Published by Order of the Legislature by Hansard Reporting Services and printed by the Queen's Printer.
Available on INTERNET at http://nslegislature.ca/index.php/proceedings/hansard/
|TABLE OF CONTENTS||PAGE|
|PRESENTING AND READING PETITIONS:|
|Justice - Correctional Ctr. (Cumb. Co.),|
|Hon. M. Scott||357|
|Development: Citadel Hill - View Blockage,|
|Mr. H. Epstein||358|
|Development: Citadel Hill View - Blockage,|
|Mr. L. Preyra||358|
|Fin.: Tax Increases - Halt,|
|Mr. J. Morton||358|
|INTRODUCTION OF BILLS:|
|No. 15, Viola Desmond Day Act, Mr. A. MacLeod||359|
|No. 16, Summary Proceedings Act, Hon. R. Landry||359|
|No. 17, Public Highways Act, Mr. C. Porter||359|
|NOTICES OF MOTION:|
|Res. 165, SEDMHA Honda Intl. Minor Hockey Tournament:|
|Teams/Families - Welcome, Mr. A. Younger||359|
|Vote - Affirmative||360|
|Res. 166, Health: ER Serv. (24/7) - Ensure,|
|Hon. K. Casey||360|
|ORAL QUESTIONS PUT BY MEMBERS:|
|No. 34, Prem.: Bay Ferries Payout - Savings,|
|Hon. S. McNeil||361|
|No. 35, Trade & Convention Ctr.: MOU - Awareness,|
|Hon. K. Casey||362|
|No. 36, ERD: Cat Ferry Loss - Economic/Tourism Impact,|
|Hon. W. Gaudet||363|
|No. 37, Prem. - Bar. Soc. Fees: Payment - Time Frame,|
|Hon. S. McNeil||364|
|No. 38, Fin. - Deloitte Rept.: Opinion - Acceptance,|
|Mr. A. MacMaster||365|
|No. 39, SNSMR - Gas Pricing URB Rept.: Min. - Recommendations,|
|Mr. A. Younger||366|
|No. 40, Fin.: Economy (N.S.) - Cyclical,|
|Mr. A. MacMaster||367|
|No. 41, Gaming Corp.: Gaming Strategy - Prov. Discussion,|
|Mr. L. Glavine||369|
|No. 42, Fin.: HST Increase - CRA Poll,|
|Hon. K. Casey||371|
|No. 43, NSBI: Pres./CEO - Salary,|
|Hon. Manning MacDonald||372|
|No. 44, Com. Serv.: Reg. Occupational Ctr. (Port Hawkesbury) -|
|Clients' Wages, Hon. M. Samson||373|
|No. 45, Intl. Tattoo: Queen's Attendance - Prem. Recommend,|
|Hon. C. Clarke||374|
|No. 46, Health: Annapolis Commun. Health Ctr.|
|- Uncertainty, Hon. S. McNeil||376|
|No. 47, Intl. Tattoo - Royal Visit: Premier's Office|
|- Involvement, Hon. C. Clarke||377|
|ADJOURNMENT, House rose to meet again on Tue., Apr. 6th at 2:00 p.m.||380|
HALIFAX, THURSDAY, APRIL 1, 2010
Sixty-first General Assembly
Hon. Charlie Parker
Mr. Gordon Gosse, Hon. Wayne Gaudet, Mr. Alfie MacLeod
MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. We'll call our business to order and happy April Fool's Day to everyone.
We'll commence the daily routine.
PRESENTING AND READING PETITIONS
MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Cumberland South.
HON. MURRAY SCOTT: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Probably the only people being fooled are the people in Cumberland County, as a result of decisions of this government to turn its back on a community that it promised not to do.
Mr. Speaker, this petition I'm going to table is a result of the headline, "Dexter says he'd keep Tory promises," which we know are being broken on a daily basis. The prayer says:
"We, the residents of Cumberland County implore that Premier Darrell Dexter keep his word and build a correctional facility in Cumberland County!"
Mr. Speaker, this petition is signed by 52 people, which brings it now to 222. I have affixed my signature to it.
MR. SPEAKER: The petition is tabled.
The honourable member for Halifax Chebucto.
MR. HOWARD EPSTEIN: Mr. Speaker, I beg leave to table a petition signed by 127 persons, the operative part of which reads:
"We urge you not to use public funds to allow a private developer to block the view of the centre harbour and George's Island from Citadel Hill."
Mr. Speaker, I have affixed my signature to this.
MR. SPEAKER: The petition is tabled.
The honourable member for Halifax Citadel-Sable Island.
MR. LEONARD PREYRA: Mr. Speaker, I beg leave to introduce a petition signed by 408 people, the effective clause of which reads:
". . . I urge you not to use public funds to allow a private developer to block the view of the centre harbour and George's Island from Citadel Hill."
In accordance with Rule 63, Mr. Speaker, I have affixed my signature to it. Thank you.
MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Kings North.
MR. JIM MORTON: Mr. Speaker, I beg leave to table a petition that has arrived from some of the citizens of Kings North. About 95 people, I think, are on this list, who have concerns about increased taxation. My signature is affixed to this and I would like to table it.
MR. SPEAKER: The petition is tabled.
PRESENTING REPORTS OF COMMITTEES
TABLING REPORTS, REGULATIONS AND OTHER PAPERS
STATEMENTS BY MINISTERS
GOVERNMENT NOTICES OF MOTION
INTRODUCTION OF BILLS
Bill No. 15 - Entitled an Act to Establish a Day to Recognize Viola Desmond. (Mr. Alfie MacLeod)
Bill No. 16 - Entitled an Act to Amend Chapter 450 of the Revised Statutes of 1989. The Summary Proceedings Act. (Hon. Ross Landry)
Bill No. 17 - Entitled an Act to Amend Chapter 371 of the Revised Statutes of 1989. The Public Highways Act. (Mr. Chuck Porter)
MR. SPEAKER: Ordered that these bills be read a second time on a future day.
NOTICES OF MOTION
MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Dartmouth East.
