Assemblée Législative de la Nouvelle-Écosse

Les travaux de la Chambre ont repris le
21 septembre 2017

HANSARD 08-21

DEBATES AND PROCEEDINGS

Speaker: Honourable Alfie MacLeod

Published by Order of the Legislature by Hansard Reporting Services and printed by the Queen's Printer.

Available on INTERNET at http://www.gov.n s.ca/legislature/HOUSE_BUSINESS/hansard.html


Second Session

WEDNESDAY, APRIL 30, 2008

TABLE OF CONTENTS PAGE
GOVERNMENT NOTICES OF MOTION:
Res. 2178, Black Cultural Ctr. - Anniv. (25th),
The Premier 2320
Vote - Affirmative 2320
Res. 2179, King, Sheila - Breakfast for Learning Award,
Hon. B. Barnet 2322
Vote - Affirmative 2322
Res. 2180, NSCAD Univ. Students - Mobius Award,
Hon. M. Parent 2323
Vote - Affirmative ^Res. 2181, Moore, Tom - Cdn. Housing & Renewal Assoc. Award 2323
(Posthumous), Hon. J. Streatch 2323
Vote - Affirmative 2324
Res. 2182, Anna. Co. Farm & Rural Women's Day - Anniv. (25th),
Hon. B. Taylor (by Hon. M. Scott) 2324
Vote - Affirmative 2325
Res. 2183, Nat. Res.: Woodland Owners - Contribution,
Hon. D. Morse 2325
Vote - Affirmative 2326
Res. 2184, Health & Stroke Fdn. - Outstanding Vol. Award:
Recipients - Congrats., Hon. B. Barnet 2326
Vote - Affirmative 2326
Res. 2185, Needham Preschool & Daycare - Kindness Reward Prog.:
Staff - Commend, Hon. J. Streatch 2327
Vote - Affirmative 2327
INTRODUCTION OF BILLS:
No. 142, Whistleblowers Act, Ms. Maureen MacDonald 2327
No. 143, Municipal Government Act, Mr. K. Colwell 2327
NOTICE OF MOTION:
Res. 2186, Pictou Co. Tourism Assoc./Beach Lane Lavender Farm -
Annual Gala Awards (11th), Mr. C. Parker 2328
Vote - Affirmative 2328
Res. 2187, Sears, Lauren: Cdn. Inter-Univ. Sport Can. West All-Rookie
Volleyball Team - Nomination, Hon. J. Muir 2328
Vote - Affirmative 2329
Res. 2188, Connors, Jim et al: Avastin Supporters - Congrats.,
Mr. D. Dexter 2329
Vote - Affirmative 2330
Res. 2189, Cook, Walton: Death of - Tribute,
Mr. S. McNeil 2330
Vote - Affirmative 2331
Res. 2190, Bell Bay Golf Club: Audubon Co-operative Sanctuary -
Certification, Mr. K. Bain 2331
Vote - Affirmative 2331
Res. 2191, Tent Dwellers Festival Planning Comm.: Work -
Recognize, Ms. V. Conrad 2332
Vote - Affirmative 2332
Res. 2192, Glace Bay Panthers - NSSAF Cheerleading Championship,
Mr. David Wilson (Glace Bay) 2332
Vote - Affirmative 2333
Res. 2193, Drug Awareness Poster Contest: Windsor & Dist. Lions Club/
Three Miles Plans Elem. Sch. - Congrats., Mr. C. Porter 2333
Vote - Affirmative 2334
Res. 2194, Woods Hbr. Wesleyan Church - Anniv. (75th),
Mr. S. Belliveau 2334
Vote - Affirmative 2335
Res. 2195, Clare Acadiens Midget "A" Hockey Team - Championships,
Mr. W. Gaudet 2335
Vote - Affirmative 2335
Res. 2196, New Glasgow: Earth Hour Event - Congrats.,
Mr. P. Dunn 2335
Vote - Affirmative 2336
Res. 2197, Cameron, Raymond - Westville Rep. Vol. of Yr.,
Mr. C. MacKinnon 2336
Vote - Affirmative 2337
Res. 2198, MacDougall, Paulette: Commun. Dedication - Honour,
Hon. A. McLeod (by Mr. K. Bain) 2337
Vote - Affirmative 2338
Res. 2199, Van Oostrum, Gerry - Uniroyal Golden Apple Award,
Hon. M. Parent 2338
Vote - Affirmative 2338
Res. 2200, Elliott, Wendy: Newspaper Awards - Congrats.,
Hon. D. Morse 2339
Vote - Affirmative 2339
ORAL QUESTIONS PUT BY MEMBERS:
No. 179, Prem. - Election Promise: Retraction - Explain,
Mr. D. Dexter 2340
No. 180, Prem. - Nova Scotia Power: Record Profit - Rate Decrease,
Mr. S. McNeil 2341
No. 181, Prem. - Home Heating Tax: Enforcement - Explain,
Mr. D. Dexter 2343
No. 182, Budget (N.S. 2008-09): Security Breach - Review/Report,
Mr. D. Dexter 2344
No. 183, Prem. - Gas Regulation: Continuation - Explain,
Mr. S. McNeil 2345
No. 184, Health: Professional Recruitment - Management,
Mr. David Wilson (Sackville-Cobequid) 2347
No. 185, Nat. Res.: Dept. Helicopter - Usage, Ms. V. Conrad 2348
No. 186, Health: Med. Sch. Graduates - Retention, Mr. S. McNeil 2349
No. 187, TIR: Rural Public Transit - Plans, Mr. C. Parker 2351
No. 188, Health: Nurse Vacancies - Numbers,
Mr. David Wilson (Glace Bay) 2352
No. 189, Com. Serv.: Poverty Reduction Work Group - Composition,
Ms. M. More 2353
No. 190, Immigration: Rates - Status, Mr. L. Preyra 2355
No. 191, TCH - Tourism Revenues: Increases - Plans,
Mr. H. Theriault 2356
No. 192, TCH - Yarmouth Tourism Sector: Assistance - Details,
Ms. M. Raymond 2358
No. 193, Energy - Georges Bank: Drilling - Min. Support Explain,
Mr. S. Belliveau 2359
No. 194, Econ. Dev. - Princess of Acadia Ferry: Operation -
Extension, Mr. H. Theriault 2361
No. 195, Health - Pharmacare Prog.: Access - Confusion,
Mr. David Wilson (Sackville-Cobequid) 2362
No. 196, Environ. - Little Albro Lake: Plant Invasion - Control,
Mr. T. Zinck 2364
No. 197, Gaming: VLT Intrusion - Protection,
Mr. L. Glavine 2365
OPPOSITION MEMBERS' BUSINESS:
PRIVATE MEMBERS' PUBLIC BILLS FOR SECOND READING:
No. 37, Cosmetic Pesticides Act 2367
Mr. C. Parker 2367
Hon. J. Muir 2371
Ms. D. Whalen 2375
Mr. H. Epstein 2379
No. 20, Health Insurance Protection Act 2384
Ms. M. Raymond 2384
Hon. M. Parent 2387
Hon. C. d'Entremont 2390
Mr. David Wilson (Glace Bay) 2390
Mr. David Wilson (Sackville-Cobequid) 2393
ADJOURNMENT MOTION UNDER RULE 5(5):
Wear Well Garments - Staff/Owners: Talent/Expertise - Recognize,
Mr. P. Dunn 2398
Mr. C. MacKinnon 2400
Mr. Manning MacDonald 2402
ADJOURNMENT, House rose to meet again on Thur., May 1st at 12:00 noon 2404
NOTICES OF MOTION UNDER RULE 32(3):
Res. 2177, Jay, Ruth - Bedford: Contribution - Recognize,
Hon. L. Goucher [Tabled 04/29/08] 2405
Res. 2201, MacInnis, Cohen - Rural N.S.: Revitalization -
Congrats., Mr. P. Dunn 2405
Res. 2202, Musquodoboit Hbr. Crunch Hockey Team - Championship,
Hon. W. Dooks 2406
Res. 2203, Williams, Doug: Vol. Efforts - Recognize,
Hon. M. Parent 2406
Res. 2204, Roy, Erica: Athletic Efforts - Recognize,
Hon. M. Parent 2407
Res. 2205, Thurston, Jill: Vol. Efforts - Recognize,
Hon. M. Parent 2407
Res. 2206, Brown, Philip: Sporting Excellence - Recognize,
Hon. M. Parent 2408
Res. 2207, Swinimer, Stephen: Sporting Excellence - Recognize,
Hon. M. Parent 2408
Res. 2208, Kings Co. Special Olympics: Efforts - Recognize,
Hon. M. Parent 2409
Res. 2209, McHugh, Ed: St. F.X. Alumni Assoc. - Success Wish,
Ms. D. Whalen 2409
Res. 2210, Mahaney, Curtis - Loyalist Landing Soc.: Donation - Thank
Mr. S. Belliveau 2410
Res. 2211, Nickerson, Damian: Hockey Skills Comp. - Congrats.,
Mr. S. Belliveau 2410
Res. 2212, Peacock, Katie: Curling Trophy - Congrats.,
Mr. S. Belliveau 2411
Res. 2213, Quinlan, Daniel - Baskeball Championship,
Mr. S. Belliveau 2411
Res. 2214, St. Louis, Danielle: Environmental Essay Award - Congrats.,
Mr. S. Belliveau 2412
Res. 2215, St. Louis, Danielle/O'Connor, Jack: Barrington Mun. HS
Science Fair - Congrats., Mr. S. Belliveau 2412
Res. 2216, St. Louis, Danielle: N.S. Recycles Contest - Congrats.,
Mr. S. Belliveau 2413

[Page 2319]

HALIFAX, WEDNESDAY, APRIL 30, 2008

Sixtieth General Assembly

Second Session

2:00 P.M.

SPEAKER

Hon. Alfie MacLeod

DEPUTY SPEAKER

Mr. Wayne Gaudet

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. Before we commence the daily routine today, there has been a draw for the Adjournment debate. It was submitted by the MLA for Pictou Centre:

Therefore be it resolved that this House recognize the immense talents of staff at Wear Well Garments of Pictou County, as well as the business expertise displayed daily by the company owners which has made Wear Well Garments an outstanding Pictou County business for the past 37 years.

We will commence the daily routine.

PRESENTING AND READING PETITIONS

PRESENTING REPORTS OF COMMITTEES

TABLING REPORTS, REGULATIONS AND OTHER PAPERS

STATEMENTS BY MINISTERS

2319

[Page 2320]

GOVERNMENT NOTICES OF MOTION

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Premier.

RESOLUTION NO. 2178

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

Whereas the province's Black Cultural Centre has been focused on the preservation of Nova Scotia's Black culture for a quarter of a century; and

Whereas thanks to those with a vision so many years ago, the centre has provided all Nova Scotians with a unique opportunity to glimpse the proud history of Blacks in Nova Scotia; and

Whereas Celebrating Silver, the 25th Gala Anniversary celebration, will take place on June 14th at the Ramada Hotel in Dartmouth;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House commend all volunteers, staff, along with the centre's founders, for doing so much to preserve and promote the culture of African Nova Scotians and congratulate the centre on its special anniversary.

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 Justice on an introduction.

HON. CECIL CLARKE: Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker. In fact, I have the pleasure to rise with a couple of introductions today. I am very pleased to introduce to the House , Krista Daley, the new director and chief executive officer of the Nova Scotia Human Rights Commission. It's a great honour to welcome Ms. Daley to her new role and introduce her to the House. She brings a wealth of professional knowledge and experience to this very

[Page 2321]

important role, and I'm confident that her presence will lead to positive developments in human rights in Nova Scotia.

Ms. Daley has spent the last seven years as the senior general counsel for the Canada Immigration and Refugee Board in Ottawa. This followed a 15-year career with that organization, which included the role of hearing officer, adjudicator, legal adviser, and adviser on strategic directions to the board's chairperson. Ms. Daley has also played a role at the international level. She served as an adviser to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees in the Department of International Protection in Geneva, Switzerland, between 2005 and 2006.

Her educational background includes a law degree from the University of Alberta and a Master of Laws Degree from Osgoode Hall Law School. She has been an instructor with the Law Society of Upper Canada Bar Admission Course focusing on public law, a guest lecturer at the University of Ottawa law school, and has spoken to numerous national and international forums.

I am pleased to say that this is also a homecoming for Ms. Daley here to Nova Scotia, who grew up across the harbour in Dartmouth. Nova Scotia is fortunate to have such an accomplished and dedicated individual stepping forward to lead the work of our Human Rights Commission.

I also want to take this opportunity, Mr. Speaker, to thank the selection panel for their work during the recruitment process. This panel included a representative nominated by each Party in this House. I extend appreciation to these individuals for all of their hard work.

Once again, I want to ask all members of the House to join me in welcoming Ms. Daley to her new responsibilities at the Human Rights Commission and welcome her back home to Nova Scotia. Also, Mr. Speaker, in wishing her well, I also want to pay thanks to the person who has been doing a phenomenal job in the interim basis, Michael Noonan. If both would stand and receive the welcome and the thanks of the House. (Applause)

Mr. Speaker, on another introduction, it's often nice when we can welcome parliamentarians or former parliamentarians to the House. Sometimes people from Nova Scotia go further afield with life experiences. One such person is Pamela Paul, from her Shelburne roots she moved, at one point, to Ontario and Alberta. She is here today with her husband, John. As many members of this House would appreciate, since 1977, she was a school board trustee in Alberta, moved as well to an alderperson in the City of St. Albert, and then in 1997 was elected an MLA in the 24th Legislature.

So again, with all the roles and responsibilities and still, after all that time, with an interest to come to the Legislature here in Nova Scotia, so indeed to Pamela, welcome and please rise and receive the welcome of the House. (Applause)

[Page 2322]

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of Health Promotion and Protection.

HON. BARRY BARNET: Mr. Speaker, before I read my resolution, I'd like to make an introduction, if I may. All members would know that this is National Volunteer Week in Canada. Today we have visiting with us Sheila King, who is a volunteer with the Beaver Bank-Kinsac Elementary School and Janice Silver, who is the chair of Nova Scotia Breakfast for Learning.

I'd ask them to rise and receive the warm welcome of the House, Mr. Speaker. (Applause)

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of Health Promotion and Protection.

RESOLUTION NO. 2179

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

Whereas for the past 13 years students at Beaver Bank-Kinsac Elementary School have been getting a healthy and nutritious start to their day; and

Whereas the volunteer program coordinator, Sheila King, has led a team of volunteers to ensure that the Breakfast for Learning program continues to thrive at the school and ensure all children have access to breakfast; and

Whereas Sheila King was the recipient of the 2007 national Breakfast for Learning award for inspiration and leadership in childhood nutrition, and presented with the award in front of students, family and friends in March;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House congratulate Sheila King on her award and thank her for her commitment to the students at Beaver Bank-Kinsac Elementary School.

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 2323]

The motion is carried.

The honourable Minister of Environment.

RESOLUTION NO. 2180

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

Whereas students from the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design University set out to design the "perfect" waste/recycling separation container with the aim of making it as easy as possible for people to sort their wastes; and

Whereas this type of innovative thinking will improve compliance with provincial disposal bans and help the province achieve our waste disposal target; and

Whereas NSCAD students who participated in that project won a 2008 Mobius Award for innovation in waste reduction;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House join the people of Nova Scotia in congratulating the students of NSCAD University on their leadership and innovation in environmental management.

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 Community Services.

RESOLUTION NO. 2181

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

[Page 2324]

Whereas the Community Services Department's past regional director of Housing Services, the late Tom Moore's involvement and leadership in social housing and community development issues spanned four decades; and

Whereas throughout these years he focused on social justice issues about which he was passionate - a born leader, a highly skilled professional, and a mentor to many; and

Whereas I am honoured to say that Tom Moore was honoured by the Canadian Housing and Renewal Association when he was named winner of their Graham Emslie Award for 2008, given each year to an individual or group who have made an exemplary contribution to housing and community development;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House recognize the achievements of Mr. Moore and on behalf of the department, and the many others who knew him, we are very pleased that he and his family have received this recognition.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

[2:15 p.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.

The honourable Minister of Transportation and Infrastructure Renewal.

RESOLUTION NO. 2182

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

Whereas a group of women from Annapolis County celebrated their 25th Anniversary on Tuesday, April 29th, when they gathered at the Lawrencetown Fire Hall for Annapolis County Farm and Rural Women's Day; and

[Page 2325]

Whereas this day was started to provide a fun and educational outing for women who work on farms in Annapolis County and has evolved to include all women who live in rural communities in the county; and

Whereas the day's activities featured speakers and displays of interest for women who live on farms and in rural communities, as well as the enjoyment of each other's company;

Therefore be it resolved that members of this Legislature offer best wishes to these women and thank them for their efforts to promote local, small- business women and educate the public about their importance of buying local products.

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. 2183

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

Whereas the Nova Scotia Department of Natural Resources presents the Nova Scotia Woodlot Owner of the Year Award each year to recognize and reward landowners for outstanding stewardship of their woodland and to encourage the practice of sustainable woodlot management; and

Whereas this year, 15 woodland owners have been nominated across the province; and

Whereas regional and provincial evaluations will be conducted to select winners;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House acknowledge the contribution of woodland owners to Nova Scotia's economy, communities, and environment.

[Page 2326]

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 Promotion and Protection.

RESOLUTION NO. 2184

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

Whereas the week of April 27, 2008 to May 3, 2008 is designated National Volunteer Week to recognize, celebrate and thank Canadians who volunteer for various community initiatives and charitable organizations; and

Whereas the success of the Heart and Stroke Foundation of Nova Scotia would not be possible were it not for the 4,500 Nova Scotians whose volunteering efforts allow the foundation to undertake meaningful work in advocacy, health promotion and research; and

Whereas 27 exceptional Nova Scotians have recently been awarded the Heart and Stroke Foundation of Nova Scotia's volunteer honour, the Outstanding Volunteer Award, by the foundation's honorary patron, the Lieutenant Governor of Nova Scotia;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House acknowledge the significant contribution Nova Scotia's volunteers make to their community, and congratulate the 27 volunteers who have received the Heart and Stroke Foundation of Nova Scotia's Outstanding Volunteer Award.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

[Page 2327]

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable Minister of Community Services.

RESOLUTION NO. 2185

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

Whereas the Needham Preschool and Daycare, one of the Department of Community Services' licensed and valuable child care facilities, has a program recognizing random acts of kindness among the children at the preschool; and

Whereas under the program, children observed doing a kind act are given a ballot which goes into a random draw at the end of the month; and

Whereas all of this encourages kindness and helps children to understand that acts of giving strengthen a community;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House commend the hard-working and creative staff of the Needham Preschool and Daycare and their innovative Kindness Reward Program for nurturing better citizens, a better community, and a better 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.

INTRODUCTION OF BILLS

Bill No. 142 - Entitled an Act to Protect Civil Servants Who Disclose Government Wrong-doing. (Ms. Maureen MacDonald)

[Page 2328]

Bill No. 143 - Entitled an Act to Amend Chapter 18 of the Acts of 1998. The Municipal Government Act. (Mr. Keith Colwell)

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

NOTICES OF MOTION

The honourable member for Pictou West.

RESOLUTION NO. 2186

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

Whereas the Pictou County Tourism Association held their 11th Annual Gala Awards Ceremony on April 10, 2008 at the Museum of Industry in Stellarton, to recognize outstanding tourist operators; and

Whereas the Beach Lane Lavender Farm, operated by Anita and David Carlson of Marshville, Pictou County, won the Rising Star Award for the business demonstrating the greatest potential for tourism development in Pictou County; and

Whereas the Pictou Accommodations Group, representing several local inns, motels, and bed and breakfast enterprises, won the Shining Star Award for making a marketing impact on the local tourist scene, bringing high profile to Pictou County;

Therefore be it resolved that this House of Assembly commend the Pictou County Tourist Association on hosting the 11th Annual Gala Awards Ceremony on April 10th and extend congratulations to the Beach Lane Lavender Farm on being named the recipient of the Rising Star Award and the Pictou Accommodations Group on being named the recipient of the Shining Star Award.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

[Page 2329]

The honourable Minister of Service Nova Scotia and Municipal Relations.

RESOLUTION NO. 2187

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

Whereas Truro native Lauren Sears, who currently attends the University of Winnipeg, was recently named to the Canadian Inter-University Sport Canada West All-Rookie Volleyball Team; and

Whereas Lauren Sears, who is 5'11, made the starting roster and was second on the team with 132 kills and 45 blocks; and

Whereas Lauren Sears graduated from the Cobequid Education Centre in 2007 and was a standout volleyball player under the direction of Coach Bob Piers;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House congratulate Lauren Sears on being named to the Canadian Inter-University Sport Canada West All-Rookie Volleyball Team, and wish her every success in her athletic and academic future.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable Leader of the Official Opposition.

RESOLUTION NO. 2188

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

Whereas Jim Connors of Dartmouth and Judee Young of Sackville were two Nova Scotians living with colorectal cancer who spoke out publicly to urge the government to include Avastin among the life-giving drugs provided for treatment of Nova Scotians; and

[Page 2330]

Whereas Judee and Jim passed away earlier this year, but both were alive when Denyse Hockley and Madeline Bolivar brought to this House petitions urging coverage of Avastin, which has been signed by many thousands of Nova Scotians; and

Whereas Blair George of Guysborough was another Nova Scotian living with cancer who recently spoke out and began gathering names on a petition in support of Avastin coverage;

Therefore be it resolved that this House of Assembly recognize the courage and public spirit that was made evident by the late Jim Connors, the late Judee Young, Blair George, Madeline Bolivar, Denyse Hockley and the thousands of other Nova Scotians who supported their effort to have Avastin covered as part of cancer care 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 Leader of the Liberal Party.

RESOLUTION NO. 2189

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

Whereas Walton Cook, the former Liberal MLA from Lunenburg Centre passed away on April 20th; and

Whereas in addition to serving his province as a member of this House from 1970 to 1974, he also served his province and community as a lawyer with the Queens Counsel distinction; and

Whereas Walton was also actively involved with the Masonic Lodge, in which he was a high ranking member for more than 50 years with that organization.

[Page 2331]

Therefore be it resolved that members of this House of Assembly recognize the many contributions that Walter Cook made to his community, and offer our condolences to his family and friends.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Victoria-The Lakes.

RESOLUTION NO. 2190

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

Whereas Baddeck's Bell Bay Golf Club recently became the third certified Audubon Co-operative Sanctuary golf course in Nova Scotia; and

Whereas a staff ecologist for the Audubon Sanctuary programs described Bell Bay as showing a strong commitment to its environmental program; and

Whereas Bell Bay reached certification by demonstrating leadership in areas such as environmental planning, wildlife and habitat management, chemical use reduction and water conservation;

Therefore be it resolved that all MLAs in this House of Assembly applaud the management, staff and membership of Bell Bay Golf Club for their designation as a certified Audubon Co-operative Sanctuary.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

[Page 2332]

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 Queens.

