Assemblée Législative de la Nouvelle-Écosse

Les travaux de la Chambre ont repris le
21 septembre 2017

HANSARD 03-10

DEBATES AND PROCEEDINGS

Speaker: Honourable Murray Scott

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

Available on INTERNET at http://nslegislature.ca/index.php/proceedings/hansard/

Annual subscriptions available from the Office of the Speaker.

First Session

WEDNESDAY, OCTOBER 8, 2003

TABLE OF CONTENTS PAGE
TABLING REPORTS, REGULATIONS AND OTHER PAPERS:
Anl. Rept. of the N.S. Provincial Health Council, Hon. A. MacIsaac 750
STATEMENTS BY MINISTERS:
Commun. Serv. - Staff: Commitment - Thanks, Hon. D. Morse 750
GOVERNMENT NOTICES OF MOTION:
Res. 274, Int'l. Walk to Sch. Day - Initiative: Supporters - Recognize,
Hon. Rodney MacDonald 753
Vote - Affirmative 753
Res. 275, Demaine, Erik: MacArthur Fellowship - Congrats.,
Hon. J. Muir 754
Vote - Affirmative 754
Res. 276, Hurricane Juan - Aftermath: Health Care Workers -
Commitment Recognize, Hon. A. MacIsaac 754
Vote - Affirmative 755
Res. 277, EMO - Co-Ordinating Efforts: Collaborative Approach -
Commend, Hon. E. Fage 755
Vote - Affirmative 756
Res. 278, Ring, Pamela: Can. Post Literacy Award - Congrats.,
Hon. J. Muir 756
Vote - Affirmative 757
NOTICES OF MOTION:
Res. 279, Proctor, Allan: Death of - Tribute, Mr. D. Dexter 757
Vote - Affirmative 757
Res. 280, Sampson, Sadie: Death of - Tribute, Ms. D. Whalen 758
Vote - Affirmative 758
Res. 281, Rally in the Valley (Mid. Musquodoboit) - Volunteers:
Efforts - Congrats., Mr. B. Taylor 758
Vote - Affirmative 759
Res. 282, Autism Month (05/03): Gov't. (N.S.) - Mark,
Ms. Maureen MacDonald 759
Res. 283, Stewart, Carol/Smith, Jill: N. American Inns Contest -
Congrats., Mr. L. Glavine 760
Vote - Affirmative 761
Res. 284, Kikuchi, David - Olympic Summer Games (2004): Success -
Wish, Mr. G. Hines 761
Vote - Affirmative 761
Res. 285, Saltsprings Prov. Pk.: 2004 Season - Reopen, Mr. C. Parker 761
Vote - Affirmative 762
Res. 286, Sanderson, Marion - Lake Echo Commun.: Service - Honour,
Mr. K. Colwell 762
Vote - Affirmative 763
Res. 287, St. Ann's Catholic Church Cemetery Comm.:
Anl. Potluck Supper - Commend, Mr. J. DeWolfe 763
Vote - Affirmative 763
Res. 288, Moraff-Davis, Evelyn - C.B. Business Hall of Fame:
Induction - Congrats., Mr. G. Gosse 764
Vote - Affirmative 764
Res. 289, Health - Wait List: Seriousness - Min. Realize,
Mr. David Wilson (Glace Bay) 764
Res. 290, Apple Blossom Co-op: Anniv. (20th) - Congrats.,
Mr. M. Parent 765
Vote - Affirmative 766
Res. 291, MacKenzie, Gordon & Catherine: Anniv. (60th) - Congrats.,
Mr. Gerald Sampson 766
Vote - Affirmative 766
Res. 292, Windsor - Pumpkin Regatta: Organizers - Congrats.,
Hon. R. Russell 767
Vote - Affirmative 767
Res. 293, Commun. Serv. - Recipients: Treatment - Equality Exhibit,
Mr. R. MacKinnon 767
Res. 294, Hardy Callaghan, Janet: Oyster Shucking Competition (2003) -
Congrats., Hon. J. Muir 768
Vote - Affirmative 769
ORAL QUESTIONS PUT BY MEMBERS:
No. 65, Insurance - Plan: Pursuance - Explain, Mr. D. Dexter 769