RESOLUTION NO. 165
MR. ANDREW YOUNGER: Mr. Speaker, I hereby give notice that on a future day I shall move the adoption of the following resolution:
Whereas the 33rd SEDMHA Honda International Minor Hockey Tournament opens today across the Halifax Regional Municipality and will close on Sunday, April 4th; and
Whereas the SEDMHA tournament began in 1977 and is now the largest minor hockey tournament in eastern Canada, involving the participation of 260 teams, 5,000 athletes and 1,000 team officials; and
Whereas the hockey tournament is currently hosted by the Dartmouth Whalers Minor Hockey Association, whose tireless effort has coordinated 568 games played over a four-day period;
Therefore be it resolved that members of the House of Assembly join me in welcoming all 260 teams and their families to the area for this fantastic hockey event, and in congratulating the event organizers.
Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.
MR. SPEAKER: There has been a request for waiver.
Is it agreed?
It is agreed.
Would all those in favour of the motion please say Aye. Contrary minded, Nay.
The motion is carried.
The honourable Leader of the Progressive Conservative Party.
RESOLUTION NO. 166
HON. KAREN CASEY: Mr. Speaker, I hereby give notice that on a future day I shall move the adoption of the following resolution:
Whereas the number-two promise of the NDP campaign literature last Spring was keeping emergency rooms open and reducing health care wait times; and
Whereas the NDP Government also promised, but has failed, to deliver on ministerial accountability for emergency departments; and
Whereas a perfect example of failed ministerial accountability was shown by CBC's Paul Withers last night when he reported that 40 emergency room doctors at the QE II Hospital could become individual contractors threatening the availability of 24-hour emergency service at the largest emergency room;
Therefore be it resolved that all members of the House agree that with the contract of the 40 doctors expiring at 12:00 midnight last evening the Minister of Health, through her government's promise of accountability, make it abundantly clear prior to the closure of today's sitting that 24-hour emergency service at the QE II is and will not be threatened.
Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.
MR. SPEAKER: There has been a request for waiver.
Is it agreed?
I hear several Noes.
The notice is tabled.
ORDERS OF THE DAY
ORAL QUESTIONS PUT BY MEMBERS
MR. SPEAKER: The time now is 12:15 p.m. and Oral Question Period then will run to 1:15 p.m. As always, I will announce that no BlackBerries or electronic equipment be used during Question Period.
The honourable Leader of the Official Opposition.
HON. STEPHEN MCNEIL: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Premier. Yesterday, the province agreed to an early payout of $2.5 million to Bay Ferries. The Minister of Economic and Rural Development claimed to have saved $600,000, which he will donate to Team Southwest. So my question to the Premier is, can the Premier tell this House how $600,000 of hush money is going to replace the millions of dollars his government took out of the economy by cancelling the ferry service?
HON. DARRELL DEXTER (The Premier): Mr. Speaker, what the government did was take the opportunity to look after the contract and try to save the people of this province some money. The penalty clause was such that this money would be used up over a series of months, so we felt that it was better to be able to take that money and put it into a fund that would actually be able to benefit the people of southwest Nova Scotia. So the idea that's the limit of the efforts for southwest Nova Scotia, of course, that's not true, but it is part of what we want to use to be able to benefit that area of the province.
MR. MCNEIL: Mr. Speaker, during the recent by-election in Antigonish, residents of that riding were tempted with a $1.5 million library. With the cancellation of the ferry service in Yarmouth and a by-election on the horizon, $600,000 isn't going to cut it. So my question to the Premier is, what are you going to come up with to entice the people of Yarmouth to forget your callous and reckless decision of devastating their economy?
THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, I think the Leader of the Official Opposition's question is a little unflattering, but what we intend to do to attract the voters of Yarmouth is to provide good government.
MR. MCNEIL: Mr. Speaker, this government recently spent $60 million to create 120 jobs in Pictou County; that's $500,000 a job. Yesterday, the NDP Government suggested $600,000 to fix the economy of southwestern Nova Scotia; that's the equivalent of one job in Pictou County. I would never suggest that Pictou County doesn't deserve economic development, but my question to the Premier is, why did the people of Pictou get economic
development to the tune of $500,000 a job, while the people of Yarmouth can't even get you to come to their town for a meeting?
THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, the reality is that our economic development efforts are broadcasted across the province. We look for good projects that we are able to provide incentives for so that we can create a strong economic performance. I can tell the Leader of the Official Opposition - and he may be interested to know - I will be in Yarmouth on Wednesday and I will be meeting with the mayor and council there. (Applause)
MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Leader of the Progressive Conservative Party.
TRADE & CONVENTION CTR.: MOU - AWARENESS
HON. KAREN CASEY: Mr. Speaker, yesterday I asked a question to the Premier in regard to an issue critical to the future economic health and prosperity of downtown Halifax. Despite the fact that a new trade and convention centre is a top priority of the Halifax business community, the Premier downplayed it as nothing more than a conceptual drawing. My question to the Premier is, were you aware of the memorandum of understanding signed by the government officials on May 4, 2009?
THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, of course I'm aware of it and it only goes to demonstrate the point that I was making yesterday.
MS. CASEY: Mr. Speaker, I'd like to remind the House that there is a difference between a conceptual drawing and a memorandum of understanding and I will table, for the Premier's interest and for his reading, the memorandum of understanding. It appeared yesterday, he knew nothing of this. Will he commit today, now that he is aware of it, to make this an important project, take it seriously and to accept the conditions agreed upon in May 4, 2009?
THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, what I said yesterday and what I've said before with respect to this project is that we're waiting for a proposal to come forward. That is the essence what the memorandum of understanding was about. It is, in all of the answers that we've given to this question whether here or from members of the press, is that consideration of a project or a proposal needs to be done on the basis of a full understanding of what that project is, not just the details of density and those sorts of things, things like financing as well.
At this point we haven't seen anything that tells us what the overall cost of the project is going to be, what the municipality's involvement will be, what the federal government's commitment to the project is. No one, I don't believe, would make a decision with respect to a proposal without knowing those kinds of very basic facts.