RESOLUTION NO. 2191

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

Whereas in 1908, Albert Bigelow Paine wrote and had The Tent Dwellers published, which chronicles a wonderful canoe and trout fishing trip through the interior of southwestern Nova Scotia in the early 1900s; and

Whereas the Tent Dwellers Festival Planning Committee has put together an absolutely wonderful schedule of events to give people a taste of the wilderness, recreation, history, music and stories of the area; and

Whereas the festival will begin with a re-live of the original wilderness canoe trip in May, a canoe festival in August, an outdoor arts festival in September and the homecoming in October;

Therefore be it resolved that this House of Assembly recognize the Tent Dwellers Festival Planning Committee for all of their hard work and enthusiasm for putting together this wonderful celebration of The Tent Dwellers and wish them much luck with their celebrations over the summer.

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 2333]

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Glace Bay.

RESOLUTION NO. 2192

MR. DAVID WILSON (Glace Bay): Mr. Speaker, I hereby give notice that on a future day I shall move the adoption of the following resolution:

Whereas on April 26th, the Glace Bay Panthers captured the 2008 Nova Scotia School Athletic Federation Cheerleading Championship at their home school, Glace Bay High; and

Whereas the Panthers narrowly won the competition, scoring higher than second place finisher, the Cole Harbour Cavaliers; and

Whereas this is the third time the Panthers have won this season, winning the Highland Region Championship and the 2008 CheerExpo in Halifax;

Therefore be it resolved that members of the House of Assembly congratulate the Glace Bay Panthers on a successful season and wish them the best in the future.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for member for Hants West.

[2:30 p.m.]

RESOLUTION NO. 2193

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

[Page 2334]

Whereas the health, social and economic cost of alcohol and illicit drugs to Canadian society are conservatively estimated to be now around $10 billion annually; and

Whereas the Windsor and District Lions Club recently concluded their drug awareness poster contest; and

Whereas at the Three Mile Plains Elementary School, Lion Stan Dauphinee attended an awards presentation which saw Grade 3 students, Zach Woodman and Morgan Cole placing first and second in their category, while Grade 6 student, Nicole Donahue placed second, and Grade 5 student, Kara Collins received honourable mention;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House recognize the Windsor and District Lions Club for such a responsible community endeavour, while congratulating students at the Three Mile Plains Elementary School for their important contribution to a worthwhile project.

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 Shelburne.

RESOLUTION NO. 2194

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

Whereas the Woods Harbour Wesleyan Church celebrated their 75th Anniversary on April 14 to April 20, 2008, where they held noontime lunches and special evening services with invited guests and a banquet at the Woods Harbour Fire Hall; and

Whereas in 1931, Gordon Symonds, Reverend Hanley Mullen, Reverend Fraser Dunlop and Bennett Cochrane held tent meetings in a field in Central Woods Harbour for three summers; and

[Page 2335]

Whereas on January 31, 1933, the Woods Harbour Reformed Baptist Church was organized and in 1937, the building was torn down and replaced new on February 18, 1938;

Therefore be it resolved this House of Assembly congratulate the Woods Harbour Wesleyan Church on their 75th Anniversary celebration on April 14 to April 20, 2008.

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 Clare.

RESOLUTION NO. 2195

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

Whereas the Clare Acadiens Midget A hockey team hosted the 2008 Nova Scotia Midget A Provincial Championship Tournament in Church Point from March 28 to March 30, 2008; and

Whereas the Clare team played against the Truro Bearcats in the championship game; and

Whereas two of the Clare players picked up individual honours in addition to the team's win;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House of Assembly congratulate the Clare Acadiens Midget A Hockey Team as well as their coaches and players Marc Lombard and Nicholas Knutson for winning the Nova Scotia Midget A Provincial Hockey Championships.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

[Page 2336]

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 Centre.

RESOLUTION NO. 2196

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

Whereas the Town of New Glasgow was one of 150 communities across Canada that participated in Earth Hour at the end of March this year; and

Whereas the town combined the event with a flavour of its own and offered an hour-long historic walking tour, complete with lanterns; and

Whereas residents and businesses across the county turned off lights and power to acknowledge the climate crisis and organizers were pleased with the number of people and the age range of participants, signifying that the conservation message is reaching out to young and old;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House send the Town of New Glasgow congratulations on its own successful Earth Hour and for using the opportunity to combine the past with a sustainable future.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Pictou East.

[Page 2337]

RESOLUTION NO. 2197

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

Whereas Raymond Cameron has served on Westville's Town Council for 17 years and was instrumental in the development of Acadia Park and currently serves as Chairman of Westville's Police Commission; and

Whereas Raymond Cameron has served with numerous other organizations including Westville's recreation and rink committees, the John Howard Society, the Rotary Club and the Pictou County Sports Heritage Hall of Fame to name but a few of his community involvements; and

Whereas Raymond Cameron is the Town of Westville's nominee for the 2008 Representative Volunteer of the Year award;

Therefore be it resolved that this House of Assembly commend Raymond Cameron for his years of service to the many aspects of the Town of Westville and congratulate him on being Westville's Representative Volunteer of the Year.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Victoria-The Lakes.

RESOLUTION NO. 2198

MR. KEITH BAIN: Mr. Speaker, on behalf of the honourable member for Cape Breton West, I hereby give notice that on a future day I shall move the adoption of the following resolution:

Whereas Cape Bretoners are some of the most unique people in the world and volunteering is merely one of their hallmark traits; and

[Page 2338]

Whereas Paulette MacDougall, of Port Morien, has been involved for years with Morien Memories, the popular annual homecoming event; and

Whereas Paulette has been a mainstay in local theatre . . .

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. This is a very important resolution. (Laughter)

MR. BAIN: . . . and has been producer of the Port Morien Dinner Theatre for the last 11 years;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House honour Paulette MacDougall and the dedication she has shown to her community and how it has benefited from her unique talents.

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.

RESOLUTION NO. 2199

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

Whereas the Nova Scotia Fruit Growers held their 144th convention banquet on January 30th; and

Whereas the Uniroyal Golden Apple Award was awarded during this event for the best managed block over five acres; and

Whereas Gerry van Oostrum was recognized for his exemplary management of his orchard which consistently produces higher yields and quality fruit in the beautiful community of Canard, Kings County;

[Page 2339]

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House congratulate Gerry van Oostrum on his accomplishments in orchard management and his dedication to the Nova Scotia family farm.

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. 2200

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

Whereas Wendy Elliott of Wolfville has had a distinguished 30 year career with the Kings County Advertiser as a reporter; and

Whereas Wendy Elliott was recognized recently with two national newspaper awards including a second in the country overall for outstanding reporter initiative for her series on youth crime called Good Kids Gone Bad in the Register's circulation class and placing third in Canada winning the George Cadogan Memorial Award for the outstanding Columnist category for her column that appears each week in the Advertiser; and

Whereas Ms. Elliott will be presented with her awards in Toronto, May 9th at the Canadian Community Newspapers Association's annual Better Newpapers Competition;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House recognize Wendy's outstanding contribution to the journalism talent we have right here in our province.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

[Page 2340]

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

ORAL QUESTIONS PUT BY MEMBERS

MR. SPEAKER: Question Period will begin at 2:40 p.m. and end at 4:10 p.m.

The honourable Leader of the Official Opposition.

PREM. - ELECTION PROMISE: RETRACTION - EXPLAIN

MR. DARRELL DEXTER: Mr. Speaker, my question will be through you to the Premier. Just last week, on April 22nd , the Premier told Nova Scotians that his government plans to fulfill all of the promises it made during the 2006 election campaign, but not always on schedule. There may be a few things that you will see a slight delay in, he said. The Premier knew at that time that was not the case. My question, Mr. Speaker, through you to the Premier is, will the Premier tell Nova Scotians why he did not admit that he was about to take back a key conservative election promise?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, the government indicated that we would provide HST relief on home heating, on wood, on oil, on the heating portion for electrical. We have fulfilled that commitment. We have also moved forward with respect to a new rebate program and there were changes in the program. I talked about that yesterday and those changes are meant to see more dollars going into the hands of low-income Nova Scotians so that we can help them with the challenges they will face this winter. This is something that I've heard the members talk about. I've also spoken on many occasions with the Leader of the Liberal Party, who is very passionate about this issue. I quite frankly agree with that leader that there was more money needed for low-income Nova Scotians.

MR. DEXTER: Mr. Speaker, just to remind the Premier, I'll table the Premier's own campaign statement of May 16th during the election campaign in which he said, "we will rebate a large part of the tax that families are now paying to heat their homes and run basic necessities like the fridge". This is what he said, Mr. Speaker, "we will remove the province's portion of the harmonized sales tax". That's eight per cent gone. Well, Mr.

[Page 2341]

Speaker, the cat came back the very next day and so did the eight per cent on using the fridge.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please.

MR. DEXTER: The Premier said his promises were "very fiscally responsible." Mr. Speaker, my question to him is why impose an eight per cent tax on household electricity when it was very fiscally responsible to end that unfair tax?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, I was very proud when our government introduced the seventh consecutive balanced budget yesterday. (Applause) It is balanced in many ways. It finds that balance between being fiscally responsible and also looking after our fellow Nova Scotians. That's why we're able to invest in a Pharmacare Program for the 180,000 Nova Scotians who don't have a drug plan today. That's why we were able to provide tax relief of well over $60 million to Nova Scotians from one end of this province to the other and that's why we made the changes to this program to ensure that Nova Scotians got the dollars they need to keep their homes warm this coming winter.

MR. DEXTER: Well, Mr. Speaker, the Premier is apparently not as proud of the commitments that he made during the 2006 election campaign as set out in the platform statement that I have just tabled. The Premier's 2007 progress report on how he is keeping his promise, boasted about how the government was providing relief from high energy prices to an estimated 400,000 households regardless of family income.

Now, the Premier has demonstrated great flexibility in changing his position on a wide range of issues from Sunday shopping through to tuition fees. His government even told people this year there would be no new taxes. So my question through you, Mr. Speaker, to the Premier is this, what would convince the Premier to keep his promise and drop the unfair, unwise and unwelcome new tax on household energy?

[2:45 p.m.]

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, I'm very proud of the record of this government. I've said time and time again in interviews with the media and through to the people of the province that we needed to take a look at what we were doing for low income Nova Scotians in regard to the programs that we have. It was decided that a change was required. Now, we needed to make a change and we made that change. I did so after listening to Nova Scotians, after speaking with individuals in this House, members of the Opposition. Myself and the Leader of the Liberal Party had discussions on this very issue - certainly we did - because we both felt strongly about the need for the rebate back into the hands of Nova Scotians to make sure that we looked after those who need the help the most.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Leader of the Liberal Party.

[Page 2342]

PREM. - NOVA SCOTIA POWER: URB - RATE DECREASE

MR. STEPHEN MCNEIL: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Premier. Yesterday, Emera announced record first-quarter profits mainly due to the increase of profits of Nova Scotia Power. Nova Scotia Power saw earnings of $57.9 million in the first quarter of this year. That is more than double the earnings of the previous year which was $26.1 million. At a time when Nova Scotians are feeling the heat in their pocketbook, Nova Scotia Power is enjoying record profits. My question to the Premier is this - Premier, will you force Nova Scotia Power before the URB and enforce a rate decrease?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, I will concur, and I'm sure every member in the House will concur, when Nova Scotia Power is making profits like that, the URB will utilize all the information at hand and we should see Nova Scotians be fairly treated in that regard. So certainly I agree with my honourable colleague, but that is not a decision simply on the floor of this Legislature that we should make about what power prices should be. That is why we have an arm's length organization such as the URB to determine what the rates for our residents should be.

MR. MCNEIL: Mr. Speaker, that Premier and that minister don't have any problem with setting the price of gas on the floor of this Legislature so why are they leaving Nova Scotians out in the cold when it comes to power rates? It seems evident this Premier is not concerned about the power bills of the struggling residents in this province. The Premier has always refused to intervene on rate increase hearings and just yesterday the Premier announced that electricity bills will be going up because of a rebate cutback. In 2005 the Premier allowed a 6.2 per cent rate increase; in 2006, an 8.6 per cent; and in 2007, a 4.7 per cent increase. We have all seen this government's unwillingness to deal with the gas prices in this province and it is apparent it's spilling over to power rates as well.

My question to the Premier is simple, why do you continue to allow energy prices in this province to rise out of control?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, the government has managed to find the right balance between making sure that we live within our fiscal means and also that we provide the programs that our citizens deserve to have, and we have done that. But we cannot see our province go back into deficits that we saw in the 1990s. No one wants to see that, and that means ensuring that we find a balance in the budget, that means investing in the programs which will make a difference for our citizens, and that means at times, yes, we do have to make difficult choices - some of those difficult choices for the benefit of all citizens. (Applause)

MR. MCNEIL: Mr. Speaker, the Premier seems adamant at setting the price of gasoline in this province and gouging our consumers. Nova Scotians are being faced with difficult choices that they should never have to make - food versus heat, heat versus

[Page 2343]

medicine, medicine versus food. These are difficulties you are allowing the citizens to go through because you refuse to show leadership, so my question to the Premier is, when will you put the priorities of Nova Scotians ahead of the profits of Nova Scotia Power?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, again, I agree. There's nothing more I'd love to see than for Nova Scotians to see a reduction in what the Utility and Review Board would decide, and we would hope that would be the case.

Again, the member speaks about fuel tax. Every single penny that's collected by this government, by law, goes back into the roads. That law was supported by all members of this Legislature, from every single Party. I agree those dollars should be going into our roads - we do not want to see our roads deteriorate any further. We want to see continued progress being made, we are making progress, and we need every penny to do that.

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

PREM. - HOME HEATING TAX: ENFORCEMENT - EXPLAIN

MR. DARRELL DEXTER: Mr. Speaker, my question will be through you to the Premier. All members of the House will recall reading the story of Jane Alexander of Harrietsfield - she kept warm this winter with piles of blankets and a nearby electric heater. In fact, anyone who tries to stay warm in a single room with their oven or a space heater is not a typical household. These people may well use less than 27.4 kilowatt hours per day and now they will almost certainly be paying 8 per cent more for their home heating, thanks to the Premier's broken promise. So my question is this, why is the Premier making these Nova Scotians pay 8 per cent tax on their home heating?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, in fact, with the new rebate program, the individual mentioned - and I don't know all the circumstances for that particular individual, but such individuals would be able to receive the $200 rebate or the other rebate. In addition, we are also providing an additional $400,000 to the Salvation Army to help low-income Nova Scotians who need additional help.

There are going to be more dollars in the hands of low-income Nova Scotians and that's what the program is all about.

MR. DEXTER: Mr. Speaker, the tax based on the so-called typical household is always going to be arbitrary and unfair. This government has not done its homework to determine the extent to which it will now be taxing home heating. What about the Nova Scotians who have balanced billing, Nova Scotians who use electricity as a supplementary

[Page 2344]

source of heating, and Nova Scotians who have conserved so well that their non-heating usage is less than 27.4 kilowatt hours a day? Mr. Speaker, to the Premier, why should Nova Scotians be taxed for the sin of being non-typical?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, the program was clearly outlined yesterday. The program is intended to help low- income Nova Scotians. I heard members on all sides of the House wanting the government to move forward with a rebate program to help those Nova Scotians. Yesterday we announced HARP, the Heating Assistance Rebate Program, as well as the additional dollars for the Salvation Army, and that is to accomplish those goals. We stand by the program, we stand by it as a better program today than it was last week, and Nova Scotians will be better for it this coming winter.

MR. DEXTER: Mr. Speaker, whether the Premier planned it or not, the new 8 per cent tax on basic electricity in this province is now the centrepiece of this budget. Nova Scotians can see for themselves that it simply does not make sense, and Nova Scotians certainly know a broken promise when they see one. So my question to the Premier is, why won't the Premier recognize that as well as taxing home electricity usage, a broken promise, he is also putting a tax on home heating in many households where electricity is a source of heat?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, if I followed the advice of the Leader of the Opposition, there would be no Family Pharmacare Program for the people in this province. If I followed the advice of the Leader of the Opposition, students in this province wouldn't be seeing their tuition going down to the national average. If we followed the advice of the Official Opposition here, this province would be back into a deficit and our debt would be growing. We will do what is right for the future of this province.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Leader of the Official Opposition, on a new question.

BUDGET (N.S. 2008-09): SECURITY BREACH - REVIEW/REPORT

MR. DARRELL DEXTER: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Premier. Yesterday I raised the very serious issue of budget security and in particular the budget details that appeared in the Tuesday edition of The ChronicleHerald and were directly attributed to a source within government. The Premier committed to, "do a proper review with my colleagues and in my office and ask questions." My question is, budget security is a very serious matter so I ask the Premier to report to the House the results of his review.

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, in light of the budget question, I will refer that to the Minister of Finance.

[Page 2345]

HON. MICHAEL BAKER: Mr. Speaker, we all take very seriously the question of budget security. Obviously, it is something that we regret. However, it takes a huge team of people to prepare any budget in a year. We have reviewed this, my staff have reviewed this. We find no evidence that there could or would have been, as a result of this unfortunate situation, any disruption in capital markets. We need to talk to many stakeholders across Nova Scotia, including, obviously, Nova Scotia Power, with preparation of a program change. That is what happened. There was a leak. It is unfortunate but there is, unfortunately, nothing more we can do. We will, however, remind everyone involved in the process of the importance of budget security.

MR. DEXTER: Mr. Speaker, The ChronicleHerald and other news outlets reported that it was a highly placed government source that appears to have confirmed the electricity tax increase a day before the budget. The tax increase, as was pointed out by the Minister of Finance, that potentially could affect Nova Scotia Power, a publicly traded and regulated corporation. So my question to the Premier is, will the Premier's review determine whether or not whether anyone could potentially benefit financially from advance knowledge of the budget's contents?

MR. BAKER: Mr. Speaker, my colleague, the Minister of Service Nova Scotia and Municipal Relations has indicated, for example, that in a question in this House - I believe it was the Thursday before budget day - that he himself indicated in the House to wait for the budget, that there were going to be changes in that program. The fact that there was going to be a change in the program was already out there.

MR. DEXTER: Mr. Speaker, I am sure you will remember that when there was a budget leak federally, it led to a criminal investigation. In fact, the Minister of Finance at that time, along with other members of the federal government, came under scrutiny. Nova Scotians take, and rightfully so, budget security very seriously. Dozens of Nova Scotians participated in various lockups on Budget Day, dutifully following the rules prescribed by the Department of Finance. These rules are long established to make sure the contents of the budget remain under wraps.

MR. SPEAKER: Question.

MR. DEXTER: There are good reasons for this level of security, Mr. Speaker. So my question is to the Premier, what steps is he taking to ensure that any breach of budget security is treated with the seriousness it deserves?

MR. BAKER: Mr. Speaker, the answer to the question is very simple. We do take budget security very seriously. I take budget security very seriously, the government takes budget security very seriously. We have indicated that we will make sure everyone is aware of that, and we will do everything in our power to make sure that something like this wouldn't happen again.

[Page 2346]

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Leader of the Liberal Party.

PREM. - GAS REGULATION: CONTINUATION - EXPLAIN

MR. STEPHEN MCNEIL: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Premier. Gas regulation has been a failure in this province since it began a little less than two years ago, in July 2006. The Premier stated that he wanted to protect retailers and wanted to stabilize prices. After two years of a regulated system, prices are not stabilized and retailers continue to close. So my question to the Premier is, if your goals of gas regulations don't hold water, why are you allowing Nova Scotians to drown under high gas prices?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, regulation was put in place to achieve two goals: firstly, stability at the pumps for consumers; and secondly, to protect our rural stations. The report that was done took a look at both of those issues and concluded that what the government had put forward was working. We have also committed to ensuring that we review this on an ongoing basis and the next review will take place later this year.

MR. MCNEIL: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Nova Scotians are suspicious of the price of gas because they know it's a Cabinet Minister who sets the price. In all other regulated jurisdictions, the price of gas is set by an independent board to remove the ability of government from gouging consumers, but this government seems content to allow for political influencing in the price of gas. My question to the Premier is, why are you allowing your minister to set the price of gas 10 cents higher than New Brunswick's independent board?

[3:00 p.m.]

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, I will defer to the Minister of Service Nova Scotia and Municipal Relations to update my colleague with respect to how regulation is working for the people of this province.

HON. JAMES MUIR: Thank you, Mr. Speaker, and I thank the honourable colleague for that particular question. We do it objectively, to be quite frank. It is the minister who has the final decision on that (Interruptions)

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. Allow the minister to answer the question.

MR. MUIR: I think perhaps in some ways common sense would tell the members of this House and everybody else that if the minister wanted to do this from a political basis, that the price would be far lower than it is today.

MR. MCNEIL: Common sense in this government, Mr. Speaker, it's an interesting idea, isn't it?

[Page 2347]

Mr. Speaker, when asked a question on July 4, 2006, about who set the price of gas, the Premier said, "The intention, at this point, is to move forward to the URB later this Fall . . ." He didn't do that, he promised to give it up after a review. An October 2006 release said that the province would continue to set fuel prices until an independent review was completed. Well, that review was completed over a year ago. So my question to the Premier is, when will you finally remove politics from setting the price of gas in this province?

MR. MUIR: Thank you. The honourable member will remember after gas regulation was introduced, there was some discussion actually between the Leader of the Liberal Party and the Leader of our Party. One of the things they had asked for was that we move up our review of gas regulation. In response to the Liberal Critic at that time, we advanced that review and we had Gardner Pinfold come in and do an objective review of that. The decision of the review at that time was that it really had been done too soon, but they did make a couple of recommendations for change, which the government did implement.

So, Mr. Speaker, they asked for the review, we did the review, we did what the review suggested, so I am really kind of at a loss inasmuch as that review was done at the resistance of the Liberal Party.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Sackville-Cobequid.

HEALTH: PROFESSIONAL RECRUITMENT - MANAGEMENT

MR. DAVID WILSON (Sackville-Cobequid): Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Health this afternoon. Yesterday I asked the minister about the recruitment of doctors in rural ICUs and he told this House . . .

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. I cannot hear the question.

MR. DAVID WILSON (Sackville-Cobequid): Yesterday I asked the minister about the recruitment of doctors in rural ICUs and he told this House, the member opposite knows all district health authorities are responsible for recruiting to their areas. Essentially he gave up the Department of Health's responsibility to ensure that there are proper types and numbers of health care workers in Nova Scotia. I'd like to ask the Minister of Health, does the minister believe that every clinic, hospital, and district health authority should manage their own recruitment efforts independently from each other?

HON. CHRISTOPHER D'ENTREMONT: Mr. Speaker, to the member opposite, I can wholeheartedly say that there is a team of individuals who work day to day on the recruitment of professionals in this province, which includes the district health authorities, and they of course, in my Party's estimation, know their communities best and know the requirements of the people they are trying to recruit. We give a lot of leeway to the district health authorities in recruiting those people. At the same time we do have a coordinating

[Page 2348]

group through Physician Services that helps generally recruit the number of physicians that we do need in this province. So it is a team effort when it comes to recruiting in this province.

