Proceedings of the Standing Senate Committee on
Agriculture and Forestry

Issue 17 - Evidence - Meeting of February 22, 2007 - Morning

ANNAPOLIS ROYAL, NOVA SOCTIA, Thursday, February 22, 2007

The Standing Senate Committee on Agriculture and Forestry met this day at 8:52 a.m. to examine and report on rural poverty in Canada.

Senator Joyce Fairbairn (Chairman) in the chair.


The Chairman: Good morning. It is a pleasure and an honour to be here in Annapolis Royal, which we are told by our committee historian is the oldest continuous settlement in the country and north of St. Augustine, Florida. Annapolis Royal is also, as I am sure we will hear today, one of the most vibrant rural communities in the country, if not the world. It has a history. To those who say there is no future in rural Canada, Annapolis Royal's longevity and current prosperity is proof to the contrary.

I would be remiss if I did not also mention that we are very much on Senator Mercer's home turf here. On the bus ride in, Senator Mercer regaled us, as did the bus driver, with historical and anecdotal knowledge of the area. I think it is safe to say that there is no greater ambassador for the Annapolis Valley and for Nova Scotia than Senator Mercer.

With us this morning to tell us more about Annapolis Royal and its particularly successful effort to reinvigorate this part of rural Nova Scotia is the Mayor of Annapolis Royal, John Kinsella. We are delighted that he is able to join us today.

We also have with us Keith Robichaud, who is the chief administrative officer of the County of Annapolis, and Peter Newton, the warden of the County of Annapolis. We are pleased, on this beautiful sunny day, to be able to sit here and hear from you.

We are, as you know, travelling the country. We started in Atlantic Canada, and we will be working our way across the country and into the territories. This has never been done in our parliamentary history, by either the House of Commons or the Senate.

We feel the subject of rural poverty should be looked into carefully and we hope to put out a report that will enable people across the country to understand better that there is a very vigorous and hopeful life outside of urban Canada and that we want to keep our rural roots strong because they are the foundation of this country.

Mr. Mayor, please begin.

John Kinsella, Mayor, Town of Annapolis Royal: It is my pleasure to do so.

Good morning, ladies and gentlemen. On behalf of the people of the town, thank you for visiting Annapolis Royal as part of your hearings on rural poverty. It is completely appropriate that I am flanked by Peter Newton and Keith Robichaud. These gentlemen work with us, with the town cooperatively, all of the time.

The town has worked cooperatively with its neighbours and the provincial and federal governments to improve the lives of the people of our area. We have created an environment that was judged the most liveable small town in the world recently. We have maintained and improved the infrastructure for the town, though much yet needs to be done for our residents and to attract future residents and businesses.

The mayors and wardens in Digby and Annapolis County meet regularly to discuss areas of mutual concern, most recently overseeing the re-establishment of the Annapolis/Digby economic development agency. We have created joint planning departments for three towns of Bridgetown, Middleton and Annapolis Royal, and have established numerous service agreements with Annapolis County. Our relationship with the federal and provincial governments has included work under the Canada/Nova Scotia Infrastructure Program, establishment of this development agency, our award as a cultural capital, the federal Equalization Program, the gas tax monies, and a Nova Scotia Power Incorporated grant in lieu of taxes.

I congratulate your committee for building on the works of others. I have reviewed your interim report. It is lengthy, but I did get through all of it and clearly you have taken on a big job.

I refer you to some other work done previously: ``Painting the Landscape of Rural Nova Scotia: Rural Communities Impacting Policy Project October 2003; the Rural Depopulation in Atlantic Canada Discussion Paper; Pan-Atlantic Repopulation Committee's discussion paper prepared by the Rural and Small Town Programme of Mount Allison University, 2006, and now this report.

We know that one of the main determinants of health is education. Education leads to better jobs, yet many people cannot afford a university or college education, nor is it easily accessible in rural Nova Scotia.

When we look at examples from around the globe, we see that Ireland pays for university education for its people. In Nova Scotia, debt-servicing charges amount to about as much as we spend currently on education. If we are really serious about helping people, we need to set a strategy to pay down the debt while at the same time funnelling more money into the education system.

We have identified some key drivers of reduced opportunity for rural Canadians: population decline fuelled by out- migration, the aging of the population, and a lack of immigration threatens the sustainability of many individual communities; existing employers may have problems finding enough workers to fill vacant positions — evidenced currently an organization called Convergys, a call centre, in our local area that has been unsuccessfully attempting to increase its numbers in the last while.

Another key driver of reduced opportunity is that entrepreneurship, innovation and new business starts become less likely in this environment. As well, the population levels may fall below critical thresholds to sustain the essential public services, especially health care and education. Another key driver is that our children have to leave home to get an education and a job — and most of them do not come back. Finally, without a university or a college education, you are less likely to get a well paying job.

We are suggesting the following recommendations: Make sure that every person is entitled to an undergraduate or college degree free of charge; follow up on what has already been recommended by other organizations and other reports. I have two examples.

In order to ensure that Canadians can continue to enjoy a long life and improve their health status, the National Forum on Health made some specific recommendations in its ``Canada Health Action: Building on the Legacy, Volume II, Synthesis reports and Issues Papers,'' and I concur with two of them. Let me quote from that report.

We propose a broad and integrated strategy for children and their families, consisting of both programs and income support. It is urgent to address the issue of poverty among children, especially Aboriginal children. We believe that the components of the strategy should be implemented in the following order of priority: an integrated child benefit program should be introduced to address the urgent problem of child poverty. Community-based programs with a home-visiting component should be supported and strengthened where they exist, and implemented where they do not, to help children learn to cope with adversity and to develop parental competencies. Programs should be directed to pregnant women and children from birth to 18 months who are at risk and should give attention to the needs of Aboriginal women and children.

Policies and programs should be reviewed and modified to ensure access to affordable, high quality child care of early childhood education services. Attention should be given to the needs of Aboriginal children. In the case of child care programs, we believe that they should be accessible to all, with parents paying fees on a sliding scale based on ability to pay.

Policies and programs in the workplace should be developed to support families through measures such as flexible hours, work sharing, extended maternity leave, paternity leave, daycare or elder care, and unpaid leave. Governments, the health sector and the private sector should show leadership in this area.

Taxation policies should be modified to create horizontal equity for families and reflect the cost of raising children by reducing taxes for those taxpayers with children as compared to families without children.

The second recommendation that I support is one of the most important yet most challenging issues for the health of Canadians, the availability of jobs. This leads them to the following recommendations:

All governments should recognize that improving the health of the population depends above all on achieving the lowest possible unemployment rates. Priority should be given to helping youth who are trying to enter the workforce and to reducing barriers that make it difficult for other groups to obtain employment, including people with disabilities, Aboriginal people and members of visible minorities. All government economic policies, both fiscal and monetary, should be analyzed explicitly from the perspective of their impact on health.

In my other life, I work as a registered nurse. I have worked in Toronto and Windsor, Ontario, Churchill, Manitoba, Rocky Harbour, Newfoundland, and here in Nova Scotia. I began my career as an orderly at Sunnybrook Hospital in Toronto. It was honest but low paying work. I felt I was capable of contributing differently, and also felt the pressures of the working poor. After over a decade of living from paycheque to paycheque and going into more and more debt, and with much encouragement from my colleagues, I, with my young family, made the decision to enter a registered nursing program at St. Clair College of Applied Arts and Technology in Windsor, Ontario. I gutted my pension plan and was given generous bursaries, grants and loans. The program was a six-semester program compressed into two calendar years. I graduated on the President's List with only $7,500 in debt, which I paid off in one year. I am a very different man today because of that opportunity for growth.

I have seen, and continue to see, other people in similar situations. If they had the same opportunity, they would aspire to be nurses or find the ideal opportunity to further their education. We should strive to make those opportunities available to rural Nova Scotians in an equitable manner. We would have a more stable rural population and a richer quality of life for all.

Again, I thank you for visiting with us. I hope this snapshot of our community, its citizens and the issues they face will assist you in your deliberations on this important issue.

I am pleased to answer any questions that you may have.

The Chairman: I thank you very much. Do the other gentlemen wish to say a few words before we get into questions?

Peter Newton, Warden, County of Annapolis: Good morning, and welcome, again, to Annapolis County.

On behalf of the Council of the Municipality of the County of Annapolis, I appreciate this opportunity to address the Standing Senate Committee on Agriculture and Forestry. My name is Peter Newton and I, as Warden, am the chair of our council. Also with me today is Keith Robichaud, the county's chief administrative officer. We are pleased to be a part of this panel with Mayor John Kinsella and the town of Annapolis Royal.

I understand your committee is examining rural poverty and will be making recommendations for measures to mitigate rural poverty and reduced opportunity for rural Canadians. I have reviewed your interim report tabled in December 2006. My remarks will briefly touch on some of the issues you have identified, and will also address rural economic development. First, I will provide some background about Annapolis County.

Annapolis County has a rich history, beautiful natural environment and offers an enviable quality of life. The Habitation at Port-Royal is the site of the first permanent European settlement in Canada — 1605. The historic towns of Annapolis Royal, Bridgetown and Middleton are the focal points of the western, central and eastern portions of our county. Together, the towns and more than 100 communities within the county's jurisdiction offer a range of lifestyle choices and community amenities.

The Municipality of the County of Annapolis has a population of 18,500; adding the towns of Annapolis Royal, Bridgetown and Middleton brings the total population of Annapolis County to almost 22,000. Annapolis County encompasses a 3,200-square kilometre area of western Nova Scotia, adjacent to the Bay of Fundy. The Annapolis River bisects the county, running east to west, emptying into the Annapolis Basin. More than 500,000 acres of the 830,000 acres of land in the county are forested, particularly along the north and south mountain ranges. Most of the 50,000 acres of agricultural land within the county is spread over the Annapolis Valley floor.

Fishing, forestry and agriculture remain important elements of the rural economy. Most elements of the agriculture sector are currently in decline, the only notable exceptions perhaps being mink farming and poultry production. Tourism, retail trade, transportation and storage and the service sector historically have been relatively stable, however, tourism has declined during the past two years and could benefit from additional investment and diversification.

Important strides have been made toward diversifying the economy in the information technology and communications sector, supported by investments in a community fibre optic network and the presence of the Centre of Geographic Sciences and the Applied Geomatics Research Group of the Annapolis Valley Campus of the Nova Scotia Community College.

The redevelopment of the former military base, CFB Cornwallis, has been a dominant economic and community development concern of the municipality of the County of Annapolis since 1994. At this time, there are more than 30 businesses employing more than 1,000 persons in the business park and the military housing has been redeveloped as a residential community.

A few years ago, the Municipality of Annapolis County and our partner, the Municipality of the District of Digby renovated a 40,000-square foot building at Cornwallis Park for an inbound call centre. In 2004, this was leased to Convergys Customer Management Canada, which now employs more than 600 people from across our region.

In 2003, the Voluntary Planning Task Force on Non-Resident Land Ownership in Nova Scotia identified Annapolis and Digby counties as among the areas of highest incidence of non-resident ownership of coastal and waterfront land. For the most part, this has contributed to growth in residential development, and most of such land remains undeveloped.

Our municipalities recognize that there are structural factors that affect and result in variation in growth, diversification and economic performance of our rural economies in Nova Scotia. GDP per capita in rural Nova Scotia is about 70 per cent of that in Halifax. Although this is only one measure of prosperity, it is important for the municipalities and our regional development agency to work to narrow the GDP per capita gap. The new economy and the enabling factors of information technology present opportunities for this rural area to lever the competitive advantage associated with our quality of life to attract new companies, home-based businesses and residents.

The Municipality of the County of Annapolis has been an active participant in the Nova Scotia Sustainable Communities Initiative since 2000. Annapolis-Fundy is one of two Nova Scotia regions in which a field team consisting of federal, provincial and municipal officials meet on a regular basis. In 2002, the Annapolis-Fundy field team engaged a consultant to review a multitude of studies, reports and planning documents of the three levels of government concerning the region. Fifty-five community sustainable issues were identified in 13 categories, which are summarized on a table in the consultant's final report. This table is attached in the next page of this document.

The community sustainability issues identified in our region are consistent with the issues impacting rural poverty identified in your committee's interim report. Key issues include transportation, population health and access to health care, employment, tourism, natural resources and economic development.

At this time, I would draw your attention to the appendix attached to this brief, which contains some examples of intergovernmental initiatives lead by two or more municipalities in this region to address issues impacting poverty and community sustainability issues. It is our hope to reverse the ``Circle of Declining Rural Regions (OECD).''

I shall now ask our chief administrative officer to briefly explain or comment on some of the example initiatives summarized in the appendix.

The Chairman: Thank you very much.

Keith Robichaud, Chief Administrative Officer, County of Annapolis: I will not go on at length, but I think it is important to highlight a few things the municipalities in this region have been doing.

The items contained in the appendix of our written presentation are a cross-section of various intergovernmental initiatives and partnerships. They are meant to show that some of the findings of your interim report in terms of a new direction, a new approach for rural economic development, in fact are very consistent with some of our experiences, and we very much support your findings in those areas.

I wish to draw your attention to one initiative in information technology and communications, our FUNDYweb Broadband Board. That has been a significant project. It has investments by all three levels of government.

Essentially the seven municipalities in Annapolis and Digby counties partnered with the Nova Scotia Community College, with assistance from Industry Canada, ACOA, Nova Scotia Economic Development — investments from those government departments. We have now a fibre optic cable backbone, 48 strands, that goes all the way from Digby in the east end of Annapolis County to Meteghan in the west end of Digby County, at the further end of Clare. We are just starting to lever the potential of that. Nova Scotia Community College is extensively using it to support research and education collaboration for its Centre of Geographic Sciences and for the Applied Geomatics Research Group in Middleton. Pearson Peacekeeping Centre at Cornwallis is using it. We have connected some of the local schools as well.

