Assemblée Législative de la Nouvelle-Écosse

Les travaux de la Chambre ont repris le
21 septembre 2017

HANSARD 06-22

DEBATES AND PROCEEDINGS

Speaker: Honourable Cecil Clarke

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/

Annual subscriptions available from the Office of the Speaker.

First Session

FRIDAY, NOVEMBER 10, 2006

TABLE OF CONTENTS PAGE
TABLING REPORTS REGULATIONS AND OTHER PAPERS:
Anl. Report of the Nova Scotia Health Research Foundation,
Hon. C. d'Entremont 1555
GOVERNMENT NOTICES OF MOTION:
Res. 836, Samson, Glen/NSAC - Proof-of-Concept Award,
Hon. B. Taylor 1556
Vote - Affirmative 1556
Res. 837, Leaders of Today Retreat: Participants - Congrats.,
Hon. K. Casey 1557
Vote - Affirmative 1558
Res. 838, Econ. Dev. - RDAs: Accomplishments - Recognize,
Hon. R. Hurlburt 1558
Vote - Affirmative 1558
Res. 839, Terra Firma Consultants - Septic Device: Development -
Congrats., Hon. M. Parent 1558
Vote - Affirmative 1559
Res. 840, Hunters Helping the Hungry Prog.: Vols. - Congrats.,
Hon. D. Morse 1559
Vote - Affirmative 1560
Res. 841, Howell, Michael - James Beard House: Featured Chef -
Congrats., Hon. B. Taylor 1560
Vote - Affirmative 1561
PRESENTING REPORTS OF COMMITTEES:
Law Amendments Committee, Hon. M. Scott 1561
Law Amendments Committee, Hon. M. Scott 1562
INTRODUCTION OF BILLS
No. 100, Public Prosecutions Act, Mr. D. Dexter 1562
No. 101, Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act,
Mr. M. Samson 1562
No. 102, Pugwash Village Grants Act, Hon. E. Fage 1562
No. 103, Arts Council Act, Ms. J. Massey 1562
No. 104, Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act,
Mr. M. Samson 1562
No. 105, Pugwash Village Capital Grant Act, Hon. E. Fage 1563
No. 106, Fairness and Fees Act, Ms. D. Whalen 1563
NOTICES OF MOTION:
Res. 842, Health - Middleton: Nursing Home-Build,
Mr. D. Dexter 1563
Res. 843, Cdn. Forces: Past/Present - Remember/Honour,
Mr. M. Samson 1564
Vote - Affirmative 1564
Res. 844, Adopt-A-Library - Pictou-Antigonish Reg. Library:
Supporters - Congrats., Mr. P. Dunn 1565
Vote - Affirmative 1566
Res. 845, Pacer Soc. Club - Daley, Eric/Vols.: Support - Thank,
Mr. C. Parker 1566
Vote - Affirmative 1566
Res. 846, Windsor Plains Baptist Church: Spiritual Faith - Applaud,
Mr. C. Porter 1566
Vote - Affirmative 1567
Res. 847, Noel Post Office: Commemorative Stamp - Congrats.,
Mr. J. MacDonell 1567
Vote - Affirmative 1568
Res. 848, TPW - Hwy. No. 101: Digby - Weymouth - Construct,
Mr. H. Theriault 1568
Res. 849, Allen, Ina: RN Service (42 yrs.) - Congrats.,
Hon. M. Baker 1569
Vote - Affirmative 1569
Res. 850, Educ. - Literacy/Adult Educ.: Infrastructure - Strengthen,
Mr. L. Preyra 1569
Vote - Affirmative 1570
Vote - Affirmative
Res. 851, MacNeil, Mike: Coaching Career (36 yrs.) - Commend,
Hon. D. Morse 1570
Vote - Affirmative 1571
Res. 852, Huck Sisters: Dal. Soccer Season - Congrats.,
Mr. W. Estabrooks 1571
Vote - Affirmative 1572
Res. 853, Cumming, Jim: Col. Co. Sport Hall of Fame - Induction,
Hon. J. Muir 1572
Vote - Affirmative 1572
Res. 854, Blue Horizon: Musical Achievements/Contributions -
Congrats., Hon. E. Fage 1573
Vote - Affirmative 1573
Res. 855, ICE (In Case of Emergency) Cellphone Init.: Participate -
Congrats., Mr. D. Dexter 1573
Vote - Affirmative 1574
Res. 856, Baker, Terry: N.S. Sports Hall of Fame - Induction,
Hon. C. Bolivar-Getson 1574
Vote - Affirmative 1575
Res. 857, Cavanaugh, Helena - Birthday (90th), Hon. K. Casey 1575
Vote - Affirmative 1576
Res. 858, Guysborough Bantam Athletics: Baseball Championships -
Congrats., (by Hon. B. Taylor), Hon. R. Chisholm 1576
Vote - Affirmative 1577
Res. 859, Hebel, Peter - Hebel's Rest. Staff: Best Wishes - Send,
Mr. P. Dunn 1577
Vote - Affirmative 1577
Res. 860, HOPE (Handicapped Organization Promoting Equality/Exec.,
Congrats., Hon. C. d'Entremont 1578
Vote - Affirmative 1578
Res. 861, St. FX: X-Men Rugby Club - Soccer Title,
Hon. A. MacIsaac 1578
Vote - Affirmative 1579
Res. 862, Levy, Charlie - Hants Co. Ex.: Vol. Work - Congrats.,
Mr. C. Porter 1579
Vote - Affirmative 1580
Res. 863, Maybee, Ross (Valley Waste Res. Mgt.)/Paddy's Brew Pub &
Rosie's Rest. - RRFB Award, Hon. M. Parent 1580
Vote - Affirmative 1581
Vote - Affirmative
Res. 864, Johnson, Emma - Pathfinder Cord Award, Mr. L. Glavine 1581
Vote - Affirmative 1582
GOVERNMENT BUSINESS:
PUBLIC BILLS FOR SECOND READING:
No. 5, Degree Granting Act 1582
Mr. H. Epstein 1582
Ms. J. Massey 1592
Hon. J. Muir 1597
Ms. J. Massey 1597
Mr. D. Dexter 1599
Hon. K. Casey 1602
Vote - Affirmative 1603
No. 70, Provincial Fish Act 1603
Mr. K. Colwell 1603
Mr. C. Parker 1603
Hon. C. d'Entremont 1604
Mr. K. Colwell 1605
Vote - Affirmative 1606
No. 69, Maintenance Enforcement Act 1606
Mr. K. Colwell 1606
Ms. J. Massey 1606
Hon. M. Scott 1607
Vote - Affirmative 1609
HOUSE RECESSED AT 11:31 A.M. 1609
HOUSE RECONVENED AT 11:35 A.M. 1609
PUBLIC BILLS FOR SECOND READING:
No. 68, Pensions Benefits Act 1610
Mr. M. Samson 1610
Ms. Maureen MacDonald 1612
Hon. M. Parent 1616
Ms. J. Massey 1617
Mr. L. Preyra 1620
Mr. T. Zinck 1622
Ms. M. More 1624
Mr. W. Estabrooks 1626
Mr. M. Samson 1626
Vote - Affirmative 1627
ADJOURNMENT, House rose to meet again on Tue., Nov. 14th, at 12:00 Noon 1628
NOTICES OF MOTION UNDER RULE 32(3):
Res. 865, Anderson, Lesley - Athletic/Educational Endeavours,
Mr. C. Porter 1630
Res. 866, Armour, Ian - Athletic Talent - Commend, Mr. C. Porter 1630
Res. 867, Winkelaar, Rae: Hole-in-One - Applaud, Mr. C. Porter 1631
Res. 868, Sanford, Tricia: Ryl Agricultural Winter Fair - Applaud,
Mr. C. Porter 1631
Res. 869, Pyra Mgt. Scholarship Init. - Hagmann, Stephanie:
2006 Award Winner - Applaud/Congrats., Mr. C. Porter 1632
Res. 870, Thomson, Patrick/MacDonald, Daniel/Grant, Brendan &
Tristan - 4-H Activity, Hon. A. MacIsaac 1632

[Page 1555]

HALIFAX, FRIDAY, NOVEMBER 10, 2006

Sixtieth General Assembly

First Session

9:00 A.M.

SPEAKER

Hon. Cecil Clarke

DEPUTY SPEAKER

Mr. Wayne Gaudet

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. We will now begin the daily routine.

PRESENTING AND READING PETITIONS

PRESENTING REPORTS OF COMMITTEES

TABLING REPORTS, REGULATIONS AND OTHER PAPERS

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of Health.

HON. CHRISTOPHER D'ENTREMONT: Mr. Speaker, before I table this report, I would like to introduce a few people from the Nova Scotia Health Research Foundation who are in the gallery with us this morning. I'll ask them to stand as I name them: Richard Singer, Nova Scotia Health Research Foundation Board member; Krista Connell, Chief Executive Officer; and Natasha Sider, Communications Officer at the Nova Scotia Health Research Foundation. Please give them the warm welcome of the House. (Applause)

1555

[Page 1556]

With that, Mr. Speaker, I would like to table the Nova Scotia Health Research Foundation Annual Report for 2005-06.

MR. SPEAKER: The report is tabled.

STATEMENTS BY MINISTERS

GOVERNMENT NOTICES OF MOTION

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of Agriculture.

RESOLUTION NO. 836

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

Whereas Nova Scotia Agricultural College Professor Glen Sampson has developed a biological method to control common weeds associated with agriculture production; and

Whereas this research project has resulted in Mr. Sampson and the NSAC receiving a Proof-of-Concept award valued at $20,000 from Springboard Atlantic Incorporated for early-stage inventions; and

Whereas the funds associated with this award will enable Mr. Sampson and his team to demonstrate how a naturally occurring fungus can aid in weed control and possibly become a commercially viable product;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of the House congratulate the NSAC, Mr. Sampson and his team on receiving this significant award which will enable them to take this project to the next level.

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.

[Page 1557]

The honourable Minister of Education.

HON. KAREN CASEY: Mr. Speaker, if I could do an introduction prior to the resolution?

MR. SPEAKER: Sure.

MS. CASEY: I would like to draw attention of the members in the House to the gallery opposite where several members of the Youth Advisory Council are joining us this morning. The Youth Advisory Council is part of the Youth Secretariat, and as Minister of Education responsible for the secretariat, I'm very pleased to introduce my guests and ask them to stand and receive a warm welcome: Ty Walsh, James Mosher, Mat Whynott, welcome. (Applause)

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of Education.

RESOLUTION NO. 837

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

Whereas 17 youth-serving organizations gathered in Tatamagouche, Nova Scotia, from October 20th to 22nd for the Leaders of Today retreat; and

Whereas these young people from across the province gathered to talk about working together to create positive change in their communities for the present and for the future; and

Whereas the retreat also focused on building leadership skills and exploring ways that various youth organizations could work together to achieve common goals;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of the House congratulate these young people for gathering to inspire positive change.

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 1558]

The motion is carried.

The honourable Minister of Economic Development.

RESOLUTION NO. 838

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 regional development authorities in Nova Scotia are helping local businesses and communities in building a better province; and

Whereas I visited each authority to discuss issues and community development this summer, and I also spoke at the Fall annual general meeting in Liscomb Mills; and

Whereas regional development authority board members, executive directors, staff, volunteers and business leaders are devoted to growing the provincial economy;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House recognize the accomplishments and contributions of the regional development authorities in Nova Scotia.

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 Minister of Environment and Labour.

RESOLUTION NO. 839

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

Whereas Terra Firma Consultants Land Consulting has developed a device to offer homeowners a healthier environment and lower costs by eliminating a common cause of septic system failure; and

[Page 1559]

Whereas this company's research has led to a simple, affordable, effective device with the potential to improve waste handling for nearly 100,000 Nova Scotian homes; and

Whereas this device once again proves Nova Scotia's reputation as an innovator and world leader for environmentally-sound waste management;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House congratulate Terra Firma Consultants of Wellington, Nova Scotia, for enabling homeowners to practice an even higher standard of environmental living and for contributing to the province's goal of providing practical environmental solutions for all Nova Scotians.

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 Minister of Natural Resources.

RESOLUTION NO. 840

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

Whereas our government was proud to partner with Feed Nova Scotia, the Nova Scotia Federation of Anglers and Hunters, Eastern Woods and Waters magazine, and novascotiahunting.com to announce the Hunters Helping the Hungry program; and

Whereas this program will see deer meat packaged and distributed to families in need, wherever they may live in Nova Scotia; and

Whereas this act of goodwill gives hunters the opportunity to share in the bounty of the Fall harvest and support local communities;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House acknowledge the committed volunteers who helped to start the Hunters Helping the Hungry program, and

[Page 1560]

take it a step further by asking family and friends who hunt deer to participate in the program.

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 Minister of Agriculture.

RESOLUTION NO. 841

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

Whereas Nova Scotia was featured on the menu of the James Beard House in New York City last night for the James Beard Foundation, which is dedicated to celebrating, preserving and nurturing culinary excellence; and

Whereas Michael Howell, owner of Tempest, a landmark Wolfville restaurant, was the featured chef, who prepared the evening's menu and meal, with Nova Scotia food and wine products; and

Whereas Mr. Howell's presence in New York City is an incredible opportunity for Nova Scotia and our food, wine, culinary expertise and art to be featured;

Therefore be it resolved that members of the House congratulate Mr. Howell on the opportunity to showcase his culinary talent and Nova Scotia food and hospitality to New York City, and offer him best wishes as he rebuilds his restaurant after it was recently destroyed by fire.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

[Page 1561]

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable Government House Leader.

HON. MICHAEL BAKER: Mr. Speaker, could I have the concurrence of the House to revert back to the order of business, Presenting Reports of Committees?

MR. SPEAKER: There has been a request to revert back to the order of business, Presenting Reports of Committees.

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

PRESENTING REPORTS OF COMMITTEES

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of Justice.

HON. MURRAY SCOTT: Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the members of the House for that.

As Chairman of the Committee on Law Amendments, I am directed to report that the committee has met and considered the following bills:

Bill No. 17 - Criminal Notoriety Act.

Bill No. 20 - Public Utilities Act.

Bill No. 58 - Justice Administration Amendment (Fall 2006) Act.

and the committee recommends these bills to the favourable consideration of the House, each without amendment.

MR. SPEAKER: Ordered that these bills be referred to the Committee of the Whole House on Bills.

The honourable Minister of Justice.

[Page 1562]

HON. MURRAY SCOTT: Mr. Speaker, as Chairman of the Committee on Law Amendments, I am also directed to report that the committee has met and considered the following bills:

Bill No. 21 - Justice Administration Amendment (2006) Act.

Bill No. 62 - Tobacco Access Act.

and the committee recommends these bills to the favourable consideration of the House, with certain amendments.

MR. SPEAKER: Ordered that these bills be referred to the Committee of the Whole House on Bills.

[9:15 a.m.]

INTRODUCTION OF BILLS

Bill No. 100 - Entitled an Act to Amend Chapter 21 of the Acts of 1990. The Public Prosecutions Act. (Mr. Darrell Dexter)

Bill No. 101 - Entitled an Act to Amend Chapter 5 of the Acts of 1993. The Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act, to Restrict the Payment of Fees. (Mr. Michel Samson)

Bill No. 102 - Entitled an Act to Authorize the Village of Pugwash to Make Grants or Contributions to Certain Organizations. (Hon. Ernest Fage as a private member.)

Bill No. 103 - Entitled an Act to Recognize the Central Role of the Arts in Nova Scotia by Re-establishing an Arms-length Arts Council. (Ms. Joan Massey)

Bill No. 104 - Entitled an Act to Amend Chapter 5 of the Acts of 1993. The Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act, to Prohibit the Disclosure of the Identity of an Applicant for Information. (Mr. Michel Samson)

Bill No. 105 - Entitled an Act to Authorize the Village of Pugwash to Make a Capital Grant to the Pugwash District Volunteer Fire Department. (Hon. Ernest Fage as a private member.)

Bill No. 106 - Entitled an Act to Ensure Fairness in Fees Collected by the Government of Nova Scotia. (Ms. Diana Whalen)

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

[Page 1563]

The honourable Leader of the Opposition on an introduction.

MR. DARRELL DEXTER: Mr. Speaker, I'm sure they don't really need an introduction in this House, but I would like to recognize in the west gallery today, Darce Fardy and Ian Johnson. I understand they're here with the Right to Know Coalition, and I would ask the House to make them welcome. (Applause)

NOTICES OF MOTION

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Leader of the Opposition.

RESOLUTION NO. 842

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

Whereas the provincial Conservative Government reported in 2005, and again in 2006, that a 50-bed nursing home in Middleton has been contemplated since December 2004; and

Whereas the report summarizing the government's consultations on continuing care stated that, "The Middleton and Elmsdale sessions were dominated by long term care shortages. Notwithstanding, the concern was generally broad based throughout the Province"; and

Whereas when the Middleton and Area Nursing Home Society participated in the NDP election campaign in 2006, the Conservatives insisted that they would address the serious need for more nursing home beds;

Therefore be it resolved that the Premier and the Minister of Health should honour their government's own plan for the long-needed nursing home in Middleton, rather than continuing to tolerate a shortage of nursing home beds which has caused serious hardship throughout the health care system.