MR. DAVID WILSON (Sackville-Cobequid): Mr. Speaker, documents which were presented to the Public Accounts Committee on March 5th had 19 documents that outlined different Department of Health strategies. The 2008 summary report on Health Human Resources Planning in Nova Scotia states: Developing a comprehensive HHR strategy for Nova Scotia is an important dimension of maintaining a health care system that is responsive to population health needs. My question to the Minister of Health is, does he still stand by his assertion that when it comes to recruitment each DHA is on their own?

MR. D'ENTREMONT: Mr. Speaker, of course proof is in the pudding. Over 30 new physicians and ER doctors were recruited to this province last year alone.

MR. DAVID WILSON (Sackville-Cobequid): Mr. Speaker, the minister said yesterday he is bullish about the future. What he should have done was learn from the past. Nova Scotia has a history of ICU closures in Bridgewater, Amherst, and now in New Glasgow because of a lack of specialists. Dalhousie Medical School only has one resident internist this year so I'd like to ask the minister, why hasn't the minister done anything to educate more internists in the Province of Nova Scotia?

MR. D'ENTREMONT: Mr. Speaker, once again the Official Opposition is confusing the information. Of course the ICUs in Bridgewater and Amherst were closed due to a dispute with the physicians there on remuneration. That issue has been resolved and those ICUs are open. Of course the issue of the ICU in Pictou has been one that's been unfortunate. I know the district health authority at this time is working hard to recruit a new professional. At the same time we are working through the local program to have somebody join the team there in mid-May.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Queens.

NAT. RES.: DEPT. HELICOPTER - USAGE

MS. VICKI CONRAD: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Natural Resources. The Government of Nova Scotia Common Services Manual, Chapter 7.7, says that the role and objective of the government aircraft, ". . . is to provide aerial support in emergency situations and for resource development and management programs . . .". This manual also outlines a Priority for Use, "1. Medical evacuations; 2.Ground search and rescue; 3. Forest fire detection and suppression; 4. Provincial emergency situations; 5. Resource development and management."

[Page 2349]

My question to the minister is, in the Common Service Manual last reviewed in October 2007, where does shuttling the Premier fall?

HON. DAVID MORSE: Mr. Speaker, I thank the member opposite for her question. (Interruptions)

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please.

The honourable Minister of Natural Resources.

MR. MORSE: Mr. Speaker, the helicopters are available if all the other ranking priorities have been addressed before the department or the office that would then rent the helicopter needs it. So in other words, if there are no forest fires, no likely forest fires on a given day, or any of the other things that the member opposite listed off, and a department wants to rent the helicopter, it is available, on those terms, for $400 an hour.

MS. CONRAD: Mr. Speaker, in the Government of Nova Scotia Human Resources Management Manual, Chapter 7.1, Travel Policy, there is mention of when the government aircraft may be used. It states, "The use of the government aircraft may be authorized by the Minister when this mode of transportation is considered both economical and practical." I ask the minister, does he believe the Premier's use of his department's helicopter was both economical and practical or was it just politically expedient?

MR. MORSE: Mr. Speaker, I want to comment that some of the expectations of members of this House, and particularly the Premier, just go beyond what is humanly possible without every possible assist that is available to them. In this case, I am aware that the Premier is often asked to be in places on the same day, it is just not physically possible and because he is trying to address the concerns of Nova Scotians who want to see him, he did the appropriate thing and he made use of the helicopter under those circumstances and on those days.

MS. CONRAD: Mr. Speaker, the Premier seems to be out of touch with ordinary Nova Scotians when he said that in order to deal with high gas prices, all Nova Scotians can do is to purchase more fuel efficient vehicles and to take up the opportunity for public transit. Meanwhile, in a scheduling crunch, this Premier had no problem using the DNR helicopter for 5.6 hours. According to specs I will table, this would have burned on average 106 litres of jet fuel per flight hour. My question for the Premier is, does he feel the pain of Nova Scotians and will he continue to use the government aircraft while advising average Nova Scotians to ride the bus?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, it's hard to believe that the member does not believe that the two events that I was at were not important enough to attend, that business in Cape Breton, the Cape Breton Partnership is not important. (Interruptions) That might be the view

[Page 2350]

of that Party over there, they may not think that the Brain Repair Centre here in Halifax is important, perhaps not, perhaps they don't believe in rural Nova Scotia. (Interruptions)

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please.

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, I'm sure though, to a degree, with perhaps the trips her own Leader would have taken in December to Sydney by plane (Interruptions)

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. Order, please. Order, please.

The honourable Leader of the Liberal Party.

HEALTH: MED. SCH. GRADUATES - RETENTION

MR. STEPHEN MCNEIL: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. My question is for the Premier. Last month the 2007 National Physician Survey was released and the results were telling; 4.9 per cent of physicians practising in Nova Scotia graduated in or after the year 2000. Clearly, our youngest doctors are choosing to practice elsewhere. The health and safety of Nova Scotians is being compromised by this government's inability to retain our medical school graduates.

My question to the Premier is, now that you have these statistics in hand, what do you intend to do to ensure that we retain our young medical school graduates here in this province?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, I appreciate that question because we all want to see additional physicians in various areas of the province and perhaps the greatest pressure comes in our rural areas. The government indicated yesterday in the budget about additional resident positions that are moving forward. In addition, we also talked in recent days about the clinician assessment program done for new immigrant doctors. I am proud to say that Nova Scotia has the highest doctor-to-patient ratio in the country.

MR. MCNEIL: Mr. Speaker, beyond not being able to retain our youngest graduates, less than half of the family physicians practising in this province actually grew up here. It is bad enough that the youngest graduates don't see Nova Scotia as an attractive place to practice medicine but we are also being faced with a double whammy of failing to retain Nova Scotia-born physicians to actually practice in their own province. So how can the Premier hide behind these statistics? Does the Premier view these statistics as acceptable or are they the result of an ineffective government plan to retain physicians in Nova Scotia? Which is it?

[3:15 p.m.]

[Page 2351]

THE PREMIER: I know that my honourable colleague has brought this up in the House before and that this is an important issue for him. It is an important issue for me, Mr. Speaker. We have additional resident positions that were indicated yesterday, that our Minister of Health will no doubt be talking about during his estimates. I think I have to provide clarification on my last wording, it is the best doctor-to-patient ratio in the country that we have.

As well, Mr. Speaker, we'll continue to work with also the Government of New Brunswick with the additional seats that are there. Of course we want to see continued numbers growing in our province, see more doctors be able to stay here. Part of the agreement with Doctors Nova Scotia is taking a look at some of the issues that new doctors face when practising or coming to rural Nova Scotia. We believe that the agreement that will be put in place, at some point, will help address some of those issues.

MR. MCNEIL: Last week it was reported in the media that the government has an arrangement with Dalhousie Medical School to help pay the tuition of medical school students who agree to serve in rural Nova Scotia. Could the Premier outline today, on the floor of this House, the specific details of this agreement?

HON. CHRISTOPHER D'ENTREMONT: Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker. Of course, through ongoing negotiations with Dalhousie University and the medical school, there have been a number of seats that have been put aside, basically protected for Nova Scotia students. Those seats - which I believe is 10 to start off with, I'll get further details for the member when they become available - will be paid for, as far as I understand, from a full standpoint, for a return for service for those individuals to come and work in our rural areas.

So, Mr. Speaker, we'll continue to work on that success and continue to expand that, so that more doctors can come from Nova Scotia, can train in Nova Scotia and live out their lives working in Nova Scotia. Thank you very much.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Pictou West.

TIR: RURAL PUBLIC TRANSIT - PLANS

MR. CHARLES PARKER: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. My question through you is to the Minister of Transportation and Infrastructure Renewal. As the minister knows, last month we had a meeting to discuss some transportation issues and I brought up with him the topic of transit, particularly the need in our rural communities. We discussed how this could save some wear and tear on our province's highways and also provide an important public service at the same time. At that time, I left with the minister a copy of the transit plan for Pictou County, prepared by Pictou County Unites.

[Page 2352]

My question to the minister is, can he update this House on what support his department is prepared to give to public transit in our rural communities and, in particular, the plan from Pictou County Unites?

HON. MURRAY SCOTT: Mr. Speaker, I thank the honourable member for the question and I did have a good meeting with the member and he brought forward those issues. I do want to say as well that the opportunity of the member for Pictou Centre to travel on many roads in Pictou County in the last month and I had an opportunity to see firsthand some of the issues that the honourable member brought to my attention. I will say that it was announced in the last few days in our budget, there is $3 million available for municipalities throughout this province for transit and I would encourage the member opposite to support that budget so we can give that money to those very riders.

MR. PARKER: Mr. Speaker, again to the Minister of Transportation and Infrastructure Renewal, lack of transportation options are a barrier to social and employment opportunities for Nova Scotians. Past spending and the commitments made yesterday, I think, are inadequate in addressing the need for sustainable transportation. For example, Nova Scotia invested third lowest among Canadian provinces, at only 69 cents per capita. Yesterday's announcement equates a little more than a drop in the bucket. So my question is, when is this government going to get serious about investing in and committing to sustainable transportation for all who need it in this province?

MR. SCOTT: Mr. Speaker, the day the budget passes.

MR. PARKER: Mr. Speaker, I will go this time to the Premier. Last week the Premier was quoted in questions about soaring gas prices for Nova Scotia, "to take up the opportunity for transit." In other words, to take the bus. I am going to table a cartoon here that would give more detail to that particular image. I can assure you that Nova Scotians would love to take the bus to ride throughout the towns and the villages in this province. The problem is, there are no buses. So beside his out of touch comments, what plan is this government bringing forward to put buses on the highways and byways of this province?

AN HON. MEMBER: He's misquoting.

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, yes, certainly he is misquoting. There are indeed dollars for the residents of Pictou County in yesterday's budget because we recognize that we want to see new and innovative solutions and new and innovative proposals coming forward from rural Nova Scotia. There are dollars in yesterday's budget, $3 million, for those. So the people of Pictou County can directly benefit from a new program put forward by this government.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Glace Bay.

[Page 2353]

HEALTH: NURSE VACANCIES - NUMBERS

MR. DAVID WILSON (Glace Bay): Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Health. The closure of an ICU in New Glasgow due to a lack of specialists, ER closures on a daily basis due to a lack of physicians, those are scenarios that have become all too common in this province. In fact, it has come to a point where it has become a downright scary life and death situation that no Nova Scotian should have to face. Nonetheless frightening also is the nursing situation in this province. We rely on nurses, they are the backbone of our healthcare system. We need them, physicians need them. My question for the minister, could the minister please indicate how many nurse vacancies there are in the province at the present time?

HON. CHRISTOPHER D'ENTREMONT: Mr. Speaker, to the question the member just asked, I am not too sure how many vacancies there are in this province. I know we continually try to recruit nurses in this province. I know through this year's budget there was an addition, I believe, of 38 new nursing seats. I forget the exact number. I can have it maybe by the time the member asks his supplementary question.

MR. DAVID WILSON (Glace Bay): Mr. Speaker, you are the Minister of Health and you don't know how many nurse vacancies there are at the present time? Let me tell you, that is pretty surprising when all you had to do is pick up the phone and call the NSGEU and they will tell you the numbers. They will give them to you. They will tell you how much they predict, that it's over 1,300.

Mr. Speaker, Soldiers' Memorial Hospital in Middleton closed four beds last week due to lack of nurses. Yesterday, the CEO of the South Shore District Authority said, in his words: The nursing situation is incrementally worse and growing to the point that it is straining our ability to keep our services going.

AN. HON. MEMBER: Ask a question.

MR. DAVID WILSON (Glace Bay): I have a question. Pay attention. (Interruptions) Mr. Speaker, could the minister please explain (Interruptions) You can holler at me as much as you want, I'll still ask the question.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. Order, please, order. Order, please, the member for Glace Bay has the floor.

MR. DAVID WILSON (Glace Bay): Thank you, Mr. Speaker. My question for the minister then is, could the minister please explain why he has allowed the nursing situation in this province to deteriorate so badly?

[Page 2354]

MR. D'ENTREMONT: Mr. Speaker, we believe the nursing situation is one of concern, one that we, through our budget process yesterday, through the Budget Speech quoted, and I'll quote: "Of course, we are always mindful of our need to recruit and retain medical professionals. An additional $851,000 will expand nursing seats at St. F.X., and Cape Breton University," - I wonder where Cape Breton University happens to be? - "as well as practical nursing seats at the Nova Scotia Community College ... bringing the total health budget for nursing seats to $8.1 million."

MR. DAVID WILSON (Glace Bay): Mr. Speaker, it's pretty hard to recruit nurses when you don't even know the number of nurse vacancies in the province. There has been little said or announced from this government that would indicate to us and the nurses in this province that we are now facing a huge health care crisis, and the pressures the health care system is facing regarding nurses. My final question for the minister is, could the minister indicate what new immediate plans he has that would ensure we're able to recruit and, more importantly, retain nurses in this province before this situation gets any worse?

MR. D'ENTREMONT: Again, Mr. Speaker, I'll refer to the Budget Speech of yesterday. Again, we'll be investing another $851,000 to expand nursing seats at St. F.X. and, of course, Cape Breton University. I believe it is better to train, to get them ready for the system, to get them to work, than it is to go and search around the world where, by the way, there is a nursing shortage happening right across this Earth of ours, and across Canada. It is much better and more efficient, in my mind, to be training our Nova Scotia students to be nurses in our system.

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

COM. SERV.: POVERTY REDUCTION WORK GROUP -

COMPOSITION

MS. MARILYN MORE: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Community Services. Women's centres and transition houses are community leaders on addressing poverty, yet when the Poverty Task Force was formed these groups were excluded from the table. Feminists for Just & Equitable Public Policy is the only woman-centred representative, and while this group does great work, it should not be expected to act as the voice for all women in Nova Scotia. My question to the minister is, why weren't more women's voices added to the poverty reduction working group?

HON. JUDY STREATCH: Mr. Speaker, it is indeed my pleasure to rise for the first time during this session to address the important issue of the hard work that's going on with the poverty reduction working group. We have participants from one end of this province to the other - male and female - who contribute aggressively. It's a very onerous task for those individuals to have taken part in this task that we've asked of them, and they do so diligently

[Page 2355]

and with great conviction. I'm extremely pleased with the entire makeup of the working group - we have a great assortment of men and women from across this province.

MS. MORE: Mr. Speaker, poverty impacts on women more than any other group in society. It's becoming alarmingly clear that the minister does not understand the need for a broader woman's perspective if her government hopes to address root causes of poverty. Women's centres and transition houses work with women with distinct experiences and needs, and they offer a unique voice and perspective that no other group can and they should have been part of the task force. My question to the minister is, given the research and work by these groups, how can she justify silencing their voices at the poverty reduction table?

MS. STREATCH: Mr. Speaker, again, I want to commend the work being done by the Poverty Strategy Working Group. At the same time I would acknowledge the amazing work that goes on each and every day across this province on behalf of all women, men, children and families by those individuals, those men and women, who work with the women's centres. Mr. Speaker, I would indicate again that a vast assortment of voices are being heard and the hard work that's being done by that working group, I anxiously await their recommendations.

MS. MORE: Mr. Speaker, women centres in this province spearheaded a research project on women in poverty. It featured exponential voices of Nova Scotia women struggling with poverty, much of it resulting from her department's policies. I ask the minister, why won't she admit that excluding these women's groups was more about silencing those who can best speak to her department's long-standing failure to address poverty in this province?

MS. STREATCH: Mr. Speaker, you know I would like to list for all those members interested in this House a few fine names. Lynn Hartwell, Karen Dickinson, Stephanie Hunter, Barbara Jones-Gordon, Eileen Lannon-Oldfield, Becky Mason, and Anne Marie McKinnon. Mr. Speaker, these are fine female voices, at the table, with the working group.

[3:30 p.m.]

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Halifax-Citadel.

IMMIGRATION: RATES - STATUS

MR. LEONARD PREYRA: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Immigration. The government says that its immigration strategy is "getting results." Immigration rates in all the other Atlantic and Prairie Provinces are going up much faster than Nova Scotia. Immigration to PEI went up 41 per cent in 2007, New Brunswick went up

[Page 2356]

by 15 per cent, but our net international migration fell by 4 per cent, it was only 19, 039. Is ending up in last place what the minister means by getting results?

HON. LEONARD GOUCHER: Mr. Speaker, I would equate that research as quite similar to a footprint of the Northwood Centre in Bedford that's actually three times the size of the RIM Building that their researchers missed. Researchers actually missed it. Mr. Speaker, immigration in the Province of Nova Scotia has been successful. We'll table this for the information of the members opposite. By the way, Mr. Speaker, that is three times the size of the RIM Building; everybody knows where it is in Bedford and they missed it. Mr. Speaker, also for the information for the member opposite, between the years of 2003 and 2007, immigration in this province rose by 70 per cent from 14,047 to 26,085. We're very proud of the record that we have in this province from the standpoint of immigration. I challenge the member to check his records.

MR. PREYRA: Mr. Speaker, I thank the minister for his response. Those statistics are from Statistics Canada so if he can't produce results himself, he should look at those statistics.

I'll ask the minister a simple question then. Mr. Speaker, the Business Mentorship Program of our Nominee Program was less than successful. Can the minister tell me how many of those people who paid to come here are still in the province?

MR. GOUCHER: Mr. Speaker, with the economic stream and the particular stream that the honourable member mentioned, there are over 829 people approved on that. It wasn't only the 829 people who were approved under the stream, it was their families, their children, their parents, they were all part of our new people here in the province. Also, our province's retention rate has risen from 37 per cent (Interruptions) No, they're not interested, from 37 per cent to 63 per cent.

MR. PREYRA: Mr. Speaker, it's clear that the minister doesn't know how many of those nominees are still here and we know that most of them went down the road. The minister boasts that he has raised the retention rate from 37 per cent to 64 per cent. If my son came home with a 37 per cent grade at the end of this term, I would send him to some remedial school for improvement. If I was satisfied with 64 per cent, that would be satisfaction of mediocrity. So that means one in three immigrants arrived here and left.

Manitoba's retention rate was 80 per cent, Mr. Speaker, but we are holding on to only one-third of the immigrants that we retain. What specifically is the minister planning to do to retain those who come here seeking a new life for their families?

MR. GOUCHER: Mr. Speaker, my only response can be, have your researchers do the math. Times 64 per cent, that's what our retention rate is in this province.

[Page 2357]

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

TCH - TOURISM REVENUES: INCREASES - PLANS

MR. HAROLD THERIAULT: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Tourism, Culture and Heritage. In 2002, the Minister of Tourism - now our Premier - announced the government's plan to double tourism revenue from $1.3 billion to $2.5 billion by the year of 2012. Six years later tourism revenues in this province are stagnant at the same 2002 levels. What is more troublesome is that when you consider the Consumer Price Index and changes to inflation rates, Nova Scotia has actually experienced a 13.2 per cent decrease in tourism revenue. My question to the minister is, will the minister tell Nova Scotians how this government plans on doubling tourism revenues when they have been stagnant for the past six years?

HON. WILLIAM DOOKS: Mr. Speaker, to the member across the way, if we want to continue to be negative in comments towards tourism, that would certainly be reflected from the member on that side of the House. I want to tell you there's nothing stagnant about the tourism numbers or the visitors to Nova Scotia.

Mr. Speaker, I want to mention a few figures to the member across the way. When you talk about over two million visitors to Nova Scotia each year, there's nothing stagnant about that. When you talk about $3 billion, $300 million dollars generated in tourism, there is nothing stagnant about that, and 33,000 jobs related directly or indirectly to tourism, there's nothing stagnant about that. So there are a few numbers for you to digest.

MR. THERIAULT: Mr. Speaker, I'm not a negative person but I live in the negative experience of tourism and the shape it is today. That's where I am. (Applause) It's the minister and this government's lack of vision that has failed the tourism industry of this province.

Mr. Speaker, the only effective way to promote a product is through well-thought- out strategic marketing. You can have the greatest product in the world but if no one knows it exists or where to find it, that product is absolutely worthless. This government has handcuffed the tourism industry by failing to adequately promote Nova Scotia to the rest of Canada and abroad.

MR. SPEAKER: Question.

MR. THERIAULT: Many letters to the editor about the lack of Nova Scotia advertising they see when they visit provinces across this country have come to my desk. My question to the minister, why has the minister failed to market Nova Scotia as a prime tourist destination outside of this province?

[Page 2358]

MR. DOOKS: Mr. Speaker, I certainly value the member's comments. The Province of Nova Scotia and especially the Department of Tourism are moving ahead with an aggressive marketing campaign. Mr. Speaker, I would say to you once again I can go over the numbers - I'm not going to do that, I just mentioned that - but there's nothing negative about the approach we're taking. We value the people and tourism. Not only saying that, he made mention that everything is about the government.

Mr. Speaker, I suggest to the member across the way that he should get in touch with TIANS, he should talk to his local RTIAs, he should talk to the people who help advise the Department of Tourism in which direction they want to go in marketing. The Department of Tourism is alive and we have challenges - I will not say we do not - but we're addressing those challenges in a very positive way for the economy of Nova Scotia.

MR. THERIAULT: Mr. Speaker, I have some figures and facts too that I would like to tell the minister about. The government's failure to help the tourism industry can be viewed in all regions in this province. For example, Yarmouth has witnessed a dramatic decline as a visitor entry point. In 2000, Yarmouth welcomed 89,000 tourists to Nova Scotia. In 2006, the region only welcomed 43,000 tourists, over a 50 per cent drop in six years. The uncertainty over The Cat, the Digby Ferry, the high gas prices, a non-existent marketing strategy, and poor secondary roads in our coastal communities demonstrate one thing, the government's tourism action plan.

MR. SPEAKER: Do you have a question?

MR. THERIAULT: Will the minister admit that this government has no real plan to promote Nova Scotia's tourism industry?

MR. DOOKS: Mr. Speaker, when he accuses the government of not being interested or helping the people of his area in Yarmouth, he's not being correct. We can go back and spout off the numbers that the Department of Economic Development has helped the ferry industry in Yarmouth and also in Digby. We continue to pump money into strategies to help the people of Yarmouth. This minister has been down to a public meeting with those people in Yarmouth to speak about the challenges they have. As I said earlier, we take the issue with the Yarmouth tourism number very seriously and we're doing everything in our power to jump over the hurdles and challenges they have in that area.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Halifax Atlantic.

TCH - YARMOUTH TOURISM SECTOR: ASSISTANCE - DETAILS

MS. MICHELE RAYMOND: Mr. Speaker, my question too is for the Minister of Tourism, Culture and Heritage. The tourism economy in Yarmouth really is reeling after a series of setbacks and they do include the loss of the Scotia Prince Ferry and changes to the

[Page 2359]

hours of the other run. I've been meeting with operators in the area and they do paint a truly alarming picture - many of them are down to the point where they actually have only 30 per cent occupancy in peak season. It's not a break-even situation and many of them are now defining themselves as seasonal operations only. My question to the minister is, what measures has he taken to help the tourism sector of Yarmouth specifically?