The initiative to construct that fibre backbone also involved some public-private partnering. We were able to partner with two cable TV companies, Eastlink and RuSh Communications, who have cable services throughout this region. We were able to reduce our capital costs and our ongoing costs to maintain this network by overlapping on their existing messenger strands through this whole 150-kilometre stretch of the build. As well, with Eastlink, we were able to trade a certain number of the fibre strands in our build for a telecommunications transport facility between Middleton and Halifax.

The public-private partnering element has benefits to both the government sector and to the private sector. These companies have been able to further develop and rebuild their systems and increase the availability of high-speed Internet services to residents and the businesses in the region. We have, of course, had our connection to Halifax and networks like CAnet 4, which is the Canadian Universities and Colleges Research Network, just as an example.

We are still trying to exploit the potential of this fibre backbone. In Kings County and West Hants, a community fibre network build is under consideration. We hope that in the Annapolis Valley, between the two, we may have something that will be significant in terms of allowing us to also leverage the backbone to put out a request for proposals from private-sector companies that might be interested in wireless high-speed Internet service delivery to people who are not currently serviced. Those are some of the things going on there.

The other thing I just wanted to briefly touch in is public transportation, which was a dominant issue of many of the studies and background reports in this region for the last 10 years. I want to highlight the fact that we have tremendous cooperation among the municipalities in this region on public transit. Our experience here in the County of Annapolis only goes back to 2001, but the four municipalities in Kings County have operated the transit service for a number of years before that.

Since we partner up and down the valley on various things, the County of Annapolis went to the Kings Transit Authority and our first route was between Greenwood, Middleton, Lawrencetown and Bridgetown. It started in 2001, with about 14,000 riders that first year, and it has grown to over 60,000 riders. Another route is from Bridgetown through here in Annapolis Royal to Cornwallis Park. That route, which has been operating for three or four years, has a ridership of just under 30,000, but it is growing on an annual basis. We have responsibility for all the capital costs and the operating subsidy required for the route, and pay Kings Transit a management fee. Here within the county we have a separate operating subsidy and capital-sharing agreements with the towns of Annapolis Royal, Bridgetown and Middleton.

The Municipality of Digby has also contracted with Kings Transit, so they have in fact extended the reach of public transit from Cornwallis Park through Digby/Conway down to Weymouth. There is now a seamless public transit service from Weymouth in the west end of this region to Wolfville in the east end of the Annapolis Valley. That is a tremendous success.

I would just like to point out that public transit is a very expensive proposition for rural municipalities. To get these routes going, you have to start with a full service and bear significant subsidies and costs initially. Just as an example, our service runs Monday to Friday from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. and on Saturdays from 9 until 5. To offer a schedule of transit service like that is an expensive proposition. Just to give you an example, in the first year of that east end Annapolis County route that has grown from 15,000 or 16,000 riders to 60,000 riders, our operating subsidy was probably two thirds of the operating costs of the route, and only about one third was coming out of the fare box. However, now that that has reached 60,000 riders, the reverse is almost true, that is, the operating efficiency is almost 70 per cent, so 70 per cent of the operating costs are coming out of the fare box, which is very high for public transit standards. Generally, you would only expect to see 50 per cent to 60 per cent coming out of the fare box. Of course, municipalities are responsible for 100 per cent of the capital cost.

I would like to put a plug in for the federal gas tax transfer — which is extremely important to us in this region. We have traditionally operated with transit buses that are modest investments, not of the highest quality and having very high operating costs. We were able to use federal gas tax transfer funds last year to purchase a new, heavy duty, fully accessible, low-floor transit bus for our Annapolis east route.

The Municipality of Digby and the County of Annapolis and our partner on the west route, the town of Annapolis Royal, have just placed an order for a 30-foot heavy duty transit bus — actually two of them, one for each route — for the services here in the west end. The federal gas tax transfer will pay for a part of both of those buses. It is very important from the standpoint that it allows us to go to a heavy-duty transit bus, low-floor, fully accessible. It is great for seniors, for disabled persons, everybody. Quite frankly, the thing that I think is so wonderful about it is that our municipal share of the cost of those buses is about the same as what we put into previous used or lower quality, less serviceable buses. The incremental benefit of that is substantial in terms of the quality of the rolling stock you can get — just to put a plug in.

While there is no federal/provincial support for operating costs, certainly to be able to have access to the gas tax funds for the capital costs has been a tremendous benefit. I will leave it at that.

I apologize for going on at such length, Madam Chairman, but I thought it was worth highlighting a few of those things.

The Chairman: The three of you have certainly given us a very broad and deep presentation of the area. We have interested senators who would like to ask a few questions, and we will begin with Senator Mercer.

Senator Mercer: Well, first of all, Madam Chairman, I wish to welcome the committee to Nova Scotia; I should also like to thank the presenters for their presentation.

I live in East Hants in Mount Uniacke, so I consider myself at the beginning of the valley. I was very interested in your presentation. I did not hear the words, but I thought I heard the description of a guaranteed annual income being described in your proposal. Does that encapsulate some of your thoughts on income projections?

Mr. Kinsella: You are absolutely right.

Senator Mercer: There you go. Now, let me continue on.

You did mention child care in your presentation. The current government's program of $100-per-month grants to qualifying families replaced the previous government's signed agreements between the Province of Nova Scotia and the Government of Canada to open new child care positions. Has the $100 per child had an effect? Has it been a positive or negative program?

Mr. Kinsella: I have not seen any positive effect of that. I am very disappointed at the federal government's decision to divert money away from child care spaces and into $100 cheques. It is almost mean-spirited, as far as I can tell.

Senator Mercer: Warden, and Mr. Robichaud, your presentations were very interesting. Senator Mahovlich constantly asks questions about public transit. This, I think, is a demonstration, and one of the only ones that I am aware of so far, of public transportation in a rural setting that seems to be working and that is committed by a rather complex number of municipalities, if I read what you are saying. It is not a simple birth out of Annapolis County and the town of Annapolis Royal. This is a complex interaction between quite a few municipalities. You have created new jobs at Cornwallis Park. Has this helped open those jobs to the people at the lower end of the economic scale? Transportation is such a major issue in rural Nova Scotia.

Mr. Newton: It has made those jobs available to people who could not afford a vehicle; without public transportation, they would not be able to get to work, nor to return home. It has improved their economic situation in the long term.

Mr. Robichaud: If I could just add, Senator Mercer, the hours for the transit routes here in Annapolis County extend beyond what is normal in the rest of the Kings Transit Authority system, simply to address, for example, the Convergys contact centre and the shift work that is there.

Transportation, child care and availability of affordable housing are three significant issues for people in this region, and certainly for people who want employment at this contact centre. In fact, the schedule for the transit service is a reflection of trying to address the transportation needs of people who work at the call centre who do not have vehicles.

Senator Mercer: This committee, the Standing Senate Committee on Agriculture and Forestry, is studying rural poverty. In my quick briefing with my colleagues this morning, I did forget something that you did mention in your brief, which is an extremely important industry in this part of the province, and that is mink. Mink is in Annapolis, Digby and Clare mainly. How big an industry, if you know, is the mink industry? I know it is a very high-cost farming operation. Is there a bigger future for the mink industry in western Nova Scotia?

Mr. Robichaud: It is only recently that the mink industry has kind of expanded into Annapolis County, partly because of the number of mink ranches in Clare and the municipality of Digby. Part of the reason, I think, is people splitting herds and operations as a precaution against the risk of disease and that sort of thing.

Here in Annapolis County, as far as we know, the farm gate income for the mink industry may only be about $1 million a year, because it is relatively new. It is much higher in Digby County, which is the Municipality of Clare and Municipality of Digby. I have heard figures in excess of $10 million a year and higher.

Senator Mercer: Now, more for the benefit of my colleagues than the panellists, one of the benefits of mink ranching is the fact that they are fed a fair amount of fish waste, which can be provided from other operations. Are we using local products to feed the mink?

Mr. Newton: Most of the fish waste comes from local products, but they are also fed chickens, as well as local produce. Some of it actually is brought in from Montreal, Quebec. It is shipped down here to some of the larger operations.

Senator Mercer: It is a great way to get rid of some of our waste.

Senator Callbeck: Mr. Mayor, the third paragraph of your written brief talks about the reestablishment of the Annapolis Digby Economic Development Agency. I would imagine that you are taking advantage of a lot of ACOA programs in terms of this agency?

Mr. Kinsella: We are doing our best. There are opportunities to work cooperatively with the federal government. ACOA is one of the areas that we worked with.

I have been on counsel for 15 years, and during my time I have seen some very successful things happen with ACOA. I have also had one negative experience, and was disappointed in that, but for the most part ACOA is doing excellent work here.

Senator Callbeck: Any organization can be improved. I agree with you that it is doing good work. In my own province, many projects would never have gotten off the ground without ACOA.

However, if you were making some recommendations, what might they be?

Mr. Kinsella: I shall pass your question over to Mr. Robichaud in a moment, because he is our chief administrative officer for the county and as such would know a little bit more about the nuts and bolts associated with that.

However, my recommendation would have to do with listening to the experts, letting the experts go forward, and not paying as much attention to the ramifications of a decision. It is distressing sometimes to see that. Our M.P. sometimes refers to getting our unequal fair share of monies from the federal government. Although that is a humorous statement, he works very hard to get the monies that would come down here. It is distressing to see that political decisions are sometimes influencing the decisions associated with where monies will go. That is a disappointment. That is as far as I am going to stray. I will leave it to Mr. Robichaud to talk a little bit about bureaucracy and paperwork, something Amery Boyer, our chief administrative officer, rails about.

Senator Callbeck: Do you want to talk about that now? I would also ask you to address the Community Futures Program.

Mr. Robichaud: My only comment, in working with federal agencies like ACOA, is that we understand that there have been some changes in terms of accountability and record keeping and documentation. Speaking from the municipal order of government, one would hope that there would be more trust. I know that there have been abuses in the past and various things, but certainly the rules and red tape associated with getting funds from many federal agencies — the application programs, the record keeping and documentation — are a barrier. Unless we are doing something very significant, we actually find for many other smaller initiatives that the rules and red tapes a real barrier.

Oftentimes, we do not make applications to ACOA or others programs. Either we come up with the money ourselves or we find money with the province. Obviously, municipalities are more closely aligned with the province. I think we do lose out in some cases.

Clearly, we recognize the need for some level of rules and red tape, but certainly what has been prevalent lately with Service Canada, ACOA and other agencies is quite startling when you see the level of bureaucracy.

The warden and I had to sign some documents for Service Canada yesterday for a very modest employment program and I have never initialled a document in so many places and signed it in so many places in my life. It took a half hour of our time with a representative from Service Canada for an employment program for our heritage inventory program — for a relatively small amount of dollars. The explanation of their record keeping and reporting requirements was quite astounding.

Anyway, I am sorry to go on at length. On very significant things, obviously, we make the effort and we follow it; however, it would be helpful if there were more trust between levels of government that we are going to do the right thing, that as a municipal government we do not feel that the federal government is not trusting us to wisely invest their money and our money in joint initiatives.

Senator Callbeck: Mayor Kinsella, you said in your brief that existing employers may have difficulty finding enough workers to fill vacant positions. We just heard that you have a great bus system, something that a lot of places in Canada have not got, including my own province. It has been given as one of the reasons it is hard to find workers, but now you have that system and it is still difficult to find people for employment.

Mr. Kinsella: You are absolutely right. I am very pleased that the town of Annapolis Royal is able to participate in a public transit system. In a number of previous studies, transportation was identified as a number one need and a barrier to employment, to health care, so we put our money into that. We subsidize it heavily; we do not have the same ridership in this end of Annapolis County. However, it is money well spent as far as our council's decision to do that.

Having said that, transportation is just one aspect of a decision about accessing employment. For some people, that was a barrier, and for those folks that has been addressed. However, there are still child care issues and educational issues. An individual has to have a certain level of education before he or she can sit in front of a computer monitor and be able to interact with the public. Hence, there are educational barriers. As well, there may be child care issues. There are a number of reasons why individuals may not seek that employment. It may be as well that an individual who is looking at working in a call centre here may decide to do that in Halifax instead because their partner wishes to move into the city.

Young people congregate for their own reasons, for types of interest, and sometimes those interests do not include living in a rural community. I cannot change that. I can make it as attractive an environment as I can, but I seem to be making it an attractive environment for folks that look a lot like me — with grey or balding hair.

Senator Callbeck: Mr. Newton, you mentioned in your brief that tourism is declining, and I think we are certainly finding that in many areas. In my own province that is quite true.

You went on to say in your brief that tourism could benefit from additional investment diversification. I should like for you to address that, and also give the reasons why you think tourism is declining.

Mr. Newton: I probably will not answer your question fully, and maybe Mr. Robichaud can help me out a little bit.

Tourism is declining for a number of reasons, one being the cost of travel. The American traffic to Eastern Canada and the Maritime provinces has dropped significantly since 9/11. It had started to come back a little bit, but our fuel costs, our HST program, are stifling the value of their dollar. Instead of being one third or 50 per cent more than what they have at home, it is reduced. As well, tourism will also be negatively affected by the federal government opting to stop the availability for people to apply for an HST rebate when they travel to Canada.