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.

[Page 1564]

The honourable Leader of the Liberal Party.

RESOLUTION NO. 843

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

Whereas on November 11, 1914, an agreement was made to end what was then called the Great War, as it was perceived that such a war would never happen again; and

Whereas in September 1939, Canada entered World War II, fighting for the freedom of tyranny and injustice, eventually losing more than 40,000 of its sons and daughters; and

Whereas between 1950 and 1955 Canada sent 26,791 troops to the war in Korea in what is commonly referred to as the Forgotten War;

Therefore be it resolved that members of this House of Assembly recognize and remember the men and women who gave their lives in past conflicts, and honour and support those who continue to fight far away from home, to ensure our peace and freedom.

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 Minister of Agriculture on an introduction.

HON. BROOKE TAYLOR: Tthank you, Mr. Speaker. I am pleased to rise this morning and make an introduction. In the west gallery, we have Frank and Lucy LeBlanc from the beautiful Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley, the Town of Stewiacke. They are not only very upstanding pillars of our community, as well they are close friends of the Sergeant-at-Arms, Mr. Ken Greenham, and I know Ken wants to extend greetings and I would ask our guests to rise and receive a warm welcome from members in the House. (Applause)

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Pictou Centre.

[Page 1565]

RESOLUTION NO. 844

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

Whereas several Pictou County police agencies turned out to support the Adopt a Library literacy program conducted by the Pictou-Antigonish Regional Library, which received the single largest donation in its six year history; and

Whereas the Scholastic Book Fair retailer Dan McCue delivered nearly 7,000 books to the library in New Glasgow that aims to attract young readers from the primary level to the junior high level; and

Whereas since the program's inception, the concept has spread far and wide. Police agencies across Nova Scotia and from as far away as British Columbia and the north are now linked with public and school libraries, clinics, shelters and other locations where children can be reached adapting the program to suit each area's needs;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House congratulate the Pictou-Antigonish Regional Library on their new donation and applaud Scholastic Books's Dan McCue for his significant contribution. May this House also recognize the combined police forces of Pictou County that continue to build on the success of the program as it sets a precedent for programs across Canada.

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 Pictou West.

RESOLUTION NO. 845

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

[Page 1566]

Whereas the Pacer Social Club of Pictou, a welcoming place for anyone seeking a drug and alcohol-free setting, celebrated its first anniversary on November 4, 2006; and

Whereas Eric Daley and volunteers saw a real need for this facility in Pictou County and are now receiving increasing support from the community businesses and individuals; and

Whereas the Pacer Social Club offers clients a safe and welcoming location to enjoy cards and other games, to use computer services or just to talk over a cup of coffee;

Therefore be it resolved that this House of Assembly congratulate Eric Daley and all the volunteers for their support of the Pacer Social Club and extend thanks for providing this valuable service to the Pictou 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 Hants West.

RESOLUTION NO. 846

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

Whereas the Windsor Plains Baptist Church holds regular Sunday services at 11:00 a.m. each week; and

Whereas worship services have been taking place at the Windsor Plains Baptist Church for the past 194 years; and

Whereas a special anniversary service was held in late July to commemorate Windsor Plains 194 years of congregational activities;

[Page 1567]

Therefore be it resolved that all members of the House of Assembly applaud the tremendous spiritual faith shown by the congregation of Windsor Plains Baptist Church and, with the church basement now finished, 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.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Hants East.

RESOLUTION NO. 847

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

Whereas providing postal service is one of the earliest public services made available in Canada; and

Whereas Canada Post issues commemorative Christmas stamps recognizing post offices throughout Canada; and

Whereas Noel Post Office has been selected for the official Day of Issue Christmas Cancellation Stamp, featuring the Madonna and Child;

Therefore be it resolved that this House of Assembly congratulate the staff of the Noel Post Office for the honour bestowed upon them and upon the community of Noel.

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 1568]

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Digby-Annapolis.

RESOLUTION NO. 848

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 so-called Highway No.101 between Weymouth and Digby, Nova Scotia, does not exist and has been planned for over 30-odd years; and

Whereas the present Highway No. 1, used as a 100-Series Highway, is on the doorsteps of hundreds of homes, schools and stores; and

Whereas several accidents and deaths have happened, and people are afraid of many more to come on this road;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of the House of Assembly investigate Highway No. 101, and as soon as it is twinned between Windsor and Kentville that the Department of Transportation and Public Works commit to constructing a single Highway No. 101 between Digby and Weymouth.

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 Minister of Finance.

RESOLUTION NO. 849

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

Whereas Ina Allen has served this country as a registered nurse for 42 years; and

Whereas everyone who knows Mrs. Allen understands her competence and her compassion in dealing with the health needs of those she has served; and

[Page 1569]

Whereas on November 5, 2006, Mrs. Allen was joined by her husband, Jon, and by her many friends, who took the opportunity to celebrate Ina Allen's accomplishments and wish her the very best on her retirement;

Therefore be it resolved that the House of Assembly congratulate Ina Allen on her service to the Province of Nova Scotia and to Canada as a registered nurse, and that this House extend it's very best wishes for a long and happy 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 Halifax Citadel.

RESOLUTION NO. 850

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

Whereas 38 per cent of Nova Scotians aged 16 to 65 years have literacy skills below the level considered necessary to live and work in today's society; and

Whereas according to Literacy Nova Scotia and based on the findings of the International Adult Literacy and Skills Survey, literacy levels are an important factor in determining economic well-being, and low literacy levels are equated with low wages, low status jobs and unemployment; and

Whereas Literacy Nova Scotia has declared November 6th to 10th to be Literacy Action Week in communities across Nova Scotia;

Therefore be it resolved that this House of Assembly take action by working with literacy and adult education service providers in their constituencies to strengthen the province's literacy and adult education infrastructure.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

[Page 1570]

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 Minister of Natural Resources.

[9:30 a.m.]

RESOLUTION NO. 851

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

Whereas Mike McNeil has decided to call it quits after 36 years as the head coach of the Horton High School Griffins boys soccer team; and

Whereas while not quite ever being able to win a provincial championship, Mike's lengthy coaching career concluded Saturday with a bronze medal as the Horton High Griffins blanked the Queen Elizabeth High School Lions 2-0; and

Whereas Coach MacNeil was quoted over the weekend as saying that the rewards of coaching for him go far beyond any success the school has had on the soccer pitch;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this Legislature commend Coach Mike MacNeil for his 36 years of dedication to coaching hundreds of students during his tenure, and for his commitment to the Horton High School boys soccer program.

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.

[Page 1571]

The honourable member for Timberlea-Prospect.

RESOLUTION NO. 852

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

Whereas the Dalhousie women's soccer team featured the talents of Tonya, Leanne, and Jeanette Huck this season; and

Whereas Leanne captured her second straight league MVP, Jeanette was named the Rookie of the Year and Tonya, a Mount Allison transfer student, contributed valuable leadership; and

Whereas Tonya, Leanne, and Jeanette are the daughters of Dennis and Valli Huck of Hatchet Lake;

Therefore be it resolved that this House of Assembly congratulate the Huck sisters on their successful soccer season at Dalhousie University.

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 Minister of Service Nova Scotia and Municipal Relations.

RESOLUTION NO. 853

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

Whereas Jim Cumming is a 2006 inductee into the Colchester County Sport Hall of Fame; and

[Page 1572]

Whereas Jim Cumming had an outstanding hockey career with the Truro Junior B Bearcats, being a three-time scoring champion, a two-time league MVP, and a three-time league all star; and

Whereas Jim Cumming had professional tryouts with the New York Rangers and the Toledo Goaldiggers, and upon returning home excelled in senior and intermediate hockey, as well as baseball and fastball;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House congratulate Jim Cumming on being inducted into the Colchester County Sport Hall of Fame, and wish him success in all of his future endeavours.

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 Minister of Human Resources.

[Page 1573]

RESOLUTION NO. 854

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

Whereas Blue Horizon, a bluegrass band from Amherst, with five members, Jessie Haley, Mary Haley, Joe Doucette, Kyle Legere, and Larry Rushton, are having a banner year climbing the ladder of fame; and

Whereas they released a CD entitled No More Tears, have shared the stage with legends like Del McCoury, and performed in Nashville this year; and

Whereas they were nominated for Album of the Year at the 2006 East Coast Bluegrass Awards, Joe for Dobro Player of the Year, Larry was nominated for Composer of the Year, and the band for Most Promising Band of the Year - this troupe of young musicians has moved very quickly up the bluegrass charts;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House join me in sending our congratulations to these five young musicians for their talent, their achievements, and contributions to the music 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 Leader of the Opposition.

RESOLUTION NO. 855

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

Whereas several hundred students at Auburn Drive High School in Cole Harbour have taken on an initiative that will play an important role in the use of cellphones during emergency situations; and

[Page 1574]

Whereas the initiative, known as ICE (In Case of Emergency) cellphone movement saw 479 students, in this 1,200 student school, program their cells to register emergency information such as personal contact numbers for parent, guardian, friend, or family member; and

Whereas Auburn Drive High School students Andrew Valencik and Caitlin Clarke, spearheaded this project that will allow faster and easier access to vital information in case of accident or injury;

Therefore be it resolved that this House of Assembly congratulate Andrew Valencik, Caitlin Clarke, the administration of Auburn Drive High School, and the hundreds of students who joined the ICE movement, which will allow emergency workers a quick link via cellphones to a contact person when dealing with a patient who is not carrying traditional ID.

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 Minister of Economic Development on an introduction.

HON. RICHARD HURLBURT: Mr. Speaker, in our west gallery this morning we have the Deputy Warden for the Municipality of Digby, Mr. Jimmy McAlpine, and accompanying him would be the Deputy CAO for the Municipality of the District of Yarmouth, Trudy LeBlanc. Trudy LeBlanc happens to be the mother of one of our Pages, Mallory LeBlanc, and they happen to hail from the beautiful Town of Yarmouth. I would like to welcome them here this morning. (Applause)

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of Immigration.

RESOLUTION NO. 856

HON. CAROLYN BOLIVAR-GETSON: Mr. Speaker, I hereby give notice that on a future day I shall move the adoption of the following resolution:

[Page 1575]

Whereas athletes who demonstrate extraordinary skills and performance receive recognition from their fans; and

Whereas a small number of those athletes are chosen to enter a Sport Hall of Fame; and

Whereas Bridgewater resident Terry Baker was inducted into the Nova Scotia Sport Hall of Fame;

Therefore be it resolved that this House congratulate Terry Baker for being inducted into the Nova Scotia Sport Hall of Fame because of his successful career as a CFL football player and a Grey Cup winner with both the Saskatchewan Rough Riders in 1989 and the Montreal Alouettes in 2003.

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 Minister of Education.

RESOLUTION NO. 857

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

Whereas Helena Cavanaugh has been a lifelong resident of Colchester County; and

Whereas she and her late husband, Lloyd, raised 15 children, 11 boys and four girls; and

Whereas she celebrated her 90th birthday on November 3, 2006;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House extend their congratulations to Helena Cavanaugh as she celebrates this important milestone in her life.

[Page 1576]

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 Minister of Agriculture.

RESOLUTION NO. 858

HON. BROOKE TAYLOR: Mr. Speaker, on behalf of the honourable Minister of Fisheries and Aquaculture, I hereby give notice that on a future day I shall move the adoption of the following resolution:

Whereas softball is a well-known sport involving many Nova Scotians as teammates, coaches and spectators; and

Whereas Guysborough has been known throughout the years for its award-winning softball teams; and

Whereas the Guysborough Bantam Athletics finished second in the Eastern Canadian Fast Pitch Championships held in St. Croix, Hants County, Nova Scotia, this past summer;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House congratulate coaches Paul Long, Wayne Avery, Donald d'Entremont and Dave Boutlier, as well as players Jared Boutlier, Tristan Richard, Andrew MacIsaac, Rene d'Entremont, Mark DeYoung, Aaron Long, Patrick Avery, Trent MacDonald, Ryan Gillis, Jordan Hawes, Alex Connolly, Noah Hawes, Darren Walsh, Nelson Purcell and Joey Chisholm on their accomplishment at the Eastern Canadian Fast Pitch Championships.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

[Page 1577]

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Pictou Centre.

RESOLUTION NO. 859

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

Whereas internationally-recognized Chef Peter Hebels opened New Glasgow's fine dining outlet Hebel's Restaurant in September of this year; a native of Germany, Mr. Hebels has cooked for grateful diners the world over, including Europe, the Middle East, the South Pacific and North America; and

Whereas Mr. Hebels has said that it was the hospitality and co-operation from the people of Pictou County that secured his decision to open his restaurant in New Glasgow, and said he hopes to remain in Nova Scotia for a long time; and

Whereas Mr. Hebels opened his establishment in a beautifully restored mid-19th Century home that has been made wheelchair accessible and comfortably seats 32 and caters to all special groups and occasions;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House send their very best wishes to Mr. Hebels and his staff at Hebel's Restaurant. May we use this opportunity to encourage other immigrants to make Nova Scotia their home and in doing so, highlight the diverse opportunities that this province holds.

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 Minister of Health.

RESOLUTION NO. 860

[Page 1578]

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 Handicapped Organization Promoting Equality has been offering programs and services in Yarmouth Town and County for more than two and a half decades; and

Whereas they offer disabled people many types of programs and services from basic cooking, homemaking and craft classes, in addition to sponsoring the Dial-A-Ride program which has in the past year transported more than 9,304 passengers and logged 88,664 kilometres and have held dozens of fundraisers to assist in sponsoring these programs; and

Whereas HOPE recently held a celebration to mark their 25th Anniversary with many businesses, agencies, sponsors, individuals, and politicians in attendance;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House join me in congratulating and thanking HOPE, President Bill Crawford and Coordinator Eleanor Cottreau, for their many years of hard work and dedication to these individuals and to their 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 Minister of Transportation and Public Works.

[Page 1579]

RESOLUTION NO. 861

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

Whereas the St. Francis Xavier X-Men Rugby Club won the Division 1 Provincial Title this past weekend; and

Whereas the game was won on a penalty kick in the last second of the game, making the final score 9-8 over the Saint Mary's team; and

Whereas the Rugby Club will host UNB for the Maritime Championships this weekend;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House join me in congratulating the X-Men Rugby Club on their title and wish them success as they vie for the Carty-Cockburn Cup this weekend.

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 Hants West.

RESOLUTION NO. 862

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

Whereas Canada's oldest agricultural fair - the Hants County Exhibition - has flourished for 241 years because of the interest and dedication shown by volunteers such as Charlie Levy; and

Whereas Charlie retired as an elementary school principal in 1994 and since that time has worked diligently to ensure the annual success of the Hants County Exhibition

[Page 1580]

by volunteering in a number of ways such as looking after the exhibition program, helping with mini-horse, draft horse and pony competitions; and

Whereas despite his extensive involvement over the past 12 years, Charlie Levy describes himself as a farm boy all his life, having attended the exhibition since he was old enough to walk;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this Legislature commend Charlie Levy for his outstanding work and time commitment, and for doing another outstanding job at the Hants County Exhibition in 2006.

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 Minister of Environment and Labour.

RESOLUTION NO. 863

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

Whereas earlier this year, two distinguished Kings County businesses were named award winners at the 8th Annual Nova Scotia Resource Recovery Fund Board Mobius Environmental Awards Celebration evening; and

Whereas Ross Maybee of Valley Waste Resource Management in Kentville was recognized for Individual Excellence in Waste Reduction; and

Whereas Paddy's Brew Pub and Rosie's Restaurant, in both Kentville and Wolfville, were recognized for their consistent approach in diverting 50 per cent of waste from their businesses and away from their local landfill;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this Legislature applaud Ross Maybee and Valley Waste Resource Management and Paddy's Brew Pub and Rosie's

[Page 1581]

Restaurant, in both Kentville and Wolfville, for their continued determination in reducing waste and protecting our environment.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

[9:45 a.m.]

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.

MR. WILLIAM ESTABROOKS: On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. Earlier during resolutions the Leader of the Liberal Party introduced a resolution which we certainly unanimously agree with the intent of course, recognizing the significance of November 11th. However, during the first "whereas" I would like to point out to the member for Richmond that the date 1914 is incorrect and that the first Armistice drawing significance to Remembrance Day was on November 11, 1918. For the record, I would hope that the member for Richmond would agree that this could be corrected in the appropriate manner. Thank you.

MR. SPEAKER: Thank you. I will take that matter under advisement and check with the honourable member for Richmond. Thank you very much.

Are there further notices of motion?

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Kings West.