HON. WILLIAM DOOKS: Mr. Speaker, to the member across the way, as I said, we take the issue with declining numbers in Yarmouth very seriously. I've had an opportunity to speak to the business community there. We continue to support the ferries in Yarmouth, we continue to pump over $670,000 in marketing across the channel. We also have invested money in strategies and working with groups there to make a positive outcome.

MS. RAYMOND: Mr. Speaker, the minister is quite correct to recognize that this is a problem not only of tourism but of transportation as well and of reaching Yarmouth. One operator has torn down her motel rooms because she simply could not afford the cost of having them sit vacant. She said that she does not hate (Interruptions)

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. Do you have a point of order?

The honourable member for Halifax Atlantic has the floor.

MS. RAYMOND: I will request clarification from the unnamed member opposite at a later date. Thank you very much.

Mr. Speaker, this woman with whom I spoke, and the foundations of whose motel units I have seen, said that she does not dislike her family enough to leave them such a business when she retires. Yarmouth actually wants, and needs, to rebrand itself. Yarmouth is a place which has been the centre of transportation much of its history and economy . . .

AN. HON. MEMBER: That's why they elected a Tory.

MS. RAYMOND: Shall I ask for clarification again?

MR. SPEAKER: How about asking a question?

MS. RAYMOND: My question to the original minister, to whom I was speaking, is, where is the help for Yarmouth tourism operators?

MR. DOOKS: Mr. Speaker, as I said, we are very sensitive of the issues facing that area of Nova Scotia in regard to tourism. Staff have been in talks, consultation and dialogue with the business owners there. We have invested $200,000 last year with Yarmouth and Acadian Shores region and Yarmouth to do marketing. As I said, we gave over $670,000 to encourage people to come from the United States of America into the port. You know I want

[Page 2360]

to inform the member, as she is aware, that the minister has been there. We are taking the concern seriously and we are moving ahead.

MS. RAYMOND: I appreciate that, Mr. Speaker. There is, however, no rail, no bus, no longer international air service to Yarmouth and both highways are in the same, rough shape. The CAT ferry schedule has changed and apparently the future of the Digby ferry is again in question.

[3:45 p.m.]

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. The honourable member for Halifax Atlantic has the floor.

MS. RAYMOND: Thank you. I ask the minister, does he, and the Minister of Transportation and Infrastructure Renewal, have a plan which they are ready to present which will give Yarmouth tourism operators a fighting chance?

MR. DOOKS: Mr. Speaker, this government is very concerned and very aware of our rural communities. Over 500 miles of roads are paved each and every year in this province. Just recently, our government has given $250,000 to the Yarmouth Airport and, as I had said to you earlier and for the member, that the Department of Economic Development has demonstrated a caring approach in regard to the ferries and I would ask that the member stand and suggest that we should not support the ferries with monetary gain.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Shelburne.

ENERGY - GEORGES BANK: DRILLING - MIN. SUPPORT EXPLAIN

MR. STERLING BELLIVEAU: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Energy. In February, the Minister of Energy said he supports seismic testing and well drilling on Georges Bank. He declared, Georges Bank belongs to Nova Scotians, so why shouldn't we explore it? As you know, the federal-provincial moratorium on Georges Bank lasts until December 31, 2012, and so does the one on the American side. That's more than four and a half years from now. That strikes me as unusually farsighted for this minister. Will the minister explain why he has told the fishermen of Nova Scotia that he supports drilling on Georges Bank?

HON. RICHARD HURLBURT: Mr. Speaker, through you to the member opposite, I think the member opposite, if he wants, we would lend him a researcher from this side to do a little more research. If you look at the moratorium, the federal minister of Canada and the provincial Minister of Energy for the Province of Nova Scotia have to come up with a plan by the year 2010, no later than January 5th. I'm doing my job and I'm doing my due diligence. Maybe that member should do his work.

[Page 2361]

MR. BELLIVEAU: Mr. Speaker, the point about Georges Bank is not whether fishermen and oil rigs can co-exist. Fishermen and the oil industry have worked together for years on the Scotia Shelf and in Country Harbour. The point about Georges Bank is whether its rich marine life that supports our fishery can co-exist with air guns and oil rigs. Mr. Minister, in 1999 the review panel said the potential harm to Georges Bank was unacceptable. I ask you, what has changed in the past nine years that would lead you to a different conclusion?

MR. HURLBURT: Mr. Speaker, I could tell you what has changed, we have a minister who is looking ahead in the future and we have a government that is looking ahead in the future. (Interruption)

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. (Interruptions) Order, please. Order please! The honourable Minister of Energy has the floor.

MR. HURLBURT: Mr. Speaker, through the Department of Energy, it is our job to do our due diligence and get the scientific information we need and provide that to the communities. The member who is questioning me here today was on the trip to Norway a number of years back, when he happened to be in a different position. I wonder what his position was at that time?

Anyhow, I can tell you, Mr. Speaker, the fishing community in my community in southwestern Nova Scotia supports what we're saying, that they want the information so they can make a good, sound decision based on the science.

MR. BELLIVEAU: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. The fishermen have always struggled to overcome seasickness. The minister's comments today, I'm sure, is accepting a lot of people who understand the importance of Georges Bank. The unusual high level of marine life of Georges Bank makes for one of the richest fishing grounds in the world.

Mr. Minister, I ask you again, what has changed in the last nine years about the marine biology and the ocean currents that suddenly makes it safe to do seismic testing and well drilling on Georges Bank?

MR. HURLBURT: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. What has changed is that I have never, ever been quoted by anyone that I ever said put a rig on Georges Bank or do seismic. What I have said is that we need to get the information to the communities that are going to be affected, and that's all of southwestern Nova Scotia. As long as I'm in this portfolio, I intend to represent the people of the whole province, and especially the people of southwestern Nova Scotia.

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

[Page 2362]

ECON. DEV. - PRINCESS OF ACADIA FERRY: OPERATION -

EXTENSION

MR. HAROLD THERIAULT: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. The Digby to Saint John ferry impact study released last year stated that the Princess of Acadia ferry service generates roughly $40 million a year for the economy of Nova Scotia. Real soon there will be huge business potentials happening on the other side of the bay. If this service stays in place, it will give much-needed jobs and work for Nova Scotia. The people and the businesses of this region cannot afford to lose this ferry service. If all three governments have to meet again to ensure the future of this service, then let's make it happen.

My question to the Premier is, what discussions have you had with the Province of New Brunswick and the federal government to extend the life of the Princess of Acadia past January 2009?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, I share the member's concern about the service that he's inquiring about. In fact, the latest conversation I had was this morning with Minister Peter MacKay.

MR. THERIAULT: Mr. Speaker, this essential link directly employs approximately 130 people in both Nova Scotia and New Brunswick, and a number of indirect jobs negatively affected if the ferry is lost, which will be disastrous. There's been talk of Atlantic Gateway funding but none for the infrastructure already in place, like the Digby ferry, that is an important gateway to Nova Scotia. Truckers, tourism operators, fish plant workers, numerous other jobs that are critical to the economy of Nova Scotia are at stake.

With the rising cost of fuel around the world, businesses in Nova Scotia will rely more on the ferry service to transport people and products to important markets in Upper Canada and the United States, our biggest trading partner in the world. My question to the Premier is, will your government include the Digby ferry in its Atlantic Gateway costs and supply funding to this vital piece of transportation infrastructure.

MR. MACISAAC: Mr. Speaker, the honourable member would know, of course, that we are currently providing funding for the support of the operation of that service. The service is, indeed, very important. I was somewhat heartened recently to hear something out of the Saint John City Council indicating there might be some interest on their part with respect to providing support for that service. That's important because obviously we can't do the entire job ourselves, we need the support of the funding partners who are with us now in order to continue that service into the future. We need to be able to assess the long-term transportation needs in that area.

MR. THERIAULT: Mr. Speaker, there's been a ferry service between Nova Scotia and New Brunswick for 200 years. At its peak, the Princess of Acadia brought 190,000

[Page 2363]

passengers to this province and thousands of tourists have traveled to visit our beautiful province. It's quite simple, the western end of this province has lost its railway, we have lost the Scotia Prince, the Yarmouth Airport. We have not even started to build a single highway yet, the 101, between Digby and Weymouth. People are asking, what will happen if we lose this ferry because it is our last piece of infrastructure. We cannot lose this ferry service and the Progressive Conservative Government must act immediately. My question is, will you commit to working with all parties involved in saving this ferry service for the good future and growth of this province?

MR. MACISAAC: Mr. Speaker, I share the concern the honourable member has with respect to that service. The honourable member, I'm sure, did not intend to imply in his question that we are not participating. We are and we continue to do what we can to ensure that service continues. But, as I said in answer to the first supplementary, we do need the support of the funding partners for us to be able to do that into the future.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Sackville-Cobequid.

HEALTH - PHARMACARE PROG.: ACCESS - CONFUSION

MR. DAVID WILSON (Sackville-Cobequid): Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Health. On February 20th, the minister announced changes to the seniors' Pharmacare Program. The fee system went from a relatively straightforward system to a confusing maze of payment schemes and options. Seniors who got their new form packages were confused as to what they had to pay and how they should pay it. I ask the Minister of Health, why did his department turn the Pharmacare Program into such a logistic nightmare for seniors?

HON. CHRISTOPHER D'ENTREMONT: Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the Group of Nine and the seniors who are involved in setting the rates and setting the information, the new programs that we have to do, the adjustments to the programs that we'd have to do to the seniors Pharmacare Program. Of course, that came under recommendation to spread the deductible over a certain amount of time, as decided by the seniors.

The member opposite is truly, I would believe, insulting the Group of Nine for their decision, the one they did make.

MR. DAVID WILSON (Sackville-Cobequid): Mr. Speaker, pretty sad comment from the Minister of Health. Seniors had questions and small wonder, given the confusion with the new system. The seniors who called my office said the 1-800 help line that the minister stated they created, crashed when they called to ask about the different payment options. If they picked the wrong option and paid more co-payment than they needed to, there's no refund. Will the minister give his word that no seniors in Nova Scotia will face penalties for late forms, given the confusion his government created?

[Page 2364]

MR. D'ENTREMONT: Mr. Speaker, again, as we look every year for the changes to the seniors' Pharmacare Program, we consult with the Group of Nine. The Group of Nine are a very good group of individuals who do meet quite often with our Department of Seniors to talk about issues relevant to seniors in Nova Scotia. I again thank them for their input on this matter. We did have a few glitches when it came to sending the information packages out in this year's round - sending out, by error, what looked like a bill which, of course, caused a host of questions. So that was rectified. All seniors did get a call back as we had promised them, and we believe the program is one that is sound again where the Nova Scotia Government will be picking up 70 per cent of all drug costs of that program.

MR. DAVID WILSON (Sackville-Cobequid): Seniors paying the premiums who also have high prescription costs could see the monthly payment double or they could take their chances at the pharmacy and hope their prescriptions don't cost too much. o through you, Mr. Speaker, I ask the minister, why won't he fix the problems this government created and make the Seniors' Pharmacare Program truly affordable to Nova Scotia seniors?

MR. D'ENTREMONT: Mr. Speaker, once again the NDP are vouching to say spend, spend, spend - spend, spend, spend is all they talk about in this House. What we're saying is that we take (Interruptions)

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please.

MR. D'ENTREMONT: Mr. Speaker, again, spending seems to be easy for the NDP. We will continue to consult with the Group of Nine to be very, very (Interruptions)

[4:00 p.m.]

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. The minister has the floor.

MR. D'ENTREMONT: We will continue to work with the Group of Nine when we come to changing plans, to improving plans for all Nova Scotians. Mr. Speaker, again, we are picking up 75 per cent of all costs of that program. It is one of the most generous programs in all of Canada and this year, in case they missed it, there was no increase for seniors in this province.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Dartmouth North.

ENVIRON. - LITTLE ALBRO LAKE: PLANT INVASION -

CONTROL

[Page 2365]

MR. TREVOR ZINCK: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Environment. Last summer it was reported that Little Albro Lake is under attack by an invasive plant species called yellow floating heart. This plant, from Eurasia, is an ornamental pond plant but has made its way into the lake and is quickly taking over as it roots in bottom sediment and can root in up to two metres of water. Lakes fall under provincial jurisdiction and many in my community want this problem dealt with.

My question through you, Mr. Speaker, to the minister is, in the past on this issue I have asked him for his opinion and now I need confirmation, what does the minister plan to do to deal with this problem this summer?

HON. MARK PARENT: Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the member for raising a very important issue that's of concern to his constituents and a wider issue that we all need to be concerned about in terms of the effect of climate change upon flora and fauna. In fact, one of the worries that we have is that in our forestry we are in between two climate zones and if climate changes, it will have great effects upon the forestry of Nova Scotia and we're not sure what those effects will be. So it makes it hard for forest companies to plan, et cetera.

So it's an important issue and an issue that we have investigated. I wrote back to the mayor that we are looking at it and, indeed, we sent out staff to look at it last year. We concluded that it's not an immediate health risk. While it is a nuisance and while it affects the enjoyment of recreational activities, it's not a health risk to the residents. The problem that we have is that any remedy that we took could create an environmental health risk and so we're in this Catch-22 situation.

MR. ZINCK: According to the residents, this problem started three years ago and by late August each year, eventually the lake is currently and will be at risk of being choked off. Each year it eventually becomes difficult to swim, boat or fish. When one considers that Dartmouth is known as the City of Lakes, many are worried about the possibility of this problem spreading through the rest of our lakes and throughout Nova Scotia. Mr. Speaker, my question through you to the minister is, what will this minister do to stop the spread of this and other invasive aquatic species?

MR. PARENT: As I stated, there's no obvious control mechanism that doesn't create more environmental problems than it solves. Nevertheless, my staff is busy working at quantifying the number. There are other areas that are affected by this particular invasive species and we will continue to do so and see if there's some sort of solution that we can find, in conjunction of course with the Dartmouth Lakes Advisory Board and other interested parties, that will take care of the problem without creating further environmental problems. That's always an issue that we weigh, and I know the member understands that we don't want to create another environmental issue solving one. I will assure the member that we'll continue to monitor it. If there's any scientific information that comes in, in terms of some remedy that would be able to be used, my department will co-operate fully to help the

[Page 2366]

residents of his community. Once again I thank him for raising this on behalf of his community members.

MR. ZINCK: Mr. Speaker, last year alone who knows how many hyacinths, water lettuce plants and yellow floating hearts were sold in Nova Scotia, and who knows how many of these inadvertently made their way into our waterways? The homeowners surrounding Little Albro Lake have been frustrated at the lack of support and information being provided to them over the last few years. Again, they're unable to use this for recreational facilities, fishing, boating, and pleasure crafting. My question to the minister is, what educational programs would he be willing to bring forth from his department to educate Nova Scotians on the possible dangers of these plants?

MR. PARENT: Mr. Speaker, a very good point that the member makes on the need for education, because he is quite correct - the staff believe that this invasive species is brought in through garden centres and through backyard ponds. Certainly all Nova Scotians need to be aware of the threat to the environment when they do that. I know my colleague, both as a ministerial colleague but as a colleague in terms of working the riding of Kings South as the Minister of Natural Resources, has been dealing with this as well. Certainly we can commit to the member that we will continue our education efforts. I also want to assure the member that the federal government and the provincial government, through the Department of Natural Resources, have ongoing consultations on the best and most appropriate way to deal with invasive species.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Kings West.

GAMING - VLT TAMPERING: PROTECTION - DETAILS

MR. LEO GLAVINE: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister responsible for Part II of the Gaming Control Act. A recent KPMG report of gaming in the Atlantic Provinces did not present a favourable picture for lottery in our region. The report found that VLT technicians in P.E.I. could go into a machine and alter the size of the prize payout of the games and could alter the types of games being played. After hearing the problem associated with ticket lottery winnings in this province, Nova Scotians are naturally skeptical of this revelation. My question, Mr. Minister, can you tell us here today whether VLTs are protected in this province from similar intrusions?

HON. MARK PARENT: Mr. Speaker, the member opposite is aware that before this KPMG study was launched by the Atlantic Lottery Corporation that we were the first province, through my department, to launch a study on ticket lotteries. Mr. Hogg was conscripted to do that, volunteered to do that along with two other members, one from the academic community and one from the police enforcement community. That report is coming soon and we'll be making decisions in regard to ticket lottery. The suggestion was made at that time that VLTs should also be looked at after ticket lotteries were looked at. So that

[Page 2367]

report is coming due soon, and I'm not prepared on the floor of the House to talk about what's in the report or what decisions will be made about the report. The report is available and I would encourage the honourable member to take a look at it, there are some very good suggestions in there.

MR. GLAVINE: Mr. Speaker, to make a situation more troublesome the VLT technicians had the ability to go to the machines, make changes and then delete any log of their entry into the machine. Nova Scotians want the comfort that when they play lottery in this province they have a fair and equal opportunity for prize payouts, like everyone else. My question to the minister is, Mr. Minister, will you immediately investigate and address this potentially fraudulent situation in Nova Scotia before illegal activity can take place?

MR. PARENT: I can assure the honourable member that this province took the lead. Many other provinces across the Atlantic Region in fact were somewhat jealous of the leadership we took in regard to the need to improve the regulatory system over not only ticket lotteries, but over all forms of gaming. So having taken that lead, I think the member should be assured that we will continue with that lead.

MR. GLAVINE: Mr. Speaker, VLTs remain the biggest danger for problem gamblers in this province. On July 18, 2003, the now minister responsible for regulating the gaming industry in this province stated in a news article, Mr. Parent said that VLTs have concerned him for some time, I have always been supportive of getting rid of VLTs. Well, the minister has done nothing to reach that goal yet to date. My question to the minister is simple, do you still support the removal of VLTs in this province?

MR. PARENT: Mr. Speaker, as the minister in charge of Part II, my job is to ensure a proper and good regulatory regime and I will do that to the very best of my ability and I can promise the member that.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Pictou West.

MR. CHARLES PARKER: Mr. Speaker, I am proud to come from Pictou County and I want to speak about a real gem and ask a question about Summer Street Industries located in Pictou County, New Glasgow. It's a place where people care and really share their compassion and serve the people there . . .

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. The member for Pictou West has the floor.

MR. PARKER: It's a place where intellectually disabled folks have been looked after since 1968. They have a very caring staff who look after them there. In fact, there are 139 clients. The problem is that the Department of Community Services is only funding 80 positions and expecting the community to come up with the rest. In tough economic times, that is tough to do. It gets more challenging every year to get those charitable donations.

[Page 2368]

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

HON. CHRISTOPHER D'ENTREMONT: Mr. Speaker, on a point of order. I endeavoured, or I said that I would get some information for the member for Glace Bay from his question that led up to it. On CareerBeacon today, there are 103 postings for registered nurses asking for, I would say, somewhere in the range of 150 nurses in the province. At the end of academic year 2008, there will be 296 registered nurses graduating and at the end of this academic year there will be 153 LPNs graduating. That is the highest number of nurses graduating from Nova Scotia's schools since the two-year programs were cut. We are really still trying to catch up from all the nurses that were let go in the mid-1990s.

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

HON. JAMES MUIR: Mr. Speaker, I would like to introduce to members in this House a student at Auburn High School who was accomplished in minor hockey and as a baseball player, Mr. Brendan MacNeil. He is now taking part in a co-op program, working with the Provincial Registrar's Office. He is here in the gallery today and I would ask the members of the House to give him a warm welcome. (Applause)

OPPOSITION MEMBERS' BUSINESS

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Opposition House Leader.

MR. FRANK CORBETT: Mr. Speaker, would you please call the order of business, Private Members' Public Bills For Second Reading.

PRIVATE MEMBERS' PUBLIC BILLS FOR SECOND READING

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Opposition House Leader.

MR. FRANK CORBETT: Mr. Speaker, would you please call Bill No. 37.

Bill No. 37 - Cosmetic Pesticides Act.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Pictou West.

MR. CHARLES PARKER: Mr. Speaker, I am pleased today to have a few minutes to talk about Bill No. 37, the Cosmetic Pesticides Act. I guess the official title is An Act to Amend Chapter 18 of the Acts of 1998, the Municipal Government Act, to Regulate the Application and Use of Pesticides for Cosmetic Purposes. I should emphasize that it is for cosmetic purposes. It does not apply to forestry or agriculture, but simply for residential

[Page 2369]

properties in our province. I think it is important that we make that distinction right off the bat.

It is a bill that I think is important to Nova Scotians and one that deserves merit for consideration by all members of this House. The legislation is really sort of catching up municipalities in this province or giving them equal and fair treatment to what the municipality of HRM already has. As some of you might know the history on this particular bill, in 1998 in this House we discussed the Municipal Government Act. It was a long and complicated Act I think close to 300 pages, if I recall correctly. At that time, HRM pushed hard to get consideration that they would have some control over cosmetic pesticides. The other municipalities at that time - the other 54 in this province - decided they did not want to have control over pesticides at that time.

However, since that time, I guess they've changed their mind and now they're very active and certainly do want to have authority over regulating cosmetic pesticides within their jurisdiction. So really it's all about fairness, it's all about equity, it's about having equal rights. Right now, it's rather unequal when one municipality in the province has that authority and the other 54 do not. In fact, Mr. Speaker, at the UNSM conference earlier - I guess it was actually in November of last year - the delegates there from all municipalities across the province passed a resolution, unanimously actually, that they would want to have the same authority as HRM did at that time.

So Resolution 19A was brought forward by the town of Wolfville and it would give them the same democratic rights, I guess, to set bylaws in their jurisdiction around cosmetic pesticides. Of course that was brought forward by the Town of Wolfville but there are other towns in this province and other municipalities that would very much like to have that bylaw authority.

[4:15 p.m.]

I know the Town of New Glasgow, in Pictou County where I come from, is certainly interested in that bylaw authority and the Town of Truro more recently has tried very hard to have the authority to be able to regulate cosmetic pesticides within their jurisdiction. Within the authority of the law as it presently stands, they've set up some regulatory powers, as far as they can go, that you have to have permits and have to give notification to your neighbours and so on, but it still doesn't give them the same authority that HRM presently enjoys.

Mr. Speaker, we are talking about landscape pesticides, restricting their use for application, pesticides to control weeds that some people consider not pleasant or I guess they are considered a noxious weed. I guess it depends on your definition of what you consider to be a pleasant plant or not. Certainly dandelions are perhaps the most known weed that people want to try to get rid of from their properties. Dandelions are used in our world

[Page 2370]

in some places for food, they are used elsewhere for making wine, they are certainly picked by children to bring a bouquet to their mum - it all depends on your definition of what you consider noxious or unpleasant. In my opinion, dandelions are a pleasant flower but other people have a different opinion.

We're talking about not just herbicides like Roundup that might control dandelions, we're talking about insecticides like Diazinon that might control cinch bugs. Fungicides such as Benlate or benomyl, perhaps even miticide. So pesticides include a whole broad spectrum of products. In fact, there are hundreds of different pesticides in the world at this time.