No. 66, Prem. - Budget Shortfall: Census Problem -
Knowledge Time Frame, Mr. D. Graham 770
No. 67, Fin.: HST Fraud - Estimates, Mr. D. Dexter 772
No. 68, Prem. - Budget Cuts: Plan - Publication Time Frame,
Mr. D. Graham 773
No. 69, Insurance: Facility Assoc. - Numbers, Mr. G. Steele 775
No. 70, Prem. - Budget Balancing: Failure - Resignation Tender,
Mr. D. Graham 776
No. 71, Hurricane Juan - Public Review: Form - Details, Mr. H. Epstein 777
No. 72, Fin. - Equalization Question: Answer - Venue Explain,
Ms. D. Whalen 778
No. 73, Agric. & Fish. - Vermeulen Farms: Assistance - Time Frame,
Mr. D. Dexter 780
No. 74, BSE Debate - Farmers: Attendance Discouragement - Details,
Mr. J. MacDonell 781
No. 75, Educ. - High Sch. Daycare: Elimination - Min. Awareness,
Mr. L. Glavine 782
No. 76, Gaming Corp. - Revenues: Increase - Plan, Mr. W. Estabrooks 783
No. 77, Commun. Serv. - Yarmouth Daycare Spaces: Reduction -
Min. Notification, Mr. R. MacKinnon 785
No. 78, Hurricane Juan - Assistance: Time Frame - Credibility,
Mr. K. Deveaux 786
No. 79, Prem. - Minor Injury: Definition - Veracity, Mr. Michel Samson 787
No. 80, Environ. & Lbr. - Baddeck Residents: Septic Overflow - Address,
Ms. J. Massey 789
No. 81, Health - Wait Times: Length - Acceptability Explain,
Mr. David Wilson (Glace Bay) 790
No. 82, Environ. & Lbr. - C.B. Nova: Coal Dust Problem -
Alleviation Plan, Mr. G. Gosse 791
No. 83, Tourism & Culture - Bluenose: Image - Protection,
Mr. David Wilson (Sackville-Cobequid) 792
No. 84, Econ. Dev. - Offshore: Fed. Regs. - Min. Action,
Mr. Michel Samson 793
No. 85, Environ. & Lbr. - New Waterford Hosp.: Employees -
Illness Investigation, Mr. F. Corbett 795
No. 86, Agric. & Fish.: Funding - Source, Mr. S. McNeil 796
No. 87, Commun. Serv. - Capt. William Spry Lodge:
Elevator Installation - Failure Explain, Ms. M. Raymond 797
OPPOSITION MEMBERS' BUSINESS:
MOTIONS OTHER THAN GOVERNMENT MOTIONS:
Res. 246, Fin. - Budget Balancing: Difficulties -
Recognition Time Frame, Ms. D. Whalen 798
Mr. D. Graham 798
Hon. P. Christie 802
Mr. G. Steele 807
Mr. Michael Samson 811
Hon. B. Barnet 816
Res. 173, Fin. - Financial Troubles: Tax Rebate - Causation,
Ms. D. Whalen 816
Ms. D. Whalen 816
Mr. B. Taylor 820
Mr. J. Chataway 823
Mr. G. Steele 824
Mr. R. MacKinnon 828
ADJOURNMENT:
MOTION UNDER RULE 5(5):
Agric. & Fish. - Farmers: Challenges - Acknowledge:
Mr. B. Taylor 832
Mr. J. MacDonell 835
Mr. S. McNeil 837
ADJOURNMENT, House rose to meet again on Thur., Oct. 9th at 12:00 noon 840
NOTICES OF MOTION UNDER RULE 32(3):
Res. 295, Arsenault, Stephanie - Oxford Vol. FD: Appt. - Congrats.,
The Speaker 841
Res. 296, Boyce, Pat - Springhill Fire Inspector: Appt. - Congrats.,
The Speaker 841
Res. 297, Oxford Capitol Theatre: Anniv. (80th) - Congrats.,
The Speaker 842
Res. 298, Oxford Ladies Auxiliary - Hurricane Juan Aftermath:
Efforts - Commend, The Speaker 842
Res. 299, Spicer, Katie: Soccer Achievements - Congrats., The Speaker 843

[Page 749]

HALIFAX, WEDNESDAY, OCTOBER 8, 2003

Fifty-ninth General Assembly

First Session

2:00 P.M.