RESOLUTION NO. 864

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

Whereas Pathfinder serves as part of the Guiding movement set up for girls between 12 and 15, which serves to build character and leadership qualities; and

Whereas the Canadian Cord Ceremony is the highest award that can be given to young members of the Guiding movement; and

[Page 1582]

Whereas on September 23, 2006, Emma Johnson was presented the Cord Award at the Canadian Cord Award Ceremony in Halifax;

Therefore be it resolved that members of this House congratulate Emma Johnson and wish her continued success in all her future endeavours.

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.

ORDERS OF THE DAY

GOVERNMENT BUSINESS

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Deputy Government House Leader.

MR. PATRICK DUNN: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Would you please call the order of business, Public Bills for Second Reading.

PUBLIC BILLS FOR SECOND READING

MR. SPEAKER: The Deputy Government House Leader.

MR. PATRICK DUNN: I would like to call Bill No. 5, the Degree Granting Act.

Bill No. 5 - Degree Granting Act.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Halifax Chebucto.

MR. HOWARD EPSTEIN: Mr. Speaker, thank you very much. When we left off debate on this yesterday afternoon we had turned our minds to this issue of what is the appropriate process for the establishment of a new university in Nova Scotia. The thrust of Bill No. 5 is to suggest to us that the appropriate way to start a new university in Nova Scotia is to come forward, speak to the Cabinet and request their review and approval.

[Page 1583]

The alternative, being promoted by those of us in this caucus, is to recognize that the traditional way in which universities have been established has really been though legislation in this House. So that is really the nature of the debate and I want to take up in somewhat more detail what it is that the concerns are.

When the honourable minister a week ago introduced this bill she pointed out that Nova Scotia had what she called an enviable place as Canada's education province. I have to say that those are entirely appropriate words. We should recognize that we are blessed in having so many post-secondary education institutions here, particularly our universities. I noted, as well, that in the press last week when there was discussion about the Goddard College proposal to establish a private, degree granting institution in the Town of Annapolis Royal, that someone speaking on behalf of the minister's department also spoke in favour of what was called "how we could 'protect the integrity of the post-secondary education system and protect students'."

So that word integrity is important. The notion of protecting our reputation as Canada's education province, is important. I take heart from these observations because it seems to me that what they indicate is a recognition on the part of the government that it reflects on Nova Scotia's reputation as a province, not just that we have universities here but that we maintain their quality, that we protect their quality, that we make sure that no degree granting institution be established in Nova Scotia that might detract from the high reputation that we enjoy as a province.

This is not a casual undertaking. This is not something that has nothing to do with the international reputation of our province. This is not a situation that is akin to the establishment of a private business to operate in our province.

If we were at a time when, say, no branch of Canadian Tire had been established in Nova Scotia and yet that business was well established in Ontario and elsewhere in the country, and they wanted to open up a branch in Nova Scotia, we wouldn't be saying that they have to bring a bill to the floor of the Legislature. There's a well-established procedure, when a normal business wants to get going in Nova Scotia. They have to file papers with the Registrar of Joint Stock Companies, to indicate that they have an agent, that they have a corporate office and headquarters and to state the nature of their business, and they're regulated by a Statute that tells us that they have to file certain papers. That's an appropriate level of regulatory oversight for some casual business that wants to get going in the private marketplace. But that is not the appropriate model when it comes to universities. Now the question, in some respects, is as simple as that, but I think we should take some time to think carefully about the atmosphere within which we are working here.

I had indicated yesterday, that the government opposite has something of a troubled history when it comes to Nova Scotia universities. And the nature of the troubled history, I think, really has to do with signals from the government that they

[Page 1584]

don't respect the university enterprise, that they're somewhat suspicious of the university enterprise. I pointed out the high-handed manner in which the government had acted in 1981, to close the Atlantic Institute for Education. Now I know to many people looking back 25 years ago may seem a while ago. To me it feels just like yesterday. I was there when these events took place. I was involved in them, and I remember them very vividly and I have to say, even though it was 1981, it wasn't so long ago, and it was still that government's Party that decided it was going to be - I have to say - very high-handed about that institution.

Now they have thought that because this institution dealt exclusively with degrees in the subject of education; because the Department of Education, either directly or indirectly, really employed all of the people who were likely to be graduates of that institution, they ultimately have control of all the teachers; and because, since we know something about demographics, since we know what the births are, we're likely to know more or less, what the enrolments are going to be in schools, in some coming years, they may have felt that when it came to education and an institution that offered degrees in education, that they were in a position to make these kinds of decisions. I have to say, that wasn't my view of it, remains not my view of it.

But it got a little worse in the 1980s. The government of the day, still a Tory Government, decided to set up a Royal Commission to look into post-secondary education, and it was clear that the thrust of this Royal Commission was really the universities. I know many members opposite will recall this Royal Commission. It was chaired by a well-known Nova Scotian, Rod MacLennan who has had a long involvement with the Scotsburn Dairy group. Rod MacLennan is a well-educated man, an intelligent man, a man of integrity, a man who is community minded and a man who has good business sense. He was asked by the government to go off and examine the universities, but he was given a mandate that made it clear that the government was highly suspicious of the universities. They made it clear that they were suspicious about whether Nova Scotia had too many institutions. Exactly the language that the Minister of Education tossed out not so long ago, only a month or two, in her general musings about the position of Nova Scotia universities.

The terms of reference of this Royal Commission, were clearly designed to push the commissioners toward a suspicious approach to the universities. Were the universities spending too much money? Was there too much duplication? Was tenure a good or bad idea? What about the problem of out-of-province students? Is there duplication of programs? And fundamentally, of course, the problem in the view of the government was, were there too many universities in Nova Scotia?

It was a very unpleasant process to go through this Royal Commission exercise, as I did, as a participant at the time. I think in the end that the commission really didn't find that there was a lot to criticize. The universities have taken seriously their responsibility to try to avoid duplication of programs, to achieve efficiencies when it

[Page 1585]

comes to purchasing, to achieve common systems when it comes to their library holdings. The universities are very co-operative with one another. But I'm not sure this message has really come home to the government members opposite. Do they recognize that universities are a wonderful asset in Nova Scotia? Do they recognize that by any measure, universities add to life in our province? Even if you think about them purely in financial terms they are a very good deal.

For one thing, of course, some of the money that goes towards universities comes from the federal government. In addition, our universities' faculty attract hundreds of millions of dollars in research grants, again, that come from federal granting agencies like SHERC and NSERC. Finally, of course, a huge number of our university students - I was surprised to learn the number may now have reached perhaps over 35 per cent - come from out of province. What that means is that students come from out of province with their money, their parents' money, and they spend it on rent, they spend it on furniture, they spend it on food, they spend it on clothing. They are here, and they pay tuition. It is a very good financial deal for us to have so many universities in Nova Scotia. Make no mistake, even if you think about it only in terms of the economic benefits, direct dollar economic benefits, it is a very good thing and we should count ourselves lucky that, historically, we managed to evolve with so many universities.

[10:00 a.m.]

All of this is not even to look at the benefits in terms of culture, and of education, and of research, and of knowledge, some of which, indeed, will have spin-offs into businesses. Even then, knowledge in and of itself, the teaching and research, which are the core of what a university is all about, is a very good thing. Now, I worry about whether the government opposite recognizes all of this. So we approach virtually anything that the government raises as a policy measure with respect to universities cautiously when we think about this history.

This bill is all about private universities, it's not really much to do with our existing institutions. It really has to do with the possibility of new institutions coming to Nova Scotia.

Let's take a minute and think about what we have seen in terms of proposals for private universities. I want to run ahead and say that it is not my position, and I don't think our position over here, that we are absolutely opposed to private universities. I think the point is we have to look very carefully at any proposal for a private university, and it should come forward by way of a bill in this Legislature, not be dealt with as a matter of administrative routine, or even a matter at the Cabinet Table, it should be a public process here in this House.

Let's look at several models that are out there of private universities that are recent Canadian initiatives or proposals that have actually come to some fruition.

[Page 1586]

The first one I want to start with is one that actually seems to be going ahead in British Columbia at the moment. This is Quest University that is being established in Squamish; it's being built as we speak under the direction of the man who will probably be its first president, Dr. Strangway, former President of UBC. This institution is now being built apparently with some combination of private and public money, but essentially through private money. The extent that there is public money involved, it looks like it's the municipality, not the province, that is being involved in this proposal.

Dr. Strangway is reported as saying that he hopes to have his institution open sometime in 2007 with 160 students. Part of the arrangements seem to be that the municipality is allowing the university to develop 960 units of housing on its land. Let's remember where Squamish is - this is on the Sunshine Coast of B.C., so essentially it's engaged in a marketplace activity in order to try and partially fund the start of this university. Dr. Strangway is promising high quality and innovation and ultimately, he hopes to have 640 students perhaps by 2010.

Would this be a good model in Nova Scotia? Would something like this be a good model here? Do we have the dollars available from the private sector to go into an institution like that? If members of the private sector were being looked at to make those donations to a brand new university, would that not represent an opportunity that might be foregone for our existing universities? I think that's something we're thinking about. If private money is going to go in large dollars - which it would require - into an institution that is private, what would be the quid pro quo? To what extent would this be a real independent critically minded degree granting institution? Would the faculty be fully independent? Would the institution be oriented towards whatever the interests and views of the donors might be? One has to wonder.

That's one of the reasons why if such a proposal were to come forward in Nova Scotia, we would want to see it here on the floor of the Legislature so we could ask those questions, we could find out the answers, we could go to Law Amendments, we could look at the details, we could demand from the government and from the proponent exactly what it is they have in mind. We can have a good thorough look at it and try to decide whether it would be to the benefit of Nova Scotia and whether, ultimately, it would be good for what the minister calls Nova Scotia's enviable place as Canada's education province.

The point is, if there are failures, if there is an institution where the quality is compromised, it will reflect upon the Province of Nova Scotia, our reputation at large including the reputation of the other degree granting institutions that we have here; that is not desirable. So there's one model - Dr. Strangway's model. I want to say that Dr. Strangway is well known as a highly respected academic with a distinguished record in Canada, but I worry. I think the way to deal with it is to have it come - if ever such a proposal came - before the floor of this House.

[Page 1587]

I want to tell you about a second model. The second model of which I'm aware is a proposal made by the former President of Acadia University, Kelvin Ogilvie. Dr. Ogilvie's proposal - I have to say I want to express my thanks to Dr. Ogilvie for all the amusement he gave me when I read his proposal - his proposal was contained in a paper called From Public You to Private You, an Atlantic Canadian Opportunity. This was published in September 2005, so it's a very contemporary exercise in thinking. This is an exercise in thinking about a private university in Nova Scotia, or somewhere, he says, in Atlantic Canada, but he certainly focuses on Nova Scotia, from a man, who just a few years ago, was president of one of our universities.

This paper, I want to point out, was published by the Atlantic Institute for Market Studies - AIMS. So, here's what Dr. Ogilvie says, he posits the situation, not of some people with deep pockets coming in to our province and starting a new institution on their own, not the Quest University model that Dr. Strangway has been pursuing on the West Coast. What Dr. Ogilvie has in mind is the possibility that the board of governors of an existing university take a vote and decide that they are going to be a private university, cut their ties with the provincial government, and off they'll go.

Now what exactly does that mean? Now this is an important question, because it really focuses our attention on the question of whether our universities now are already private institutions or are they not. We casually tend to speak of them as public institutions, but we don't own them. We passed legislation; that's what we've done. We've passed legislation in order to set them up, to endow them as bodies corporate, to give them their powers, to set up how their boards of governors operate, to say what degrees they can offer and so on. That's what we've done. But we also fund them, not exclusively, of course. They get money from tuition; they get money from room and board that they offer to their students; they get charitable donations; they take an administrative portion of research grants; and some of them will have endowments, some of them like Dalhousie, substantial endowments.

The dollars that come from the public purse that go to our degree granting institutions are an important part of their revenues, a very important part. As I say, we have a close association, as a province, with our institutions. We see that they reflect upon us. We want them to be of high quality. So, in some measure, you could look at the institutions now and say, they're private universities. You could ask, so what's the big deal? The point is, even if you were to think of them as private universities, even if you were to think of the existing institutions like Dalhousie and Acadia and St. F.X. as private entities, the point is there is a Statute that came to this House, there was a Statute that created each one of them, there was a Statute that defines its board, defines its powers. We had the opportunity of scrutiny, and we could exercise that scrutiny again, if we wished to.

What I liked about Dr. Ogilvie's proposal, what I found so amusing, was his suggestion that the transition to a purely private state could simply happen by a

[Page 1588]

resolution of the board of governors of some university in Nova Scotia, but he said he would expect the provincial government in Nova Scotia to continue to pay the annual grant to this new institution for anywhere up to 10 years, just to kind of help it along. So, one day there's going to be a UDI - I think it used to be called a unilateral declaration of independence - on the part of the board of governors, but of course the government would be looked at to continue to pay an annual grant. You know what's missing from Dr. Ogilvie's financial side of his proposal, what's missing is any recognition of fact that the taxpayers of Nova Scotia have been building buildings, giving land, and paying money to those institutions for decades.

He doesn't propose buying the land back from the public, he doesn't propose buying the buildings back from the public, he doesn't propose anything that would recognize that there was an endowment that the universities have by virtue of years and years of money coming from the taxpayers of Nova Scotia.

Let me tell you that is not a model that I find very appealing, but there it is. There's a second proposal for a model of what a private institution in Nova Scotia might look like and there's a third model that recently has surfaced. This is the Goddard College model that's being talked about for Annapolis Royal. Goddard College is an institution apparently based in Vermont. It's interested in the possibility of setting up what's called a satellite campus in Annapolis Royal and offering bachelor's and master's degrees. The topics, the areas would be arts, would be education, might be environmental studies. Now, of course, Nova Scotia universities already offer degrees in all of these areas - arts, education and environment studies.

How might such an institution be established? Well, the government proposes in this bill to deal with it at the Cabinet level, essentially in private. Our view is that no such institution should go forward without coming to the floor of this House in order to justify itself, in order to have the full public debate that should happen before a degree granting institution is established in our province and this is because degree granting institutions are a serious undertaking that reflect upon the reputation of this province in all respects, including the reputation of the existing degree granting institutions of which a new entity would form part; that is, it would form part of a system. It would be seen as forming part of a system.

I've read in the press comments by the town administrator for Annapolis Royal, suggesting that a degree granting institution would be an enormous financial benefit to the Town of Annapolis Royal, and that may well be correct. That may well be correct, but the point is this should be one of the factors to be considered if such a proposal were to come forward in a concrete form and this Legislature were to get the opportunity to think about it. We would have to ask ourselves, how successful is this institution likely to be, and that's just the first question we would ask because this province, as have others, has found a serious problem in recent years with diploma institutions that came and set up as private businesses here.

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[10:15 a.m.]

We know that several of these diploma institutions essentially operated on the level of businesses, ended up not delivering the programs that the students expected, sometimes closing up and leaving the students high and dry, and do you know what happened? The provincial government was expected to step in to sort out the mess. The students, for perfectly understandable reasons, expected that the provincial government would do something to help them complete their studies. They expected that there would be efforts made to try to get some of their tuition money back. They expected that they, as students, would be taken into the community college system and programs, either taken into existing programs or programs would devised for them.

One understands this, and the government brought in a regulatory framework and did the right thing. I'm not saying they didn't do the right thing. My point is, do we want to be faced with the same kind of situation with respect to a post-secondary education institution that offers degrees, not just diplomas? If we don't, and I'm sure we don't, do we want that decision to be made, that question to be addressed at the administrative level or at the Cabinet level, or do we want it to happen with the full public scrutiny of this House? My suggestion is that this House is the appropriate locus where that question should be answered.

Now let's look at another question. Let's look at the structuring of the board of such an institution. Now this matters, and it matters for the following reason: if we look at the Boards of Governors of the existing universities in Nova Scotia, you will see that the government gets to appoint people to the board of those institutions. Now it is not that those government appointees are necessarily meant to be answerable directly to the government for what they do there, although one would expect they would be a conduit of some communication. Those members of the board are still meant to look out for the best interests of the institution.

The fact that legislation is passed, the fact that there is a Board of Governors to which the government appoints people and the fact that the government gives money to those institutions has an important legal consequence and it is this: what it means is that these are seen as public entities. This offers protections in the courts if it comes to that, for both students and administrative staff that would not be present in an institution that was purely a private institution on a commercial or business model. If a student in an institution that is purely a commercial or business entity has a problem with the quality of what they are being offered, with the fairness of their exams, with how they are being treated by the faculty, whether there is a system of appeals for grades, it is a matter of contract. Is it in the calendar, is it in your contract, a court would ask if a student went. If the institution has its own rules and you signed on, that's it, it's a matter of contract. It is a matter of interpretation of the contract, and if the contract isn't written in a way that happens to favour the administration or doesn't happen to have what one would see

[Page 1590]

as fundamental fairnesses, then it doesn't matter. There will be no remedy available from the court. The court will simply say too bad, that's what you signed on for.