So why is it that people want to get rid of these? Mr. Speaker, maybe while I have the opportunity, I know they were tied up previously but I see there's a couple of people in our west gallery that I'd like to introduce to the House who have a great deal of interest in this topic. So in our west gallery, I'd like to introduce Helen Jones and Maureen Reynolds. I'd ask them to stand. They're from Pesticide Free Nova Scotia and I ask the House to give them a warm welcome. (Applause) They are representative of many people, many Nova Scotians who have a real concern on this issue and we're pleased that they're here with us today.

So why is it that people are concerned about pesticide use, Mr. Speaker? Well, there are several reasons. They are concerned because many people are environmentally sensitive, they react in a quite serious way sometimes to the spraying of pesticides in their neighbourhood or on the neighbour's lawn. People are concerned. Municipalities want the right to be able to protect their citizens within their communities, they want to protect the health and well-being, the safety of communities. Really, when we have so many unknowns, questions about it, the precautionary principle really should apply. When you're not sure of the consequences of a product or how it might affect people or environment, it's best to err on the side of caution.

Certainly there are health experts who have established a connection between pesticide use, landscaping pesticides and serious illnesses, serious health problems. Just yesterday I had the opportunity, with a number of members of this House, to attend the Cancer Care Nova Scotia's breakfast and it was pointed out there by the executive director of Cancer Care Nova Scotia that there are a number of links that have been established between cancer and the use of pesticides in our world.

In fact, Nova Scotia, unfortunately, has the highest cancer incidence of anywhere in Canada, more than any other province. Unfortunately, we also have the second highest mortality rate of cancer in this country. This year 5,800 Nova Scotians will learn that they have cancer and 2,700 Nova Scotians will die of the disease. So, there are lots of reasons that may cause cancer, but it's certainly a concern to all of us and it's a disease that touches too many families.

[Page 2371]

It's worrisome, the links that have been established between the pesticide exposure and the disease of cancer. The Nova Scotia Cancer Society has certainly been recommending that we ban cosmetic pesticides and find a way to reduce the use of them in our environment.

One method to do that is to give municipalities the by-law authority to regulate cosmetic pesticides within their jurisdiction. While I think the law as it's written for HRM, applies only to residential properties, in reality, I know municipalities would like to have the right, not just for residential, but for all their own municipal properties, for industrial lands and even for commercial properties. That's something I know is not in the bill at present, but it might be something worth considering.

All municipalities, I think, should be treated the same. What we have right now is what's called unequalled jurisdiction, where not everybody has the same democratic rights as other municipalities. While UNSM is pushing hard for this, I think it's important that government, and we as legislators, listen to what Nova Scotians are telling us.

Really, I think the bottom line in this is protecting our children's health and protecting our residents' health. To me, protecting the health of our children and our citizens is more important than protecting our lawns from dandelions. That's really a way to sum it up, that the health of our citizens and particularly our children, is more important than protecting our lawns from innoxious weeds on it.

I guess as a grandfather - I have two young grandchildren that love to get out and play and romp around the front lawn or the back lawn. All children deserve the right to be able to go out on their property, or maybe the neighbour's property, and romp around and play and somersault and do the things children do without the worry there could be pesticides there that are affecting their health. I think it's incumbent upon us as legislators to protect our children, to protect our families in that regard.

It's not just me that's saying this - there are a lot of Nova Scotians that have been e-mailing, writing and calling us. I know the minister has been getting his share of e-mails. The Premier's been swamped with a number of letters and e-mails that have come in, I either have copies of them, or they have directly come to me. They're asking for the right of municipalities to have this authority to ban cosmetic pesticides within their jurisdiction, nothing more, nothing less.

Earlier in this sitting of the House, I tabled a petition on behalf of sixty-eight Nova Scotians who have signed their names to the petition stating that they find it unacceptable that one municipality in this province has the right to ban cosmetic pesticides and other municipalities do not. They're not happy that we have this double standard - one for one municipality, nothing for the other fifty-five. Perhaps there are other ways to tackle the issue, but I think the first step would be to give all municipalities equal rights and equal authority to pass bylaws in this regard.

[Page 2372]

It's not necessarily just the insecticide or the fungicide or the herbicide but, in actual fact, quite often what is causing the problems is the inert material that's included with the product, and sometimes 99 per cent of the product that's in a bottle or a jug is actually an inert product. It's not the fungicide or it's not the insecticide per se, which is bad enough in itself, but it's the unknowns that are in the sticky material or whatever it is that helps it accumulate to the lawn or to the side of the building, or whatever. There are a lot of unknowns - those are often trade secrets and, you know, I think it's important that these be eliminated.

Recently a number of very large department stores have decided they're going to ban these pesticide products. Wal-Mart was the most recent, Canadian Tire, and I believe the first was Home Depot. They said our customers are telling us they don't want these products any more and it's time to get rid of them off our shelves and out of our environment. Other provinces - Quebec was the first to lead the nation in banning cosmetic pesticides; P.E.I. is considering a ban; and just very recently Ontario has passed legislation - and it's the toughest in North America, I'm told - to ban over 300 different cosmetic pesticides from the environment. A recent poll has shown that 69 per cent of Nova Scotians don't want cosmetic pesticides in their neighbourhoods or their environment.

Again I just want to repeat what I said a couple minutes ago - that protecting our children's health, protecting our citizens, Mr. Speaker, I think is much more important than protecting our lawns from dandelions. I hope that this government will give serious consideration to the passage of Bill No. 37.

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

HON. JAMES MUIR: Mr. Speaker, I'm pleased to stand before the members of this House to offer some reflections on Bill No. 37, which calls for amendments to the Municipal Government Act. Like the honourable member for Pictou West, I, too, had the distinct privilege of sitting through that Law Amendments Committee process back in 1998 - and I think the member for Halifax Chebucto did too - and can remember the controversy and the different opinions that were presented at that committee at great length and often with great passion.

Mr. Speaker, the result of that in 1998 was that the Municipal Government Act did contain a clause which gave the Halifax Regional Municipality the right to regulate and actually ban the use of cosmetic pesticides. At that time it was one for, and fifty-four not for. Now, that doesn't necessarily mean they were against, but clearly at that time they did not want that authority because I have every reason to believe - and I see my good friend for Timberlea-Prospect also had the privilege of being there at that time and he would probably support me when I say - had the other municipalities wished to have that, they would have gotten it at that time; I really think that. Certainly there was no desire at that time to do that.

[Page 2373]

Now, the government brings in, regularly, amendments to the Municipal Government Act. Indeed, I tabled some earlier this week to ensure that the municipalities have a modern legislative framework so that it can deliver services to its citizens. Mr. Speaker, changes that we table in the House to the Municipal Government Act are typically presented because there has been consultation with the Union of Nova Scotia Municipalities, the UNSM, or the municipalities themselves. Indeed, it's practice in my department, my predecessors did the same thing - we don't do it unless we have some sort of consultation with municipalities. That doesn't necessarily mean we are seeking their permission, but it does mean that we do work with them as partners and we want them to understand how the department is thinking.

My department thus meets with the Union of Nova Scotia Municipalities on a regular basis and we talk about discussions. We have discussions regarding regulatory tools they need to manage and maintain communities and towns across the province. I also meet with representatives - the administration of the UNSM, the elected officials as well as the executive director - as do my staff, to hear first hand of their issues and concerns. Actually, Mr. Speaker, one of the things we implemented last year was a municipal round table. We meet every quarter or something like that. There are a group of ministers who meet with UNSM so that not only the Minister of Service Nova Scotia and Municipal Relations, but other ministers get a chance to interact directly with the UNSM and get a flavour for some of the things that they are concerned with.

[4:30 p.m.]

Mr. Speaker, I know that this year from my discussions with UNSM and to be quite candid, I can tell you that every time I meet the President of UNSM, who happens to be the Deputy Mayor of Wolfville, Mr. Bob Wrye - his second thing after saying how are you is, where are we on the pesticide resolution? Clearly this is very high on their priority list. I guess if you were looking at the resolutions that have come out in the last two years, this would be probably number two after the Memorandum of Understanding which we, as a government, did enter with UNSM, talking about how we were going to share the finances for things such as education, corrections and housing.

We signed an Memorandum of Understanding in 2007 and the terms of that MOU were reflected in this year's budget. I'm happy to report that the measures agreed to in the agreement were incorporated in the statement made by my colleague, the Minister of Finance, yesterday. Now before going any further, I want to give the House a little bit of background on the issue of pesticide use in Nova Scotia. When the MGA was adopted in 1998, as I had said earlier, HRM requested and received the authority to prohibit the residential use of pesticides and they were the only municipality at that time to request that authority. I would like to note, as the honourable member from Pictou West reinforced, that HRM's authority applies only to residential use and does not include agricultural, commercial or forestry areas.

[Page 2374]

At the same time that HRM received the authority to ban the residential use of pesticides, all municipalities were given the authority to establish a registry where individuals could register and be notified when pesticides were going to be used by their neighbours. At that time municipalities, with the exception of HRM, felt that adopting the registry was the appropriate step to take and they, as I said, had no interest in having the authority to ban cosmetic pesticide use. However, to be quite frank, a lot has changed over the past 10 years. The UNSM has now requested the authority to ban the use of pesticides on residential property in all communities if the individual municipal councils would like to do that.

Mr. Speaker, the request of the UNSM is really much broader than that covered in Bill No. 37. As I understand it, the amendments in Bill No. 37 would allow for a prohibition of cosmetic pesticide use within a specified distance to properties that are registered. This, to be quite frank, would not satisfy the regulatory requests that the UNSM believes is necessary. Whether or not to ban the use of pesticides for cosmetic use is more complex than it would appear at first glance. As I said in this House, and in media interviews, there are many varying viewpoints and we would be remiss as a government if we did not give due consideration to them all. In fact, we are hearing from many Nova Scotians who are on one side or the other of this issue. Indeed, I have met with them here in Halifax and also in my office in Truro.

I just want to make one observation that everybody knows is the case but nobody has mentioned up to this point. All municipalities have had the right to regulate the use of cosmetic pesticides in their communities but other than the Town of Truro, which did it through bylaw about three weeks ago, nobody else did it. I am a little puzzled about that inasmuch as it was such a strong priority of the UNSM. I don't understand why somebody else didn't step up to the plate on this thing and do a registry. I don't know the answer to that and there is going to be another speaker from the NDP caucus and perhaps that person can address that for me. I don't know the answer to that but it just seems to me that if, all of a sudden, it became such a pressing issue then somebody else would have done that but they didn't.

Now, having said that as a bit of an aside, I want to get back to some of these arguments which are for and against and probably to clarify, at this time, why the government is not prepared to support this bill nor to go forward with its own legislation about the ban of pesticides for cosmetic use at this time. Now I want to make perfectly clear - this does not mean that the government is not prepared to do that at a future time. What it means is that government has now established the position that there are so many sides to this issue out there, if we did it without due consideration and adequate reflection, if we choose to introduce legislation, we might do something that is not appropriate. This is what we are trying to guard against. This is not that there are not members of this caucus who think that this is an important issue. I want to make that very clear.

[Page 2375]

We have had, quite frankly, in our caucus, a lot of debate about this and every time we enter the debate, there are other things that came up. For example, we now have legislation in Ontario, at least pending legislation in Ontario, Quebec and P.E.I., which you pointed out. What is going to happen as a result of that legislation? What effect is that going to have? I am told people say that the Ontario legislation is not really great legislation, they say that the Quebec legislation is pretty good legislation, and they don't know what is going to happen to P.E.I.

We also have, as you quite appropriately pointed out, that we have major retailers. Home Depot has come out clearly and said they aren't going to carry it anymore. Canadian Tire and WalMart have given indications that they are going to get out of the business, too. If they get out of the business then likely Superstore and Sobeys and these other major retailers may indeed follow.

So, Mr. Speaker, I think that point is that maybe has to be made is that you can ban the use but if you don't ban the sale, probably what you are going to do is not going to be too effective. Indeed, if people tell me this thing in Halifax, to be quite frank, has just not worked. They tell me what you have done is you have taken the application for cosmetic use of pesticides away from the professionals, the people who are trained and know how to do this, and you have gone and got the midnight movers running out in the backyard with the spreader putting this stuff on or spraying it indiscriminately.

HRM has had no enforcement, I am told. I am told that in the, I guess this is the 10th or 11th year and the member for Halifax Chebucto, I am sure would know this - has there ever been anybody charged for doing this? So despite the fact that bylaw has been there for 10 or 11 years, one would have to perhaps, or that piece of legislation there for 10 or 11 years, its efficacy probably should be questioned.

Anyway, another criticism of this approach, Mr. Speaker, is as I have mentioned, two things; one is the enforcement - the professionals, and if people still can access it then it's maybe not the product itself as much as the inappropriate use of the product that is the major problem.

Mr. Speaker, we've also heard from Nova Scotians who say, and you know there's a lot of sympathy to this, that banning the cosmetic use, or giving the municipalities the authority to ban the cosmetic use in municipalities is the thin edge of the wedge. Next you want to move to the forestry sector and the broader agricultural sector and we know - I have two minutes left, thank you, Mr. Speaker - that you've indicated quite clearly, the member for Pictou West when he introduced this bill, he's not interested in agricultural land or forestry land.

I want to tell you, Mr. Speaker, some of the communications that I've received from people, they would ban anything that's manmade. You know if it's made by man, and I

[Page 2376]

should say people, manmade, person made or whatever it is, it's bad, anything synthetic is bad. So to say that you're not going to get pressure to go that next step is wrong. You know some of those people, I know some of those people and they get the - the municipalities get the authority to ban the cosmetic use of pesticides, the next thing you're going to do, you're not going to be able to spray your potato tops or spray your blueberries or dust, or whatever you do to cranberries or your fields.

The honourable member for Pictou West, he comes from an agricultural part of the world and indeed, his family is in the horticultural business and I suspect uses pesticides because they need them, they're a very important part of it.

All we want, is because once we really get into this issue, is that we want, we think that we need more time to fully consider the best way to approach it. The ban by the municipalities may not be, or the ability to ban by the municipalities is not an appropriate thing. I've talked to people from the industry and the position of the industry is, what we want is a level playing field across the province. If we give HRM, we give each individual municipality the ability to make its own regulations, we're going to get something that nobody can live with. Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker.

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

MS. DIANA WHALEN: Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker. It's a pleasure for me to rise tonight to talk on this bill, which is an NDP Bill No. 37 here on Opposition Day. The bill is calling for the government to enact controls that would allow municipalities, would enable municipalities to control the use of cosmetic pesticides, or pesticides used for cosmetic uses.

I think the important part is that it is an enabling clause that's being looked for and that's also my understanding from UNSM and the resolution that they passed recently at their annual general meeting Unanimously the members of the UNSM, that's 55 municipalities, voted to say they would like to have the power to determine what happens within their own municipal units.

I will say that this is a tremendous change from 10 years ago. What's most interesting to me is that this reflects a major shift in the municipalities' thinking and they are reflecting the views of the people who live within their municipalities. I believe that perhaps the speaker himself has had direct experience with this when, as a member of government, many of the municipalities did not want this power and the minister has mentioned that. They didn't want it at that time because really, public opinion had not come far enough along We weren't as aware of the impacts of pesticides, in fact they were in common use, often being used, people just accepted their use and they hadn't been questioned to the degree that they are today.

[Page 2377]

I think here in Nova Scotia we should be proud of HRM, which sought the enabling changes and went ahead, in the face of a lot of opposition at that time, to be the largest municipality to have taken that step. I believe it was around 2000 that they got that authority, it might have been 1999. (Interruption) Was it? They got the enabling power in 1998, but they were definitely ahead of the game in terms of recognizing the need for this change. As I say, I think we should take pride in the fact that here in Nova Scotia we had a large municipality that tackled that issue early on. As I say, it was not smooth going and there was very little precedent in other places in Canada.

Well today, Mr. Speaker, there are something like - I'll see if I can get the right number - there is a large number, there are over 60 municipalities across the country now that have passed their own bylaws to control the cosmetic use of pesticides. So you can see that in this instance we were leaders in the country. Now, what has happened is there has been a big shift in the way people view this. I think a lot of the difficulties have been ironed out in HRM. I had the privilege to sit as a city councillor here in HRM between 2000 and 2003 and it was still an issue of discussion then with people wanting to have broader uses of pesticides. It came up periodically that we should reverse or perhaps water down our bylaw, but the councillors stood firm and continued with their education, with the idea of helping to empower the citizens of this municipality to know that there are other ways that you can control pests in your lawn. There are other ways for lawn maintenance and care of your yards and people have changed their practices, quite honestly.

[4:45 p.m.]

Now the minister has mentioned those people who like to go out under cover of darkness and I would say there are fewer and fewer of them as a result of that major movement in our public opinion that people now really recognize the danger of it. They recognize the impact on people who have sensitivities, whether or not your immediate neighbours do, whether or not you are aware of it, they know that this has profound health impacts on some people. Look how careful we are even now about scents and scented products in buildings, churches and schools. This is one other piece of this spectrum. We know that these chemicals have a tremendously negative impact on people. Some of us are aware of it and some of us do not, perhaps, exhibit the same reactions. However, we are certainly being affected.

Earlier the member for Pictou West mentioned that there are a lot of high cancer rates in this province. That is a concern to all of us and I believe the connection between chemical exposure and cancers are pretty clear. In fact, there is a statistic that shows that golfers, regular golfers have a higher rate of cancer, it's testicular cancer, than other people. I believe it is because of the use of pesticides on golf courses, although I am drawing a conclusion there.

[Page 2378]

However, one of the other concerns that has been raised by the minister, which I think has to be addressed head on, is whether or not there is a concern that this is the thin edge of the wedge and that we are heading toward control of agricultural practices or forestry practices. I think that should be laid to rest right now. HRM has not taken their bylaw and their control within this municipality to any of those practices. They have not interfered with golf courses, which are commercial. Neither have they interfered with agriculture or forestry and bear in mind that HRM is the size of Prince Edward Island and has a lot of forests and a lot of agricultural uses and they have not taken it that way. So I think you can rest assured, and the people of Nova Scotia can rest assured, that this is not an attempt to regulate or impact commercial activities.

The bill that was drafted, that we are discussing today, says specifically in its final clause, I think, to add some certainty for people, it says, "but, for greater certainty, not the regulation of property used for agricultural or forestry purposes;" I think that has to be taken on the strength of what it says there. If it was passed into law, it would definitely assure people in those activities not to be concerned, that is not an issue.

Mr. Speaker, I go back to just how much society has changed. It's really remarkable that where municipalities had a fear 10 years ago about having this power and being pressured and not knowing the right thing to do, today they know and they want the power and they have said unanimously that they are ready to accept that decision and ready to look at the pros and cons. There is no question that, I believe, the best level of government to make that decision is the municipal unit because they understand their communities; they are closest to the people. I think in this case we would find that they would be acting almost in unison in moving forward with bans on the cosmetic use of pesticides. Again, all they need to do is talk to the IWK, look at the cancer rates, the incidents of children with cancer and leukemia, different types of cancer, and recognize that there's a clear connection to the use of pesticides and other chemicals - some of it we can't even trace directly because there's a lot of negative environmental factors that are coming together.

Nova Scotia, as we've said before, has one of the highest rates of cancer in the country and that's something we should be doing all we can to control, to take away those causes of cancer. We know some of it is because of air pollution, some of it is because of dirty power plants, we know that, and we have to take every step we can to improve the health of Nova Scotians. We also have the second highest level of childhood asthma in the country - I think next to P.E.I. - and that again has to do with chemicals, it has to do with pollutants in our environment. Anything that we can do that's going to improve our health rates, that's going to make our young people and adults healthier and more productive is very, very important.

I think we should be taking the lead - and I go there because I don't believe this Legislature should be faint-hearted about moving on a bill like this. Whether the government wants to bring in their own bill, whether they want to pass this bill - if they don't think this

[Page 2379]

bill addresses all the issues then maybe you should draft one that does, but I think that we need to take steps because the public are looking for leadership and they're seeing it from the commercial sector. Imagine that, Mr. Speaker, that we have major retailers willing to say we're changing our practices, we're not going to be selling these products anymore, because if there was one shortcoming in HRM's bylaw it was the fact that you could still buy the product, that it's available on the shelves here in Nova Scotia, and that's a bit ironic if you're going to say you can't use the product for the majority of the applications which are residential - then it was certainly a weakness that you could still buy the product. That is a problem.

Here you have the public telling the retailers they don't want it on the shelves, telling them they don't support the sale of pesticides and use of pesticides and what you're getting then is the stores taking the lead. Isn't that sad, Mr. Speaker, that we're the people here in this Legislature who represent Nova Scotians and who, through our constituency offices and our caucuses offices, speak regularly to people across the province and listen to their concerns and we haven't been able to deal with this? We speak through their representatives from UNSM who represent all 55 municipalities who have told us now that they're ready, that they now feel the strength to deal with this issue. I think we should take that same pride that we're able to represent the concerns and the issues, to examine this question about whether or not this is the right thing to do for Nova Scotians.

Remember, Mr. Speaker, we have, downstairs, displays talking about Joseph Howe, and Joseph Howe measured legislation based on the public good. Is this for the public good was the question he would ask for every piece of legislation and every act of government. I believe this is for the public good. To put controls on the use of pesticide is important, and cosmetic use of pesticide is just that - it's for nothing more than having a greener lawn or bushier shrubs or something, it doesn't benefit anybody.

I wanted to mention that even in my suburban area which people will know, Clayton Park West, Clayton Park, and Rockingham, we have a lot of front lawns and that has been the standard to have a big front lawn and keep it nice and tidy. There's a real change there, a change in how we measure whether or not people are good neighbours in taking care of their property. More and more the properties are becoming more like English gardens, they have grasses, they have shrubs, a little bit of gravel, they're not all strictly one type of grass rolled out on a lawn. I think we're going to see more and more of this. When I see it, it really does please me because I see people saying they don't want to be dumping a lot of products on lawns to keep them healthy, they don't want to be battling pests - what they want to do is have a nice natural garden. Again, that's a testament to the good work in HRM, through education letting people know there are other ways to garden, there are other kinds of plants that we can use, and if we use more natural or native plants that they thrive a lot better than introducing others to our gardens. They've told us how to look after the lawns, to aerate them regularly, not to cut the grass too short - really simple things that have cut down on the need for any kind of pesticides.

[Page 2380]

I think people are absolutely interested in knowing how to control their environment better, how to be better stewards of their own property and their own neighbourhood. I think what we need to do is help them in having that information and by making cosmetic use of pesticides a banned practice, I think we're moving ahead quickly. It's time that we did that and, again, I just think it really is a sign of the times that it's the corporate sector that's showing more leadership than the Government of Nova Scotia if we decide to turn our backs on this opportunity.

Often we're not onside with UNSM but in this case, UNSM is ahead of the game. They've come to us and they've already worked it out among themselves. They have unanimous agreement, Mr. Speaker, and I think that's something that often is missing. So they're speaking from one voice and I believe that the public in our own constituencies are asking for this kind of action. At the same time, we have corporate leadership. Thank you, Mr. Speaker, I see I have just two minutes left to go.

