Assemblée Législative de la Nouvelle-Écosse

Les travaux de la Chambre ont repris le
21 septembre 2017

HANSARD 09-24

DEBATES AND PROCEEDINGS

Speaker: Honourable Charlie Parker

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/

First Session

TUESDAY, OCTOBER 20, 2009

TABLE OF CONTENTS PAGE
INTRODUCTION OF BILLS:
No. 43, Tidal View Manor Taxation Exemption Act,
Hon. R. Hurlburt 1412
No. 44, Members and Public Employees Disclosure Act,
Hon. R. Landry 1412
NOTICES OF MOTION:
Res. 695, NDP Gov't.: Deficit Budget (2009-10) - Denounce,
Hon. K. Casey 1412
Res. 696, Saint Theresa's Parish (Sydney) - Anniv. (75th),
Mr. G. Gosse 1413
Vote - Affirmative 1413
Res. 697, Patterson, Graeme: Sobey Art Award Finalist - Congrats,
Mr. A. Younger 1413
Vote - Affirmative 1414
Res. 698, TIR - Work: Original Plan/Revised Plan - Table,
Mr. K. Bain 1414
Res. 699, Sobeys Coats for Kids Campaign - MacLeod, Erin: Organization -
Congrats., Mr. C. MacKinnon 1415
Vote - Affirmative 1416
Res. 700, Alice Housing - Donner Award,
Ms. K. Regan 1416
Vote - Affirmative 1416
Res. 701, HPP: Community Rinks - Assist,
Hon. C. Clarke 1417
Hon. C. Clarke
Res. 702, British Home Children - Recognize,
The Premier 1417
Vote - Affirmative 1418
Res. 703, Digby Tigers U-18 Girls Soccer Team: Accomplishments -
Congrats., Mr. H. Theriault 1418
Vote - Affirmative 1418
Res. 704, NDP Gov't.: Deficit Budget (2009-10) - Denounce,
Hon. C. d'Entremont 1419
Res. 705, Duke, Fergus: Basketball Achievements - Congrats.,
Ms. B. Kent 1419
Vote - Affirmative 1420
Res. 706, Grant, Shauntay: Up Home - Publication,
Hon. K. Colwell 1420
Vote - Affirmative 1421
Res. 707, Health: MAPLE Criteria - Review,
Hon. R. Hurlburt 1421
Res. 708, Clam Hbr. Sandcastle Contest:
Lake Charlotte Leisure Planning Bd./Vols. - Congrats.,
Mr. S. Prest 1422
Vote - Affirmative 1422
Res. 709, Boutilier, Roger: Running Accomplishment - Congrats.,
Mr. L. Glavine 1422
Vote - Affirmative 1423
Res. 710, Fin.: Financial Measures Act - Change,
Mr. A. MacLeod 1423
Res. 711, Sheet Hbr. Cons. Elem. Sch.: Indigo Love of Reading Fdn. -
Selection, Mr. J. Boudreau 1424
Vote - Affirmative 1424
Res. 712, Regan, Walter: Retirement - Congrats.,
Ms. K. Regan 1425
Vote - Affirmative 1425
Res. 713, Gov't. (N.S.): Vol. Insurance Prog. - Implement,
Hon. M. Scott 1425
Res. 714, YMCA: Wk. Without Violence/Power of Being a Girl Conf. -
Congrats., Ms. D. Whalen 1426
Vote - Affirmative 1427
Res. 715, Fin. - Financial Markets: N.S. Status - Min. Check,
Hon. C. d'Entremont 1427
Res. 716, Boudreau, Norma - Funeral Serv. Assoc. (Can.): Pres. - Appt.,
Hon. M. Samson 1427
Vote - Affirmative 1428
Res. 717, NDP Gov't.: Deficit Budget (2009-10) - Denounce,
Hon. K. Casey 1428
Res. 718, HPP - Smoking Cessation: Sardine Substitute - Promote,
Mr. H. Theriault 1429
Vote - Affirmative 1429
Res. 719, NDP Gov't.: Deficit Budget (2009-10) - Denounce,
Mr. A. MacLeod 1430
Res. 720, Carruthers, Bob & Judy - Anniv. (35th),
Hon. K. Colwell 1430
Vote - Affirmative 1431
Res. 721, NDP Gov't.: Deficit Budget (2009-10) - Denounce,
Hon. M. Scott 1431
Res. 722, Pink Thunder - Band Members: Accomplishments - Congrats.,
Hon. M. Samson 1432
Vote - Affirmative 1433
Res. 723, NDP Gov't.: Deficit Budget (2009-10) - Denounce,
Hon. R. Hurlburt 1433
Res. 724, Smithers, Nancy: Organic Achievement Award - Congrats.,
Ms. D. Whalen 1433
Vote - Affirmative 1434
Res. 725, NDP Gov't.: Deficit - Justify,
Mr. K. Bain 1434
Res. 726, NDP Gov't: Deficit Budget (2009-10) - Denounce,
Hon. C. Clarke 1435
ORAL QUESTIONS PUT BY MEMBERS:
No. 190, Fish. & Aquaculture Min. - Conflict of Interest Policy:
Adherence - Ensure, Hon. S. McNeil 1436
No. 191, Prem.: Junior Ministers - Role/Responsibilities,
Hon. K. Casey 1437
No. 192, Fish. & Aquaculture: Fisheries Loan Bd. - New Entrants,
Hon. M. Samson 1437
No. 193, Justice: Pillay Matter - Process,
Hon. M. Samson 1439
No. 194, Fin.: Gov't. Actions - Legality,
Hon. C. Clarke 1440
No. 195, Justice: Major Crimes - Define
Hon. M. Samson 1441
No. 196, TIR: Junior Min. - Costs, Mr. K. Bain 1443
No. 197 Com. Serv.: Caregiver Allowance Prog. - Clawbacks,
Hon. S. McNeil 1445
No. 198, EMO - Ground Search & Rescue: Emerg. Services -
Withdrawal, Hon. M. Scott 1446
No. 199, Health: Lucentis Coverage - Status,
Ms. D. Whalen 1448
No. 200, Health - Dartmouth Gen. Hosp.: Short-Term Issues -
Address, Mr. A. Younger 1449
No. 201, Health: Caregiver Allowance Prog.: Yar. Case - Min. Review,
Hon. R. Hurlburt 1451
No. 202, Health - Digby Dialysis Serv. - Plans,
Mr. H. Theriault 1453
GOVERNMENT BUSINESS:
PUBLIC BILLS FOR THIRD READING:
No. 42, Appropriations Act, 2009, Hon. G. Steele 1454
Hon. G. Steele 1454
Vote - Affirmative 1455
PUBLIC BILLS FOR SECOND READING:
No. 29, Financial Measures (2009) Act, Hon. G. Steele 1456
Hon. G. Steele 1456
Hon. S. McNeil 1459
Hon. K. Casey 1464
Mr. L. Glavine 1466
Hon. C. d'Entremont 1472
Ms. D. Whalen 1479
Mr. A. Younger 1487
Hon. C. Clarke 1492
Hon. G. Steele 1497
Vote - Affirmative 1498
No. 2, Motor Vehicle Act, Hon. W. Estabrooks 1498
Mr. A. Younger 1498
Vote - Affirmative 1499
No. 4, Engineering Profession Act, Hon. R. Landry 1499
Hon. R. Landry 1500
Hon. Manning MacDonald 1500
Hon. M. Scott 1500
Hon. R. Landry 1501
Vote - Affirmative 1501
No. 5, Halifax Regional Municipality Charter, Hon. R. Jennex 1501
Hon. R. Jennex 1501
Mr. A. Younger 1502
Hon. C. Clarke 1503
Hon. R. Jennex 1504
Vote - Affirmative 1504
No. 6, HRM By Design Act, Hon. R. Jennex 1504
Hon. R. Jennex 1504
Hon. C. Clarke 1505
Hon. R. Jennex 1506
Vote - Affirmative 1506^
ADJOURNMENT, The House rose to meet again on Wed., Oct. 21st at 2:00 p.m. 1507
NOTICES OF MOTION UNDER RULE 32(3):
Res. 727, Stevens, Joyce: Death of - Tribute,
Mr. L. Glavine 1508
NOTICE OF QUESTION FOR WRITTEN ANSWER:
No. 1, Health - Bayview Mem. Health Ctr.: Expansion/Renovation Proj. -
Status, Hon. M. Scott 1509

[Page 1411]

HALIFAX, TUESDAY, OCTOBER 20, 2009

Sixty-first General Assembly

First Session

12:00 NOON

SPEAKER

Hon. Charlie Parker

DEPUTY SPEAKERS

Mr. Gordon Gosse, Hon. Wayne Gaudet, Mr. Alfie MacLeod

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. Before we begin the daily routine, the subject for this evening's late debate was submitted by the honourable member for Yarmouth:

Therefore be it resolved that the MLA for Cumberland North immediately come forward and stand up for the people who elected him and speak with the Minister of Justice about keeping the jail in Cumberland County.

This will be debated this evening at 6:00 p.m.

We will begin the daily routine.

PRESENTING AND READING PETITIONS

PRESENTING REPORTS OF COMMITTEES

TABLING REPORTS, REGULATIONS AND OTHER PAPERS

STATEMENTS BY MINISTERS

[Page 1412]

1411

GOVERNMENT NOTICES OF MOTION

INTRODUCTION OF BILLS

Bill No. 43 - Entitled an Act to Amend Chapter 94 of the Acts of 1971. An Act to Exempt Tidal View Manor in the Town of Yarmouth From Taxation. (Hon. Richard Hurlburt)

Bill No. 44 - Entitled an Act to Amend Chapter 4 of the Acts of 1991. The Members and Public Employees Disclosure Act. (Hon. Ross Landry)

MR. SPEAKER: Ordered that these bills be read a second time on a future day.

NOTICES OF MOTION

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Interim Leader of the Progressive Conservative Party.

RESOLUTION NO. 695

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 NDP Government has brought forth a budget that has a $592 million deficit; and

Whereas tabling a deficit budget is an illegal action based upon the laws in Nova Scotia; and

Whereas the NDP Government saw fit to add $353 million to create an artificially-inflated deficit through a prepayment to universities that was not due until the 2010-11 fiscal year;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House denounce the actions of the NDP Government in creating a massive deficit for blatant political purposes and urge others to join the efforts of the Progressive Conservative Party in not supporting the illegal 2009-10 budget.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

MR. SPEAKER: There has been a request for waiver.

[Page 1413]

Is it agreed?

I hear several Noes.

The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Cape Breton Nova.

RESOLUTION NO. 696

MR. GORDON GOSSE: Mr. Speaker, I hereby give notice that on a future day I shall move the adoption of the following resolution:

Whereas on October 25, 2009, a heavenly celebration will take place in the City of Sydney, Nova Scotia; and

Whereas St. Theresa's Parish Church will celebrate its 75th Anniversary; and

Whereas St. Theresa's Parish Church has provided spiritual leadership and fellowship to its parishioners from near and far;

Therefore be it resolved that the Nova Scotia Legislature congratulate the Parish of St. Theresa's Church on its 75th Anniversary and wish them all to continue fellowship in years to come.

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 member for Dartmouth East.

RESOLUTION NO. 697

[Page 1414]

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 Sobey Art Foundation began in 2002 and is administered by the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia to Canadians under the age of 40; and

Whereas the Sobey Art Award is presented annually and awards a winner and four runners-up with a monetary prize, as well as exhibits their work at the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia; and

Whereas Graeme Patterson, a native of Saskatchewan and a graduate of NSCAD in 2002, has since remained a leading visual artist in Halifax and was recognized as one of the top five finalists from across Canada for the 2009 Sobey Art Award;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of the House of Assembly recognize the accomplishment of Graeme Patterson as a noteworthy artist, and congratulate him on his achievement as a finalist for the 2009 Sobey Art Award.

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 member for Victoria-The Lakes.

RESOLUTION NO. 698

MR. KEITH BAIN: Mr. Speaker, I hereby give notice that on a future day I shall move the adoption of the following resolution:

Whereas the Minister of Transportation and Infrastructure Renewal should have a plan for the work to be completed by his department in this fiscal year, so that he will know where to make cuts to save $29 million; and

Whereas he has the assistance of a junior minister to help him with his work and advise him on what he should do with regard to gravel roads across this province, other than hire a consultant to perform her work also; and

[Page 1415]

Whereas since the season for completing this work is nearly at an end, the minister must know what can now be reasonably expected to be completed;

Therefore be it resolved that the minister table a copy of his original plan, and a copy of his revised plan, now that he surely must know what can and cannot be accomplished this fiscal year.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

[12:15 p.m.]

MR. SPEAKER: There has been a request for waiver.

Is it agreed?

I hear several Noes.

The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Pictou East.

RESOLUTION NO. 699

MR. CLARRIE MACKINNON: Mr. Speaker, I hereby give notice that on a future day I shall move the adoption of the following resolution:

Whereas some families in Pictou County cannot afford to purchase new winter clothing for their children; and

Whereas the annual Sobey's Coats for Kids campaign is underway throughout Pictou County, in which hundreds of children's jackets and coats are donated to the campaign; and

Whereas the founder of this project, Erin McLeod, is ultimately responsible for providing over 4,000 coats in five years to children and their families;

Therefore be it resolved that the Nova Scotia Legislative Assembly congratulate Sobey's head office employee and campaign organizer Erin MacLeod for helping thousands of children stay warm during the cold winter months, through the Coats for Kids campaign.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

MR. SPEAKER: There has been a request for waiver.

Is it agreed?

[Page 1416]

It is agreed.

Would all those in favour of the motion please say Aye. Contrary minded, Nay.

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Bedford-Birch Cove.

RESOLUTION NO. 700

MS. KELLY REGAN: Mr. Speaker, I hereby give notice that on a future day I shall move the adoption of the following resolution:

Whereas the Donner Awards Program is Canada's largest and most prestigious non-profit recognition program - it acknowledges those non-profit social service agencies that excel at maximizing service on limited budgets; and

Whereas in 2009, 582 not-for-profit social service agencies across the country applied to be recognized with a Donner Award; and

Whereas on Friday, October 16, 2009, Alice Housing was nationally recognized with the Excellence in Provision of Basic Necessities Award - this organization's third award in the last four years;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of the House of Assembly congratulate Joanne Bernard, Executive Director, along with the staff and volunteers of Alice Housing for this prestigious honour, and acknowledge the exceptional work they all do in our community.

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 member for Cape Breton North.

[Page 1417]

RESOLUTION NO. 701

HON. CECIL CLARKE: Mr. Speaker, I hereby give notice that on a future day I shall move the adoption of the following resolution:

Whereas community rinks are the backbone of communities from one end of Nova Scotia to the other; and

Whereas in the Spring budget defeated by this current NDP Government, another $2 million for a second consecutive year had been set aside that would have provided $27,000 to each of the 74 arenas across Nova Scotia, allowing them to make necessary repairs; and

Whereas the current NDP Government, when they climb on their soapbox to tell Nova Scotians money is available for rinks, they skip a fundamental part of the story which is that if rinks become eligible under the current Health Promotion and Protection programs, they're still responsible for their 50 per cent of the cost;

Therefore be it resolved that this NDP Government recognize some of the difficulties being experienced by community rinks in this province and assist them in more needed upgrades, instead of telling them that they will have to pay 50 per cent of any future costs for repairs.

Mr. Speaker, I table that.

MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.

The honourable Premier.

RESOLUTION NO. 702

HON. DARRELL DEXTER (The Premier): Mr. Speaker, I hereby give notice that on a future day I shall move the adoption of the following resolution:

Whereas 140 years ago, child care organizations in Britain began sending impoverished children to Canada where many faced initial hardship and setbacks; and

Whereas approximately 6,000 of those children were taken in by families across the Maritimes between 1869 and the 1930s; and

Whereas this year in Nova Scotia, October is the Month of the British Home Child;

[Page 1418]

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House recognize the thousands of British home children who worked hard to develop a new life here in Canada and send best wishes to their families, many of whom are still living in Nova Scotia today.

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 member for Digby-Annapolis.

RESOLUTION NO. 703

MR. HAROLD THERIAULT: Mr. Speaker, I hereby give notice that on a future day I shall move the adoption of the following resolution:

Whereas the Digby Tigers Under-18 girls soccer team won the Valley District Championship for the third year in a row, downing Kings West 3-1 this past summer; and

Whereas for many of the girls on the summer league team, this win is really their fourth district championship since they also won as members of the U-16 Tigers; and

Whereas the Tigers went on to win silver at the provincial championships held in Milford;

Therefore be it resolved that members of the House of Assembly congratulate the Digby Tigers Under-18 girls soccer team on their accomplishments this year and wish them continued success in the future.

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.

[Page 1419]

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Argyle.

RESOLUTION NO. 704

HON. CHRISTOPHER D'ENTREMONT: Mr. Speaker, I hereby give notice that on a future day I shall move the adoption of the following resolution:

Whereas the NDP Government has brought forth a budget that has a $592 million deficit; and

Whereas tabling a deficit budget is an illegal action based upon the Financial Measures Act; and

Whereas the NDP Government saw fit to cut $26 million in capital grants to the district health authorities where funding for improved medical facilities and equipment is so important to the health care system in Nova Scotia;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House denounce the actions of the NDP Government in creating a massive deficit for blatant political purposes and urge others to join the efforts of the Progressive Conservative caucus in not supporting the illegal 2009-10 budget.

MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Cole Harbour-Eastern Passage.

RESOLUTION NO. 705

MS. BECKY KENT: Mr. Speaker, I hereby give notice that on a future day I shall move the adoption of the following resolution:

Whereas Fergus Duke is a 15-year-old Cole Harbour youth who currently attends Auburn Drive High School and continues to demonstrate his extraordinary basketball skills through local, provincial, and national success stories and achievements; and

Whereas Fergus recently honed his basketball skills as a member of Canada's first cadet national basketball team, competing in Argentina at the Tournament of the Americas, with the team earning the bronze medal and then qualifying for next summer's FIBA Under-17 World Championships; and

[Page 1420]

Whereas Fergus was also one of the youngest players on the 2009 Nova Scotia Canada Summer Games basketball team and helped our Nova Scotia team earn a silver medal in P.E.I. earlier this year;

Therefore be it resolved that this Nova Scotia House of Assembly congratulate Fergus Duke of Cole Harbour for his outstanding achievements in the sport of basketball, and in particular his recent contribution to the Canadian national cadet team's bronze medal win and to the 2009 Nova Scotia Canada Summer Games basketball team's silver medal in P.E.I., and wish him every success in the future.

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 member for Preston.

RESOLUTION NO. 706

HON. KEITH COLWELL: Mr. Speaker, I hereby give notice that on a future day I shall move the adoption of the following resolution:

Whereas Shauntay Grant is a multi-talented Halifax-based author, broadcaster, and spoken-word performer who loved reading and writing as a child, but it was not until she started writing her stories her way that she knew storytelling could become her life's work; and

Whereas Shauntay Grant has written and published her first children's book, entitled Up Home, which was written as a poem depicting the joy of everyday life in her tightly-knit community of North Preston; and

Whereas Shauntay Grant's book has received two Atlantic Book Awards and is short-listed for the 2010 Hackmatack Children's Choice book awards;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House of Assembly congratulate Shauntay Grant for this outstanding accomplishment and wish her well in her future writing endeavors.

[Page 1421]

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 member for Yarmouth.

RESOLUTION NO. 707

HON. RICHARD HURLBURT: Mr. Speaker, I hereby give notice that on a future day I shall move the adoption of the following resolution:

Whereas hard-working Nova Scotians trying to keep their loved ones at home instead of in an institution are being abandoned by this NDP Government and Health Minister through the Caregiver Allowance Program; and

Whereas there have been numerous examples of this brought forward to the House not only demonstrating the need of Nova Scotians to access the program, but also the flaws that have become evident in the MAPLE criteria system of evaluation; and

Whereas although Nova Scotians have had over 100 days to get used to being let down by the NDP Government, it is disheartening and disappointing that their lack of compassion continues to expand;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of the House of Assembly join me in immediately calling for the Minister of Health to review the MAPLE criteria and ensure that deserving Nova Scotians are not left behind as the government recklessly cuts programs to help validate their deficit budget.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

MR. SPEAKER: There has been a request for waiver.

Is it agreed?

I hear several Noes.

[Page 1422]

The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Eastern Shore.

RESOLUTION NO. 708

MR. SIDNEY PREST: Mr. Speaker, I hereby give notice that on a future day I shall move the adoption of the following resolution:

Whereas Clam Harbour Beach is a long, beautiful silver sand beach along the Eastern Shore and since 1978 has been the location of the annual Clam Harbour Sandcastle Contest, which attracts hundreds of contestants and thousands of spectators to the Eastern Shore; and

Whereas this occasion, put on by a non-profit organization, is the number one identifiable event on the Eastern Shore and brings a significant contribution to tourism on the Eastern Shore; and

Whereas this past August marked the 31st annual sandcastle event and was the biggest turnout ever, with over 20,000 attendees;

Therefore be it resolved that the Nova Scotia Legislature congratulate the Lake Charlotte Leisure Planning board and volunteers to the Clam Harbour Sandcastle Contest on bringing community and tourism together for a fun-filled family day at the beach.

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 member for Kings West.

RESOLUTION NO. 709

MR. LEO GLAVINE: Mr. Speaker, I hereby give notice that on a future day I shall move the adoption of the following resolution:

[Page 1423]

Whereas in June 2009, Roger Boutilier retired from Middleton Regional High School after 35 years of teaching; and

Whereas Roger is an avid runner who for many years dreamed of running home to Wolfville from Middleton Regional High School; and

Whereas in honour of his final day of teaching, Roger Boutilier used the back roads and spent 8.5 hours running home to Wolfville;

Therefore be it resolved that members of the House of Assembly congratulate Roger Boutilier for this accomplishment and wish him good health and happiness throughout his retirement.

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 member for Cape Breton West.

RESOLUTION NO. 710

MR. ALFIE MACLEOD: Mr. Speaker, I hereby give notice that on a future day I shall move the adoption of the following resolution:

Whereas the Minister of Finance in his role as Opposition Finance Critic said in this House of Assembly on May 1st of this year, ". . . those non-renewable resources are a legacy for us and for our children and for our grandchildren. That money must go on the debt; it must stay on the debt. It is the only responsible thing to do."; and

Whereas the present Minister of Finance no longer views the non-renewable resources as a legacy or as the responsible thing to do; and

Whereas the Minister of Finance beyond removing money from the offshore account, something he vehemently opposed less than six months ago, has now tabled legislation allowing the NDP to run deficits in this province for as long as they like;

[Page 1424]

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House of Assembly immediately call upon the Premier to demand that his Minister of Finance implement changes to the Financial Measures (2009) Act detailing a recovery plan from this artificial deficit inflicted upon us by the New Democratic Government.

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.

The honourable member for Guysborough-Sheet Harbour.

RESOLUTION NO. 711

MR. JIM BOUDREAU: Mr. Speaker, I hereby give notice that on a future day I shall move the adoption of the following resolution:

Whereas Sheet Harbour Consolidated Elementary School was one of 20 schools chosen among hundreds from across Canada to receive an Indigo Love of Reading grant for $50,000; and

Whereas Lynn Lowe, Shelley Leslie, Judith Graham and Marion Gammon of Sheet Harbour Consolidated Elementary School were instrumental in preparing the application for the grant; and

Whereas Sheet Harbour Consolidated Elementary School hosted a Love of Reading celebration on Wednesday, October 7, 2009, to kick off the grant to the school which included students reading poems, doing skits and singing songs;

Therefore be it resolved that the Nova Scotia Legislature congratulate the staff and students of Sheet Harbour Consolidated Elementary School for the successful application to the Indigo Love of Reading Foundation.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

[12:30 p.m.]