In a public institution, it is an entirely different matter. In an institution like Dalhousie or Acadia or where it was litigated to the Supreme Court of Canada in 1980 in the University of British Columbia, students have rights that are enforceable through administrative law principles to fundamental fairness in how the institution treats them. The case was called Kane vs. UBC. What allowed the Supreme Court of Canada to decide that the student Kane was entitled to fairness in their appeals and how they were graded and how they dealt with the administration was the fact that it was a public institution.

These will not be public institutions on the model that the government is proposing here. It is not just for the students, although this is of fundamental importance, it is also true of administrators in the university. In Nova Scotia, the case was Hill vs. the University College of Cape Breton, do you remember that? The President was fired and he was able to go to court on administrative law principles and say, because this is a public institution, fundamental fairness applies to the terms of how it is that I am treated as an employee in my institution and the court said, that's right. None of this would apply in private institutions that are purely on a regulatory business model. So there is a good reason why degree-granting institutions should not be allowed to go forward without the full scrutiny of this House.

Let me add one more point. I haven't heard the minister or any commentator yet tell us anything about the effect of NAFTA on this business enterprise. I mention NAFTA because some of the institutions that are thinking of setting up here are American institutions that really do operate - although they're degree-granting institutions - on a business level. Once they start to do business, here in our province, will we ever be able to regulate them thoroughly? More thoroughly than when they first started up or even decide we're no longer interested in having private degree-granting institutions once the threshold has been crossed.

Under NAFTA, there is good reason to believe we could not change our minds at some point in the future and say, sorry, we're going to phase you out and we don't want degree-granting institutions here anymore without triggering the possibility of a business damages claim for loss of future profits.

There's something of a potential trap here, I think we have to be careful, we have to think very carefully about this, but it's something that could be looked at in more detail, under more scrutiny if the matter came to this Legislature rather than being treated as a question, either purely for the bureaucracy or for the Cabinet.

Nova Scotia has a long and distinguished history with respect to its universities. The University of Kings College was first established in 1790. At that time, it was in

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Windsor. It was the first degree-granting institution in the British Commonwealth outside of the U.K. It's a distinguished entity, it's migrated to Halifax, but it was our first, followed by Acadia, followed by Saint Mary's and Dal, followed by other institutions, so that by the middle of the 1800s Nova Scotia was developing a university system.

In the book by the distinguished University of Toronto Professor of Education Robin Harris, called A History of Higher Education in Canada: 1663 - 1960, he points out the role of different religions in establishing universities - particularly here in Nova Scotia. I think his statement is, no university without a religion and no religion without its university.

I think we owe a debt of gratitude to the churches that founded these institutions. These institutions have evolved. Dalhousie, in particular, was founded so as to be an institution that embraced students of all faiths. That's really where we are with our institutions today.

Although you could look at these institutions and say nothing was more private than they when they started, that's not where we are today. These institutions were started with endowments and grants and private contributions, some from churches, some from some business people, some from the Crown, but small amounts. That was really the start of these institutions.

But that was the period from 1790 to end of the 19th Century. In the 20th Century, life changed enormously in the universities. They became what we now call public institutions. They all were established by Statute, they all have been recipients of public dollars in Nova Scotia, since, I think, at least 1920. That's about 85 years of public contributions through cash and policy and support to these institutions, which have become well-known throughout Canada and well-known internationally.

There are reasons that our institutions continue to attract high levels of research grant dollars and large numbers of students from elsewhere in Canada and abroad. It's because we have taken care to nurture them, taken care to develop high quality even though, in some periods under some administrations, there has been some measure of suspicion and hesitation about the universities.

When I consider what the future of our system could be, I see ahead of us an economic landscape in which education is the fundamental - I see education as being the only way forward for us in Nova Scotia, and the only way forward for us in Canada. It's true that Canada has what is often regarded as a resource-based economy. But, you know, unless people have a huge level of education, they will find it very difficult to get ahead. It is the best investment that an individual and a family can make for their own future. It is the best investment that a government can make for the future of its province,

[Page 1592]

and that means at every level; that means in the school system, that means in the community college system, and it means in the university system.

This is too important to be treated as if our degree-granting institutions were a business like any other. They're not. The future reputation of our province depends on the high quality of our universities, and if the government wishes to focus only on this, the economic future of our province depends on our university system.

I fail to see how it is that a proposal can come forward from the government that does not recognize that this House, as a whole, would want to be involved in scrutiny of any new degree-granting institution. I agree with the minister that there's a problem with our existing legislation. It's true that our existing legislation needs amendment, but it doesn't need this amendment.

To sum up, Mr. Speaker, let me say this, we are not inherently hostile to the possibility of additional degree-granting institutions being established in Nova Scotia. We are not inherently hostile to the possibility that some of these might well be private institutions in some measure. We're open to discussing this, but we're open to discussing it only with a focused, particular proposal that can come forward and be scrutinized by all members of this House. There are simply too many questions that would have to be asked, to leave it to the new mechanism that has been devised here.

[10:30 a.m.]

I'm sorry to say that unless there is some change, we're going to find it very difficult to support Bill No. 5 as presented to this House.

Thank you very much for the opportunity to make some comments.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Dartmouth East.

MS. JOAN MASSEY: Mr. Speaker, I'm pleased to rise today to talk about Bill No. 5, the Degree Granting Act, which deals with degree-granting institutions. We've heard the minister stand up and give an outline of what she thinks the bill will do. Just to reiterate some of the main points I heard her say were: that there are no private universities in Nova Scotia at the current time and that this bill would make amendments to the Act that would indeed give the province more regulatory authority over any new private institutions that were coming into the province; she stated that the Act, indeed, was out of date and that it hasn't been revised since 1989, so that is an issue; no private universities exist here now, but she does anticipate some in the near future by the sounds of it, so she is saying that we need to set forth some criteria before that occurs.

A lot of those things you can't deny are true or that some of these things need to be done. However, when you look at the bill and you read through it and listen to the

[Page 1593]

discussions from other members of the House here today and over the last few days, the bill opens up more questions than it gives answers to. Bringing the bill here is good in that this is the place where we stand and debate issues that we face in our constituency and even across the province. This is the place to bring it, it opens up the debate on the topic of education so it gives members here the chance to stand and talk about something that's very important to everybody in Nova Scotia. However, as I say, there are more questions than answers.

Some of the questions that I think I've heard in the last few days, and I still have not heard answered, are things like what actually is a public institution, what's a private institution - what's the definition of those things? Are we looking at changing the definition of those institutions? What is this bill actually trying to do? What are the flaws that are in the bill? I think we've heard from various speakers about some of those flaws. It opens up the question as to whether or not public funds will be used to support any of these institutions if they are allowed to set up. Of course all institutions look to have infrastructure for sports facilities or roads or these sorts of things. How does this bill address the issue of career colleges? I'm going to speak in more detail on that issue later on.

One of the biggest questions it sets forward is, why would we allow the minister to set standards, rules and regulations instead of the Legislature itself, the members dealing with that? Is this bill allowing the minister to micromanage? Why would we give the minister this much authority? Those are the questions, when you listen to people speak, that you hear, and we haven't had those questions answered.

Mr. Speaker, as I said, this bill allows us to stand and talk about various issues in the education system, because when you listen to people talk you can't help but think about some of those issues. What we're doing here is we're looking at another layer of an organization on top of what we already have. If we look at that, then we have to look at what's going on right now in the post-secondary education system and how many things that we haven't really set our mind to and we haven't fixed or addressed. One of the major issues right now in post-secondary education is the high cost of tuition fees - and we've seen them basically triple since 1990. If we're going to be in a province that has post-secondary education institutions then we need to be doing things that are going to attract some non-traditional groups and people with disabilities, more mature students that we need to come into our facilities - and we need to attract more women.

In order to do some of those things it broadens the scope. What do you need to do to attract more women? Well you need to provide affordable housing for single mums and you need to provide more child care facilities in neighbourhoods in which people live, so everything you talk about can spiral out into some other topic. It's hard to keep your thoughts in line and keep them in a pattern.

[Page 1594]

Right now in Nova Scotia we have, according to the Nova Scotia Community College's latest report that just came out yesterday, over 200,000 Nova Scotians over 20 years of age without a high school diploma. So that's a number that really is startling and yet here we are today talking about adding another layer of institutions, we're going to allow the possibility of these institutions coming into the province.

How are we going to deal with the problems we already have and then still add another layer onto that? We have the problem of rural students trying to enter post-secondary education and the struggles they face. A lot of the universities and the colleges are in the urban areas and as the previous member mentioned, of course there are economic windfalls because of that. But our rural students are suffering when the majority of them have to live away from home. The cost of rent when you're living away from home is an issue. They don't have a choice to stay at home, they have to pay the high rents they're facing.

So when you look at education and the process in which our young people enter, make a decision to go and continue their education, that's if they can make it through high school and from what we're seeing from the Nova Scotia Community College report is that some of our young people are not doing that. So there are a lot of issues around that.

There are issues in the way people can actually - the accessibility of our post-secondary education system. We have to look at ways to simplify and make the application process easier for students and parents to make their way through all of the student loan processes. One of the things we heard the other day from some student reps was that indeed, one of the issues is they don't actually get their student loan, they don't know they're going to have their student loan until they have already had to pay the registration fee. So the dates and the way that various mechanisms work in the Department of Education and with these institutions makes it hard on students.

If we're talking about rural students and the high costs they pay to get their education, we're talking about ways to keep Nova Scotian students in Nova Scotia and that brings us along to the issue of out-migration. A lot of our young people, indeed if they're lucky enough to make it through post-secondary education, that's with holding down a job that's probably going to take anywhere from 30 to 40 hours a week, 17 hours a week, who knows, on holding down a part-time job. Some of them have two or three part-time jobs, to live in some kind of manner. At the same time, many of them are paying off their student debts as they go through the process.

What happens to a lot of young people is when they do finish their education, they find, and I think we heard the other day that 28 per cent of students who graduate from a post-secondary education facility have a debt of around $40,000. So that's a big debt. What a lot of them end up doing is they decide - and not because they want to, but they have to - they feel they can no longer stay in this province because the jobs aren't

[Page 1595]

here. They will move out to Alberta because there are more jobs available, there is a higher hourly pay and they can pay off these student debts.

What that's doing to Nova Scotia, of course, is taking our best, our brightest, our people with the new ideas, out of our province and sending them somewhere else. You know they might not all come back and that's a shame. If we're talking about economic development, then our best people are leaving. If they aren't here to come up with new ideas for businesses and those sorts of things, then that's a loss for us.

Even though the bill is allowing us to look at maybe a different way of bringing other institutions in and indeed we need to look at always how we're going to regulate any kind of a new opportunity like that, we have to keep going back and looking at how are we doing in the business of education right now in the province. It's a business but it's a very specific kind of business that's - we're finding more and more - a necessity of life now. We hear all these figures on, if you don't have post-secondary education you're going to make this much money and if you do have it you'll make this much money.

So we need to find a way to improve the education system we have now. We have to look at the issues that our students are facing today and we've got students that have to go to a food bank. At the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design, when you have up to 200 to 400 students a month accessing a food bank, there's something really wrong with what we're doing in education. We heard from one of the student reps - and I'm trying to quote her exactly - basically saying that students in Nova Scotia are living below the poverty line. That's just not right. It's up to us here, as elected officials, to stand up and speak out for those students.

One of the issues around post-secondary education, of course, is the issue of, how are we looking after those institutions? How are we maintaining them? I think this is an issue certainly in the P-12 system, which I'm very familiar with. I think the Halifax Regional School Board probably has a deferred maintenance budget of well over $50 million. I have a high school in my area that's supposed to have $8-something million of deferred maintenance work done on it. Who knows if or when that will ever be done, because I can never seem to get the answer I want.

We're talking about allowing other institutions to come into the province, and we're talking about how they're going to be funded. Are they going to end up being funded by us? If we can't fund the institutions we have already, if we can't keep a new roof on our schools, if we can't replace the floor in a school, if we can't take the carpets out of a library because they're moldy and these sorts of things, what are we doing here?

In my constituency, for example, if we're talking about infrastructure, I have the Nova Scotia Community College and 25 years ago the students built a rink and pool facilities. Well, the rink facility has been used by our community. It has been used by

[Page 1596]

Eastern Passage. It has been used by Cole Harbour and people come from all over to use that rink. That rink is a piece of infrastructure. Now, the college is saying they can't afford to keep the rink going as a rink because there are all of these costs involved in maintaining it. Although I have heard from somebody and I haven't had it substantiated yet whether or not there was a new roof put on it two years ago.

How are going to upgrade and fix the facilities we already have? We're saying now we're going to have some other organizations come in, and how is that going to affect the amount of money flowing already?

So if I go back to the Nova Scotia Community College topic with the rink, the college is telling us they need that space to provide some programming. So they're saying they need the space to bring students in to provide this programming that students need. So the rink can't be used as a rink anymore. Well, this brings to light the whole issue of how does government work together in this province? If you have rinks that are normally provided by the municipality, which is HRM, but yet you have a rink in a community college that the Department of Education runs, how do these two layers of government work together?

Well, in 2004, they were working together because they did an indoor facility plan in 2004, and the Department of Health Promotion and Protection took part in that plan. When that plan was done, the Dartmouth East community took part in that and said here's what we need in our community. HRM was listening, and the Department of Health Promotion and Protection was listening, I'm assuming, and they decided that what we needed was a community centre. We were the last old part of the old city that never had a community centre. So I'll give credit to the government here, it gave us some money. We got federal funding, HRM gave us some funding, and we are building a community centre. The tenders are out.

Unfortunately, then we come to the process - or where the ball was dropped, I don't know, but somewhere the communication broke down and we ended up with a community college that has a rink and are saying, well, we can't keep the rink open anymore. There's nothing in this document, in the facility plan that says there's any rink to replace that because, of course, there was a rink there.

So I'm concerned about, you know, we have a bill here today, Bill No. 5, that says here's what we want to do. There's a bunch of questions involved in it that we don't have the answers to, and if the Department of Education, the Halifax Regional Municipality, and the Department of Health Promotion and Protection, if all these departments can't work together on something as - you know, it's big to a lot of people, but it is a rink, it is a rink. Somehow they didn't communicate or something happened, I have serious doubts as to whether or not they can make this bill work, or they would actually know what they're doing.

[Page 1597]

In fact, a consultation process, even within HRM, or here, I found out that Wednesday there was a meeting between HRM, the Department of Health Promotion and Protection, the Minister of Education, and I requested to be at that meeting in regard to the rink and was told I couldn't come. Now, I'm the elected official - X amount of people marked on a ballot that they wanted me to represent them. Well, I want them to know today that I was not allowed to go to represent them.

So, Mr. Speaker, even when we're here, and we're elected, sometimes we don't have a say. If we're talking about opening educational facilities, those discussions need to take place here. We're the people who have been elected who need to be making those decisions, not the Minister of Education.

Mr. Speaker, I would like at this time to make some comments that were passed along to me by the honourable member for Waverley-Fall River-Beaver Bank who had to go to a Remembrance Day ceremony. Some of the things he wanted me to pass along are very similar to what I wanted to say, and they really have to do with the issue of career colleges. It's basically along the lines of what I've been saying already, that if we're not doing it right, now, with what we have, and we're struggling big time, how are we going to move to some other kind of a structure?

I think the minister said that the world of higher education has changed, and the honourable member for Waverley-Fall River-Beaver Bank agrees with that, but he wants me to let the minister know, if she's listening, that we have some issues around career colleges. They come and they go. I've had that happen. I've had issues with a constituent in my area who has had problems with a career college. Sometimes career colleges just leave the student high and dry. They leave the student holding the bag, let's say. What kind of clear outcomes do these community colleges have for students?

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please.

The honourable Minister of Service Nova Scotia and Municipal Relations.

HON. JAMES MUIR: Mr. Speaker, I just was listening to the debate of the honourable member for Dartmouth East. She was talking about the career colleges leaving students high and dry. For the information of her and others, there was an incident some number of years ago, a rather major thing, and as a result of that, there was legislation and measures put into place in this province so that cannot happen again.

MR. SPEAKER: Thank you for the information.

The honourable member for Dartmouth East, please continue.

MS. MASSEY: Mr. Speaker, through you to the member opposite, thank you for letting me know that. I do have a constituent who, whether or not that bill is passed, is

[Page 1598]

still having problems. It is really around the issue of contracts and whether they exist or don't exist with some of these career colleges or private institutions or institutes or whatever you want to call them. So I have a real person who has real problems with it, so that is what I'm trying to say here today. So there are still problems with them.

I am not saying that every career college, every student who is going to every career college, don't get me wrong, is having a problem but I have one constituent who has a problem with it. So that's my job, to look out for my constituents, it is what I try to do.

The honourable member for Waverley-Fall River-Beaver Bank would like to point out some of the things I have pointed out, we have problems in the public school system already. So who is looking out for the student here? Who is looking out, if some of these organizations are a private business, they are looking out for the bottom line, that is the dollar sign. Who is looking out for the students? So if we have problems in the public school system, we have problems, the honourable member for Waverley-Fall River-Beaver Bank, that we need to address with our Black learners.