I certainly wanted to again assure the minister that no one, certainly in the Liberal Party and I don't believe anyone in the Legislature, is talking about curtailing the activities of any of our commercial sectors, and I'm thinking again of agriculture and forestry. Those are very important activities in our province and I think they will be dealt with, you know, in their own right in what is best for them This is strictly a municipal issue. It's dealing 100 per cent with residential properties and I think we need only look at Government House here on Barrington Street, which is the Lieutenant Governor's home, and I know that yard and that garden are beautiful. Our Public Gardens are beautiful. The ban that was put on in HRM covered all government-owned properties as well, so our parks are being maintained pesticide-free. I think you'll find they are well maintained - their grass looks great and everything is wonderful.

So what it is, it's a question of changing our habits, changing our attitudes, and government has really, I think in this case, not kept pace with the public opinion which is so much more enlightened than it was 10 years ago. I think we have to keep in mind the people in our midst, citizens in our midst who are very sensitive, who require this, not just because it's the right thing to do for the environment, because it impacts their health in a very negative way. I think we should all take our hats off to the UNSM and thank Bob Wrye for bringing it forward as president of the UNSM, to bring it to our attention, to get the people of Nova Scotia aware of it, and to ask us all to take this action in the near future.

I'm disheartened to hear the government saying that they're not anxious to do anything at the moment. I believe there has been a lot of consultation and that, again, this is an important thing that we move on the sooner the better.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Halifax Chebucto.

[Page 2381]

MR. HOWARD EPSTEIN: Mr. Speaker, I would like to congratulate my colleague, the member for Pictou West, for introducing Bill No. 37. It's an excellent bill and it's one that should commend itself to all Parties in the House. I would like to offer my thanks to the member for Halifax Clayton Park for speaking in support of it. I think both of those members have made very good points and they have explained why it is that we ought to proceed with this legislation.

What a contrast with the disgraceful speech from the Minister of Service Nova Scotia and Municipal Relations. Bill No. 37, I ask myself, why isn't that a government bill? I wondered, 101 bills later we got a Municipal Government Act, an omnibus bill from the minister, Bill No. 138. He had the example in front of him 101 bills ago, with Bill No. 37, of a useful item that he could have acted on, and should have acted on, and tried to tell us today he was sort of tempted to act on. What's wrong with the minister's speech? Here's what's wrong with what the minister had to say.

He trailed in front of us the idea that somehow he was in support of the initiative. It's undesirable, he said, that really there should be a patchwork. Well, of course, Bill No. 37 would take away the patchwork. Then he trailed in front of us the idea that it might be a weakness in Bill No. 37 that, in fact, it could be tougher. Legislation could be tougher, the minister said to us but, of course, he's not bringing in anything in Bill No. 138 or anywhere else. He said that he had respect for UNSM and that he liked to consult with UNSM and that, although they didn't seek permission from UNSM, of course, they wanted to hear what UNSM had to say. Well, they've heard what UNSM has to say. They've invited the government to take action, but the minister isn't doing it. What was the point about talking about the UNSM and all the respect the minister has for the opinion of the municipal leaders in this province?

Many mused about how it might be useful to ban the sale of the products. But the minister isn't doing that, he's not proposing to do that. What he says is, you know, my brain hurts when I have to think about this complicated problem, I really don't know what to do. The UNSM has told him what to do. There's been an example in front of him of the largest municipality in this province that, for 10 years, has in fact led the way. Physicians in this country have led the way. Family physicians in Ontario have been on record for a good decade as saying that pesticides are bad for children, bad for children's health.

The major reviews of the literature, the medical reviews, have pointed out that these are hormone disrupters, they are causes of cancer, they're pathways. What is the minister waiting for? It's not as if the limited history that he gave us is even the full story. The minister was harkening back, correctly, to the debate we had in this Legislature in 1998 over amendments to the Municipal Government Act - well, not amendments - when we were adopting for the first time the Nova Scotia Municipal Government Act as a consolidated new piece of legislation. He reminded us of the extensive number of people who came and spoke at the Law Amendments Committee, some of them in the gallery today, who spoke in favour

[Page 2382]

of having a power in the Municipal Government Act so that the local government level could act.

But you know why they asked for that? They asked for that because the province hadn't acted. Before the 1998 legislation on municipal government, this Legislature adopted the 1995 Environment Act. Part VII of the 1995 Environment Act in Nova Scotia is called the Dangerous Goods and Pesticides section. Part VII, Dangerous Goods and Pesticides, look at the two items that have been linked together. Section 81 of the Environment Act in Nova Scotia has said, since 1995, "The minister shall develop, co-ordinate and enforce policies, planning and programs respecting integrated pest management and alternatives to the use of pesticides."

[5:00 p.m.]

That has been public policy in Nova Scotia since 1995. The minister was reminded of the precautionary principle that is also in the Environment Act but is meant to apply to all of our scientific thinking when it comes to these issues. Still, the minister says to us, he doesn't know what to do. He's at a complete loss. What to do? But he told us, really, what it is he's interested in doing. He's interested in doing nothing because what he told us was, Nova Scotians are undecided.

It's not Nova Scotians who are undecided, it's the minister who is undecided. The knowledge has been there, the precedents have been there, the scientific information is clear and even if the minister thought the scientific information weren't clear, the precautionary principle tells the minister how to resolve any doubt. In the case of absence of scientific certainty, if it's a question of protecting human health, you take the precautionary measure and you take the aggressive step. That's the policy in Nova Scotia, that's the universal policy with respect to the precautionary principle. It's right, it's a good guideline. It allows the minister to resolve whatever doubts he might have. It's not Nova Scotians who are undecided, it's the minister.

Why? What solid reason, if any, did he give for not moving on this? I ask again, why is it that this isn't a government bill? If the government wanted to come in with a stronger bill, bless them. Let them do it, let them do it. They had the opportunity last week with Bill No. 138, they didn't do it. The minister has a number of weeks left in this session, he can bring in another bill if he wants to. Let him do it. It's not as if the precedents are missing, it's not as if this is a difficult drafting exercise. This is a simple drafting exercise.

In fact, let me offer the minister an alternative to Bill No. 37. I think Bill No. 37 is useful because it puts all of the municipalities on an equal footing. Here's another way the minister could put all municipalities in Nova Scotia on an equal footing. What this bill does is it repeals Section 533 of the Municipal Government Act, which applies only to HRM.

[Page 2383]

What it does is it changes the wording of Section 172(1)(j). What the minister could do is he could, in fact, repeal both of those sections of the Act.

What would be the result of that? The result of that would be exactly the situation in the Province of Quebec, when the famous case of the Town of Hudson versus Spray Tech ended up in the Supreme Court of Canada in 2001. When the Town of Hudson in Quebec, seven years prior to 2001, passed their bylaw to regulate pesticide use in their municipality, they didn't have the equivalent of a Section 533 of our Municipal Government Act They didn't have the equivalent of a Section 172(1)(j) of our Municipal Government Act. What they had was a statement in the Province of Quebec's Cities and Towns Act that was spoken of in general terms, that is, the municipality had the power to enact bylaws for the health and welfare and well-being and safety of the residents of their municipality.

That raised the legal point, was that sufficient as a power to enable that municipality to regulate pesticides? That case ended up at the Supreme Court of Canada and the Supreme Court of Canada told us in 2001 that that omnibus power, that general power, those general words were perfectly sufficient to support a pesticides regulatory bylaw.

So there's an alternative for the minister; if he's having trouble thinking of ways to draft a bill, there's an alternative. I know that people have written to him and pointed this out. Again, people in the gallery have written to him to point that out, that that's an alternative. So it's not as if this is a tough problem to solve, it's not as if the right thing to do is not in front of the minister - it is. It's in front of the minister and abundantly clear but the minister chooses instead to blow smoke at us.

The minister must think, when he makes the kind of speech that he made, that either we in the House or the public listening at home, are extraordinarily stupid and can't understand what he says. But I assure the minister that that isn't true, neither in this House nor the people at home. It is exactly why it is that the minister shows himself and his government to be out of touch with what it is that people in Nova Scotia are asking for.

This is a simple, straightforward thing and I say that the minister and his government are going to pay for it, come the next election because they are out of touch. Even in the minister's own municipality, which he's pointed out himself, he pointed out happily, apparently in his speech, that he's out of touch with what it is that the elected municipal people in the Town of Truro want. How can that be? If you hunker down and you put the blinders on and you decide that you're not going to move on something, that's what you get and that's what we have here.

I suppose pro forma, we should note a couple of things. We should note, of course, that there are alternatives to the use of cosmetic domestic pesticides. As other speakers have noted, this bill has nothing to do with forestry, commercial forestry; this bill has nothing to

[Page 2384]

do with commercial agriculture. This bill sets the stage for what it is that people can and cannot do with respect to the lawns and gardens of their homes.

That's the focus, but you know 80 per cent of Canadians now live in urban areas. This is hugely important. I'm far from suggesting that the government shouldn't think seriously about how pesticides and herbicides are used in forestry and agriculture. They should think about it because of the health and safety of the people who work in those industries.

That's a debate for another day. What we're talking about is the whole issue of cosmetic domestic use of pesticides for lawns and gardens. That's the focus, that's the issue. For the minister to try to suggest that there's something else at work is completely wrong as, indeed, he has been shown.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. Order, please. The honourable member for Halifax Chebucto has the floor.

MR. EPSTEIN: Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker. When it comes to taking care of people's lawns and gardens there are any number of responsible alternatives that don't require the application of pesticides and that's true whether the problem is chinch bug, or whether the problem is other kinds of pests, or whether the problem is simply that people want to have the so-called perfect looking lawn. The main book on this subject is called, The Lawn: A History of an American Obsession. It is an obsession. It is an inexplicable obsession the way people are sometimes attached to that neat and trim look of a patch of grass, of only one species, with nothing else on it, no clover, nothing else. But that is passing, that style is passing. There may be individuals who continue to want that but do you know, they are no longer, I think, in the majority.

The time is passing and furthermore what we have to engage with is how neighbours interact with each other. That is what this bill is about. This bill is about how people live in a community and respect each others' sensitivities, particularly their health sensitivities and their health needs. That is what this bill is about and that is where the focus should be. Now the alternative to having a regulatory system that applies in all communities around the province is that people can sue each other. Is that what the minister thinks builds community? I don't think it builds community. I don't think that when one neighbour who has chemical sensitivities is exposed to another neighbour who persists in using chemicals on their lawns and then takes legal action, I don't think that, in fact, is a desirable state of affairs, but it is what the minister seems to think is the available alternative because he continues not to want to show an initiative and show some leadership and won't, when a good bill is put in front of him, apparently support it.

[Page 2385]

So we know that there are practical alternatives and that has been one of the main virtues of what has gone on in HRM. The minister asked if there had been any prosecutions but I say to the minister, prosecutions, like lawsuits, don't build community. What builds community is what has gone on in HRM, which is a process of education and availability of alternatives. That is what has gone on here, that is what people have been exposed to and that's what it is that people have responded to so positively in HRM. If the minister wants to take more aggressive steps, let him. That power is open to him. He can move on that at any time. If the minister can think of a better way of achieving the objective of getting municipalities into the game in exactly the way the UNSM has now asked them, then let him bring forward his own bill. If not, I say to the minister that he ought to support this bill. Thank you very much for the opportunity to speak to this issue.

MR. SPEAKER: The time has expired now on Bill No. 37.

The honourable Opposition House Leader.

MR. FRANK CORBETT: Mr. Speaker, would you please call Bill No. 20.

Bill No. 20 - Health Insurance Protection Act.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Halifax Atlantic.

MS. MICHELE RAYMOND: Mr. Speaker, thank you for giving me the opportunity yet again to speak on this bill which is now numbered No. 20. It has been to the floor of this Legislature before. I first introduced it in 2005. It reached second reading but died on the order paper. It came back to the new government in 2006 and again in 2007. I'm sorry that there has been no later determination on the government's part to pursue this legislation. Why is this?

Only yesterday this government announced a $31.7 million investment in Family Pharmacare, a much-needed investment because there are people in this province who are without pharmaceutical drug coverage and I think all of us in this House have probably encountered people suffering the ravages of illness without the needed medications. I'm glad that this government has recognized the need for this investment. I'm glad that this government has 50,000 people who are supported through Community Services with Pharmacare, but what I would like to know is whether or not this government has investigated the number of people who, in fact, have been previously entitled to pharmaceutical drug coverage through years of faithful paying of premiums and have become disentitled to that coverage because they have lost their jobs or their connections to group insurance either through losing a spouse to death or divorce, growing out of the age of dependency with a family, or the loss of a job - voluntarily or involuntarily. I hope that the government has, in fact, done its homework and knows just how many of the people who are now mercifully going to be extended pharmaceutical drug coverage may, in fact, have

[Page 2386]

already been entitled to that coverage but are not receiving it as a result of this government's failure to further investigate this.

People lose health coverage through a variety of means. As you know, as everybody here knows, it's possible to buy individual drug coverage. Many people do when they first reach the age at which they can afford to do so. Many other people are very, very grateful to receive group health insurance coverage through their employment. Unfortunately, that coverage can disappear. Think of the case of a 40-year-old person who has been perhaps married for 14 years, had a couple of children, either her marriage breaks down or the job is lost and all of a sudden there is no longer health insurance coverage. That person has got to go back to scratch, has to look for new health insurance coverage on an individual basis. Everything that has happened during that 14-year period is now an excluded condition.

[5:15 p.m.]

Think of a 19-year-old who perhaps has had asthma and who is leaving his parents home. That person now has a pre-existing condition. That asthma may not have manifested since the child was five years old, but it's a pre-existing condition and individual health coverage here in Nova Scotia will forever be granted only on the terms of the exclusion of the asthma that child had as a young person. Think of a 58-year-old or 59-year-old man, with diabetes whose wife works, say, for the provincial Civil Service or for another larger employer who has group health insurance coverage and that person's supplies and medications are covered because premiums have been faithfully paid throughout all those years in which that person was employed and the woman, who is the primary carrier, has a heart attack, is no longer there, and that man is a widower. All of these cases are people who now either have no health insurance coverage or must seek new health insurance coverage which is not on the terms of the old.

What I want to know is whether this government has really seriously investigated the cost and is duplicating coverage which people have already paid for? I do know that when I pay for a service, I expect it to be delivered. When I have invested in health care premiums, I do expect to have the benefit of that and I do not expect to pay a second time. I hope that this government has seriously looked at how many people have already - people and their employers - been contributing premiums to health care plans and have then lost the benefit of them because if this government hasn't pursued it, this government is taking the pocket out of all Nova Scotians and leaving behind people who really need services that need to be delivered.

It means this government isn't helping with heating costs. It means this government wants other people next winter, as well as this, to be forced to move into shelters because they simply cannot afford the cost of heat. It means this government doesn't pay physicians and nurses enough money to want them to stay and work in this province after they graduate from medical school. It means that this government isn't investing in the schools, investing

[Page 2387]

in the education and the schools that can bring this province properly into line with the literacy rates of other provinces. I hope that this government has seriously considered whether or not it's paying for services that Nova Scotians have already paid for, they have paid health insurance companies, they and their employers.

As soon as they disappear from the rolls, these people are in fact a windfall to health insurers and we need to investigate that. This bill needs to go forward. It needs to go to the Law Amendments Committee. There are provisions in other countries where, in fact, the stakes are very much higher because there is not even basic health care, where it's not just prescription health coverage, and those provisions ensure that a person losing their entitlement to group health insurance has a transitional allowance, has a period of six months or nine months in which they can pay for their continued coverage at their own cost, not at their employers cost, but they're allowed to stay on that term. It also is possible, as this bill does, to define conditions and periods of exclusion so that if a condition doesn't manifest itself for years and years a person is not penalized for something that they may have suffered from at four or five years old. So that a 50 year old is not being denied prescription drug coverage for something that may not have manifested itself since that person was only five years old.

There are also ways of ensuring that health care plans do have continuation. There are such things as buy-in clauses and every employer who actually supplies group health coverage has the option of saying yes, there employees will have the option to continue their coverage at their own cost after they leave or no they do not. I hope this government has invested just how many of the plans in force in the province, the group health insurance plans, do have those buy-in provisions and how much of the slack we are as the province picking up.

I know people who have bills of $900-1000 a month, far more than their monthly living allowance. They have to make the choice between heating, eating or dealing with their medical issues. When they can't, it's a good thing that the slack is picked up but what if they have in fact already paid? What if when they were younger, when they were healthy, they were contributing and they were investing in a future assurance that their pharmaceutical drugs might be covered?

People tend to become more ill, not less ill, as they get older. If we have people who are in fact paying into plans when they are young, leaving those plans is an overall benefit to the plan and it is a disincentive to the rest of the population to invest in their own health care. I hope that this government will it look again and look seriously at this bill because there are so many people out there who are in very grave need of pharmacare. We need to make sure that they have been helped initially by the first people they expected to help them.

Instituting full family pharmacare for low-income Nova Scotians without checking first to see how many of them have paid premiums in the past for future services, and would

[Page 2388]

have continued to do so if they were allowed to, is a foolish thing to do. We have no need to do this and I hope that the government will in fact check into this before it proceeds further with this. There are numbers of people who have been covered by their health insurance plans, who have every reason to expect they will continue to be covered by their health insurance plans and who aren't.

Here in Nova Scotia we're allowing those people to get lost. There are other people who have spent years and years in good health, who have paid health insurance premiums, who have continued to expect to be in good health and who may then lose their connection, have their connection severed with their group health insurance plan, and have no way to return. They're still in good health, they have seen absolutely no sign of a condition that may have afflicted them in their youth and yet they continue to be discriminated against.

I hope that this government does not believe in discriminating against its citizens in this way. I hope that this government does not allow its children to grow up knowing that what happened to them as children is, in fact, lurking over them because the cost of pharmaceutical drug coverage can be absolutely crippling, as I think all of us have seen. We need to help but we need to ensure that those who in fact have paid to help have also been appealed to first. I don't want to see any Nova Scotian left without health coverage. I don't want to see anyone else looking at those pieces of paper all over the table that are prescriptions for serious illness with absolutely no way to fill them. I also don't want to see anyone who remembers having had health insurance, who remembers having had a spouse or a parent who had health insurance coverage, who had that and who now is in a situation where they can do nothing but look at those blank pieces of paper, those prescriptions that could help them to the health they need, but which are not available to them. I hope this government will make a serious undertaking to look to those who have been asked to help participate in the health of Nova Scotians, to look to everybody who has been involved in the health care of Nova Scotians and make sure they get it. Thank you.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of Labour and Workforce Development.

HON. MARK PARENT: Thank you. (Applause) Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the support of my members, they could keep that up for 12 minutes and I'd be very happy. Unfortunately, I think that would tax even their obvious enthusiasm for the comments I'm about to make.

I'm glad to speak to this bill. This bill, as the honourable member has stated, has come to the House on several occasions. In fact, I was looking through the comments by the member for Lunenburg at that time who is the Minister of Finance and under whose portfolio this bill really falls. Insurance, at one stage, as you know Mr. Speaker, used to fall under the Minister of Labour and Environment. Now we have two departments - Environment and Labour and Workforce Development, but neither one of those departments deal with insurance. It falls under the Minister of Finance.

[Page 2389]

It's little wonder that when this came up again last time, about two years ago, the member for Lunenburg spoke about it, he spoke in his erudite way. At that time, I noticed he mentioned that in a round about way he supported the bill and the government was in agreement with the bill. I haven't had a chance to speak to him about his statements in here, but it's interesting to see this debate come back and back, time and time again.

I would commend the member opposite on her persistence. I was reading somewhere where they said the quality of a successful politician was persistence. I remember mentioning that to the Minister of Finance at one stage and he kept telling me when I was on the backbenches that I was extremely persistent in going after him for things in my riding. I found that a compliment when I was on the backbenches. Now that I'm on the front benches, I can see that maybe persistence, depending at which side you look at it, could be viewed in different ways.

Nevertheless, the member has been extremely persistent. I will table the remarks that were repeated two years ago because I think there's not been any real change between the comments two years ago and the comments this year, except for one very, very important thing and that's what I want to draw the attention to. The member opposite is quite right, there is a very legitimate concern here. The insurance companies are concerned that if we legislate exceptions rather than allowing those to be worked out between the various parties, we'll make insurance very unaffordable. There are problems in terms of affordability of insurance. That's really what the debate hinges on, whether they're right and by having this bill, you get the law of unintended consequences or whether this bill would actually improve the situation.

It's a similar thing I find with regard to pensions, which do fall under my department. There are many people coming forward in terms of changing solvency requirements on pensions and others who want to make it stricter. You always have to look and you know, Mr. Speaker, having been a government minister, anytime you set a policy in place, you have to be very aware of the law of unintended consequences.

There was a wonderful book about that, about the formation of the United Church. Around the turn of the 1900s, the movements they had - for example, prohibition, et cetera - and all the work they're doing, In this particular book, the result was that instead of Christianizing the country of Canada, they ended up with a more secularized Canada. So the law of unintended consequences, Mr. Speaker, is what I'm trying to get it. It's something that not only do you worry about in terms of church movements, but also in terms of government policies. It's something that very seriously we need to look at. I think that's really what has held it up, in terms of government support.

In the meantime, a very important thing has happened, Mr. Speaker, and that's really what I wanted to devote my attention to because I echo the minister's comments that there are very serious considerations here, there's much pressure that this might have the opposite

[Page 2390]

effect and actually make insurance less available for individuals. So I think in light of that discussion and that lack of consensus by experts in the insurance industry, the government decided to go and put its efforts into a very important plan that the honourable member for Argyle, the Minister of Health, unveiled very recently and that's the Nova Scotia Family Pharmacare Program, which does not have pre-existing conditions written into it.

[5:30 p.m.]

So that was obviously thought through and they wanted to make the plan inclusive and cover people regardless of any pre-existing conditions, so there are no pre-existing conditions mentioned, no exemptions, because the government in its wisdom, looking at the experts, divided about whether this bill here would really improve and make insurance options more available for individuals, decided in a sense to park that question for a while and do something that everyone agrees would be a benefit to Nova Scotians, and that is the Nova Scotia Family Pharmacare Program.

It's the first universal drug coverage plan in the province and I believe in the Atlantic Provinces. Certainly I know there was one in Alberta that I looked at some years ago and Manitoba. However, the fiscal situation of Alberta is much stronger than our province. So I think it's an act of great courage, political courage, on behalf of this government, on behalf of our Premier and on behalf of the Minister of Health - one of the best Ministers of Health this province has had, and I'm sure my colleagues will all agree with that. An act of great political courage to bring about the first universal drug coverage plan in the province and the first universal drug coverage plan in the Atlantic Provinces.

That's really where the government has put its efforts. It's a matter of capacity and the members opposite, not having to deal with that issue, want government to spend all the time everywhere, save everywhere, do everything, but it's a matter of capacity and a matter of setting priorities. So the priority was set to put effort into the Family Pharmacare Program.