MR. SPEAKER: There has been a request for waiver.

Is it agreed?

[Page 1425]

It is agreed.

Would all those in favour of the motion please say Aye. Contrary minded, Nay.

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Bedford-Birch Cove.

RESOLUTION NO. 712

MS. KELLY REGAN: Mr. Speaker, I hereby give notice that on a future day I shall move the adoption of the following resolution:

Whereas on October 17th, friends and family gathered to surprise Walter Regan with a celebration of his retirement; and

Whereas for 35 years, Walter was employed as a stationary engineer for the Department of National Defence and is well-known in the community for his work with the Sackville Rivers Association; and

Whereas Walter and his wife, Ann, are now looking forward to enjoying their retirement;

Therefore be it resolved that members of this House of Assembly congratulate Walter Regan on his retirement from DND, and wish him many years of good health and happiness.

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 member for Cumberland South.

RESOLUTION NO. 713

HON. MURRAY SCOTT: Mr. Speaker, I hereby give notice that on a future day I shall move the adoption of the following resolution:

[Page 1426]

Whereas many volunteer organizations throughout the Province of Nova Scotia are made up of individuals who give freely of their time, effort and, on many occasions, associated cost of their own; and

Whereas many of these organizations such as Search and Rescue, Legions, and many others are faced with challenges around insurance issues; and

Whereas we should do all that we can to ensure that members of these groups are well protected in regard to their volunteer efforts;

Therefore be it resolved that the government move immediately to bring about a volunteer insurance program to ensure that all members of volunteer organizations throughout the Province of Nova Scotia are legally covered when carrying out their duties on behalf of their respective organizations.

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.

The honourable member for Halifax Clayton Park.

RESOLUTION NO. 714

MS. DIANA WHALEN: Mr. Speaker, I hereby give notice that on a future day I shall move the adoption of the following resolution:

Whereas each year, the third week of October marks the YWCA's Week Without Violence, which is recognized across Canada and in 90 countries worldwide; and

Whereas more than 17,000 people in schools, workplaces and neighbourhood organizations in Canada recognize this annual violence prevention initiative that aims to make violence a thing of the past; and

Whereas the YWCA here in HRM is holding a one-day conference called the Power of Being a Girl, which is organized by and for young women aged 12 to 19, and includes workshops on issues from self-esteem to sexual health;

[Page 1427]

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House congratulate the YWCA for organizing the Week Without Violence and the Power of Being a Girl conference which together strive for a violence-free world.

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 member for Argyle.

RESOLUTION NO. 715

HON. CHRISTOPHER D'ENTREMONT: Mr. Speaker, I hereby give notice that on a future day I shall move the adoption of the following resolution:

Whereas the Minister of Finance, in his role as Opposition Finance Critic, said in this House on May 1st, when discussing the removal of the offshore money to balance this year's budget: "The implication of that is that if we undo what was done in 2005, then it will make us less attractive to financial markets and provide us with less flexibility to deal with the challenges facing Nova Scotians"; and

Whereas the NDP Government, only 5.5 months later, has not only removed funds from the offshore account but also tabled legislation enabling the NDP to run deficit for years down the road, if they so desire; and

Whereas the Minister of Finance needs to go back and revisit his comments of May 1st and provide Nova Scotians with the necessary assurances that he does believe himself when he speaks;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House immediately request the Minister of Finance to check with the financial markets to see how less attractive our province has become as a result of his fiscal flip-flop delivered in the Legislature yesterday.

MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Richmond.

[Page 1428]

RESOLUTION NO. 716

HON. MICHEL SAMSON: Mr. Speaker, I hereby give notice that on a future day I shall move the adoption of the following resolution:

Whereas Norma Boudreau, co-owner and manager of C.H. Boudreau Funeral Home, has 30 years of experience in the funeral service field; and

Whereas Norma Boudreau is a licensed funeral director and embalmer who was the first female president of the Nova Scotia Licensed Embalmers and Funeral Directors Association; and

Whereas Norma Boudreau was recently named president of the Funeral Service Association of Canada at their annual national convention held in Kelowna, B.C.;

Therefore be it resolved that members of the House of Assembly congratulate Arichat resident Norma Boudreau on her recent appointment as president of the Funeral Service Association of Canada and wish her continued success in her new role.

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 Interim Leader of the Progressive Conservative Party.

RESOLUTION NO. 717

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 NDP Government has brought forth a budget that has a $592 million deficit; and

Whereas tabling a deficit budget is an illegal action, based on the laws of Nova Scotia; and

[Page 1429]

Whereas the NDP Government saw fit to add $66 million to fund land purchases at a time when programs to help low-income families have been cut;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House denounce the actions of the NDP Government in creating a massive deficit for blatant political purposes and urge others to join the efforts of the Progressive Conservative caucus to not support the illegal 2009-10 budget.

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.

The honourable member for Digby-Annapolis.

RESOLUTION NO. 718

MR. HAROLD THERIAULT: Mr. Speaker, I hereby give notice that on a future day I shall move the adoption of the following resolution:

Whereas smoking has been proved to be a very addictive and unhealthy activity in some of our lives; and

Whereas approximately five million people in this country still participate in the activity, largely because of its very addictive ingredients; and

Whereas a good substitute to replace cigarettes are sardines in hot pepper sauce, which have been proven to help some quit smoking and reduce weight all at the same time;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of the House of Assembly help promote this substitute for smoking, which will help grow an industry that will create a much healthier society.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

MR. SPEAKER: There has been a request for waiver.

Is it agreed?

[Page 1430]

It is agreed.

Would all those in favour of the motion please say Aye. Contrary minded, Nay.

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Cape Breton West.

RESOLUTION NO. 719

MR. ALFIE MACLEOD: Mr. Speaker, I hereby give notice that on a future day I shall move the adoption of the following resolution:

Whereas the NDP Government has brought forth a budget that has a $592 million unnecessary deficit; and

Whereas tabling a deficit budget is an illegal action based upon the Financial Measures Act; and

Whereas the NDP Government saw fit to cut $2 million from the Rink Revitalization Program when funding for this program allowed 76 rinks around Nova Scotia to have $27,000 for upgrades and improvements that did not require matching funds, thus making minor hockey more affordable for Nova Scotian families;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House denounce the actions of the NDP Government in creating a massive deficit for blatant political purposes and urge others to join in the efforts of the Progressive Conservative caucus in not supporting the illegal 2009-10 budget.

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.

The honourable member for Preston.

RESOLUTION NO. 720

HON. KEITH COLWELL: Mr. Speaker, I hereby give notice that on a future day I shall move the adoption of the following resolution:

[Page 1431]

Whereas Robert "Bob" Carruthers, a former Liberal MLA for Hants East, and his wife, Judy have celebrated their 35th Wedding Anniversary on October 12, 2009; and

Whereas Bob and Judy Carruthers put family and community first, supporting many local organizations with their fundraising efforts while at the same time participating in a very successful law firm; and

Whereas Bob and Judy Carruthers also support the IWK and Truro hospitals as many of their co-workers in the law firm do;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House of Assembly congratulate Bob and Judy Carruthers on their 35 years of marriage and wish them continued success supporting local community organizations as well as enjoying many more years of happiness together.

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 member for Cumberland South.

RESOLUTION NO. 721

HON. MURRAY SCOTT: Mr. Speaker, I hereby give notice that on a future day I shall move the adoption of the following resolution:

Whereas the NDP Government has brought forth a budget that has a $592 million deficit; and

Whereas tabling a deficit budget is an illegal action based upon the Financial Measures Act; and

Whereas the NDP Government saw fit to cut $17.1 million that was earmarked for the Antigonish and Springhill correctional facilities, all the while they choose to spend over $530 million on new NDP spending priorities;

[Page 1432]

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House denounce the actions of the NDP Government in creating a massive deficit for blatant political purposes and urge others to join the efforts of the Progressive Conservative caucus in not supporting the illegal 2009-10 budget.

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.

The honourable member for Richmond.

RESOLUTION NO. 722

HON. MICHEL SAMSON: Mr. Speaker, I hereby give notice that on a future day I shall move the adoption of the following resolution:

Whereas Richmond County all-girl band Pink Thunder was named the great Atlantic rock band in a contest sponsored by the Canadian Forces Halifax Rock Fest 2009; and

Whereas the trio's string of successes includes three singles on the East Coast Countdown; and

Whereas Pink Thunder's recent video shoot for Radio Friendly at Citadel High School topped the East Coast Countdown radio program for three weeks and spent nearly four months in the top 10;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House of Assembly congratulate Pink Thunder band members Victoria Cameron, Barbara Cameron and Olivia Adlakha for their accomplishments and wish them continued success.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

MR. SPEAKER: There has been a request for waiver.

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

[Page 1433]

Would all those in favour of the motion please say Aye. Contrary minded, Nay.

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Yarmouth.

RESOLUTION NO. 723

HON. RICHARD HURLBURT: Mr. Speaker, I hereby give notice that on a future day I shall move the adoption of the following resolution:

Whereas the NDP Government has brought forth a budget that has a $592 million deficit; and

Whereas tabling a deficit budget is an illegal action based upon the Financial Measures Act; and

Whereas the NDP Government saw fit to cut $29 million, equivalent to 116 kilometres of secondary road paving, to capital road construction for what the PC Government proposed in May to address our infrastructure needs;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House denounce the actions of the NDP Government in creating a massive deficit for blatant political purposes and urge others to join the efforts of the Progressive Conservative caucus in not supporting the illegal 2009-10 budget.

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.

The honourable member for Halifax Clayton Park.

RESOLUTION NO. 724

MS. DIANA WHALEN: Mr. Speaker, I hereby give notice that on a future day I shall move the adoption of the following resolution:

[Page 1434]

Whereas Nancy Smithers, the founder and CEO of Naturally Nova Scotia, has been awarded the Organic Achievement Award from the Canadian Health Food Association; and

Whereas Ms. Smithers started the business in 1994 and it has grown to employ more than 30 people in the last 15 years; and

Whereas Naturally Nova Scotia is now Canada's leading manufacturer and distributor of certified organic whole food natural health products;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House of Assembly congratulate Nancy Smithers on receiving the Organic Achievement Award and wish her continued success in the future.

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 member for Victoria-The Lakes.

RESOLUTION NO. 725

MR. KEITH BAIN: Mr. Speaker, I hereby give notice that on a future day I shall move the adoption of the following resolution:

Whereas this NDP Government has seen fit to reduce spending on roads by $29 million and opt instead to spend money on buying land and creating a slush fund; and

Whereas this has resulted in reduced spending on roads, health care, rinks, museums and correction facilities; and

Whereas they have increased spending to create a deficit, even considering these cuts and increased revenue from tobacco taxes, by increasing spending on land purchases, home construction rebates on houses that were already built, hiring consultants to tell them what their plan is, and paying money to universities not due until 2011;

[Page 1435]

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House denounce those actions and call upon the government to come clean with the taxpayers of Nova Scotia and justify the creation of such a huge deficit when it was possible to balance the books of this province.

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.

The honourable member for Cape Breton North.

[12:45 p.m.]

RESOLUTION NO. 726

HON. CECIL CLARKE: Mr. Speaker, I hereby give notice that on a future day I shall move the adoption of the following resolution:

Whereas the NDP Government has brought forth a budget that has an unnecessary $592 million deficit; and

Whereas tabling a deficit budget is an illegal action based upon the law in Nova Scotia; and

Whereas the NDP Government does not have faith or trust in the Civil Service of this province and are fixated on hiring consultants - $100,000 at a time - to give them advice they simply do not take or just plain ignore;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House denounce the actions of the NDP Government in creating an unnecessary massive deficit for blatant political purposes and urge others to join the efforts of the Progressive Conservative caucus in not supporting the illegal 2009-10 budget.

Mr. Speaker, I table the notice.

MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.

ORDERS OF THE DAY

[Page 1436]

ORAL QUESTIONS PUT BY MEMBERS

MR. SPEAKER: The time now is 12:47 p.m. and the Oral Question Period will run until 1:47 p.m.

The honourable Leader of the Official Opposition.

FISH. & AQUACULTURE MIN. - CONFLICT OF INTEREST POLICY:

ADHERENCE - ENSURE

HON. STEPHEN MCNEIL: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Premier. It has been three weeks since we first made this House aware of the potential conflict of interest with your Minister of Fisheries and Aquaculture. Last week we asked the Conflict of Interest Commissioner to re-examine the case. So my question for the Premier is, what further steps have you taken to ensure the minister is practising within the guidelines of the Conflict of Interest policy and the code of conduct?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, the member has asked the question many times and the answer remains the same. We sought the advice of the Conflict of Interest Commissioner. We got his advice. We followed it.

MR. MCNEIL: Mr. Speaker, it's now October 20th. The Minister of Fisheries and Aquaculture has been a member of the Executive Council for almost four months. My question to the Premier is, why is the Minister of Fisheries and Aquaculture still listed as the president and director of Mr. Mussel's Seafarms in violation of the Ministerial Code of Conduct?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, as I pointed out before, when registrations are paid, they go on for a period of time. All of this has been dealt with in previous questions and I'm sure the member understands that.

MR. MCNEIL: The Premier knows that this could have been dealt with if the Minister of Fisheries and Aquaculture had just done the right thing four months ago. Those rules exist for a reason and they are there to protect the public. My final question for the Minister of Fisheries and Aquaculture is, when will you comply with the Ministerial Code of Conduct and remove yourself as president of that company?

HON. STERLING BELLIVEAU: Mr. Speaker, through you to the honourable member, I want to just highlight that I have followed due process. I have met DFO requirements and I wrote to the Conflict of Interest Commissioner. I also want to point out that there is a process to follow and I have been working with my accountants in the process of the sale that I put in the hands of our independent broker. I have distanced myself or removed myself of all the assets and there is a period of time that has to go through for all this to be fulfilled.

[Page 1437]

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Interim Leader of the Progressive Conservative Party.

PREM.: JUNIOR MINISTERS - ROLE/RESPONSIBILITIES

HON. KAREN CASEY: Mr. Speaker, in a press release on June 29th, the Premier announced the appointment of eight MLAs to become his junior ministers. When questioned at that time, the Premier's response about their role and responsibility was they had not yet been clearly defined. My question through you to the Premier is, four months have passed since those positions were announced, could the Premier be more specific today to the question, what are the roles and responsibilities of the junior ministers?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, the first thing I'd like to do is correct something that the honourable member said in the question, which is that they were junior ministers. They're not junior ministers, they're ministerial assistants. Their jobs are, of course, to assist the ministers whom they are assistant to in the fulfillment of their duties to ensure - as the member knows, there are big workloads on the reduced size of this Cabinet and this allows us to have the flexibility to help in assisting with those duties.

MS. CASEY: In order to fulfill a mandate that has been given to these MLAs, will the Premier share with this House the budgets within which these ministers must work?

THE PREMIER: I'd be happy to. There is no remuneration paid to the ministerial assistant. They do it as part of their everyday work as a member of the Legislature. So far as I can tell, all of them are enjoying the experience. They are fulfilling those duties as they should.

MS. CASEY: Mr. Speaker, with no remuneration, no budget, I would direct this question to the Premier. Since these people have been appointed on June 29th, will the Premier table in this House all of the expenses incurred by each of these ministers - junior ministers, whatever - including staffing, travel and accommodations both within the province and outside?

MR. PREMIER: I'm happy to review the request from the member. I don't think there are any but if there are we're happy to forward it to you.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member from Richmond.

FISH. & AQUACULTURE: FISHERIES LOAN BD. -

NEW ENTRANTS

HON. MICHEL SAMSON: Mr. Speaker, Shawn Boudreau is a 36-year-old gentleman from Arichat, Richmond County. After spending a number of seasons as a deck

[Page 1438]

hand on his uncle's lobster boat, he decided to purchase his own lobster boat and licence. Shawn purchased a boat and licence on April 13, 2009. He then proceeded to fish his licence in District 29, which runs from May 1st to the end of June. At the end of the season, Shawn made an application to the Fisheries Loan Board as a new entrant, purchasing a fishing enterprise. Shawn has been denied that his application even be considered because it was received on July 31, 2009, two weeks beyond the three-month deadline for applications to be considered by the Fisheries and Aquaculture Loan Board.

My question, on behalf of Shawn, to the Premier is, what message is your government sending to fishermen throughout Nova Scotia when a new entrant such as Shawn Boudreau is being denied even consideration by the Nova Scotia Fisheries and Aquaculture Loan Board?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, I'm not sure that there's any message being sent to them at all. There are criteria in all programs, you have to meet the criteria that are assigned to them. The considerations with respect to these matters are straightforward, they're done by the loan board.

MR. SAMSON: Mr. Speaker, what is interesting is that the Premier is basically saying there was a deadline and he missed the deadline, which apparently is important to this government but then again, if you're Shawn Boudreau you're looking at the fact that the individual who purchased the Minister of Fisheries licence didn't appear to have any problems in obtaining $567,000 in funding from Nova Scotia taxpayers. If the Premier is really concerned about deadlines, he is also left to wonder why the Minister of Fisheries and Aquaculture still sits as a director of a company, in clear violation of the Ministerial Code of Conduct.

My question to the Premier is, why is there a double standard when it comes to your government, that deadlines should be applied to Shawn Boudreau but shouldn't be applied to your Minister of Fisheries and Aquaculture?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, in response to the member, I said no such thing. I said that these are administered by the loan board. They have their own criteria, they administer it.

MR. SAMSON: Mr. Speaker, Shawn Boudreau, at 36 years of age, has had to mortgage everything he owns. In fact, he has had to mortgage everything his father owns in order to be able to purchase his dream of having a lobster boat and licence. Now the government of the day is telling him that while he was actually fishing his lobster licence - which is unlike your Minister of Fisheries and Aquaculture who has had someone else fishing his licence for the past three years - which seems fine with this Premier, Shawn was out fishing, trying to earn a living and, as a result of that, was unable to meet the deadline and was two weeks late.

[Page 1439]

So if the Premier is truly concerned about new entrants entering the fishery in this province, I'll ask him now, will you commit to asking the Director of the Nova Scotia Fisheries and Aquaculture Loan Board to have Shawn's application put before the board for its consideration, rather than the current position of denying him because he was two weeks late?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, I'm not aware of all the criteria associated with the loan board. I'm not aware, for example, as to whether or not there is an appeal to the decision that was made by the loan board but I would certainly advise the person who is the subject of this - I don't know individual circumstances, but they should pursue it through the loan board.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Richmond on a new question.

JUSTICE: PILLAY MATTER - PROCESS

HON. MICHEL SAMSON: Mr. Speaker, a headline in today's media is of great concern to Nova Scotians, former Nova Scotian lawyer Srinivasen Pillay has been sentenced to four years in prison for stealing more than $1.3 million from nearly three dozen clients. Mr. Pillay pleaded guilty to 34 counts of theft. Needless to say, this has caused concern over the integrity of the Nova Scotia justice system. There is a legitimate fear that Nova Scotians will look at this case as an excuse to avoid getting legal counsel for important matters.

Mr. Speaker, my question to the Minister of Justice and Attorney General is, what steps has your department taken to address this matter and ensure the integrity of our justice system?

HON. ROSS LANDRY: There's a process in place and the process acted in accordance to its rules and guidelines and action was taken. I have no further comment on the fact that he was sentenced, appropriate action was taken.

MR. SAMSON: Well, Mr. Speaker, it is hard to ask for more reassurance than that from the Minister of Justice and Attorney General with that reply.

Mr. Speaker, Mr. Pillay has been found guilty of one of the largest cases of fraud by a Canadian lawyer. Client funds were taken and apparently used to feed a gambling addiction. The losses for clients range from $1,000 to $293,000. All funds have been refunded by the Nova Scotia Barristers' Society following a $750 one-time levy each lawyer in Nova Scotia was forced to pay. Nova Scotians are left to ask how this could have happened without being detected earlier. So my first supplementary to the Minister of Justice is, what assurances can the minister give Nova Scotians that such cases of lawyer fraud will not occur in the future?

[Page 1440]

MR. LANDRY: As I said in my earlier answer, there is a process in place, there is insurance and there is also an audit done on all trust funds in the province. The system works; the system worked here. I want to assure all Nova Scotians that we take matters such as this very seriously. I'm very confident in the processes that are there and I'm very confident in the Barristers' Society as they handled this and value their support in that direction.

MR. SAMSON: Mr. Speaker, the facts show that Mr. Pillay was a lawyer for 23 years and was given the Queen's Counsel designation. Nova Scotians are rightfully asking how he was able to take $1.3 million from his clients without being detected earlier. Media reports indicate that Mr. Pillay was known to frequent the Halifax Casino at all times of the day. His own attorney indicated that Mr. Pillay was dealing with a significant gambling addiction throughout the period of time that this matter took place.

[1:00 p.m.]

My final supplementary to the Minister responsible for Part I of the Gaming Control Act is, what relationship does your department have with the Department of Justice to identify problem gamblers and possible cases of fraud?

HON. GRAHAM STEELE: Mr. Speaker, the Nova Scotia Gaming Corporation is the body of government that administers the gaming system on behalf of the province and, therefore, has partnerships with entities like ALC and the casino. The actual regulation of that is done by the Alcohol and Gaming Division of the Department of Labour and Workforce Development. So that's the system. There is no direct connection with the Department of Justice since any issues such as the member has raised are dealt with by the Barristers' Society which is self-regulating, or in the case of a criminal complaint by the justice system itself.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Cape Breton North.

FIN.: GOV'T. ACTIONS - LEGALITY

HON. CECIL CLARKE: Mr. Speaker, my question through you is to the Minister of Finance. Time and time again Nova Scotians have heard over and over how the NDP would somehow be different, somehow change the way business is done within government and uphold the laws of the land. We now know different. Will the Minister of Finance inform this House whether or not he believes breaking the law to suit the NDP Government's political agenda is legitimate?

HON. GRAHAM STEELE: I would note first off, Mr. Speaker, that is a question directly about a bill that is before the House and is likely to come up for debate later this afternoon.

[Page 1441]

Mr. Speaker, it's a decision of the House as to whether an action of the government is or isn't in keeping with the law. Beyond the House, if that member, if that caucus thinks the government has done something illegal, then take us to court and let the justice system decide. (Interruptions)

MR. CLARKE: Mr. Speaker, I didn't say which bill but obviously he has interpreted exactly what the NDP have gone against in this province. The Minister of Finance may not be a ventriloquist but he has mastered speaking from both sides of his mouth. The minister when in Opposition said one thing - in fact, he said lots of things about past Liberal and Tory Governments - and yet in government does the exact opposite. He has betrayed his own words and political actions for the sake of grabbing power here in this province. The concerns of Nova Scotians is what they have being doing with power and I can tell you, it's nothing good.

Mr. Speaker, will the minister explain why he and his government have abandoned what used to be NDP principles and now are fixated on ballooning the debt with unnecessary and unneeded spending measures?

MR. STEELE: Mr. Speaker, the essential problem here is that the previous government was taking us down an unsustainable path. The member is right about one thing, we are doing the exact opposite, we're putting this province back on the right path. (Applause)

MR. CLARKE: Mr. Speaker, what is painfully clear in Nova Scotia is that what is unsustainable in this province is a promise from the NDP that they live up to their word, what they said on one side of the House and try to deliver on the other.

Mr. Speaker, the Minister of Finance criticized and voted against the previous government for a measure to remove funding from the offshore revenue fund to balance the year's budget. He now introduces legislation that will enable his NDP Government to table deficits whenever they want. Even when the Liberals tabled their balanced budget law in 1995, it contained the words that deficits could only remain in light of a severe downturn in the economy. The NDP say nothing about this in their legislation. Will the minister explain why he is breaking the law to suit NDP-only purposes?