MS. CASEY: Mr. Speaker, the economic spinoffs quoted yesterday, part of the research, well known to the folks in the city, like the ones a major convention centre would provide, are just what this city and this province needs coming out of a major economic downturn. My final supplementary to the Premier is this, will you show the leadership you pledged to Nova Scotians and see that the development of the new trade centre is a top priority of your government in order to meet the projected 2013 deadline?
THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, I will do what I have said I will do in relation to these matters and that is that I will make sure that these matters are properly considered in light of all of the factors that need to be assessed. We will do it in a prudent fashion, something, unfortunately, the previous government was unable to do.
MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Clare.
HON. WAYNE GAUDET: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Economic and Rural Development. In December the NDP Government announced they would be no longer be funding The Cat ferry from Yarmouth to the U.S. This announcement was a bombshell to the people of southwest Nova Scotia. Businesses will be forced to close, Nova Scotians will be forced to look for new employment, families will be forced to move. My first question to the minister is, how is your government preparing to address the negative economic and tourism impact this loss will have on families and businesses in southwest Nova Scotia?
HON. PERCY PARIS: Mr. Speaker, as I said yesterday, there's a team, it's called Team West. It's comprised of many departments within the government that are working with companies and individuals in the western region of the province with all the stakeholders and together they're coming up with strategies as to what the future's going to look like. We are working very co-operatively with the people.
MR. GAUDET: Mr. Speaker, that's certainly comforting and reassuring. This should be a straightforward questioning and answering but the minister and his government continue to bog down debate with rhetoric and speeches. My question to the minister is quite simple, did your government contact the federal government and ask for federal financial assistance on the ferry service and if not, why not?
MR. PARIS: Mr. Speaker, the short answer to the question is yes. The dialogue with the federal government has been ongoing for years and when we formed government, the conversations with ACOA continued. There was no secret with respect to the viability of The Cat and the lack of the business case.
MR. GAUDET: Mr. Speaker, this ferry service is an important link between Canada and the United States. There are mixed messages coming from the federal Conservative members and from the provincial New Democrats. The MP for West Nova is saying there was money in the federal budget, the MP for Central Nova is saying there wasn't money in the federal budget and the provincial NDP Government - well, they created this devastating situation by announcing this out of the blue.
For clarification, I'd like to ask the minister, did the federal Conservative Government contact you to offer financial assistance for a ferry service from Yarmouth to the United States? Yes or no.
MR. PARIS: Mr. Speaker, no member from the federal government contacted me to say that they had money set aside in any budget federally with respect to The Cat. I also would like to add that we even were in contact with the Maine officials and certainly we've got confirmation from them that they had no interest in partnering with us.
MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. The honourable Minister of Economic and Rural Development has the floor.
MR. PARIS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. They told us in writing that they had no interest in helping us with the funding of The Cat.
MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Leader of the Official Opposition.
HON. STEPHEN MCNEIL: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Premier. The member for Cole Harbour became the Leader of the Official Opposition in 2001 so my question for the Premier is, is that when taxpayers of Nova Scotia began paying your Barristers' Society fees?
THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, the program that was in place, I believe it was put in place by the provincial government in 1999. It was extended in 2006. Like all the other allowances, these were reviewed. Once we became government, the one that you are talking about was terminated.
MR. MCNEIL: Mr. Speaker, the Premier preaches his belief in transparency but when it comes to how long the people of Nova Scotia have been paying his Barristers' Society fees, it's a very different story. My question to the Premier is, when did the taxpayers of Nova Scotia start paying your Barristers' Society fees?
THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, all this information has been released to the public. It was released through the press. For clarity, from 2006 forward, the program was extended
to me as it had been in place since 1999. When we came into government, we reviewed this policy and we ended it.
MR. MCNEIL: Mr. Speaker, let me try to help the Premier with his answer to the question. If taxpayers began paying his fees in 2001, the total amount taxpayers would have shelled out is $26,612.60. If taxpayers began paying his fees in 2003, the bill is $24,341.35.
My question to the Premier is, did taxpayers shell out $26,600 or $24,300 for your Barristers' Society fees?
THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, as I said earlier, this matter has been thoroughly canvassed. The amounts relating to me and to other members who received this were released to the public, and as I said, the program began in 2006 and was extended at that point to the Leader of the Official Opposition. Of course, after we were elected we reviewed all of the allowances. Many of them changed after 2006, as the House Leader knows, and this particular one was terminated.
MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Inverness.
MR. ALLAN MACMASTER: Mr. Speaker, my question to the Minister of Finance is, does your government accept the opinion of the Deloitte report which confirmed for Nova Scotians that the budget handed to your government by this Progressive Conservative Government was a balanced budget?
HON. GRAHAM STEELE: Mr. Speaker, the essence of the Deloitte report is, that crowd over there left a structural deficit that this government has to deal with. They said that we have to get back to balance. Starting in the budget that I deliver to this House on Tuesday, this government will take the first step back to balance.
MR. MACMASTER: Mr. Speaker, I'll take the word of an independent accounting firm over this government any day, and they certainly have not kept their promise to Nova Scotians to balance the budget. What has changed since June 2009? Interest rates are still at all-time lows. The bank rate has remained at 50 basis points since this government has taken office. Our Canadian dollar, although it is stronger - I spoke with a banker at a dinner yesterday who confirmed for me that some Nova Scotia exporters were doing just fine. Inflation has been stable.
When I visited with the Finance Minister in Ottawa earlier this month, he confirmed to me that our receipts from the federal government, the transfer payments, are stable and in some cases growing. For instance, the health transfer is legislated to grow at 6 per cent per
year. To the Minister of Finance, what significant economic event has happened in Nova Scotia for the NDP to table their second deficit budget for Nova Scotians?
MR. STEELE: Mr. Speaker, the problem with the Progressive Conservative Finance Critic is that he is asking the wrong people. If he wants to know why we are in the financial situation we are in, he should look to the seven survivors of the last election over there.
Here are a few of the questions he might want to ask them: why did they allow a $100 million Colchester Hospital to go $80 million over budget? Why did they take a $70 million B-FIT program that was supposed to last 10 years and spend all the money in two years? (Interruptions)
MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. The honourable Minister of Finance has the floor.