When people travel within the communities, we do not recognize that as tourism. If I were to travel to Kings County and spent a weekend at one of their bed and breakfasts, and do some visiting in the community, that is tourism. The tourism sector throughout Canada does not recognize that as tourism. They think it is people coming from away; other provinces, other countries, overseas. To establish and stimulate our economies around tourism, that is an area that we need to develop and attract. We need to do more things to attract residents of our own provinces to visit within our own province.

We need a better infrastructure, highway systems, air travel systems, to attract people, to make it easier for them to get here and travel around our province. Some of our larger attractions need to have things added to them, to attract a different segment of the population that does travel and give them reasons to come and stay.

Mr. Robichaud: Senator Callbeck, when the warden spoke about the need for some diversification and additional investment, it also relates to the fact that an area like this has been heavily dependent on its history and culture for tourism. It is important to note that many of the traditional historic sites, such as the Habitation at Port-Royal and Fort Anne, and actually most of the National Historic Sites throughout the region, are experiencing declining visitation. Some of the research is pointing to needing new investment and other types of attractions, but I think also more festivals and events. Some of the focus in the local region has been on things like festivals and events and trying to bolster activities — what might be termed ``experiential tourism'' — getting people out, for example, on the water or getting them on the Annapolis River. We have invested money in things as diverse as the Annapolis County Back Country Watch Program and Canoe Annapolis County, mapping out canoe routes and bicycle routes here in the county. We cannot rely on our historic sites, for example, to carry the load anymore; we have to be doing other things that give people a better tourism experience. We have been experimenting, as I say, with things like bicycle routes for bicycle tours, to things like mapping out various canoe routes for our Canoe Annapolis County program.

Those are just examples, but I think that is some of it, Senator Callbeck. Does that address your question?

Senator Callbeck: Yes.

I have one last question. I come from rural Canada, and we have had a lot of witnesses at this committee talking about the advantage of areas joining together and working together. I know that that is not always the easiest thing to do, but obviously you people are doing that. You are working together successfully. What is your secret?

Mr. Newton: I do not know if it is a secret or just a case of living in rural Canada and caring about our neighbours. We are fortunate here right now. Our CAOs, our strong point, pin our communities together. I have to give Mr. Robichaud a lot of credit for that. He has been our CAO in Annapolis County for about 12 years. In that time, his ability to work with other CAOs, mentor them and help them to see the ways of doing things differently, has lead a path for the elected officials, the mayors and wardens, to follow so that we have grown over those 12 years to a lot more cooperation in our communities. With that, there is a lot of respect for each other, realizing that what is good for Annapolis Royal is good for Annapolis County, that what is good for Middleton is good for Bridgetown and Annapolis County. We realize that what we do benefits each other.

I have been on council since 1995 and the cooperation level was not as great at that time as it is today. We have a much greater level of respect and cooperation amongst each other. I think the leadership from our CAOs has allowed that to happen.

Mr. Robichaud: We will let Mayor Kinsella have the last word on this, but as a CAO, I do not think the CAOs would want to take credit for this. There has to be a lot of political will.

It is important to recognize that everyone in Nova Scotia lives in a municipality. There are town, district, county and regional municipalities; there are only 55 municipalities in the province. It is much easier when there are not huge, unincorporated areas or service districts. The type of municipal structure we have is good.

I also would point to our Municipal Government Act, 1999, which has empowered municipalities to partner with each other, to partner with the private sector. Two or more municipalities can cooperate on anything. There are so many examples of that in this region. In this area, for example, the county's water system in Granville Ferry also serves the town of Annapolis Royal. We have an agreement for that. The town sewage treatment plant receives and treats sewage from collection systems in two parts of the county.

I mentioned the FUNDYweb Broadband Board. The seven municipal partners developed an inter-municipal agreement, which created a body corporate. It was filed with the Registry of Joint Stock Companies, and we had a corporation to look after it. Our Municipal Government Act empowers municipalities to enter into various types of agreements and form bodies corporate to deliver certain functions and services. Some of the structural things within our provincial legislation, along with the fact that there are only 55 municipalities and that everyone lives in a municipality, are also key. I will let Mayor Kinsella say a final word.

Mr. Kinsella: I have been on council for almost 15 years; historically, there was a lot of butting of heads and staking out of territories. Six years ago, when I became mayor, we talked with other towns in the area about meeting on a regular basis. Hence, on a monthly basis, mayors, deputy mayors, wardens, deputy wardens and CAOs meet face to face. We talk about what we can do together cooperatively, our areas of concern, and what areas of cooperation we can find. It is for that reason that the Kings Transit Authority came to us. Mr. Robichaud brought that forward.

When the town got $250,000 from the federal government Cultural Capitals of Canada program, we worked cooperatively with the county to make 2005 the year of ``400 Years of Living and Working Together.'' That was the theme — and we live that everyday. That is the only way that it works. It is just like a marriage — if you do not work at it all the time it is going to fail. That is the secret to it.

Senator Peterson: We have had a lot of discussion here, mainly focussed on economic development. I recognize that for any area to be viable economic development is important. However, we are looking at rural poverty. There are three areas I would like you to expand on, and you can decide who will respond to it.

The first area is welfare rolls. Are they growing? Are they a concern? An indication of that is delinquency in property taxes. The second area is food banks. You did not make any mention of that. Do they exist, and to what extent? The third area is this: You referenced on a number of occasions Aboriginal children, so there is a First Nations impact here. I am wondering in what context that would be. Are they living in urban areas as opposed to reserves? How are they impacted?

Mr. Kinsella: There is a food bank in the town of Annapolis Royal — and I believe the food bank will be making a presentation to the committee this afternoon. However, suffice it to say that the town works cooperatively with that group, are very pleased to do so, and that there is a need for a food bank within our community.

Mr. Robichaud: I just want to touch on the social services matter. Up until 1998, the county delivered social services on behalf of itself and the three towns. However, the provincial Department of Community Services provides social assistance programs. There was a service exchange, and municipalities continued to pay or contribute for a further five years, but we have not been directly involved in the actual delivery of social services programs since then. I do know that social services levels have fluctuated, but I do not have any current numbers for you.

In terms of tax delinquencies, just to give you an example, the County of Annapolis has in excess of 20,000 property tax accounts. At any time, we may have 300 to 350 accounts in tax arrears payment arrangements, to avoid being on a tax sale list. We do conduct an annual tax sale. We may start out with anywhere from 20 to 25 properties on the tax sale list, but by the time the actual tax sale occurs there may only be eight to a dozen properties left on the tax sale list. Many of the properties that are sold at tax sale may be just owner unknown or other situations.

However, there have been some very clear cases of people losing their properties, which is a very unfortunate situation.

Mr. Newton: The Bear River First Nation reserve borders Annapolis and Digby counties. There is a fairly population there; it is growing significantly, faster than the rest of our communities are growing. There are also a number of First Nations peoples living off reserve, in private homes within the county, within the towns, and they contribute to our society and pay taxes the same as everybody else does.

In regard to the food banks, there are three food banks within Annapolis County: one in Annapolis Royal; one in Bridgetown; and one serving the Middleton area from over in Nictaux, a rural community outside. There has been greater demand on our food banks in recent years.

What you see in rural Nova Scotia, and what you will see a lot of in our area, is what is classified as the working poor. They maintain their homes; they may not always heat them as well as they would like to. They may be delinquent in paying hydro and phone bills — or may not even have a phone sometimes. They may not have transportation, but they work. They struggle to maintain their lifestyle with respect, and they use a food bank whenever they have to do that. They are proud people and they deserve credit for trying to maintain their lifestyles.

Senator Mahovlich: Something that has not been mentioned is crime. Poverty and crime are often associated. Mayor Kinsella, you worked in Windsor, Ontario, and I worked for three years in Detroit, a city that has one of the highest crime rate cities in the world. California budgets twice as much for prisons as they do for universities. No one has mentioned anything about crime in this area.

Can you address that?

Mr. Kinsella: I can speak about the town of Annapolis Royal. We have 2.58 police officers that patrol and serve 535 people within the town of Annapolis Royal. We have an enviable crime rate in our community.

Annapolis Royal is a hub, as is Bridgetown and Middleton, within the county, and so we have a very high assessment. Within our community, there are not a lot of rental properties. Most of our crime involves small things — vandalism is an example. For example, young people who come into town to go to the movies and hang out with their friends until all hours might get involved in vandalism. Kids might buy dope down at the parking lot. Those are the sorts of things that we will run up against. We have a very low crime rate in our town.

People, as I say, deliberately move to the town of Annapolis Royal because they are attracted to the fact that we have a low crime rate. At any time, upward of over one third of our population come from away, folks that have lived other places or are from Nova Scotia, have lived away and come back here. It is a very attractive community for people to live and stay in, with a very low crime rate.

Mr. Newton: One of our qualities of life is a safe community. The RCMP provide policing services for Annapolis County, the town of Bridgetown and the town of Middleton.

Senator Mahovlich: Is there a prison in the province?

Mr. Newton: There is no prison. There is a detention centre in Lower Sackville, I think it is, and we have a youth detention centre in Waterville, for youth in the province. There is a women's prison in Truro. There are some facilities.

Our crime rate, according to our reports from RCMP officers, has not changed greatly over the last few years. There are some different types of activities, sometimes around dope and other things. We have had home invasions and other things that are experienced in a lot of other communities, but the numbers are less. People come here because they like the quality of life.

Mr. Robichaud: As a rural area, with agriculture and large tracks of forest, major grow operations have been detected, so it is not to say that there are no problems with drugs. In fact, we have had people come from other parts of Canada because it is seen as a quiet, remote area. In fact, some farm properties back in the South Mountain have experienced notable drug busts. However, it is not an everyday occurrence.

Senator Mahovlich: You mentioned canoeing. However, when I think of Nova Scotia I often think of sailing. Are there sailing schools here for tourism?

Mr. Robichaud: Actually, that is probably an experience-based type of thing in tourism that could be explored. Every summer, at Cornwallis, the Annapolis Basin Conference Centre hosts the cadet camp, Camp Acadia, for the Atlantic provinces. In fact, as a part of that, sailing training takes place on the Annapolis Basin for the sea cadets. That is the only formal training I am aware of.

The Chairman: Thank you, witnesses. This has been a very good start for our conversations today.

Our second panel is made up of Darren MacLeod, who is a managing lawyer from Nova Scotia Legal Aid in the Annapolis Royal office, Pauline Raven, who is a research associate with the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, and Jonathan McClelland, manager of West Nova Agro Commodities Ltd., a small-scale, community-owned grain elevator, and business development officer for the Nova Scotia Co-operative Council. We are delighted to have you with us.

Pauline Raven, Research Associate, Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives: I distributed a four-page summary of topics I thought I would touch on today, but I will not read it, in order to save time.

I am pleased to join you today. I was pleased to see the interim report, and the content I think for the most part was very positive. The only quarrel that I had with it was the idea of harnessing some trends that have been very negative for rural Nova Scotia, and especially for poor people in Nova Scotia. We need to reverse rather than harness some of those trends, because I do not think they will ever head us in the right direction. Other than that, the interim report is a good start for the debate and what it is that we can do for the rural poor in Nova Scotia and other rural areas across Canada.

For 20 to 25 years, my research and advocacy has largely been around low-income women and their children. While my comments largely related to what it is that we can do for children, they do have broader implications too.

I should like to move quite quickly to some things that we have been discussing at Campaign 2000, a national advocacy group looking at the plight of children in Canada. Even though there have been promises to do something about that, what we really need is a sense of urgency and to get on with the job. That is something that you, as members of the Senate committee, could help generate across Canada, that we actually do have a very important job to do and we need to get on with doing it. We need to set timelines. We need to make sure that, in this incredibly wealthy country, children are not starting off with the disparity that we do see.

I should like to share with you a little anecdote. About 10 years ago — and it has always stuck with me — I had a friend whose young child, on the first day of school, come home and said, ``Mom, I do not want to wear these pants any more.'' Her mom replied, ``They are nice, warm pants, and they wear well.'' They were corduroy pants with a bit of lining. ``No, mom,'' she said, ``these are welfare pants.'' That was the experience of a five year old on the first day of school. In rural Canada, social inclusion is very visible, and this is what children are growing up with. It has a lasting effect. We need to do something about that. We need to make sure that children are much more equal, that they are supported and broadly integrated into our society, and do not, from the very beginning, divide the rich and the poor in our country — urban and rural or families that have much in the way of disposable income and families that cannot pay the heat bill. We need to do something about that.

Campaign 2000 will very soon be releasing a policy paper that looks at four key components. Whether it is urban children or rural children, this is something that needs to happen. We need to have sustaining employment. We cannot have people working full-time, sometimes both parents, and still have a family that lives well below the low-income poverty line. There needs to be sustaining employment. We need to have income security for disabled persons.

The previous gentlemen were talking about welfare rates that have fluctuated. Sure, welfare rates fluctuate, but they are in a downward trend. People were much better off in previous decades than they are now. We need income security, particularly for a disabled person. As well, we need transitional support for those who have no employment for periods of time in their adult lives. We need good support so that people do not drop into a valley that is too hard to get out of.

We need universal access to learning opportunities. I have heard some discussion on the child care program, but it goes far beyond that. There need to be learning opportunities for rural Canadians, and other Canadians, from birth all of the way up. Educational standards need to be retained for people to gain decent employment; there needs to be opportunity for people to upgrade as they move from one employment market perhaps to the other.

I now wish to address the topic of rural communities. The topics I touched on previously work for all Canadians, regardless of where they live. It needs to happen.