MR. STEELE: Mr. Speaker, we are putting this province back on a sustainable path and we're doing something that crowd could never do when they were in government. We are keeping our promises.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Richmond.

JUSTICE: MAJOR CRIMES - DEFINE

HON. MICHEL SAMSON: Mr. Speaker, the Minister of Justice and Attorney General seems to consider border security a top priority for the Nova Scotia Department of

[Page 1442]

Justice. He has stressed during estimates that police should be focused on major crime and that these major crimes generally come from outside of Nova Scotia. He is reviewing the decision to put more police officers in our communities as he questions whether they should go to other priority justice areas in our province. My question to the minister is, would he please give some clarity to what he considers to be major crimes and from where these crimes are originating?

HON. ROSS LANDRY: Mr. Speaker, we live in a global community where the economy of commerce is global. We have to have a police service and services that protect the integrity of our borders as a whole. We have to align ourselves with our national and international partners in order to prevent such crimes as computerized crimes where people can be anywhere in the world, and we're seeing an increase in that daily. If you just follow the front page of the paper weekly you'll see issues such as that.

If we're not a police service in a government that's responsive to threats from outside, then we're not doing our job.

MR. SAMSON: Mr. Speaker, during estimates, the Minister of Justice seemed very concerned with the possibility that our province was being overrun by criminals from other countries. The minister spoke at length about approaching issues of justice, "through an economic lens". He stated that the province shouldn't be putting police officers on social issues but they should instead be focused on protecting our borders from criminals entering from other countries. I'm assuming that's the borders of Nova Scotia. But, specifically, the minister showed a great deal of concern regarding Mexican drug cartels. My question to the minister is, would the Minister of Justice elaborate on the extent to which he thinks that members of Mexican drug cartels are a problem here in Nova Scotia?

MR. LANDRY: Mr. Speaker, with all due respect, I believe that the honourable member there sat at a different hearing than I was presenting, or otherwise I didn't communicate the message very well. There are clips of words taken from a long discussion on the issue. The issue is dealing with how we structure our police resources. This government is committed to ensuring we're putting the right resources in the right place to do the job that's required to address the concerns of this province.

MR. SAMSON: Mr. Speaker, the Premier should have informed the minister that unfortunately in estimates, Hansard does apply there as well and we're more than happy to provide him with his own comments where he repeatedly raised the concern of Mexican drug cartels infiltrating our beautiful province.

Putting this on the department's priority list seems rather strange. It means that the Minister of Justice places community policing lower on his list of priorities, means that the minister places enforcement of crimes that happen right here in Nova Scotia lower. It means that domestic violence, correctional facilities, prosecution, identity theft, property damage

[Page 1443]

and theft and many other issues that are of great concern to Nova Scotians are apparently going to play second fiddle to our battle against the Mexican drug cartels.

Mr. Speaker, my question again to the minister, by putting this at the top of his priority list does the minister truly believe that Mexican drug cartels are actually the largest threat to public safety and security in Nova Scotia communities?

MR. LANDRY: I think, in all due respect again, that the gentleman should go back and check Hansard and see the comment made at the time was that there is a threat internationally and one of the issues is the presence of the Mexican cartel in Ontario and it won't take them long to come here if our borders are penetrable.

Also, when he talks about domestic crime and other types of crimes in the community, this government and this minister are extremely committed, and as I assured members of his team, I will meet with them on any issues and he just needs to consult with some of his own team instead of sitting and taking in parts, and maybe read the whole of Hansard to get the full story and the accurate story.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Victoria-The Lakes.

TIR: JUNIOR MIN. - COSTS

MR. KEITH BAIN: Mr. Speaker, my question through you is to the Minister of Transportation and Infrastructure Renewal. This NDP Government has repeatedly praised itself for living within its means and cited a small Cabinet as an example of being lean while at the same time having junior ministers, or minister assistants, assist ministers who have more than one portfolio. My question to the Minister of Transportation and Infrastructure Renewal is, how much is it costing your department to have his junior minister - the member for Queens - compile an inventory and report on all gravel roads in this province?

HON. WILLIAM ESTABROOKS: Mr. Speaker, when the Premier brought to our attention the possibility of having ministerial assistants and that's the key thing here - ministerial assistants - I looked at the opportunity and said there are a number of people who are in my caucus that I'm looking forward to working with. I can assure you, when it came to the decision that was made that I was going to have the opportunity to work with a young MLA from Queens, based upon her experience and some of the priorities that she had decided were interesting to her when she was the Critic for Transportation and Infrastructure Renewal, we took it on very quickly.

We met with appropriate department staff, we decided what would be some of the priorities that we will be working with in that department. It was decided upon after a number of meetings and various comments made that this would be a worthwhile project, because I've heard from many members opposite the importance of a good clear roll when it comes to gravel roads. That is now well underway and as of this moment, based upon the

[Page 1444]

amount of time that it has taken and the amount of meetings that have been held, there have been no associated costs.

MR. BAIN: Mr. Speaker, this NDP Government has repeatedly turned its back on the knowledge, experience and hard work of our dedicated civil servants, preferring instead to contract out work to consultants at a cost of hundreds of thousands of dollars. My question to the Minister of Transportation and Infrastructure Renewal is, why would he ask a junior minister to undertake this task when his own staff already have the information?

MR. ESTABROOKS: Mr. Speaker, the semantics of the description of a junior minister is not appropriate, in my opinion. This young woman from Queens has been in the House as long as the member opposite has. She is a ministerial assistant and the task that we decided upon with input from the staff, with input from the various people at Transportation and Infrastructure Renewal is, let's have a close look at this particular issue, which we decided was of some importance. Let's survey members of the House, let's allow members on all sides of the House to have their say on the importance of gravel roads. It's not just a matter of making sure that we're going to listen to everybody here, but the department is going to work with the member for Queens, making sure that we have the correct information, and when it comes to deciding priorities for upcoming budgets, we will have that opportunity.

The staff has been extremely cooperative with the MLA for Queens. They have been extremely co-operative with me as the minister. They see it as a worthwhile task and something that we could all benefit from, and if there are members opposite who believe (Interruptions) Well, if the members opposite want to continue to have input in this important issue, they should contact the MLA for Queens.

MR. BAIN: Mr. Speaker, the answer to that question was similar to the one that was given to the residents of the Cabot Trail last evening. This government has tabled a budget with a deficit of over $590 million. As my final supplementary, I'm asking that the Minister of Transportation and Infrastructure Renewal explain how much of the $29 million cut from his road budget - money that could have been used to pave the 116 kilometres of secondary roads - will go to supporting the expenses of this ministerial assistant and her support staff?

[1:15 p.m.]

MR. ESTABROOKS: Well, I'd better get started because I've got a lot to say on this one. Thank you to the member opposite for the question. Some of the statistics that, of course, we've mentioned before - we have over a ton we're looking at. Of the many answers that we can give you, we want to make sure of the fact this has been the busiest paving season in 15 years in this province. (Applause)

You know, I find it quite ironic that that member will stand in his place and question some of our priorities when you look at the amount of work that was done in your riding -

[Page 1445]

shame on you to stand in this place, shame on you to make a big deal of this, because I want you to be aware of something. I want you to be very aware of the fact that there are a number of priority projects that we're going to continue to work with on all sides of this House. Members of your caucus have taken the time to meet with me privately and to look at their priorities. I've had members of the Liberal Party do the same thing and members of my Party do the same thing. We get the correct information, the right information, we're going to make the correct and the right decisions, but I thank the MLA.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Leader of the Official Opposition.

COM. SERV.: CAREGIVER ALLOWANCE PROG.

- CLAWBACKS

HON. STEPHEN MCNEIL: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Community Services. Three weeks ago I brought a sad and unfair practice of the minister's department to her attention. We told you about a family in my riding who qualified for the Caregiver Allowance. This couple care for their son with multiple health challenges. They also have two other teenage children at home. They met all the government's stringent criteria and were approved, but because they receive social assistance the Department of Community Services clawed back 70 per cent of their allowance. So my question to the minister is, have you had your department review this policy?

HON. DENISE PETERSON-RAFUSE: Thank you, Mr. Speaker, and thank you to the honourable member for his question. I would like for the honourable member to know that we are going forward very strongly with our Poverty Reduction Strategy. The fact is that the policy that he's referring to is a policy that has been in place for quite some time under the former government, who never saw a need to even look - to change it. We are looking to change it, and that's why we are going forward very strongly with the Poverty Reduction Strategy.

MR. MCNEIL: Mr. Speaker, this government considers the Caregiver Allowance earned income under its rules for receiving social assistance. This is unfair to people who deserve our help. The minister has the power to change this policy. So my question to the minister is, will you tell the Department of Community Services to stop the practice of clawbacks of the allowance for families who need our help?

MS. PETERSON-RAFUSE: Mr. Speaker, once again I would like to let the honourable member know the fact is that we do not work in silos, we work together with our different departments. As the Minister of Health has stated in the House, she is looking at the Caregiver Allowance Program. I'm looking at these issues through the poverty reduction strategy, the ESIA strategy, to which I've invited a lot of consultation; I've invited the Opposition to be part of that. Things take time in the sense that I'd love to make the changes today, however that would not be the appropriate and responsible thing to do because there are so many factors that interrelate with other individuals. Thank you.

[Page 1446]

MR. MCNEIL: Mr. Speaker, the responsible and appropriate thing to do would be to treat Nova Scotians with the respect they deserve. This family qualified for the Caregiver Allowance and her department is taking 70 per cent of it back. We know that many Nova Scotians who qualified for this program are not on social assistance. This would be a small number of Nova Scotians. You could go a long way to show those Nova Scotians and all Nova Scotians that your department cares about the most vulnerable people in our society.

I would ask you one more time - I'll ask you one more time, Mr. Speaker (Interruptions) They want to answer her questions, they won't answer their own when they are put to them.

MR. SPEAKER: Your question, please.

MR. MCNEIL: Mr. Speaker, my question to the minister is, will you end this practice and treat this family with the respect they deserve?

MS. PETERSON-RAFUSE: Mr. Speaker, to the honourable member, as I explained, these situations are complex, not as easy as he tries to present them because maybe he is saying there is not a significant number who need this change immediately. This change would be a cause and effect for many other Nova Scotians, so it's my commitment to be fair to all Nova Scotians. That is why I need to look at it in a global manner, to make sure that the services that we do offer are not a band-aid approach and just a one-off for political points. I am here to make a difference for the vulnerable people of Nova Scotia and make that commitment. Thank you.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Cumberland South.

EMO - GROUND SEARCH & RESCUE: EMERG. SERVICES -

WITHDRAWAL

HON. MURRAY SCOTT: Mr. Speaker, my question through you will be for the Minister of Emergency Management. Nova Scotia search and rescue groups say they may be forced to withdraw emergency services if they don't get better protection to cover them while they are doing their volunteer services on behalf of Nova Scotians. Mr. Speaker, my question to the minister through you is, when did the minister become aware of this issue?

HON. RAMONA JENNEX: Mr. Speaker, I appreciate that question so thank you. I found out about this situation yesterday morning with the news release that went forward. The spokesperson of the group sent me an advance release of that, probably half an hour before it was released. So that is the time that I found out.

I would like to add that I have a great deal of respect and value the work of the ground search and rescue teams across Nova Scotia. As the honourable members of this

[Page 1447]

House know, they are in their 40th year and are having their 40th year celebration. I received that information yesterday. Thank you.

MR. SCOTT: Mr. Speaker, thank you to the minister for the answer. My question then is this, will the minister immediately use her office, her department, to resolve this issue on behalf of all search and rescues in Nova Scotia and, if need be, immediately meet with the executive so that they can be assured that the government will do everything possible to cover them during their service to this province?

MS. JENNEX: Mr. Speaker, I am more than willing to meet with people who request a meeting with me. I have not met with the incoming president or members of the ground search and rescue. If they approach me for a meeting, I would gladly oblige. I look forward to a meeting with them, if they want to meet with me. Thank you.

MR. SCOTT: Mr. Speaker, again thank you to the minister. Nova Scotians can't wait until a meeting is requested by this very important group of Nova Scotians. They've already stated that if they're not protected liability-wise, they may be forced to withdraw their services. I think the House would agree that the work that they provide on a voluntary basis is often daunting and potentially dangerous work just by the mere type of work that they do for us each and every day in this province. They are asking the government to protect them against liability issues that they do not have the ability and resources to provide themselves.

Mr. Speaker, today in this House, unfortunately, the government turned down a resolution to provide insurance to cover these very important Nova Scotians. But I'm asking the minister today, at this critical hour, will you commit to giving the volunteers for ground search and rescue in Nova Scotia government-funded insurance so that they can be protected as they volunteer and carry out those many important duties on behalf of Nova Scotians?

MS. JENNEX: What I would like to say is that I immediately went into action with the staff. I requested a meeting with them around options that we can be looking at. I would like to echo the sentiments of my honourable colleague that it does take time; there is a process in place. I cannot stand here and provide a clear and concise answer, because there are many things that I need to look at. I need to look at options, look at what is needed. I have not had discussions with ground search and rescue, so all I know about the information is what I have heard from the media. I have met with my staff and they are working through options at this time.

I would also like to add that I value the service that they are providing. The member opposite made a comment about the valuable service that ground search and rescue offer to Nova Scotians, and I want to echo that to this House. I know that we all value the work that they have done on behalf of all Nova Scotians. They are valued, they are dedicated, they're committed, and we are there to support them.

[Page 1448]

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Halifax Clayton Park.

HEALTH: LUCENTIS COVERAGE - STATUS

MS. DIANA WHALEN: Mr. Speaker, my question today is for the Minister of Health. Currently, individuals in Nova Scotia diagnosed with macular degeneration are facing blindness within six months unless they can personally afford Lucentis. This treatment has been proven to not only halt the loss of vision but also to improve it. Individuals with the same diagnosis in six provinces in the country - Ontario, Quebec, Saskatchewan, Alberta, B.C., and Newfoundland - are all covered under their provincial drug plan for Lucentis. Here in Nova Scotia, we have yet to hear whether this treatment will be covered. My question for the minister is, where is your government at now with respect to making a decision on Lucentis?

HON. MAUREEN MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the honourable member for bringing an important issue to the floor of the Chamber. This particular drug was not covered in the budget; however, we are assessing coverage for this drug in the budget to come in the Spring.

MS. WHALEN: Mr. Speaker, I think the minister has often spoken about wanting to do things that are evidence-based, and the evidence is very clear that spending money on Lucentis will actually save a great deal of money for this province. In fact, information provided to the minister's department shows that if Lucentis was funded, government would save $2.5 million in direct costs in year one alone, and millions more if we look at the indirect costs of blindness.

So it is an example, again, Mr. Speaker, of we can pay now or we can pay a lot more later. The evidence is clear, and I do draw the minister's attention to that since she says she is assessing it; 80 per cent of Canadians right now can access Lucentis through their provincial or federal plans. While in Opposition, the NDP called for this drug to be funded. Now they're silent. my question to the minister is, why don't Nova Scotians have access to Lucentis?

MS. MAUREEN MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, through you to the honourable member, I believe the cost of funding this particular drug would be in the vicinity of $2 million. Certainly, as we go forward to look to our first budget, this is an issue that we will be considering.

Mr. Speaker, I think this is a very good example of the need for a catastrophic drug coverage in the country. I will be raising this issue with my counterparts from Atlantic Canada when we meet. As the honourable member no doubt knows, it is Atlantic Canadians who tend to have the least amount of public coverage. This is something that we really need to address and focus on as a group. Thank you.

[Page 1449]

MS. WHALEN: Mr. Speaker, I did think that today was about to be your first budget so I don't know how we're going to see Lucentis in that if it's not there today. Mr. Don Moors, who resides in the constituency of Halifax Citadel-Sable Island is someone who would benefit from Lucentis. He is on a fixed income, he supports his wife who is in a nursing home, and is paying out of pocket for Lucentis treatment in one eye due to macular degeneration. Mr. Moors is blind in the other eye due to surgical glaucoma and without Lucentis he would be completely blind. He has already paid $5,400 and in the next six months will be required to pay more than $10,000. My question to the minister is, on behalf of Don Moors and other Nova Scotians suffering from macular degeneration, can the minister commit today in the Legislature as to when she will come forward with a decision on this important drug?

MS. MAUREEN MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, again I would reiterate to the honourable member that the inclusion of this drug for coverage will be under consideration for our first budget in the Spring. Thank you.

[1:30 p.m.]

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Dartmouth East.

HEALTH - DARTMOUTH GEN. HOSP.: SHORT-TERM ISSUES

- ADDRESS

MR. ANDREW YOUNGER: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Health. Since the budget in the Spring will actually be budget number two and she's calling it number one, maybe I now know why there are so many problems at the Dartmouth General - the department can't count. Last week I asked the Minister of Health to provide some solutions for the short-term problems at the Dartmouth General Hospital but instead she chose to point fingers. Unfortunately, pointing fingers and some of the solutions, like going to the Cobequid Health Centre, don't solve the immediate problem at the Dartmouth General.

Transferring patients to Cobequid, when this facility is neither an in-patient facility nor have the staff complement of specialists to help the critically ill that the Dartmouth General is dealing with, doesn't work at all. The minister has now had a few days to consider this and so my question for the minister is, why does she continue to suggest solutions that will not address the short-term immediate issues facing the Dartmouth General?

HON. MAUREEN MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, I want to assure the honourable member and all members of this House that we are working on short-, medium- and long-term solutions to the overcrowding in the emergency departments. This morning, Dr. John Ross, our emergency room adviser, met with personnel in the department. We have identified a number of complex cases where people are occupying beds throughout the Capital DHA system. We're working very diligently with the Department of Community Services to

[Page 1450]

identify placements in the community so we can free up those beds and create a situation where there will be better patient flow from the emergency department into unit beds in Dartmouth General as well as at the QE II.

MR. YOUNGER: Mr. Speaker, the Minister of Health has once again referred to Dr. Ross's report which is expected a year from now. She has talked about a couple of cases, when in fact, there have been five Code Oranges a month on average since the beginning of the year. Every one of those Code Oranges can't be related to just a couple of these cases. The minister was aware of this problem 124 days ago and yet she's only now having someone going in and talking to some of these people. During the election, the NDP promised immediate ministerial accountability when it comes to emergency room issues. The minister is aware, and she's aware from when she was in Opposition, that Code Orange significantly impacts the ability of an emergency room to function yet she has allowed five a month to continue to occur.

MR. SPEAKER: Your question, member?

MR. YOUNGER: So, how can the minister claim that she is accountable when it comes to emergency rooms when most of her comments, in fact, almost all of them either end in finger pointing or blaming others.

MS. MAUREEN MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, fixing the wait times in emergency departments is the number one priority of this government and we've been working very hard to address that problem.

Dr. Ross is on the job and he is providing advice and a plan as we speak. He has met with people in the department this morning. We have identified that complex cases, where people have been in beds for literally months, Mr. Speaker, is a very serious matter and we are moving people out, through co-operation between the Department of Community Services and the Department of Health.

Several months ago this process started. We moved a woman out who was literally living at the VG and going to work at Wal-Mart every day, from that site. She is now living in the community and her bed is available for patients who come into emergency.

MR. YOUNGER: Mr. Speaker, I'm sure that the patients and doctors at the Dartmouth General Hospital will be thrilled to know that a patient has been moved out of the VG.

Mr. Speaker, my final question is for the Premier because apparently the Minister of Health doesn't understand that a meeting in the past few days doesn't answer the question of ministerial accountability. During the election campaign the NDP put out a pamphlet and on the bottom it said, clip and save, these are the commitments Darrell Dexter and the NDP will keep. So I did clip and save.

[Page 1451]

Now the Premier himself is on the board of directors of the Dartmouth General Hospital so I know he understands the strategic importance of the hospital. In most of the questions today, Mr. Speaker, the ministers have chosen to blame others. So my question for the minister is, when will your ministers start keeping the commitment for ministerial accountability and stop blaming others and when will we start to see some immediate solutions at the Dartmouth General Hospital?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, the member opposite has said a number of things in that. I'm glad he has clipped it, it falls into the category of having a list and checking it twice, so why would we not be happy with that?

Mr. Speaker, he has just heard from the Minister of Health an answer exactly to the question that he has asked, about what is being identified, in terms of solutions, what actions are going to be taken and are being taken, in order to resolve the exact question. No finger-pointing, the information he asked for, that is accountability. (Applause)

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Yarmouth.

HEALTH: CAREGIVER ALLOWANCE PROG.: YAR. CASE

- MIN. REVIEW

HON. RICHARD HURLBURT: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Health. On this past weekend I had to do a home visit to a lady. Her mother is 95 years young, she is blind, she had a serious stroke, she needs 24-hour care and she applied for the Caregiver Allowance and she was declined.

I have clippings from the local Yarmouth Vanguard, clippings from the Halifax ChronicleHerald yesterday, I have the assessment that was done by Southwest Health. I have the review that they asked to have, a review of the file. I have a copy of the letter to the Premier, a copy of the letter to the minister and I'm asking the minister, on this case, would she look at this. This lady is 95 years young and she is totally blind, she needs 24-hour care. I'm asking the minister - it's the MAPLE 5 criteria and there's one element of that that they're saying she does not fit into. The lady needs help, she cannot even feed herself. I'm asking the minister if she will look into this and report back.

HON. MAUREEN MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, I thank the honourable member for the question. First of all, I want to say that we have been evaluating this program which we've talked about here before and we all recognize it's a new program, a program that was designed by the former government.

Mr. Speaker, we have met with Caregivers Nova Scotia to get some input from them with respect to the program. I would be very happy to look into the specifics of this particular case on behalf of the honourable member. We will use the information we're gathering from

[Page 1452]

various groups like Caregivers Nova Scotia to improve on the program that this government intends to introduce in our first budget this Spring.

MR. HURLBURT: I thank the minister for undertaking to review that file. I think it's very important. I know if she had been with me at the home visit, her heart would have gone out to that family also and want to make something happen so that they could have at least gotten this coverage to help. The daughter has given up her full-time job to stay home to look after her mother, so I think it's prudent of all of us in this House to look at our seniors and do whatever we can possible to help them in their golden years to live in the environment that they're accustomed to. My question to the minister is, could she tell me how many applicants in Yarmouth County have been approved to date?

MS. MAUREEN MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, to the honourable member, I fully agree with him. This government is committed to keeping seniors in their own homes and in their communities as long as possible. It is really important that we respond with compassion to people in our communities.

With respect to the numbers of people from the Yarmouth area, I don't have that information. We have information with respect to each DHA and that certainly is something that I would undertake to provide to the honourable member with respect to the DHA in which Yarmouth is located.

MR. HURLBURT: Mr. Speaker, I thank the minister for the answer. I can tell the minister and all members of the House that on Friday when I did the visit, I was informed that three seniors had been approved in the Yarmouth area. I do not have the facts to back that up, I'm just telling the minister that was the information given to me through the DHA.

I'm asking now if the minister would look at the MAPLE 5 criteria, and the one that is giving the serious problems to the people for their assessment is serious behavioural problems. Well, this lady is 95 years young and she is a very gentle and loving person and I have known her for years now, and for her to be declined just on that one criterion - and she fits all the other four criteria - I think there is a serious flaw in the criteria, so I ask the minister if she would look at the MAPLE 5 criteria.

