank you. I'd prefer to take the questions after we hear from Heather Davidson.
H. Davidson: I'd like to introduce my colleague Leigh Ann Seller, who is sitting here to my left. Leigh Ann is the executive director of the home and community care branch within the ministry, and she's the one that leads the work that we'll be talking about now and works with the health authorities in this area. Leigh Ann will be able to answer some of the more detailed questions that I'm sure you'll have.
As has been spoken to by Laura, the report focused on the Ministry of Health Services stewardship role — in particular around ensuring that the home and community care system has the capacity to meet the needs of our citizens now and into the future. We appreciated the report from the Auditor General, and we've taken considerable work in the last couple of years to move forward on all of the recommendations contained in the report.
Many of the recommendations and much of the work in this area is very complex and integrated across a number of sectors and a number of different ministries. Because of the challenging nature of these initiatives and the importance of ensuring alignment across the different sectors, the recommendations may take several years to achieve. From my perspective, planning is an iterative, continuous improvement process. While we hope to finalize and report out on pieces of our work as we go along, I believe that it will always be a process of continued iteration, improvement and evolution of our plans.
The context for the delivery of home and community care services. As was mentioned, we have a continuum of care for British Columbians, from the services provided in the home to assisted living, residential care and specialized residential facilities. We know that we are now spending, in the last year, $2.4 million in this area and that 19 percent of seniors — one in five — uses our home and community care system.
We have, over the last few years, invested considerably in expanding capacity for residential care and also expanding the kinds of options that are available in terms of housing for seniors. There are 13,700 new and replacement beds in units for residential care, assisted living and supported housing.
[ Page 160 ]
The whole assisted-living area is something that's relatively new to the province and has been expanded considerably in terms of providing a new option for seniors. Despite the large increases in funding and capacity, we continue to face increased demands and costs driven by the aging of the population, increased prevalence of chronic disease, disability and frailty. This will continue to be an area of pressure and growing demand, as our population, as we know, is continuing to age.
We will be continuing to redesign our services to meet the growing needs of this population. As I said, it will continue to be an evolutionary, iterative process to plan and implement.
In terms of our strategic direction and vision, we've been working with the health authorities and other key stakeholders in a collaborative process to develop a shared strategic vision. We have developed in the ministry an integrated planning division, who we work closely with in the health authority division and with the health authorities to look at the planning for this sector and how it integrates with our primary care system, our acute care sector.
In terms of the integrated planning that the Auditor General recommended, that process has been in place now and certainly, in this planning cycle, is very much around having an integrated planning process that looks across the whole health system to support innovation and the integration of care and support services from the community — physician services to the acute care sector.
I would also mention that we now have a plan for the end-of-life care. That's integrated, again, across the whole sector of home and community care.
In terms of our policy, we've implemented some key sections of the home and community care policy in the residential and financial areas in terms of the residential care rates. The remaining policies are under revision and are near completion and will be going out for public consultation over the next short period of time.
Management systems. As was mentioned, we had a home and community care information management system that was developed in the 1970s which was recognized to be out of date, and so we are working towards replacement of that system.
What we have established is minimum recording requirements for each of the health authorities. We have asked the health authorities to develop their own replacement systems for the outdated system. Three of the health authorities are now submitting information — have completed that and are submitting our minimum reporting requirements. Two are in the planning phase.
The Interior Health Authority and Vancouver Coastal Health Authority are reporting to us, and Northern Health Authority is just beginning to report to us through our new minimum data sets. The Fraser Health Authority and the Vancouver Island Health Authority are in the planning process for reporting to us.
One of the things that we do — the interRAI that's referred to up there — is an internationally developed and utilized assessment tool, which we now have in common across the whole sector and across the whole province. Clients coming into the system and using home and community support services are assessed using a common, evidence-based, well-validated tool so that everybody is on a level playing field in terms of being assessed what their needs are.
We use that tool for everything from individual client care planning, rolling it up to our performance management at the provincial level to understand the planning and system needs for the future. We also use that to report to the Canadian Institute for Health Information, which uses it to do cross-provincial, cross-national comparators on performance across the health system.
We are working as part of…. I know that you had a previous discussion about our integrated IT plan last week and working on a plan across the ministry and the work for the data warehouse in the ministry as part of the IM/IT planning that's going on within the ministry.
I mentioned the Canadian Institute for Health Information. The health authorities are in the implementation stage to report to the CIHI, and we will be building a data warehouse to support the information as it's reported into the ministry as well. That's in the planning stage.
The home and community sector is really a key part of the ministry's new health system planning, recognizing the need to support people and people's desire to be supported in the community and in their own homes and moving away from the acute care sector.
The planning framework that we're using in the ministry is based on a balanced scorecard approach that includes…. It's a balance between health outcomes, the processes and the population health basis for looking at planning. It's not just based on budget and capital. It tries to integrate across all of the different components of the system to have a balanced approach.
In terms of the public accountability, we are finalizing the performance indicators for the home and community sector and incorporating them into the current planning cycle. Some of the components have been completed and are further along. Other ones are just being completed now.
We're working with the health authorities on having consistent public information on home and community care services. We issued a directive to the health authorities in February of 2009 outlining our accountability expectations to them around public access to information on home and community care services as
[ Page 161 ]
well as additional quality and safety-monitoring tools and protocols that they were required to implement for home and community care services.
Our performance management frameworks are intended to support a consistent approach to performance management across all of the regions. We're in the first year right now of data collection. Once we have the first year of data collection, we'll be able to use that for public reporting purposes.
Finally, getting to completion. We're working towards completion of all of the recommendations — full completion over the next three years. Our major activities for the near future are to finalize the strategic direction and the action plan for the redesigned continuum of home and community care and its integration with the rest of the public health system.
We will be working with other divisions in the ministry and with other ministries and stakeholders to complete that strategic plan. We're completing the infrastructure that we need to support proper monitoring and planning. Then we will continue to work to ensure that all of the health authorities comply with our ministry reporting and performance requirements.
B. Ralston (Chair): Thanks very much.
N. Letnick: Thank you for the presentations.
I think I have two or three. First of all, I'd like to compliment you on the way you've outlined your responses to the report and what you're doing. I think that was an excellent way of encapsulating all the different progress that you're making.
My first question has to do with the MRR that you're using. Is it less expensive to ask the health authorities to provide you with the minimum data to meet your needs as opposed to having one system across all the health authorities and dictating to them what they use?
L. Seller: Well, I think in terms of planning purposes, we don't require the level of detail that health authorities would for care management for clients. Our minimum reporting requirements outline the essential data elements we would need for stewardship and data planning.
In terms of privacy of information, what we have done is establish through a collaborative manner what are the minimum reporting requirements. They're sufficient for our purposes and will meet our needs for planning and stewardship.
H. Davidson: The other thing just to add is that the health authorities are learning from each other and sharing the information on the systems that they use as they go along, so there is information-sharing between the health authorities on the systems that they use.
N. Letnick: So the collaboration between the authorities is allowing them to provide you the information at the least possible cost to the taxpayers.
L. Seller: We're building on the CIHI, the Canadian definitions, so that we are consistent so that we can compare our outcomes and our performance against across Canada and internationally.
N. Letnick: How are other jurisdictions in the country doing on CIHI? Are we leaders in meeting the CIHI, or are we in the middle?
L. Seller: I know we are the leaders in the home health area. We have fully implemented interRAI, and we're using that material for planning purposes. Ontario is a bit further ahead in residential care, but we're certainly one of the leaders across Canada in terms of the application of interRAI.
N. Letnick: Okay. Great news.
Balanced scorecard. You mentioned it. It usually requires the service delivery people to participate. Could you describe what effort is being made in that regard?
H. Davidson: The service delivery people's involvement in the balanced scorecard development?
N. Letnick: Either in developing it or making sure that it actually happens.
H. Davidson: Sorry. I just want to be clear. Do you mean the front-line service providers?
N. Letnick: Yes.
H. Davidson: Okay. At the ministry there's been a huge amount of consultation with the health authorities, and we have a series of working groups and a committee structure that supports the development of the plan as was described in the report for the home and community care.
Across all of the various sectors of the health care system — in home and community care, in mental health, acute care, you name the sector — we have working groups that include experts from the front lines as well as the administrators and managers from the health authorities. They're absolutely involved in the development and thinking that we're doing around the strategic development of the plan.
N. Letnick: My last question is probably just a comment. I was noticing that you are doing more work on developing a projection model for health service need across health sectors in this area. Obviously, it's
[ Page 162 ]
something that is identified that we need, and you're progressing with that.
You plan for a full implementation of the metrics in 2010-'11. I look forward to next year's report to see that done — what it actually looks like. It will be a very interesting project.
H. Davidson: Again, I think it will be a continually evolving process. We will continue to refine it. We will have the initial report out and then refine it over time. Yes, it's a challenging process.
N. Letnick: You continue to be leaders in the country.
H. Davidson: Yes.
L. Popham: I'm just wondering: once the reports come out, will there be annual reports? I'm concerned about this. If a problem is found, how quickly will action be taken to correct the problem?
I'm also wondering if family members of the clients or public that are involved with the clients will be asked for input and opinion on how they think the performance of, specifically, facilities is going.
H. Davidson: Just to answer your last question first, one of the things that we have in place, and we have had for a number of years, is client experience surveys that include family members across the whole residential care system. I don't recall right now how often we do that, but every few years we survey across….
All of the health authorities use the same tool that includes information from the residents themselves, as well as the family members. We do get input from…. We use that at the residential facility level to improve performance, as well as across the whole system to look at the input from family members and residents in terms of their experience. That's one way for them to have input.
One of the things I forgot to mention in my presentation is that we now have required the health authorities to produce and make public an annual service plan and an annual report that will be made public on the Web.
But certainly, in terms of if there are problems identified…. We have ongoing monitoring with the health authorities on a regular basis — monthly and quarterly — to monitor how they're doing. As issues arise, we'll deal with them. We certainly don't wait for the annual report to identify where there are problems and issues and begin to correct them.
L. Popham: Can I ask one follow-up question? The input from families. I'm wondering: if a client were to leave a facility due to passing away or moving on to another facility, is that a point in which they would be asked for input?
H. Davidson: I don't think that we have a specific mechanism at that point when clients leave a facility or pass away. As far as I know, we don't have anything.