MR. STEELE: Mr. Speaker, yesterday that honourable member was quoted as saying that he would balance the next budget and he would do it by cutting. So since this is Question Period, I have a little quiz for him - what would he cut? Be specific.
MR. MACMASTER: Mr. Speaker, I wouldn't ask Nova Scotians to take my word for it, and I certainly wouldn't ask them to take the Minister of Finance's word, but I would ask them to take an independent auditor's word for it. If Nova Scotia entered the hands of the NDP Government in a state of balanced budgets, eight years of them, and if revenues are stable - through you, Mr. Speaker, to the Minister of Finance - what expenditure has grown since he took office that would need to be cut to balance the treasury for Nova Scotians?
MR. STEELE: Mr. Speaker, the fundamental problem facing this province is that expenditures are growing much faster than revenue. The unfortunate thing, Mr. Speaker, is that that crowd over there knew it when they were on this side of the House, but they kept spending money even though they knew that revenue was dropping. That's the problem - they didn't come to grips with that problem, but we will.
MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Dartmouth East.
MR. ANDREW YOUNGER: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Service Nova Scotia and Municipal Relations. Yesterday the Premier was asked by the Leader of the Official Opposition a very simple question about how his government would respond to a URB decision on gas pricing, but as usual - and it appears to be policy for this session - he avoided answering. It has now been over 24 hours since that decision was released and so that's more than enough time to review a very blunt decision.
The URB is very clear, "It was contrary to the preponderance of evidence to change the pricing of gasoline." So my question for the minister is, what will she be recommending to her Cabinet colleagues with respect to that URB decision?
HON. RAMONA JENNEX: Mr. Speaker, I will be taking the time to read the report in its fullness and then will be speaking with my colleagues. I need the time to take to read the report, and even though 24 hours might seem like a lot of time I am going to take the time over the Easter break to read the report and then work with my colleagues on the recommendations.
MR. YOUNGER: Mr. Speaker, I didn't know it took more than 30 minutes a page to consider a report as blunt and succinct as the one the Utility and Review Board issued yesterday. The fact is the NDP made a bad proposal. We told them that in the election, Nova Scotians have told them that, and the URB told them that in no uncertain terms yesterday. So my question for the minister is if the very blunt statements by the Utility and Review Board are not sufficient evidence to assure the government that staggered pricing is a bad idea, what information does she have that she would be considering that could possibly justify overturning the URB's decision?
MS. JENNEX: Mr. Speaker, as I said, I will be taking time to read the report in its fullness and speaking with my colleagues. As soon as a decision is made, we will announce it.
MR. YOUNGER: Mr. Speaker, I'll make sure I call on Mr. O'Connor on the weekend and ask him what the opinion will be.
AN HON. MEMBER: Premier O'Connor.
MR. YOUNGER: Premier O'Connor, I'm sorry. Since the minister has indicated she intends to consult with her colleagues, my final question is for the Minister of Economic and Rural Development.
The Minister of Finance has all but admitted he's going to raise the HST on Tuesday, making life more expensive for Nova Scotia families. The NDP tax hike will also have the effect of furthering the spread of gasoline prices at the border between New Brunswick and Nova Scotia, as well as on many other goods and services that people buy. Store owners in that region are already saying that they may be forced to close and that they will find people cross-border shopping for even more items. So my question for the minister is, given that the Minister of Finance has all but indicated he plans to hike the HST, what is the economic impact going to be on that part of Nova Scotia as a result of that hike?
HON. PERCY PARIS: Mr. Speaker, before I can answer that question, I guess we're going to have to wait and see what's going to be in the budget.
MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Inverness.
MR. ALLAN MACMASTER: Mr. Speaker, my question is to the Minister of Finance. The economy of Alberta is cyclical. It is very dependent on the price of oil and gas; in fact as oil and gas prices recovered this past year, the provincial share of royalty revenues rose from 8 per cent to 26 per cent of that provincial budget. For the benefit of the members of this House, can the Minister of Finance explain to what extent Nova Scotia's economy is cyclical?
HON. GRAHAM STEELE: Mr. Speaker, my goodness (Interruptions)
MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. I'm asking other members to give respect to the member who is speaking at the time.
MR. STEELE: Mr. Speaker, we're a trading province, open to the world. Our economy is very subject to the economic ebbs and flows, particularly with the United States and with the rest of Canada, and yet in this province we have suffered from the recent recession. We're certainly not the best off in the country, but we're not the worst off, either.
Now we can see the way forward, Mr. Speaker, as the session begins to come to an end, and particularly with the second year of stimulus spending, I would suggest that we once again have a bright future.
MR. MACMASTER: Mr. Speaker, projected royalty revenues for Nova Scotia offshore oil and gas for this past year were estimated to be 2 per cent of the budget revenues. This offers proof that Nova Scotia's economy is not as cyclical as other provinces.
Mr. Speaker, once again, through you to the Minister of Finance, what business in Nova Scotia could remain operating after five years of losing money with the cultural mindset of, we'll just turn a profit in four year's time?
MR. STEELE: Mr. Speaker, one of the things that the member alluded to was offshore royalties. One of the difficulties that we faced when we came to government, of course, was royalties are volume times price and unfortunately our major offshore project had also a scheduled maintenance delay, which meant that when I came into office as Minister of Finance, I had $300 million less to work with than the previous government did. Year over year, just one revenue item, Mr. Speaker, but the essential problem is that crowd over there knew their revenue was dropping and they just kept spending, spending, spending.
MR. MACMASTER: Mr. Speaker, before this Dexter NDP Government was elected, they promised Nova Scotians to balance budgets. Now we have to take their medicine. It
tastes awful and it's not going to work. Mr. Speaker, it is creativity and entrepreneurship that fuel this province, it is not the NDP new deficit plans that we're seeing. To the Minister of Finance, why does he feel it is okay to run deficits when Nova Scotia's small business owners have to run businesses that show profit each year?