I know a little bit about the farming sector. Three family members have worked in the agricultural sector, and I have seen things change a lot over the last three decades. The local agricultural community has never been more unstable than it is at the moment. It is the end result of local operations trying to compete in a global market. As a taxpayer, I shoulder an awful lot of the cost of these cheap products that are coming into my community and undercutting my local products. We have to maintain roads for the apples that come in from Washington State to be sold here in the Annapolis Valley, while our apples sit in cold storage sheds and gas storage sheds and maybe go without being sold.

We talk a lot about climate change. We are freighting all kinds of produce to places that already have produce. We are told that it is because there is not enough produce in one area to supply every supermarket across the Maritimes. These are the kinds of trends that we need to question, that we need to buck, and say it is just not good enough. We need to find ways to support our local markets, so that producers can sell right here locally and we can forget about long-distance hauling of groceries across Canada. Otherwise, we will not have farming operations.

In my local community of Wolfville and in Greenwich and Northeast Kings, farmland is being rezoned for development. People are coming back here to retire and want to live in nice rural communities. As farms become unstable, farmers want to rezone their land and sell it to people who want to build homes with money they are bringing back from Ontario or Alberta or wherever it is that they have been to earn their living during their most productive years. We need to look at ways of protecting not only the farmer but our land, because in the future we are going to need it.

There is much that governments could do in the way of decentralizing jobs. We now have very good data transfer capacity. We no longer need to store things in filing cabinets; they can be stored in much more user friendly and transferable ways. Communications costs are much lowers. There is no reason why more public service jobs could not be located in rural Canada. They do not all need to be in Toronto and Ottawa, or even in Halifax, in the larger centres. Many of those public service jobs could be brought to rural Canada. We see call centres coming to rural Canada but do not see our governments bringing public service jobs to rural Canada. That could happen relatively quickly, and it would have a huge impact on employment in rural Nova Scotia and in other rural areas.

We have talked about improved infrastructure. High-speed Internet connection is something that rural Canadians have struggled with for a long time. I have high-speed access, because I am on the main corridor between Acadia University and the Valley Regional Hospital. I have no problem. Ten kilometres up the road, where my friends live, there is no high-speed connection, except for satellite connection, which is highly expensive. They are small business operators. I am sure it is a deterrent to many other people that would start small home-based businesses if they had better access to the World Wide Web.

Public transportation — we have heard about that from the previous gentlemen. In my experience with families, especially families with children, we need to have public transportation that is much more flexible. It is not like in the city where you can drop your kid off at daycare and then jump on another bus 10 minutes later; in rural areas, there is not another bus until later in the afternoon. Hence, you could not get to work nine o'clock in the morning. There needs to be more flexibility and more creative thinking around how we provide transportation to rural Canadians.

Those are the key things I would like to highlight. I would be very happy to answer questions later.

The Chairman: Thank you very much.

Mr. Darren MacLeod, please proceed.

Darren MacLeod, Managing Lawyer, Nova Scotia Legal Aid, Annapolis Royal Office: I, as well, will try to keep my comments short. I am not known for that, but I will do my best. I am a lawyer and a Cape Bretoner — double jeopardy.

Ms. Raven and I did not meet until approximately 10 minutes ago, but it will sound as though we collaborated. We did not, however.

I am one of the fortunate people who was raised in rural Canada, in a fishing and farming community on Cape Breton Island. More important, I am one of the fortunate people who is able to earn a livelihood, practise the trade, whatever it is that you do, and live and raise children in a town like Annapolis Royal, which is fairly typical, I would suggest, of rural Canada.

As indicated, I manage the Nova Scotia Legal Aid office out of Annapolis. Briefly, that serves Annapolis-Digby County. You heard a fair bit about those two counties from our previous panel, regarding approximate population and things of that nature. Because of the work that I do, I am sure all of you know, I can confirm that rural poverty exists. Files opened in the last year numbered just about 700, out of the small population that had been indicated earlier.

I have some concerns about federal government funding — but our office, because of funding questions, only defends people on criminal law matters where there is a risk of incarceration, and on family law matters where are there significant issues regarding children of a relationship. If you are poor in most of the country, and Nova Scotia in particular, and you have any other legal issue, you will go without legal representation. Hence, anybody facing a Canada Pension Plan appeal, an EI appeal, a social assistance appeal, a landlord-tenant dispute, debtor-creditor relationship, property issues upon the breakdown of a marriage where there are no children or something of that nature, will go without legal representation. That is a significant issue for the poor in rural or urban settings.

At the present time, the federal government does not fund us, Nova Scotia Legal Aid, for any civil law or family law matters. They provide funding only in criminal law matters and the province is left to pick up funding on all other issues. Our funding has dropped in the past 10 years. I raise this because of its impact on the rural poor, and for no other reason.

In addition to the above, there are two things that need addressing, two broad categories that we are talking about. One, we need measures put in place to alleviate poverty now. Two, we need some economic development strategies to ensure the survival of rural Canada.

Ms. Raven has spoken about many of the things I was going to speak of. It is easy to suggest that we have to put more in place in the line of social services, et cetera, for the rural poor. The question you will hear on the streets all of the time is this: ``Where is this money going to come from?'' The first and most important decision that has to be made is that the Canada Social Transfer, which provides substantial block funding to the provinces for social welfare programs, has to be amended.

Up until 1996, we had the Canada Assistance Plan, where funding was diverted to the provinces for social welfare, with conditions attached, similar to the Canada Health Act. ``You will get this money, provided you use it in this manner.'' The Canada Social Transfer has no conditions attached: ``Take this substantial amount of money, please, and spend it on social welfare programs, but nobody is going to check up on you.'' This has actually caught the attention of the United Nations Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, which has criticized this Canadian position. The most important change we could make is amending the Canada Social Transfer so that conditions are attached, so that provinces have to use the money for social welfare programs. I would suggest that that is a human rights obligation.

Where could the funding be spent on? Pauline has covered a lot of that. There needs to be adequate social assistance, adequate subsidized daycare and preschool so that people can afford to work, and adult education. There needs to be coordination between departments, the Department of Education, the Department of Community Services and the Department of Health, to ensure that children, particularly children of the financially disadvantaged, are looked after through breakfast programs, lunch programs, maybe even after school activities. Minimum wages have to be increased. Clawbacks and penalties for the working poor have to be addressed. As I suggested, I think the money is there.

Economic development — I practise primarily criminal law, so I hope no one asks me too many questions on this — but I would just like to throw a few things out. How do we keep people who want to stay there in rural Canada? There is a certain group of people who are going to want to leave — young people in particular, the grass is always greener. However, a lot of people would like to stay but cannot.

I would suggest that urban areas across the country need rural areas. The perfect example might be clean drinking water. Where are you going to get it if you do not have rural Canada?

In addition to this, I see some opportunity for rural people in areas of climate change and the environment. Incentives should be offered for environmentally friendly industries to locate in rural Canada, whether it is the production of biofuels, wind solar, or — in this area we have the Bay of Fundy with the highest tides in the world — tidal power, recycling, composting. Those services are going to be needed in the future and I think there should be a focus on rural Canada and incentives offered.

Another area I was going to address is the incentive to buy from nearby rural areas. Other than in the summers — I am fortunate to live here; I grow my own cauliflower in the summers — I am eating cauliflower from California. Granted, at this time of year, not much grows in rural Canada. Nevertheless, we are importing food. Think about the cost of trucking, everything that is involved. I do not know if I have the answer. I am more or less throwing this on the table. Why are we eating apples from Chile or grapes from Argentina or anything of that nature, especially here in the Annapolis Valley, which is one of the most fertile areas of Canada, certainly the most in Nova Scotia?

Incentives should be offered to people to carry on traditional industries such as agriculture, forestry and fishing in environmentally sensitive ways. If people manage the woodlot properly, there should be some incentive for them to do so rather than having huge companies come in, completely strip the land and leave such a mess behind that nothing will ever grow again and then you just have to move to another part of the country and do the same thing over again.

I also wanted to address decentralization of government services. I think the best example of this — having significant connections with Cape Breton Island and, as I said, my family is still living there — is the Citizenship and Immigration Offices being transferred to Sydney. I know that has had a significant impact on that economy. As Ms. Raven has said, with the technology we have available today, decentralization should be possible.

I will keep my comments at that. Thank you.

The Chairman: Thank you.

Jonathan McClelland, please proceed.

Jonathan McClelland, Business Development Officer (Western Region), Nova Scotia Co-operative Council: Thank you for the privilege of being able to make this presentation to the committee. I shall focus mainly on issues around agriculture, which, of course, tie in well with rural Canada.

Some of the main issues include market consolidation, declining infrastructure, increasing expenses, and there are some policy issues and opportunities.

This area is the first breadbasket of Canada. The first grain crop was grown here about 400 years ago, and since that time this area has been a very important agricultural region. In the Annapolis Valley, from Digby to Hants County, farm gate sales are around $200 million. It is one of the most diversified agricultural sectors in the country and there are thousands of jobs in agricultural food processing.

One of the biggest issues I see is lack of competition. Two grocery chains have over 80 per cent — it might be closer to 90 per cent now — of the grocery market in Atlantic Canada. You cannot get competitive pricing with them. In fact, often you cannot even get a written contract if you are growing for them. If they can substitute products from Chile or California, you will be asked to match the price or lose the contract.

The processing industry is consolidated, and as well suppliers of agricultural inputs have consolidated, so on every side the farmers are price-takers; there is no equality in pricing opportunities.

Another big issue is infrastructure. We have faced the possible closure of different agricultural research centres. For example, the Nappan Agricultural Research Centre in Amherst is critical for our beef industry, because we do not have a feedlot industry like Alberta. Research in Alberta is good for that type of agriculture but it is not applicable to a forage-based agricultural region.

Also, when scientists retire or pass away, often the positions are not filled. About a year ago 27 per cent of the scientific positions in Charlottetown were vacant. A lot of the new people who are being hired are for neutraceutical and pharmaceutical initiatives, which are important, but if you have the same spending money and you allocate more to that there is less available to primary research. Also, we are seeing a situation where a lot of regional processing plants are being purchased and consolidated elsewhere.

There are issues with infrastructure such as roads and rail. We have lost a lot of short-line rails, which has placed an awful lot of extra wear and tear on our highways which is not factored into the economic analysis. We are under the threat of losing the Digby-Saint John ferry. That has been postponed, but the ferry is critical here. Extension services have been reduced.

At the same time, there are huge increases in cost. Agricultural economists in the 1970s in the U.S. calculated that farm-input costs went up 1.4 times the national inflation rate, farmers are buying tractors and fuel — it is very capital intensive — and those are areas that face significant inflation prices. Again, a lot of these prices are passed on to farmers but they cannot recoup that from the market.

There has been an issue with agriculture being a low priority with government, not getting attention. That is partly due to the fact that, if one farm goes under, or 100 farms go under, it amounts to maybe only two farms a week. It does not make the kind of headlines we see when Chrysler is closing a plant and throwing 2,000 people out of work. Agriculture is under the radar screen in many, many issues.

Policy development is not done comprehensively often enough, I believe, so we end up with a lot of ad hoc programs that may end up working against each other.

Disaster-assistance programs are geared towards monoculture farms. Here in the Maritimes, we tend to have a lot of farms that grow some fruits, some vegetables, maybe beef, grain crops, dairy, and so the triggers for the disaster, things come in, really do not often benefit much here, whereas if you only grew one crop and there is a disaster in that crop you would benefit.

Another issue is the federal-provincial funding structure — it is a 60/40 split. Whenever a new program comes out, Quebec will put in their 40 per cent and get the funding. Other provinces will. Generally, here in the Maritimes, we do not do it so then there is a huge disparity between provinces and levels of support.

Again, primary industries often are considered sunset industries, and there may be less support than encouraging something new.

Foreign subsidies make the world price low and we cannot afford to match the E.U. or the U.S. in their subsidies — and that is a major issue that farmers face here. Supply management, I believe, is a critical policy to preserve because of the fact that we do not have competition in the processing and retail industries. This is one sector where there is somewhat of an equality of power. The Canadian Wheat Board does allow Canada to set prices for wheat on the global market, which I think is important.

Another issue is financing — there has been an outflow of capital. It has been an issue since Confederation. In Nova Scotia, $600 million a year goes into mutual funds and goes to Bay Street, and 2 per cent comes back. If all that money came back, it would be like getting a new Sable gas project every single year. That is the effect it would have on our economy. I imagine this is similar to the rest of Atlantic Canada, the Prairies and Northern Ontario: The money flows out but very little flows back in. That reduces venture capital, it reduces money for local investment and, therefore, money for local plant upgradings and local infrastructure.

Right now, we are in a crisis situation. I know it seems that there is always some sector that is in crisis, but we are in a situation where I would say the best farmers are struggling — and really struggling. Their debt load is increasing with age, which is the only sector of society that that happens to. In Nova Scotia, the farm debt load increased 238 per cent between 1995 and 2005. In 2002 and 2003, net farm income was negative. On average, all farms together lost money.

We have faced a problem with our processing industry. It is consolidating outside the region. The three examples in my brief — the pea and bean processing plant, the poultry plant and probably our pork processing plant — account for 1,000 jobs in the Annapolis Valley, more or less. That is critical, but that does not show the impact on the farm itself. That is just the employment in those plants.

There are opportunities, and I think one is increased funding for research and development. For example, Dr. Nass was a researcher in Charlottetown who developed several very good varieties of wheat that are suited to our climate and do well here. He has passed away and I do not know if his position has been filled. Those types of things we need to maintain a vibrant agricultural sector.

We need community ownership of processing plants and infrastructure. I would suggest that increasing municipal infrastructure funds should be tied to municipalities dropping property taxes on rail lines, for one example. This may be a marginal thing that may help keep some of the smaller rail lines operational. We have suffered the loss of a lot of smaller rail lines in Nova Scotia, as have the Prairies and other regions as well.