The other thing that we've implemented in the last year is patient quality review boards, where patients and their families have a way to put complaints in or concerns. Each region has their own complaint board.
As well, we have one…. If the patients or their families aren't satisfied with the health authority response, we have a provincial patient quality review board where patients can put complaints in and we investigate them and deal with them.
That's another mechanism we've put in place for input and responsiveness to patients and their families. That's not just for home and community care. It's for the whole health system.
G. Gentner: To the Auditor General: there has been some time that has lapsed since the original report. What are some of the updates recently?
I still don't see where there's been improvement relative to performance — the definition of it. I'm speaking more or less of the need for the definition of appropriate services. In your estimation, has the ministry put it forward? We've just heard recently about the comparison to Ontario. According to their criteria, seniors get a bath at least twice a week. Here, we only get once a week.
I guess where I'm going is…. There are different definitions of appropriate services. Has the ministry properly laid it out in the Auditor General's mind? Is it meeting it with the proper standard of performance measures?
J. Doyle: Thank you for the question. We haven't looked at that in detail. Until we do so, I'm not in a position to comment.
H. Davidson: Do you want to speak to the performance frameworks and the kinds of measures that we have included in the performance frameworks?
L. Seller: Yes, we have three performance frameworks that are being implemented currently, and they include the residential care, the assisted living. The home health is currently under development.
In terms of the question that you're asking around effectiveness and efficiency, we are looking at the number of direct-care hours per resident. Our current initiative around reinvestment of our rate increase to improve those direct-care hours is something we're implementing right now.
The areas that we monitor on a quarterly basis are input from the health authorities on those areas. So we're looking at efficiency, effectiveness, safety and client-centred. For residential care, efficiency is in the area of the direct-care hours and personal care, and that
[ Page 163 ]
is based on their care plans. So an individual may have a care plan that includes more than a bath once a week, or it may have other care that is unique to that individual. So it is based on their care plan.
We're also looking at the incidences of falls and client safety. We know that those two areas are critical areas for good-quality safety care and residential care. Medication errors are another area that we are very concerned about, and we monitor that on a quarterly basis.
The area of client satisfaction, which was mentioned earlier, we monitor on a quarterly basis. We also have family councils in residential care, which also provide input to us on a regular basis and to health authorities on any kinds of concerns or issues that occur within residential care facilities. Their goal is to resolve those as quickly as possible and to make recommendations specifically to a residential care facility on improving the quality of care.
G. Gentner: A supplemental. To the Auditor General: according to the report, the performance information available to the public is inadequate. So again, in your estimation, has that information been improved?
J. Doyle: As the member is aware, the follow-up process that we go through at the current time is a three-step process. The first step is to get a self-assessment conducted by the ministry, which they have now provided on two different occasions in regard to how well they've addressed the recommendations.
The next possible step is a detailed analysis of the evidence that supports those assertions to see whether or not the assurance that we've been provided or you've been provided is, in fact, based on solid evidence.
The third area is an additional in-depth review or further work that we might undertake to see whether or not the recommendation or whether, in fact, the situation…. We'll identify what the situation is.
To date we've only gone as far as the self-assertion model made by the ministry. We think that's appropriate at this point, while they're going through the exercise of implementing these recommendations, and that being that the reporting and the information is starting to flow. However, it is in our mind that we should go back at some point and have a look and see what evidence exists underneath the assertions that have been made and also the quality of the information and how it reflects reality on the ground.
That won't happen this year, but it will happen at some time in the future, according to our current plans.
S. Chandra Herbert: Just following up on a comment that Ms. Davidson made…. I believe it was that we were seeing expanding options for home and community care, which gave me the impression that we were seeing an increase in services. Maybe in some places we are, for sure.
The concern that I had, and it kind of comes off Guy Gentner's questions, is the areas where we've seen pullbacks in service. I understand balancing budgets is a big part of the reason. I just wondered whether or not there was any thought in…. Specifically, I've had a couple of cases come through my office of constituents who can no longer clean their apartments. They're seniors. They're okay for medication. They don't need help with their medication. But their apartments are getting too full of garbage or, you know, they just can't keep that up.
I understand that used to be provided under home care, but it's now no longer being provided unless it is kind of grandfathered in. There are a number of clients who would need that service. They currently don't have home care. They're being evicted and then forced into long-term care, which I believe would increase the cost to us in the long run — or could.
I'm just wondering if any thought has been given to looking into those kinds of situations of people who can't get the services that are currently being offered, yet in my estimation would still qualify when we look at what home care could be.
H. Davidson: Your assertions are correct. We are looking into that area, and I'm going to ask Leigh Ann to speak to some of the specific work we're doing in that area right now.
L. Seller: It's a very important area that we're looking at, and we're doing that in collaboration with the Ministry of Healthy Living and Sport. We are working on a number of strategies to look at options to provide that service at a community level. It means looking at building the capacity of the community to provide those services through volunteerism and through other strategic partnerships with organizations that do that work within communities.
We will be developing a plan over the next year to address that very particular issue, because we know that if those services are available in the community, then we can promote people to age in place. That is our key strategy moving forward.
K. Corrigan: I had a question about some of the recommendations and the responses and how much access the public will have to the work that is being done. For example, recommendation 1 is that "the Ministry of Health Services set a clear timeline for completing the process and update its vision and strategic direction for home and community care." I note that a draft strategic directions document has been developed, and I'm wondering if that strategic directions document, when finalized….
Perhaps it is finalized. By the timelines it looks like it should be. Is that document public?
[ Page 164 ]
H. Davidson: It's not public yet, but it will be.
K. Corrigan: It will be. Okay. And recommendation 2 — will those policies be made public, or are they public?
H. Davidson: They aren't. As we have them completed, the next stage will be for them to go out for consultation and public input.
K. Corrigan: Right. Okay. So it'll all be a public process.
H. Davidson: Yes, they will all be. Certainly, the policy manual will be updated and made public once it's actually finalized.
K. Corrigan: Right. Okay, thank you. We're talking about, in recommendation 6, that the ministry has developed a health system component service model. How much of that information has been or will be made public?
H. Davidson: I think that right now we are in the planning stages for what the elements of that are and how it will be utilized. Some of it is very detailed information that's used really for planning purposes, and some it will be elements that are performance reporting. Do you have any further comment on that? I think we're in the planning stages of that.
L. Seller: Some of those elements will be incorporated into policy, which would be public. When we are talking about expectations, it would be incorporated as a policy requirement that health authorities are accountable for. So you will see some of that work incorporated and attached as documentation to support policy implementation.
K. Corrigan: Well, for example, here's the kind of information that I think the public would be interested in seeing. The Auditor General recommended, as an example, that wait-list information could be a capacity indicator that could be used. The public would be very interested, I'm sure, in understanding exactly and knowing what wait-lists were like. I can imagine there would be some other measures as well. So is it expected that that kind of information will be made public?
H. Davidson: We make public at the system level right now — don't we? — the wait-list times for the….
L. Seller: Yes.
H. Davidson: I'm not sure if we're planning to go down to the facility level.
L. Seller: Our overall strategy…. Again, this is in collaboration with the Ministry of Healthy Living and Sport, with the seniors portal. We will be providing much more full information around the services — where they're located, what the type of care is. It is all part of giving seniors and their caregivers much information in determining what the appropriate services are and promoting self-managed care as much as possible.
Work is underway in moving towards as much information as possible to assist individuals in making the decisions they need to plan for their future, including caregivers.
K. Corrigan: Finally, on that same line of questions…. Under the seventh recommendation there is the development of performance measures. Is it anticipated, then, how the ministry is doing in terms of the performance measures — or the health authorities? Will that information be made public?
H. Davidson: There will be public reporting of the performance measures, yes, once the framework is complete and implemented.
K. Corrigan: One of the points made in the presentation is that there were 13,700 replacement or new beds. I am wondering if the information is available about how many new residential care beds have been created.
H. Davidson: The net new? So out of that 13,000, how many are net new? Is that your question?
K. Corrigan: Yes.
H. Davidson: It's 6,327.
K. Corrigan: That's residential care beds, not including assisted living?
H. Davidson: No, that's net new beds across the whole…. I don't have that information. I don't have it with me here.
Do you know what it is, Leigh Ann?
L. Seller: I don't have it right in front of me, but that includes assisted living.
B. Ralston (Chair): Perhaps if you forward it to the Clerk, then it can be forwarded to the member.
H. Davidson: Yeah, we can get you that data.
K. Corrigan: That's great. Thank you.
B. Ralston (Chair): I had a question myself. I appreciate that it's been 18 months since the report was tabled,
[ Page 165 ]
but some of the comments by the Auditor General 18 months ago were fairly strong: "…weak strategic direction, weak management information system, no comprehensive plans, and public performance did not provide adequate accountable information." Obviously, steps have been taken to remedy that.
I guess the question that arises…. In a broader sense, had the Auditor General not intervened and done this kind of audit, one wonders whether these concerns would have been addressed. This is, after all, a $2 billion program.
This may be a question that really only the deputy minister could answer, and I don't know whether you want to venture an answer on it. But what assurance can this committee and the public have that for a $2 billion program, the kind of oversight that is now in place would routinely be in place for programs of this financial magnitude?
H. Davidson: Well, I would have to say we do appreciate the work that the Auditor General has done in terms of helping us move into the direction of improved planning and performance management in this area.
I would say that the work that is underway in the ministry right now and that has been put in place in the last year or two with the new integrated planning department has really improved our capacity to look at the health care system as a whole and our planning of the system as a whole, as well as the business intelligence we need to be able to manage the system.
I feel much more confident now that we are looking at the health care system as a whole and planning for it as a whole and doing more integrated planning through the balanced scorecard approach, looking at health human resource needs, capital needs, service delivery models, population health needs in a much more integrated way. Steps have been taken within the ministry to do much more integrated planning and development as well as system monitoring.
B. Ralston (Chair): Perhaps just to the Auditor General, then. Obviously, you engaged in this report, improvements are evident, and you'll continue to monitor it. What's your estimation…?
There is a public concern frequently expressed about health care costs, yet some of the management systems that should be in place to manage these kinds of budgets don't seem to have been in place and, as I read it, only came in response to a report by you. That's great, but presumably, you're not able to continuously audit all aspects of the spending of the Health Ministry. I think there needs to be some independent mechanism and some assurance that it exists — that these kinds of management systems are in place and that the public funds are being taken care of.