MR. STEELE: Mr. Speaker, when we went out across the province with the Back to Balance consultation tour, we listened to Nova Scotians across the province. What they said to us consistently, in every location, was that they thought that three to five years was the right time to get back to balance. On the one hand you have governments that are getting weaker when they run deficits, on the other hand, if you go too far too fast, it is a shock to the economy, it's a shock to families, it's a shock to businesses, Mr. Speaker.
We think we've found the right balance. We have followed the advice given to us by the people of the province. I admit the whole situation is not what we would have desired when we came to office, Mr. Speaker, but the challenge is bigger because of the mess they left behind.
MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Kings West.
MR. LEO GLAVINE: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the minister responsible for the Nova Scotia Gaming Corporation. In the fall session the Minister assured Nova Scotians that the government gaming strategy would be renewed openly and publicly and a new strategy would show us the way forward for the next five years. In fact, when he was critic for Gaming, the minister stressed the need for the government to: lead us all in a discussion about gaming.
Today is the first day of April, the Nova Scotia Gaming Corporation's five-year strategy is over, the minister has waited almost six years to have this discussion. This was his chance, Mr. Speaker. My question for the minister, we have waited five months for the minister to lead us in this provincial discussion, which he promised us. Why has this not happened?
HON. GRAHAM STEELE: Mr. Speaker, I do apologize. I was distracted because a member on the other side of the House used language that he knows is unparliamentary. (Interruptions) He said that I lied and stole, and then another member called me a liar and I (Interruptions)
MR. SPEAKER: Order, order, please. I will deal with this at the end of Question Period. At the end of Question Period if there's a point of order we'll hear it at that point. I'm going to ask the honourable member for Kings West to repeat your question.
MR. GLAVINE: Mr. Speaker, just to get right to the question, we have waited five months for the minister to lead us in a provincial discussion on a new gaming strategy, which he promised. Why has this not happened?
MR. STEELE: Mr. Speaker, we have said that now that the previous government's five-year gaming strategy has expired we will be developing a new strategy. It is my intention to announce the results of that strategy during Responsible Gambling Awareness Week in October. We have been looking for someone to lead the consultation process. I assure the House, that member in the House will be complete and will be thorough, and I expect to have information for the House on that point very soon.
MR. GLAVINE: Mr. Speaker, if the minister's consultations are similar to how he has been addressing tax review, then it is clear that Nova Scotians should expect more closed door backroom bargains. The minister spent much of the Fall singing the praises of the Nova Scotia Gaming Corporation when they were awarded a level four certification by the World Lottery Association. However, on November 18, 2004, the then-Leader of the Opposition said quite clearly that the biggest gamblers are exactly the people that the Nova Scotia Gaming Corporation makes the most of and that's where their profit margin is. That sounds like a clear attack on the Nova Scotia Gaming Corporation.
My question to the minister is this, exactly what role will the Nova Scotia Gaming Corporation play over the next five years in the NDP's gaming strategy?
MR. STEELE: My goodness, Mr. Speaker, if I'm going to say what the role of the Nova Scotia Gaming Corporation is going to be over the next five years, that is one of the questions that we're going to be asking during the gaming strategy. I do invite the member to participate in the development of that strategy, and when it is completed we will know where we're going to go over the next five years.
MR. GLAVINE: Mr. Speaker, I'm very appreciative of the minister's invitation to be able to speak, because at the tax consultation process the first rule of the House was that I would not be able to speak. So I really appreciate this opportunity.
The NDP of the past saw clear and present danger. In fact, the NDP Gaming Critic of 2004 said that we're all benefitting from the revenue of gaming, but in the process the government is destroying a certain number of families. Now the minister tells us that it's only a small percentage who are at low, medium, or high risk of problem gambling. The minister's continued silence on the gaming strategy in the absence of any provincial discussion as the minister promised Nova Scotians he would led speak for themselves.
Their election pamphlets were correct, Mr. Speaker. From everything that they have done in the past 10 months, this NDP is different, just not in the way that Nova Scotians expected they would be. My question to the minister is, apart from the NDP's about-face on their own values, will the minister tell Nova Scotians here and now what changes to expect for the future of the government's role in gaming within this province?
MR. STEELE: Mr. Speaker, first of all, just to correct something the member said, it was never, ever stated during the Back to Balance process that any member of this House couldn't speak. In fact, I went out of my way to introduce every member from every Party at every session. (Applause) If the member would just swivel in his chair and talk to the member from Digby-Annapolis, that member will tell him that I specifically invited that member to come to the front and address the crowd in Digby. (Interruption)
Mr. Speaker, in terms of the gaming strategy, it is a very important question and it is something that really deserves to go beyond the kind of rhetoric that we hear from the Opposition here. We are going to be, over the next number of months, up to Responsible Gaming Awareness Week in October, working with all interested parties to develop a gaming strategy that will govern this government over the next five years. The member just needs to be patient as that process unfolds and I invite him to take full part in that process.
MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Interim Leader of the Progressive Conservative Party.
FIN.: HST INCREASE - CRA POLL
HON. KAREN CASEY: Mr. Speaker, my question is to the Premier. A recent Corporate Research Associates poll determined that 74 per cent of Nova Scotians were opposed to the idea of an HST increase. The results are clear and the people have spoken. So my question to the Premier is, will the Premier commit today to taking the advice of the people who elected him and to rule out a detrimental tax hike for the people of Nova Scotia?
THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the minister opposite for the question. Of course, it is not the habit of the government, or least not this government, to govern according to the polls. We, of course, govern according to what we think is in the best interest of the entire province. So, in accordance with many of the principles that were laid out in the economic panel report, we will begin with the Minister of Finance's first budget that will put us back on the road to balance in this province.
MS. CASEY: Mr. Speaker, the Minister of Finance, while speaking to the Halifax Chamber of Commerce yesterday, dismissed the CRA poll results as not representative of the feelings of Nova Scotians. My question to the Premier is, why does your government
reject scientific polling done by a reputable firm, in favour of the informally conducted, interest-group influenced, straw polls?
THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, of course, what we intend to do is make sure that we put in place the particular and specific financial policies that will best serve the people of this province. But further on the poll, the one that we paid attention to, is the one on June 9th.