MS. MAUREEN MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, this program was designed as a targeted program to provide a benefit to caregivers who are caring for someone who has the highest level of need, using a standardized assessment tool. Part of the assessment in determining whether or not someone has high needs is not just whether or not they are physically incapacitated, but behaviours and psychological issues enter into that assessment. As I said earlier, we are very carefully watching and evaluating this particular new program with a view to improving on the program when we introduce our own program in the Spring.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Digby-Annapolis.

[Page 1453]

HEALTH: DIGBY DIALYSIS SERV. - PLANS

MR. HAROLD THERIAULT: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Health also. In late April a petition was tabled in this Legislature on behalf of 717 residents of Digby. The individuals who signed the petition were concerned because there are at least eight patients from Digby who have to travel two and a half hours, three times per week, for dialysis in Yarmouth to a unit that is already overburdened. My question to the Minister of Health is, when is Digby going to get the dialysis service that they require?

HON. MAUREEN MACDONALD: I want to thank the honourable member for the question. Mr. Speaker, the issue of dialysis, not only in the honourable member's constituency but certainly all over the province, with respect to people having to travel for dialysis is a very important issue. Our department is currently working with the DHAs to look at the best way to deliver dialysis services and increasingly there certainly is evidence that more home dialysis, in fact, is effective for a certain number of people. But we're currently working and developing plans with the DHAs as to the best delivery of dialysis services, and the honourable member's DHA is no different.

MR. THERIAULT: Mr. Speaker, it is my understanding there's a doctor willing to travel from Yarmouth to Digby to provide the dialysis, so human resources is not an issue. The strategic plan calls for a safe, critical mass of patients which appears to be the case. The plan calls for capacity to deliver the service and this can happen. The only thing missing is the funding model for the physician and an investment in the equipment. So will the minister have this issue reviewed by the DHA and staff of the Nova Scotia Renal Program so that this dialysis can be provided in Digby sooner rather than later?

[1:45 p.m.]

MS. MAUREEN MACDONALD: Well, Mr. Speaker, as I said, renal dialysis and other forms of dialysis are an issue throughout the province. Each DHA goes through a process of looking at what are the best ways to deliver this program, and certainly we're constantly reviewing and upgrading our plans for the delivery of dialysis in the province.

MR. THERIAULT: Mr. Speaker, this plan was supposed to be ready within five years - the renal program. I just want to ask the minister, how can you explain to the people of Digby how they would have to wait for five years to have this dialysis done because I'm sure in five years these eight people won't be alive. So is it possible that the minister could explain that to the people of Digby?

MS. MAUREEN MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, our department is very aware that the requirements for dialysis are growing in the province every day, particularly as a result of the rates of diabetes that we have in the Province of Nova Scotia.

[Page 1454]

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. The time allotted for the Oral Question Period has expired.

GOVERNMENT BUSINESS

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Government House Leader.

HON. FRANK CORBETT: Mr. Speaker, would you please call the order of business, Public Bills for Third Reading.

PUBLIC BILLS FOR THIRD READING

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Government House Leader.

HON. FRANK CORBETT: Mr. Speaker, would you please call Bill No. 42, the Appropriations Act, 2009.

Bill No. 42 - Appropriations Act, 2009.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of Finance.

HON. GRAHAM STEELE: Mr. Speaker, I move third reading of Bill No. 42, the Appropriations Act, 2009.

MR. SPEAKER: The motion is for third reading of Bill No. 42. Would all those in favour of the motion please say Aye. Contrary minded, Nay.

A recorded vote has been called for.

Are the Whips satisfied?

We'll take a short recess while the members are gathered.

[1:48 p.m. The House recessed.]

[1:54 p.m. The House reconvened.]

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please.

Are the Whips satisfied?

[The Clerk calls the roll.]

[1:55 p.m.]

[Page 1455]

YEAS NAYS

Mr. Landry Mr. Samson

Ms. More Mr. Glavine

Mr. Estabrooks Ms. Whalen

Ms. Peterson-Rafuse Mr. McNeil

Mr. Corbett Mr. Manning MacDonald

Mr. Dexter Mr. Scott

Mr. Steele Ms. Casey

Ms. Maureen MacDonald Mr. Clarke

Mr. Paris Mr. d'Entremont

Ms. Jennex Mr. MacLeod

Mr. MacDonell Mr. Hurlburt

Mr. Belliveau Mr. Bain

Ms. Zann Mr. Younger

Mr. Zinck Ms. Regan

Ms. Conrad Mr. David Wilson (Glace Bay)

Mr. MacKinnon Mr. Theriault

Mr. Gosse Mr. Colwell

Ms. Kent

Mr. David Wilson (Sackville-Cobequid)

Mr. Preyra

Mr. Prest

Mr. Ramey

Mr. Skabar

Mr. Whynott

Mr. Morton

Ms. Birdsall

Mr. Boudreau

Mr. Burrill

THE CLERK: For, 28. Against, 17.

MR. SPEAKER: The motion is carried.

Ordered that the bill do pass. Order that the title be as read by the Clerk. Ordered that the bill be engrossed.

The honourable Government House Leader.

HON. FRANK CORBETT: Mr. Speaker, would you please call the order of business, Public Bills for Second Reading.

[Page 1456]

PUBLIC BILLS FOR SECOND READING

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Government House Leader.

HON. FRANK CORBETT: Mr. Speaker, would you please call Bill No. 29.

Bill No. 29 - Financial Measures (2009) Act.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of Finance.

HON. GRAHAM STEELE: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I am very pleased to rise today to introduce second reading of this year's Financial Measures (2009) Bill . This bill contains all of the statutory changes required to support the 2009-2010 budget. For that reason, it is an essential part of the budget, and is therefore a matter of confidence in the government. It is a substantial piece of legislation, as it amends 13 different laws. As I've stated a number of times before, the budget we tabled on September 24th is substantially the same as the one tabled by the previous government on May 4th. Therefore, like the budget itself, this Financial Measures (2009) Bill is much the same as what would have been presented in May had the House not been dissolved.

I will get to the differences later, but first let me run through the similarities. This Financial Measures (2009) Bill amends a number of laws to implement previously-announced increases to legislated fees and government charges, such as those for personal property security registrations, summary proceedings, and corporation registration. Those were decisions made by the previous government. Amendments in this bill will also defer the Transit Tax Credit, as well as the extension of the Healthy Living Tax Credit to adults, just as the previous government had planned.

[2:00 p.m.]

In addition, amendments to the Revenue Act will provide for the tobacco tax rate increase, which was implemented on June 22nd. That, too, was a decision made by the previous government. Changes to the Public Service Superannuation Act will support increased contributions to the Public Service Superannuation Fund, and that was implemented in July. The increases needed to improve the financial health of the plan, that was a decision made by the previous government.

Finally, in speaking of the similarities, the House of Assembly Act will be amended to freeze indemnity and salary increases for 2010 and 2011 for all MLAs, as well as for the additional amounts paid to the Speaker, Deputy Speaker, Leader of the Opposition, Leader of the Third Party, and members of the Executive Council. That was a decision made by the previous government. All of those matters we have adopted because the budget we presented on September 24th is substantially the same as the one presented on May 4th.

[Page 1457]

Mr. Speaker, let me now turn to the differences. I would like to begin by talking about the proposed amendments in this bill that are proposed to the Provincial Finance Act. In order to reflect the reality of the financial circumstances we are faced with today, we are making three changes to the Provincial Finance Act. First, government will be allowed to table a deficit budget; second, revenues from the offshore offset will be able to be spent on programs and services; and third, government will no longer be required to recover a deficit in the following year.

Balanced budget laws were passed across the country when times were easier. When the current recession hit and times became much tougher, those balanced budget laws have been amended, suspended, or repealed across the country. Nova Scotia is not immune from those economic forces.

Mr. Speaker, let us have no illusions about the state of the province's finances. The budget presented on September 24th and this Financial Measures (2009) Bill present a more accurate picture of the finances than the previous government presented. For example, the previous government enjoyed revenue growth averaging 5 per cent per year over its 10 years in office. It spent every penny of that revenue growth, and it went beyond that and made commitments to spend even more money in the future - money that that government did not have. Now the province's revenue is actually dropping. Even between May 4th and September 24th, the revenue forecast dropped by $125 million. The province's revenues are not expected to recover for at least two years. And even when there is a recovery, revenue growth is expected to grow at a much more modest rate than the 5 per cent per year enjoyed by the previous government.

Mr. Speaker, the previous government also failed to budget for significant expenses. They have never been able to explain why they could not budget, and did not budget, for the predicted H1N1 pandemic. We had to budget for that. Their budget for public sector wage settlements was effectively zero. We had to budget for a more reasonable settlement, even if it stills falls short of what many people would hope for. The previous government left a number of significant unbudgeted bills, like over $8 million just for the EnerGuide program alone.

Mr. Speaker, the previous government also left behind a complex and confusing funding arrangement with our universities. This was no fault of the universities, who were simply looking for predictable, multi-year funding, but the previous government shifted money around so that there were essentially two full years of funding in the last fiscal year and essentially no funding this year. We made the decision to bring that complex and confusing arrangement to an end.

As a result of all of these factors, lower revenue, unbudgeted expenses and the paying out of the university MOU, there is a significant budget deficit this year. Our amendments to the Provincial Finance Act contained in this Financial Measures (2009) Bill reflect that reality. Our amendments to the Provincial Finance Act have the effect of establishing one

[Page 1458]

and only one accounting standard, which is generally accepted accounting principles or GAAP.

The previous government's attempt to legislate a different definition of deficit to take into account the offshore offset payments from the federal government ultimately led to confusion rather than to clarity. Now the ostensible purpose of that clause was a good one; it was to ensure that the $830 million received by the provincial government went on the debt and stayed on the debt. However, Mr. Speaker, let us be clear, that did not happen, even under the previous government. Essentially, the previous government used the offshore offset provision to create room to spend more money on capital projects. As a result, despite the offshore offset provision, this province's debt continued to climb.

Like every other province in Canada, Mr. Speaker, we believe that GAAP, Generally Accepted Accounting Principles, will provide the clearest picture of the province's finances. Under these amendments to the Provincial Finance Act, the definition of deficit will be the same as the definition under generally accepted accounting principles. Mr. Speaker, this is ultimately the clearest and simplest way, the most transparent way to present the province's books.

We are amending the Provincial Finance Act because we believe that fiscal responsibility and fiscal discipline does not come from a Statute, it comes from an abiding belief that the government must live within its means. That is a commitment this government has given and which we intend to keep.

Mr. Speaker, I would now like to move on from the changes to the Provincial Finance Act and speak to several other measures in the Financial Measures (2009) Bill that support new commitments we made to Nova Scotians in the budget tabled on September 24th.

We understand that in these times of economic uncertainty, it is important, it is essential to grow Nova Scotia's economy. We also know that there are several key components that go into building a strong, vibrant economy. One of those components is a skilled and educated workforce.

That's why this government is increasing and extending the incentive for new graduates to live and work in Nova Scotia by replacing the Graduate Tax Credit with a new Graduate Retention Rebate. Under the new rebate, the total tax credit amounts have been increased to $15,000 for university graduates and $7,500 for college graduates.

Another key component is investment in the local business community. Since 1994, approximately $160 million has been invested in Nova Scotia enterprises through the Equity Tax Credit. In order to provide an even greater incentive for individuals to invest in Nova Scotia's small businesses, co-operatives and community economic development initiatives, we are increasing in this Financial Measures (2009) Bill, the Equity Tax Credit rate from 30 per cent to 35 per cent. This higher tax credit is expected to provide over $1 million to

[Page 1459]

support investments in Nova Scotia enterprises; just another thing that this government is doing to support the work, the very fine work, of the Minister of Economic and Rural Development. Boosting the Equity Tax Credit in this Financial Measures (2009) Bill is just one more element of the government's plan to support jobs that Nova Scotia's economy needs. (Applause)

The changes that I have highlighted indicate the importance and relevance and scope of this year's Financial Measures (2009) Bill. It supports the budget presented on September 24th and is, for all practical purposes, a part of that budget. This is a bill containing good measures that deserve the support of the entire House, measures that will make a difference to families, businesses and communities across the province. Thank you. (Applause)

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Leader of the Official Opposition.

HON. STEPHEN MCNEIL: Mr. Speaker, I'm pleased to rise and say a few words around the Financial Measures (2009) Bill. It seems a little bit like déjà vu, it seems like we were here not that long ago and I'm sure Nova Scotians are asking themselves, what happens to politicians when they leave the Opposition ranks and go to government? How come the view is much different? I know that the Minister of Finance will often say that they backtracked on so many promises because now that they're in government and in Cabinet, they get a full picture of the financial state of our province.

I believe the minister has said when you get the full picture, you get all of what's happened and you get all the briefings, it changes their view. When he stood on this side of the House, he opposed breaking the law of the Province of Nova Scotia. When he walked across the aisle to government side, it's one of the first things they did.

I can tell you, I remember travelling this province having to explain to Nova Scotians why we were into an election. While I believe the previous government was misleading Nova Scotians and I believe the previous government was breaking the law of our province as well, or attempting to, we said to Nova Scotians that we as a caucus would not participate in changing any law retroactively.

When the Premier of today during the election stood in front of Nova Scotians and said he would balance the books, he knew full well he couldn't do it. He knew the full picture, the finances of our province, and he knew he couldn't deliver on that promise. Within the first 100 days of this government, what do we see? A $592-million deficit. Approximately $500 million of that lands directly at the feet of this Premier and the Minister of Finance. They went out and they hired a consultant - Deloitte - to give them a report on the financial picture of our province. They gave them parameters that would create a deficit that, in my view, doesn't reflect reality.

Every Nova Scotian knew that government couldn't continue to spend at the rate they were going to, and everyone who was running for public office should have recognized the

[Page 1460]

fact that no new government could continue to spend at the rate the previous government was doing, but what did they do? They said to Deloitte, let's use the same spending practices of the previous government to create some fictitious number that's out there, so that when we come in and underscore it a bit, we'll look like we've done a good job. Well, that report also told this Minister of Finance and this government not to be paying any lump sum payments in advance.

Mr. Speaker, $341 million of that deficit is because this government - the New Democratic Government of Nova Scotia - decided to pay a bill in advance. The Minister of Finance criticizes the previous government for making two payments in one year, and he wanted to bring some clarity to it. The clarity was, Mr. Speaker, is to pay a lump sum payment in advance, hoping to convince Nova Scotians that it was the previous government's fault that we now have a $592 million deficit.

[2:15 p.m.]

Another one of their plans is $81 million to purchase land. I wouldn't say that anyone would disagree that Nova Scotia should own more of its own land, but to quote the Minister of Finance, these are tough economic times and government is about making choices. In tough economic times, that means you have to make tough choices. Instead, what this government has done is played politics with the future of our province and the finances of our province.

In four months, the legacy of this Premier, this Minister of Finance, and this government is that they ballooned our deficit by $592 million on their own decisions. It would be nice to stand in this House and debate whether or not we really believe we should be spending $81 million on land but before we can do that, this government has to take responsibility for the decisions it made instead of attempting to put it off on the previous government.

It was interesting as you look at some of the decisions that this government has made, and I was interested to finally hear the Minister of Finance say that one of the ways forward is to grow our economy. They made $13 million in cuts and subsequently went and took that $13 million and dropped it in this little industrial expansion slush fund that the front row on the opposite side will get an opportunity to hand out, Mr. Speaker. That wasn't about building our economy. That was about giving them some political tools to build toward an election campaign. If they truly wanted to build the economy of this province and hit every community from one end of this province to the other, they would have aggressively attacked the small business tax in this province and provided the entrepreneurs of our province - who will grow the economy if given the right circumstances - a break on the small business tax and allow them to do what they've done for generations, and that has seen our province through good and tough economic times. They have invested in their people and in their communities and it's why we have weathered tough economic times before, and if they could only get a partner in government, I believe it is why we'll weather this tough economic time.

[Page 1461]

Mr. Speaker, during the election campaign the Premier was convinced and told all Nova Scotians that he would provide a balanced budget next year, and if that's the case, why are we changing the Finance Act beyond one deficit budget? If he's actually going to keep his word to the people of Nova Scotia, if he's going to do what he said he was going to do, then why are we changing it beyond this fiscal year? I'll tell you why, Mr. Speaker, because I don't believe they have a plan to move our province forward and they know they need the room to run deficit budget after deficit budget.

The Minister of Finance said that every province had balanced budget legislation and they had to change them through these tough economic times. But I'm going to tell you, they had that legislation in June and they had that legislation in May and many of those provinces have changed it. It was this Minister of Finance and this Premier and this government that told Nova Scotians they wouldn't need to change it. They wouldn't need to use the offshore offset payment either, they would be able to do and make all the commitments, pay for them and deliver a balanced budget next year. If they are truly going to do that and believe they can still do that, then why are the changes to this finance Act only talking about one deficit budget?

In essence, what this minister is asking for is a licence in our province to run continuous deficit budgets and quite frankly in four months at $592 million at the rate he's going, there won't be much of a province left if we give him that opportunity.

They were so opposed on this side of the House about using the offshore offset payment. They talked about how this government, the previous government was breaking the law. What changed? A few members of the former government got to stay home, a few new members came to the New Democratic Party, but they walked across the aisle and they're doing the same thing, committing the same thing. Committing the same, in my view, breaking the law in our province to meet their political needs. This has nothing to do about the health of our province financially or going forward.

I know that the Minister of Finance has heard this, I'm sure, plenty as he talks about his $592 million deficit. One of the things he said awhile ago, which I found rather interesting was, he actually believed that the previous government had balanced their budget. I don't share that view, I never shared that view. The Minister of Finance suggested, I think, it was roughly $26 million surplus. Help me with the number. Somewhere in that neighborhood. It was in the Red Room when he stood in front of the media and said, yes, it would be balanced and it's balanced. It's only balanced if they did what he's doing and that's breaking the law and that's what he's doing. (Interruption)

The Minister of Finance is suggesting that we're mixing things up but I think he should probably re-read his budget. A $351 million advance payment, setting aside $81 million to purchase land that we're not sure what land that is going to be, setting aside an additional $54 million in a government re-structuring fund. These were all decisions that

[Page 1462]

were made by this Minister of Finance and this Premier because they are taking this tough economic time in our country and globally, and using it for political purposes. (Interruption) Yes, the NDP, they would be doing that.

One of the things that I think will be interesting, as this fiscal year continues to unfold as we build towards next year, is whether or not this minister and this government is prepared to make some of the tough decisions that are going to have to be made in the Province of Nova Scotia.

For the life of me, as I was campaigning in the two bi-elections and I was thinking about the Rink Revitalization Program that this government scrapped, took out of the previous government's budget. When I was in Port Hood at the Al MacInnis arena, speaking to the rink association, they told me that they had counted on that $27,000. They went out and took out a personal loan of $25,000 to cover the bills because that Premier and that Minister of Finance and that government told Nova Scotians they would live up to the previous commitments of the former government, plus meet all the commitments they have made - balancing the budget, not using the offshore offset, and the list goes on.

Once they moved to that side of the House though, Mr. Speaker, all the rules changed. What they said on the campaign trail really didn't matter. Maybe they didn't have the full picture when they told the communities that they would meet the commitments of the previous government, those arenas believed that the rink revitalization program would still be here. Instead, they were delivered the sad news.

Mr. Speaker, if you go back from Confederation to 1978, the debt of our province was somewhere around $577 million. The constituency that I represent was represented by the late Peter Nicholson, who was the Finance Minister of our province and who delivered a balanced budget at that time and he was defeated. Our entire debt from Confederation to that point is less than the four-month legacy of this government. In four months they've accumulated a $592 million deficit, all from decisions that I believe they made.

Governing is about tough choices, Mr. Speaker. Government is about tough choices and in tough economic times the Minister of Finance should be prepared to make tough decisions. Don't ask Nova Scotians for the right and the privilege to govern this province if you're unprepared to make the tough choices that are required - instead, hiding behind the fact of another government. Nova Scotians have already passed judgment. It's time for you, as Minister of Finance and the Premier of our province, to take responsibility for the decisions they have made and tell Nova Scotians the truth.

This is more about their political future than it has anything to do with growing our economy, anything to do with those 25,000 community college students, anything to do with our public schools. It has everything to do with when the next election is to be called and their political future. They are not making decisions that reflect the reality of our province today. Instead, Mr. Speaker, they are hiding behind a government that was defeated. They

[Page 1463]

are hiding behind a government that Nova Scotia said couldn't balance the books. What they are attempting to do is offload their decisions onto this government.

Mr. Speaker, we will continue in this House to provide constructive opposition. We will provide constructive opposition in this House. We will continue to hold this government to account.

Mr. Speaker, I think the Minister of Finance has more of his speech that he hasn't given yet. The fact of the matter is that if the Minister of Finance had shown as much energy and courage when he was putting his budget together as he has shown sitting on his seat over on the other side of the House, we might have a different financial picture in our province today.

Mr. Speaker, we will continue to hold this government to account. We will continue to point out to Nova Scotians that when it comes to making tough choices, the backbone just isn't there. What they will do is they will ask my children, your children, their children, to make those choices. They'll say one thing on election day and quite something else on budget day. They will say one thing to get to that side of the House, but they won't live up to the commitment, they won't live up to what they said to Nova Scotians.

We will continue to provide constructive opposition, we will continue to point out every time this government falls back on the word and the commitment that was made to Nova Scotians, but let's be clear about one thing: this deficit that we have in the Province of Nova Scotia today for this fiscal year has been manufactured and created not by some previous government - it's been created by the government today. In four months they've left a great legacy of a $592 million deficit.

With those few remarks, I look forward to listening as members make comment on the Financial Measures (2009) Bill, and I look forward to members opposite standing up and justifying to Nova Scotians why we are at a $592 million deficit and not one of those decisions they made will grow the economy of our province. They won't create jobs. All it will do is protect the jobs of the members of that side of the House. Mr. Speaker, thanks very much for allowing me to participate in this debate.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Interim Leader of the Progressive Conservative Party.

[2:30 p.m.]

HON. KAREN CASEY: Mr. Speaker, I will be giving a few brief introductory remarks and response to Bill No. 29. The more detailed and specific comments will be coming from our Finance Critic, but I would not be able to leave this debate without

[Page 1464]

speaking on behalf of our caucus with respect to what statements are being made to mislead Nova Scotians about whose budget is currently being considered.

We know that the budget that was presented is clearly an NDP budget. It is misleading to suggest otherwise, and there are a number of reasons why this is not a Tory budget. I want to make sure, and I know the Minister of Finance has articulated some of the similarities and some of the differences, but I would suggest that the differences certainly outweigh the similarities.

Although there may be some programs within this budget that would be similar to ones that we would have proposed, the budget line associated with them, the criteria for eligibility for each of them, and the implementation differ greatly from those that were a part of our presentation and part of our budget.

I just want to explain a little bit about the history of where we were and where we have come from over the last 10 years. No surprise to the members opposite or members on either side of the House that one of the legacies of the Progressive Conservative Government over the last 10 years, and in particular during the leadership of former Premier John Hamm, was to present balanced budgets for this province, and that was something that did not come easily. We're talking about what has been inherited.

I would remind folks in the House that when this Party came to power they inherited something that was not pleasant, but they did take the opportunity to look at the resources they had, to look at the situation that was presented to them, and to try to find a way to bring some credibility and some stability to the building of the budget. For seven consecutive years, the Progressive Conservative Government did present balanced budgets and that's something of which we always will be very proud.