Venture capital is important. The Business Development Bank of Canada, and Innovacorp, which is a provincial agency, have been greatly responsible for increasing this in Nova Scotia the last five years.

Nova Scotia has the Community Economic Development Investment Fund, which gives significant tax credits as well as RRSP tax credits to people who reinvest in local business development opportunities. That is a model that is working and should be explored.

Biofuels, alternative energy, are important opportunities for growth. This is an area where farmers have the land mass and a lot of the resources that could be applied to this. If Farm Credit Canada gave low interest loans to purchase a windmill or to do some of these value-added things, with the government paying 3 per cent of 4 per cent of the interest, it may spur a huge investment.

Environmental green initiatives have tremendous benefit for the local economy. An example of community ownership is the group I manage, West Nova Agro Commodities. It was set up in 2000 to provide grain-handling facilities to farmers in the western Annapolis Valley. That are about 90 community owners — about half from outside agriculture — and it has moved control of the product one step beyond the farm gate. It is a marketing mechanism. We looked at exporting hay and did that until someone else subsidized too much. We are looking right now into feasibility studies for biofuels — which shows a lot of potential.

Just a couple of quick points I see as being critical. Bill C-257, which is before Parliament right now, affecting hiring replacement workers for the grain transportation industry is critical. If our trains stop, it is going to really hurt. Rural immigration is another major initiative that needs to be worked on.

The Chairman: Thank you very much for your presentations. We will now move to questions from senators.

Senator Mercer: Ms. Raven, you talked about families that cannot pay for their heating bill. What do they do now, in this part of the world?

Ms. Raven: In Nova Scotia, we have a very generous, sometimes too generous, charitable sector that steps in and fills gaps that I really think governments are responsible for. Those families juggle. They might go to the food bank, which will allow them to put some of income toward the heating bill or a telephone bill, that kind of thing. Families access whatever they can. Some churches actually give a fuel allowance to families, especially if they are so low that it looks like their house is not going to be heated. Families can appeal to a number of churches in the Valley. Lions Clubs and Kiwanis Clubs will help with that. So, there are places that people can go, but they are not places that families bring their dignity into the room with them; they leave it outdoors. It has a devastating effect on the overall well-being of the families.

Senator Mercer: Mr. MacLeod, you said 700 new files were opened last year by your office. You say you do only criminal cases where incarceration could result and family law where there are children involved. How does that break down in terms of those two categories? Within the category of the criminal cases that could result in incarceration, what types of crimes? We had an earlier question about crime. I am interested to hear from your perspective the breakdown in the types of crimes that you are working on.

Mr. MacLeod: Well, the first question — this will be a rough number — adult criminal files, 384, criminal youth files, 50 or so, and family files, about 207. That does not quite add up — however, primarily adult criminal files by a long way. Restorative justice programs, things of that nature, have gone a long way to cutting back in some of the youth files. Unfortunately, the ones we do have are perhaps more serious.

I listened with interest to the last panel. We do have a federal penitentiary in Nova Scotia in Springhill, along with three full-time correctional centres: one in Cape Breton Island, one in Burnside, in the Dartmouth area, and one in Yarmouth, at the southwestern end. We also have the youth detention facility. The federal penitentiary in Springhill works in coordination with ones in New Brunswick, depending on the level of security. Springhill is a medium-security institution.

I have noticed, and I agree with the mayor, that the town of Annapolis Royal has a low crime rate. There is not much of a crime rate compared to other parts of the country, I guess, in either county. I do not have statistics with me — I do this on a daily basis — but the crime rate seems to be rising, and unfortunately the crimes are more serious. In the last year, you name it, our office has handled it, from the most serious crime in the Criminal Code to property offences.

Senator Gustafson: If we had come to a meeting like this five years ago, there probably would have been a room full of farmers here. At least, that is what happens in the Prairies. Farmers have lost heart; they are not even fighting back. This committee has heard from one farmer since we have been out East, in three or four days. Is the situation the same here?

Mr. McClelland: Well, there are at least two farmers here in the room today. However, yes, I would say that a lot of farmers are just trying to get by, trying to exist. They have lost the drive. A lot of them are probably looking for a way out, out of the industry, unless there are some very significant changes.

Senator Gustafson: What is happening to their children that have come of age?

Mr. McClelland: Right now, a lot are not going into the industry. A number are, but whenever they see their parents struggling — and everyone is struggling, not just one or two people — they ask themselves, ``Why should I?''

Senator Gustafson: When a farmer here sells his grain, does he have a choice of where he can sell it or does the government tell him where he can sell it?

Mr. McClelland: The farmer has the choice. We are not a major grain-producing region. We are a net grain consumer, so there are different places to sell it, but they could export it if they want because we are not part of the Prairies.

Senator Gustafson: Ms. Raven, are there pockets of real dire poverty in the rural parts of the province?

Ms. Raven: I think there are, and when we talk about the rural poor and agriculture, we need also to pay attention to the agricultural worker. In the eyes of an agricultural worker, a farmer is usually a very rich person. Agricultural workers in Nova Scotia are often working for minimum wage, or slightly above, and they are working seasonally. As well, they do not have the benefit of things like Workers' Compensation. So in the agricultural sector, there is not only the farmer but there is also the agricultural worker that is often among the poorest of the poor.

There are pockets of great disparity. You can drive close to where I live in Wolfville along the North Mountain or up onto the South Mountain and you will see homes and poverty that would be truly astounding. I am talking about homes that are barely liveable, as far as anybody's standards would go. So there are incredibly poor people in rural Nova Scotia. Many of those people are not social assistance recipients. They just scrape together a living here, here, there and everywhere. They live off the grid, in housing that costs them very little, but not housing that you or I would chose to live in.

So, yes, they are all across Nova Scotia, whether it is Cape Breton Island or our North Mountain or South Mountain here in the Valley.

Senator Gustafson: Well, there is no question that we have had 10 to 15 years when government has really paid no attention to agriculture. There has been bits of contribution, to save face. The Americans, on the other hand, have had their three best ever years in agriculture, and we have had the three worst we have ever had.

You mentioned products that were coming in from the United States. Is that fruit, or is also in grains?

Ms. Raven: I speak both as a consumer and as a family member — both of my sons and my husband have, at periods in their lives, worked in the agricultural sector. There are certainly products that we cannot produce all year around, and we would expect to get grapes from somewhere other than the Annapolis Valley in January or February, but there are lots of products here that cannot really get to a good market because the volume cannot be supplied to the major grocery chains. That is something that I have heard discussed in the agricultural sector now for the last 20 years, and it has become worse and worse and worse. Unless you can produce a very similar product to put on the store shelves for Sobeys and the Atlantic Superstore all across the Maritimes, they will not buy your product. They can often buy a huge quantity of a particular product from somewhere else, so even if you could supply that volume you are often being asked to take a very, very low price for it, and it becomes unsustainable for the farmer. It then becomes a problem for the agricultural worker, who then does not have work; the farmer cannot afford to pay the wages that he or she would love to pay an agricultural worker because the profit margin just is not there.

Last week, in the Chronicle Herald, there was a story about a small group of farmers that were trying to sell directly to the food industry in Halifax. They met with a restaurateur who said that she is actually buying from 80 different suppliers on a regular basis. It is a lot more work, she said, but she is getting a far better product; she has developed valuable relationships with those farmers, and that is how she intends to continue running her business. It takes courage, and perhaps more work, to buy from local producers, but I am telling you, you are getting a very, very good product if you are buying from an Annapolis Valley farmer. Our products are amazing. Go down to a farmer's market and buy an apple, even at this time of year, and I can guarantee you it tastes five times better and it is probably five times better for you than something coming in from Washington State. We have got to get to a point where we have a system and a strategy and policy changes that assures us that the apples we eat are our own apples.

The one thing that I really dislike in this report is that we accept these trends that have come to be, and I do not think we have to nor do I think we should. If we do, we will see the death of rural Canada. We need to buck the trends, not accept them.

Senator Gustafson: Employment Insurance is a good example. There is nothing that replaces Employment Insurance for a farmer. I do not know about here — but out West you cannot get it. There have been arguments about that. Even the fishermen here get EI. It is a different situation, and that is granted, but there is nothing to replace that.

Ms. Raven: I feel very proud as a rural Canadian — and I do not think that farmers want EI. They want a sustainable economy. They want to work for the dollar that they put in their pocket, and I think we have got to start taking those kinds of things into consideration. We have to build our public policy, and we have got to build our systems around our own values, get on with it and stop being dictated to by things that we are constantly being told we cannot change because they are too big and powerful.

We do have a sovereign nation. We understand that we have a huge country with large amounts of rural land and incredible natural resources, and I think we have got to get on with being proud about that and making it work.

The Chairman: I believe every word you say, but I am going to have to cut in.

Senator Peterson: We have heard previously a lot of the comments you have made, which reinforces the issues. I think we are getting into the right area.

Ms. Raven, you mentioned that poverty is poverty, whether it is urban or rural, which is totally correct, and we should think of supporting the disabled so they keep their heads above water.

As people descend into poverty, there are the attendant problems that go with it — the deterioration of their health, all kinds of addictions, drug, alcohol, gambling. Has the Centre for Policy Alternatives ever done any studies to quantify what that could be, the dollar value, so that one could compare it and you could have support payments that would almost be revenue neutral or close to it?

We always look at this as a cost — we cannot do it, it costs too much. However, if you totalled everything and then decided to give support payments, it could possibly be close to revenue neutral.

Ms. Raven: Oh, absolutely. If you look at the history of both the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives and Campaign 2000, and their discussion and policy papers that come out on a quite regular basis — and there have been a number of reports and sections within reports that have looked at exactly that topic — the health costs are incredibly high. If we look at the pharmaceuticals that are available to low-income families, quite often they are not the same as you would be able to access if you had an independent drug plan. So we even see poor children get sicker from things like asthma and then end up having to be hospitalized for an extended period of time, at a much greater cost than the cost of a drug plan in the first place. There are consequences — for example, if you are not a healthy infant you are going to be a less healthy adult. Putting money into health promotion and health practices early on in children's lives would have, I think, a very positive payback in the long run.

So absolutely, if people have what they need to eat well and stay well, that builds into a much healthier and cheaper future for our health care system.

Senator Callbeck: Welcome, and thank you for your presentations. Mr. MacLeod, I certainly agree with you that we need more money for legal aid. In my province, a lot of people are representing themselves in court, simply because they cannot get a lawyer. In my mind, that is very unfair. I know I would hate to have to represent myself in court, not have the services of a lawyer.

You talked about block funding — for example, the Canada Assistance Plan, where the province paid 50 per cent and the federal government paid 50 per cent. We then went to block funding without too many stipulations attached. However, in that block funding, was there not supposed to be some money there for civil legal aid?

Mr. MacLeod: I do not think there is anything directing money to legal aid. It may have been discussed that some federal funding should be directed at civil legal aid, but at the present time there is nothing. That may have been part of an original intention or something, but to the best of my knowledge there is no funding for that. As well, similar to funding for anything else, there is nothing to make the province comply; there are no conditions attached to it. I do not believe there is any federal funding whatsoever that goes towards the civil side of things rather than the criminal side of things.

Senator Callbeck: I may be wrong, but I thought that was one of the things that was mentioned in the block funding.

Mr. MacLeod: I may be wrong as well. My answer is that I am not aware of any. There is nothing that I am aware of that comes from the federal government for the civil or family side.

Senator Callbeck: Of course, as you say, it is up to the provinces to determine.

Mr. MacLeod: How it is dealt with, in any event.

Senator Callbeck: Ms. Raven, will the Challenge 2000 paper that is coming out pertain to all of Canada?

Ms. Raven: Yes. There will not be anything in that policy paper specific to rural Canada or the rural poor because it takes much more of a universal approach across a number of broad categories where change is required.

Senator Callbeck: You talked about high-speed Internet connection and the potential that that creates for businesses starting up. Where are we in Nova Scotia with that now?

Ms. Raven: In my own particular neighbourhood, if you are on the main corridor or somewhere where cable goes to, you can either have cable or Aliant high-speed service. Those are the choices. However, if you are just off the track, then your only option would be satellite, and the cost is about double — and that is for less service with satellite. Hence, it could be quite prohibitive, especially if you are looking at a very small homegrown business, where there is not much opportunity to borrow at the beginning, and you are really looking to move forward at a very low cost. It can be prohibitive.

Senator Callbeck: I was involved in a study of women entrepreneurs. As you probably know, half the women entrepreneurs in Canada come from rural areas, and that is very important to them.

Mr. McClelland, with respect to mutual funds, you say that $600 million a year go out of Nova Scotia in mutual funds and only get 2 per cent come back. Why can we not do better on that? Is it because they do not feel there is potential here, or that they do not see the business opportunities?

Mr. McClelland: People tend to invest in what they are familiar with. Hence, a Bay Street investor is less likely to be aware of a company with 50 employees in rural Nova Scotia than he or she is of a new mine going in, say, in Indonesia, or something like that. A lot of it is due to lack of knowledge about local investment opportunities.

In terms of the Community Economic Development Investment Fund, CEDIF, this past year, $5 million of $6 million was invested in local start-up companies or small companies that are expanding. That is a model that has grown from $.5 million to $2 million to $5 million, so that is recapturing a small part of it.

An interesting study by Saint Mary's University showed that, in Nova Scotia, a large number of hyper-growth companies — the sample was very small — were using CEDIF as a venture capital investment. The way it works is that the province gives 30 per cent tax credit on investments, plus you can put it in an RRSP, self-directed, and get those tax benefits. If you hold the investment for up to 10 years, you can get another 20 per cent. It reduces the risk of investing locally.