We have seen the government had the BLAC report; it hasn't been fully implemented I don't believe, Mr. Speaker. We have high dropout rates, we really don't even know what they are. I think they are over 20 per cent in the Halifax Regional School Board. We have kids just dropping out. What are we going to do with these children? We have literacy problems, we have adult literacy problems, we have math skills problems in this province. So the honourable member for Waverley-Fall River-Beaver Bank is at a loss as to why the minister wants to add another layer on the problems we already have. What he is saying and I have to agree with him, if we already have all these problems, we're going to pile more on. He appreciates the spirit of the bill but what about the current issues we are all facing with our students and our teachers? For example, when children and teachers come in from other provinces or, indeed, other countries. We're not at the same levels, even the same grade levels. The teachers sometimes don't reach the - they are not at the equivalent level of our teachers and they have to either upgrade or what have you. So that's just one small part of the equation.

He is wondering if this is actually going to open a floodgate to yet another layer of issues in the province. So he wants to know if her department is going to sit in judgment on this new layer and set standards for them. So we want to know, is that a reasonable expectation?

As I said, I do actually have a constituent who has had a problem with an institute that he was involved with. He was promised, or thought, he was taken on a tour of a facility and told this is where we are going to operate out of, we are going to have these teachers with these credentials. Then, after they were there for a bit, they moved somewhere else, into cramped quarters, cramped spaces. They weren't the teachers they expected and he is wondering what is his recourse because it is a business. So, other than

[Page 1599]

him going to court, and he has to have a lawyer do that and he has to have money and he doesn't because he just simply doesn't have that. So who is going to protect our constituents from things like this happening?

Mr. Speaker, we can ask questions around this bill and I mentioned some of them and some of the problems. How is it going to affect the resources that we already have, that we are struggling. We know that we are not putting the right resources into the education system and something is wrong, so how is it going to affect that? I guess my bottom line, where I'm coming from today is, and what was the consultation process on this bill. If I have issues with consultation in just my little community of Dartmouth East, on a small rink, who has the department, who has the Cabinet consulted with on this? Have they consulted with the teachers? The faculty associations?

So I have two major points here, it is resources and consultation, those are the two things. But, as one of our honourable members had mentioned, the member for Halifax Citadel, as I sat here earlier and listened to him speak he gave a great history lesson on public institutions, some things that I didn't know. So from sitting here listening to him, I think those are great things that we need to protect. We're not investing in our students in the province, we're falling behind, and I don't think we can just look at this as another business opportunity - it's bigger than that. We're talking about our youth in this province and what's going to happen to their future.

So there are problems with this legislation as it sits, and I think we do need to have more discussion on it. With that, Mr. Speaker, I will end my debate. Thank you.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Leader of the Opposition.

MR. DARRELL DEXTER: Mr. Speaker, I'm pleased to rise this morning to join in the debate on Bill No. 5 with respect to degree-granting institutions. I know this subject has been canvassed already by many members of our caucus, and I think they've laid out for the Speaker and for the members of the government some of the concerns that we have with this bill. I want to say that I also have considerable difficulty with taking the Legislature out of the process, out of the oversight of the granting of degrees in this province.

I suppose all of us in this House rely to a large degree on the experiences we've had. I had the opportunity throughout my life to attend two very fine institutions, the University of Kings College and Dalhousie University, and I put a great deal of value on what I received from those institutions. The knowledge, the education I received as a result of my time there is part of the makeup of who I am, it's part of what I bring to bear in the debates we have here, what I bring to bear on my analysis of the various matters that are important to the public of the province. So it's something that I place a great deal of value on.

[Page 1600]

In addition, I had an opportunity to compare the difference between the graduation from the University of King's College and the university at Dalhousie with a graduation ceremony that I attended to watch my brother-in-law graduate from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. MIT is a well-known, world-renowned institution, and every year it graduates many of those who will go on to become important figures in the United States and the world over.

When I was there attending this graduation, the guest speaker was a former graduate of MIT and he was the President of the Country of Colombia - just to give you some idea of the people who are graduating from these institutions and what they go on to achieve in their lives.

[11:00 a.m.]

But what was so interesting to me about the graduation from MIT was that - as you might imagine, it's a very large institution, so they were holding their graduation ceremony in the quad and they had, literally, rows and rows of chairs as far as the eye could see, a very large graduating class, and I remember moving in and finding a seat and getting ready to observe the ceremony and it struck me how different the graduation ceremony from MIT was from my own graduation - the first order of business on the agenda for the graduation at MIT was a report to the shareholders of MIT. They convened the annual meeting of the shareholders of MIT and did a report as part of the graduation ceremonies.

This is something that - I mean the difference was so shocking, but the idea was that this was, of course, a private institution. They talked about the product they were delivering, it was all couched in terms of a private business. As a model MIT is one of the most successful institutions in the U.S. and perhaps in the world. But it brings very clearly to the forefront that question of whether or not the road that you want to go down is toward a province that has and lends its name to private institutions, private degree-granting institutions. I think the appropriate place for that debate, if that is the manner in which we intend to proceed in this province, then I believe that where that debate ought to take place is not behind the closed doors of the minister's office, it's here in the House of Assembly.

That's the first thing, Mr. Speaker, is that it brings to the forefront of the debate the whole question of public institutions versus private institutions in the delivery of post-secondary education. The second thing is the whole question of accountability. I have to say I have been one of those who have been very disappointed with the accountability of this government. It seems that almost every bill that comes before the House of Assembly is essentially a shell, it is a statement of principles that lays out some broad aspects that the government intends to deal with. Then we get to the regulatory section which essentially cedes to the minister and the Governor in Council the right to make all of the substantive decisions around the implementation of the general purpose

[Page 1601]

of the bill. This takes away from the people, it takes away from the Legislature, that accountability which I think should be the hallmark of the work that we do here.

I would just point out a number of examples in the Insurance Act, they talked about what they were going to do in the Insurance Act with respect to the whole question of what minor injuries were. Then they brought in regulations that went far beyond what I think anybody expected was going to happen with respect to that Act and that had an extraordinary punitive effect on many, many injured people in this province. That was something that was done without any real accountability to the House of Assembly. You will remember that they used the Order in Council process to retroactively approve increases in rates of insurance after they had brought in their freeze, this was part of what happened - they froze insurance rates - and then went back retroactively and approved applications that had been before the Utility and Review Board.

What was so insidious about it was they did it on December 23rd, just before Christmas, so that people wouldn't notice. Then instead of actually putting it in the Order in Council they made it a part of a schedule that they attached to another Order in Council, so you actually had to be lucky enough as a researcher to get in and find it. That heightens people's cynicism and skepticism about the way in which the regulatory powers that the government gives to itself are used or abused in these matters. So I'm not at all confident that there will be any real debate around these questions when it comes to degree granting institutions.

I'll give you another example. In this House there were changes and amendments made to the Labour Standards Act that had to do with hours of work and overtime and matters relating to the application of those to particular aspects of employment across the province. The Act itself is actually very specific and very clear and what the government did is by regulation go in and essentially rolled back what the legislation actually said. As I've said before, I think in the end if that ever gets challenged that those regulations may well find themselves outside of the jurisdiction of the government to do, being in contravention of the Act itself. That hasn't happened to date, but I think it is a good indication of the willingness of the government to use its regulatory powers in a way that is actually contrary to the Act itself.

Perhaps the best and most well-known of these examples, of the abuse of regulatory power by the government, has to do now with the Retail Business Uniform Closing Day Act, where the government has used regulations to essentially do the exact opposite of what the Act sets out. The Act sets out the manner in which retail closings are going to be administered, and what the regulations do is wipe out any restrictions on retail closing at all. As I said, I think that this is the type of thing that, if challenged, would likely result in those regulations being struck down as well.

Ironically, those changes to regulations were done in response to changes in regulations that were struck down by the court. So the government has shown a kind of

[Page 1602]

cavalier attitude toward the use of its regulatory powers and a willingness to use it to go well beyond what the intended purpose of the legislation was. I think this is part of what feeds the skepticism and cynicism around what would actually happen if this power was given to the minister under this Act.

Now, the concern I have on the other side - and I'm trying to give a balanced view of this debate - the problem I have on the other side is what is the status quo? If we do not have a piece of legislation, is it possible for the government already to move and do that which it's trying to regularize as a result of this Act? I think that's an open question. I think it may well be the case that the government already has the power to do much of what is encapsulated within the terms of this particular bill.

I'm not going to take up a lot of your time this morning, Mr. Speaker. As I said, I thought my colleagues, in discussing this piece of legislation, pointed out many of what I consider to be the flaws in the legislation. I would just make this final point. If the reputation of the province, with respect to the granting of degrees, is going to be on the line, if the public confidence in those degree-granting institutions is going to be on the line, then surely the responsibility for the public debate around the granting of this privilege should rest with the Legislature.

Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker.

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

The honourable Minister of Education.

HON. KAREN CASEY: Mr. Speaker, I want to thank all of the members opposite who took the time to prepare to speak to this bill. I'm very pleased to note that we are one voice when we speak about the quality of post-secondary education in our province, and the enviable place that Nova Scotia holds on that academic landscape.

The amendments to this bill do speak to a process that is designed to protect that quality. It speaks to a process that will allow universities to make application, and once that application is received there will be a complete assessment and they will be assessed, the application will be assessed on their academic history of the university, the financial stability, the credentials of the professors, and the quality of the programs that they want to offer. This, I believe, can only serve to protect that enviable place and that high quality that we currently have in our province. I've noted the concerns that were raised with respect to the regulatory powers, and I would suggest that could be addressed at the Law Amendments Committee.

So having said that, Mr. Speaker, I would ask that you call a vote for second reading on Bill No. 5 the Degree Granting Act, and move the bill forward to the Law Amendments Committee.

[Page 1603]

MR. SPEAKER: Thank you. The motion before the House is for second reading of Bill No. 5. Is the House ready for the question?

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

The motion of carried.

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

The honourable Deputy Government House Leader.

MR. PATRICK DUNN: Mr. Speaker, would you please call Bill No. 70.

Bill No. 70 - Provincial Fish Act.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Preston.

MR. KEITH COLWELL: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. It gives me great pleasure to rise on this Bill No. 70, an Act to Declare the Brook Trout to be the Provincial Fish of Nova Scotia. There have been many people in this province who have enjoyed many long hours on the streams and lakes of Nova Scotia, fishing for the brook trout and seeing it jump. It's also a monitor for the environment, too. Where the brook trout can live it has to be very clean and pristine water. So it's with great pleasure that I move this on and hopefully we'll have some interesting discussion on it. Thank you.

MR. SPEAKER: Thank you. The honourable member for Pictou West.

MR. CHARLES PARKER: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I couldn't pass up the opportunity to speak about the brook trout or about fishing. I'm not going to tell you a fish story but I do want to rise in support of the private member who has introduced this bill, I think it's a good one. I, too, have had many pleasant hours of memories of fishing on the brooks and streams and rivers of this province. The brook trout, or the brookie as it's sometimes known, is a good choice. There are about 20 species of inland fish in this province and this is probably the best choice out of those 20.

The brook trout as you know, Mr. Speaker, it is a beautiful fish. It ranges up to two feet long, but it's normally less than a foot in most of our streams and brooks in this province. It's sort of a fish with a dark back and a light underbelly, sort of a cream or an orange or a red speckled trout. It's sometimes called the speckled trout as well. Actually it's not a trout at all, it's actually a char. Its scientific name escapes me at the moment but it's a fish that likes clear, cold water. I know Trout Nova Scotia is a private group of anglers who have worked hard to improve the habitat for trout in this province. Also, with the inland fisheries, with the Office of the Department of Fisheries I think it is, they have worked on habitat improvement. Just recently there was a habitat stamp that was

[Page 1604]

added to the fishing licence, money that went to improve the streams and brooks and rivers in this province, and I think that's a good thing.

Adopt a Stream is the official name of the program, I think. I know the Pictou County Rivers Association has done a lot of work in Pictou County on that particular project. Every April 1st, I and many other anglers in this province look forward to getting out there and going after the brook trout. It's economically valuable to Nova Scotia, something like $20 million is the income produced from the anglers who spend their money in this province.

So again, Mr. Speaker, I think it's a good choice. I stand in support of the private member who brought this forward, under Private Members' Bills. I commend my colleagues to this bill and hope that they too will be able to support it. Thank you.

[11:15 a.m.]

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of Health.

HON. CHRISTOPHER D'ENTREMONT: Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker. I am very honoured to stand and speak for a couple of minutes on the proposed bill and I want to thank the member for Preston for bringing this bill forward to discuss a fish, an elusive fish that many people have spent hours and hours trying to find.

I know that the honourable member for Cumberland North spends a huge amount of time playing in the rivers of Nova Scotia trying to find some of those elusive fish.

Mr. Speaker, I do want to question though, just for a few moments, why inland fish? Why couldn't we have taken maybe an ocean-faring fish? Why couldn't it have been a haddock? Why couldn't it have been a cod? We have lots of fish that, of course, also contribute to the well-being of Nova Scotians financially, to the way of life of Nova Scotians as well, but I do enjoy and fully support the idea of the brook trout and where it resides in our rivers and byways, of course, through Nova Scotia.

Ultimately I, myself, am not an angler. I've tried. I do believe sometimes I can't sit long enough, to stand and throw that line out, it seems like something I would rather do than some other things I tend to enjoy in life, but ultimately (Interruption) Maybe I can take up with the member opposite, maybe we can go out fishing some day and he can show me exactly how to do it because the times as a child, outside of a few rainbow trout, I haven't been able to catch a brook trout yet, and maybe some day we'll get around to learning how to do that. Maybe the lure is wrong, maybe the fishing rod, maybe I'm in a river where there are no fish, I'm not too sure.

I know in our neck of the woods, Mr. Speaker, inland fish are a tad scarce, whether it be on the Tusket, whether it be on the river through Salmon River, in the

[Page 1605]

constituency of Clare. Unfortunately, maybe I come from a time when fish weren't so plentiful as maybe some of the members opposite come from a different generation than I, such as the member for Timberlea-Prospect who I'm sure is a fair amount older than I am. He does have long fish stories which I'm sure are important, but I know that members on this side of the House are enjoying the idea, or really thinking of the idea of the brook trout as being a provincial fish. Of course, we have provincial flowers and I think we actually now have a provincial fishing fly.

AN HON. MEMBER: A provincial dog.

MR. D'ENTREMONT: A dog which, of course, was bred in my constituency, in Little River, of course the Little River duck toller, the Nova Scotia duck toller now, I think is the common name for it. So, all to the support of our great province, and I look forward to seeing further discussions on this bill as it goes forward.

Mr. Speaker, I will now take my place and maybe somebody else can have this discussion.

MR. SPEAKER: If recognize the honourable member for Preston it will be to close the debate.

MR. KEITH COLWELL: Mr. Speaker, I do appreciate the support from the other Parties on this bill and, indeed, as I was growing up as a child, when a lot of other people were playing baseball and doing other things, I was on the rivers and the lakes fishing. It has a very special place for me and anybody who spends those hours there that are so quiet and so pleasant, the time just evaporates on you. I'll take the honourable member on a fishing trip any time he wants and I guarantee you'll catch a brook trout. I can probably take you in your own area and catch a brook trout there as well.

So it's a real pleasure to do this and anyone who hasn't experienced the quiet of a stream and a lake is really missing something in life that is very enjoyable. A lot of people spend a lot of time doing this and, indeed, it's nice to see Trout Nova Scotia and other organizations now starting really to work hard to preserve the habitat and make sure that for many generations to come we'll have this fish and many other fish in our communities and all the wildlife we have that will help make our province a better place and a stronger place to live. With that, I move second reading of Bill No. 70, An Act to Declare the Brook Trout to be the Provincial Fish of Nova Scotia.

MR. SPEAKER: The motion is for second reading of Bill No. 70. 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.

[Page 1606]

The honourable Deputy Government House Leader.

MR. PATRICK DUNN: Mr. Speaker, would you please call Bill No. 69.

Bill No. 69 - Maintenance Enforcement Act.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Preston.

MR. KEITH COLWELL: On behalf of my colleague, our Leader, I would like to move second reading of Bill No. 69.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Dartmouth East.

MS. JOAN MASSEY: Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to stand here today and speak on Bill No. 69 which deals with the Maintenance Enforcement Act. The bill in the explanatory notes does set out a method for the government to refuse fathers that have not made their enforcement payments. It allows them to refuse these dads from either getting their fishing and hunting licence or it allows them to cancel them if they already have them, if they're not making the enforcement payments. It also allows the government to withhold money over $1,000 if it's won by these dads through the Lottery Corporation. The government still has to set out ways to implement the system which allows them to do that with the licences and it also has to negotiate with Atlantic Lottery Corporation. We don't know how they're going to do that, it's not set out here in the bill.