SPEAKER

Hon. Murray Scott

DEPUTY SPEAKERS

Mr. James DeWolfe, Ms. Joan Massey, Mr. Russell MacKinnon

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

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House acknowledge the recent challenges faced by farmers in this province.

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

We will begin the daily routine.

PRESENTING AND READING PETITIONS

PRESENTING REPORTS OF COMMITTEES

749

[Page 750]

TABLING REPORTS, REGULATIONS AND OTHER PAPERS

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of Health.

HON. ANGUS MACISAAC: Mr. Speaker, I beg leave to table the Annual Report of the Nova Scotia Provincial Health Council for the year ended March 31, 2003.

MR. SPEAKER: The report is tabled.

STATEMENTS BY MINISTERS

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of Community Services.

HON. DAVID MORSE: Mr. Speaker, as everyone knows, the aftermath of Hurricane Juan left many Nova Scotians in crisis. Families receiving income assistance and people living in public housing were particularly hard hit. Staff from the Department of Community Services and housing authorities put their own needs aside, many who had no power or water, and came to work to help their clients and the community. These dedicated staff members have worked with their partners at the Red Cross, Metro Food Bank, Emergency Measures Organization, Halifax Regional Municipality and many other organizations to make sure people had food and shelter in the days after the storm. Community Services staff worked at emergency call centres, helped establish shelters and assisted with food delivery. At the same time, staff from the housing authority assessed property damage, checked on residents and helped coordinate meals and water delivery.

Approximately 3,000 food vouchers had been provided to people receiving income assistance. Many hot meals have been delivered to seniors' manors and barbecues were held at public housing communities. The appreciation I witnessed first-hand by the community for these barbecues, which fed an estimated 8,000 to 9,000 residents on the Wednesday after the storm alone, was a tremendous tribute to how all Nova Scotians responded to the hurricane.

Mr. Speaker, following the storm, staff responded to an extremely high call volume, answered questions and offered assistance to clients in need. Staff worked nights and throughout the weekend and they are still there, working extended hours to make sure longer-term needs are met.

On behalf of the staff, I would also like to extend appreciation to clients for their patience and courtesy. Thousands of enquiries were received in the days following the storm and people showed their understanding, as solutions were developed to meet their needs. While there is still a great deal yet to be done, staff remain dedicated to serving people with care and attention.

[Page 751]

Mr. Speaker, I ask the House to join me in recognizing the efforts of these committed staff members. Thank you.

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

MS. MARILYN MORE: Mr. Speaker, I have no hesitation in echoing the thanks from the minister for the staff and clients of the Department of Community Services and the housing authorities, for their response after Hurricane Juan. He mentions the many partners that they worked with: the staff and volunteers of the Canadian Red Cross; the Metro Food Bank; the Halifax Regional Municipality; and the Emergency Measures Organization, itself an umbrella group of 30-plus organizations in various levels of government.

Voluntary sector and residents have learned many lessons from Hurricane Juan and I encourage the Minister of Community Services and his staff to review their level of preparedness and the adequacy of funding assistance. Despite the extraordinary efforts of the staff of the Department of Community Services and the housing authorities, many low-income Nova Scotians have been severely impacted by Hurricane Juan, with no help from the provincial government, nor access to emergency funding assistance. People who have been left homeless and who could not afford insurance are feeling that they have been left to fend for themselves.

I urge the minister to provide leadership in dealing with these severe consequences. Thank you.

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

MR. RUSSELL MACKINNON: Mr. Speaker, I too echo the words of the minister in recognizing the hard work of the dedicated staff at the Department of Housing and Community Services. However, in an attempt by the minister to gloss over the reality of some of the problems in that department, he has chosen the staff as the opportunity to do that very issue.