It has been stated that the economic conditions at the time were different, and I will acknowledge that to be so. However, I would like to remind members of the House that the budget that we had presented and prepared in May 2009 was also a balanced budget. But I also want to agree and make note of the fact that in order to do that balancing of that budget, there were some important steps that we felt we needed to take. It was that step which would allow us to redirect offshore dollars to balance that budget that brought our government down. The very people who are now talking about how they're going to bring about legislative change and the people who are standing on our side, at this point in time, all recognize, obviously, that they wanted to use that for their political gains. It is ironic that we are now standing here looking at a Financial Measures (2009) Bill that does some of the same things that we were criticized for doing.

But there are three particular clauses, Mr. Speaker, that trouble this Party and trouble our caucus, Clause 27, Clause 28 and Clause 29. Those have been referenced when the minister spoke, he talked about those particular changes. The message that that sends to us and to all Nova Scotians is that the government now has the licence for uncontrolled

[Page 1465]

spending, no accountability. The ability to present, as they indicated they would, a balanced budget, is no longer something to which they could be held accountable.

For that reason, the changes in the Financial Measures (2009) Bill will not be something that we can afford and we can support because that licence for uncontrolled spending is something that we do not stand for.

When you look at the $592 million that was presented, artificially created, in order to give them an opportunity to say that we have been left with a huge deficit, I think it's important to note that in difficult times and when the resources in the province are limited and when we're in an economic downturn, some of the expenditures were not important to make at this particular time. Maybe important when resources are in better shape and when our economy is thriving but not now.

But this government opted to add to a list of deficit spending that would create artificially huge deficits and they can go out to the province and say, look what we inherited. Well, the $66 million for land purchases, not a bad idea, but is the time right? We maintain that it is not. The $54 million in a restructuring fund to deal with - and we've seen a little bit of that already - the wage settlement. The $15 million for the HST rebate, the decision to make that a universal program has cost this government $15 million for the balance of the year, $30 million for a full year. You tell me, Mr. Speaker, how that will fit with families in Nova Scotia who are depending on social programs so that they can eat and so that they can be warm and so that they can clothe their children. That did not have to be - and was not in our budget - a universal program. But this government opted to be nice to everyone at the expense of some of those most in need.

We looked at the home construction rebate. That was intended and was announced that it would be an incentive, an incentive for people to build, an incentive to stimulate the economy by having tradespeople working in our province. Yet when the implementation and the application of that was known, the incentive was gone because it went to reward those people who had already built their homes. So an incentive to encourage building and stimulate the economy was soon lost.

Of course, the last one, the huge number that has contributed to the $592 million is the $353 million repayment for universities. We recognize that when there is a surplus, that was a good investment to make, because it takes off your next year's books. But when you don't have the money and you have to borrow the money and you have to add that to a deficit, it is certainly not a very wise and prudent financial decision.

Mr. Speaker, all of these things have come together and they have allowed this government to present a budget. I will repeat my opening comments - it is not a Tory budget, it is not a budget that we would have presented, and Nova Scotians need to understand that. Nova Scotians will not be fooled by that - they can do the math just the same as we can.

[Page 1466]

I want to close my comments by saying that in difficult times I think everybody in this House agrees that some difficult decisions have to be made. We listened to that during the campaign. We are into four years - sorry, four months of an NDP Government. (Interruption) It will be four years; that's the trouble, Mr. Speaker. During those four months, we have yet to see a tough decision that would be made within the financial means of this province. Those are the concerns that we have, those are the concerns that Nova Scotians have and, as has been stated, those are the things that Nova Scotians will pay for in the long term. So the changes and the recommendations to the Financial Measures Act that allow this government to have uncontrolled spending, to not have the deficit as the first charge on the next year, and to allow offshore to be redirected whenever, as long as, are certainly not examples of fiscal management and good decision making.

Mr. Speaker, as I've said, this is not something that we can support. I will allow my Finance Critic at another time in this debate to be more specific with the details.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Kings West.

MR. LEO GLAVINE: Mr. Speaker, I'm very pleased today to rise to address the Financial Measures (2009) Bill. I think I heard the Interim Leader of the Progressive Conservative Party say it felt like four years, I guess, because I was here for six years and we had all balanced budgets, if I remember correctly, but maybe my memory is not so good. (Interruptions) But that being said, the question today around the Financial Measures (2009) Bill, of course, is that we do not support legislation which retroactively changes the law. We're here today facing the exact same question that we had earlier this year, so it's a position that we have not changed.

The Financial Measures (2009) Bill now allows a minister to table a deficit budget - that's the big change that is occurring in this legislation. Furthermore, the offshore offset which had to go on the provincial debt - all of us in this House, regardless of our political affiliation, felt that it was time that Nova Scotians address the future of our children and grandchildren, that we would start to deal with the debt of this province which we now see will start to rise once again. It is in fact, probably whenever I leave the Legislature not feeling that I've had some kind of positive impact on what my grandchildren will have to face, that as our interest on the debt once again approaches $1 billion, it's almost difficult to fathom but it's the great reality that faces our province. We would have no worry about settlements for the contracts that are coming forward if we had dealt with this some time ago.

So that leads me to the point that the changes in the Financial Measures Act are not about one year - they're not permitting a deficit for one year. There's no sunset clause on deficits going forward, and even though we do live in more challenging fiscal times, as the Minister of Finance has pointed out, revenues are down and we know the demands on our services are indeed extreme, but not to put forward at least the challenge that by next year we'd be working with due diligence toward a balanced budget, it doesn't seem now to have that kind of accommodation inside the Financial Measures (2009) Bill. It's a little bit easier

[Page 1467]

when you open up that legislation. I think it makes for an easier way to be content that we only have this much of a deficit.

In some ways now, there's a blank cheque concept that's available to this government as they move into the future. If we heard of anything during the campaign and especially in the times we live in, and government has been echoing that sentiment now for months, and that is to have the greatest possible fiscal responsibility is a pre-condition, I believe, of good government.

The Minister of Finance himself, when he was on this side of the House, he trumpeted the need for fiscal responsibility and the need to ensure the government spent the public purse wisely now and into the future. As the Leader of the Opposition stated in his remarks, he went against some very, very strong advice - advice that Nova Scotians paid $100,000 for to provide government with good insight. That was not to make prepayments, not to make large one-time payments even during the next fiscal year, giving it out in a quarterly manner to universities.

[2:45 p.m.]

Universities, in my discussions with three presidents, found no problems with the way it was done in the past, and I'm sure they won't find a big problem knowing they're going to get the money, but they would be content also to receive quarterly payments in the next fiscal year. Government has moved away from the Deloitte recommendation and will borrow that money on the last day of the fiscal year. That's right, the money will be borrowed - it probably won't be in the treasury by that time.

So the changes made in the Financial Measures (2009) Bill, in some ways, now, I think are very different than the minister's words of some months ago. Again, they're moving away from fiscal accountability and especially in the context of a majority government.

During a news conference for the introduction of this bill, the minister said that legislating balanced budgets simply doesn't work. He said that governments will spend in good times, they will repeal such legislation in bad times. However, with this bill, it's proven that the NDP will repeal balanced budget legislation in tough economic times. If this government would go so far as to remove all fiscal restraints today, there is nothing that will comfort Nova Scotians who fear they will not continue the practice into the future. I think this is the point that we're making around the Financial Measures (2009) Bill this year, because, again, we could perhaps see it being done for the one year.

The minister has said that Nova Scotians will only have to trust us. Well, we don't see strong reasons why. The government has tabled a deficit budget, and it is truly an NDP budget. None of us here on this side of the House anticipated a $592 million bill to be placed in the public treasury. We knew that while we were in more difficult times that we would not

[Page 1468]

be saddled with that kind of deficit this year or in the years to come. The debt is indeed increased.

It was interesting that the NDP ran a campaign that promised balanced budgets when they knew there was obviously no possibility that they could deliver. When we left the House here on May 4th, we knew that the budget of the province was, while balanced on March 31st, we were moving away from a balanced position by May 4th and there was no way they could deliver on that promise. Instead of introducing measures and policies that would show a comprehensive strategy to stimulate Nova Scotia's economy, they are approaching growth through piecemeal offerings to select businesses and communities.

Once again, I think having been in Opposition, and a stronger Opposition for a decade, Nova Scotians thought there would be this plan coming forward. Now we're being advised that we won't do it now, wait until Spring, which was an old adage to get Nova Scotians doing some building and repairs a few years ago to stimulate the economy. I won't comment on the stimulation of the housing industry at this time, which is only a half measure.

Piecemeal offerings are not what will revive and reinvigorate the Nova Scotia economy but, rather, a comprehensive plan is what we were hoping would be part of both the Throne Speech and the Budget Speech. We thought they would be complementary documents to Nova Scotia. In fact, the Throne Speech was pretty much the opposite; in fact, perhaps one of the dullest Throne Speeches in some time. So we don't have those measures introduced.

Instead of providing Nova Scotians with clear and transparent accounting, the NDP choose to pay a bill that wouldn't come due until the next fiscal year. The Minister of Finance does like to put his slant, his view on that. But more and more Nova Scotians now, just ordinary Nova Scotians who I speak with, they don't have degrees in business or finance but they understand that, in fact, the wool has been pulled over their eyes. We actually didn't need to pay the $341 million in this fiscal year and we actually don't have, in reality check, in present time, a $592 million deficit. So around this whole budget Nova Scotians are really talking now about credibility - credibility of a government that pronounced it vigorously in Opposition but don't seem to be carrying through now.

So instead of applying the offshore offset payment to the debt, it is using it to pay for NDP programs. Make no mistake about it, Mr. Speaker, we are well over 100 days into the NDP Government and these are NDP choices, these are NDP programs and this is an NDP deficit. It is one of the real disappointments that we have reached this point in the fiscal state of the province that we didn't go the course on the offshore offset. To think of even getting

that interest on the debt, halfway of $1 billion in the next decade would be a wonderful achievement but it now looks like we're moving in the opposite direction.

[Page 1469]

So these decisions that the NDP Government have made since taking government are easy to understand, they are simply political. With the exception of those who are sitting across from me today, no one in this province will really benefit from them. After promising the people of Nova Scotia that they could balance the budget without raising taxes and without cutting services, the NDP hired a consulting firm to tell Nova Scotians that we were facing tough economic times. The people who I meet and talk with in my riding and up and down the Annapolis Valley know that this is a more difficult time, especially when you consider that in our province now we are approaching 10 per cent unemployment. So it is reaching more and more into many families and many of our communities.

What was important was that the report showed that the province was facing tough economic times but it didn't matter how tough, as long as it changed the rules of the debate and that the public might accept deficit spending by the NDP. They artificially inflated the budget, which the NDP hopes will be labelled a Progressive Conservative budget, and this also made it artificially easier to balance in the next fiscal year and, again, we've talked about that from both Parties on this side of the House.

More and more, as I said, Nova Scotians are not being fooled by the large deficit, by the one-time payment. Like the member opposite, perhaps a wonderful investment in Nova Scotia's future is the purchasing of land and moving towards the national goal of 12 per cent protected lands. I certainly, as the Critic for Natural Resources, have advocated for this since I arrived here at Province House. However, was this the right time? Was this the right time to add another $70 million deficit to our provincial budget? So I think if we had that debate, even among Nova Scotians who are so keen, so committed, and themselves who have contributed to organizations like Nature Trust, they would say that perhaps that amount of money at this point in time may in fact have not been the best course of action. So Nova Scotians now know that government has made a number of NDP choices.

A few of the areas that I would like to touch upon that were in the budget, of course, were the changes, first of all, to the Heating Assistance Rebate Program. We know that government did blink around the Nova Scotia Community College teachers possibly going out on strike - we don't know what the settlement is yet. I have a feeling that before this winter is over and Nova Scotians see that HARP is not delivering to the same level as it did in previous years, especially last year, I think there will be a lot of heat on this government. I'm already hearing, getting a lot of calls to our office, that again this was part of the natural expectation from an NDP Government, that in fact there would be a very strong rebate program that Nova Scotians would be able to tap into.

So now we know that there was very little talk about this during the heat of the summer, during the heat of the provincial election, and now again the reality that Nova Scotians will have less to deal with heating their homes in the coming months. We've had actually a couple of weeks already when Nova Scotians have had to turn their heat on. So this is not really in line with the NDP Government that I sat opposite who talked very strongly and very principled about looking after the poor, looking after those who hurt in our society -

[Page 1470]

many of them not because of their own doing but rather situations, curve balls that are thrown families and make for very difficult times.

So I think this is the kind of program that Nova Scotians will not have forgotten four years down the road - they'll remember this turn of events, this change in the HARP, and it's one that we in Opposition will remind government on a regular, on an ongoing basis, that in their first budget this was part of letting Nova Scotians down.

Another one of the areas that comes under the budget of course is the caregiver allowance debacle. I know that we could bring cases here now, on a daily basis, cases that truly tug, I'm sure, at the heartstrings of everybody in this House, and I think we're not too far away from hearing from some members actually in government that there are some things that are just not going right about this program. We can talk all we want about the MAPLE criteria used to determine whether somebody gets this help but when I knocked on doors this summer and people were asking if we formed government, would we be bringing in a caregiver program, and as you know we pushed government to run a pilot - a couple of pilots, actually, in Cape Breton. I know in the member for Richmond's riding it ran for a period of time, it was pulled back, then there was some fine-tuning done and it was reintroduced and the people who received it benefited immensely from it.

I think the unfortunate thing that has happened here is the expectations that were created and the realities now that Nova Scotians are faced with and we're going to hear more about this again in the coming weeks and months.

[3:00 p.m.]

For anybody who has had the opportunity to go across Nova Scotia, visit a lot of our small communities, we know that the rink, the arena, is an absolutely central community gathering place in many of those communities and the more we hear about the change in the rink revitalization program, again, where you know communities have to try and, in fact, raise dollars to be able to get some help. For example, it was interesting talking to people at a hockey game at the Al MacInnis rink in Inverness and we heard that the board of directors had to take out loans to keep that place open because of the games being played by government on this. So they decided to cut $25,000 dollars in funding to that arena and to five other communities, for example in the riding of Inverness.

So if we go to many of these little communities, think of the number that, in fact, are called Centennial Arena. So many of them now are 40-plus years of age. This loss of support to keeping these rinks going is not being lost, is not being harboured just by the board of directors. This voice now, this message is getting out to the larger community that there is going to be precious little help available if their rink is having difficult times.

These are a few areas that this budget touches upon. Probably the one that is the greatest misleader of all is the Graduate Retention Rebate. In fact, it has been blasted by some of the best friends of the NDP; the Federation of Students, they have blasted this

[Page 1471]

program as absolutely missing the mark. This program missed the mark. We didn't have to look to the Alliance of Nova Scotia Student Associations. Right from the federation, we heard directly and unequivocally that this will do precious little about retention and, again, the great mislead of $15,000 coming to your pocket. Well, not in this lifetime. So it's precious little of an incentive in that particular program but it did sound great with the way that it was advertised.

Well, over the next weeks and months we're going to hear Nova Scotia, without question, see this budget as the NDP's first budget. They're not waiting until Spring, they're already starting to cast some judgment on the directions we see the province going. If I heard any one message when I went to the doors in my riding, and I still hear it today, it was one very clear message that if the NDP became government, they would do things differently. That's the one message that I heard in the summer and I continue to hear and they are seeing that things aren't too dramatically different. So, I think we'll soon see that Nova Scotians have, in fact, been deceived on some of the promises and how they are being delivered.

I think today as we look at voting on the Financial Measures (2009) Bill, that piece of legislation may not be drilled down on by too many Nova Scotians, but we are definitely seeing that the large deficit is an area that Nova Scotians are taking a look at and are disappointed that we will continue to grow the debt in our province. In fact, our pattern of relying on tremendous amounts of federal subsidies, equalization, letting the offset payment go for programs - there is no visionary piece around how we're going to move financially in this province or how we're going to change the course of doing business fiscally. I think that's what Nova Scotians now are starting to see.

One last area that had all the right ring to it - removing the HST. Should it be a universal program? It is one that I think should get a reconsideration. It's one that we will have to ask questions about. Not all provinces have their electricity without taxation. It certainly goes against the NDP philosophy, and for the people I talk to in my community who run programs like Feed My Lambs, when a heated swimming pool in a home in the south end gets an electricity break, something doesn't quite jive with that ring. (Interruption)

It's something that Nova Scotians asked, why not a means test? A means test would have put this program in good order. Or do as you have with Bangor Hydro, where you have different rates for different amounts of electrical consumption and could we ever use that in this province where our utility is one of the five worst polluters in Canada. So government didn't do anything bold here. They just simply fulfilled a political initiative and not really something that is far-reaching and has positive implications for Nova Scotia's fiscal and overall health and well being for the future.

So these are the things that I think - if we looked beneath the Financial Measures (2009) Bill, if we looked beneath the budget and, as I alluded to very quickly, also the Throne Speech, we never really saw that kind of commitment to a change that Nova Scotians were led to believe would be very evident, something that they would start to see and feel - I think

[Page 1472]

that is the part that we'll see, whether or not the second budget from the NDP and their future plans will be a clearer direction for the province. With that, Mr. Speaker, I take my place.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Argyle.

HON. CHRISTOPHER D'ENTREMONT: Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker. It is my pleasure to stand up today and talk about Bill No. 29. I'm going to try my best to talk sense. I know the Minister of Finance wants to see some clarity when talking about this budget, some clarity that maybe he wasn't able to present or maybe the Liberals have not been able to present during their time talking to this.

Bill No. 29, Mr. Speaker, is of course enabling legislation. It is legislation that accompanies the estimates that we spent so much time on here in the House over the last number of weeks. What the bill doesn't really provide us with is sort of the background. You look at some of these innocuous things: "Section 76 of Chapter 365 of the Revised Statutes, 1989, the Provincial Finance Act is repealed." Okay, well really what does that mean? Mr. Speaker, I am just quoting from the bill, so I can table it later on, after I am done.

I know the member opposite, the Minister of Finance, when he stood as the Opposition Critic on Finance said some of these very same things - you know, what do they really mean? What I thought I would do over the next number of minutes, I would probably go to maybe what exactly these little things mean and really reference what they say in the Provincial Finance Act, so we'll do that one, Mr. Speaker; you know, sort of a glossary of what I'm going to be doing tonight for the next half hour or so. I'm going to look at the commitment, the true commitment that was held within the NDP platform, exactly what they have committed to and really what's going on today.

Mr. Speaker, I'll probably do some of the same things that the member for Kings West spoke about, some of the programs that Nova Scotians feel are important that are not included or have been cut from this budget.

First of all, I would like to say and to support what my Leader said during her time here, that was to basically say this is not - I'll say it again - this is not the Progressive Conservative budget that was brought forward in May. I know the members opposite will say, it's your budget, but there was almost three months of time that transpired between our tabling of the budget, the subsequent defeat of that budget - or the defeat of the amendment - and the bringing forward of this budget in this Legislature once again.

Mr. Speaker, I can say that the glaring difference between our budget and their budget really falls into the$592 million deficit. I can say that when we were doing our work at the Cabinet Table, when we were bringing the numbers forward, when the Department of Finance would come in and present with new numbers, we picked a set of numbers that were as accurate as they possibly could be at that time. With the numbers we submitted, with the adjustment that we asked, we knew we would end up having a small deficit if we didn't

[Page 1473]

make a change. That change, of course, was the offshore offset - I'll talk about that one a little later on as well.

Mr. Speaker, our budget would have been the eighth consecutive budget that was balanced to be brought forward in this Legislature within the 10-year span of the Progressive Conservative Government. So three months later we see a budget that looks a lot - hey, I can compare our budget with the previous year's budget, or you can look at a budget in 1992 versus one in 2002 and structurally they're going to look like pretty similar budgets. They all have the departments listed in, the expenditures therein, of course the estimate to actual, and all that stuff that ends up in it.

Mr. Speaker, our budget that was brought in in May versus the budget that is before us today for consideration are not the same budgets. What I can say about this is that when the NDP were able to bring forward in their first test - this is their first test of what they said they were going to do, and what we see today is that they failed the first test. They failed the first test, they're bringing forward a much larger deficit than what they should have. Let me be honest, as I try to be here. Without that adjustment, it may be with - over time, the numbers change, we know that. The numbers change, they might have come in with a deficit, maybe $100 million or whatever. They're a new government, they would have tried to be everything to everybody, so they would have thrown some stuff on deficit.

Of course, they can blame the previous government for this deficit, which they have done over and over again. That's not fooling Nova Scotians either. What Nova Scotians are telling me at the coffee shop is that they're the government now, they're the ones that can make the decisions, they're the ones who should be making the changes - and they're not. They just continue to hide behind the blame game.

Nova Scotians are getting tired of that. Hopefully, once this budget passes in this House - and it will pass, we'll be voting against it, but they now have a majority government and therefore can pass this budget. So it will get passed and I hope at that point a little bit of this blame game will change.

Don't get me wrong - hey, we blamed the Liberals for everything that wrong for 10 years, but I can tell you, through the end -

AN HON. MEMBER: There was a reason for that.

[3:15 p.m.]

MR. D'ENTREMONT: There was a reason for that. Through the end, though, we used it very sparingly; we only used it when we really had to. I hope over the next number of months that less of this blame game will be played and that the NDP Cabinet that's in front of me will get down to working on their new budget, get down to doing their job of

[Page 1474]

providing a better place for families. That's what they worked on. It says within their election platform, I want to say, "Darrell Dexter and the NDP know that debt and deficits are not the road to prosperity. The NDP is committed to ensuring that Nova Scotia lives within its means, starting with a smaller Cabinet . . ."

Let me stop at a smaller Cabinet. There are 12 people in that Cabinet, but now we know there are junior ministers in this Cabinet. Maybe they don't sit at that table, but they're getting very specific things to go do. The Minister of Transportation and Infrastructure Renewal stood during his estimates yesterday and he talked about the member for Queens going out and doing work on gravel roads. I know that the member for Sackville-Cobequid represented the Minister of Acadian Affairs at a meeting in Victoria, I believe.

Regardless if they're junior ministers, or in the case of Halifax Citadel-Sable Island, a minister wannabe . . .

AN. HON. MEMBER: Minister Emeritus.

MR. D'ENTREMONT: Minister Emeritus, I did really enjoy that one, I did enjoy that one. Mr. Speaker, knowing that there are only 12 people on the payroll, we're seeing there will be other tasks assigned to other people. I can say that they will have expenses, they will have to travel from time to time, they'll have to see the areas, and I'm wondering out loud, who's going to be paying for that?

AN HON. MEMBER: Taxpayers.

MR. D'ENTREMONT: But is it the taxpayer for the monies from this House as an MLA, or will Cabinet be paying for those, the departments be paying for those? We don't know. Let me continue. I know it's a sore spot because they wouldn't react to it as much as they do when we mention the issue of junior ministers.

HON. RICHARD HURLBURT: Baby ministers.

MR. D'ENTREMONT: I won't repeat it, but I know the people have heard the member for Yarmouth and his comments.

Mr. Speaker, they also committed to an independent audit, and we've already heard the response to that one. I guess there really wasn't an audit, and they're not real recommendations so we're not really going to accept them. Anyway, ". . . to find out the true state of the province's finances. An expenditure management review across the public sector will save up to 1 per cent in nonessential spending."

So going into this - I could table it, I've tabled it on a number of occasions, I'm sure the Clerk doesn't want to have another one for the list. I'll keep this one because I love referencing it. You've seen it before, it's a really nice blue, it's a very nice blue document

[Page 1475]

with a little bit of orange thrown in. I wonder why they did that. What we can see is they didn't use any red because they knew they wouldn't get anywhere with those folks.