I wanted to stand and talk about this this morning because I do have a couple of ladies in my constituency who have faced this issue with the lack of payments from their ex-spouses the fathers of their children. I really don't understand how not letting these dads go fishing or hunting is going to put food on the table for these ladies or pay their rent. So I don't really know how that's going to monetarily help these ladies. The Lottery Corporation - anything over $1,000 - I don't understand, why isn't it $500? Where did that amount come from? If somebody can't pay the rent and it's $625, they could use that $1,000, so I'm not sure how much of the money is going to go to the mothers.

I've actually had one instance in my constituency where the mom, the employer of the dad, the father of the children, actually was making deductions off his paycheck for renting of a rental facility that he had and also for costs that apparently this fellow had incurred at his place of employment. So when those deductions were made off the cheque he decided he didn't have enough money to pay her the enforcement payment and that's when she came to me for help. She was having a problem contacting, going through all the red tape, because apparently when you call you have a file number and you never get to speak to a real person when you're calling through there. Now our offices can make it through but people have to leave a message, their file number, social insurance and all of these things and you wait for a call back. This is telephone tag - we've all played that, all of us in here - and telephone tag is a little bit easier for us, it's

[Page 1607]

not quite as easy for constituents. In the end, as far as I know it worked out. The appropriate people sent a letter to the employer saying no, the enforcement payment comes off first.

This is happening, if it's happening to one person it's happening to others so I don't know how the government's going to address that specific issue. These ladies - one of them in fact - is trying to go back and further her education and she actually wants to become a lawyer. She wants to work in the system to help fight the injustices that are being done for these moms who are trying to get these payments from the fathers of their children. These moms are struggling with trying to pay the rent, trying to put food on the table, buying school supplies, they're having to go to the food bank and things like this because they simply cannot get the money from these guys.

There are other ways the government could be dealing with this situation and it's through providing easily accessible child care facilities in neighbourhoods in which these ladies live. They could be going after Nova Scotia Power on these power rate hikes because these people can't afford to pay their heat sometimes because fathers are not paying their enforcement payments or lowering the cost of post-secondary education.

I'm not going to go into all the ways the government could be helping these ladies. I just fail to see - I mean, I guess it's not going to hurt anything - how the guy not going fishing or hunting is going to put food - or pay the rent. Mr. Speaker, with that, I'm going to stop. Thank you.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of Justice.

HON. MURRAY SCOTT: Mr. Speaker, it's a pleasure to rise today in response to an Opposition bill. I would like to point out some comments made just a few minutes ago, that members should realize this is not a government bill that's being brought forward, it's a bill by the members of the Opposition. So some of the issues that have been talked about are issues that actually would cause us, we believe, some great concern in regard to the implementation of this bill, particularly the issue around tracking. Presently, my understanding is there is no process in place that would allow the Maintenance Enforcement Program or any government department to be able to determine how you would be able to track those types of cases that are being suggested in the bill. That's one of the concerns we had.

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise today in support of this amendment which will further strengthen our Maintenance Enforcement Program here in this province. The Maintenance Enforcement Program began in January 1996, and it was as a result of a need to address difficulties experienced by spouses and children who are not receiving their court-ordered maintenance payments. This program is mandatory, meaning that any support order that's issued in Nova Scotia is automatically registered with the Maintenance Enforcement Program.

[Page 1608]

The program is offered through seven offices around the province, with an annual budget of $2.1 million. Currently, there are more than 17,000 active cases within the Maintenance Enforcement Program in this province. Nova Scotia, not unlike other provinces, the vast majority of these maintenance orders are specifically for children.

Approximately half these cases are straightforward payments that do not require enforcement measures or intervention by the Maintenance Enforcement Program because they are in compliance. Some of these cases, the programs act as a buffer when there is a negative relationship at that time. When enforcement is required, we are able to take steps to enforce payment.

Currently, to enforce orders, we are able to garnish income sources in many ways, including some of which are through wages, bank accounts, rental income, federal income interception, for example, income tax, unemployment, or GST rebates, liens on both real and personal property; and demands for information - payer examinations, collapsing of pensions, and cancellation of driver's licence privileges in this province.

Nova Scotia also has reciprocal agreements in place for the rest of Canada, United States, and many foreign countries. Last year we collected approximately $53 million on behalf of clients in this province. This is out of approximately $67 million owed by payers, which represents a 78 per cent collection rate in the province. Mr. Speaker, I can tell you this rate compares favourably with the other Canadian jurisdictions across this country.

The Maintenance Enforcement Program has a significant impact on the lives of Nova Scotians involved in maintenance orders. We've made a number of program and legislative improvements since it was introduced 10 years ago, and we continue to work toward ensuring we have the best system possible in this country. In fact, last year, five additional positions were created within the Maintenance Enforcement Program.

Mr. Speaker, on behalf of the government, I certainly support this step to add another enforcement measure with regard to the collection of maintenance enforcement orders that are levied in the courts in this province. We need to do all we can to make sure families receive their payments, and that people are living up to their court-ordered obligations.

[11:30 a.m.]

I think it's important this House and all members know that I have a lot of respect for all those individuals who are working within the Maintenance Enforcement Program across this province. We have a lot of dedicated people who work very, very hard and work within very trying, at most times, situations to ensure families, especially children, receive the monies that are owed to them. I think it's incumbent that we as legislators

[Page 1609]

acknowledge that those dedicated people do very well with regard to what's being offered to them.

I know I've heard some comments today about not being able to get through to those workers. I can tell you, in my own situation, I've had 100 per cent co-operation with all those folks, and they have returned their calls. When they're contacted and asked to return calls and respond to concerns on behalf of constituents, they do respond. They do respond. I think they are very dedicated employees, and I think they deserve the respect of all legislators and, absolutely, of this House of Assembly.

Mr. Speaker, I certainly, on behalf of the government, support in principle these amendments being put forward by the Liberal Party. With that, I will offer our support for Bill No. 69 being sent to the Law Amendments Committee.

MR. SPEAKER: The motion is for second reading of Bill No. 69. 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. PATRICK DUNN: Mr. Speaker, I would call for a brief recess at this time.

MR. SPEAKER: A short recess has been called.

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

We will have a short recess.

[11:31 a.m. The House recessed.]

[11:35 a.m. The House reconvened.]

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. We will call the House back to order.

The honourable Deputy Government House Leader.

MR. PATRICK DUNN: Mr. Speaker, would you please call Bill No. 68.

Bill No. 68 - Pension Benefits Act.

[Page 1610]

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Leader of the Liberal Party. (Applause)

MR. MICHEL SAMSON: Mr. Speaker (Interruptions) Yes, it's Friday and bizarre things can happen on a Friday, but it's a pleasure for me to stand here and move second reading of Bill No. 68. I certainly thank my colleagues for moving Bill No. 67, prior to this, and even the applause as I stand for Bill No. 68.

Mr. Speaker, quite quickly, Bill No. 68 is meant to amend the Pension Benefits Act so that individuals can access their locked-in RRSPs - Registered Retirement Savings Plans - when there is deemed to be considerable financial hardship. Now I can tell you that this is legislation that came forward as a result of, in my own case, as an MLA for Richmond, at least two to three instances where constituents came forward with the fact that they did have, in one case, a significant amount of savings in RRSPs that they were unable to access under the existing legislation here in Nova Scotia.

Just for the members' information, right now in our province individuals can only access locked-in RRSPs in two instances: (a) 10 years before the established retirement age and (b) if there is deemed to be a considerably shortened life expectancy. So I think we can read from that, Mr. Speaker, that basically if someone is suffering from a life-threatening illness, there is a means of being able to unlock those, but the question becomes, is that enough to encompass the different circumstances people find themselves in?

Mr. Speaker, as I mentioned before, I have had a variety in my own constituency. I had a gentleman who had been a tradesperson all of his life and he was on Canada Pension, disability, he's suffering from various ailments, and he did have one of these locked-in RRSPs as part of his pension plan with the union. It took us approximately five years before we were able to get him access to that money, knowing his medical condition, knowing that he was on disability. That certainly brought to me the challenges we face here in our province.

On the flip side, I also had a middle-aged lady, in fact probably younger than that, with a couple of young children. She had been let go from her employment and she was going through hard times and she was facing bankruptcy, the loss of her home, the loss of her vehicle, yet she had $70,000 in locked-in RRSPs from her previous employment. So can you imagine that a single mother, with children, was going to be put out of her home, lost the vehicle, and yet she had $70,000 sitting in locked-in RRSPs, which, under our present legislation, were impossible for her to get any portion of that.

Mr. Speaker, what Bill No. 68 will do is allow the Superintendent of Pensions to unlock the locked-in RRSPs, if there is considerable financial hardship. The superintendent will accept applications and make the determination, pursuant to the regulations outlined, once the bill is approved by the Legislature. The instances of access for considerable financial hardship may include, for example, in the legislation where

[Page 1611]

it talks about the possible loss of the owner's principal residence or where the owner could face eviction if a certain debt remains unpaid. There is also where the owner, his or her spouse or dependant, has incurred or will incur medical expenses for treatment of an illness or physical disability of any of them, and the expenses claimed are reasonable and not subject to reimbursement from any other source. There is a whole host of new provisions that would be available now to the superintendent.

Mr. Speaker, for the information of members of this House, this type of legislation is most notably already in two jurisdictions in Canada - Alberta and Ontario. Since the creation of the Ontario provision, up until 2005, the government in that province has unlocked roughly $500 million of previously locked-in pension money. We do recognize that this is a significant amount of money which has been accessed by these individuals who have been faced with financial hardships and need access to their own assets immediately. There can be immediate damage which may have extreme, long-term consequences for individuals when they fall into bad times financially, and we certainly know of some of the examples that I have given before.

Mr. Speaker, people under the significant financial hardship, their immediate concern is certainly not their retirement and being able to access these funds may be a necessity for them. Access to their paid pension benefits or RRSPs may be able to help them move on to better financial times; with government financial support not being sufficient at times, there may be no other alternative.

Mr. Speaker, we are certainly a Party that's promoting that Nova Scotians do have savings for their retirement but, at the same time, it's important that we, as legislators, and as a province recognize that Nova Scotians will sometimes find themselves in situations, whether through illness or whether through other circumstances, that they face extremely tough financial times and yet we need to allow a system where the Superintendent of Pensions would be able to evaluate those circumstances and determine what course of action should be followed.

Mr. Speaker, it's certainly our hope through Bill No. 68 we are going to be able to generate some debate amongst members here in the House. I do hope that members who have been able to incur these types of situations will certainly be aware of the importance of this legislation. Our caucus has heard from a number of financial planners who have congratulated us for bringing this matter forward for the fact that Nova Scotia had such strict rules in the past and that this would actually be a means of being able to open up our legislation a bit more carefully.

Mr. Speaker, my understanding just as of this morning there may be some concerns about other forms of pensions that might be impacted by this legislation. Allow me to say right now, we are very open to hearing any concerns about Bill No. 68; if there are concerns about other pension plans we're more than open to hearing those. I believe all members of the House will agree this is a bill that is meant to try to help Nova

[Page 1612]

Scotians who find themselves in extremely difficult circumstances, and I don't think anybody in this House would disagree with that. If there are amendments that can make this bill stronger, that can protect certain pension plans, we are more than open to that and allow me to give that message to all of my colleagues today - we are open to that.

We are pleased that the government has already previously indicated an interest in seeing such legislation go forward because of the principle that's trying to be achieved here in our province. We don't want to see a situation where Nova Scotians end up spending all of their savings for their retirement and then find themselves in financial difficulty in their retirement. At the same time let's make sure we allow a system to be put in place through the superintendent that can use common sense and good judgment to address people's specific financial needs that they may find themselves in.

With that, Mr. Speaker, I again thank the government for calling this legislation and I do look forward to the comments from the honourable colleagues in this House and as well look forward to the Law Amendments Committee process and any comments or concerns which might come from that and, more importantly, any abilities that will make this legislation even stronger. I'm pleased to move second reading of Bill No. 68.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Halifax Needham.

MS. MAUREEN MACDONALD: Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker. First of all I would like to say to the honourable member with respect to the sentiments that he has expressed with respect to why this bill has been brought forward that certainly those are sentiments that are shared, I think, quite widely by members of this Legislature. There probably isn't anybody here who hasn't been approached by a member of their constituency who is in dire financial straits and facing real hardship and the circumstances are so compelling that we don't all relate to the difficulties of our constituents around these situations. I guess we would differ from the honourable member in the remedies that are being proposed with Bill No. 68.

[11:45 a.m.]

Mr. Speaker, I tend to feel that social programs in this country have been eviscerated at both the federal and provincial levels and quite often this is why people are in the situations they are in. Our unemployment insurance program is a joke for people who become unemployed, and certainly other forms of income support are completely inadequate to support people who end up in dire straits. The question is, what are the remedies that need to be in place to protect people when they face catastrophic drug costs, when they have illnesses, when they find themselves thrown out of the labour force through no fault of their own.

I want to say right at the outset that we had an extensive conversation in the NDP caucus with respect to Bill No. 68. It's not the first time that this caucus has had lots of

[Page 1613]

discussion around a bill called Bill No. 68, but certainly with respect to this particular Bill No. 68 we had a lot of discussion. We were unanimous in our thinking about this bill. We think this is not good public policy. Mr. Speaker, I will tell you a bit more why we think this is not good public policy.

There has been a period in the history of our province and our country when seniors were among the most poor people you could find in our communities. That changed with an emphasis on pension reform, both public and private. Over the years one of the pieces of good public policy was, in fact, to encourage employers and employees to contribute to pension plans and to lock in those contributions so that they would be available for people in their retirement and people would not be able, tempted, to dip into those savings from time to time when they were experiencing some financial squeeze in their households or what have you.

Face it, Mr. Speaker, the pressures on people today to look to those pension savings are probably greater than they have ever been. We have a transformed labour market where there's no such thing as a job for life anymore. So many, many members of our labour force face the ongoing insecurity of being in and out of the labour force. For older workers - and an older worker now is not somebody who's in their 60s, they can be in their late 40s - an older worker may be facing very difficult prospects for getting back into the labour force certainly at the same rate of pay and with the same kinds of benefits that they may have previously enjoyed in a job.

So these circumstances put a great deal of pressure on workers, and on earners. It makes the pressure to access those pension contributions greater, there's no question about it. Mr. Speaker, you have to ask yourself what will happen to those people when they turn 65? What sources of income will they have to draw from if they exhaust their pension savings early in life? The provisions today in our legislation in fact allow for pensions that are locked in to be released under certain conditions if the person is within 10 years of retirement; I think, in fact, there's a bit of a ceiling, if the amount of money that is in an RRSP, for example, isn't greater than $15,000, I believe you can get access to small amounts of money.

Mr. Speaker, I have to say I'm flabbergasted when I hear that in the Province of Ontario that $500 million has been released from what previously were locked-in plans. That is a significant amount of pension income that would be there and available for people in their retirement. What will happen to people who exhaust their private plans? The public system has essentially not kept up very well with the real cost of living. We've seen very small annual increases in both the Canada Pension Plan and in the Old Age Security Plan.

Not so long ago, there was a report that was released by Statistics Canada on the pension programs and plans across the country. Mr. Speaker, the Province of Nova Scotia did not do very well in that report with respect to the extent to which people have

[Page 1614]

coverage in pension plans, in company pension plans. So this means that people, a large number of people in our province are really left to their own individual plans and investments in RRSPs.

This legislation will mean that people will have a greater access and the temptation can be very great, Mr. Speaker, to look at extracting the resources that are there when people need new things, need to be able to meet the pressing demands of their household budgets. People get into trouble in terms of their finances when we see increased costs of heat and electricity, with no programs from government to assist people in terms of conservation and reducing the cost of electricity or reducing the cost of home heat. People get into trouble, increasingly, in this province because they're out-of-pocket for health care expenditures, Pharmacare, for co-pays, for premiums, purchasing private health care, private home care, these kinds of situations that come from illness, catastrophic drug needs.

This is where people increasingly are placed in jeopardy, and if they have a small household income, monthly income, the temptation to look at their retirement savings that are currently locked in and are there for the benefit of having an adequate income in their retirement years is very great, Mr. Speaker. And who can blame them? But the response is not to download these costs onto the backs of individual people with retirement savings in the province, the response should be to improve catastrophic drug plan access in the province, to provide those affordable housing and conservation measures to allow people to realize savings in their heat and electricity, to have a realistic assessment cap, which we don't have right now.

These are the reasons why people are getting into financial trouble. They can't afford their property taxes. They can't afford to pay the heat. They can't afford the rising electrical costs. They increasingly are expected to pay for more and more health care needs outside of the public system, and in desperation, where do they turn? They turn to their retirement savings, they come to their MLAs, they ask us to assist them in getting access to those funds, and it's very difficult for us to say, that's your money and you can't have it. That is your money and you can't have it.