We know very well how hard the staff work in that department. In fact, we know how overworked they are, but that's not the issue, the issue is, Mr. Speaker, the minister stands in his place today and tries to take credit for passing out 3,000 food vouchers this month, but what he forgot to say is they're going to claw them back out of their cheques next month.

AN HON. MEMBER: Shame.

MR. MACKINNON: That's absolutely shameful, when we have staff in the department making those types of statements. (Interruptions)

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please.

[Page 752]

HON. DAVID MORSE: Mr. Speaker, on a point of order. The member opposite brought that point up in a resolution that he tabled yesterday, and he's making it again here today. I would just say there's absolutely no substance to that allegation. Thank you. (Applause)

MR. SPEAKER: Obviously a clarification of the facts by the honourable Minister of Community Services.

The honourable member for Cape Breton West has the floor.

MR. MACKINNON: Mr. Speaker, perhaps he should communicate that message to his staff who are, in turn, communicating that to the recipients of those vouchers, because that's not what they're saying when they're going to the grocery stores, that's not what they're saying when they're calling our office, that's not what they're saying when they're talking to their friends and neighbours.

HON. DAVID MORSE: Mr. Speaker, on a point of order. Actually that was communicated explicitly to the deputy when we discussed this program.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Cape Breton West has the floor.

MR. MACKINNON: Mr. Speaker, if the minister would only stop and listen to what the people of Nova Scotia, in particular those who are affected by his department, are saying. We're not interested in what he's saying back and forth between his office and the deputy minister's office, we're interested in what's being communicated to the people who are being affected, thousands of Nova Scotians who are adversely affected.

Perhaps if the minister wanted to do something constructive about the damages and the housing issue, he could look at the fact that in metro, many of the clientele that he's referring to, in some cases, could be over housed, some are under housed. That's a very serious issue that could save the taxpayers of this province thousands of dollars, and at the same time help the constituents, the clientele of that department that he so eloquently claims that he's helping, but he is not.

Perhaps if this government hadn't been so vain in wanting to borrow $118 million prior to the last election, much of that which went to $155 rebates, just to see if they could secure staying on that side of the House, instead of helping the people who need it the most. Also, Mr. Speaker, what about the $11 million that was sent down by the federal government to improve housing? The minister, by his own admission in the last budget, indicated they only spent $2 million of that. Where's the rest of it? Why isn't this minister and this government doing something for the people who really need it?

[Page 753]

This issue, Hurricane Juan, is a classic example of why the government is being negligent in helping people who need it the most. Never mind all the great comments about how wonderful things are in the department. They're doing their best, but give them the tools to do the job and help the people who should be helped. That's what we're asking and we want that help today, not tomorrow.

[2:15 p.m.]

GOVERNMENT NOTICES OF MOTION

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of Tourism and Culture.

RESOLUTION NO. 274

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

Whereas more than 10,000 students at 80 schools walked to school this morning in Nova Scotia on International Walk to School Day; and

Whereas International Walk to School Day teaches children that walking, cycling, and other active modes of transportation help to improve their health, reduce air pollution, and minimize unsafe traffic congestion around schools; and

Whereas the Premier and I, along with the Minister of Service Nova Scotia and Municipal Relations and the member for Sackville-Cobequid, walked with students at Sackville Centennial School, recognized as this year's poster school for their work to provide safe places for students to be active;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House recognize the initiative of the parents, schools and communities who are encouraging these kids to be active.

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 754]

The honourable Minister of Education.

RESOLUTION NO. 275

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

Whereas Eric Demaine, a Halifax native and MIT Assistant Professor, has been awarded the prestigious $500,000 MacArthur Fellowship to support his research for the next five years; and

Whereas at the age of 14, Erik Demaine was the youngest graduate in Dalhousie University's history and later was the youngest professor ever hired at MIT; and

Whereas this 22-year-old computer scientist has been researching how origami, the Japanese art of folding paper, can be applied to modern problems in geometry, like air bag installation;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House congratulate Erik on winning a MacArthur Fellowship, take pride in this young Nova Scotian's achievements and wish him every success in the future.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable Minister of Health.