J. Doyle: I have a group of staff within the office whose focus is on the health care system. They are currently, and have been for a while, not only conducting audits and reviews of Health but also doing what's called a sector scan and ID projects. In that process, we're gathering intelligence about the changes that are occurring within the ministry and within the various health authorities to see where they're shifting to from where they were before. The idea of all that work is to inform what future work we should do in Health, and we do it within a risk-based process.
It is pleasing to see a focus around these large programs, the integration of planning. All of those steps are very good moving forward, but Health is still a massive component within the provincial budget and growing. The demographics within the province are shifting dramatically, and all I can say is that as we go forward, there will be a continued focus within my office on the health system and how it's operating.
To date you've seen us working in the financial management, the IT systems, the service delivery of health and community care, infection control, theatres and so on. It's a huge beast, and we need to look at a number of those other areas, as well, as we go forward.
I'm not in a position at the moment to assess how all those changes are playing out. Some of them will take a long gestation time. What I am saying to the committee, however, is that we've got some resources within the office dedicated to looking at this whole sector. I can only expect, and I think you can only expect, a series of reports within Health over the next period of time looking at different aspects of it, all of which are focused on providing better health care and measuring the effectiveness of health care operations to citizens.
B. Ralston (Chair): Just to engage once more, I understand that and your commitment to ongoing audits in various areas of the ministry and its spending, but what I'm looking for is some assurance that, independent of your capacity to audit or not — that's obviously dependent on your budget and the number of people you have — there is some sense that the management capacity to monitor in the way that you've suggested in this particular area is actually going to be carried out, independent of whether there's an audit or not.
J. Doyle: In the discussions I personally have had with different senior people within Health, I'm convinced that there is a desire to improve not only performance but also the measurement of that performance, and to make that information more open and accountable. We're seeing, as the system learns better, changes in the way that information systems, for example, are operating. We're seeing, as the system changes over time, different forms and mechanisms for health care delivery to individuals that need access to it.
[ Page 166 ]
I'm seeing the changes, but at this stage I've not sat back and done a comprehensive strategic review about the direction of the health care system and how it's changed, say, from five years ago to today. I have not done that yet. It's in my thought processes that such a review would be of use, because it would track how well the significant investment that has been made in health care systems and the demands that are placed on the health care system have played out over the last few years. It's in my mind to do that, but I've not yet progressed to the point where we're actually anywhere near wanting to make any conclusions on any of our discussions or findings.
B. Ralston (Chair): Thanks very much.
V. Huntington: I'd just like to go back and ask a couple of questions on the response chart as of January 31. I wondered, firstly, if you can tell us whether these dates that you anticipated some of the authorities starting to report back have in fact occurred. For instance, Northern Health was implementing Procura, with plans to begin submissions of the minimum reporting requirements in April. Has that occurred?
H. Davidson: They were to begin June 7.
V. Huntington: The chart says April, so it's been stalled, then?
H. Davidson: Yes, it has been a bit.
V. Huntington: Has it started?
H. Davidson: Has it started now?
L. Seller: I can't confirm that right now, but the date that we are working with was June 7, so I'm assuming that portions have come in because that was completed fairly recently.
V. Huntington: There are a number of other dates. Vancouver health was going to…. Central health was going to start in June. Are they more or less on schedule, all of these health authorities?
H. Davidson: Vancouver Coastal Health Authority and Interior Health are already reporting.
V. Huntington: Okay. And Fraser Health. You mentioned it was assembling an IT team even to start implementing PARIS and that no submissions for MRR were occurring. When do you anticipate Fraser Health starting to report in?
H. Davidson: They are continuing to use the existing system that we want to phase out, but it hasn't been phased out. So it's not that they're not reporting anything. They're just reporting vis-à-vis the old system, which isn't the complete data set that we would like from them, but they are continuing to report.
V. Huntington: Under that old system, are you refreshing that data and putting it into the new system? Are you going to be able to capture that old data, or the system that's using an old data framework?
L. Seller: All that information is coming in, and we're using that. It's just that that system could fail at any point in time, so we make sure that health authorities have a contingency plan. That's why it's so critical that they move over to a new platform. It is old technology that may fail, but it is still working fine, so we continue to receive data.
V. Huntington: Can you explain how the data moves up through the health authority system? You have requirements of the health authorities to report in. Do they translate those same requirements down to each facility? How are they gathering the data?
L. Seller: It is information that is entered at the health authority level. They enter it directly into the information system that is sent, in encrypted manner, to the ministry, and it's used for its planning purposes. So it is entered directly by health authority staff into the information system.
V. Huntington: So you don't know what system they're using to gather the data from their different facilities?
L. Seller: Some of it still is paper-based, and somebody enters in. Some are electronic already, which enter directly in, and that is the PARIS system that is being implemented. So it varies depending on which health authority.
V. Huntington: And they're all submitting exactly the same level of data requirement to you?
L. Seller: It is based on the minimum reporting requirements, and our CCIMS system has that data as well as other information involved in it. So it is an information system that is supporting service delivery, of which some data is pulled out for planning purposes.
V. Huntington: Somewhere along the way you mentioned that you anticipate it all coming on line and being useful data. You said three years. At what point do you expect that three-year…? What are you expecting out of that three-year date?
[ Page 167 ]
H. Davidson: That all of the health authorities will have the new systems in place.…
V. Huntington: It'll take that long, you think.
H. Davidson: Yeah, and also reporting in through the national system. We want to use it provincially. As well, it goes into the national system for national benchmarking.
V. Huntington: Okay. And you can develop a strategic plan without this data in place and available to you?
H. Davidson: I guess that's the point we're trying to make. We are getting data now, and we have always been getting data. In some places the old system was…. We're trying to replace that, so there's the hardware and the software piece. What we are trying to get the health authorities is a complete set of data that we can use for planning and management purposes.
So we do have some information now, and we do use that information. We would like to enrich that data for planning purposes. Does that answer your question?
V. Huntington: Yeah, it helps.
B. Ralston (Chair): I don't see any further questions, so thank you very much for the presentation. We'll look forward to the ongoing updates.
If we could just recess for a couple of minutes, then we'll set up for the next report.
The committee recessed from 1:26 p.m. to 1:31 p.m.
[B. Ralston in the chair.]
B. Ralston (Chair): The report we're dealing with now is Homelessness: Clear Focus Needed, a report dated March 2009. The Auditor General will present and introduce his staff, and responding, I have Shayne Ramsay, the chief executive officer of B.C. Housing, and Molly Harrington, assistant deputy minister of policy and research in the ministry.
Auditor General Report:
Homelessness: Clear Focus Needed
J. Doyle: I have with me today Morris Sydor, the assistant Auditor General who led the team that conducted this work. He will talk to the report and make the presentation in a few minutes.
Homelessness has been and continues to be a social problem in many, many western societies. A number of jurisdictions have developed plans and strategies to address homelessness. In British Columbia homelessness has been a concern for many, many years, as evidenced by not only the media but also discussions within this House.
A count in Vancouver earlier this year showed that there are actually 12 percent more homeless people than in 2008, but whether this was an actual increase or improvement in the collection of the information is a moot point.
Here in Victoria a recent survey of residents showed that more than one-third felt that homelessness was the most important local issue facing the community. There have been efforts to address homelessness, and it involves many, many ministries, health authorities, municipalities, volunteers and not-for-profit groups.
Because the provincial government is responsible for many of the policies and programs related to homelessness, success in addressing homelessness requires strong and committed leadership at the provincial level. This audit assessed whether or not there was a strong foundation in place within which to set direction, coordinate resources and make informed decisions.
We found a number of issues that needed to be addressed. I'll now ask Morris to do a brief overview and presentation.
M. Sydor: Good afternoon, Chair and committee members.
Our report on homelessness was issued a little over a year ago in March of 2009. Just to continue on with some background information that John referred to, it is a growing societal concern not just in British Columbia but in most western industrial societies. We looked at a number of jurisdictions and found that many of them were developing plans to address homelessness.
Homelessness has a high cost to government through a number of areas — additional health costs, support costs, housing costs. It's a fairly significant cost for a relatively small part of our population, and it's a complex issue to resolve.
There are housing issues, health issues, social issues and issues around family relationships, how people relate in society, so there is no one particular program that can solve homelessness on its own. And of course, as you've seen in the newspapers and from other sources, many of those who are homeless have mental health issues and/or substance abuse issues. It's a complex area.
We focused on the provincial role for several reasons. The province is responsible for many of the policies, programs and funding that affect levels of homelessness, particularly in areas of housing, support programs and health services.
Our audit then assessed whether the provincial leadership was adequate to reduce homelessness. We looked at it through addressing four questions. Was there a clear direction established? Was there adequate information so that effective decisions could be made? In terms of the strategies that were being employed to
[ Page 168 ]
address homelessness, did we have the appropriate strategies in place? Lastly, we looked at accountability. Was there adequate reporting on the sorts of results that the province is achieving?
Our findings were that clear direction was not established. There was a need to provide better guidance, clearer information about expectations. We found that there wasn't sufficient information to make for effective decision-making.
As well, we noted that there were a lot of initiatives underway, and yet, at the same time, the information seemed to suggest that homelessness was in fact growing, irrespective of the initiatives that were in place. Then, looking at accountability, we felt that the information that was being reported could be improved so that there was a better understanding on the progress that was actually being made.
Looking at the first question — clear direction not established — we noted that there was no comprehensive plan in place. We had expected this. We were looking for a plan that had clear goals and objectives, and we didn't find that here. As well, because there was no comprehensive plan, the targets and measures that would be used to measure progress against homelessness were lacking.
As well, there are a number of agencies and ministries responsible. We found that nobody had been designated as the lead agency and that there was still some question about whether clear roles and responsibilities had been assigned. So this was an area that also needed improvement. We did note that there was some coordination taking place. We had expected a little more formal approach, but at that time it wasn't in place yet.
On the second question about the quality of information available to make decisions, we noted that there wasn't a clear picture of B.C.'s homeless population. There was a range of estimates as to what the extent of the population is, but nobody had a really good estimate. There is information from homeless counts that is being provided, but again, there are questions about whether that provides an adequate understanding as to what services are required.