MS. CASEY: Mr. Speaker, there are a lot of people waiting for the next poll. Last night, in an interview with CTV's Steve Murphy, Don Mills, President and CEO of Corporate Research Associates said that data gathered at the Back to Balance tour was biased information because the public gatherings were stacked with vested interest groups. My question to the Premier is, if the information gathered on the Back to Balance tour does not represent the broader interests of Nova Scotians, how can he base a four-year fiscal plan on a study that was deemed flawless by interest professionals.
THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, the Back to Balance sessions held by the Minister of Finance was the largest public engagement on matters associated with the finances of the province ever held in this province. Something that the (Interruptions)
MR. SPEAKER: Order. Order, please. Order. There is far too much discussion back and forth in this Chamber. If we're going to have a Question Period, we have to have some respect for one another. I am going to ask the Premier to finish up his answer.
THE PREMIER: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. As I said, this was the largest public engagement on the finances of the public by any government at any time in our history. It was an opportunity for the people of the province to come out and to give their opinion to the Minister of Finance to help frame both the context and the specifics of how we would proceed in getting the province back to balance. I think it was well appreciated. In fact, that's the feedback that we've had from people right across the province.
MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Cape Breton South.
HON. MANNING MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, my question today is for the Minister responsible for Nova Scotia Business Incorporated. My question to the minister is, what is the salary of the president and CEO of NSBI?
HON. PERCY PARIS: Mr. Speaker, I can't say for sure, but I would say that it's probably in the vicinity of $180,000-plus a year. But I could check for a more accurate figure and get back to the member opposite.
MR. MANNING MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, I'm glad the minister responsible said he'd get back to me on that because I asked this question today because on October 13th
the minister made a commitment to table the salaries on NSBI executives - this was last Fall and he has not followed through on his word.
I will quote what he said during debate on Supply after I asked for the salaries, travel and expenses. "As far as salaries are concerned, certainly I will get that information. It is my understanding that salaries are not in the annual report." That's a piercing glance at the obvious. "But we will make those available as well, I will see that they are tabled in the House." Those are the minister's words. My question to the minister is, where are those salaries that you promised to table and why have you not tabled them?
MR. PARIS: Mr. Speaker, I will make every effort to have those salaries tabled today, before we adjourn the House.
MR. MANNING MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, you better get somebody on it because we're going to be out of here in about another 20 minutes so I would hope to see them before that.
The issue here is about transparency. The IEF is quite possibly the least transparent pot of money that the Cabinet has to play with. They can dole out as much cash to whomever they see politically fit. NSBI has an advantage, however, they are business people making business decisions and this is the right way to do it. However, this minister can't even be trusted to keep his word on a simple commitment made last Fall to table public information that the people of Nova Scotia want to know about how much it's costing this government to run NSBI. I would ask the minister again to table all the relevant information on NSBI as soon as possible so that Nova Scotians will know how much it's costing us to keep that organization over in the building they're in. Thank you.
MR. PARIS: Mr. Speaker, the member opposite, his comments have been duly noted. Thank you.
MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Richmond.
COM. SERV.: REG. OCCUPATIONAL CTR. (PORT HAWKESBURY)
- CLIENTS' WAGES
HON. MICHEL SAMSON: Mr. Speaker, the Regional Occupational Centre in Port Hawkesbury is doing valuable work with mentally challenged persons to provide personal and vocational training for their clients. The centre pays their clients just $2 a day for the work they do. These individuals and their families see the value of this program, but $2 a day is clearly an insult.
The centre cannot afford to pay their clients any more money. As it stands, they have to secure 25 per cent of their budget through contracts and fundraising. My question to the
Minister of Community Services is, do you believe that $2 a day is a dignified wage for the clients of the Regional Occupational Centre?
HON. DENISE PETERSON-RAFUSE: Mr. Speaker, what I would say to that is the fact that I am concerned with any of those types of situations and I will have the opportunity to look into it with my staff and I will let the honourable member know.
MR. SAMSON: Mr. Speaker, the Regional Occupational Centre provides its clients with an ability to work and to learn very important life skills and to be able to give back to their community. The clients have been paid a mere $2 a day for years while the government has made several increases to the minimum wage rate in this province. At the same time, we all know that the cost of living continues to increase. So my question again is, why is the Minister of Community Services abandoning the clients of the Regional Occupational Centre?
MS. PETERSON-RAFUSE: Mr. Speaker, I would like to make it very clear that our government is here for the people of Nova Scotia and for the people who work at that facility. The honourable member mentioned that for years they were paid that amount. Well, that's because of the former government and the way that they neglected that segment of our population.
MR. SAMSON: Mr. Speaker, I'm certainly hopeful that's an indication of what the clients of the Regional Occupational Centre can expect in next week's budget, that this government is going to right the wrongs of the past for the clients of that centre.
Mr. Speaker, the Regional Occupational Centre receives a per diem for each member attending the program of just $3.50 per day. These rates were set in the 1970s. I wrote to the department last year and asked that this rate be reviewed. I received a letter back from the deputy minister stating that it's not expected that increases in clients' per diem, nor wage increases, can be a consideration at this time.
So my question to the minister is, the final supplementary, are you willing to meet with me and the executive director of the Regional Occupational Centre to discuss the issue of increasing the daily rate of $2 that is currently being paid to the clients of that centre?
MS. PETERSON-RAFUSE: Mr. Speaker, I'm always available to meet with anybody in this province who has a concern to be addressed, certainly.
MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Cape Breton North.
HON. CECIL CLARKE: Mr. Speaker, my question through you is for the Premier. It appears that the Premier's Chief of Staff, Dan O'Connor, knows more than experienced, trained and internationally renowned expert organizers at the Royal Nova Scotia International Tattoo. The Premier default, Dan O'Connor, seems to have taken on a new executive authority - dismissing six options for Her Majesty's appropriate attendance at the Tattoo. The Premier has now tarnished her family's long tradition spanning 30 years.
Mr. Speaker, can the Premier explain to this House why he has pushed the Tattoo down the theatrical stairs and will he do the right thing and recommend the Queen's attendance and, Mr. Premier, remember, it's never the wrong time to do the right thing?
THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, I knew when we took on this job that we would have lots of authority but I didn't realize that we were going to be able to have control over Buckingham Palace and, indeed, that is not the case. The reality is that we receive proposals, we forward them on to the palace for consideration.
MR. CLARKE: The Premier is not informing the House correctly. The Premier's Office, and the Premier's Office alone, acted unilaterally to destroy attendance by Her Majesty to the Tattoo. It is the Premier and his Premier default apparently, Dan O'Connor, who decided, not Buckingham Palace as he would suggest, and his cronies who are involved with this. Mr. Speaker, you know they approached you. Will the Premier admit this is just another small-minded, retaliatory and vindictive action by this socialist NDP Government against the Tattoo because they dared offer expert advice in contrast to the political optics demanded by the Premier and his office?
MR. SPEAKER: I must give the member credit for the very descriptive language that he uses.
THE PREMIER: Well, you know, Mr. Speaker, I think when questions are framed in that manner, they really speak for themselves and there's not a lot I have to say except that we are working hard to ensure that the Queen's visit to this province will incorporate a great reception for her that will show the regard and warmth that the people of Nova Scotia feel for Her Majesty. We're going to work hard to do that. We're going to try and do it, Mr. Speaker, unlike the Opposition, with a little bit of dignity. (Applause)
MR. CLARKE: Mr. Speaker, respect was shown to the Premier, but too bad he couldn't show it back to other people.
Members of the Royal family have attended the Tattoo on four occasions, and surprise, surprise, all went well. For example, in 1991 Princess Anne attended the Tattoo, spoke from the Royal Box, along with the Premier - imagine that - and it was a very successful event. Four Royal Visits, coordinated through the expert personnel at the Tattoo,
and somehow now there is a problem, and indeed it is. It is the Premier, Dan O'Connor, and the bullheaded NDP socialists that are trying to lead things here.
Mr. Speaker, Buckingham Palace expected this visit, as indicated in correspondence I will table for the House. Again, Mr. Premier, why would you personally cancel the attendance of Her Majesty, given the success of the Tattoo, to match protocol, performance, and professionalism? Too bad the Premier can't be big enough to do the same.
THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, well, I think what the honourable member should do is perhaps have a look at what the Palace is actually saying in the British press about these things, because they are responding very directly. Mr. Speaker, our intention, and I'll just repeat this again, is to ensure that two institutions in this province have an appropriate celebration: one is the institution of the Monarchy and Her Majesty, and the other is the great institution of the Navy, which will also be celebrating 100 years this summer.
Mr. Speaker, we're going to work hard to make sure that both of those great traditions of this province are properly respected. (Applause)
MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Leader of the Official Opposition.
HON. STEPHEN MCNEIL: My question is for the Minister of Health. Dr. Ross has been travelling from community to community across our province, causing uncertainty wherever he goes. Residents and staff of the Annapolis Community Health Centre have worked and continue to work diligently when it comes to the recruitment of physicians. The cloud of uncertainty, however, is causing anxiety amongst residents and is undoubtedly creating obstacles when it comes to the recruitment of physicians. Doctors are nervous about making commitments to work at the Annapolis Community Health Centre, and understandably so.
My question to the minister is, what guarantee will the minister make that Dr. John Ross will not abandon the Annapolis Community Health Centre like your government has abandoned the people of southwestern Nova Scotia?
HON. MAUREEN MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, this government is very much committed to safe, accessible emergency health care services all over the Province of Nova Scotia, including in the Annapolis Valley, and we are very committed to the Annapolis Health Care Centre.
Dr. Ross will be reporting in an interim report relatively soon. I think if there is any uncertainty, this certainly will help people in that area realize the direction in which this government will be going. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
MR. MCNEIL: Mr. Speaker, citizens are upset. When they become upset they look to their government to provide leadership, they look to their government for answers, yet they feel abandoned by the actions of this government. My question to the minister is, does the minister acknowledge the fact that the actions of Dr. John Ross are causing great anxiety in communities, especially since her government had already promised to keep all emergency rooms open 24/7 during the election campaign?
MS. MAUREEN MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, I want to reassure the honourable member and all citizens of Nova Scotia that this government is very much committed to ensuring that we have safe, accessible emergency health care services from one end of this province to the other. That is why we appointed a very well-respected emergency room physician to meet with people around the province, look at the information in terms of the patterns of use of emergency departments, and really develop a strong plan to fix the problems in our emergency health care system, and that's what we intend to do.
MR. MCNEIL: Mr. Speaker, they hired Dr. John Ross for one reason and that's to hide behind, so the Premier can break another promise that he made to the people of Nova Scotia during the election campaign. Dr. Ross came into Annapolis and did a hit and run -
he visited physicians, walked through the facility, but he failed to talk to the residents. This government has been invited to a number of public meetings to talk to the people of Annapolis Royal and surrounding area and it's been a no-show from this government. While it is easy for this government to boast about the attributes of the Annapolis Community Health Centre when it is convenient to do so, it has been clear that to date they're unwilling to stand up and defend it.
My question to the minister is, will the minister commit to the residents of Annapolis that a 24/7 emergency room department will be a service offered at the Annapolis Community Health Centre in the future? A simple yes or no will do - will you keep your word or not?
MS. MAUREEN MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, our commitment to the people of this province, including the residents of Annapolis, is that there will be safe, accessible emergency care from one end of this province to the other. Our government is very committed to the Annapolis Valley health care centre, thank you.
MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Cape Breton North.
HON. CECIL CLARKE: Mr. Speaker, to the Premier. The letter I tabled from Buckingham Palace states, "Please find enclosed a message from The Queen for the Royal Nova Scotia International Tattoo's commemorative book, which is reproduced in celebration of Her Majesty's visit later this year." Clearly, all was in order until the Premier default, Dan O'Connor, interfered. Her Majesty was to attend during the 100th Anniversary of the Navy, which I'd expect the Premier to respect his Minister responsible for Military Relations, and I would like to quote the Queen: "A truly international undertaking, the Tattoo has strengthened the bond of friendship between countries and between the military and civilian communities since it was first opened in 1979 by my mother, Queen Elizabeth."