Senator Callbeck: In terms of mutual funds, we need to do more to make people on Bay Street aware of the potential opportunities.

Mr. McClelland: I do not think there is one solution to it; however, that is an important one. As well, Maritimers are very conservative in their investments, so instead of investing $20,000 in a local business, they will put it in a mutual fund.

Senator Callbeck: That investment fund, where you talk about the 30 per cent, that is just for rural in remote areas; correct? If you are going to do something in the city, that funding is not available; am I correct?

Mr. McClelland: It is geared to rural areas, but the minister has the discretion to allow it or not, in Halifax; but it is geared for rural areas.

Senator Callbeck: So it could be open?

Mr. McClelland: It could be, yes.

Senator Mahovlich: I played professional hockey years ago. The NHL tried to grab some of our surplus pensions. We never had any money, but we wanted to sue. We thought we could make a deal with the lawyers. We went to Bay Street, and we said, ``If we win $10 million, you would be allowed a percentage.''

Would you law society approve of you representing the poor and taking a percentage of whatever was there for them? Is that possible?

Mr. MacLeod: No, I do not believe so. What is available for them, there is nothing left over. There is no percentage to take.

Senator Mahovlich: They need it.

Mr. MacLeod: They need it. Exactly, yes. There is nothing there. As it is, they are not making ends meet, so there is nothing to be taken there.

Senator Mahovlich: I see. By the way, we won our case. The lawyers were going to charge us $50,000, but after we won our bill was $120,000. However, we did win our case.

Ms. Raven, do you want the government to step in and slay the dragon? For example, with regard to the large stores that purchase Chilean apples or Washington State apples, do you want the government to step in and say, ``You have to buy Annapolis apples?'' Is that what you are talking about?

Ms. Raven: In essence.

Senator Mahovlich: They are doing it. The government controls radio content — there has to be a certain percentage of Canadian content. You are suggesting the same thing with the apples, is that it?

Ms. Raven: I guess I am. I know policies can be quite complex things — and that might be an oversimplification of what we are talking about. A good start would be giving information to consumers, even in terms of labelling, so that whenever a person goes into the store he or she can choose a Nova Scotia product.

Last weekend, I bought fish at the Atlantic Superstore. I had to ask the fishmonger where the fish was from, but he did not know. He was not able to tell me whether the smelts were caught in Newfoundland, whether they came up some Nova Scotia river, or whether they came in from Brazil. He did not know. A good start would be that kind of information, so that I have a choice of purchasing a product from abroad or something from Nova Scotia.

Senator Mahovlich: Our biggest problem is the United States. We are competing for everything with the United States — as well as China. Everything seems to be made in China these days. So we are competing with China now.

If the government mandates a business to sell a certain percentage of Canadian products, a precedent will be set. Where do we stop? This is another big problem the government has.

Ms. Raven: The government is elected to solve problems, so they should start solving them.

Senator Mahovlich: You mentioned rails. There used to be a rail line going right up to Timmins, in Northern Ontario, but there is no train going up there anymore. Given the cost of gas, it would probably be cheaper to travel by rail.

I presume that is what has happened here.

Mr. McClelland: At one time, there was a rail line from Halifax to Yarmouth; it is no longer there.

One thing that bothers me is what I call partial economics. By that, I mean looking at one piece and saying, ``It is not wise to subsidize railroads, it is unfair'' — and I do not have a problem with that. However, we build the highways, taxpayers do, and they are maintained. They receive snow removal, all these things, and trucks, which cause a lot of wear and tear, can use the highways. On the other hand, the government probably built the railroads initially, but the companies maintain and upgrade them. The companies pay property tax on the land. I have to ask myself, is this really an equal scenario?

The same scenario is true with respect to the St. Lawrence Seaway. The government subsidizes the icebreaking on the St. Lawrence Seaway, but the rail line covers all the costs of getting cargo from Halifax to Toronto. It is not a full picture.

Senator Mahovlich: It is not fair.

Senator Gustafson: The difference between the railroads and the farmer is that the railroads say, ``This is the price we need to ship your grain.'' The farmer takes whatever price he can get. Let me give you an example.

You will read in the paper that the farmer is getting $5 a bushel for wheat or durum. In reality, the farmer is getting about $2.70 and the railroads are getting $1.70 for handling. The railways are getting just about as much to handle that grain as the farmer is to raise it. How do you compete with that? The railway tells you what it is going to cost you; farmers take what they get.

If you buy a car from General Motors, they tell you what the price is. The same is not true for agriculture. It is actually the opposite.

Mr. McClelland: There are only two rail companies, CN or CP; there may be a place for price regulation on that.

If you are growing an eating apple here, the grocery stores will buy it from you. You grow and harvest the apples, and when the store sells the apples they pay you. That is an example of the concentration of market power. You might wait a year after your input costs before you get paid for those apples. That is consistent across every sector, for the most part.

The Chairman: Thank you very much. You have been a very lively panel, and we appreciate your input here.

Our next presenter is Robert Noble. Please proceed, Mr. Noble.

Robert Noble, Vice-President, Annapolis County Federation of Agriculture: Good morning, everybody. The Federation of Agriculture is pleased to present to the Senate committee the status of agriculture in this county. The year 2006 was a year that producers would like to forget. Extremely wet conditions in the spring, throughout the summer and into the late fall caused poor planting conditions and harvest of poor quality forage, and also small horticulture crops. The wet fall made harvest very poor to difficult. In all, we farmers are glad that 2006 is over.

The majority of agriculture is in a downward slippery slope as we continue to lose more share of the consumer dollar. I imagine committee members saw or heard the media coverage of the cash crisis in agriculture and the demonstrations at the provincial legislature, as well as the press conferences.

In the mid-19702, producers received approximately 30 per cent of the consumer dollar, and today the majority of agriculture represents 10 per cent to 15 per cent of the consumer dollar. For example, bacon at 12 per cent and steak at 15 per cent.

The major cause for this is the concentration of the retail grocery business into two mammoth chains. In this concentration of stores, the consumer is paying top dollar for merchandise. For example, a carcass of pork at 85 kilograms returns to the producer $125. The return to the store is $460. A cow carcass returns to the producer $200 to $300, the retail store receives $1,000. Produce is in much the same condition, farmers receiving the same price they received 30 years ago. For example, carrots at 6 cents a pound, corn at $1.25 a dozen.

The year 2006 saw producers' cost of production increase by 15 per cent. Fuel, feed, fertilizer and labour have increased the cash crisis for agriculture. Even supply management are feeling the strain.

In commodity reports, there are some commodities that are still in a positive mode, mink being the number one commodity, followed by supply management, which is dairy and poultry, and then blueberries.

The beef industry has somewhat physically recovered from the BSE issue, but not monetarily, as they still have a cash shortfall, pre-BSE, of 40 cents a pound finished cattle, and $300 per cow, and continue to struggle. Beef producers are the greatest number of farmers in this county.

The pork industry is in an exit mode. It is expected that, by September, 50 per cent of the industry will be gone, along with the Larsen Packers plant, and in a year there will only be a skeleton of the industry left.

Horticulture is struggling with low prices and increasing costs. The issue of food safety and traceability, which will be required by the two major retailers in 2007 — this policy will be an ongoing cost to producers, with no increase in the product price. Sawler Gardens did a pilot project last year and estimated the annual cost will be $20,000 for a food safety program.

Labour for agriculture is becoming a problem, as availability of workers is in short supply. The producers' alternative is to bring in offshore workers. There were approximately 30 in the county last year.

The Federation of Agriculture is a parent body for our exhibition. The federation works closely with the exhibition to maintain Agriculture Alley, a showplace and education for the consumer of today's agriculture. The federation continues to manage a cattle sale to help producers receive maximum value for their cattle. The only strong encouragement in agriculture is the program that industry and government are developing, called ``Industry Transition and Renewal,'' which our industry hopes will be before the legislature this spring for approval. This program will ensure the producers a 12 per cent return on investment, if passed.

With some economic productivity in Annapolis County — beef is at $1.1 million, dairy, $4.2 million, field crops at $3 million, fruit at $1.8 million, hogs at $1.2 million, poultry at $2.5 million, eggs at $1 million and mink at $1 million.

Thank you for the opportunity to make this presentation.

Senator Callbeck: Mr. Noble, I wanted to ask about that program in your last paragraph, ``Industry Transition and Renewal,'' where producers will get 12 per cent return on investment, if passed. How is that going to work?

Mr. Noble: It is through the provincial Federation of Agriculture. They have done some work on it, working apparently with a federal body, to try to get some recaptured money that the producer does need, and that is the figure they are striving for. I was not in on that discussion so I am reading it as they presented it to me, from the federation.

Senator Callbeck: It is going to be presented to government, did you say?

Mr. Noble: Yes.

Senator Callbeck: The government has been involved with this?

Mr. Noble: Yes.

Senator Mercer: If it were not for the different accent, I would have thought it was Senator Gustafson giving the report this morning, because you are saying many of the same things he has been telling us, and we really need to hear it again. It is consistent across the country.

You mentioned — and one of the things that we have talked about and have heard about — the shortage of workers in the agriculture sector. We have heard that when workers are available it is difficult for farmers to have enough money to pay them. You say there have been 30 offshore workers in Annapolis County this past year. Where did they come from?

Mr. Noble: They were offshore workers, probably from other countries. They were Black descendant people that a horticulture guy hired to get the field crops up. You just cannot get the people to do crop work.

I have a dairy farm and I was hauling square bales of hay to the barn. I had a couple of gentlemen, 18 year olds, come help for one day. Minimum wage is $6.80. I paid them $7.00 an hour. They worked for a day and then said, ``I do not want to work the next day. Mom's got money coming in. I do not need the work.'' That is the situation the dairy industry is in. The offshore workers had to get the crop up in a certain amount of time and they had to have the people there.

Senator Mercer: So you work through an agency to bring them in?

Mr. Noble: Yes. I imagine Employment Canada would hire these people to come in, and the farmer would pay so much and the government would pay so much.

Senator Mercer: I know, because I live here, there are only two major supermarkets, Sobeys and Atlantic Superstore — which, for the benefit of my colleagues, is Loblaws. How do we get around this? I talked to my colleague, Mark Eyking, who is a farmer in Cape Breton and also a member of Parliament, who grows lettuce in his hothouse, and it is going to be sold at the Superstore in Sydney. He has to ship it to Truro, to sell it; he has to pay the shipping costs to Truro. It then gets shipped back to the supermarket about five miles down the road from where he lives.

Can you give us a suggestion as to how we solve this problem? I have figured out the problem; we know what the problem is. It is the solution I am having a hard time with.

Mr. Noble: I guess there is no simple solution because it is all in trade. For example, in the 1980s, a teacher at school told me that she could go to Toronto and get Annapolis Valley apples cheaper than she could buy them here. It is the same situation now. They import our apples in Ontario, haul something back, and that is why they are cheaper. I think it is all in the transportation and trade. It is how they do it.

Brokerage is involved also. In the beef business, if I have a cull cow that I have to discard, the abattoir people tell me I do not need to kill the beef. They tell me I can get on the phone Monday morning, call Better Beef in Ontario, they would not even see it, do not even look at it, and I make a $1 a kilogram. The mentality level has to change or we are not going anywhere.

Senator Mercer: Just continuing on with your beef. Has the fact that there is no national processing plant with federal licensing in Nova Scotia hurt you? You are a dairy farmer and you obviously have to cull cows.

Mr. Noble: Penitentiaries and institutions, for example, have to have federally inspected product. In my mind, they do not need federally inspected products, because there are provincial inspections here; the quality is just as good. It is just a bureaucracy that they have to break.

Senator Mercer: Would it be better to integrate the federal policies, so that we can get around that? There are provincially inspected slaughter houses. If the standards were the same, it would allow you to sell your product to federal institutions, but also outside the province.

Mr. Noble: Oh, definitely it would change it a fair bit, in my estimation.

Senator Mercer: Do you think that provincial regulations for the slaughterhouse are as strict as the federal ones?

Mr. Noble: All standards are basically the same; it is just the levels that are different.

Senator Gustafson: There is the CAIS program — Canadian Agricultural Income Stabilization. Does that apply here? That program was brought in by the last government, not this new government — and this program has been a disaster.

Mr. Noble: That is putting it mildly. It is not applicable to a supply managed commodity at all, very little. It all falls from the supply managed, but the beef industry is not applicable to everybody. It is an administrative nightmare for everybody.

Senator Gustafson: One of the problems we have had is, of course, subsidies on the part of the Europeans and the United States. That is not going to change. The WTO keeps saying, ``We have got to get the subsidies down and off,'' and so that has been going on ever since I have been around here, and that is 27 years, but it is not going to happen.

Mr. Noble: In my estimation, the purpose of a subsidy is to subsidize something. Something is wrong with a product that has to be subsidized. If farmers got what was due to them to produce a product, they would not need a subsidy.

Senator Gustafson: Well, what we need is a Canadian farm bill —

Mr. Noble: Exactly.

Senator Gustafson: — that will project ahead. Do you see some hope of ever getting that?

Mr. Noble: In my estimation, if milk, at the farm gate demanded 90 cents a litre and beef was $1.80 a pound instead of $1.10 or $1.20 — milk prices have not gone up but expenses have increased by 200 per cent, for example.

Senator Gustafson: You are right. There has been little increase in the price of grain, and fertilizer has gone from $350 a tonne to $500.