The member for Richmond says we shouldn't have to say that, and I agree we shouldn't have to say that. We should be able to point to catastrophic drug plan coverage, and be able to assist people. And we should be able to help them get access to long-term care, and we should be able to have available a strong social safety net and that's what we should be proposing rather than saying to someone, your choice is to be poor now or to be poor in your retirement years. That essentially is what this bill will do - it says, okay, you're in a financial hardship now and we will make it possible for you to have this, but you're going to face financial hardship in your senior years. What does that solve? That solves absolutely nothing. It's a band-aid, really.

[Page 1615]

Mr. Speaker, this is our concern. We understand completely those terrible situations that have been presented to us by people whose backs are up against the wall financially. They're looking at losing their homes, losing their cars, going bankrupt, being evicted, we've seen all of these situations - there probably isn't anybody in here who hasn't seen this situation. But how do we properly address those situations? Is eviscerating the vested pension income of individuals when they're 30, 40, 50 years old, the answer so that when they are 65 or 70, they no longer have available to them the amortized income that would come from having left those funds there to be used in the way in which they were intended and to be used in the way that we generally had consensus was absolutely necessary - saving for retirement to eliminate the insecurity and the inadequacy of income that many older people end up having in their retirement years.

Mr. Speaker, the NDP caucus does not support this bill, the NDP will not be voting for this bill, but we will not stand in the way of this bill going forward either. We recognize that it does have the support of the government members, as well as the Liberal caucus. We do have other concerns. The Leader of the Liberal Party spoke about what the prescribed circumstances would be, but they do not appear anywhere in this bill. What this bill does is this bill says that somebody who has a locked-in RRSP retirement account or a life income fund can make applications to the superintendent of pensions, and the superintendent of pensions will satisfy - in this case - herself that there is an existence of prescribed circumstances that constitute considerable financial hardship and will release either a portion or all of the funds.

[12:00 noon]

The Leader of the Liberal Patrty talked about what those circumstances might be and he indicated that illness might be one of those circumstances, that falling on hard financial times might be one of those circumstances and I'm not really sure what that means. To me, that really gives a very broad set of parameters to the superintendent of pensions. I'm not sure that she would really like to have those, but I guess she follows the legislation as prescribed by this House and the regulations that will be done subsequently. Mr. Speaker, I think if we are going to have this significant - and it is a very significant - change in public policy with respect to pension benefits, then it would be very important to have a little more tightness in the language of this particular bill that would indicate exactly what falling on hard financial times means, because to me that is a very broad kind of idea and, I think, subject to a lot of different opinions. What could be hard financial times for some person may not be considered hard financial times for others.

So, Mr. Speaker, I think these are very much the concerns that we have. I think its disappointing, in a way, to me, that members of the Liberal Party, a Party that once stood for social protections, for people who become unemployed, people who experience illness and have financial problems because of that, that their vision or their imagination

[Page 1616]

is focused in this way; that it is focused on off-loading more responsibility onto individual people and their households; that the concern for the long-term impact of this kind of public policy isn't taken into consideration; that, on the basis of those few extreme cases that we see in our MLA offices, we would make such a fundamental change to our Pension Benefits Act that would open the door to the weakening of legislation that has really guaranteed, I think in some ways, that there be greater protection for pension benefits and for having adequate financial means in one's retirement years.

I also know that there will be, no doubt, people in the public who will have great concern about what this will mean now for the pressures on the various kinds of income funds and RRSP plans. This may open a much larger can of worms than the honourable member was anticipating. At any rate, we have this bill here, it has been called by the government. The government, though, are somewhat notorious for bringing forward Opposition bills and then never really putting them into effect. They fail to proclaim, they fail to develop regulations and bring those forward in a timely fashion.

I don't know exactly what their intention is if they, in fact, will reflect on this legislation a bit more, whether they will consult a bit more broadly, whether they will, in fact, do some analysis with respect to what the real impact could be on people in the province who have retirement plans.

So, Mr. Speaker, I think those pretty much sum up the concerns I have, and we have here in this caucus. There are so many problems that do need to be addressed, in terms of trying to support and mitigate financial hardship for people. Certainly one of the things that I always think about is the family, the household where you have a problem gambler. You know, sometimes we bury our heads in the sand and we don't want to bring this problem out of the closet but, you know, it's all too common in this province that there are people who have serious gambling addictions and they exhaust the available income, regular income to the household. They exhaust those RRSPs that aren't vested and I ask you, Mr. Speaker, what in the world are we thinking when we're making it possible to get access to even further resources that could really seriously hurt a household and a family. So I do have serious concerns about this bill and we here in the caucus have concerns about this bill. Certainly, other members of our caucus may want to speak further to their concerns, and I'm grateful to have had an opportunity to put those comments on the record.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of Environment and Labour.

HON. MARK PARENT: Mr. Speaker, I just would like to rise to speak a few minutes to this bill, as the minister under whom the Pension Benefits Act resides. I want to commend the honourable member for bringing this forward. I know it comes out of his passionate concern for those exceptional circumstances that he has already alluded

[Page 1617]

to, that all of us as MLAs face, where we feel that perhaps if we had some more tools at our disposal we might be able to help these people.

I think from listening to the honourable member, he sees it as exceptional circumstances and not as a sort of broad rule. So with those few comments and some of the concerns that have been raised opposite, I think that the member has stated that he's open to amendments as it goes forward, I would like to commend him for his concern for people and certainly happy on the government side for it to go forward to the Law Amendment Committee.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Dartmouth East.

MS. JOAN MASSEY: Mr. Speaker, I'm pleased to stand here this afternoon to speak on Bill No. 68, the Pension Benefits Act. I sat here and listened to my honourable colleague beside me talk about an issue that's very important to everybody, which is really how is this bill going to affect the seniors in the Province of Nova Scotia. Seniors are living in a time when they may have some money set aside. They may have some funds that they've put away in a little nest egg, but they are still on a fixed income.

Even though this money is over here, they're dealing with a fixed income on a monthly basis but, unfortunately, the cost of living is continuing to rise. Unfortunately, when our seniors should be enjoying the golden years of their life, a lot of them aren't. They're indeed at home putting on layers and layers of clothing trying to stay warm. Indeed, they're trying to figure out, how they're going to replace their car that needs to be replaced, they're trying to figure out, how they are going to put that roof on. I don't know if you've had a roof put on lately but I have and it's over $4,000.

So if they're on a fixed income, is this bill now saying that even though the money is locked into an RRSP, the superintendent of pensions will look at the very circumstances of hardship and release a certain amount of that money and, is a new roof a hardship? I don't know, Mr. Speaker. I mean are these the kinds of - you know, what hardships are we talking about and if you don't have $4,000 to put on a roof, I guess that is a hardship. We've got seniors in the province and I know one who has just recently put up a portion of land that they own that they would have liked to have seen pass down to a family member, or maybe a grandchild. We've got seniors in the province who would like to be able to put money in their grandchildren's education funds but if they're dealing with issues in the province such as the rising cost of electricity, and if you're talking about your electricity rising by a certain percentage every year - 8 per cent now, 9 per cent next year, 9 per cent the next, 10 per cent, who knows where that's going to end?

The government needs to be doing things to help seniors live on a day-to-day basis. They need to be doing things that are really proactive. They need to come up with remedies that are really going to help our seniors stay in their homes, not have to sell off

[Page 1618]

portions of the family land, whether it's recreational land, whether it's land they have farmed, maybe it's woodlots.

Why should our seniors have to dig into a fund that's put aside for when they're going to retire, for when they're supposed to enjoy life? They are the ones who worked for us, they are the ones who built the province for us to enjoy. Now we're saying well, we can't fix all these other things but you know what? We're going to let you go to the Superintendent of Pensions and, I don't know, state your case either on paper or verbally - I don't know how it's going to be done - and say well, here, take some of this money. If we're going to allow seniors to do that, or when they reach a certain age and they're going to spend it before they're 65 now, if they're taking little bits and pots, how often are they going to be able to do this? If they're taking money out of this pot, it's not going to be in the pot later.

As we have seen, if the cost of living keeps rising and rising and certainly their homes are going to keep needing maintenance and the costs of their drugs are going up, if anybody has canvassed their neighbourhoods lately and you have seniors, you'll come upon people who are cutting their pills in half and who, in fact, aren't filling certain prescriptions. There are people who are very concerned about the cost of the co-pays on Pharmacare and the cost of the premiums. To some people, that's a hardship there. Who is going to decide and how are they going to decide what's a hardship and what's not?

There are people who are moving on into their senior years who are losing their jobs. It's not that easy to find a new job when you reach - at any age, but as you age, we all know that this is what's happening. So we've got seniors who I think, Mr. Speaker, are being basically forced out of their homes, forced to sell portions of their land. We have seniors who are thinking well, my mortgage is paid off but I can sell this house and I can get x amount of dollars for this and I'm going to have to move into an apartment.

Seniors should not have to give up their home. If somebody has been living in a home for 30, 40 years, 20 years, I don't think that because they can't afford to pay their Nova Scotia Power bill or it's becoming more and more of a hardship and they are sinking into debt and they are going to the credit union and getting money for this and that and the other thing, why should they have to give up a family home and move into a little apartment somewhere?

Now there are seniors who want to do that or they want to live in a condominium but I think it's all about choice, isn't it? I don't think that people who are going to be accessing these funds early are doing it because they choose to do it, right? It's all about, now it's a hardship because things have gotten so bad in this province that this is what we're saying to our people in this province: don't worry, we're not going to fix these things but you can go out and drag some money out of a fund that should be there for you to enjoy with your grandkids, your children, when you're 65 and older.

[Page 1619]

There are all kinds of things that keep rising in cost, Mr. Speaker. You have your home insurance, your car insurance. They are constantly sending out notices saying, well, I think you should have more of this, you need more liability insurance for your home, you need more for your car, you need flood damage insurance, you should up that. You know it's only another $60 a year. Well, for somebody on a fixed income, that $60, where are they going to find it? It's going to come out of their food allowance or their personal allowance or maybe their entertainment.

[12:15 p.m.]

We already know that a lot of older people are living in their homes now, they are going to bed early at night because they can't afford to keep the heat on. There are seniors who are closing off portions of their homes because they simply cannot afford to heat that portion of their homes. Why are we not providing seniors with interest-free loans to upgrade the insulation in their homes? Why are we not doing something as proactive as that? Why are we not building more affordable housing so that seniors who maybe can't take care of their properties anymore or find that it's too much of a hardship to do that, can find a nice residence to live in?

Why are we not building seniors' complexes in this province? I have seniors who live in my constituency and there are a couple of nice apartment complexes, but you know what? There's a two-year waiting list to get into one of those places. Now, what's that all about? Why are we not investing in opportunities to build places for our seniors to live in if they choose not to live in their own home, because perhaps they may have a disability or they may just find it's too much work to get out and mow the lawn and shovel the snow, they can't afford a snow blower, these sorts of things. So seniors' apartment complexes, there are some great ones. I have a fantastic one in my riding.

Mr. Speaker, I don't see the government moving forward with these kinds of initiatives. Nobody else seems to see them either. What are we saying here? We're really saying, don't worry about paying your property taxes, don't worry about that, you're not going to have to sell off your property now, you're not going to have to sell your house now, you don't have to do these things, because now you can go and take this money out. Well, when the money is gone, the money is gone. It's not going to be there. We all now - everybody is living longer. People are just living longer. So they're going to need that money down the road.

Yet, people still are going to be accessing our hospitals, so why are we not building long-term care facilities? Our senior population is rising. We have out-migration. The people who would have been left here to have children, they're not even going to be here. Who's going to look after the seniors? Who's going to provide the tax base to expand on our hospitals, to expand on our education system? I don't know who it's going to be.

[Page 1620]

Mr. Speaker, I have to go back to, what is going to be left if we let people access this fund? We can see where maybe people have good intentions, but I don't think it has been thought out enough. I think something needs to be done with this bill. With that, I will take my place.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Halifax Citadel.

MR. LEONARD PREYRA: Mr. Speaker, I commend the Leader of the Liberal Party for bringing this forward - the member for Richmond. I think this bill is well motivated. I haven't been an MLA for very long, but I do know that we've seen lots of cases where people have come to us, where they've gone into tremendous financial difficulty, usually driven by the loss of a job or the loss of their health, and they find themselves in a desperate situation.

So as my colleagues here on this side have said, we have no problem with the motivation for this bill, but we do have some significant concern about the implications of this bill, if we decide to act on it. The bill, as it stands already, allows for people within 10 years of retirement to encroach on those funds. The bill already allows for people with life-threatening or terminal illness to encroach on those funds. We agree with those principles. The problem here is with the discretion that's granted to the Superintendent of Pensions to determine what constitutes a prescribed circumstance of considerable financial hardship.

Because of that ambiguity, as to what constitutes considerable financial hardship, we have a problem with that. The member described some of those circumstances earlier on, and I'm not sure if those would constitute considerable financial hardship over the long term. The bill, in effect, confuses short-term financial hardship with long-term financial hardship, and I think those kinds of situations should be spelled out more clearly.

But the bigger problem we have with this, Mr. Speaker, is that it essentially absolves the state and the government of society in general of any responsibility to deal with the people who fall into these circumstances. It really represents a clawback, in other words. It forces people to claw back on their pensions. It forces people to liquidate their assets, to deal with the temporary, short term or even a catastrophic difficulty.

We believe that people who fall into these circumstances need more support than that, to say we go back to a century's old situation where people were forced into poor houses and forced into the street, if they fell into these difficulties. We believe that if we really do care about people who fall into these situations, we should look at their unique situation. We should say, perhaps we can provide them with free financial advice to see how they can organize their situations to deal with it, especially if we're dealing with the short-term problem.

[Page 1621]

Perhaps if the problem is with the cost of prescription drugs, we should say, we will provide you with a Pharmacare Program that will support you and your children. Perhaps we should say, if you need support at home we will provide homecare, we will have nursing visits, we will have Meals on Wheels. Perhaps if the problem is a transition problem with education we would provide employment support and income assistance for retraining so you can get another job and that we will support you through the transition program. Perhaps if the problem is childcare we will say, we'll provide childcare for you so you can deal with a loved one who's sick or you can go out to a university or college to get an education. Perhaps we can we can say we'll provide transportation for you to get to and from jobs or to these situations. Maybe we can do something about meeting your energy costs or your home heating oil costs, maybe we can do something about property assessment so that you're not house rich and cash poor.

Mr. Speaker, I know these are the types of problems that people encounter. I was in this situation myself not that long ago. My partner and I worked at Saint Mary's and she faced a life-threatening illness, was forced to leave her job and we were forced to leave town. We lost both our incomes and we spent an awful lot of money and fortunately we got some good advice at the time and said, don't liquidate your pensions, don't use up your assets even though at the time we could have. We would have been in a very desperate situation if we had availed ourselves of that option at that time. So there's a very good reason why we have established these pension policies to protect people in the long term. We agree that the loss of a job, the loss of your health, a breakdown in your family situation, all of these situations can lead you to desperation. It's the remedy we have a problem with, and we believe that the cure here is worse than the disease.

I agree with the Leader of the Liberal Party when he talks about single parents, when he talks about the medical conditions that some people face but, this is not a solution. Leaving it to the discretion of the superintendent is a problem, describing what constitutes these hardship situations is a problem. We don't disagree then, Mr. Speaker, as I said earlier, that we do need to do more for people who fall into these difficulties, many of these difficulties that are really because of situations well beyond their control. We do have a duty to do something for them and there are many more options that we have that we will deal with. Our problem with this is that it doesn't look for these other remedies. In fact, the availability of these pension funds will prevent us from looking for more progressive and more humane solutions where the state can essentially say to these people, well, you know you have this other option now, you can liquidate your pensions rather than saying we are going to do something about this.

We do have options, we have options with homecare, we have options with Pharmacare, we have options with energy, we have options with education, we can provide you with financial advice, we can provide you with community service support, we can do a whole range of other things. I'm afraid that allowing for this bill to pass would mean that we would stop looking at those solutions and put the onus principally

[Page 1622]

on people who are least able to afford it and to tolerate it and will effectively be clawing back their assets, will be liquidating their assets and, in effect, taking away a safety net that was designed to support them in hard times.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Dartmouth North.

MR. TREVOR ZINCK: Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the opportunity to stand here today and speak on Bill No. 68 which I believe was brought to the House with good intentions by the honourable Leader of the Liberal Party. I too have had an opportunity in the short time as a new MLA to bear witness to some of the situations that would ultimately see people want to access their pension funds. I, as well, have aging parents who experience undue hardships like many of my colleagues have talked about, increasing costs for health care. My parents live in a rural setting so there are gas prices that they're constantly battling with on their fixed income, car repairs, traveling to the city for your medical plans - there's a whole host of reasons why somebody at that age would want to, or have to find themselves in the situation where they would be tempted to take their savings that they worked for so hard and long for over the years, to save and relish for a much better time, maybe to pass on to their children as my honourable colleague for Dartmouth East said

I want to go back and touch on one of the early situations that I found myself in. Having so many of these cases come into the office, I seek the assistance of a financial advisor to give out some free advice to people who had found themselves in need or asking myself, what can I do, Trevor, to relinquish some of my pensions. I have money here, I don't have enough to live on, whether it be through my pension, my disability pension or the social service program that I am currently under.