What was good enough for the Queen Mum and three other royals is, all of a sudden, under the Dexter NDP, no longer good enough for the Queen according to their recommendations. Will the Premier finally admit that he, his office and government have made a royal mess of this affair, harming the reputation of Nova Scotia and, regrettably, that of the Tattoo?
THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, what he has tabled is a letter of congratulations from Buckingham Palace with respect to (Interruption) That's not what it says. The reality is that what we are going to do is to provide for this royal visit (Interruptions)
MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. If members have conversation, I'd ask them to direct it through the Chair, otherwise the Premier has the floor.
THE PREMIER: We are the host of this visit, we intend to make everything available to the staff of the royal visit and to ensure that the program that is put on here for the Queen appropriately displays the warmth and affection that the people of Nova Scotia feel for Her Majesty.
MR. CLARKE: Mr. Speaker, history has a funny way of repeating itself, and not in a good way for the NDP. The slight of the Royal Tattoo, which should come as no surprise because it was the NDP who have criticized the role of the royals in Nova Scotia in this House - ask a certain member of this House how he felt about the royals and what he said in this House about the role of monarchy in this House. The betrayal of this government to the Tattoo comes as no surprise, as anyone who questions the NDP is subject to their small-minded, retaliatory and vindictive actions by this socialist regime. Why can't the Premier accept this royal boondoggle as his own and do the right thing, step up to the stage and let the royal show (Interruptions)
MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. The time allotted for the Oral Question Period has expired.
The honourable Minister of Economic Development and Rural Development.
HON. PERCY PARIS: Mr. Speaker, during Question Period, I was asked with respect to salaries of NSBI, and for the record I would like to say that I did table those salaries during the October session of the House. However, having said that, I will retable them once again. (Applause)
HON. GRAHAM STEELE: Mr. Speaker, I'm rising on a point of order. During Question Period today, after I gave one of my answers, the member for Cumberland South, very clearly and distinctly shouted across the floor, you lied and you stole. Mr. Speaker, as a former Speaker of the House that member will know that those are two of the most insulting things that can be said in this House. I believe that if you examine the tapes that that remark will be clearly audible.
Mr. Speaker, I know that in this House emotions get heated and tough words get exchanged, but it is possible to be tough without being insulting and no member of this House should have to put up with that kind of language. (Applause)
MR. SPEAKER: I did not hear the remark but I can listen to the tape.
HON. MURRAY SCOTT: Mr. Speaker, first of all, it's ironic how the transition from this side of the House to that side of the House certainly changed the views of certain members.
MR. SPEAKER: Is this a point of order?
MR. SCOTT: Yes, it is on a point of order. Secondly, any comments that I make in this House across the way are not directed to an individual but said to that government and that Party for doing what they are doing in Nova Scotia.
Mr. Speaker, all you have to do is look at broken promises in the last nine months on the fact (Interruptions) Mr. Speaker, it is on this point of order, on the fact that they took jobs from Cumberland County, let Nova Scotians figure out what that means.
Mr. Speaker, I look forward to your ruling on this very important issue. (Applause)
MR. SPEAKER: I will take that under advisement and report back at a later date.
On an introduction, the Minister of Transportation and Infrastructure Renewal.
HON. WILLIAM ESTABROOKS: Mr. Speaker, in your gallery today we have a number of visitors who I am sure were interested in the exchanges on the floor of this historic House. I would like to ask them to stand at this time and to the House I would like to introduce the Hon. Dave Chomiak, the Minister of Innovation, Energy and Mines from Manitoba. David, it is great to have you here. (Applause)
Mr. Speaker, if I may, I know that there will be members interested, as they looked up at the minister they were aware there was someone with him, and at this time I would like to introduce Dave's fiancé, Debbie O'Brien - we welcome you to the House. (Applause)
MR. SPEAKER: We welcome the minister here today and hope he has enjoyed the proceedings of the House.
The honourable member for Cumberland South.
HON. MURRAY SCOTT: Mr. Speaker, I have a point of order, but I wonder if I could make an introduction first?
MR. SPEAKER: Certainly.
MR. SCOTT: In the west gallery is someone who is no stranger to this House and that is the former member of the House and now an HRM Councillor and that is Mr. David Hendsbee. With Mr. Hendsbee today is Amy and Chris Saltzer and family who are from
Regina, Saskatchewan and I would ask the House to give them a warm Nova Scotia welcome. (Applause)
MR. SPEAKER: Again, we welcome the councillor and all our visitors here today.
MR. SCOTT: Mr. Speaker, on a point of order. I know that when members rise in the House and they refer to, or read from, a specific document that they are required by the rules and the regulations to table that and there were two instances today where - and I know that the members did not read from a specific document but he referred to it - and I am wondering, in the interest of transparency, if the Minister of Economic and Rural Development could a table a letter that he referred to that he had from the federal government with regard to their denial of assistance for The Cat, financially.
Secondly, I wonder if the Premier can table the policy that he referred to, it was in place in this province for a number of years in regard to fees that are paid or not paid on behalf of certain members. So, I know the Premier did not read from it but I am just asking. He said there's a policy, and I'm asking if the Premier and the minister could, for transparency and for good Nova Scotians, table those documents for the House.
MR. SPEAKER: Point taken.
The honourable Government House Leader. (Interruptions)
The honourable Government House Leader has the floor.
HON. FRANK CORBETT: Well, Mr. Speaker, that concludes our business for the day. We will meet again on Tuesday, from the hours of 2:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m., when the business will be - and I am sure most are waiting for it - the budget. Then after regular routine, we will go into the Address in Reply and second reading of Bill Nos. 7, 10, and 13, if time permits.
In wishing everybody a happy and safe Easter weekend, we look forward to seeing everybody here safe. Travel and get home safe, as I say, and Godspeed. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
MR. SPEAKER: Thank you. The motion is to adjourn proceedings for the day.
Is it agreed?
It is agreed.
Would all those in favour of the motion please say Aye. Contrary minded, Nay.
The motion is carried.
We are adjourned until Tuesday at 2:00 p.m. Have a safe weekend.
[The House rose at 1:21 p.m.]