RESOLUTION NO. 276

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

Whereas there are many exceptional health care workers in our province who have been working around the clock during the aftermath of Hurricane Juan; and

[Page 755]

Whereas many health care workers in Capital Health are still working under difficult circumstances and have sacrificed attending to their own problems at home to ensure Nova Scotians continue to receive the best possible care; and

Whereas these groups and individuals have greatly improved the quality of life for patients, in spite of the damage, and continue to make a difference in the health and lives of patients through their expertise and concern;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of the House recognize the tireless commitment of health care workers throughout the province and thank them for their incredible work and dedication to patient care.

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 responsible for the Emergency Measures Act.

RESOLUTION NO. 277

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

Whereas two weeks ago, a Senate committee on national security named Halifax as a model municipality when it comes to emergency readiness, its capability demonstrated first-hand last week in the wake of Hurricane Juan; and

Whereas the committee cited the co-operative network of emergency services - including federal, provincial and municipal governments, the Halifax Regional Police and RCMP - as a unique set-up in Canada; and

Whereas this kind of collaborative approach is successful due to the close ties all services involved have with one another, putting them on top of other municipalities and provinces in crisis management;

[Page 756]

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House commend the coordinating efforts of the Province of Nova Scotia and all levels of emergency services that are involved in making Halifax Regional Municipality a model city for emergency readiness, and thank all the men and women who dedicate their lives to ensuring citizens remain safe and secure.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable Minister of Education.

RESOLUTION NO. 278

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

Whereas Pamela Ring of Digby is Nova Scotia's recipient for 2003 of the Canada Post Literacy Award for an individual who has succeeded in overcoming social or economic barriers; and

Whereas the annual Canada Post Literacy Awards recognize the achievements of learners, organizations and businesses in their efforts to overcome barriers to literacy; and

Whereas not only has Ms. Ring upgraded her literacy skills, she is now writing children's stories and poetry;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House congratulate Ms. Ring on overcoming the obstacles to her education and wish her continued energy and success as she strives to become a published writer.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

[Page 757]

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

INTRODUCTION OF BILLS

NOTICES OF MOTION

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

RESOLUTION NO. 279

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

Whereas Allan Proctor, President of Local 1 Marine Workers' Federation, passed away on Monday, October 6th; and

Whereas Allan's untimely death is a terrible loss for his wife, his children, his entire family, community and co-workers, all of whom knew his generous spirit and commitment to a better world; and

Whereas, in the words of his obituary, "Allan was a dedicated union leader who committed his whole life to representing working people.";

Therefore be it resolved that on the occasion of Allan Proctor's untimely death, this House express its deepest condolences to Kathy Jane and their children, Krystal, Mitchell, Mason and Sasha, and to all of those who worked with Allan Proctor at the Halifax Shipyards and the labour movement and his community.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

[Page 758]

The honourable member for Halifax Clayton Park.

RESOLUTION NO. 280

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

Whereas Sadie Sampson passed away last week at the age of 94; and

Whereas Ms. Sampson was a long-time Christmas Daddies star, performing annually in the charity telethon that raises money to give children a good Christmas; and

Whereas about 150 people gathered in St. Mary's Basilica to pay their respects;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House extend their thoughts and prayers to Sadie Sampson's family and remember the valuable contribution she has made to the Christmas Daddies Telethon.

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 Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley.

RESOLUTION NO. 281

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

Whereas Hurricane Juan on its path of destruction tore through the Halifax County Exhibition Grounds in Middle Musquodoboit, doing considerable damage; and

[Page 759]

Whereas despite the devastating effects of Juan, the Musquodoboit Valley Tourism Committee, the Middle Musquodoboit Agricultural Society, and numerous volunteers worked long and difficult hours to ensure the "Rally in the Valley" still proceeded on the exhibition grounds last weekend; and

Whereas because of this dedication and community spirit, the 4 x 4 truck pulls, modified lawn mower pulls, antique car shows and pumpkin competitions still took place at the "Rally in the Valley";

Therefore be it resolved all Nova Scotia legislators recognize the dedication and heartfelt community spirit and support put forth by so many volunteers who made the "Rally in the Valley" such a tremendous success in light of Hurricane Juan.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Halifax Needham.