We also noted that a homeless management information system was needed. At the time that we were doing our audit, the ministry was, in fact, searching for a system that it could use. As well, we had expected that there would be a review or an analysis of the gaps and services to identify what services should change or be added or adjusted, and we found that this wasn't in place.
In terms of the initiatives that were in place, in fact in the province many of the sort of best practices or programs that one would look for are in place. Again, even though they were there, homelessness didn't seem to be decreasing. So the question was whether there were additional strategies that we should utilize or whether the strategies that were in place needed to be enhanced.
As well, there are prevention strategies that can be employed to make sure that people who aren't homeless don't fall into homelessness. When we looked at this area, we found that these strategies could be strengthened, particularly around the area of discharge planning — those people who are in the justice system, in hospitals or leaving youth care systems. There could have been a better approach to ensure that they don't slip into homelessness upon leaving our government's care.
On the accountability reporting, there were some measures being reported in the annual report, but we felt that those weren't sufficient to identify the progress that was actually being made to address homelessness.
We had seven recommendations. The first one was that the government should develop a comprehensive plan identifying what its expectations are with regard to homelessness, what targets it was planning to achieve and the timelines. We also recommended that the lead agency be designated and assigned accountability for achieving those results so that somebody was clearly responsible for coordinating the different initiatives that were in place.
As well, the ministry at that time had drafted some guidance that it was planning on using to ensure that homeless counts were being conducted in a systematic way across the province. That wasn't being sent out yet.
We recommended that that guidance be provided and that municipalities and other organizations be encouraged to use that guidance for consistency; as well, that services be evaluated and any key gaps be identified so that those could be accommodated within planning for programs.
Then, once a comprehensive plan had been established and the targets set, go back and look at the strategies. Are those consistent in terms of their breadth and depth to achieve the target within the timeline set?
Then, as well, strengthen the approach to prevention. Make sure our discharge planning was minimizing the number of people who moved into homelessness out of our care.
Then lastly, improve reporting on results. Try to identify solid measures so that it was clear as to the degree of progress that was being made.
That concludes my presentation, so I'll turn it over to the representative from the ministry.
B. Ralston (Chair): Thank you. It looks like it's Molly Harrington. You're going to make the presentation.
M. Harrington: Good afternoon, Chair and Members. Thank you very much for the opportunity to present the ministry's response.
The ministry has worked hand in hand with the Auditor General over the last several years. Much of the ongoing work that preceded the audit, I think, was very
[ Page 169 ]
much affirmed in the Auditor General's report. We've had some reports out during this period of time, and basically, I'd just like to walk you through that.
In terms of the government's leadership on homelessness. Through Housing Matters, government is committed to addressing homelessness through strong leadership and a very strong focus on actions and results. As a result, British Columbia is widely recognized across Canada as a leader in addressing homelessness.
We're the only ministry with a fully consolidated suite of housing assistance under one roof. That happened prior to the Auditor General's report. Also, what we've seen over the last several years is, unprecedented in B.C. history, an investment by both the public sector and, recently — certainly with the recent announcements — the private sector in addressing street homelessness.
We're also the only jurisdiction moving to 24-7 shelters. As well, we have the homelessness intervention project, which is an unprecedented integration of provincial, local government and community efforts to address street homelessness.
In essence, our approach goes well beyond providing shelter to provide the integrated support services to address the root causes of homelessness, including mental health and addictions treatment, access to income assistance, life skills training and job counselling.
As a result, in terms of reporting out, more than 5,000 new and upgraded supportive housing units and beds have been provided through the provincial homelessness initiative and local government MOUs since 2004; 1,796 new units are completed; 10,048 under construction; over 1,500 single-room occupancy hotel units acquired; and 806 units with committed funding in place.
As a result, since 2006, 9,800 homeless people have been housed in 50 communities throughout the province through our homelessness outreach program and aboriginal homelessness outreach program, supported by B.C. Housing.
In addition, the province had worked, with the initiation of the Ministry of Housing and Social Development in August 2008, to provide a cross-government, integrated approach with all the related agencies of government and, as a result of that planning process, did launch, on March 3, 2009, the homelessness intervention project, which was focused on addressing chronic homelessness. As a result, 2,898 homeless individuals have been housed in the five homelessness intervention program communities, with the vast majority of them remaining housed.
On May 25, 2010, the province announced an additional 1,006 new supportive housing units in a unique partnership between the private sector and the public sector, a partnership between the city of Vancouver's Streetohome and B.C. Housing.
Since the homelessness intervention project has been launched with the goal of reducing chronic homelessness in Vancouver, Surrey, Victoria, Kelowna and Prince George, the project has exceeded the targets that were clearly set of housing 2,000 homeless in 18 months.
At this point in time, which is 15 months into the project, the program has housed nearly 2,900 people and, as a result, exceeded the target. Over 85 percent of those housed are on income assistance, and over 85 percent of those remained housed to date.
It is clear that the government has a provincial housing strategy, Housing Matters B.C., one of the foundation pieces of which is reducing and eliminating homelessness. It is also clear that the Ministry of Housing and Social Development was established as the lead for addressing homelessness and is the lead across government, clearly, for addressing homelessness.
As well, the ministry is coordinating an unprecedented and integrated approach to homelessness through HIP, which involves all relevant government ministries and agencies and local government and community organizations, with a clear goal to reduce chronic homelessness.
In terms of information for decision-makers, the government is committed to measuring results to reduce homelessness. We are working collectively with all relevant ministries to ensure that we have integrated information.
As members are aware, we are embarking on an integrated case management project, which will support an integrated approach to delivery of social services. Through this project we will work with all the relevant ministries — the Ministry of Children and Families — to replace the outdated information systems that we use to deliver key social programs, including child protection, child care subsidies, income assistance and employment programs.
In the interim, the HIP project has allowed us to work in an unprecedented way across ministries to move forward with collecting integrated information. To date we can integrate information about people being housed, their participation on income assistance and their duration being housed. We have plans to further integrate data as we implement information-sharing agreements with the relevant ministries, including the Ministry of Health.
The province has a wide range of base programs and strategies that are working. The provincial housing initiative and local government MOUs have created, as I said before, 5,000 new supportive housing units.
The outreach programs of B.C. Housing are showing results, and the emergency shelter program, where we've seen a major expansion in shelter facilities and a change in how shelters are delivered — to be 24-7 and to support unprecedented access by allowing people increasingly to bring in pets and possessions — are working to ensure more people are off the streets.
[ Page 170 ]
As well, protocols have been put in place to ensure that clients are not discharged to the street. Those protocols are in place for discharge from health facilities and correctional facilities. We also have a youth transition protocol, which will smooth the transition as people move from 19 into adulthood.
The province has also led the way in integrated service delivery which, as the Auditor identified and we certainly have agreed with, since 2006 is required to address this population.
As I mentioned, we have the HIP project. We also have a supportive housing registry in operation in Vancouver, which offers a single point of access for applicants seeking low-barriered supportive housing in the province's 26 single-room-occupancy hotels.
The Streetohome partnership in Vancouver has led to a commitment to the funding, between the private and public sector, of the thousand new supportive housing units.
Vancouver's downtown community court provides an opportunity for offenders to be given assistance in a triaged way for health care, housing and income assistance.
The Burnaby Centre for Mental Health and Addictions, which opened in February 2008, supports a 100-bed facility to provide treatment for those most severely chronically homeless individuals who have severe mental health and addictions issues.
One thing that we've been very focused on in the homelessness intervention project is improving client flow through the system as people move from being taken off the streets or outreach programs into shelters, triaged — in this case, the most severely impacted mental health and addiction clients into the Burnaby centre and then further out into a newly developed site that is going to be in Mission — ensuring that flow happens through that system and people aren't stuck at any one point in the system.
In conclusion, we believe that enormous progress has been made in the last five years. The province has made the single-largest investment in reducing homelessness in B.C. history, is a leader across Canada. We're making unprecedented breakthroughs in really addressing the service delivery challenges that are part of addressing the homeless population through the HIP project and learning, as we are doing, on that project and are committed to evaluating results from the project.
The provincial approach is working. As the Auditor identified, although there has been an increase in overall homelessness when you look at the aggregate shelter population, what we have seen in Vancouver for the last two years is a remarkable achievement of reducing street homelessness by 47 percent. We will continue to support those clients moving through the system from shelters into permanent housing with the recent commitment of 1,575 new supportive housing units coming on stream in Vancouver — including the first units, which are meant to be built in November 2010.
S. Chandra Herbert: Thank you for both the Auditor General report and the response from government.
I guess my chief concern here is that the Auditor had, I think, pretty clear recommendations. I understand that a response from the Ministry of Housing and Social Development has been sent to the Auditor, which will be, I guess, looked at in a future follow-up report.
Based on the report that I've got here, though, from the provincial government…. It doesn't clearly in any way respond to the very specific recommendations in the Auditor General's report. I think the title of the Auditor General's report, Homelessness: Clear Focus Needed, says it all.
Maybe I missed it in the presentation, but I guess in order for us to know if we're going to end homelessness, as I believe the ministry has set as its goal, we need to know: (1) what are the many reasons why it happens, and (2) how many homeless folks are out there?
We can list numbers after numbers of the number of people being put into homes, but that doesn't solve the issue or the fact that there are more and more people still ending up on the streets. I don't know that I agree that great progress has been made when we still see in Vancouver that homelessness has increased by 12 percent. Yes, it's been put into shelters, but as we know, a shelter is not a home.
If the ministry and the Auditor General might be able to respond, I'm very curious why there is no clear target of a date that we're going to end homelessness and how we're going to do that specifically. I know there are a lot of programs, but it still doesn't look to me like we've got any clear response to this homelessness crisis, which is getting worse.
Maybe the Auditor might be able to respond, just based on that we don't have a clear response from government yet to the very specific recommendations. Maybe government might be able to respond on that. What is the target? What are the years? What are the actual numbers so that we can end this problem rather than just speaking more so in platitudes?
J. Doyle: We have got a response from the ministry in response to our follow-up. We were planning to publish the normal follow-up documentation for our April follow-up report. We did receive some documentation, but we wanted to do some additional work in regard to that documentation.