Mr. Noble: As an example, on February 1, the price of milk in Nova Scotia went up 3.5 cents to the producer. That is a regulated price worth the cost of production. The retailers could put it at any price they want. They went up 3 or 4 cents. They could put it up 10 cents if they wanted to.

Senator Gustafson: The sad thing about this whole situation is that we have been able to analyze the problem, but what is the solution? We have to get into the global market, find out what it is all about and how we are going to play within the world situation, because that is where we are.

Mr. Noble: We need to take the bull by the horns, instead of grabbing the steer.

Senator Gustafson: Maybe that is as good an answer as any.

Senator Mahovlich: Has there ever been, in the history of the East Coast, a retail store that has gone West with products from the East? For example, are there products that say, ``Made in Nova Scotia'' or ``Blueberries from Nova Scotia'' that have gone West?

Mr. Noble: Everything is done on a Maritimes bases. The two retailers we are talking about work on a Maritimes basis, not per se a Nova Scotia base, a New Brunswick base, or a P.E.I. base. They work on a Maritime basis; everything is sent to a central warehouse. That is why you do not see ``Made in Nova Scotia.''

Senator Mahovlich: How is it possible to compete with companies like Loblaws that goes to Chile and buys apples for zip, nothing. How do we compete against this? Do we tell them what to do? How are you going to do that in a free country? In addition, we are now dealing with the WTO — which is another big problem. How do you grab this bull when it has got Vaseline on its horns?

Mr. Noble: With respect to the dairy I ship my milk to, 51 per cent of all its money comes from two markets. Of the $2 million to $3 million business, 51 per cent of it was done in two stores. If they sell 10,000 litres and another business sells 10 litres, who is going to get the bigger deal? That is exactly what is happening.

Pricing has an impact also — take the person who will drive 40 kilometres out of the way to save 10 cents on a can of peas. If made-in-Nova Scotia beef is $1.80 a pound and the Superstore has beef from Australia at, say, $1.10, the Superstore will sell that beef.

Senator Mahovlich: Right. That beef is probably processed in Australia, also.

Mr. Noble: Yes. Exactly.

Senator Mahovlich: Out West, there used to be a lot of processing plants, but then BSE came along and we were in trouble. A few more processing plants have opened out West since then, I believe. I do not know if there is a beef processing plant out here.

Mr. Noble: We do have a couple that I know they have put provincial money into, making better facilities. As I say, meat inspection needs to be more provincial, instead of federal.

Timothy Hennigar, Farmer, Member, Council of Leaders at the Nova Scotia Federation of Agriculture: Madam Chairman, could I just make a comment? I realize I am not part of your presentation crew.

The Chairman: A quick comment.

Mr. Hennigar: I sit as a member of the council of leaders at the Nova Scotia Federation of Agriculture, which represents the agricultural community for Nova Scotia.

To answer the senator's question about how we propose to do this under this renewal program, that basically will be a tax on food, either at the wholesale or retail level. By doing that, we hope to be able to accomplish the 12 per cent return on investment to the agricultural production sector. I just wanted to make that explanation.

The Chairman: Thank you very much.

Our next panel consists of John Andrew, who is the emergency shelter coordinator of the Open Arms Resource Centre, Della Longmire, the executive director of Women's Place Resource Centre, and Doug Greene, who is a volunteer with the resource centre.

Please proceed, Ms. Longmire.

Della Longmire, Executive Director, Women's Place Resource Centre: I will be brief in my remarks.

Speaking to the dimension and depth of poverty with rural women, we know that lack of employment opportunities, transportation, childcare and support services are all barriers to women seeking education and training opportunities. It is not just about education and training, however; it is about quality of life. As an overlay to this, there is the pressure to perform hours of unpaid work in support of the communities we live in. This does not even begin to speak to the pressures to hold communities together, to keep schools and health facilities in the area and to provide recreation for young families. The population of Annapolis County is around 21,000 people. If you look at the 2001 census, 8,470 females in Annapolis County reported doing this unpaid work. You can see the kind of dimension that has in our communities.

We are experiencing all the devastation and ongoing impacts of the closures of the fisheries, of the demise of the primary industries, of the crisis in the family farm — all of which has been happening over decades in this area. The area is now experiencing other closures — around employers such as Shaw Wood, Britex and TRA, which are all local employers in the area. Out-migration is happening because of lack of employment in this area. The depth of the poverty is exacerbated by the current swiftness of the decline. We are going downward, and quickly. We are losing the people we need in our area to keep us healthy. We are losing particularly the young people in our area.

On a personal note, in the last two weeks, two nephews have left — one into the military and the other to Alberta. So, you can see that it is current and it is ongoing.

Our roads are deteriorating. The infrastructure in our communities is going. We are losing schools, health facilities, stores and employers. All these factors and the fact that women are living longer than men certainly puts an aging face on the rural poverty of Nova Scotia, and particularly in Annapolis County.

When I began my presentation, I stated that we also work with women who are new to poverty, and by that I meant that we are increasingly becoming a population of older women. Some of these single, older women living on Old Age Security and its related programs, the GIS and the spouse's and survivors allowances — many of these women are living on less than $13,000 a year. That is their sole income.

In Nova Scotia, women earn average wages of $28,000-plus, compared to the national average of $35,000-plus, and Annapolis County women have an average income of $15,000-plus. The ability to save for retirement is nonexistent. Senator Callbeck talked about RRSPs. You can understand why it is that rural women cannot afford an RRSP plan, as helpful as it may be.

I will say, though, in 2005, the Canadian government increased the Guaranteed Income Supplement $36 a month. For a single recipient, that amounts to $1.20 a day.

Poverty, while situational, is also policy driven. It is not news to women's organizations that poverty is a gender issue. Rural women are the most disadvantaged. The barriers are many, and I have stated some of them. I was here for Pauline Raven's presentation and I know that she talked about poverty. Well, poverty with women is deeper, particularly women of a particular age. Policies and programs must take into consideration the rural realities. Urban approaches and policies do not work in rural areas.

Policies and programs such as EI, inadequate minimum wages, social assistance, affordable housing and pay equity that are funded and/or affected by population density do not relate to the rural experience. I began by talking about the population in Annapolis County, but it is evident that one community or one county close to another county does not necessarily make for equitable policy if you take into consideration the differences in population and the differences in land mass and the differences in employers.

The Nova Scotia Action Group, with respect to the Canada Social Transfer, said the following:

We are concerned that federal and provincial initiatives to strengthen social programs since the demise of the federal deficit in 1998 have not included any commitments to increase or maintain designated funding for social assistance, legal aid and social services, including those services specifically designated for women. Attention to these areas of social policy, so important in addressing poverty and its effects on women and children, appears to have waned in relation to other equally important issues such as health care, post-secondary education and child development programs. We are also deeply concerned that the recent federal paper, the Fiscal Balance, appears to be completely silent regarding ongoing federal responsibilities for contributing to funding in these areas through federal transfer to provincial governments.

In conclusion, I think that there are some very positive things happening in our country. One is the fact that you are here today. The other is the fact that Newfoundland and Labrador are now putting together a reduction in poverty strategy. I was just at a meeting in Halifax where we called for a poverty reduction strategy to happen in Nova Scotia as well.

I have brought with me, for your attention, a report that was funded by Status of Women in Canada one or two years ago that looks at the Canada Pension Plan and its impact on women in rural Nova Scotia particularly. You will see, when you get an opportunity to read this, that it is an extremely important piece of work. I might add that if today's criteria were placed upon us through the new criteria by the Status of Women in Canada, this report would no longer be available to you. So I just wanted to make that little note in terms of some of the things that we need.

Thank you.

The Chairman: We get your point.

John Andrew, Emergency Shelter Coordinator, Open Arms Resource Centre: I guess I need to be clear that my perspective is limited and it certainly does not offer all the answers. My perspective is one of working 10 years with the homeless and doing community outreach, initially with youth. We run an all-ages advocacy, chaplaincy and shelter. They all work together. We have tried to distinguish the chaplaincy, for obvious reasons, from the shelter, so people did not get the impression that they were coming there to get preached at. However, we did see some gaps in the system where the religious community was not connecting in the way they may have wanted. There are certainly gaps in the system as far as government support.

Our clients range from parolees to mental health services clients. We take people for the Department of Justice. There is no halfway house in the Annapolis Valley, so we do that for folks down our way. We take people from the hospital. Folks are delivered to us from RCMP and community services. We do this with absolutely no government funding, although this has been a real disappointment.

We had a carrot dangled in front of us over the last couple of years, but nothing came of it. Our member of Parliament and our MLAs are all very aware of that and like to pat us on the back, but it has gotten us nowhere so far.

Notwithstanding, we launched into this, but it has been very tough. A big part of my jobs is coordinating volunteers. I have estimated our operating costs: What we do for this region would cost, with a team of volunteers, around $110,000 per year. We are on call 24 hours a day.

Although a good percentage of our folks are Department of Community Services recipients, that is not the case for everyone. I made a note here that we have had three men since September who work at the Michelin plant. We get a lot of situations where there is a family breakdown, and the story we get is that ``The wife kicked me out and there is no money in the bank account.'' We do not cast judgment on those things. That is what we hear. So they are not all people who are either unemployed or mental health clients.

What we see is a system that robs people of dignity to some degree. We do get some people who end up stranded here and want a bus ticket. Now, there are times when we could get them money. We do have relationships with some farmers, partly because while I was going through university I was doing some of that work. Hence, we have some good relationships there. However, a huge number of our folks are abusers of the system. I know some people do not want to talk about this aspect of it. One of the things we are trying to do is network the people so we see where there is overlap in terms of people knocking on this church door and this church door and this church door. We get to serve as a downtown presence to help them monitor that.

Our chairman is an agricultural economist. This becomes relevant to us, because we are dealing most often with folks who are not in regular places of employment. They are often connected with agriculture. It is inevitable, as we get more environmentally conscious and as fuel costs go up, that one of the benefits of that will be a more localized economy. We hope for that.

Kings County is a little different from the norm, I think, because there is a lot of growth in Kings County. In the long run, it is not the type of growth that is good. We see a lot of new housing developments and the twinning of a highway to the city. The people are seeing it as a great haven, a great escape from the city. However, that does not help the folks who are still here who are poor or do not have a lot of education. In fact, it probably drives them deeper into poverty. We are talking about one-time farmland being sold to make way for these new housing developments.

We are unapologetically a faith-based inter-denominational or non-denominational project. There is no prejudice towards our clients. However, there does appear to be a prejudice towards our admitted religious views at times. We represent a percentage of the population, but it seems strange that we have been bypassed numerous times.

We have several volunteers that give at least 40 hours a week of their time, some who are on disability pensions, like Doug here. He has gone the full gamut, which is why I asked him to accompany me here. He has gone from being a client to one of our volunteers. He has had some strokes and he is disabled, but he is still giving us a lot of his time. He is part of a growing group of folks who do that.

There needs to be increased support for grass roots solutions. You have the benefit of that here. There still is a sense of community and a sense of belonging.

I shall leave it at that. You can read our report for more details in terms of our statistics in these areas. I would just emphasize that we probably meet the needs of about 20 per cent of the people who find themselves homeless in this region.

The Chairman: Mr. Greene, would you like to have a word or two?

Doug Greene, Volunteer, Open Arms Resource Centre: No, thank you, senator.

The Chairman: But you will answer questions?

Mr. Greene: Yes, senator.

Senator Mercer: First of all, thank you all for being here and thank you for what you do in the community.

John, I understand your comments about the fact that you are faith-based and that sometimes people do not take it at face value that you are there to do the work. Spreading the gospel, whichever way you see the gospel, is an afterthought; it is taking care of the people that is first. I understand and appreciate that.

You did talk about abuse of the system. I do not want to focus on that, because I would rather focus on the good work that you do. However, a lot of the concentration by the public is on abuse of the system. What percentage of people, from your perspective, is abusing the system, and what type of abuse are you talking about? As well, do you see a way for governments that administer the programs to handle it properly without affecting the good work that needs to be done with people who do need the help?

Mr. Andrew: Well, I would hate to see some of these privileges taken away because of the number of people that really need the help.

Someone earlier referred to immigrant workers. In our community, there are those people who oftentimes will not work. God bless these folks from the Caribbean or from Mexico, but I do not understand why we need them. The reality is that there are folks in our community who are clearly able to work; in some cases, they even have side businesses and other activities going on. In some cases, they are harvest workers. There is a good percentage of harvest workers in Kings Country, and there needs to be some kind of encouragement there if they are dedicated harvest workers. Maybe they should be on some form of EI through the remainder of the year; maybe that would discourage them from abusing the system, from double-dipping, by getting a pay cheque during the summer and fall and being on social services as well.

Senator Mercer: I was interested in your comment about the change in Kings County, in particular now that the highway is twinned from Halifax. I live in Hants County, where it is also the case, and I think it is an issue there. What you are saying is that places like Wolfville and Kentville and New Minas are becoming bedroom communities for Halifax.

Mr. Andrew: Right.

Senator Mercer: You then said that there is a need for increased support at the grass roots level. What type of support do you think is needed?

Mr. Andrew: We have run into the case several times where foundations or groups have wanted to put money into looking at homelessness, but it usually goes to a group that wants to do research — of which I have been a part more than once. The Salvation Army did a research project, the group I used to work for, Victory over Violence, did a research project. So, there has been research on homelessness and the feasibility of a shelter; that has been done.