Mr. Speaker, let me speak a little bit to the bill itself, which I'm sure the (Interruptions) the minister emeritus really wants me to get to it, so let me speak a little bit on that. What I'm going to be doing is referencing maybe some of the clauses that we find in Bill No. 29 that are being deleted from the Provincial Finance Act. The ones that stand out the most really fall in around Part IX, which is the Provincial Finance Act. If I read them this way, Clause 27, "Section 76 of Chapter 365 of the Revised Statutes,1989, the Provincial Finance Act is repealed." so of course for the effect of the people in this House and of course for maybe the people that are lucky enough to be watching this on TV, I thought I would read what that section is. Basically that section is, "No budget with deficit". It says, "76 In each fiscal year of the Province, commencing with the 2002-2003 fiscal year, the Minister shall not table a budget in the House of Assembly that estimates a deficit for the Province for the fiscal year to which the budget relates."

Basically what this sets out is the balanced-budget legislation, that we cannot run a deficit and as of this point in time - because Bill No. 29 has not passed through the House - the estimates, of course, that we passed prior to this puts the government in an illegal position because that Act has not been repealed yet.

I know that during Question Period the minister said, well, bring us to court on it. Well, we're not going to bring it to court because this is the court, the court of public opinion, the court of the Opposition is simply that we are in an illegal position today and I'm sure by suppertime or whatever time we get to vote on this budget, it will correct that issue. I needed to underline, for the next number of hours we will be in an illegal position when it comes to the Provincial Finance Act.

Mr. Speaker, I'm going to Section 28(1), which is, "Clauses 76A(1)(e) and (f) of Chapter 365 are repealed." If you look quickly at what that one does for us, it's quite a long one, one, the annual revenue in an amount not to exceed that as set out for each year below, which would otherwise be recognized under Generally Accepted Accounting Principles with respect to the receipt of an offshore payment in each year as a result of an arrangement between the Government of Canada and the provinces on offshore revenue shall not be recognized for the purposes of Sections 76, 77 and 78. Basically, this is the very piece - maybe the phrasing is a little bit different from what was presented back in May - that that Party defeated our government, so at that time it was wrong for some reason. We would be presenting, I think, what was reasonable and using dollars that are available to us to operate the province, to provide the services that are needed in the province, whether it be in health care, whether it be in roads, whether it be in education and our idea was to use those dollars for a short period of time until the fiscal realities righted themselves again. I could go through - basically it lists on 2005-06 the number of the dollars, up to 2010-11, to how many dollars would be used towards debt.

[Page 1476]

The second piece, which is, "The annual revenue, in an amount equal to no more than eight hundred thirty million dollars less the sum of all annual revenues not recognized under subsection (1), which would be otherwise recognized in the fiscal year 2011-2012 under generally accepted accounting principles with respect to the receipt of an offset payment as a result of an arrangement between the Government of Canada and the Province on offshore revenues shall not be recognized for the purposes of Sections 76, 77, and 78." So the point here is that in May we weren't allowed to do this, it was an illegal act, it was awful; yet today we have this government doing the very same thing.

Mr. Speaker, again, Clause 29, "Section 78 of Chapter 365 is repealed.", and that's the recovery of deficit. It reads something like this - well, exactly like this:

"78(1) Subject to subsection (2), a deficit in a fiscal year shall be recovered no later than the end of the fiscal year next following the year in which the deficit occurred.

(2) Where a deficit occurs in the fiscal year as a result of

(a) an expenditure required in the fiscal year because of a natural or other disaster in the Province that could not have been anticipated and that affects the Province or a region of the Province in a manner that is of urgent public concern;

(b) losses associated with a sale, dissolution, closure or other restructuring of a governmental unit or government business enterprise that are not anticipated to have a similar financial impact on future fiscal years; or

(c) an expense incurred with respect to debt servicing costs that exceeds the amount budgeted for debt servicing costs for the fiscal year,

the deficit is not required to be recovered. 2000, c. 4, s. 71; 2004, c. 3, s. 37."

So, in essence, towards the end of the year should something happen within that year, that there is a deficit incurred - you know, Hurricane Juan was a good example where a lot of dollars would have had to go out to fix the damage of Hurricane Juan. Had that number been a large number, and we would not have been in a positive situation, we would have been able to say, well, listen, because of that we're going to be posting a deficit at year end, but that's being taken out as well.

I could go on, but these are the very specific changes to the Provincial Finance Act that we have to oppose in this particular case. The wholesale, allowing this government to

[Page 1477]

run a deficit ad infinitum, you know, there is no plan here to get us back - I know the minister will try his best, and I know his Premier has him speaking on a number of occasions and saying that we will live within our means, but there's no written commitment here. We're in a pretty grey area of when the province will come back into balance which was a commitment that our government made back in 1999, that we will be back in balance within three years and would stay in a balance situation from that day forward.

So we're looking for maybe some more clarity on that as time goes on and I think, Mr. Speaker, that's where test number two will come into play, when this government truly has their opportunity to present their own budget. Apparently this is ours and I've said it on a number of occasions, and our Leader said on a number of occasions, our Liberal Party has said the same thing, you know - as a matter of fact, I thank them for their comments on that. Of course, our relationship seems to be sort of a teenage love affair where sometimes we're on and sometimes we're off. So right now we can stand here and agree, as well, that this is not the budget that I sat a number of hours and days in the Cabinet Room trying to find a solution.

Mr. Speaker, we made some conscious decisions in the view of a balanced budget of not funding some issues, and do you know what? What they'll find over the next number of months as they start putting their budget together, their budget number two together, they'll have some hard decisions to make. I know the Minister of Agriculture and the Minister of Natural Resources will have many community groups, organizations, farmers, what have you, coming to him saying we need more dollars for this or that project and they'll be valuable projects. I know that the Minister of Education through work with the schools and the public school system, or the university system, the community college, will have some wonderful projects presented by them that they're going to have to consider in their next budget.

I know every other minister will have that conflict as well, but the Minister of Finance and the Premier, the Chair of the Treasury and Policy Board, are going to have to say no in some cases.

I hope in some case that they take that, there are some wonderful programs presented by different groups in this province, but will they have the capability to live within their means, with all those projects being presented to them? I don't know, but that's going to be test number two.

Mr. Speaker, let's go back a little bit to some of the things that we're seeing within the Provincial Finance Bill. Again, they will be able to table this deficit. So, much like I said, by suppertime we will be legal again. The offshore offset issue that they spoke so much against will become a reality. They no longer will have to recover that deficit. Again, that recovery of deficit issue is a very precarious position that they put themselves in, because what the Department of Health does to their DHAs, and I believe the Department of Education does to the school boards, is that those organizations are not allowed to run

[Page 1478]

deficits. So on one side they're saying it's okay for us but it's not okay for you and if you do run the deficit, you're going to have to pay it back next year. So they don't have to do either.

[3:30 p.m.]

So living within our means is sort of a dangerous issue here, because they're not going to live within their means this year, they're going to ask the DHAs and the school boards to do the same thing, to have to live within their means. You know, a lot of things can be triggered here and I hope they're not. But, Mr. Speaker, we would expect, as the Progressive Conservative Party, to live within our means as well, to be able to react to the needs of the province as they come, but to be able to post another positive budget.

Mr. Speaker, we know that this is a tough economic time and it is one that is very hard to pin down. I know over the last number of weeks that the Minister of Finance, I'm sure, has seen conflicting numbers and has seen numbers erode again. We always tend to scratch our heads and hide when the Department of Finance would come knocking on the door of Cabinet again. They say, well, the numbers that we presented to you last week probably aren't as good this week. Or the federal government has decided to provide us with this or they're not going to do that.

So there is going to be a lot of work that has to be looked after and done. We all sit here, and we're here to criticize in a lot of cases and we're here to work with them on a lot of other cases, but I want to sincerely say that I wish the Minister of Finance well, going into his second budget, because it is going to be a lot of work. I hope that everybody sitting around him supports him in some of the very difficult decisions that he is going to have to make in order to meet up with the commitments that Party made during the election.

But I can say that just like a lot of these other statements within their book, I don't have a lot of hope that they're actually going to be fulfilled. We haven't seen a lot of fulfillment on them already. We're still waiting. What, 124 days have gone already, so we're waiting. (Interruption)

Mr. Speaker, I thank the Minister of Health for piping up a little bit. There are a number of programs within her department that need tweaking. The Caregiver Allowance Program is one of them. In order to do that, maybe she is going to need a little more money on that one. You have to be reactive as a government. You have to be able to make changes as they come at you.

So, again, I'm going back to my original statement. The time for blame is over, time for pointing at you is over. This isn't our budget, our budget was balanced. Mr. Speaker, I look forward to discussing this one further. I know there are a number of other people who are looking to comment on this and I will allow them that time now. I thank you very much for this opportunity to speak to the Financial Measures (2009) Act, which is Bill No. 29. Thank you very much.

[Page 1479]

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Halifax Clayton Park.

MS. DIANA WHALEN: Mr. Speaker, I'm very pleased to be able to say a few words today on the Financial Measures (2009) Act which we're looking at. As the Finance Minister knows, of course, we had been Finance Critics together on this side of the House and I've had many opportunities to listen to him asking very good questions and setting a very high tone in terms of the finances of the province and where we should be going. So, it is very interesting for me today to be here and look at the details of the Financial Measures (2009) Bill and hear the minister's explanations for some of the changes we're about to see.

I just feel it's very important for all members of the House to pay a great deal of attention as the budget goes through. This is in fact, I would say, the most important vote of any year that we look at. Once a year we do examine a budget and set the course for this province. Every single department that any one of us has a great interest in is going to be dictated by the budget that we see before us today. That's why the decisions that are made, the foundation on which our province is built, is so important financially.

I think all of us knew about the declining revenues this province was going to feel this year. There was no secret to that fact that oil revenues were off tremendously. Last year when I was Finance Critic, we actually received in the realm of $500 million in offshore royalties because of the amount of natural gas that was flowing from our shores and being pumped.

That was a tremendous benefit to this province, that $500 million. It had grown just in a few short years from less than $100 million. It really made a difference to the programs and services that the province was able to afford and we did not set aside any money during that time, it was a time of rising revenues not only from the offshore royalties but also from a buoyant economy at the time, we had rising income tax and rising corporate taxes. The Progressive Conservative Government, for those nine years, benefited greatly from that and they did not set aside funds, they did run a balanced budget, however. They were able to expand programs and they kept spending because there was enough extra money coming in.

My point really is that during the election just past, only four months past, we all knew those revenues had already declined and that we were going to be facing a much more difficult year. What disturbs me is that during that election, the NDP, in their platform, said they would run balanced budgets, said how fiscally conservative they were, how fiscally sound they were, went to great lengths and great pains to promise the people of Nova Scotia that was the case.

Mr. Speaker, it is such a parallel to what we heard a year ago in this country when the federal Conservatives ran and promised there would be no deficits and that they had everything under control. Within weeks of them winning the election in October, a year ago, how they were bringing in deficits and how now those have ballooned to something that's

[Page 1480]

really astronomical on a national scale. It just seems to be so self-serving to pick one stance and to say one thing during an election.

I know that our Leader in the Liberal Party did speak up and say that it was absolutely clear there would be a deficit this year regardless of who was governing, because of the difficult times we were facing. There are so many essential services that we have to provide and nobody in this House wants to see those services impaired in any way. I know I'm the Health Critic now and it's important to me to see that we're able to meet our health needs and provide for the people of Nova Scotia. So it is a difficult job to govern, I have no doubt about it.

It's often putting you in difficult positions to meet demands and meet the needs of people, which is really why we're here, and also to manage the money of this province because all of us pay our taxes, all Nova Scotians are contributing whether through things they buy or their own businesses they've established.

While we look at the Financial Measures (2009) Bill, there are a few things. I think I've pointed out the hypocrisy of the election, the fact that it was predicated on the idea that there would be no deficit and that was completely ludicrous. In fact, there's a word that the Finance Minister often uses and that's "absurd". He likes to say certain things are absurd. I think that is a little bit absurd to have thought that we ever would not have had a deficit this year.

However, there are choices (Interruptions) I have been listening, indeed, there are choices that we make in crafting a budget, any government does, and this government is no different. They have made some choices that I would disagree with. Where the word absurd

comes in particularly well is in trying to find a difference between the Finance Minister's description of why we're making two years' payment in one to the universities, why we're paying a bill in advance of when it's due to our universities, under the memorandum of understanding that we have in place, that had been negotiated with all of the universities. That was to provide them with some stability, in terms of understanding what they would receive from year to year, allowing them to be more effective and efficient in what they could do on their own campuses and for their students. That was a good thing, and we supported that at the time, but now the government has chosen to make a single payment to the universities to what they describe as kind of buying out the memorandum of understanding, finishing with it and being able to start fresh when they craft another budget next year.

Mr. Speaker, it just doesn't hold any water when we tried to listen carefully and see how that actually differs from what the Progressive Conservatives were proposing in the budget in May, that they presented - that was never passed, by the way. So I cannot, for the life of me, see a fundamental difference; the outcome is exactly the same. The difficulty we have here is that the extra payment to the universities has actually ballooned our debt considerably. It has left us with a debt this year of $592 million, as has been said - it's actually a deficit, adding to the debt, I should be careful of my terminology - but that's

[Page 1481]

actually more than a $0.5 billion increase in our debt, is what it will amount to, because we're spending that much more than we're going to collect, in terms of our best estimates.

I just find that that is unnecessarily expanded by making this early payment to the universities, and certainly I don't believe that it was the right choice to make. I think it's been done to make this year's deficit that much larger, so that next year may look better. We postponed a payment in the next year so that it will ultimately paint a much rosier picture, hopefully, when we meet next Spring to look at the budget for 2010-11.

Nova Scotians are not stupid. Nova Scotians can understand this. Although a lot of times this looks kind of obscure and like high finance, it really isn't. It's pretty simple. Any company, anybody who has run a business - and there are people in this House who have run businesses - anybody knows that the way to operate in a time when cash is tight is that you try to extend your payables. You don't pay them quickly, you try to extend them as long as you can before you make that payment. That's the way for you to have more cash flow and to operate more effectively. All businesses do that, but I guess this government is not going to operate under those principles. They're going to make an early payment for no apparent reason, except political, I guess, optics, to look better, so that they themselves will look better.

I disagree with that, Mr. Speaker, and I think it was important to get up and say so today. So in terms of looking at this, the Financial Measures (2009) Bill really has a lot of small changes, a lot of increased fees. That's pretty much standard in these bills each year. There are cost of living increases, which we understand, and some of them are described simply as increases, so they obviously cannot be tied directly to the cost of living. There's also some increased taxes. They're very clear - they say it's a tax, not otherwise.

We're looking at changes to the Companies Act and the Corporations Registration Act - lots of different fees going up there - and an increase in tobacco, which we had all agreed to. So that's fine, those smaller details we do understand.

Other choices, though, that the government made would be, for example, the equity tax credit, where they've chosen to use that as a tool to stimulate business. I think only time will tell whether that really will make a fundamental difference. For the costs that the minister outlined to do that - I think he said it would be about another $1 million to help them - I think there are other ways that we could have addressed some of the needs of small business. In fact, in our own platform during the election, the Liberal Party had gone the route of looking at small business, Mr. Speaker, because the majority of companies in this province, in fact the vast majority, are small business, and there isn't one community that doesn't have small businesspeople operating there. So as our Leader had said earlier, we believe that it would have been more effective to lower the small business tax. That being said, those are choices that people are making.

[Page 1482]

My big concern, really, is around the changes to the Provincial Finance Act. I wanted to just reference briefly - and I am conscious of the time, Mr. Speaker - but I did want to reference the changes that we saw in the six years that I've been here in the Legislature. In that time certainly we did see the agreement signed for the Offshore Accord which brought $800 million and a little bit more to this province.

What was interesting was the way that came about. Certainly it was a longstanding dispute with the federal government and it was a great success for this province that we were able to get that amount of money brought to the province, but if we're going to use that money that was hard fought and negotiated - and frankly we were entitled to - if we're going to take that money that was definitely an exceptional windfall to this province and now allow it to go directly onto the programs and services that we're receiving, then we have squandered a tremendous opportunity to lower the debt and loosen the noose around our necks.

There has been a lot said here in the House today, Mr. Speaker, about the next generation, about our children and about our grandchildren, whether or not they'll be saddled with our inflated deficits that we've run up over our lifetime, and that is exactly what I'm concerned about as well. When we saw that $800 million come to the province, I know that here in the House we asked questions of then Premier Hamm and we asked questions of the Finance Minister. I remember having discussions with them at various opportunities, whether it was here in the House or elsewhere, saying you really have to take that special payment and make sure it goes against our debt so we can have some light at the end of the tunnel.

[3:45 p.m.]

Mr. Speaker, where is the light at the end of the tunnel when our debt now is growing by another $0.5 billion this year? We knew we were in good years at the time when our revenues were growing and we needed to stay the course and take that money and put it against the debt. That, to me, was just a fundamental principle that we had to do and now we are going into this year, and it looks like at least one more year of using that money.

What I heard from the Finance Minister in his opening comments was that it will be at least two years before we see a recovery in our revenues, which means our economy bouncing back, more people working, hopefully an increase in offshore petroleum costs so that we can get more royalties, but we know it's going to be a few years and I feel that here we are actually sitting here and watching the legacy that John Hamm did establish, and I was very pleased when he did make the decision to see that that money went on the debt. That was just an important decision for this province.

Now we have reversed that and that is what is included in these clauses, Clauses 27, 28, 29. I guess Clause 27 is doing it directly by saying now that we're allowed to have a budget deficit, that's number one; Clause 28 saying that we can take the offshore offset

[Page 1483]

money, the revenues, and use them toward our programs, that we no longer have to keep them for debt reduction.

Mr. Speaker, I agree with something that the Finance Minister said, something about it being kind of obscure and difficult, or something to work with, confusing I think was the word he used, but in fact the accounting for that offshore offset was somewhat confusing because we had to maintain a surplus each year equal to the amount that we received or recognized as the amount that we were getting.

If I seem to be a little bit passionate about this, I suppose it's because I've studied some accounting and most people do not find that very interesting but I do, in fact, and at the time I thought it was an unusual mechanism that we had to use, but that seemed to be the way the Department of Finance wants to and felt that the offshore offset had to be recognized. That actually follows the principles of GAAP that we've talked about here today, the Generally Accepted Accounting Principles, which we were moving toward and have been moving toward since the 1990s when the Liberal Government wrestled with a terrible situation and tried to bring a semblance of professionalism to the way we managed our province financially and we did take the first difficult steps toward Generally Accepted Accounting Principles.

So that being said, Mr. Speaker, we had the money separately identified year by year because that $800 million had to be recognized over a period of years. It recognizes the royalties and the money that come from our offshore resources annually and for that reason, it was very important to do it. It may have been difficult for the Department of Finance, but we have to recognize that was a legacy to our province, a legacy to our children and grandchildren, and a means to take that tremendous burden of debt and just alleviate it a little bit as we go forward.

So I'm very disappointed, Mr. Speaker, to see that has just been thrown out the window. Again, even if we were to look at it as a one-time event, so that we would know that every year there would be tremendous efforts made to respect that money going towards the debt. If we felt that this year was an extraordinary circumstance, then I would say, by all means, we should, indeed, have discussed that here in the House and recognized the difficult situation the government is in. But we haven't been asked to do that. We have been asked to throw out the balanced budget legislation and just throw out the commitment that was made to pay down our debt with the offshore revenues that we have.

It is important to mention that it's a non-renewable resource and the government knows this well, Mr. Speaker. They know that as the gas is extracted, we can't replace that, so it is an opportunity for us that we are just seeing squandered here today as we go forward. Again, I think that every Nova Scotian should be upset to see over $0.5 billion in this year's deficit.

[Page 1484]

Mr. Speaker, there are a number of smaller programs that are touched on in this. I've talked about the university funding, which is a major additional expense, which is more than doubling the deficit that we would be seeing and the fact that that was a deliberate political choice of this government and there is no other way to look at that. I just believe that we should be trying to be as honest in our accounting and as fiscally responsible as a company would be or as anybody in business would be in terms of how we manage that and that's not what we're seeing here today.

Again, I point out, Mr. Speaker, that during the election there were a lot of promises made that we're not seeing adhered to today. In fact, the promise to maintain balanced budgets was absurd, it was ludicrous, no question about it and it doesn't show fortitude that immediately we have thrown that right out the window. I think when we are being unrealistic that it's not fair to the people of Nova Scotia.

Mr. Speaker, the choice about reducing the HST off electricity is another interesting point. Much smaller amounts of money we're talking about here, but I still think it's very important to know what was going on. Here in the House we talked at great length for years while the NDP was in Opposition about taking the HST off home heating and the fact that we live in a northern climate, it's very cold. The Progressive Conservatives actually bungled it. They bungled it because they took it off all electricity, not just the heating portion of electricity; they took the HST off all the electricity while they took it off home heating fuel and wood and other means of heating our homes. Then they realized the cost and they backtracked and they changed the formula for electricity so that the HST would only come off the portion that they could somehow attribute to the amount we heat with.

Well, Mr. Speaker, my house is heated with electricity and I know they had to use a formula that would say, how much extra do I pay because that's my heating source as well as my source for all other electricity. But having done so, there was a backlash from the NDP and then they ran in the election on the idea of taking HST off all electricity. But that was not the issue at hand. The issue at hand for this House had been to help people stay warm. To go back to the importance of the Keep the Heat program for people who didn't have enough money to heat their homes and to disrespect that portion. We have gone beyond that. Now, every bit of electricity in the province is now going to be subsidized because we are taking the provincial portion of the taxes off electricity. This year alone, that is costing $15 million and next year it will be $30 million, when a whole year is factored in.

Mr. Speaker, the trouble with this - and I have the difficulty of discussing this on doorsteps because everybody likes more money in their pockets, everybody does. Whether you're wealthy or middle class, it makes no difference; if you're needy, everybody wants to have a little more money that they keep that doesn't go to taxes. But we have to think where the need is greatest. The need is greatest with those people who simply cannot afford to fill their oil tanks. That's where we need to be spending $15 million. The average benefit for somebody who is low income or perhaps far below the poverty line, they won't see much benefit because they're keeping their heat down, they're using the least amount of oil that they could possibly use or the least amount of electricity, they're trying desperately to

[Page 1485]

conserve because they can't afford the first kilowatt hour, they can't afford it as they go forward. So saving the tax on it is a very small amount for them. But those who have larger homes or are heating cottages or bigger properties - I guess you can't do your cottage, but if you have a great big house and it had all kinds of ancillary things like a swimming pool or double garages or triple garages, whatever, those do. They're not all in the South End, but really and truly, it has to be said that there's a bit of hypocrisy here about the Better Deal because we're giving a deal in that case to people who really are quite comfortable and will have their homes heated, regardless, and they're going to have their lights on, regardless.

As we've said before, every member of this Chamber, every member of the Legislature will get and enjoy this benefit. My electricity bill has gone down as a result, as everybody else's has and yet we are not the people who need it most. The people who need it most are the people on those low incomes, below the poverty line and they've relied on something like the Keep the Heat program where the government would send out a cheque and help you actually get the oil that you need or make that purchase. Now, this year that program is going to be significantly cut and it's true - it's because there are choices to be made. We can't give $15 million in benefit, taking revenue out of our province of $15 million because we've now forgiven it and then still find money to make the programs for low-income Nova Scotians.

It's a clear example of a choice and a policy that seems absolutely counter to the values of the New Democratic Party that we hear about and that we know people feel strongly about. It just seems to fly in the face of those values, so that's why on this side of the House it's very difficult for us not to say that there's an element of hypocrisy or that government somehow completely changes your perspective, because for years and years toiling in the hinterland, the NDP promised certain things and they said they stood for certain things and now the reality of governing is obviously very quickly staring them in the face.