We received it. We've had a look at it, and we're going to publish in October. In publishing in October, we will be providing the committee with the ministry's assertions as to how far they've gone in regard to each and every one of those recommendations. I'm sure that they
[ Page 171 ]
can provide that detailed information now if they wish to do so.
M. Harrington: The ministry, as the Auditor has indicated, did provide a response. The Auditor has chosen to table it in October. As a follow-up to that, we did have quite a successful round of technical interviews with the Auditor and walked them through the detail of the HIP project, the recent investments by B.C. Housing and the integration of services in our approach across government, which I think really is the foundation of our comprehensive plan to address homelessness. I think that was quite a successful session, and we'd be happy to talk to the detail of that.
Clearly, government has a lead agency. I don't think the member would disagree with that. I think that was in place before, and it has certainly been crystallized since.
As well, in terms of gathering sufficient and appropriate information on homelessness, we're profoundly committed to that and agree with the requirement for that. The information-gathering systems have been enhanced on a step-by-step basis, both on B.C. Housing and on an integrated basis across government. So we're now able to consolidate the information from B.C. Housing and from our income assistance system to ensure that we have clear information on duration housed and on people getting onto income assistance in a smooth fashion.
We're working with the other related ministries, principally the Ministry of Public Safety and Solicitor General and the Ministry of Health, to ensure that we have integrated service there. We're just working through the complexities of getting those information-sharing agreements in place so we can ensure that we have backtracked information to draw on the health system and to draw on correctional facilities systems as well. So I think we're making good progress there.
As well, the HIP project has built on the success of the direct service delivery that we do to identify clearly the benefits of an integrated service approach and the need for wraparound services for people when they are housed, which I think is recognized internationally as the key to not only getting people off the street but moving them through the shelter system and into permanent housing and making sure that they have the support services to, basically, heal from the process of being on the street, what drove them there in the first place.
Also, we're fundamentally committed to the discharge principles to ensure that we're not wantonly and unknowingly discharging people onto the streets. The discharge protocols are in place for health care facilities and in the correctional system. We've recently implemented a youth transition protocol across government to all the relevant agencies.
We're smoothing the transition through one cohort at a time. The most active protocol that we have in place that is the most mature right now is for children with special needs in CLBC services to ensure that they move onto persons-with-disabilities assistance and into appropriate residential and outreach service care. We'll move through the different cohorts to ensure that we cover the full range of youth that are 19 transitioning out.
In terms of a target for homelessness, the government has made a commitment to end street homelessness. The strategy is, as it is in all jurisdictions, to address chronic homelessness first, so that, basically, we address the people that have been there the longest, in the most intransigent state, that need the highest level of services first. We feel that we are making progress in aggregate in reducing street homelessness and moving people into shelters and then opening up the further span of supportive housing units that we need to move people from shelters into both supportive housing and then more permanent housing.
S. Chandra Herbert: Thank you for the response. I do really appreciate the work that's been going on in the ministry with what's been happening and the attempt to deal with people with dual diagnosis and those kinds of issues and wraparound services.
I guess to go back to kind of the question that I had around.... In order to get to a target, we need to know how many folks are out there and the reasoning behind it. I understand that some of that is being dealt with for folks living with chronic homelessness. But I guess the two questions I have coming out of this are: what is the ministry's current estimate for the number of homeless folks in the province? And really, given that the ministry feels it is doing a good job, why is homelessness increasing in the province?
I personally went out and did a homeless count, and I found in talking with people that many of the people were actually employed. They didn't have high-paying jobs, but they were employed yet still living on the street because they couldn't find any place to live. I don't know that that's a common occurrence, but certainly, I've been told it's increasing.
I guess just to restate the questions: how many folks are homeless in B.C. right now, according to the ministry, and what is leading to a continual increase in homelessness in this province?
M. Harrington: I don't think we have a firm number on the number of people that are homeless in the province, to be frank. We have data from the most recent homelessness counts that have been done in all the municipalities. We have SAMI data as well, so we have some data available.
Basically, there is a commitment to working on a partnership basis at the local level. The most mature state
[ Page 172 ]
we're in is with the five HIP communities to ensure that we have as accurate data as possible.
In terms of understanding the root causes and addressing homelessness, I think I was attempting to answer that question earlier. We realize that there are a number of reasons why people are on the street, and we've done extensive research from all other jurisdictions. Obviously, homelessness was a more pervasive problem in other jurisdictions prior to its being a more pervasive problem in British Columbia, so we've been able to enjoy the research that has been done in other jurisdictions.
There is a range of reasons why people will basically end up with addiction issues, with health issues or with employment issues and be on the street. That's why we believe in an integrated approach, in wraparound services, and in going out and using outreach services to actively contact people rather than depending on a passive system where people come to you.
We've done that aggressively in all communities around the province — bringing people, probably primarily, into the shelter system initially, then actively working as quickly as possible to move them into supportive housing and to provide the wraparound services they need. Shayne may well want to comment on that, but I think that's basically the equation of service interventions that we feel are required. It's going to be an active engagement with local governments and community agencies at every step of the way.
S. Chandra Herbert: Just the estimate of the number of homeless folks in the province — what are the best estimates that the ministry is working with? I understand you can't be precise in something like this.
S. Ramsay: What we generally rely on are the local counts that are done in communities across B.C. If you look at the aggregate of those counts in the various communities, it would suggest that there are somewhere in the neighbourhood of about 6,000 people who are homeless.
If you take the recent city of Vancouver count, it suggests that about 1,760 people are homeless. That's just within the geographic boundaries of the city of Vancouver. I think that previous to that, the counts had been done on a regional basis. This is at least a regional, if not a provincial, if not a national issue.
The counts are always difficult to interpret and especially a recent one like in the city of Vancouver. It shows some great progress, but how reliable is that? When you're looking just across Boundary Road, it's still an urban area. What happened to the migration over and across Boundary Road?
J. McIntyre: I guess I had a completely different impression than you, Spencer, because what I heard about what's happening in the last couple of years is far from platitudes. I believe you used that word. I have to call you on that. I'm sorry.
B. Ralston (Chair): Let's just try and keep it through the Chair, then, please.
J. McIntyre: Yes, sorry. Through the Chair. Thank you.
Actually, it spoke to the question I was going to say. I looked for, in the Auditor General's report…. I know you released the report in March '09, but I couldn't tell from your methodology what the period was that you actually did your study, so I'm presuming it was probably '08, which would be two years ago. It seemed to me that I saw a big discrepancy between what the Auditor General's report said and what the government response was.
It seems to me, with any situation like this, that there's always a lag. As we were trying to address the problem, especially, a problem as severe as this and as tragic as this, there was a lag between the steps. For instance, when Minister Coleman announced that we'd bought up the SROs in downtown Vancouver, the mayor and the city of Vancouver seemed to be very pleased with the work that had been going on. It would appear that there's this lag. I guess I was hoping to hear some sense….
I appreciated your full response, actually, to Mr. Herbert's question — especially with things like the homelessness intervention program, when it is one-on-one, when you're reaching out and trying to bring people into the system…. Because they don't go to the office and sign up for help — right? I mean, they're living in destitute circumstances.
Again, it seems that those kinds of things take time, and it would seem that finally, finally…. There has been lots of media — Miro Cernetig. I mean, there have been front-page stories in the media over the last while that we have been very, very successful at tackling a very difficult and tragic problem, that we have made significant success. And the numbers you cite, in the thousands — the 6,000 or 7,000 people that we've touched…. Even through HIP, it looks like almost 3,000 people. Then there was a big announcement last week about 1,000 units. It says to me that we've made huge progress, maybe in the time since the Auditor General's report came out.
I guess I was looking for some assurance, perhaps from the Auditor General, that this is the kind of direction you were looking at. Clearly, as the ministry said, there's a clear lead on it. There's huge success, and with wraparound services. The 100 beds at the Burnaby project have been regarded as very successful. It seems by all accounts that we're making dramatic progress in the last while, that there's really some critical mass now as we move forward — you know, street to home — in en-
[ Page 173 ]
gaging the private sector with serious commitments, millions of dollars. We're really making progress.
J. Doyle: On page 8 of the report, the top of the page, it details.... I'll just read from the report. "We gathered evidence from April to August 2008, and our analysis was completed by November 2008."
So the member was quite correct in assuming that the work was actually conducted in 2008. What happened from November 2008 to March 2009 was an iterative process between my office and a number of the ministries in regard to the actual production of the report itself, to make sure that we hadn't got any inaccuracies or errors in the documentation.
The major plank of new initiatives that was mentioned by the minister…. Just bear with me while I turn to the page, because I've forgotten the name of it. The homelessness intervention project. That actually was announced in March 2009. I can't remember the exact date, but it was just before we released our report. That is not to say that it's based on anything on our report. It just happened to be that that was the timing, and I'm just pointing that out to members.
It is not unusual when we conduct audit work that it takes us a while to go through the evidence, to collect the information. We then have a digestion period with the ministries concerned, and action and so on is actually taken. It has been a feature of many of our reports in the recent past that either work that's currently in progress or new work that's galvanized by our work is actually brought forward and announced quite close to when we actually release our own report.
As far as assessment of the work that's been undertaken, as you'd appreciate, we have not conducted any assessment of that, and therefore, I'm not yet in a position to comment. There's no doubt, however, that there's been plenty of activity. The assertions that have been made by the ministry — and I don't mean to be disrespectful when I use those terms — what they're saying…. When we go back and ask for the evidence, I'm pretty sure that that will demonstrate just how effective the intervention has actually been over the recent past.
Now, we publish the information that we were given by the ministry for the follow-up report because it's a self-generated assertion. This may be one of those areas we'll go back at some time in the future and conduct additional work on. As always, I ask members of the committee that if there are areas where they'd like us to go back and do additional work, please keep me advised.
K. Corrigan: I commend the Auditor General for this report. I think it's very useful to all of us in British Columbia to get an understanding of what some of the challenges are and perhaps a way forward. I'm pleased to hear that in the fall there's going to be a written response, because I shared some of the concerns that Spencer mentioned about the lack of alignment with this presentation to the recommendations that were made by the Auditor General.
So I do appreciate that there's going to be a written report, and I very much hope that that report does specifically deal with each and every one of the recommendations and what the government response is.
I think there are two perceptions in this province. One is a perception founded from what information we have — what we see on the streets, what we hear from social service agencies, what the homeless count says. A different perception seems to be the announcements, and some real progress, made in terms of providing various types of social housing or homeless shelters.