While I'm talking about that, Mr. Speaker, assisting the Minister of Health was perhaps one of the best Community Services Ministers we've had and hopefully she'll last long in her job as Minister of Community Services, and that's my colleague the Honourable Judy Stretch, whom I will be marrying later, Mr. Speaker, but I digress. Yes, I digress when I speak about her marriage plans and I had better get back to the subject at hand. Yes, I'll reign myself in because it will be one of the most interesting wedding ceremonies I've had the privilege of doing and certainly when we get into the counselling I think that will be quite interesting as well - yes, the bill. It's the first time I've seen in the groom's vows that he promises to obey. Mr. Speaker, I'm sorry, back to the bill.

Mr. Speaker, when I come back to this question of capacity, it's not that the government is against this bill in any way, it's a question of capacity, it's a question of differences of opinion on whether this will actually help provide adequate health insurance

[Page 2391]

to individuals. So the government decided, in its wisdom, and I think a very, very good decision, to put efforts into this Family Pharmacare Program, the first universal drug care program in Nova Scotia and in the Atlantic Provinces with no pre-existing conditions, and I need to state that very clearly.

This is a program that is a fairly expensive program, Mr. Speaker, about $33 million.

AN HON. MEMBER: $37 million.

MR. PARENT: $37 million. If I could share my time with the Minister of Health who would speak to the benefits of this Pharmacare plan, if that maybe allowed, I will let him close out with these comments. But I do make the point we are not against this bill. It is a question of divisions as to whether this would really help make health insurance more available and without increasing expenses dramatically. So we put out attention to this very good program that the Minister of Health will elucidate on in his typically loquacious way.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of Health has two minutes left.

HON. CHRISTOPHER D'ENTREMONT: Mr. Speaker, I know the honourable minister couldn't figure out how to really fill those full 12 minutes and I think he would be surprised if he knew that he did fill, with that wonderful speech of his, a whole 10 minutes. So I do thank him for that information.

I, too, want to thank the member opposite for bringing this issue to the floor of the House. It is very important to recognize the need for pharmaceuticals, for drugs, for the treatment of illnesses in our province. There are too many individuals, at this point, who do require some kind of pharmaceutical help and some kind of pharmaceutical health care. I think it is important and incumbent upon us to help provide them with the tools in which to get information, which is why I was proud to be Minister of Health working with a Premier who had the foresight to have a Pharmacare Program front and centre of a campaign as well as front and centre of what we were doing to go forward to help Nova Scotians.

Mr. Speaker, I was very happy to be a part of the only Party, at the time, to be talking about a universal Pharmacare Program for Nova Scotians. Again, as the minister alluded to, we are committing $37 million of taxpayers dollars toward this program. Right now I can say that there are over 5,833 families enrolled in the program. There are 8,890 individuals enrolled in the program and I am still looking forward to many more families signing on to this wonderful program which will help them make sure that they get the drugs that they need to help them into the future.

Mr. Speaker, I believe I am getting close to the end of my time. I do want to thank, again, the member opposite for bringing this very important issue, especially Pharmacare and drug cost to the floor of this House.

[Page 2392]

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Glace Bay.

MR. DAVID WILSON (Glace Bay): Mr. Speaker, I want to comment, first of all, before we get to the real issue here, and that being the bill itself. I want to comment, first of all, on the comments and the speech that was made by the Minister of Environment and Labour. You know, I have come to know that the minister has a good sense of humour over the past number of years but I wish, in this instance, he hadn't treated this issue as a joke. I wish that he had taken this issue a little more seriously because on Opposition Day, when Opposition Parties present a bill, and it has been presented, as the member for Halifax Atlantic said, before this House in 2005, 2006, and 2007, one would get the impression that maybe you are not taking this seriously and that maybe, I am sure, if any Nova Scotian who was watching that 10-minute dissertation at home afterwards, probably went duh or huh? What is he talking about?

Mr. Speaker, the minister stands up to try to defend his government's position and says, you know, you have to know about the law of unintended consequences before you can understand this. You may not know about it but I know about it, I understand it. Let's have a history of the United Church of Canada while we are at it and then let's throw in a little mix and talk about another minister getting married later on and I'm going to perform . . .

Well, Mr. Speaker, I've never heard anything so ridiculous in all my life. Never. Here we are talking about something about something as serious as someone who has lost a spouse, someone who is divorced or someone who has lost a job, looking for health insurance. I would ask the minister, have you ever been in that position?

Unfortunately, Mr. Speaker, he probably has. Unfortunately, he probably has. I've been in that position myself. I know what it's like to look for health insurance and not be able to get it because of a pre-existing condition, or not be able to get it because it was no longer available because you simply couldn't afford it. I've been in that position and many Nova Scotians are in that position today. The answer is not to stand in this House and make light of it or make jokes.

Mr. Speaker, the first thing the minister did when he talked about this was table a speech that he made two years ago and said nothing has changed so I might as well table these remarks from two years ago because, well, I don't care, we're not going to do anything about it today. I didn't do anything about it two years ago, why should I do anything about it today? That is a slap in the face to an Opposition Party and to an Opposition member who has taken the time to research this, to introduce this legislation, and to have it seriously debated in this House, which is exactly what we're supposed to be doing here. That is nothing more than a slap in the face and an insult to that member. (Applause) I would go as far as to say, just to begin with, the Minister of Environment owes that member a public apology for treating this matter as he has. That's my personal opinion.

[Page 2393]

Mr. Speaker, I have no doubt that the intentions of the member for Halifax Atlantic are good when it comes to the introduction of this bill. I trust and I hope - and she can elaborate on this later on perhaps, or whoever is getting up next - that stakeholders were contacted prior to the introduction of this bill. We have to be careful when we introduce pieces of legislation, who it affects in this House, how it's going to affect people and whether or not we can expect negative consequences if we don't do our homework. I know, I would think anyway, that that member, of all the Opposition Members on this side, probably did her homework before she introduced this legislation. So I'm confident in that.

Mr. Speaker, I do see, and the research that we've done shows some similarities with this bill and the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act that is a piece of legislation that sits currently on the books in the United States. That legislation provides rights and protections for participants and beneficiaries in group health plans and it includes protections for coverage under group health plans that limit exclusions for pre-existing conditions and prohibits discrimination against employees and dependants based on their health status. It allows a special opportunity to enroll in a new plan to individuals in certain circumstances.

Mr. Speaker, I don't think there's any question from anyone here that when people are facing difficult challenges in their lives, the last thing that they think about is their own well-being or what can happen to them as a result of a loss of health care insurance. It's interesting to note there are some health insurance companies out there that have programs in place that enable people to gain the security of knowing that their health care needs will be there and will be covered. There is a program- and I'm not putting this forward and saying that this is the program to follow - that's offered through Manual Life Financial that's called the Follow Me Program that ensures that family members can maintain benefits enjoyed under a group plan. I throw that out just as an example. It's one thing that I came across again in research for this legislation and for this bill.

Mr. Speaker, again I get back to the fact, has the government really treated this issue seriously? Have they taken it seriously? If you had a piece of legislation that has been there in 2005, 2006, 2007, if you have - and I know the minister and the Health Minister himself refer to the fact, well, we have an extended pharmaceutical drug coverage and so on now, I'm not knocking that, I'm not knocking it at all. I'm saying those programs are welcome in this province. They were long overdue, they're welcome. What I'm saying is, have you ensured, have you done your homework, has the government done its homework, and have the ministers done their homework to make sure that this plan wouldn't complement those other programs that they had there and why turn a blind eye to this one simply because it comes from an Opposition member? Now, that's not the way it should work. It is certainly not the way it should work in a minority government. I would remind the Premier and I would remind the Cabinet Ministers over there that this is a minority government situation and, if we're looking for good legislation, good legislation should come from government listening

[Page 2394]

to Opposition Parties - that's what we're supposed to be doing, we're all here for the same reason. So I would remind the government that is the case.

You possibly, if you had paid attention, and in this case whatever minister is responsible, if they had paid attention to this bill and done something about it there is a possibility that this government could have saved money by implementing this plan; there's a possibility they could have saved lives by implementing this plan; there's a possibility that it was a better program and we could have had a better program. And I don't know, if we have one common purpose being here, I would say that's it - we're here to develop the best pieces of legislation we can that will benefit all Nova Scotians.

Mr. Speaker, again if I take a look - and I know that the member for Halifax Atlantic has good intentions with this and if I take a look at the bill that she's putting forward then I simply would have absolutely no problem whatsoever saying that myself and my caucus would be in support of this legislation. Now we know what's going to happen next; we know that at the end of my time allotted to me to speak here today that it's going to go over to the NDP caucus again and that a speaker will get up and for the next 12 minutes that speaker - and as I understand it is a good member with a good name - I know that member is going to speak in favour of this bill, it's quite obvious. I know that he's going to try and convince the government in his remarks that this is the right thing to do to move this piece of legislation forward. But, we're not naive, I also know that if the good member were to call this bill for a vote, or whatever the case, one of those members on the government side is going to pop out of their seat and perhaps inform us what other Cabinet Minister is going to get married and whether or not they are going to perform the service, or whatever it might take to waste time, which is another signal that the government is not taking this seriously.

Again, Mr. Speaker, I would encourage the government to do exactly that. It's quite obvious again by the minister's comments that contributed to this debate for the government, it's quite obvious by the minister's comments they have not taken this seriously. Whatever the minister said two years ago he tabled again tonight. I guess we'll look at the comments, although I don't know why we'd bother because we know what he said two years ago didn't do any good - I don't know why it would make any difference two years from today. But again it's the perfect indication that the government is not taking this seriously and by saying that, the government has ignored and just not paid attention to a lot of people in this province perhaps who are out there and who are hurting, seriously hurting.

The fact that this bill, Bill No. 20, has indicated it provides for the continuation of health insurance and it would require every insurer, if it's the death of an insured person, if it's the loss of employment of an insured person, or even the divorce of an insured person - take that one last category and think about how many people are subject to divorce in this day and age and in this country. I don't know for sure, but I'd say that figure is at least 50 per cent if not more. You're looking at a lot of people who are in this situation who, for a period

[Page 2395]

of time, or forever, will be left without insurance - they can't get the insurance because of a pre-existing condition.

In this province we know there are a lot of people who are on fixed, low incomes. They simply can't afford to pay for the insurance. I know in my case when I went looking for it after losing my employment it was well over $400 a month that it would have required to have private insurance, and it did not cover any pre-existing conditions on myself and my family. Again, having brought forward what we consider in the Liberal caucus to be a worthwhile piece of legislation to at least take a look at it and at least consider it. That has not been done by this government and as such, in my opinion, this government has not done its job and that's to take seriously and give proper consideration to any piece of legislation that comes before this House, regardless of whether or not it's from an Opposition Party.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Sackville-Cobequid.

MR. DAVID WILSON (Sackville-Cobequid): Mr. Speaker, I'm proud to stand in support of this piece of legislation. I want to thank the prior speaker, the member for Glace Bay, because he did have some great opening comments. This is a serious piece of legislation and I think we agree on this side that the current government hasn't taken the opportunity to look at this legislation and really see the benefits this piece of legislation, if passed in this House, would be, to not only the government and the government's coffers, but most importantly, to Nova Scotians.

The Minister of Labour and Workforce Development stood up and went down a road talking about this piece of legislation. I'm not sure what road he was on, but this debate really should be about what's best for Nova Scotians; not what's best for big insurance companies, but what's best for Nova Scotians. Far too often, in my capacity as the NDP Health Critic, as the MLA for Sackville-Cobequid, I hear from Nova Scotians and they have concerns.

They find themselves in situations where they've lost their job, where they've gotten divorced, where they have a child who's over the age of coverage for MSI for certain procedures, who don't know what to do. They have nowhere to turn. The Minister of Health did stand up for a few seconds and mentioned some of the programs government offers.

I agree. There are programs out there, but they don't kick in when a situation occurs like someone waking up one day and not having a job. Or, a marriage breakdown, where they don't have the time or the attention to spend, to figure out what program the government offers is best for them. They don't have that time.

The Minister of Labour and Workforce Development mentioned in his speech - not the one he tabled from two years ago - about some of the comments he made today around we have a universal Family Pharmacare Program. Well, the dictionaries that I look at and when I look up the word universal, that means for everybody. The Family Pharmacare

[Page 2396]

Program isn't for everybody and not everybody is able to get into that program and there are up-front costs.

When we look at the hodgepodge of programs that the government has, a lot of them aren't geared for those individuals who just found out they don't have a job. They don't have a paycheque. They have to have up-front costs. That's why I think this piece of legislation needs to have the attention of government to seriously look at it. Really look at it and see if it's worthwhile.

As a member, the speaker prior to me said, this could probably benefit government. This could actually probably save hundreds, if not thousands, if not maybe even millions of dollars to taxpayers and to the government if they looked at opportunities to look at ensuring that someone who might have coverage under a work plan, who has lost their job, or got divorced, could have that 30-day window, a bridging opportunity to make sure they have medical coverage.

We all take for granted, and many Nova Scotians do, MSI and the health plans that we have that are provided through our employment. Myself, yourself, Mr. Speaker, our families are protected, we have an optional medical coverage here that covers those procedures that aren't covered under MSI. We need that, Canadians need that, Nova Scotians need that. Even though we have a great medicare system in this country, we need additional coverage, insurance coverage.

What this piece of legislation speaks to is those situations that I mentioned before that individuals will find themselves in. I've heard from people in my own community and from across the province around the situation of a divorce, when all of a sudden you have a single parent, often a single mother, trying to raise their kids, who have lost coverage because of that divorce. There is no opportunity for them to ensure their kids have the additional coverage they need for dental care, for example.

We've talked about this in the past in this Legislature, about the importance of oral health care and dental care. The Minister of Health, the government has said it's important. It is important, but that's something after the age of 12 if you don't have additional coverage, you won't get those procedures done. You won't get that attention that is so important to growing kids, for example. That's just one example of some of the situations Nova Scotians find themselves in. I think, and I hope, the minister and the government look at this piece of legislation and say, you know, this might be something that we should look at and take seriously, not just mock the fact that our member keeps bringing this back year after year to try to entice the government to look at this.

Mr. Speaker, we've had some success. Several years ago the former member for Halifax West, Ron Russell, I know had discussions with our caucus . . .

AN HON. MEMBER: Hants West.

[Page 2397]

MR. DAVID WILSON (Sackville-Cobequid): Hants West - had discussions with our caucus, saying, I like this piece of legislation, I think we should try to have some more discussion around this. Let's get it through and see what happens.

But all of a sudden, Mr. Speaker, of course the member, the Honourable Ron Russell, left us with the new member for Hants West and that has gone by the wayside. It's unfortunate, because Mr. Russell was a key to this government's caucus and to their Cabinet. They should have taken his advice and looked at this more seriously.

We don't have to look far. We look down to the U.S. who don't have the universal Medicare that we have here in Canada and we enjoy. Down there, if you don't have health coverage, you're in trouble, your family is in trouble. A lot of the states down in the U.S. have adopted this piece of legislation to ensure that when employment or a divorce or something traumatic like that happens, that those individuals are able to maintain that coverage, by law, to ensure that their families are protected and their families are covered. That's why we think the government should revisit this, look at this. This is a serious issue, I think, and one that I said we could probably save money, the government could save money and really help those individuals who are falling through the cracks here in Nova Scotia when it comes to additional health coverage like a medical plan that they've lost.

The other thing that's so important that we recognize is that as the member who just spoke said, there's a possibility of a saving in dollars but a saving in lives, Mr. Speaker, and the health of an individual if they can receive additional medical coverage or dental coverage. Without that, I think it puts an added burden of cost on the health care system. The early detection and prevention of diseases and health issues goes a long way, we have all the records in front of us that say that.

I know the member for Halifax Atlantic has worked hard with this, has spoken with so many groups throughout Nova Scotia, like the Heart and Stroke Foundation, the Canadian Mental Health Association, the Lung Association and the Canadian Cancer Society, who have all spoken with our member and said that this would be a sensible piece of legislation and something that the government should really look at and, hopefully, invest in and promote and pass through the process here in the Legislature.

As I said at the start, this is something that I think would be easy for the government to implement, as long as we keep in mind the best interests of Nova Scotians. That's what we need, Mr. Speaker, and truly this is the best thing for government, this won't cost them anything - maybe a few dollars for printing for the legislation. This won't cost the government anything.

Really what we're asking the government to do is to look at this and do the right thing, make sure they can capture those Nova Scotians who find themselves all of a sudden, because of some situation, without any coverage. That's all we're asking, that they look at

[Page 2398]

that and they include that in their decision making, they include that in ensuring that this piece of legislation can really get to the next level.

To be honest, Mr. Speaker, here we are on Opposition Day, we've called this piece of legislation because we know that we haven't got any indication from the government that they are interested in bringing this piece of legislation through the full process and that's why we bring it forward on Opposition Day, so we can again, for another year - how many years now, four years, Mr. Speaker? - try to debate and bring awareness around this important issue. I think the government needs to recognize it and really take the time to look at what this really would entail and the savings that this government could make by implementing the changes in the legislation needed, like changes in Bill No. 20.

So, again, I want to commend the member for Halifax Atlantic for her perseverance in this issue, Mr. Speaker, ensuring that she continues to bring legislation here to the floor of the Legislature that would help Nova Scotians, especially those who are vulnerable, those who are falling through the cracks and who can't obtain the services they need because of a loss of an insurance coverage plan. So with that, I hope the government recognizes the importance of this and really takes it seriously.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. The time allotted for Opposition business has now expired.

The honourable NDP House Leader.

MR. FRANK CORBETT: Mr. Speaker, that concludes the Opposition business for today and I hand it over to the Government House Leader for the extended hours for tomorrow. We're getting close to the moment of interruption, but the business for tomorrow and the hours, I'm just trying to catch somebody's eye here, and I'll take my seat now.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Government House Leader.

HON. CECIL CLARKE:Mr. Speaker, tomorrow's business, the House shall sit from 12:00 noon until 8:00 p.m. The order of business on the morrow will be, following the daily routine, Question Period, address going into Supply, the Committee of the Whole House on Supply, Public Bills for Second Reading. They will include consideration of Bill No. 120, Bill No. 126, Bill No. 81, Bill No. 127, Bill No. 130, Bill No. 131, Bill No. 133, Bill No. 135 and Bill No. 138. I move the House do now rise to meet tomorrow at the hour of 12:00 noon.

MR. SPEAKER: The motion is to adjourn.

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

[Page 2399]

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

The motion is carried.

[6:00 p.m.]

We have now arrived at the moment of interruption. The Adjournment debate was chosen and announced earlier:

"Therefore be it resolved that this House recognize the immense talents of staff at Wear Well Garments of Pictou County, as well as the business expertise displayed daily by the company owners which has made Wear Well Garments an outstanding Pictou County business for the past 37 years."

ADJOURNMENT

MOTION UNDER RULE 5(5)

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Pictou Centre.

WEAR WELL GARMENTS - STAFF/OWNERS:

TALENT/EXPERTISE - RECOGNIZE

MR. PATRICK DUNN: Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to stand here tonight to speak about a very viable and sustainable company. Wear Well Garments Company was founded in 1970 and is located in Stellarton, Nova Scotia. Wear Well Garments Company is a full-line manufacturer of work apparel for institutional, industrial, food service and corporate markets.

Mr. Speaker, Wear Well Garments has based its reputation on providing superior customer satisfaction, superior quality and superior selection. Their line of work apparel is continually evolving to better meet the demands of customers in industries. When most people think of the garment industry, they envision roll upon roll of sewing machines. Those days are long gone and in North America so are most of the jobs. The garment industry was among the first sectors in the Canadian economy to be hit by low wage, by highly competitive offshore producers.

Mr. Speaker, by the time Fraser MacLean and his son, Sterling, purchased Wear Well Garments in 1978, the protection in his walls that it shield the industry in North America for so long were falling quickly or already down. Wear Well did see some dark days in the 1980s

[Page 2400]

and early 1990s. Also at this time, large sectors of the provincial economy were facing hardships. Wear Well had long been focused on selling uniforms to the health care and fishing industries, however, with health care budgets slashed and fish processing in crisis it was a case of diversify or die.

Mr. Speaker, Wear Well Garments had to quickly become a Canadian company, not just a Maritime company. Wear Well President Stirling MacLean comments, "Outside the Maritimes, the market changes. Negotiated contracts often mandate the use of uniform rental companies by large manufacturers such as those in the auto industry. As a result, companies like Cintas and Canadian Linen are now two of our biggest customers."

Mr. Speaker, another client's growth from a regional operation to a national operation has also had a big impact on Wear Well Garments. Sobeys Incorporated, another Stellarton-based company, expanded its operations across Canada in 1998 and is still expanding. The grocery distributor now owns or franchises 1,300 stores in 10 provinces; that is a lot of uniforms.

Mr. Speaker, Wear Well Garments occupies over 40,000 square feet of production space and employs a staff of 86. Technology and modernization have been key factors to the longevity of this family business. Innovation has secured clients from across Pictou County, Nova Scotia, Canada and the United States. Their production and distribution facilities serve such customers as Michelin Tire, Nova Scotia Liquor Corporation, Tim Hortons, Sobeys, McCain's, Apple Auto Glass and Canadian Linen, just to name a few.

Mr. Speaker, hits on their Web site, www.wearwellgarments.com come from all around the world. Sales have been expanded by enabling companies to order on-line. Business-to-business sales sends customer orders directly to Wear Well Garments' distribution centre. Orders can be placed without ever stepping foot inside the facility. All Wear Well brand garments are produced with quality as their first priority, from the initial in-house design, through production, inspection, and finally shipping, Wear Well Garments pays strict attention to detail, ensuring their customers receive the best products available. Their manufacturing facilities and close relationships with suppliers allow Wear Well Garments to provide one-off items and full head-to-toe-uniform coverage.

Mr. Speaker, clients' needs are never overlooked. All individuals and businesses, big or small, are treated with the same degree of respect and enthusiasm. The positive response from the local community has been a key ingredient to Wear Well Garments' longevity. Individual account representatives work one on one with their clients to ensure full understanding of their work environment. Customers are known by name and are never just a number. An on-site designer is able to adjust existing patterns and create new ones to suit each customer's individual need.

Mr. Speaker, promotional products still comprise a large percentage of Wear Well Garments' sales. They produce and distribute T-shirts, sweaters, jackets, hats, skirts, pants,

[Page 2401]

and many other pieces specifically for individualized events or clients. Staff clothing needs are met by Wear Well Garments. Community and fundraising events sport Wear Well products as well. Adding a company name or logo to a garment is a finishing touch that guarantees representatives from your company will be recognized. Customized logo-ing adds value and uniqueness to any garment.

Mr. Speaker, embroidery is performed at the Stellarton facility as well, with the recent purchase of a new eight-head Barudan Embroidery Machine, they now have expanded their capacity for more business. This capability allows for lower costs and adds to production efficiency. Orders are completed in a timely manner. Additional services include garment identification and heat-sealing labelling, wrapping individual employee orders and a complete line of promotional products.

Mr. Speaker, Wear Well Garments' flexible marketing strategy of "go where the customers are and where they want to be" demonstrates a commitment to self-improvement. Company initiatives over the years read like a veritable laundry list of total quality management recommendations, everything from undertaking its own total quality management program to new equipment purchases, plant modernization and expansion, advanced technology utilization, productivity reviews and lean manufacturing training. In 2007 CAP cutting of fabric was introduced to the factory.