So I sought out the help of an investor and without citing any company names or any clients' name, this gentleman in particular came into my office and sat down at great lengths with this particular advisor and left my office quite pleased at the attention and some of the advice he had gotten. When I later met with the financial advisor, his expression to me, Mr. Speaker, was, I understand the situation that this gentleman is in. He is on a disability pension, he is a single person so there is only so much money allotted, he is unable to work, his rents are increasing, he can't afford to eat, he can't afford to buy a pair of shoes. He, too, felt the frustration that many of us do feel in these situations.

Mr. Speaker, I think that the most important thing that this financial advisor said to me and later conveyed to this gentlemen was, Trevor, I would love to be able to see this gentleman receive the hard monies that he had saved for over the years, but I must warn you, I would be scared to relinquish this gentleman's savings to him now. Because he had struggled for so many years without money, this financial advisor was unsure as to how that money would actually be spent. Mr. Speaker, rightfully so, somebody who has gone without for so many years and finds themself in need of that little bit of extra,

[Page 1623]

I honestly believe they would potentially dwindle those funds, and therein lies the problem. As my honourable colleague from Halifax Needham suggested, perhaps more programming is necessary.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. There is way to much noise in the Chamber. It is very difficult for the Speaker to hear the speaker. So I would ask if there are any members who want to pursue their discussion to take it outside the Chamber. Thank you.

The honourable member for Dartmouth North.

MR. TREVOR ZINCK: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. My honourable colleague from Halifax Needham, I think, summed up the whole thoughts and consensus of this caucus. I think that bringing this bill forward would be a band-aid approach to an even bigger problem. We honestly have to sit back and ask ourselves, how do people get into these situations?

I want to applaud the government, after the June election, for opening up a portfolio that is going to be dedicated to looking into seniors' issues. I want to encourage the government to continue working hard and really investigating why people find themselves in those situations. But, as my colleague for Halifax Needham suggested, perhaps if other programs were in place, if more assistance was given to people who found themselves in this need, we wouldn't have the problems or we wouldn't have to bring up bills, such as Bill No. 68, to remedy problems that are short-term.

[12:30 p.m.]

My honourable colleague suggested gambling. If we go to our local casinos, Mr. Speaker, I see an incredible amount of seniors who are visiting and frequenting our casinos. As a matter of fact, a lot of our seniors' centres do day trips to our casinos. Ask ourselves why? Our senior population finds themselves lonely and this is a way to get out.

What would stop them from tapping into an income fund or an RRSP to exhaust that completely, to feed that habit? Mr. Speaker, in talking about programs, if programs were in place, such as Bill No. 68, if we let somebody do this, we have to honestly think that it is a short-term, band-aid approach that would enable someone to access funds for whatever reason and the superintendent might not know that the person proposing this has a gambling addiction, a drinking addiction. They come up with a reason that's viable, it fits the policy and the money is extended, but then the money is gone, it disappears. So we have another problem.

Once again we have to ask ourselves, how did we take care of this person? How did we take care of this family? Why is this family in this situation? If today we moved on with Bill No. 68 as is, I would have to say that that too would be part of the problem.

[Page 1624]

I think governments, not just the government of today, but future governments, really, really have to investigate as to the reasons why our social fabric has changed, why we consistently cut programs that deal with social natures, that don't really enable our people, especially the most vulnerable - and as we go through society now, it's an aging population.

I can honestly say that I consider myself fortunate now, but if I were to walk out today and something drastic happened that I couldn't return to my place of employment, and I need the government to take care of me - I would not want to have to find myself ever in need to exhaust any funds that I've tucked away and saved to try to pass on to my family or my future children. I would not want to have to tap into that, and I don't think it's necessary if governments provide those all-too-crucial social programs.

On that note, I'm going to take my place in the hope that if Bill No. 68 goes forward we can tighten it and really look at the extent of the regulations and the powers that a superintendent would have. Thank you.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Dartmouth South-Portland Valley.

MS. MARILYN MORE: Mr. Speaker, I rise to speak on Bill No.68, and it's unfortunate this bill is necessary to even be introduced in the Legislature because it's a symptom of a broad array of problems in this province that are causing difficulties for families and individuals of all ages.

It's interesting, in the recommendations that came out of the Task Force on Positive Aging, which is called the Strategy for Positive Aging in Nova Scotia, released in the Fall of 2005, it's mentioned there that already, currently, 39 per cent of individuals before retirement age are making RSP withdrawals.

I think this is an indication of the struggle that people are having to make ends meet. It's not a surprise that some of the national surveys have shown that the gap between the rich and the poor in Nova Scotia is greater than almost any other province in Canada. Of course, if there's a gap between the rich and the poor, the impact on women is even greater.

It's a fact of life in Nova Scotia that women who are expected and who willingly provide loving, nurturing care to members of their family are impacted financially because of that caring nature. The expectation is there, from government, that they will be there to fill those positions. As a result, many women in our province have to take lower-paying jobs, they work part-time, they work on a casual basis, and many of them don't have access to employer-provided pensions, so during their entire lifetime, they live on less money than men; in fact women earn 70 cents for every dollar that men do in this province, and the impact in their retirement years is considerable.

[Page 1625]

I remember a number of years ago I was the acting coordinator for a provincial organization, called Canadian Pensioners Concerned, and day after day we heard heart-rending stories from seniors, mostly women, talking about the choices they were forced to make every single day. I remember being actually moved to tears at many of their stories because at the time I was living on what would be considered a fairly low income, these women, the choices they had to make were unbelievable choices - between paying their power bill and buying a small birthday gift for a loved grandchild, this is very unreasonable. Senior women are continuing to have to make these tough choices today.

It's a fact of life that in this province, Cabinet does not have a gender lens on the regulations and policies that they create in the province. Perhaps it's unintended, I'll give them the benefit of the doubt, but the unintended consequence is that the negative impact on women is quite high. If you look at policies like early release from hospital, day surgery, the government is expecting women in the communities to be looking after people who have surgery that day and come out. Many daughters, daughters-in-law, sisters are taking time off work, in fact, actually leaving paid employment to provide long-term care to people who come out of hospital - or actually many of them are providing care in the hospital, because there aren't sufficient resources to provide the trained professionals to look after loved ones in the hospital.

I talked more recently, on Wednesday, about the child care crisis in this province, and I referred to the fact that many older women are leaving their volunteer positions in community organizations in order to stay home and look after grandchildren, because of the lack of affordable and quality child care in this province. Many communities, many counties in Nova Scotia do not have one regulated child care space in the whole area. That is a disgrace. It means that women are leaving jobs, not taking promotions or having to leave volunteer positions in order to look after these children.

It's interesting that another one of the observations in the Strategy for Positive Aging in Nova Scotia, they're reflecting on the labour market trend, which is suggesting that employers are moving away from sponsoring pension plans, because what they're doing is deliberately hiring part-time, casual and contract workers, so that they don't have to provide pension benefits. We're not anticipating yet the long-term impact of this on the financial stability of families and retirees in this province, but there will be a price to pay.

I also want to mention the unique needs of persons with disabilities. The rates of unemployment among people with disabilities in this province is very high, especially among women. Without providing the social safety network in this province of adequate programs and services for seniors, for persons with disabilities, for women who are struggling to make ends meet, we are just worsening the problem. Allowing people to access their pension plans and other savings before retirement, I think, is covering up the fact that the planning and the strategies are not in place from this government to look after them in their short-term needs. The long-term impact is going to be so severe.

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I also want to mention the growing number of seniors. Do you realize that by 2026, our senior population is going to increase by 80 per cent in Nova Scotia; 25 per cent of our population will be seniors, people over the age of 65. Part of this is based on the fact that life expectancy is increasing and the birth rate is declining. So we need to give serious deliberation and thought to the long-term impacts of some of the current, sort of short, easy, simplistic solutions that we might be seeing to some of these problems.

So I'm suggesting that Bill No. 68 is perhaps an excuse not to develop a long-term strategy to deal with some of the serious social and financial problems that families are suffering in this province and certainly I support our Party's position that we need to give a better deal for today's families.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Timberlea-Prospect.

MR. WILLIAM ESTABROOKS: Mr. Speaker, I would like to take this opportunity to point out to members opposite and the members of the Third Party, the value of being in a caucus that can stand in their place on a Friday afternoon and have their say on an important issue. I want to remind them that's why we're here. That's why the member for Halifax Needham has stood in her place and clearly pointed out that this is Bill No. 68. As my friend, the member for Pictou West, reminded me, now there's a bill that has a number that perhaps we should remember - Bill No. 68.

You know it's like that hockey number, Mr. Speaker, nobody wants to wear number thirteen. Well, maybe we should bring legislation forward in this House that we shouldn't have a Bill No. 68. This is bad government policy. It's bad public policy. It's a policy that will be questioned as this bill proceeds through to the Law Amendments Committee. I want to thank the members of my caucus for standing in their places this afternoon and bringing forward their concerns on this piece of legislation. I congratulate you all and I wish you a very good weekend.

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

The honourable Leader of the Liberal Party.

MR. MICHEL SAMSON: Mr. Speaker, again allow me to thank the Government House Leader and his colleagues for calling forward Bill No. 68 and I certainly want to thank the Minister of Environment and Labour for his comments on this bill.

You know, Mr. Speaker, it's unfortunate some of the comments that have been made. Let me reiterate again, this bill is coming forward because Nova Scotians asked for the ability to do this. It's not government dictating it to them. It's not the Liberal caucus dictating to them. It is Nova Scotians who have come forward and said that under

[Page 1627]

specific financial hardship and other specific circumstances, they want to have this ability to be able to access these locked-in RRSPs.

Mr. Speaker, I heard the member for Halifax Citadel and - you know, I will keep in mind the fact that he hasn't been here for long - if he thinks that Nova Scotians who are trying to access locked-in RRSPs under our current system is easy or is efficient, or is working, I encourage you to work with those people because I have spent four to five years on one case with a gentleman and if you think it's easy, you should go ask his family what they went through. It's not working. It's extremely difficult and what we're trying to do here is make sure that there is a process in place that under specific circumstances the Superintendent of Pensions will be able to allow these people to access a portion of these funds.

Mr. Speaker, again, I look forward to this bill moving on to the Law Amendments Committee. As I said, this is currently in place in two other provinces. At the end of the day we need to have confidence in Nova Scotians and, for a Party to stand in this place and basically say we have no confidence in Nova Scotians to make their own financial decisions, you know, I find it's unfortunate. I believe this bill with the regulations will allow the safeguards in place necessary to make sure that no one is reckless in any way with regard to these funds but, with that, I'm pleased to see Bill No. 68 is moving forward.

[12:45 p.m.]

Regardless of the number of the actual bill, I believe that's irrelevant almost to the point of being childish, but the fact is it's an important piece of legislation. It deals with concerns that impact the lives of Nova Scotians. Regardless of whatever number may be attached to that bill, I think it's a good bill. It's something my constituents have asked for and after what I've seen they've gone through, I think this will make lives better for Nova Scotians at a time when they need it most. With that, I would close the debate on Bill No. 68.

MR. SPEAKER: The motion is for second reading of Bill No. 68. Is the House ready for the question? 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. MICHAEL BAKER: Mr. Speaker, I move that the House do now rise to meet again on Tuesday coming at the hour of 12 o'clock. The House will sit for eight

[Page 1628]

hours until 8:00 p.m. The order of business to be considered on that day will be Public Bills for Second Reading (Interruption) That's 12:00 noon for clarification. The order of business will be Public Bills for Second Reading, Public Bills in Committee of the Whole House on Bills. (Interruption) Déja vu all over again, as Yogi Berra said. Private Members' Public Bills for Second Reading. I believe those will be the three orders of business.

MR. SPEAKER: The motion is for the House to rise and meet again on Tuesday at 12:00 noon. The House will sit Tuesday between 12:00 noon and 8:00 p.m.

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 House stands adjourned until 12:00 noon on Tuesday.

[The House rose at 12:47 p.m.]

[Page 1629]

NOTICES OF MOTION UNDER RULE 32(3)

RESOLUTION NO. 865

By: Mr. Chuck Porter ( Hants West)

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

Whereas Mount Denson, Hants County, native, Lesley Anderson, now attending Memorial University in St. John's, Newfoundland and Labrador, was one of four female athletes to represent the Piziquid Aquatic Club of Windsor at the 2006 Canadian Sprint Canoeing Championships in late August in Regina, Saskatchewan; and

Whereas Lesley competed in the Midget Women's K-4 1000, Juvenile Women's K-2 200, Junior Women's K-2 200 and 500, Junior Women's K-4 500, and Open Women's K-4 200 metre races; and

Whereas Lesley participated in Regina at the nationals with three Piziquid club members, Aisha Kurumira, Melissa Lunn, and Erin Beazley at the week-long event;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House of Assembly recognize the outstanding athletic contributions demonstrated by Lesley Anderson and wish her continued success with all of her future athletic endeavours and educational studies.

RESOLUTION NO. 866

By: Mr. Chuck Porter ( Hants West)

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

Whereas Ian Armour won the gold medal in the new 16- to17- year old heavyweight karate division at the Canadian National Championships in St. John's, Newfoundland, this past summer; and

Whereas Ian then went to Curacao, in the Netherlands, in September, and was a member of the Canadian team at the Junior Pan Am Karate Championships; and

Whereas Ian and other Canadian team members brought home 20 medals from Curacao, 4 gold, 3 silver, and 13 bronze, a new record for medals won outside Canada in international competition;

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Therefore be it resolved that all members of this Legislature commend Windsor's Ian Armour on his outstanding athletic talent and wish him continued success at all future events he decides to participate in.

RESOLUTION NO. 867

By: Mr. Chuck Porter ( Hants West)

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

Whereas Rae Winkelaar of Windsor is an avid sports enthusiast; and

Whereas Rae is well known around the Windsor curling and tennis clubs, but made a real name for himself this summer at the Avon Valley Golf Club; and

Whereas Rae certainly caught people's attention when he scored a hole-in-one on the par 3 7th hole at Avon Valley while playing with his wife, Beth, and friends, Dave and Anne Isenor of St. Croix;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this Legislature applaud Rae Winkelaar for his exceptionally accurate shot at the Avon Valley Golf and Country Club this summer and also for his community enthusiasm in the organization of local sports.

RESOLUTION NO. 868

By: Mr. Chuck Porter ( Hants West)

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

Whereas Tricia Sanford, who lives on the Mines Road in Falmouth, participated in a famous national riding event at the Royal Agricultural Winter Fair in Toronto last weekend; and

Whereas Tricia competed in the hunter class; and

Whereas Tricia, who is now 15 years old, has been riding for six years and has always been passionate about horses;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House of Assembly applaud talented Tricia Sanford and her horse, Four-Your-Eyes-Only, for their competitive spirit and showing at the Royal Agricultural Winter Fair.

[Page 1631]

RESOLUTION NO. 869

By: Mr. Chuck Porter ( Hants West)

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

Whereas Pyra Management Consulting Services Inc. of Summerville, Hants County, is a dedicated professional management consulting company; and

Whereas Pyra offers an annual $1,000 scholarship to support a Hants County student continuing or starting a university degree program; and

Whereas the student must identify and share in Pyra's company values, such as the demonstration of team work, trustworthiness, and the balance of academic, vocational and leisure activities;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this Legislature applaud Karen Pyra, and Pyra Management Consulting Services Inc. for launching the scholarship initiative, while congratulating Stephanie Hagmann of Summerville, now in her second year of engineering at St. F.X., for winning the 2006 award.

RESOLUTION NO. 870

By: Hon. Angus MacIsaac (Transportation and Public Works)

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

Whereas Patrick Thomson, Daniel MacDonald, and Brendan and Tristan Grant, all 4-H members from Antigonish County, were four of nine dairy participants from Nova Scotia to recently take part in the Scotiabank Dairy Classic at the Royal Agricultural Winter Fair in Toronto; and

Whereas Patrick Thomson placed 20th in a class of 113 in Junior Showmanship Dairy and 9th in a class of 82 in the Intermediate Holstein Category; and

Whereas Tristan Grant placed 14th in a class of 137 Intermediate Showmanship Dairy and 7th in a class of 71 in the Summer Yearling Holstein Class, while Daniel MacDonald was 7th in a class of 95 in the Senior Holstein Category, and Brendan Grant participated after being named winner of the Versteeg Memorial Award here in Nova Scotia earlier this Fall;

[Page 1632]

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House applaud Patrick Thomson, Daniel MacDonald, and Brendan and Tristan Grant, all from Antigonish County, for their 4-H activity and keen interest in wanting to compete with the best in Canada at the Royal Agricultural Winter Fair in Toronto.