There seems to be a real disconnect there. I think the only way to connect the two is for the ministry to do exactly what the Auditor General has recommended in each and every case. I'm hoping that that will happen — particularly, a comprehensive plan and targets so that the public can understand how it is that we're doing with homelessness.
I fully agree with the Auditor General that government, given the province's lack of clear direction on how to address homelessness, may continue to have difficulty effectively directing its resources to reduce and prevent the problem. We need to have a plan, we need to have targets, and we need to know exactly how we're doing compared to those targets.
In my community, I know that Burnaby has, per capita, if not the most, close to the most number of social housing units.
I have a very specific question about social housing, recognizing also that the Auditor General has made it clear that short-term shelters are not housing. They are shelters. I fully agree with that statement, and I appreciate those sentiments.
I would like to ask about social housing. It is my understanding, from the people that come through the door and are dealing with B.C. Housing, that the social housing lists of B.C. Housing are growing.
The waiting lists, the times to get in are growing, perhaps not for some groups of people. I'm wondering if I could get a response on how we're doing in social housing in terms of waiting times in the Lower Mainland; whether or not there is increased social housing stock; whether it's keeping up with the increased demand; and whether or not, as part of the targets or reporting, government is considering using, as one of the measures, how we're doing with the social housing in terms of waiting times and so on.
S. Ramsay: Perhaps I could respond to the first question, and then I'll respond to the wait-list question. I'd like to respond to the comment about what the home-
[ Page 174 ]
less count says and the link to announcements and use Vancouver as a particular example.
For the past five years we've had a multi-pronged, multi-year strategy to deal with homelessness, and it has a number of components. One was the expansion of outreach. We went from no outreach programs in 2006 to outreach programs that exist in 50 communities.
An outreach makes the connection with a homeless person where they are and begins to treat the person as an individual. Teams go out under bridges, by the river, in parks and connect with the people and make the connection to services.
I think the real change has been from treating this as a numbers issue to looking at this as an individual by individual. Through that outreach program, 9,800 people have been connected to housing, and more than 90 percent of them remain housed today. The second part of that strategy then has been the improvement to the shelter system. Over the past four years the number of shelter beds has increased to 1,500.
It's the change to 24-7 services and shelters rather than being simply mats on floors, where people line up at night, go in, get a meal, flop on a mat and then are out the next day. Instead, workers are available throughout the day period, where folks can connect to the services that they require — income assistance and health services, for example. B.C. is the only jurisdiction that converted its shelters to 24-7, and now 90 percent of those 1,500 beds provide those services on a 24-7 basis.
The third part of the strategy was the purchase of existing stock, like SROs. SROs are terrible kinds of housing. They're 10 by 10 rooms with washrooms down the hall, but they're often the last refuge before the street. Purchase of those — stabilizing that housing, doing the life and health safety upgrades, with the addition of non-profit management and the importation of support services — begins to stabilize that stock.
Then the long-term piece is the long-term supportive housing. Using Vancouver as an example, if you look at the homeless count, the number of street homeless have been almost halved over the past two years, so clearly the shelter strategy and the SRO strategy have proven effective in a city like Vancouver.
The longer-term piece, though, has always been the development of long-term housing. Those take time. In 2007 we signed an agreement with the city of Vancouver where the city of Vancouver committed $64 million in land, and the province committed to fund 14 city sites. That's a total of 1,575 units that will come on stream. Those units haven't been built. The first of those will come on stream in November 2010, and the balance of those 13 sites will be built out two, three, four hundred units each year over the next three years.
If we look at a total homeless population in Vancouver now of 1,762, with almost 1,600 new units coming on stream, you can quickly see that we're beginning to break the back of that issue, and I think it's a real opportunity, in partnership with the city, to begin to tackle that number and, in fact, end street homelessness. I think there has been a real connect between the kinds of announcements that we're making, particularly around long-term housing with all of the short-term strategies that have been put in place. Now those two will finally meet, and I think we'll begin to see some significant improvements.
I just wanted to kind of paint the picture of the multi-pronged strategy that, in fact, has been in place and I think has been quite effective. When you wrap around the homeless intervention piece on top of that, then that begins to break down the silos between agencies and provide the right kinds of services that folks need.
With respect to the wait-list question, the B.C. Housing wait-list in March 2006 was about 15,000. Today, in January 2010, that list was 10,500. About 1,000 of those were existing tenants that were awaiting transfers. It provides us with an effective wait-list of about 9,600 people. That wait-list has decreased by about 6,000 households over the period '06-2010. I think a lot of that has to do with things like doubling the SAFER program in 2005 and the introduction of the rent assistance program for families in 2006, and 8,000 families now benefit to the tune of about $350 a month for housing where they are, in fact, living now.
G. Gentner: A Churchillian moment. Churchill said: "Don't let facts get in the way of truth." If I dare to talk about Mark Twain, he said: "There are lies, damn lies and statistics." We can spend the rest of the day and talk about these statistics, which brings me to a question to the AG.
For some time I did some work on…. It's interesting. We're following the discussion on the seniors issue and the like. Now we're into homelessness, housing the homeless. I was wondering if there is ever an overlap. Do we do an inventory? I was talking about SAFER. My understanding, when I looked at statistics regarding the seniors housing issue, is that they were including in their statistics…. A senior, for example, who can be mentally ill — is that a statistic that's counted by a homeless who's now been found a home by a different ministry? Is there a real, legitimate inventory taken down?
I used to talk about Ladner Private Hospital. There's a section in that that now houses ten beds for the organic brain disorder, and yet on paper it's an assisted-living place. Is there a criterion that breaks down which statistic belongs to which department? If we're going to talk about statistics all day, do we understand what the differences are? Are we making a note of it before we have this debate?
J. Doyle: The question is really around what the quality of the information is that's being used for decision
[ Page 175 ]
support. That's a good point. I'm not aware of any data cleansing which prevents double-counting, but equally, I'm not aware of any obvious double-counting in the system.
I think there is an integration of management information within government, where they're trying to get the different ministries so that the data that's collected is, in fact, an accurate representation, and there wouldn't be this duplication going across the different silos. My office has not conducted any work at this stage into how well advanced that is and how effective it is.
Put simply: I can't answer your question. Perhaps the ministry can.
M. Harrington: We are making progress in that field — and having a specific identifier number on a person, for a single person, to ensure that there is no duplication of counting. That's one of the reasons that having the integrated case management will be, ultimately, a very powerful solution.
In the interim, as we're measuring the impact of the homelessness intervention project, we're ensuring that we're doing data cleansing to make sure that we aren't counting the same person repeatedly that is being housed. That's why we're having the integration of social assistance data and other ministry data to ensure, again, that it's the same, single, identified person.
I know B.C. Housing can speak to the quality assurance it uses in its data collection, as well.
S. Ramsay: Well, just briefly. On our applicant intake system, part of the assessment is that folks can live independently. So we would match them with housing, where we'd provide support services so they could continue that independence. If they're not able to do that, then they wouldn't be eligible for a housing unit and then would be referred to a case manager in the health system.
B. Ralston (Chair): Shane Simpson, and then I have Rob Howard next, and then that's it. So go ahead.
S. Simpson: The point is well taken, I think, in the report — that this is a very complex and difficult issue. There's a whole range of things that revolve around it.
The key thing that I found in the report…. There's no doubt that the government has invested resources here. Mr. Ramsay has talked about units built. We've just seen the recent announcement about how the…. I don't know. Was it a couple of years ago? The 14 sites were announced, and now, I assume, the Little Mountain money will be used to build out the last eight sites that hadn't been funded previously, and they will get built.
The other reality here…. For all of the building that's being done — and that's a good thing — the point that the Auditor General makes is one that sticks with me, which is this question of a comprehensive plan. It seems to me that in order to put that kind of plan in place in a way that responds to the public — among other things, because this is a big issue for the public — we really do need to kind of know how many people we're talking about.
Mr. Ramsay, I think, mentioned 6,000 people around the province as the latest number that B.C. Housing might have. We know that people in the community — I don't know where their evidence comes from — will give you numbers in the 12,000 to 15,000 range. I don't know where these numbers come from, other than the counts. But there is quite a discrepancy in numbers.
We don't have a very good sense of those people who are on the street versus the projections about how many thousands of people are couch-surfing, who don't have a home but are finding some way to stay off the street yet in a totally unsatisfactory way because of how they're doing that. I know that B.C. Housing looks at those issues.
We don't see the numbers. So the question, I guess, I have is…. I think the most compelling recommendation that I saw in the report from the Auditor General was to have a plan. It would seem to me…. I guess that I first would ask the Auditor General whether my notion of what the pieces of a plan need to look like resonate with him and then ask the ministry officials where we're going with this.
But a plan needs to kind of know what the target is we're dealing with. How many people are we talking about? And then: what is the target and timeline in order to reduce or eliminate that number, to bring it down over a period of time? Much like poverty reduction strategies that have been adopted in other provinces, you could have a homeless reduction strategy that would look the same, with targets and timelines and a transparency to it so that the public….
As I think has been noted here by many people on both sides, this is an issue that resonates with the public, and they want to know that government is dealing with this. I'm sure most people are very happy to hear about the housing announcements, but there are still people sleeping on their street, and they want to know when that person gets off their street. They want to be able to see that progress.
So my question is: are those pieces critical in order to put the kind of plan that the Auditor General envisioned in place — you know, core data to start with, a baseline to start with, targets, timelines and some kind of transparency on reporting?
If so, my question, then, to the ministry folks is: how close are we to actually having that information so that people can measure and see how things are going over the next number of years as we get at this issue, particularly when we have situations like Vancouver where
[ Page 176 ]
the arguments are being made that actually, the numbers are increasing and being covered by shelters — not by homes but by shelters at the moment — yet the raw numbers are going up? There are a lot of mixed messages flying out there for people about what the state of homelessness is.
J. Doyle: On page 26 of our report are some examples of how different jurisdictions have expressed their targets. There's also one on page 25, but it's the ones on page 26 I'd like to draw your attention to.
I must confess I would be wary of saying, "We're going to do this by this date," because there are lots of variables out there, and setting a target where you may fail is not, perhaps, the wisest move in the world. I do recall an Australian Prime Minister saying, "We're going to end child poverty within ten years," and that didn't happen, and it followed him for a very long time.