We have never asked any level of government to foot the bill for us. In fact, we are content to try to do our best to coordinate a team of volunteers, but it would be great to see an injection of help and hope there, and that has just simply not happened. Hence, that is what I mean by that: We would like to see a combination of government and private support. The religious community generally feels that they have a responsibility in that arena, and I think it is generally accepted by all of us that they do have a valid role there. However, I think there needs to be a relationship with government. We have had a very tough time. I am often on the ground floor of advocacy, so I am not in a position where I can address the people that need to be addressed.

Senator Mercer: My last question goes to both John and Della, because it is a combination. You talked about working with women who are new to poverty, which is something we are just starting to hear about, that a lot of those people are women who suddenly find themselves without a partner, that income is gone, and they are stuck with a small income. Suddenly, after perhaps not being poor all their lives, they find they are in poverty.

John, are you seeing these people? As well, how do we manage that if their incomes are down to less than $13,000 a year? Even in Nova Scotia, it is pretty hard to make ends meet on that income.

Ms. Longmire: Just recently, we had a client come to the centre, an older woman with mental health issues, on a disability pension, who lives on considerably less $13,000 a year. She is living on $750 a month, and is in absolute desperate need. The only route we could go with this woman was to try to get her into adult protection, in order to keep her warm that night and the next few days — because it happened when we had a dip in the temperature here in Nova Scotia, minus 22 or whatever. She was living in a trailer with no heat and had very little food. We were not able to get her into a shelter and worked with. The conclusion of this story is that this woman actually took her bags, her dog and her cat and squatted in her neighbour's house. The RCMP came, and she is now in care undergoing an assessment.

That is an example of a desperate situation, especially with respect to older women who are living in abject poverty.

We were talking about the need here in the valley for some kind of shelter; we have none. We can refer a woman who has experienced violence to Chrysalis House. There may be some linkages we can make with Open Arms, but where does an older woman go in that set of circumstances? That was the outcome in that situation.

Mr. Andrew: Yes, our target is emergency shelters. You will see some stats in my paper. The first morning, after an individual has had some food and a good night's sleep, we set some clear objectives. Although people have stayed with us for three or four weeks while they began work and started to get on their feet, we try to make that very quick. However, that does not meet everyone's needs.

Folks with mental health issues — that is a whole other group and there is a huge gap there. We fought for and got two additional beds for emergencies, because after 4:30, if there is no psychiatrist on duty at the Valley Regional Hospital, then there is no place for these folks to go. What happens is that the RCMP deliver them to us, but we are not equipped for that. The two additional beds that people fought to get are now used as overflow for Halifax, so they are never even available for us to use.

Ms. Longmire: In the last month, code purple was at every hospital in the valley area — and ``code purple'' means that no facilities are available, no beds, no physicians. I just thought you should know that.

Senator Peterson: Thank you, presenters. Unfortunately, we have not heard from too many people who are living in poverty at this hearing — and I can understand it, as you could. However, those we have heard from paint a tragic picture. My question is this: Is there a support group here that deals with people living in severe poverty? You talked about the shelters, but is there somebody working with them?

Ms. Longmire: We work with women. There are some facilities, but a very few for men who are living in poverty in this area. The supports are limited in what we can do. There are a lot of churches, who certainly are fabulous in assisting people who are living in this situation. However, you are right, it is the biggest problem. Our group refers out and tries to assist and help in any way, but where do you refer people to?

When I was doing front-line work five or so years ago, in three phone calls I would have a situation fixed or some help available. Now, it takes about eight phone calls. That gives you the depth of what is going on and the inability of community organizations, who are overwhelmed, to respond to the need that is there.

Mr. Andrew: That is what I keep hearing today. In fact, running a shelter was an afterthought — we did not realize that the problem was going to be as big. Initially, we started as a daytime outreach program. It will take a full day to connect all the dots, 8:30 to 4:30, before you have someone in a room, taken them to social services, et cetera. So, we can only hit part of that.

Mr. Greene: In my case, it was longer, because I was being shuffled back and forth; it was two weeks by the time I finally got in there and got everything going. It is a huge problem. Unfortunately, time is not with us; there never seems to be enough time to get everything done.

Senator Peterson: John, you had made a comment about the fact that there is work here but that people are not prepared to do it, or do not do it, for whatever reason. I presume they are getting some kind of assistance; is that correct?

Mr. Andrew: That is a little narrow for me to say that. At the same time, we all know you cannot live on $8 an hour, not if you have a family, for sure. However, in a lot of cases, that is right.

Senator Peterson: Okay, but it happens. There may be ways you can deal with that. You can say, ``If you do not do a particular job, we will take the support away.''

Mr. Andrew: Right.

Senator Peterson: We have also heard in previous hearings about people who are trying to better themselves, who do extra work, but they immediately get clawed back, so there is no incentive to do that. How do we square these two things?

Ms. Longmire: I would just like to say to that that, recently, the Nova Scotia government has eliminated the clawback for farm workers, for up to $3,000, from the Department of Community Services. So, if you are on social assistance in Nova Scotia and you are able to do some farm-related or agricultural activity, $3,000 of your social assistance is allowed before there is a clawback. We have just asked that that be universal, because it is not just a matter of not being able or not wanting to work. If someone is on social assistance — which has pharmacare benefits — and they have children, or a child with medical issues, it is very difficult to make that decision to step off social assistance. At $8 an hour, it is difficult to afford the medication for your child.

So, that is one of the issues. We need to look at policies that eliminate some of those barriers for people who need and want to go to work, because Nova Scotians as a whole, I can tell you from my experience, are not people who do not want to go to work. They want to be gainfully employed; they are very independent and proud people. However, decisions are being made for these people that are impacting on them in a very negative way.

I can tell you that, if my child needed medical attention, I would get it any way that I could.

Senator Gustafson: I am just looking at your graph here; it indicates that male occupancy is probably the greatest to deal with.

Mr. Andrew: Well, probably in terms of numbers, like anywhere else, there would be more males. There are different hurdles with getting women established. As well, unfortunately, a lot of our female guests will gravitate back to unhealthy relationships, for some sense of security. We have a single mom right now who has been a client. We have tried to help her, but she is in that position. She has two small children. She was abandoned by the father and she has a baby. She works at Subway, so she is paying a family member to babysit, and I do not even understand why she bothers. In her position, I would go on assistance. By the time the week is done, she does not have money to grab a coffee, I am sure.

Senator Gustafson: You mention here, and I think it is a good message for all of us, that we need to think about these people more often than just at church on Sunday.

Mr. Andrew: Right.

Senator Gustafson: Of course, the gospel has always brought that out very forcefully; sometimes we do not see it, unit it hits home, and then you see it.

If an individual is sitting on the street in Ottawa begging, some will say, ``Do not give him any money.'' I have come to the conclusion that that is wrong. That poor soul needs help. What can be said other than I commend you on the work you are doing. There is not any channel that really challenges the general public on an issue like this, other than church organizations.

Mr. Andrew: Right. Well, at least with that group, I can use their book against them, so to speak, and we do that. They do have, obviously, a standard faith that says we need to do that. I think we can do it on just humanitarian and compassionate grounds with most people, if you can relate and identify with them.

Senator Gustafson: Right now, though, speaking of compassionate, there would be a lot of those asking for funds for Africa and so on, and I will admit that need is great.

Mr. Andrew: Right, yes.

Senator Gustafson: On the other hand, there also is the need within Canada.

Mr. Andrew: Yes.

Senator Gustafson: So, I commend you.

Senator Callbeck: Thank you for attending here this morning and for your presentations. I, too, commend you for the work you are doing. I think it is extremely important.

I want to ask you about one section in your presentation where you talk rural women being the most disadvantaged, and you go on to say that, ``Policies and programs must take into consideration rural realities. Urban approaches and policies do not work in rural areas.'' You mention several programs, like EI, minimum wage, social assistance and so on. Are you saying here that you feel that rural women are not really being treated as well as women that live in urban areas under social assistance?

Ms. Longmire: It is situational in terms of transportation. If you are living in an urban area, then you have things available to you that rural women do not have. As well, particularly in Annapolis County, the demographic is there. We are so few people for the land mass; it is amazing. We have some forms of transportation that go down through the valley, but we do not have a feeder into that. Hence, there really is a difficulty.

In the city, to access child care all you have to do take your child down the block to a child care facility. A young mother living in Bridgetown would have to come to Annapolis Royal or Middleton to put her child in child care. So, with no transportation, even though she may be living in Bridgetown and is working at the local Save Easy, how is she going to get her child into child care?

Also, there is so much out-migration with young men. They are going out West or other places, and there is a catch- up period before their families can go with them, if the families go with them at all. In our experience, sometimes the male is away and does not come back to this area. What does the young mother do in that situation?

That is why I said that I think rural women are more disadvantaged. I believe we need to look at that and find a non-cookie-cutter approach to the problem. We have to make policies that are appropriate to the area, and not just based on population because a lot of this stuff is based on population.

Senator Callbeck: I agree with what you are saying — I am from a rural area — but I just wanted you to put that on the record.

You talked about the program in Newfoundland — and, certainly, we saw a copy of that on Monday when we were there, which is a very aggressive program. In 10 years, they want to go from the province with the most poverty to the province with the least poverty, so it includes a lot of different things. As well, you talked about being in Halifax in February. I take it, in terms of your involvement here, this is what you want the government to do here, something very similar?

Ms. Longmire: Something very similar to that, or a combination of different things that have happened in other countries. We all know about the big turnaround in Ireland. We need something appropriate to Nova Scotia, because we are all so different.

Senator Callbeck: I agree.

John, you mentioned you do not get any government funding at all?

Mr. Andrew: Right.

Senator Callbeck: And you operate on roughly $110,000?

Mr. Andrew: That is our estimated operating budget. However, when we visited our friends at Hope Cottage, who run one of the largest shelters in Halifax, this older fellow who had worked in the system for a long time looked at me and said, ``You need about $110,000,'' and it was what we worked out on paper.

Right now, we have a number of private individuals and our board leadership, as well as several churches, that have an interest in us — across the board, Catholic, Wesleyan and Baptist, and so on. That end of it is growing, but I had hoped for a much better friendship with the government. We have had some very good dialogue with our provincial representatives, but it has really gone nowhere. It would appear that it is actually stopping at the bureaucrats, who are treating the monies as though it is their private stash and really being tight with that. I say that because there have been some very clear directives from our two local MLAs. They have sent some pretty clear messages of support, and in one case the Minister of Community Services sent a very clear directive: ``Include these guys in your budget.'' We have gone to so many meetings. My last message to them was, ``We have work to do; you know where we are.''

Senator Callbeck: What about the business sector? Has it stepped up to the plate at all?

Mr. Andrew: No, and that is probably partly our fault because we really lack the resources in terms of people to be able to get out there. We have a federal grant for an EI recipient to be a fundraising person, so we are presently looking to fulfill that. That would be the first of any kind of government support. It does not help our operating cost and that kind of thing, but it would send someone out there who could establish a dialogue with the business community, social groups and other such people.

Senator Callbeck: I have just one other question, Madam Chairman. Della, you mentioned a particular women's shelter. Roughly, what percentage of funding to operate that shelter comes from the government?

Ms. Longmire: There is a transition house for family violence only, at this point. I cannot speak for my sisters, who are not here, but I believe that most of the funding for that is from the provincial Department of Community Services.

Senator Mahovlich: Thank you, witnesses, for appearing. I came to Toronto about 54 years ago from Northern Ontario. I had never witnessed anyone sleeping outdoors, but I came to Toronto and I looked out at the football field one night and, gee, there were a couple of guys with a bottle of wine. They were having a good time, and they slept outdoors. Today, we see people under bridges and sleeping in the woods.

Are there certain people who do not want any help? In Toronto, I believe there are people that you cannot help.

Mr. Andrew: I would have to believe those people are mentally ill. I think the desire for shelter is pretty basic. We have done some work with folks in downtown Fredericton, which is a bit more like a city than what you find in this area. You will find folks there that do not want help. As well, we have some clients for whom it is often a mental health issue. When they are sitting across from a social worker or an intake worker who is asking their name, they are wondering why that person wants their name and they cannot go through that process.

So, in the name of protecting the rights of some of these individuals, the authorities do not have a lot of power to make decisions for these folks. There are some moves provincially to see that changed, so the police could take an individual and maybe make some choices for him. It was that way at one time, and we have reacted very strongly against that because there were abuses; I understand that. However, there have been instances of folks who do not even know their names checking themselves out of the psychiatric unit in Kentville. They can check themselves out because they do not want to be there. I am not so sure about that kind of system.

So, I think you are right that there are people who are saying, ``No, I do not want help.'' That has got to be an ill person, I would think.

Senator Mahovlich: Has anybody that you have taken care of ``graduated,'' so to speak? In other words, the individual once needed help, but has now made a success of his life?

Mr. Andrew: For sure. As I mentioned, there are folks who are down on their luck for whatever reasons, perhaps disabilities, that have gone full circle and have gone through training and are working with us and volunteering. I think they are successes.

Senator Mahovlich: Do you have people always coming back, the same people?

Mr. Andrew: No. That is very rare. If so, they sleep on army cots and we make it clear that this is temporary. We have eye-to-eye talks, and we make sure they take responsibility. Usually, the first morning, they have a few tasks. If they have to go to the hospital, they must to go the hospital. If they do not follow through, then they are told that it will be their last night. Far from demoralizing the person, you are actually giving them responsibility, which is empowering, I think.

Senator Peterson: I have just one quick comment in relation to what Della was saying with respect to the difficulty in finding appropriate child care spaces. The previous government proposed a program that provided for early childhood development and would have provided many, many spaces in daycare, but, unfortunately, it did not proceed.

The Chairman: Thank you very much to everyone. Our thanks go to all those who have participated and all those who have listened.

The committee adjourned.