They have to make choices but I don't see them adhering to those early principles and I think it's because they began to sell out when they were on this side looking for votes from middle-class and higher-income Nova Scotians and thinking that government themselves could give a better deal to everybody and that's just not possible. We have to ask people to be resilient and we have to say we have people that need help and we have others that stand on their own two feet and that's what I think is important that we say and it's not easy to say when you're a politician and you want to help everybody, it's not.

I think that on our part, the Liberal Party took a very difficult stance because we did campaign on helping those who need help the most and that's not easy to do. We did it because we have principles and I think that's worth saying again and again.

We also are concerned about the environmental impact. If there's less cost to heating your home and to burning fossil fuels, well we'll be doing more of it because people are very much driven in their decisions by economics and we know that. That's why countries in Europe charge so much more for gasoline or for any kind of fossil fuel; it's because they understand that connection. We obviously haven't gotten there at all. We don't have the

[Page 1486]

environmental integrity to stand up and measure these kinds of decisions and these kinds of public policy decisions against what is really right. That again is here in the bill before us. We get to see how that decision was made.

Mr. Speaker, in terms of living within our means, I heard the minister say that and it's really important that he said that there's no question he was going to adhere to this abiding commitment, is actually what he said, he has an abiding commitment to live within our means. Well, to begin with, in this first year of the NDP Government and in this first budget that they have introduced, we are not living within our means so let's not be fooled by saying the right thing and then doing something completely different. This year, for whatever reason, perhaps it was virtually impossible but we are not living within our means, we're running up a half billion dollar deficit and that needs to be spoken clearly and plainly here in the House.

I know there are decisions to be made in the future as well about many other programs and taxes but as a start we shouldn't be cutting our own - or making it more difficult by cutting taxes that really don't benefit those who need it the most. I think that, again, I go back to it being self-serving. I think we should be trying to make a more business-friendly environment. The minister spoke about creating jobs and growing the economy and certainly if you look at the very simple formula of government, you have so much revenue, you have a lot of obligations and the only thing you can do is look at how you can grow that revenue. Certainly by expanding business, that's a lot more attractive than by increasing taxes; so we want to support the business community and I think that that is the way to go by creating some more programs and policies that way.

There are small things the government could do to show that they're different. One of them might be right away to look at some of the questions around small business that come forward. One of the very small issues that has been mentioned, which has an impact on business, is our liquor laws and how we treat things like brew-on-premise companies. We have a completely old-fashioned view of that, and the current government hasn't seemed to have changed their mind on it. They have been approached and the people have talked to them and we're getting the same answer; in fact, we're getting the bureaucrats' answer. So I'm hoping, and I'll say in my few words on the Financial Measures (2009) Bill, I'm hoping that the new government will challenge some of the prevailing biases that are in the bureaucracy and challenge some of these positions that just don't make sense.

Mr. Speaker, I'd like to allow other members to have a few words on the Financial Measures (2009) Bill, so what I would simply say is that we need to be clear that this Financial Measures (2009) Bill, which enables the budget, is actually laying down the foundation for a huge deficit and it's cancelling some of the gains that we've made in previous years by setting a strong legislative foundation for good financial management. By throwing out some of the earlier Acts and amending them, we are losing the legacy of a requirement for balanced budgets and a requirement for spending our offshore money on our debt - those are two of the major things that I regret in this bill. Thank you.

[Page 1487]

[4:00 p.m.]

MR. SPEAKER: I thank the honourable member.

The honourable member for Cape Breton North - oh, I'm sorry, the honourable member for Dartmouth East.

MR. ANDREW YOUNGER: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I will tell you that I do very much like Cape Breton - I think it's a great place, and Cape Breton North in particular. That reminds me, I can remember going to see John Cabot Trail one time who still wanted to get rid of the Causeway, so you never know. It sounds like the Deputy Premier may still feel that way.

I want to start by providing a quote to the House that I think is an appropriate quote today: "I just think it's a shame that this government has decided that instead of being honest with the people of Nova Scotia, they are going to try to engage in this kind of deceptive behaviour." - May 4th, Darrell Dexter. Mr. Speaker, that was what the Premier had to say about the exact same move by the Tory Government on May 4th of this year - the exact same move.

It suddenly got really quiet in here. I have a lot more quotes, so this will be a good one.

This is perhaps, Mr. Speaker, what upsets me most about this piece of legislation is because throughout this budget process we have had a government that has suggested one thing on May 4th - and I'm going to go through many of the things that were said and things said by the Finance Minister when he was in Opposition that are being directly contradicted by this piece of legislation, directly contradicted.

Now the minister would like, and many of the other government members would like to suggest that this is not their budget. Well, Mr. Speaker, they had a choice and it's not one that I would have suggested that they would have taken, but they could have taken the Tory budget, brought the House in immediately after the swearing-in and asked for that budget to be passed - that would have been the Tory budget.

This is not. There have been substantial changes and, in fact, in every one of the estimates that we went through - pretty well all of them - it started with a discussion about what are the changes that have been made. In some departments they were very small and in some departments they were fairly significant.

Mr. Speaker, this is now an NDP budget and it is the first NDP budget - there can't be any question about that. There are choices that have been made, and in making those choices to add things and to run up a deficit to $592 million, they made other choices at the

[Page 1488]

same time - this government made choices to leave some things in the budget and remove others.

They chose to leave in the cut of $2 million for rink revitalization, which as much as the government may like to say that there are other programs, and I don't deny there are other programs, but there are not other programs of this type that don't require matching funds, and this was a program that many rinks in the province came to rely upon. The fact of the matter is the answer was - in one episode of Question Period here - the answer from the government was that well, it really wasn't a program, there were no application forms and so forth. That wasn't a bad answer on that day - until the next day the Minister of Justice announced a $180,000 program for crime prevention that also has no criteria and no application, that he was saying how wonderful a program it was in estimates. Frankly, that makes absolutely no sense. You can't have one minister saying one thing and another minister saying something completely different.

Unless you're planning to do things differently, and the definition of doing things differently for this government must be having one minister say one thing and another say something else. It's starting to get frustrating because we're not really sure which minister we're supposed to believe when things are said.

I'll give you another example. When this bill was introduced at the media conference downstairs, the Minister of Finance stood up and he was asked by the media whether the fact there was no sunset clause meant anything. His response to the media at the time was very clear. The Minister of Finance responded by suggesting that it doesn't matter, because governments can change bills whenever they want - in a majority they can remove it, so the deficit bill was more like a promise. Strange thing.

Then a couple of days later, the Minister of Natural Resources introduces a bill to ban uranium mining. Which is fine, I'm not saying it's not a good idea. What I'm going to tell you, though, is that when he was asked the same question by the media, he said the complete opposite to the Minister of Finance. The media said, you can change this, you can get rid of it, so what does it mean? His response was the complete opposite to the Minister of Finance. He said governments are less likely to change (Interruptions) Sorry? He said governments are less likely to change a bill and they have to face the House in order to change the bill.

Well, which is the policy of the government? Is it better to have something in legislation, as the Minister of Natural Resources suggests - and I agree - or is it better not to have it because it doesn't matter, because the government can change it whenever they want, as the Minister of Finance said to the exact same question about two different bills a week apart. It doesn't make any sense. You have two ministers saying two entirely different things and sending two completely different messages about the meaning of legislation.

On May 4, 2009, Bill No. 240 came forward. You know, what's interesting about Bill No. 240 - I obviously was not in the House at the time, but what's interesting about it is the

[Page 1489]

NDP have tabled the budget, which - I happen to agree with the members of the Progressive Conservative Party that it is an illegal budget at the moment, until the changes to the Financial Measures (2009) Bill pass. Is it a technical illegality? It probably is. That's fine.

What frustrates me is, the NDP were quite happy on May 4th that bill was being brought forward, because it was an issue that they brought up themselves. So it's okay today, but it wasn't okay on May 4th. The current Premier, then Leader of the Opposition, said on that day the intention about bringing this bill in - this is about the same bill we're talking about right now, just with a different number, by the way - the intention of bringing this bill in is to try and represent a situation not only past, but one current that doesn't exist.

Well, that was good then and it applies now. Mr. Speaker, what I should have done is printed off the current Premier's speech from May 4th, because pretty much everything he said on that bill applies to this bill. Everything. I wonder if sometimes members forget that they're recorded on Hansard, and that's what happens, they forget this will be pulled out later on. It's really strange because then he goes on to say, "tries to hide a deficit that the government" - this is my favourite one, my absolute favourite one - "tries to hide a deficit that the government has decided to incur in this year."

Now, does that sound familiar? Well, maybe it would help if I added another quote, this one from the Minister of Finance, about prepayments. He suggested that this is Buchanan economics to do this. So, Buchanan economics, and that's fine, so we accept the Minister of Finance has said on the record in this House in 2008 that a prepayment is Buchanan-era economics. That's fine. Then all we can take from that, unless the Finance Minister has changed his mind or was misleading the House then, there are only two options, either he has changed his mind, which he says he hasn't, or he subscribes to Buchanan-era economics.

Well, we know what that led to. That led to one of the biggest financial messes in Nova Scotia history that the Liberal Party had to come in and clean up and no doubt will have to come in and clean up the NDP mess later on - just like the Liberals federally had to clean up Brian Mulroney's mess. I mean frankly, speaking for the members of the Liberal caucus, I can say that we're getting tired of having to clean up the mess left by other governments every time it comes around.

The thing about this is that the Minister of Finance went to the public and he said - and the member for Argyle alluded to this today - in the campaign literature he promised an audit. We're still waiting for that audit because what ended up happening was it came back and it was a review, and as much as the minister or others may want to call it semantics, there is a fundamental difference between a financial review and an audit. They are two completely different things. They're not remotely the same.

An audit is what was needed but it wasn't done. Nonetheless the review came back and as the member for Halifax Clayton Park said, here are all kinds of things you need to do but one of the things you need to make sure you don't do - now the government paid

[Page 1490]

$100,000 for this, and it came out and said we've got to make sure we follow all these recommendations and that's fine - but one of those recommendations was don't make prepayments, and that's what they did.

So the Minister of Finance, when in Opposition, said there shouldn't be prepayments because it would be Buchanan economics. Deloitte said that there should not be prepayments because it's bad economic policy, and that's exactly what they did. It doesn't make any sense. It absolutely makes no sense to me. The fact is that this bill may very well have been supportable if it had a sunset clause in for one year. It might very well have been supportable because we would have said, you know, listen, the Liberal Party said during the election there would be a deficit this year. We said that. Nobody believed us but we said that and now there's a deficit. So if you had said, okay, this is going to be a one-year thing and next year the legislation will come back, we might be having a different debate here, and I don't want to speak for the other members of the Liberal caucus on this because we haven't discussed that because that's not the bill you brought forward, but frankly I know we would have been having a discussion about maybe we should be supporting that change for one year.

The fact is, Mr. Speaker, our mind was made up for us when a bill was brought in and, as I said before, the minister said, well, bills aren't very meaningful anyway in that respect because government can change them at will and then a week later the Minister of Natural Resources talked about how important bills are even if they can be changed and they both gave different messages. So I'm not sure what the government message is on that because we have two ministers saying two different things about two different bills which fundamentally are the same thing.

Let me add something else from the May 4th debate that was said by the Opposition Leader at the time, now the Premier, ". . . to shackle future governments with that debt, something that I just can't believe that the government led by Dr. Hamm would agree with." Well, that's good. He could believe it if it was by a government led by him but not by Dr. Hamm. So, you know, that's what we didn't realize when he said that. The other one is, he said, "We should have the fortitude to present an honest picture of what has happened . . ."

All right, well, Mr. Speaker, I'll commend the Minister of Finance for trying to present an accurate budget and he said that's what his goal is, he wanted an accurate picture of the province's finances. I have a lot of respect for the goal of doing that, I honestly do, but I'm not sure what happened that the minister decided to go all the way along and do that and then throw in the $341 million advance payment that he had spoken against in 2008 and that the report that he commissioned also recommended against doing, because as much as we may argue that the deficit is created by the NDP, there would still be elements without that prepayment .The fact of the matter is that at least we might have a discussion here and say, okay, we accept - if that number was not there, we might be able to have agreement that the budget number is accurately presented, but with that $341 million there, we can't even agree that it's accurately being presented because it is an advance payment that before this budget was presented, nobody thought was a good idea.

[Page 1491]

Mr. Speaker, this frustrates me to no end. It frustrates me because it was only on May 4th when you read the comments of the now Premier and they are comments that repeatedly can be used, over and over again, to describe this budget. In fact, the things he argued against in that debate when the member for Antigonish, at the time, presented a similar bill, Bill No. 240, are fundamentally the same. It's like a real surreal world, watching the exact same debate happen all over again, except with two of the Parties reversed. It's very peculiar.

Mr. Speaker, I have to add that of course I'm - this bill is obviously the major step in terms of implementing a budget, and there are many things in this budget which are of great concern and they are choices. Before I wrap up I just want to outline those a little bit more.

[4:15 p.m.]

This government has made choices, this government has chosen to do things, some of which we might agree with and some of which we don't. In among that, Mr. Speaker, is that they have chosen not to do other things, They can blame the cut in the oil heating rebate from $450 to $200, they can go ahead and blame that on the previous Tory Government but this government had the opportunity to change that in this budget and chose not to. So that cut belongs to this government and this government only.

It is this government that will have to explain that because that's a decision that this government made. You know, Mr. Speaker, I've been on the board of Parker Street Food and Furniture Bank since 1997 and the fact of the matter is the calls are already starting to ramp up and come in more frequently. The calls are already starting to come from people who are very concerned that this announcement reduced. We can talk about oil prices dropping but $450 did very little to help someone heat over the winter, so $200 does even less. Every member in this House knows that. There's nothing to make up for that.

I just don't know how that is going to be explained. I haven't heard a reasonable explanation, other than well, yes, that's the previous government. It is not the previous government. This government had a chance to change that. This government had a chance to change that and made the decision not to. Each one of those is a decision that this government has to take accountability for. This government, as a majority, is entitled to make whatever decisions it wants to make. It is absolutely entitled to do that because they know they'll get them through. But stand behind them, have the fortitude to stand behind the decisions you make and say, this is why we made those decisions.

Granted, the member for Halifax Clayton Park mentioned that sometimes decisions in government are tough decisions. I don't deny that and I know that the NDP Government is going to be no different, they are going to have to make tough decisions. That's going to hurt sometimes but stand behind them, don't blame others. People in this province are sick and tired of hearing people blame others for things and then, gee, they go back 10, 15 years

[Page 1492]

and blame people. You can blame it on people who are dead now. It's crazy, it's absolutely nuts.

Mr. Speaker, the choices that this government's budget, it's their first budget and it's the choices they've made and what they've chosen to present. As I said early on, if they had chosen to present a budget, if they had chosen to present the Tory budget without changes, it would have been the Tory budget. But because changes were made and because sufficient time went by, this budget belongs to the NDP and the NDP only, and they wear it for better or for worse, the good things and the bad things.

Mr. Speaker, I encourage this government to take accountability but I also encourage this government to go back and read the Premier's comments on May 4th because I don't know if the Premier was having a split personality issue or what was going on, but who he was and what he said on May 4th - he should be over here criticizing that budget that was presented. Thank you.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Cape Breton North.

HON. CECIL CLARKE: Mr. Speaker, I too am pleased to rise and provide some comments regarding this afternoon's debate on the Financial Measures (2009) Act. There have been lots of things said regarding this budget and the ensuing FMA that supports it. The Deputy Premier says be nice, and in fact I'm going to be balanced in those comments, which means we have to recognize the flaws but also look at the opportunities.

Mr. Speaker, as we would know, much has been said and we've heard lots of accounts of history here and who said what and when they said it and who did what and when they did it. But at the end of the day this process will conclude and it now will be owned 100 per cent by the New Democratic Government and the budget as it goes forward, and we can say it was mostly or partly - we know changes were made and when choices were made to take down a previous budget that was presented, and the measures that were brought in to achieve that balance, and that the government comes in and says they were going to do one thing and now we notice that they're doing something else from what they said in the Opposition side. That is the fact. That is on the record. You can't take that away. Admittedly, for those who were part of the Opposition when they were on this side of the House, they know that full well.

Now, the one thing that I do recognize, as well, is that there are a number of new members who have come in since the election and they weren't necessarily aware. They knew what was in the platform document that has been floated around this Chamber quite frequently and the promises that were made and I think they sincerely believe those promises to actually be true rather than just a political posturing effort going into a general election and now finding that the reality of delivering on those commitments is much different.

However, at some point this process will come to a close, the FMA, because of the numbers, will go through, and then the government is fully vested, it owns all, not a part, but

[Page 1493]

all of the budget. Any decisions they brought forward that were of a former government that I was a part of, it doesn't matter, they chose to continue. They had choices, they made choices and they now have to stand by those decisions. Nova Scotians are not fooled by any of the political speak about what is or isn't, everyone knows full well that the budget presented, the enabling legislation around it, is a New Democratic Party.

We also know that the challenge for the government immediately upon having this process conclude, anyone who has been around the budget process knows that staff are already embarked on that process for next year. Cabinet will be fully immersed in the line item by line item process of putting a budget together for the Spring of next year, and they quickly will be managing out what they put in as their budget and will have to be dealing with what they say is proportionately theirs and they're going to have to deal, Mr. Speaker, with a new budget that is 100 per cent theirs.

The choices they make in the Spring of next year cannot be couched, cannot be buffered by massive deficits as we see now, that they're trying to legitimate, that they are trying to front end, we know they front ended it. So Nova Scotians are taking an additional debt burden of $592 million, where we, as a Party in the Opposition have said, we wouldn't have done them, and the irony of the budget process to me is, as a prior government we presented a balanced budget, because not only do we believe in it, we delivered seven and, in fact, passed those seven, we delivered our eighth consecutive budget to this House.

The budget was presented by the then Minister of Finance, the Honourable Jamie Muir, as part of what the House agreed to have heard and, Mr. Speaker, we also know that part of it was enabling legislation that the New Democrats voted against and again vehemently were opposed to, and we see here today with the Financial Measures (2009) Bill the very same mirror. However, as was noted, they've taken out any accountability around the deficit. They've taken out any requirement to pay them back, to, indeed, provide a plan to Nova Scotians.

The other thing, Mr. Speaker, we have not heard from this government but will have to be part of when they come forward because they are significantly increasing debt, I've heard very little about the debt management plan for the Province of Nova Scotia. In fact, I haven't heard a single word from the government since they became the government about the debt management plan. Now, we had lots of talk, in fact it was our government, the Progressive Conservatives, that brought in the debt management plan to look at where we are.

Another thing, Mr. Speaker, that Nova Scotians will be looking at as a result of this budget, the government made decisions. Those decisions will be analyzed and regardless if the government spent $100,000 or $200,000 for outside advice that they totally rejected out of hand and wouldn't take from an auditor, the fact that they went against that advice that was provided by Deloitte not to have a deficit prepayment, the fact that they are going forward with these types of initiatives, they will be held to account but the other process that

[Page 1494]

comes up is the bond rating agencies, because we said in Nova Scotia we were weathering the economic storm, this worldwide recession, better than others.

One of the factors that I've been very proud of as a member of the former government is not only with consecutive balanced budgets, with continued and continual improvement on our credit rating - and we all know that when we want to talk about the debt management plan in Nova Scotia, your credit rating by the rating agencies is significant when it comes to the interest payment and the charges that are applied because with good stewardship comes the good grades and with that comes the capacity to borrow and manage your dollars better, thus reducing some of the burden on the taxpayers of this province, thus providing the government with greater ability to look at balanced fiscal management within uncertain times.

The one thing about where we are today is we did recognize we were in a historic time of uncertainty and even in that the New Democrats chose to trigger an election rather than provide stability. They chose to add deficit spending rather than the stimulus spending that would add to the coffers of this province, that would add to the personal and corporate revenue sources to Nova Scotia (Interruption) And the Liberals did support them in doing that.

Now, Mr. Speaker, I've heard some talk as well (Interruption) I would be happy to repeat it. If the Minister of Finance needs to have greater clarity, I would be just happy to repeat that and I probably shall on many other occasions so he can stay tuned for the replay another day. The bond rating agencies, as we go forward, the credit rating of this province that this budget will do, and then subsequently the next budget will be put to the will, be put to the litmus test, and the credibility of this government will be also measured by the confidence that other outside agencies have in what the government is undertaking. So aside from the debates here, Nova Scotians are going to also see whether or not in a country that is emerging from a recession and looking forward to growth, if some of the choices that are being made here are going to be given a failing grade and further hinder the potential of progress that Nova Scotians deserve and are expecting from the government.

I also, Mr. Speaker, heard some of the discussions from colleagues here, they were talking about the Offshore Accord and the revenue resources. Having been the chief negotiator for the province and worked directly with former Premier Hamm, having worked through months upon months of negotiations that we would not give up on, having recalled that when the Liberals here in this House said $640 million is good enough, take it and go with it, we stayed the course and got $830 million. When in that negotiation and we were dealing with the resource issues that Nova Scotia faced, when I was then an Energy Minister for this province, I was in Aberdeen, Scotland, and federal officials were telling me don't go near the Crown share, leave that Crown share agreement out. By the way, that Crown share agreement wasn't left out, it was never forgotten, it was also in the negotiation kit for another day that we never gave up.

[Page 1495]

Those resources, and I also recall the time it was indicated that we, in Nova Scotia, were experiencing economic prosperity. We were seeing the books had been turned around after some very difficult decisions, some very unpopular decisions that former Premier Hamm and the government had to make. I know how unpopular they were because I ran in a by-election coming through that process in 2001 with the Minister of Finance at the same time, we came to this House at the same time. I understood the type of doorstep issues and here we are today that we sit here with two other by-elections occurring in Nova Scotia and the voters in those jurisdictions will make a choice this evening and are making a choice as we speak. Once they're tallied, we have to respect that.

I do understand when we were doing the Offshore Accord, Premier Hamm's focus was not about the day because he easily could have, because you recognize there was the retroactive or the current payment, the up-front payment and future payments and the choices that were made were made about not going - I mean, at the time Premier Hamm had a list of projects from one end of Nova Scotia to the other, had programs and initiatives he could have front-ended and paid for and could have legitimated.

[4:30 p.m.]

However, he chose to put it on the debt, 100 per cent, because he didn't have to, he wanted to maintain a balance. There always is the push and pull of priorities and the financial ability to do that. Premier Hamm, when we finally got that last day in Ottawa and we left the Prime Minister's Office to go over to Centre Block to announce the outcome, Premier Hamm walked very confidently with his head held high knowing that he was going to do something very important for Nova Scotia. He wasn't going to go and take these new riches of resources that had come in and spend them all freely, even though they would have merit; he knew that managing our debt was very important and he was focused on it.

The reason I say that, and the follow-up to that, was Premier MacDonald, who never lost sight of where the Crown share issue was and what we had to negotiate and, again, an entitlement that only Nova Scotia was able to negotiate. I've heard lots of criticism and I've heard it in this debate about the Buchanan era. Well, I'll tell you it was Premier Buchanan that got the Crown share incorporated into the federal laws of this land and it was on the basis of that we were able to go and negotiate for Crown share. Most importantly, for those of us - I will count myself included, I hope, and I will work with the Minister of Energy, I will support the Minister of Energy.

I believe we still have very good promise and potential in our offshore, whether that's Sable, Tier III, whether that's other initiatives that we would want to bring forward. They're out there and because of Crown share, because of our Offshore Accord, we have the ability to continue to bring in resources for Nova Scotians that the current government can help realize and bring into the revenue streams of government to meet some of the promises and commitments they've made.