But looking at those, we've got Calgary, which seemed to be pretty specific about what they're going to achieve. Portland, Oregon — pretty specific about what they're going to achieve. The United Kingdom has had lots of different attempts at this, and Australia, where the climate is a lot friendlier than here, has also made some…. This is the federal government, not the state governments, that made these statements.
It seems to me that expressing a goal like that and then tracking performance against it is a healthy process, but it's really up to the comfort zones of different administrations as to whether they wish to go down that road. We've identified a few where they have. Now, it would be interesting at some follow-up time to go back and just see how well Alberta went. But if you actually wanted to know, you can look at their website, and it will tell you. Same with Portland; it would tell you. If you go to Australia, on the website, it will tell you.
So maybe what the question really is, is: can there be either micro-steps or major inspirential…?
B. Ralston (Chair): Aspirational?
J. Doyle: Aspirational. Thank you, Chair.
Aspirational goals need to be articulated early on because there is a genuine movement towards trying to achieve resolution. We heard it from government in their response that they wish to eliminate homelessness. It was in their response that we got to this report. It's in this report.
Now, that's great, and actual total elimination may be technically impossible, but at least there can be movement towards achievable goals that citizens can monitor and they can feel comfortable about, because I think what you're talking about is a lot of activity, a lot of investment. What's the gain? That communication piece perhaps isn't going as well as it should.
B. Ralston (Chair): Anyone in the ministry want to respond to that?
M. Harrington: I appreciate the Auditor's comments about how the best-laid plans can sometimes end up setting oneself up for failure. The government has articulated a clear goal of eliminating homelessness and, as it responded in the report, is very much committed to actions. We felt that the presentation that we provided today and the report that we did table with the Auditor General and will work with through the Auditor General for the next six months is a clear articulation of the actions taken.
It's interesting, to me, when you look at the Portland, Oregon, report. Actually, in many ways we're quite similar in how we're reporting out and in our aspiration of goals. It's to move 400 chronically homeless people into permanent housing.
You know, we've basically moved 9,800 people off the street to successfully transition people — 725 people; we've reported out on those numbers — to prevent households from becoming homeless through rent assistance — Shayne has provided the numbers of households that have been provided with rent assistance — and to add 120 units of permanent supportive housing. We've added more than 5,000 units of supportive housing. So our reporting is very similar to that of what I think has been clearly identified as the lead jurisdiction in the United States.
We are quite confident that we are consistent with best practice, and we are reporting out. With the HIP project, we clearly set a target of housing 2,000 people within 18 months. It's a clear, easily understood, universal target. At 15 months we're happy to report out, clearly and publicly, that we have housed 2,900 people in 15 months, with the ancillary statistics that go along with that that we're gradually being able to gather from integrated data.
S. Simpson: I don't have any qualms with the efforts that the ministry is making and the investments that are being made. They're positive, and they're good investments. They hopefully will lead to some real results as these new housing developments get built and people are moved into them.
But I guess I would reiterate…. I do think that in order for people to have an increasing confidence in where this is going, there needs to be some way to kind of create a baseline and then be able to see the progress that is being made, and the Auditor General pointed to some other jurisdictions that have done that.
The only comment I'd make…. I'd hope that the Auditor General will possibly, in his follow-up report, give some thought to what that comprehensive plan should look like in terms of components in order to
[ Page 177 ]
meet some of the objectives that he envisioned in this report around a comprehensive plan — maybe some more detail about what the expectations are around that plan and how the ministry's doing in fulfilling those.
It wasn't really a question.
B. Ralston (Chair): Did you want to respond to that statement?
J. Doyle: This isn't really an answer. I would just remind the member that the nature of the follow-up is to take the ministry's assertions and to publish them. It could be that at some time in the future we would go back and revisit and do the sorts of things that the member is suggesting. That isn't what I've committed to at this stage, but it's an interesting thought, and we will build it into our forward thinking as to what further work we need to do, because I see homelessness as an ongoing issue for a while, and it seems to me that it is one worthy of additional scrutiny.
S. Simpson: Just a suggestion.
R. Howard: Thanks for the report and the comments. I want to come back to the word "perceptions," because I've heard that a bit. My perception, and it seems in good part to be backed up by some of the comments from ministry officials, is that there's some pretty significant progress being made.
But I think a big part of our perception is driven by the Downtown Eastside. It's a provincewide problem, but when I reflect, I think perceptions are largely driven by what's happening in the Downtown Eastside. So could you specifically talk about what's happening in the Downtown Eastside? I know a lot of it's covered in the numbers, but just in that particular neighbourhood and how it's changed over the last — I don't know — two or three years.
S. Ramsay: Anecdotally, a comment from both the Downtown Business Improvement Association, particularly the Gastown Business Improvement Society, and the VPD, who are very much a partner with us in the hotels, is that both the acquisition of the hotels and….
One in particular I would reference is a backpacker hotel on Hastings Street, which the VPD called the worst hotel in all of Vancouver. We have purchased it. It's now run by the Portland Hotel Society, and in fact, it provides the necessary supportive housing.
Still, it's not great housing — 10-by-10 room, washroom down the hall — but it has actually stabilized the building and helped to stabilize that population.
A visible reduction in street homelessness. The recent count shows a 47 percent decrease in street homelessness, and some of the members are quite correct that a lot of that has happened through the SROs and the shelters — again, not long-term housing. But I think we'll begin to see the results of providing options for folks to transfer to that long-term housing once it begins to come on stream in November 2010.
So I think, overall, a very positive impact on the Downtown Eastside of two particular strategies, the SRO purchases and the increased shelter options down there.
B. Ralston (Chair): We're going to adjourn at three, and we have a couple of other brief items that I want to deal with, so I'd say we have another ten minutes or so. Not to minimize the importance of this issue, but I'm trying to work within the time that we've allotted for ourselves.
S. Chandra Herbert: Just to go back to an earlier statement, I guess the concern that I was expressing…. I know that the member from West Van, Joan McIntyre, didn't agree with the kind of statement that I was making.
B. Ralston (Chair): Through the Chair, please. We're not having a cross-debate here.
S. Chandra Herbert: Thank you, hon. Chair. Of course, yes.
I guess the concern I was raising is that homelessness was increasing in my community. That to me wasn't a success, and I can't see how we could say that was a success.
I heard Mr. Ramsay suggest going after street homelessness, and I know that the term "street homelessness" has entered into the discussion quite recently, as opposed to just talking about homelessness. I wondered if that is a change in ministry priority or if we are still looking at dealing with the overall problem of homelessness, including those that maybe have to get a friend to let them stay there for a day and don't really have a sense of home, or people in shelters, which I know the Auditor General raised concerns about in his report — how that wasn't a home.
Street homelessness — is that the new approach? And are we counting shelters as homes? Or is that just a temporary thing, and we're not going to count shelters as homes?
S. Ramsay: I think the homelessness intervention project really tried to target chronic homelessness. Those were folks that had been homeless for more than one year. Those were the most entrenched and the most difficult to bring back, so I think there was a real focus on that. We are looking at the broad spectrum of street homeless. I agree with you that shelters aren't home, but they sometimes are a temporary solution to help stabilize lives, to help get folks ready to move on.
[ Page 178 ]
Our hope is that with the addition of almost 1,600 new units in the city of Vancouver — these are self-contained suites with integrated support services — we'll begin to tackle that sheltered number, which is now around 1,300 in Vancouver.
V. Huntington: The question dealt with the Downtown Eastside and how you were implementing change there. What about in the suburban areas where we are seeing, for the first time, homeless wandering our streets? How are you working with municipalities and with church organizations? Church organizations are the only ones I know of in Ladner, for instance, that are working on this issue. Are you supporting them? Are you coordinating with them? Are you providing financial assistance? What shelter opportunities are you engaging in, in the municipalities?
S. Ramsay: One of the ways that we work in every community is through the homeless outreach teams. In Delta, in Ladner, there will be homeless outreach teams connecting with homeless people one-on-one where they are and trying to make the connections for those folks to move to shelter or other housing options. In suburban communities, typically, there are fewer permanent shelter options. We have worked with local governments in places like Langley and Surrey in order to try to put those resources in place, but primarily in those communities now, it would be through our homeless outreach teams.
V. Huntington: Can I just ask briefly: how do we track down homeless outreach teams? I've never heard of one.
S. Ramsay: I'd be happy to get that information around. These are contracts with local service agencies. These are non-profits that we support financially. It's the non-profits that employ the outreach workers that are connecting with folks in those communities.
B. Ralston (Chair): If there's a general interest and if there's an easily accessible list, perhaps — just to the Clerk — that can be circulated to members of the committee.
J. McIntyre: I was interested. Especially in my former career as a pollster, I did a lot of work in the city of Vancouver on the four pillars framework, on the strategy — a lot of public opinion and also gathering some of the feedback from the workshops and seminars that were going on. This was in the year 2000, so ten years hence there's been some controversy about those four pillars and all of that.
My own view for a long time has been that for it to work properly, all four pillars had to be integrated — treatment being the most expensive by far and the one that lagged. It seems now, from some of the things you're saying, that we really have made progress and are investing resources — I can say, finally — in treatment.
This was on the very back of the ministry's response about the Burnaby centre. I see Riverview incorporated into all that. I just wondered if you could share with us some of the success. I've heard lots of good things about it, and it was a major step.
I'm just wondering if you could inform us about how that works and the successes you've had and whether or not we can look forward to more of this, especially as we've recognized a lot of this is dual diagnosis, to help people who need institutional help — how we're doing that.
S. Ramsay: The genesis of the Burnaby centre was a realization a number of years ago that we're dealing with a subset of the homeless population that really weren't suitable for even high levels of supportive housing. They typically had dual-diagnosed pretty severe mental health issues and pretty severe addictions, so a housing model with support services was not an option for these folks. They were costing the system a tremendous amount of money.
I think that when the Health Minister and the Housing Minister announced it, they actually used the word "reinstitutionalization." In fact, there were some folks that required those high levels of care. That was the real genesis of the Burnaby centre.
One of the learnings from the Burnaby centre, though, once the hundred beds were filled up, was that there's really a group of people that continued to need that kind of care. That's why you see the bubbles being developed around that.