RESOLUTION NO. 282

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

Whereas Autism Spectrum Disorder is a pervasive development disorder that affects all aspects of a child's development and if not effectively treated can be a severely incapacitating lifelong disability; and

Whereas 20 years ago autism occurred in 1 of every 10,000 births and now is said to occur in roughly 1 of every 250 births in Canada, causing a growing number of families to struggle emotionally and financially to meet the demands of raising an autistic child; and

Whereas Nova Scotia is the only province in Atlantic Canada that does not cover a treatment called Applied Behavioural Analysis which based on more than the 50 years of scientific research, has been proven to vastly improve the lives of people with autism;

[Page 760]

Therefore be it resolved that this House call on the government to mark Autism Month in October by entering into discussions with parents of autistic children with the goal of providing the proven treatment of ABA that can make such a difference in their children's lives.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

I hear a No.

The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Kings West.

RESOLUTION NO. 283

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

Whereas the Annapolis Bed & Breakfast is receiving attention across North America for its African room; and

Whereas Carol Stewart and her daughter Jill Smith designed and decorated the room at their Berwick inn and entered the pictures in a North American-wide contest; and

Whereas the inn is now attracting many guests through unique packages that any person would enjoy;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House congratulate Carol Stewart and Jill Smith on the attention they are receiving for winning a North American Inns contest for its African room.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

[Page 761]

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Waverley-Fall River-Beaver Bank

RESOLUTION NO. 284

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

Whereas Fall River's David Kikuchi will be a member of the Canadian men's gymnastics team at the 2004 Olympic Summer Games in Athens, Greece; and

Whereas Kikuchi was top finisher in one competition at a dual meet in Montreal against a world-class squad from France; and

Whereas Canada's ninth place overall finish at the World Championships this summer was Canada's best performance at the world's since 1979;

Therefore be it resolved that MLAs commend the world-class performance of David Kikuchi and his Canadian teammates and wish David and the team continued success in their preparations for Greece next 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.

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Pictou West.

RESOLUTION NO. 285

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

[Page 762]

Whereas Saltsprings Provincial Park has long served Pictonians and the traveling public; and

Whereas this park suffered damage during the March 31st flooding that has closed overnight camping; and

Whereas this park is vital to the economy of western Pictou County;

Therefore be it resolved that this government make every effort to reopen the Saltsprings Provincial Park for overnight camping for the 2004 season.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Preston.

RESOLUTION NO. 286

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

Whereas Marion Sanderson has been volunteering with the RCMP Lake Echo Community Office since 1997 until her retirement in May 2003; and

Whereas Ms. Sanderson was also a representative on the community health board until 2001; and

Whereas she has been an outstanding volunteer to the community of Lake Echo and will be sadly missed by all those who had the privilege of working with her;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House honour Marion Sanderson for her years of dedicated service to the community of Lake Echo and its residents.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

[Page 763]

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.

RESOLUTION NO. 287

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

Whereas St. Ann's Catholic Church Cemetery Committee has recently held its annual potluck supper; and

Whereas the annual community gathering brings together residents from the Thorburn area to raise funds for the cemetery; and

Whereas such events are becoming increasingly more important as the cemetery gets older and is in need of more upkeep;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of the House commend the members of the St. Ann's Catholic Church Cemetery Committee on another successful potluck supper and wish them continued success in the coming years.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Cape Breton Nova.

[Page 764]

RESOLUTION NO. 288

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

Whereas on Thursday, September 18, 2003, at a gala event at the Delta Sydney, five exceptional Cape Breton entrepreneurs were inducted into the Cape Breton Business Hall of Fame; and

Whereas Evelyn Moraff-Davis, the owner of Moraff's Yarns and Crafts in Whitney Pier and Sydney River, was one of these inductees; and

Whereas Evelyn was not only honoured for her business acumen but for her service to her community in serving on various boards such as the Whitney Pier Historical Society, the Sydney Steel Museum and serving as one of the six national vice-presidents of the Hadassah-WIZO, a Jewish women's organization dedicated to aiding orphan Jewish children;

Therefore be it resolved that members of the Legislative Assembly congratulate Evelyn Moraff-Davis on her induction into the Cape Breton Business Hall of Fame and wish her many continued years of wonderful service to her community.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Glace Bay.