Mr. Speaker, Wear Well's ability to design and deliver uniforms four weeks from the date of order is hard to beat. The company's efforts to serve customers and staff were recognized when Wear Well Garments was named 2004-2005 Business of the Year by the Pictou County Chamber of Commerce. Then chamber President Luke Young commented, Wear Well is an example of a company in Pictou County that is constantly innovating and challenging itself to do better. The MacLean family always has the communities' best interests at heart. They take an interest in things that might not be directly connected to their business but to the community at large. Mr. Speaker, to quote President Stirling MacLean, "Wear Well Garments uniforms are comfortable, in style, and perhaps not surprisingly - they wear well."

Thank you.

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

MR. CLARRIE MACKINNON: Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker. I'm delighted to stand up and speak tonight in relation to Wear Well Garments because I'd like to set the stage for where Wear Well is actually located. It is in Pictou Centre but my hometown of Westville, the friendly Town of Westville, is a stone's throw away from Wear Well Garments, it actually is. You can leave the town and come into Pictou Centre and there is Wear Well.

[Page 2402]

So I want to talk about Wear Well but even the products have been outlined by the member for Pictou Centre. So what I do want to say about that company is that it has existed for 37 years, it does, in fact, employ 86 people, it does contribute to Pictou County. I wish that the member for Pictou Centre had a late debate for us on TrentonWorks and the pension shortfall and Greenbrier's abandonment of Pictou County and the hundreds of steelworkers and the scores and scores of office workers, but tonight we are, in fact, dealing with Wear Well.

Wear Well is a firm that does create stability and we need firms like Wear Well. We need firms that have a long-standing history in our county. Mr. Speaker, there are a lot of businesses like Wear Well. I could mention several of them in my own riding, but what I'd like to do is talk for a moment on a positive note because The News, the daily paper in Pictou County, last Saturday had a progress issue. That progress issue outlined many, many businesses in Pictou County that are contributing to our economy.

I have to say that the good member for Pictou West and I had a full page extolling the work that is being done in relationship to rural economic development and small-town issues. We take great pride in working on some of those issues, we take great pride in working with the firm of E.R. Langille and trying to get new innovation involved there, with Group Savoie, also in my hometown. We've been working with companies like that for a considerable period of time.

There are many garment businesses. Getting back to Wear Well, I think members will recall that I introduced a private member's bill in relationship to sweatshops. It's amazing, it's simply amazing that we have companies like Wear Well, like Stanfields, that continue to operate despite the things that are happening within that garment industry. Almost everything you pick up in a shopping centre is made in China, or in Bangladesh, or India, or Haiti and a host of other countries that have sweatshops. Here we have a business like Wear Well that continues to operate and it continues to operate well.

[6:15 p.m.]

Wear Well has had leadership from Fraser MacLean - and I would like to point out to this House that Fraser MacLean was an honourable member of this House. He was a Progressive Conservative member for Pictou Centre. He is, in fact, a visionary. Now I shouldn't say, and I don't think it's really true, but when you mention Progressive Conservative and visionary one might sometimes think that could in fact be an oxymoron, but I don't think that is the case. He certainly served in the House before the times of breaking promises and so on.

I want to talk about the situation with Wear Well and its operation in Pictou County despite some of the things that are happening, and to look for a moment at that sweatshop bill that we talked about at one time, because we are in fact dealing with situations as we go in to various stores around our constituencies. I'll tell you two stories. First of all I'm looking

[Page 2403]

one day for a power cord so I go to Canadian Tire and, being a Pictou County Scot, I see one on sale, a real good price, lower quality, I look at it - made in China. There were six different power bars in that store. Each one of them I turned over, and made in China, made in China, made in China. Even when we celebrate some events in our province we have things that come from Haiti, and all kinds of trinkets that are purchased sometimes comes from China. There are all kinds of things that we deal with.

I was looking for office furniture for my constituency office. I had a limited amount of money to work with and I go to a local store, a local family business, Dobson's in Stellarton, in Pictou Centre. I go into that store and I look at some chairs that are very good quality and I say these chairs have to be Canadian because they're very, very good. So I need four of these for my office, a little board room table, and two for my constituency assistant's office, and I get four of one kind and two of the other. I say to the salesperson that all six of those are made in Canada, and the answer - no the four you've ordered for your office, they were made in China.

This is the kind of thing that Wear Well and other companies are up against. I cancelled the order, I had to go to a catalogue to get Canadian made. It had to be ordered in. These are the things that Wear Well is dealing with. It's amazing that we have situations that exist like this throughout our constituencies.

I was going to go into all the products that were made at Wear Well and I did some very quick researching to find out some more information on Wear Well. However, the member for Pictou Centre did, in fact, go through the different products and so on.

But, I would like to talk about a similar business in my constituency, which contributes, like all do, to the economy and that is the MacGregor Custom Machining Limited. A parallel here, 55 full-time jobs and the same amount of money - the $5 to $10 million in annual sales - in business, and it's been in operation since 1975. It's almost a parallel to Wear Well. So, I'm talking about another company that has a similar contribution and there are many of them in Pictou County. Many of these businesses.

This one continues to expand, it's leasing another building, it's involved with precision machinery, it's involved with the manufacturing of boat shafts and precision machining. It's a great company and it's one that is contributing equally to the economy of Pictou County. So I commend all of these businesses in Pictou County that contribute so much to so many. Thank you very much.

MR. SPEAKER: The chair now recognizes the honourable member for Cape Breton South.

MR. MANNING MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, it's a pleasure to join the debate this evening to a cast of thousands, I might add, on the adjournment debate brought forward by the member for Pictou Centre.

[Page 2404]

Once you read something like this, you say, well, I now have an opportunity to rise in my place in the House and talk about perhaps a similar circumstance to this in my own area of Cape Breton. I want to refer to two particular gentlemen who have contributed much to the community of Sydney over the past number of years. They've done so by operating businesses not unlike the kind of business that the other members were talking about. These are two gentlemen with perhaps a difference, they're both immigrants. One is a Jewish immigrant and the other one is a Lebanese immigrant from many, many years ago. Their names were Jack Yazer who came from Poland, I believe. He's a Jewish person who came from Europe and Elias Jabalee who immigrated from Lebanon years ago.

Those gentlemen came to Sydney with virtually nothing and started businesses. In my Mr. Yazer's case, he traveled Cape Breton first of all selling his wares over the Cabot Trail and to all the little villages from Sydney to Port Hawkesbury and back and did so with a pack of materials. In the case of Mr. Jabalee, he came over and opened up a tailor shop and he made suits for people, when that was fashionable a few years back when you could get a half decent suit that was made locally. Mr. Jabalee put suits together for customers and his customer base grew and so his business grew, then he was employing people.

In Mr. Yazer's case, he opened up a store - I know the Government House Leader is well aware of the impact Jack Yazer and his brother Mendel had on the community in Sydney. Not only was Yazer Brothers, over a period of years, one of the finest men's stores ever opened in the Sydney area, family owned and with excellent wares to sell, Jack, himself, became a citizen extraordinaire because he was involved with things like the Children's Aid Society, he was involved with a youth group called, Youth Speaks Up, which I know the Justice Minister is familiar with, and many other community endeavours. Like him, Mr. Jabalee was involved with service clubs, Kinsmen Club and I believe Rotary and a couple of other. I am not sure if it was Rotary or Kiwanis but it was one or the other. Once he got over 40, he had to leave the Kinsman Club and like many of us, we were booted out at 40 so we had to go into some other service club and he went on to continue to serve in a service club in the Sydney area.

The point I am making, Mr. Speaker, is both of these gentlemen were immigrants, came over with nothing and made a good living in Sydney by providing good, quality clothing. In the case of Mr. Yazer, he expanded into a hands-on operation. You never went into Yazer's when you didn't find Mr. Yazer himself there. If he could help you himself, he did. He employed a number of people who stayed with him for many years in that business and Mr. Jabalee went on to open up a real estate business in Sydney, a very successful real estate business that employs a number of people. Both of these did so very successfully because they offered a good product and they offered service and they offered the hands-on approach of doing business. It stood both of them in very good stead over the years.

I know that many of us who literally grew up around Mr. Yazer's stores and Mr. Jabalee's business often reflect on the fact that, you know, aren't we lucky that we have the kind of immigrants like these gentlemen who could come into our area, start from nothing

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and make a good living. Jack's family have all done well in our area and Elias Jabalee's family as well.

I congratulate the member for Pictou Centre for highlighting the fact that Wear Well Garments of Pictou County as done so well and I congratulate the member. It gave me the opportunity to, for a few brief moments here, to talk about a couple of success stories in my area. Now there are many other success stories, Mr. Speaker, but I highlighted those two because of the extraordinary circumstances surrounding their coming to Cape Breton and their doing so well in the community there. Mr. Yazer is still living and so is Mr. Jabalee, of course. But Mr. Yazer is still doing whatever he can for the community. I believe if he is not 90, he is approaching 90 in terms of age. (Interruption) Yes, he was appointed a citizenship judge as well. I don't think he is well enough now to continue to do that but he has been a citizenship judge for a few years.

I was lucky enough to be at a few ceremonies when people were given their Canadian citizenship in our area. He would remark about his own situation, about coming from Europe and having the challenges, I guess, that accompanied him here and how proud he was to become a Canadian citizen and how proud he is to be a Cape Bretoner. The same is true for Mr. Jabalee because both of those gentlemen came from troubled areas. When they reached the Cape Breton community, they never hesitated to tell the rest of us, who take it for granted, what a wonderful country Canada is and what opportunities are here in Canada, if it is Cape Breton or if it's Victoria, B.C., or whatever. We are very lucky in this country to have a country like Canada . All you have to do, if you doubt that at any time, is talk with Jack Yazer or talk with Elias Jabalee about the situations that were happening in Europe when they were growing up. It speaks volumes about the number of people who have come over to our little area of Cape Breton and done very well.

This weekend there is a celebration at the Jewish Synagogue in Sydney regarding the Holocaust. While the numbers are getting smaller and smaller in terms of the living immigrants, particularly Jewish immigrants in our community, if you look down the roster of the Jewish community, they have all done well in our community. It has become not only a celebration of remembrance, Mr. Speaker, but it has become a celebration of the lives of the people who have immigrated and come to Cape Breton and have done very well in Cape Breton. You see how proud they are and they don't forget their past. They insist that the story continue to be told about the struggles in Europe in the 1930s and 1940s, particularly during the Hitler regime. Despite all of that and despite the kinds of obstacles that were put in their way, they've been very successful. You have to take your hat off to those people because they believed that they could make a difference in the community and they have made a difference in the community. Both Mr. Jabalee and Mr. Yazer have tremendous careers.

The list goes on and I know that my friend, the Government House Leader, knows of many people in our area, in Cape Breton, who have achieved greatness, both economically in terms of their businesses, but also in terms of community support and community endeavours, they lead the list.

[Page 2406]

We should feel a little bit taken aback by the fact that immigrants come into our area, they realize how great a country Canada is and they contribute and, in most cases, much more greatly than the rest of us contribute in our communities. We sometimes take this great country - Canada - for granted. I think that we should learn a lesson from immigrants that you can succeed in Canada. You can make a good life for yourself. You can make a start here and you can raise your family here in the safety of this great country, Canada, the land of opportunity. Mr. Jabalee and Mr. Yazer have certainly proven that.

MR. SPEAKER: I want to thank all the honourable members for having taken part in tonight's late debate.

The motion for adjournment has been made.

The House stands adjourned until 12:00 noon tomorrow.

[The House rose at 6:30 p.m.]

NOTICES OF MOTION UNDER RULE 32(3)

RESOLUTION NO. 2177 [Tabled 04/29/08]

By: Hon. Leonard Goucher (Immigration)

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

Whereas volunteers are people from all walks of life and all ages, with a common desire to make a difference in their community and in their own life by giving of their time and expertise; and

Whereas volunteers in Bedford are the lifeblood of our communities, providing support in virtually every aspect of society including health, education, social services, youth, sports and recreation, culture, the arts and the environment; and

Whereas Ruth Jay was recognized as Bedford Volunteer of the Year by Bedford Volunteer Recognition Committee, for her selfless act of giving to the community;

[Page 2407]

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House recognize the invaluable efforts made by all volunteers in their communities and congratulate Ruth Jay for her contribution to the people of Bedford.

RESOLUTION NO. 2201

By: Mr. Patrick Dunn (Pictou Centre)

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

Whereas New Glasgow's youngest real-estate entrepreneur recently acquired a Pictou County landmark; and

Whereas 20-year-old Cohen MacInnis purchased the eight-storey Maritime Building in downtown New Glasgow and has big plans for the property, built in 1915; and

Whereas MacInnis plans to renovate the inside of the building and then work on overhauling the facade. His plans also fall in line with the leadership and support for the Downtown revitalization initiative that is underway in New Glasgow;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House send their congratulations and appreciation to Cohen MacInnis on his commitment to revitalizating rural Nova Scotia and through that, providing an example of the opportunities for people in this province, no matter what age.

RESOLUTION NO. 2202

By: Hon. William Dooks (Tourism, Culture and Heritage)

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

Whereas the Musquodoboit Harbour Junior "C" Crunch advanced to the Maritime North Hockey Championship in Cornwall, Prince Edward Island Apr 3-6 after winning their first ever Nova Scotia title; and

Whereas Crunch goaltender Justin Mitchell was named the Tournament's MVP with a 2.73 goals against average as his club finished the preliminary round at 3-1 before losing to the Shediac Predators 4-0 in the championship game; and

Whereas tremendous efforts by Head Coach Richard Patterson, and his Assistant Coaches Nathan Ross and Randy Frame and Trainer Billy Marr made the 2007-2008 season a memorable one;

[Page 2408]

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House extend congratulations to the Musquodoboit Harbour Crunch for winning the 2007-2008 Nova Scotia Junior C Championship, and advancing to within one win of the Maritime North Championship.

RESOLUTION NO. 2203

By: Hon. Mark Parent (Environment)

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

Whereas on April 12th, Kings County Special Olympics held its first ever recognition banquet in Kentville in its 20 year history; and

Whereas its motto says it all, "Let me win, but if I cannot win, let me be brave in the attempt"; and

Whereas Doug Williams was recognized as Male Coach of the Year for his efforts in organizing the Special Olympics Aquatic Program;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House recognize the efforts of Doug Williams and his efforts in volunteering and supporting sporting excellence of those with special needs in Kings County.

RESOLUTION NO. 2204

By: Hon. Mark Parent (Environment)

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

Whereas on April 12th, Kings County Special Olympics held its first ever recognition banquet in Kentville in its 20 year history; and

Whereas its motto says it all, "Let me win, but if I cannot win, let me be brave in the attempt"; and

Whereas Erica Roy was recognized as Female Athlete of the Year;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House recognize the efforts of Erica Roy and her efforts in sporting excellence.

RESOLUTION NO. 2205

[Page 2409]

By: Hon. Mark Parent (Environment)

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

Whereas on April 12th, Kings County Special Olympics held its first ever recognition banquet in Kentville in its 20 year history; and

Whereas its motto says it all, "Let me win, but if I cannot win, let me be brave in the attempt"; and

Whereas Jill Thurston was recognized as Female Coach of the Year for her efforts in organizing the Special Olympics Curling Program and several years as soccer coach;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House recognize the efforts of Jill Thurston Williams and her efforts in volunteering and supporting sporting excellence of those with special needs in Kings County.

RESOLUTION NO. 2206

By: Hon. Mark Parent (Environment)

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

Whereas on April 12th, Kings County Special Olympics held its first ever recognition banquet in Kentville in its 20 year history; and

Whereas its motto says it all, "Let me win, but if I cannot win, let me be brave in the attempt"; and

Whereas Philip Brown was recognized for 20 years of participation in Special Olympics and his accomplishments recently earning four medals in speed skating at the national Special Olympic Winter Games and his over 70 medals and trophies over that time;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House recognize the efforts of this special olympian, Philip Brown, and his efforts in representing Kings County and the Province of Nova Scotia in competition.

RESOLUTION NO. 2207

By: Hon. Mark Parent (Environment)

[Page 2410]

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

Whereas on April 12th, Kings County Special Olympics held its first ever recognition banquet in Kentville in its 20 year history; and

Whereas its motto says it all, "Let me win, but if I cannot win, let me be brave in the attempt"; and

Whereas Stephen Swinimer was recognized as Male Athlete of the Year;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House recognize the efforts of Stephen Swinimer for his efforts in sporting excellence.

RESOLUTION NO. 2208

By: Hon. Mark Parent (Environment)

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

Whereas on April 12th, Kings County Special Olympics held its first ever recognition banquet in Kentville in its 20 year history; and

Whereas its motto says it all, "Let me win, but if I cannot win, let me be brave in the attempt"; and

Whereas the Kings 1 Curling Team of John Robicheau, Bruce Lightle, David Coffey and Billy MacKay took the award for team of the year;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House recognize the efforts of Kings County Special Olympics and its efforts to enrich the lives of those with special needs in their accomplishments in sporting excellence.

RESOLUTION NO. 2209

By: Ms. Diana Whalen (Halifax Clayton Park)

[Page 2411]

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

Whereas St. F.X.'s alumni is a vital part of the university's reach, with active members around the world; and

Whereas the "X" ring is a proud symbol of the values and experiences shared by generations of alumni; and

Whereas Ed McHugh, who graduated in 1979, is the current President of the St. F.X. Alumni Association, where his enthusiasm is focussed on keeping the spirit of the "X" alive;

Therefore be it resolved that members of this House congratulate Ed McHugh and wish him success in his ongoing promotion and support of Saint Francis Xavier University.

RESOLUTION NO. 2210

By: Ms. Sterling Belliveau (Shelburne)

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

Whereas master dory maker, Curtis Mahaney, built and donated to the Loyalist Landing 2008 Society, a rocking dory that is both handcrafted and original; and

Whereas the dory being a replica of the bigger version was made child-size, complete with a little seat, a handlebar to hold as it rocks back and forth on two runners. The dory represents the mandate of the Loyalist Landing Society, promoting Shelburne County, its people, talents, history and heritage; and

Whereas all monies raised from the dory went towards funding the Loyalist Landing Celebrations 2008;

Therefore be it resolved that this House of Assembly thank Curtis Mahaney for his donation of the rocking dory to the Loyalist Landing Society to raise money for Celebrations in 2008.

RESOLUTION NO. 2211

[Page 2412]

By: Mr. Sterling Belliveau (Shelburne)

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

Whereas Damian Nickerson of the Barrington Novice Lightning Hockey Team won the skills competition in the 12th Annual Greenwood March Break Tournament on March 10, 2008; and

Whereas the skills competition consisted of four skills performed by five of the team players where everyone on the team won a free sandwich from McDonald's; and

Whereas the coaches and trainer, Alex Stewart, Trevor Smith, Cleon Smith and John Fehr are very proud of the team for their great sportsmanship and hard work, also for their win over West Hants in game 2 of the Greenwood Tournament;

Therefore be it resolved that this House of Assembly congratulate Damian Nickerson of the Barrington Novice Lighnting Hockey Team who won the skills competition in the 12th Annual Greenwood March Break Tournament on March 10 and 11, 2008.

RESOLUTION NO. 2212

By: Mr. Sterling Belliveau (Shelburne)

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

Whereas Katie Peacock, of the Shelburne Curling Club Little Rocks Program, won the Draw to the Button Trophy at the Shelburne Curling Club Little Rocks party on March 6, 2008; and

Whereas they displayed good sportsmanship through their curling competitions; and

Whereas curling requires skill and precision;

Therefore be it resolved that this House of Assembly congratulate Katie Peacock of The Curling Club Little Rocks Program for winning the Draw to the Button Trophy at the Shelburne Curling Club Little Rocks party on March 6, 2008.

RESOLUTION NO. 2213

By: Mr. Sterling Belliveau (Shelburne)

[Page 2413]

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

Whereas Daniel Quinlan of the Barrington Barons Junior Boys Basketball Team won the Shelburne/Yarmouth District Championships on Wednesday, February 20, 2008; and

Whereas the Barons defeated the undefeated Yarmouth Junior Bulldogs by a score of 46 to 42 and they also defeated the Lockeport Greenwaves with a score of 46 to32 in the championship game; and

Whereas this is the first win for the Barons in the District Championship Games since the 1990s;

Therefore be it resolved that this House of Assembly congratulate Daniel Quinlan of the Barrington Barons Junior Boys Basketball Team for his participation in winning the Shelburne/Yarmouth District Championships on Wednesday, February 20, 2008.

RESOLUTION NO. 2214

By: Mr. Sterling Belliveau (Shelburne)

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

Whereas her essay on Nova Scotians: Making the Change Environmentally landed her a $1,500 bursary in the 2007 Nova Scotia Recycles contest, but for Danielle St. Louis of Woods Harbour, environmental consciousness is a daily goal; and

Whereas the Grade 12 student at Barrington Municipal High School is a member of the BMHS Enviro Green Team and has volunteered with the Cape Sable Important Bird Area Nature Camps; and

Whereas Danielle has been accepted into Dalhousie University's science program in order to major in marine biology;

Therefore be it resolved that this House of Assembly congratulate Danielle St. Louis upon winning a $1,500 bursary for her essay on Nova Scotians: Making the Change Environmentally and commend her academic accomplishments and her environmentally conscious attitude.

[Page 2414]

RESOLUTION NO. 2215

By: Mr. Sterling Belliveau (Shelburne)

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

Whereas Danielle St. Louis and Jack O'Connor of Barrington Municipal High School won fourth place in the Senior Division with their "Roller Coaster" project in the Annual BMHS Science Fair on February 27, 2008; and

Whereas over 200 projects were submitted in the fair; and

Whereas 20-plus students will go on to compete at the Tri-County Regional Science and Technology Expo on Wednesday, March 26, 2008, at the Nova Scotia Burridge Campus in Yarmouth;

Therefore be it resolved that this House of Assembly congratulate Danielle St. Louis and Jack O'Connor on winning fourth place in the Senior Division with their "Roller Coaster" project in the Annual Barrington Municipal High School Science Fair on February 27, 2008.

RESOLUTION NO. 2216

By: Mr. Sterling Belliveau (Shelburne)

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

Whereas Danielle St. Louis, Grade 12 of Barrington Municipal High School, was honoured as a winner of the Nova Scotia Recycles School Contest on February 5, 2008; and

Whereas every October the Resource Recovery Fund Board of Nova Scotia in cooperation with the provinces 55 municipalities organizes the Nova Scotia Recycles School Contest, over 8,600 contest entries were received from Grade Primary to Grade 12; and

Whereas the students were challenged to consider the three R's and composting as they created artwork for reusable cloth bags, designed advertisements using old magazines, television ads and wrote essays on sustainable consumption and youth involvement in Nova Scotia;

Therefore be it resolved that this House of Assembly congratulates Danielle St. Louis for her participation and entry being honoured as a winner in the Nova Scotia Recycles School Contest on February 5, 2008.

[Page 2415]