A hundred people moved in, and it was really difficult to get flow in and out of the system, so a number of options were developed at Riverview, at Brookside and Leeside — a number of beds where folks that continued to need that high level of care could actually go and get it in a more appropriate environment. Then that would open up more spaces in the Burnaby centre. You'll see it in our Mission site, which will be up and running in the next couple of months.
Some folks could benefit from supportive housing, so folks that need higher levels of care go to Brookside and Leeside. Folks that could operate well in supportive housing, with Fraser Health providing the on-site supports, worked….
An interesting one is one of our hotels on Granville Street in the Downtown Eastside, called St. Helen's, through outreach and shelters, getting people into a hotel connected with the services so they'd get ready to move into Burnaby so that they'd be more successful when they actually arrive at Burnaby — trying to build those systems around that Burnaby option and
[ Page 179 ]
continuing evaluation. Brookside and Leeside just came on stream late last year. Mission will come on stream in a couple of months, really evaluating how that whole system is working to deal with that really difficult client group.
B. Ralston (Chair): Thanks very much. Those are all the questions I have and I see.
Thanks very much to the presenters, and we'll look forward to the update destined to appear in October 2010.
We have a couple of quick items of other business. The first item is from the Public Documents Committee. Mr. Mitchell is here, who's the chair of the Public Documents Committee and the provincial archivist.
Records Retention and Disposal
B. Ralston (Chair): Members may recall — or you may not — that previously we'd had a series of recommendations relating to records retention and disposal. Mr. Mitchell was seeking a recommendation from the committee to regulate the retention and final disposition of a series of government records. We dealt with that back in January.
Since that time I haven't received any representations from any member of the committee about any further concerns, so I'm perhaps mistakenly going to assume that members are ready to move the series of recommendations and deal with the recommendation that Mr. Mitchell has made. Perhaps Mr. Mitchell might want to briefly — and I stress briefly — suggest or remind us what those recommendations were.
G. Mitchell: The Public Documents Committee review proposed a record and retention schedule from all Crown ministries and their agents with the view to establishing management control over government's information so that the information can be managed by the typical principles of management.
These schedules are to ensure that legal, financial, evidentiary and historical values have been met so that we can prove to future generations government's obligation to its citizenry and provide data and background to future generations of how government programs and agencies were operating so that they can make decisions about their own future.
Each year we bring forward these schedules and ask that the committee pass a resolution recommending them to the full House, upon which the schedules will become the guiding policies and principles for which this information will be managed.
J. Les: Chair, if it's all right with you, I would simply move the recommendations as presented.
B. Ralston (Chair): Any discussion?
S. Simpson: Just a quick question. I think I read it here and understand it. Just a confirmation. On the Conversation on Health information, the substance of the submissions is retained. Just a question to confirm that the substance of the submissions that were received by the Conversation on Health will continue to be retained.
G. Mitchell: Fully retained.
V. Huntington: I just briefly want to say thanks for the information. I found this a little overwhelming, but helpful in understanding. I appreciated it.
Motion approved on division.
B. Ralston (Chair): Guy Gentner noted as being in opposition.
There's one other item — a proposed facilities tour. We had discussed that earlier. For some reason it perhaps has fallen by the wayside. It has not yet been arranged. Personally, I am interested in it, and perhaps I'll…. This is the archives, not other facilities.
If we could try to arrange that. I'll circulate a proposed date, and we'll move forward with that. I'm sure Mr. Mitchell would be very happy to receive us.
G. Mitchell: Absolutely. The archives would be just the first of your facility tours.
B. Ralston (Chair): Well, we're very cautious about tours in the present budgetary climate, but I know Mr. Gingell, who was the Chair of Public Accounts for some years, did initiate a number of tours. I'm not sure we're at that point yet.
I think that's all we need to hear from you at this point, Mr. Mitchell. We'll be back in touch. Thank you very much.
I'm now going to ask the Clerk of the committee, Kate Ryan-Lloyd, to speak briefly about the last item, which is a joint conference. She can explain what the conference entails and the proposal that some members of the committee might attend.
Canadian Council of Public Accounts
K. Ryan-Lloyd (Clerk Assistant and Acting Clerk of Committees): Good afternoon, everyone. As you can see from the agenda, the last item today relates to the annual conference of the Canadian Council of Public Accounts Committees, an annual conference that is held in conjunction with the Canadian Council of Legislative Auditors each year. British Columbia has sent a delegation to attend the conference.
Typically, the conference is comprised of legislators from every federal, provincial and territorial public accounts committee across Canada, who do meet annually with senior audit officials from their respective jurisdictions to discuss matters of mutual interest such as financial accountability.
This year the 31st annual CCPAC conference is being hosted in Quebec, in Quebec City, at the end of August — August 29, which is a Sunday, through Tuesday, August 31. It is normal practice of this committee to send representation to that conference. Typically speaking, it would be the Chair and the Deputy Chair and/or their designates, as well as possibly the Clerk to the committee and/or research staff.
This year Craig James will be attending the conference in his capacity as the executive director of the Canadian Council of Public Accounts Committees, a position which he has held since 1985. I myself don't anticipate attending the conference this year, but I would like to suggest that perhaps Josie Schofield, who has served this committee as a longtime researcher, be able to attend. A number of other researchers from across Canada would also be expected to be there as well.
The costs are borne by the Public Accounts Committee, and I have been advised that the estimated cost this year would certainly be reasonable in conjunction with other expenditures of previous years. It is estimated, I understand, to be in the range of about $10,000 for the B.C. delegation in total. But that, of course, is subject to your discussion and approval.
That is the information that I am happy to share with you today. I have, as well, some other, further background information in hand here if anybody would like to review the agenda as it appears to date. I have a copy of it here.
B. Ralston (Chair): I'm recommending it. I'm not necessarily sure that I will attend personally, but somehow someone will attend. I believe the Deputy Chair is interested in attending. So is there any discussion or questions about that?
S. Chandra Herbert: Just a question. Historically what kind of benefits has this Public Accounts Committee and this Legislature seen out of our attendance — changes, things like that?
B. Ralston (Chair): I think some of the benefits might be described as intangible. I think what the conference provides is an opportunity to meet with other Chairs of public accounts and members of other public accounts committees across the country.
I did attend one year when it took place in Victoria. It's a fairly serious agenda. It's by no means a light agenda. There's that opportunity for exchange and presentations. The Auditors General conference follows immediately after that, so you're also joined on some occasions by some of the Auditors General across the country.
It is the one national event of the joint legislatures across the country that gets together to discuss public accounts. Historically, as you know, public accounts committees have a very important role in parliamentary democracy in ensuring some attempt to control and examine public expenditures.
I think that's what I would say by way of an answer.
S. Simpson: I think that generally, it's probably a good idea that we should support it. I certainly would be interested in us getting back information on how some of the other public accounts committees in other jurisdictions do their work, the breadth of their work, the scope of their work, how work gets initiated, their relationships over and above those with Auditors General and how those relationships work — just to get a better sense, as a relatively new member to this committee, as to how all that happens in other jurisdictions as we continually evolve the work of this committee. I imagine that conference is a good place to have that discussion.
B. Ralston (Chair): Just to add. Josie, if she's going to attend — and I hope that you'll permit her to attend — will prepare a summary of the conference as well. That is, I suppose, the price she has to pay for going.
J. Rustad: I had the pleasure of attending one of these conferences a couple of years ago as well. For that very reason you just mentioned, Shane, the benefit to finding out just how different provinces approach public accounts…. Some provinces have ministers on Public Accounts. Some provinces don't. It's actually quite an informative session. It also tends to address many of the topical issues that all provinces are facing and the approaches.
I actually think it's a very worthwhile endeavour. I would certainly encourage a delegation from B.C. to attend.
J. McIntyre: I was just going to add my voice to the same thing. I actually had the privilege of being the Deputy Chair of Public Accounts the year we hosted it here in Victoria a couple of years ago, and it was — actually, to Shane's question — exactly that. We reported out, and you've got a chance to learn about how it's done differently.
I also think there are benefits in meeting the other Auditors General from across the country. There's the opportunity for Auditors General and the public accounts committees, because the committees are meeting simultaneously. So there's a very good exchange — I think a healthy exchange.
Also, the opportunity to speak with the federal Auditor General and learn more about all that's going on
[ Page 181 ]
in Ottawa, especially because some of our…. Actually, John Doyle, our Auditor General, will know that. Several times, on several occasions, there have been joint reports at the provincial level and the federal level. I think we did one on northern affairs or something like that just a couple of years ago.
I think it's very worthwhile. If you need a motion or if you'd like a motion, or whatever you'd like, Chair.
B. Ralston (Chair): Okay. Well, why don't you make the motion, then?
J. McIntyre: Okay. I'd be delighted to make a motion that supports a delegation from British Columbia going to the conference.
B. Ralston (Chair): Within the budget that's been stipulated.
J. McIntyre: Within the budget, and I guess that also accommodates our researcher.
B. Ralston (Chair): It's moved and seconded. Any further discussion?
B. Ralston (Chair): Okay, that's the last item of business, so we're adjourned. Guy?
G. Gentner: Just one item. I don't know how flexible the Chair is on tomorrow's agenda. Last but not least is the oil and gas site contamination risks. You've allotted 45 minutes, Mr. Chair. It's been sort of relegated to the bottom, and it's receiving less time than other items. With what the President said about kicking you-know-what yesterday, I think it's an item that we could, hopefully, get a good hour out of.
B. Ralston (Chair): It is at the end because I'm not sure that we were going to be able to get to it. There is a tendency, although I try to inhibit that, to spill over from one to the other — no pun intended.
We'll see what we can do. I agree that it's an important report, although as inevitably there is, there's been discussion in the Legislature and in the media of this report already, so to some extent we come to it for a second time. But I think it's worth a detailed examination, so I'll definitely see what we can do with the agenda.
I don't really like to extend the time. We can maybe take it from our break in the middle of the day if that's okay with others.
J. Les: Extending the time would really mess up our schedules.
B. Ralston (Chair): Usually people have made travel plans — and I'm no different — that rely on adjourning on time. I'm thinking of the hour right now.
With that, a motion to adjourn.
The committee adjourned at 2:58 p.m.
Copyright © 2010: British Columbia Hansard Services, Victoria, British Columbia, Canada