RESOLUTION NO. 289

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 the Hamm Government has yet to release any information with respect to improvements in wait times since they assumed power; and

[Page 765]

Whereas the defensive response provided by the Minister of Health yesterday further illustrates that either the minister is not concerned or government is hiding information; and

Whereas the cancellation of 600 surgeries last week and government delays in approval of DHA business plans will no doubt add more pressures on wait lists;

Therefore be it resolved that the Minister of Health realize that this is not an issue of politics but one of vital importance to those currently on wait lists and an issue of concern to all Nova Scotians.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

I hear several Noes.

The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Kings North.

RESOLUTION NO. 290

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

Whereas 20 years ago Cameron Jess had an idea that would provide housing for many families who would not otherwise be able to afford a home and worked with Belinda Tupper to make this concept a reality; and

Whereas today the Apple Blossom Housing Co-operative Limited in North Kentville has 20 units that include 17 single-family homes and three duplexes worth about $1.75 million; and

Whereas each member buys a share when they join the co-op and has a say on decisions that affect the co-op because they have voting rights on the board of directors;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House join me in congratulating Apple Blossom Co-op President Adele Stevens and all of the members of the co-op on their 20th Anniversary and wish them much success in this important endeavour.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

[Page 766]

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. 291

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

Whereas Gordon and Catherine MacKenzie are celebrating their 60th Wedding Anniversary on Tuesday, October 14th; and

Whereas Gordon and Catherine are residents of Boularderie Centre and are true pillars of their community; and

Whereas they have both been active volunteers and members of Drumond Church;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House congratulate Gordon and Catherine MacKenzie of Boularderie Centre on their 60th Wedding 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 Transportation and Public Works.

[Page 767]

RESOLUTION NO. 292

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

Whereas the 19th Annual Windsor-West Hants Giant Pumpkin Festival weigh-off was another huge success this past weekend in Windsor; and

Whereas this coming weekend, an event now capturing international media attention, will be held on Lake Piziquid with the 4th annual pumpkin regatta race, along with a huge fireworks display in association with the Town of Windsor's 125th birthday this year; and

Whereas the regatta involves gigantic pumpkins being cut off at the top, enabling a single person to step into them and row across the lake - and incidentally, my MP competes in this event, I don't;

Therefore be it resolved that the MLAs comment the fantastic job being done by organizers as they continue to make Windsor-West Hants an unforgettable place to visit on a Thanksgiving weekend.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Cape Breton West.

RESOLUTION NO. 293

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

Whereas this Tory Government boasts of the $155 cheque given to nearly 450,000 Nova Scotians; and

[Page 768]

Whereas today the Minister of Community Services once again boasts that his department is providing 3,000 food vouchers for community services recipients adversely affected by Hurricane Juan; and

Whereas not one of these 3,000 community services recipients were considered worthy enough to receive this Tory Government's $155 rebate cheque;

Therefore be it resolved that the Minister of Community Services stop patronizing community services recipients as if they were a liability to society and instead do what should have been done as a matter of public policy, treat them as equals in society.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

I hear a No.

The notice is tabled.

The honourable Minister of Education.

RESOLUTION NO. 294

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

Whereas Janet Hardy Callaghan of Truro won the 4th annual Nova Scotia Oyster Shucking Competition sponsored by the Nova Scotia Department of Agriculture and Fisheries; and

Whereas Janet Hardy Callaghan beat eight other competitors, both male and female, to win the Nova Scotia Championship; and

Whereas Janet Hardy Callaghan finished fourth in the Canadian Oyster Shucking Competition in August;

Therefore be it resolved that all members congratulate Janet Hardy Callaghan on winning the 2003 Nova Scotia Oyster Shucking Competition and wish her every success in future competitions.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

[Page 769]

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

ORDERS OF THE DAY

ORAL QUESTIONS PUT BY MEMBERS

MR. SPEAKER: Question Period will begin at 2:36 p.m. and end at 4:06 p.m.

The honourable Leader of the Official Opposition.