[Page 1496]

Mr. Speaker, part of what we have to look at is what we're going to do from here. This whole process is about presenting a plan, moving forward with that plan. The government has earned its right to come to this House. It has the numbers. But as the Opposition, it is our job to hold the government to account, to make sure the government is ever cognizant of the fact that they have an obligation and a duty to Nova Scotians to respond to the Opposition, to be responsible and responsive in the requests that are being made in the interest of making sure the public has the full picture of where we are.

I would say that - and I know my Leader and my colleague, the Finance Critic for the Progressive Conservatives, have outlined a number of areas - with history in mind, I'm looking to the next budget. We know this process will go through. I'm looking to the next budget of which the government, 100 per cent of all the items they'll bring forward will be theirs, so they won't be able to do some of the trying to slough off the last budget that they wouldn't vote for but then decided to include. They were very quick to go - and I think it was, if I'm not mistaken, $1.13 billion or more, or $1.3 billion in terms of a special warrant over the course of the summer as they were trying to get a sense of where they were going as a government. But Nova Scotians have noted, with an Opposition that had so many priorities and commitments and had all the answers, why is it taking so long to come out with clarity?

We've heard it, with regard to Question Period, with any of the debates in the House, there's very little detail that has come forward. Whether it's been on the floor of this House, whether it's been Question Period, whether it's in public forums outside at events, we're not seeing the clarity. I will give it the benefit of the doubt that the actual Cabinet and the Premier are looking at once this session is done - and they've got this process behind them and they now own everything they do - that we're going to see that detail. Then when we get to the Spring we'll be able to look at it and reflect on it and we'll actually be able to say, some things were good.

It's impossible to stand here and say that good things won't occur, it's impossible. There has been bad judgment on a number of things and that we can stand here and do but we've always agreed that you give credit where credit is due. We do know we work with ministers across issues, both socially and economically, infrastructure, and it's important that when good things occur that we recognize those and we support them and if we can, for Nova Scotia's interest, advocate with Canada. If we can work at our community level with our municipalities to make governments, all three levels and orders of government and, in fact, effectively do it with the fourth, with our Mi'kmaq communities here in Nova Scotia to make sure that we have a better society - that's what a parliamentary democracy is all about. That's why we remain steadfast in our interest to be here.

I can say, as we see this process to a close, we need to know that for Nova Scotian's interests we are taking stock. It's also important for the government to note, as they've seen from the Opposition, everyone has the Hansard of what was said, everyone's going to get the Hansard of everything being said and the one thing I'm cognizant of is that I'm part of a

[Page 1497]

Hansard from that side of the House. I've got one from this and we'll be going forward but the government has to recognize that they've got to look at the balance between what they said here to what they haven't said going over there and what they must do if they're going to get back to a position of credibility with the people that gave them the confidence to take their place in this House. Part of that is responsible fiscal management and stewardship of the resources and/or the borrowed resources of future generations that are going to be called upon to pay for what they are undertaking and those choices are all, as I say, we're now aware of them.

What we're looking for is some greater detail but again as we go forward I'm also hoping that when the government finishes this process, they're into the budget, are mindful of and I'm sure they are - I know the Minister of Finance and the Premier and the Cabinet - that it was in their platform and also mindful of the fact that we cannot see year after year of excessive deficits when they said they wouldn't do it. If there's infrastructure investments that can be partnered and make sense and support the economy recuperating and growing in strength and in getting more Nova Scotians back to work, we must do that.

Mr. Speaker, part of it is the previous government and we've heard some of the criticism but some good things have been put in place and if the government chooses, they can help advance other work to help revenue resources come back. We can have a continued and vigorous debate here in the House while, with differences, at the end of the day I know one thing, that we all have the interests of Nova Scotians from one end of this province to the other, whether they're resident here or working away, that they have the best place in Canada to live and call home and to raise a family. Mr. Speaker, with that I want to thank the House for their indulgence.

MR. SPEAKER: If I recognize the minister it will be to close the debate.

The honourable Minister of Finance.

HON. GRAHAM STEELE: Mr. Speaker, I'd like to thank all members of the Opposition who spoke to this bill and I'll certainly be reviewing and taking their remarks into account, particularly their suggestions for improvement in the future.

Mr. Speaker, with that, I would move second reading of Bill No. 29.

MR. SPEAKER: The motion before the House is for second reading of Bill No. 29. Would all those in favour of the motion please say Aye. Contrary minded, Nay.

The motion is carried.

Ordered that this bill be referred to the Committee on Law Amendments.

The honourable Deputy Government House Leader.

[Page 1498]

MR. DAVID WILSON (Sackville-Cobequid): Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Could you please call Bill No. 2.

Bill No. 2 - Motor Vehicle Act.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Dartmouth East.

MR. ANDREW YOUNGER: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Thank you, I'm still thinking about financial stuff. The other day I had just begun my remarks and I have just a few things I wanted to add, in terms of this bill, which is obviously to increase the suspensions and so forth for impaired driving, between .05 and .08.

I don't want to belabour this debate for too long because I think that you're hearing from the House that although we'd like to see it strengthened, you're hearing some support for moving in this direction. I just want to summarize some of the points I was trying to make the other day, or began to make, before giving up my time.

Mr. Speaker, it occurred to me that under the legislation as it is now, it is a 24-hour suspension for a blood alcohol limit between .05 and .08. This bill would propose to increase it to seven days. Now it's interesting to me that to increase it to seven days brings it up to as though you're getting a speeding ticket and that doesn't seem to put the context of the offence in place. I did hear the Minister of Transportation and Infrastructure Renewal indicate the other day that he would look at stronger legislation when it goes to Law Amendments Committee and I thank him for that.

You know, I recognize there are a lot of personal feelings about this and I don't want to add to that, so much so that I think that the few things I will be looking for when we get to Law Amendments Committee are, an increase in that suspension, and we want to hear from the public on what that is. I've thrown out the possibility of 30 days but maybe somebody has a better number.

I think that this is an opportunity to change the regulations around the interlock device so that the interlock device can't be used as a get out of jail free card. I think that's an important thing. You heard the Leader of the Official Opposition talk about that earlier.

I also think it is incumbent upon the minister to try and get the message out about what this bill is because one of the concerns I have about this is - I watched CBC Television the other night, and their coverage of this bill, and they were suggesting that the province is actually reducing the limit from .08 to .05 when, in fact, there is already a penalty at .05 and all this is doing is changing the length of the suspension and so forth. We probably - all of us together - need to get the message out so that people are clear on what we're debating, so those who choose to come to Law Amendments Committee know what they're coming to speak about.

[Page 1499]

It's worth noting that in Ontario, in May, similar legislation came into force. They have a three-day suspension for a first day, then seven-day and education for a second one, and then a 30-day one and a six-month interlock device after that. We don't have that, this amendment doesn't seem to have those 30 days and a six month interlock, which I think is worth looking at. I know the minister did say he would consider doing that.

We've already heard some of the comments, some of us, that this is just big government coming down and swooping down and making life more difficult for people.I don't buy that. I know the government doesn't buy that because they brought the bill in and if they bought that, they wouldn't have brought the bill in, but I would say that Canada has one of the highest rates of alcohol-related traffic deaths in developed democracies even though we actually have a lower rate of per capita alcohol consumption than some countries where - you know, you look somewhere like Germany, theirs is different.

I think that this is certainly a bill that I'm prepared to let go forward to the Law Amendments Committee, and I'll certainly vote for it going to Law Amendments, but there are amendments that I will be looking forward to and specifically I would like to see the penalties strengthened, and I would like to see the minister consider changing the regulations around the interlock device so that we don't have the situation that we have now where it's effectively a get out of jail free card for those who can afford to do it. With that, Mr. Speaker, I'll wrap up my comments.

MR. SPEAKER: The motion is for second reading of Bill No. 2. Would all those in favour of the motion please say Aye. Contrary minded, Nay.

The motion is carried.

Ordered that this bill be referred to the Committee on Law Amendments.

The honourable Government House Leader.

HON. FRANK CORBETT: Mr. Speaker, would you please call Bill No. 4.

Bill No. 4 - Engineering Profession Act.

[4:45 p.m.]

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of Justice.

HON. ROSS LANDRY: Mr. Speaker, I'm pleased to be here today on second reading of amendments to the Engineering Profession Act. These amendments were requested by Engineers Nova Scotia, the organization that represents 5,000 engineers. These amendments will allow them to offer modern services to their members, including a complaint and

[Page 1500]

disciplinary process. These will speed up the process of recognizing engineers from out-of-province who want to practise in Nova Scotia.

We are pleased to work with Engineers Nova Scotia. We fully endorse their efforts to support the professional practices of their membership. The amendments will also provide for a mandatory professional development program and approve the adoption of an up-to-date and gender-neutral code of ethics.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Cape Breton South.

HON. MANNING MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, I rise to support Bill No. 4 on behalf of my colleague, the member for Richmond. The Engineering Profession Act is basically an Act that recognizes the professionalism of this particular group of people. In my many years of being in this Legislature, there are many organizations that have come to the House looking for some support from members of this House to make some improvements to their own professional standing in the community and the professional way that they do business on behalf of their clients, and also on behalf of their members, so it's a bill that we're pleased to stand in support of.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Cumberland South.

HON. MURRAY SCOTT: Mr. Speaker, I, too, would like to thank the Minister of Justice for bringing forth Bill No. 4. Again the House will see another profession coming forward asking for self-regulation, an opportunity to appoint a complaint committee that can follow up on complaints.

I believe, Mr. Speaker, it's an opportunity to raise the bar in this province to allow those within their membership to apply to become part of the membership here in Nova Scotia, which actually I believe elevates the level of professionalism when we see it happen with an organization like this. It's the opportunity for self-discipline, imposing penalties, and so, I think, these are all great things. I know previously in the government we worked with this group to try to bring this issue forward and we think it's good on behalf of the association and the members, but also for Nova Scotians. So with those few comments, we're pleased to support as well second reading of Bill No. 4.

MR. SPEAKER: If I recognize the minister it will be to close the debate.

The honourable Minister of Justice.

HON. ROSS LANDRY: Mr. Speaker, I ask that we close debate on Bill No. 4.

MR. SPEAKER: The motion is for second reading of Bill No. 4. Would all those in favour of the motion please say Aye. Contrary minded, Nay.

[Page 1501]

The motion is carried.

Ordered that this bill be referred to the Committee on Law Amendments.

The honourable Deputy Government House Leader.

MR. DAVID WILSON (Sackville-Cobequid): Mr. Speaker, would you please call Bill No. 5.

Bill No. 5 - Halifax Regional Municipality Charter.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of Service Nova Scotia and Municipal Relations.

HON. RAMONA JENNEX: Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise and say a few words about Bill No. 5. The Halifax Charter was passed by the Legislature in the Fall of 2008 and it was proclaimed this past January. It is important legislation for the Halifax Regional Municipality. As the largest capital city in Atlantic Canada, the Charter provides HRM the flexibility and responsiveness to address issues specific to this region.

The Charter was brought forward to members of this Legislature as the direct result of a request by the HRM Council. The result of the Charter is that members of the Legislature will no longer have to amend the Municipal Government Act for issues specific to the Halifax Regional Municipality. It recognizes the challenges and issues of such a large region.

While it reflects the unique needs of HRM, the Charter is also intended to mirror the appropriate sections of the Municipal Government Act. Unfortunately, a piece of the Municipal Government Act providing authority regarding supplementary education funding was unintentionally left out of the HRM Charter.

Supplementary education powers date back to pre-amalgamation in the former Cities of Dartmouth and Halifax. These powers were preserved with amalgamation. An agreement between the Halifax Regional Municipality and Halifax Regional School Board was worked out to allow the funds collected to be spent where needed rather than where collected.

In February 2008, at the request of HRM, the Municipal Government Act was amended to remove geographical restrictions on where supplementary funding could be spent. It is this section that was omitted from the Charter.

Bill No. 5 simply corrects this error and adds the missing section of the Municipal Government Act to the Charter. The changes were retroactive to January 2009, when the Charter was proclaimed. We are pleased to put these changes forward. With those comments, I move second reading of Bill No. 5.

[Page 1502]

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Dartmouth East.

MR. ANDREW YOUNGER: Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the minister for bringing this forward. I was on municipal council when this request to make this correction came forward. The only thing I want to bring to the minister's attention - I think we're probably safe to let it go forward to the Law Amendments Committee, but there have actually been changes in the intervening time to supplementary funding again with an agreement between the Halifax Regional School Board and the Halifax Regional Council, which may make these changes already obsolete and require additional changes.

I think the solution to this may be to take this bill, allow it to go forward to second reading, go to the Law Amendments Committee, and then maybe the minister and I can have a chat about it. She can get in contact with the Halifax Regional Municipality, figure out if there are any amendments that need to happen in the Law Amendments Committee, and then by the time it comes back to third reading, it will all be sorted out.

The issue is, obviously it was, as the minister suggested, it was picked up right from the Municipal Government Act and dropped into the Charter. At that time, what you had was a situation where the minimum amount that was provided in the former City of Halifax could not be dropped and the minimum amount of funding that was provided in the former City of Dartmouth could not be dropped. About a year and a half ago - but there was a clause that had been inserted in the Act that allowed the municipality and the school board to, by agreement, amend that.

When Howard Windsor was the one-man school board, the two parties actually did reach an agreement which is now being implemented. What that agreement does is, it evens out and allows all children in both French and English public schools anywhere in HRM to benefit from supplementary education funding. That was important.

Part of that agreement, in order to make sure that - you have to have everybody paying the same rate, and so now you have a situation where the funding has now dropped in the City of Halifax, dropped in the City of Dartmouth, and increased in the county, which is good - everybody agreed to that, so that's not controversial. Well, everything like that is controversial, because it's taxes, but that was an agreement among the Parties, so that's fine, but the way that the Act is worded still seems to indicate that although it removes the portion of - it removes, the to be used solely for the benefit of the areas in the City of Dartmouth and solely for the benefit in the City of Halifax, it still says in that section of the Charter, somewhere - I'm not sure if it's on this page or elsewhere - but it still says that the amount must be equal to that which was provided in 1996 before amalgamation.

Of course, that amount is not the amount that's provided anymore. It's actually a significantly lower amount in the City of Halifax, a somewhat lower amount in the City of Dartmouth, and a higher amount in the county, so that it all balances out. So it may make sense to, when we get to the Law Amendments Committee - obviously, these amendments

[Page 1503]

still have to happen in order to affect even that agreement, but there may need to be one or two other lines that would help more easily enact the agreement that the municipality and the Halifax Regional School Board had reached. So I'm happy to get a copy of that and provide it to the minister and we can figure out in the Law Amendments Committee whether it makes sense to amend it at that time, which would save having to bring in yet another bill and yet another amendment to the Charter and just bog it down with amendment after amendment.

With that, I will certainly support taking this forward to the Law Amendments Committee. I just sort of wanted to give the House the heads-up on that potential issue that I think the House should be aware of, and not just let it fly through the Law Amendments Committee without making sure we've at least looked at that.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Cape Breton North.

HON. CECIL CLARKE: Mr. Speaker, I too am very pleased to rise with some brief comments on Bill No. 5. As with any bill that was brought forward of the magnitude and importance that really flowed from the Halifax Regional Municipality to have a Charter, there are always going to be, from time to time, matters for reconsideration or potential amendment. Things do shift, as we know. The MGA, or the Municipal Government Act, has been continually amended for one reason or another from time to time, but we also recognize what the Charter did represent for the HRM. On the upside, I guess, for the Minister of Service Nova Scotia and Municipal Relations, is that in coming through and being a new minister from outside the HRM, it gives her the benefit of the briefing of where this is in context of why the Charter was presented versus the MGA and also, of course, what will flow next with regard to Halifax By Design. So I think probably for the minister it has been of some benefit, but also recognizing that she will likely have other things in the future that have to come forward that will relate as a result of discussions with our colleagues up the road here at . . .

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. The chatter is getting a little loud and it's difficult to hear the speaker. Hard to believe.

The honourable member for Cape Breton North has the floor.

MR. CLARKE: Thank you very much. Your hearing is much more sensitive than mine.

I just would note with the minister that we do recognize the need to have this, and I do want to concur with my colleague that as we go forward to the Law Amendments Committee, City Hall will be aware of this fact and any of the items that have to come forward. I suspect either his former colleagues for Dartmouth East within the council and/or their officials will come forward, but indeed, I want to assure the minister we want to co-operate and see that this has the appropriate and timely processing to the benefit of what the intent of the Charter was about and the associated Halifax By Design.

[Page 1504]

With that, I want to thank the minister for bringing this forward and I look forward to the continuance of this through the Law Amendments Committee and back to the House.

MR. SPEAKER: If I recognize the minister it will be to close the debate.

The honourable Minister of Service Nova Scotia and Municipal Relations.

HON. RAMONA JENNEX: Mr. Speaker, I move second reading of Bill No. 5.

MR. SPEAKER: The motion is for second reading of Bill No. 5. Would all those in favour of the motion please say Aye. Contrary minded, Nay.

The motion is carried.

Ordered that this bill be referred to the Committee on Law Amendments.

The honourable Deputy Government House Leader.

MR. DAVID WILSON (Sackville-Cobequid): Mr. Speaker, would you please call Bill No. 6.

Bill No. 6 - HRM By Design Act.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of Service Nova Scotia and Municipal Relations.

HON. RAMONA JENNEX: Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise before the House to speak on proposed amendments to An Act to Implement HRM by Design, which amends the Halifax Regional Municipality Charter. The amendments being proposed to HRM by Design are made primarily to correct erroneously numbered references to certain provisions of the Halifax Regional Municipality Charter.

In the course of the legislative discussions on both of these Acts in the past, provisions have been added or removed. For example, Mr. Speaker, there was a provision by HRM by Design which refers to Section 255 of the HRM Charter but should actually be referring to Section 246, an order to carry out the intent of the amendment.

In order for these two Acts to achieve the very purpose for which they were made, the mistakes and the number references should be corrected as soon as possible. These corrections are technical in nature and do not, in any way, change the intent of HRM by Design and the Halifax Regional Municipality Charter. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Dartmouth East.

[Page 1505]

MR. ANDREW YOUNGER: I'll leave this one, Mr. Speaker, saying that we concur with these changes.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Cape Breton North.

[5:00 p.m.]

HON. CECIL CLARKE: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I will maybe have a couple more comments. I can appreciate my honourable colleague's enthusiasm. He might still - I'm sure he will continue to share that. Just quickly with this bill - and again with the minister bringing it forward, I will note that there has been some divergence of opinion within our own caucus, if I do recall, regarding this bill, and there has been debate, debate at City Hall, debate at Province House.

There has been much discussion around this and we have to be mindful of that because there will always continue to be - and likely, as we go into the future, this House could see other amendments come forward regarding Halifax by Design. We also recognize the premise if Halifax, as a municipality, is going to continue to be vibrant but building on its past, our built heritage and history, the culture we have, recognizing that Halifax is also the capital of Nova Scotia and maintaining that balance of what makes it so vibrant and makes it a growth centre for our province and, indeed, helps Nova Scotia, and by default Halifax, to stand out amongst other Canadian municipalities, then indeed, Mr. Speaker, we'll have to look at this.

I also recognize that HRM by Design also talked about empowerment. We've seen a debate where the minister knows, we've talked about our concerns about things going to the URB and this talks about getting rid of some of the costly processes with the URB and bringing them back to a council, a municipal level of responsible decision making that meets the interest of this community but also in moving this legislation, it enshrines provincial interests in the capital city. It ensures that all of Nova Scotia, when we talk about the design elements and the growth of the HRM, that there are components of this that are shared as Nova Scotian priorities and items that resonate throughout Nova Scotia.

Sometimes we don't talk about the things that benefit all Nova Scotians. This is one where actually Halifax and the municipality have undertaken a process that we supported, and I continue to support, with regards to the ability for Halifax to be a very good centre for all of us to come, to live, to work, to do our business, to sit as parliamentarians and to ensure that the decisions around growth and development are done with as much balance and a framework that is constructive. (Interruption) I know, but I'm talking about the bill there, my colleague, to the member, but we're going back to the premise of what this is.

So the member for Dartmouth East may know about all the numbering, and it is considered housekeeping, but it's the wider premise. I would also note to the member for Dartmouth East, as we go forward with the government presenting this, that the government

[Page 1506]

was very divided at times about this bill. What it does represent is that the will of this House saw the bill through, and I'm sure the will of this House will see this amendment, but we can't lose sight of what these amendments are and, more importantly to the minister in her new role as the minister responsible for this, I think in the future we'll have ongoing dialogue and liaison with city hall and the necessary element of bringing it back here to the House of Assembly because, any changes that also are being requested through city hall, we have to maintain the balance of the interest of all Nova Scotia as Halifax is our capital.

So with that clarity, Mr. Speaker, I will conclude and thank my colleagues for their time.

MR. SPEAKER: If I recognize the minister it will be to close the debate.

The honourable Minister of Service Nova Scotia and Municipal Relations.

HON. RAMONA JENNEX: Mr. Speaker, I move second reading of Bill No. 6.

MR. SPEAKER: The motion is for second reading of Bill No. 6. Would all those in favour of the motion please say Aye. Contrary minded, Nay.

The motion is carried.

Ordered that this bill be referred to the Committee on Law Amendments.

The honourable Deputy Government House Leader.

MR. DAVID WILSON (Sackville-Cobequid): Mr. Speaker, that concludes the government business for today would you recognize the Opposition House Leader for tomorrow's hours and business.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Opposition House Leader.

HON. MANNING MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, the House will meet tomorrow between the hours of 2:00 p.m. and 6:00 p.m. Opposition Day business for tomorrow will be Bill No. 41 and Resolution No. 676.

Mr. Speaker, I move that the House adjourn until 2:00 p.m. on Wednesday.

MR. SPEAKER: The motion before the House is that we now adjourn until 2:00 p.m. on Wednesday.

Would all those in favour of the motion please say Aye. Contrary minded, Nay.

Is it agreed?

[Page 1507]

It is agreed.

The motion is carried.

We stand adjourned until 2:00 p.m. tomorrow.

[The House rose at 5:05 p.m.]

[Page 1508]

NOTICES OF MOTION UNDER RULE (32)3

RESOLUTION NO. 727

By: Mr. Leo Glavine (Kings West)

I hereby give notice that on a future day I shall move the adoption of the following resolution:

Whereas Joyce Stevens was a proud citizen of Morden who contributed in many ways to supporting her community and making it a better place to live; and

Whereas Joyce kept Morden happenings and events in the news with her weekly column in the Berwick Register and more recently the Kings County Register; and

Whereas Joyce was a valued member of her church community and a spirited volunteer throughout her life, who will long be remembered for her countless hours at the Morden Community Hall even sometimes being the unofficial entertainment;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House of Assembly acknowledge a life well lived and a legacy of good works that her family and friends can treasure.

[Page 1509]

NOTICE OF QUESTION FOR WRITTEN ANSWER

Given on October 20, 2009

(Pursuant to Rule 30)

QUESTION NO. 1

By: Hon. Murray Scott

To: Hon. Maureen MacDonald (Minister of Health)

The Cumberland District Health Authority identified the need for expansion/renovation of the Bayview Memorial Health Centre after consultation with the community. The local community was asked to contribute to this project which they agreed to do through funds they have and assets they own. They then sold the property they owned in the community which had housed the local doctor and later the nurse practitioner. They now have the agreed portion as their contribution. They now wait for the government to uphold its part of the agreement and move on this project.

The total cost of this project is approximately $1 million, including the community's portion.

(1) Can you provide to me the status of this project and when we can expect to see construction begin so the residents of Advocate will have the health care facility they want and deserve?