INSURANCE - PLAN: PURSUANCE - EXPLAIN

MR. DARRELL DEXTER: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister responsible for the Insurance Act, who, undoubtedly, has noticed that the insurance rates have been skyrocketing. At this point it's clearly been a mistake for this government to adopt the Liberal plan for dealing with skyrocketing insurance rates. To date, every group has said they are not happy with this government's Liberal plan, drivers will see little immediate relief and no long-term relief. In fact, even the president of the Minister of Finance's own constituency association says the plan is at fault. My question for the minister is this, why is the minister pursuing a plan that won't work?

HON. RONALD RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, in response to the Leader of the Official Opposition, who is leading the socialist charge for government insurance, I find it passing strange, to be quite honest, how that Party, which prides itself on talking to the people, can fail to miss the message that the people are delivering to me and I am sure to every other person within this Chamber that they want this bill passed. They like our legislation, and they're not on the side of the insurance companies, they're not on the side of the lawyers, and they're not on the side of the NDP.

MR. DEXTER: Mr. Speaker, back here on Earth, the experts who are going through the government's plan say that the real impact of this plan is starting to emerge. Yesterday we found out that some drivers won't qualify for the 20 per cent rollback, those in the Facility Association. We also heard from experts who pointed out that seniors, stay-at-home parents, students, children and the disabled will be denied compensation for pain and suffering. Mr. Minister, to date, you have rebuked all concerns but provided very few

[Page 770]

specifics. My question is this, why won't the minister, at the very least, rework the plan to ensure that the rights of Nova Scotians are not put in jeopardy?

MR. RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, the honourable member opposite mentioned that he was coming down to Earth, well, I saw in the paper this morning that I'm up with the Gods in heaven. I point that out because of the fact that the people in this province have told us loudly and clearly that they want affordable insurance rates, that they want insurance policies that are transparent and they want fairness in their insurance. We are achieving that with our present legislation, and I would urge the honourable Leader of the Official Opposition to encourage his members to progress this bill through the Law Amendments Committee and then through the Committee of the Whole House on Bills and through third reading, so that the people can achieve their savings on November 1st of this year, a 20 per cent rollback in rates.

MR. DEXTER: Mr. Speaker, the biggest mistake this government made in drafting this plan was taking the advice of the Liberals. Every single person who has come to this House to express their concerns says this plan simply won't work, that the government has wasted hundreds of thousands of dollars, and nobody is going to benefit. What is going to happen is that more people are going to suffer. The rights of seniors, students, workers, the disabled, we say, must be protected. My question is, what will the minister do, what will it take for him to start acting on behalf of drivers instead of limiting the rights of citizens?

MR. RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, I'm pleased to tell the Leader of the Official Opposition that 18 months ago, in fact almost two years ago now we started the process of rectifying this problem. We are finally coming to the end of the road where we are going to do something for the drivers of this province and that is roll their insurance rates back 20 per cent in three weeks if these people will permit the bill to go through this House.

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

PREM. - BUDGET SHORTFALL:

CENSUS PROBLEM - KNOWLEDGE TIME FRAME

MR. DANIEL GRAHAM: Mr. Speaker, yesterday, the Minister of Finance admitted that $40 million to $60 million is the amount of the new shortfall to be added to the $32 million that was announced just three weeks ago. That makes for a total of $72 million to $92 million shortfall that will come out of the services to seniors, patients, students and farmers in this province. The cause of this problem stems from using the wrong census information. My question is to the Premier, Mr. Premier, when did you first know about the census problem?

[Page 771]

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, the member opposite, again, got himself a little tangled up in his preamble. He said we used the wrong census. There was only one census - the Canadian census - that's the one we use.

MR. GRAHAM: I'm not sure who might understand the answer to that question, Mr. Speaker. My question was when he first knew about the census problem, he's choosing again today, it would appear, not to answer the question. Either the chief executive officer of this province didn't know about the huge looming fiscal problems that we had or he did know and withheld the whole story from Nova Scotians. My question is for the Premier, which was it?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, the member opposite has a selective memory. I would like to remind the member opposite as to the kind of financial information that was available to the government and the people of Nova Scotia during the last election. For example, in the middle of the election Statistics Canada released its employment numbers for the Province of Nova Scotia and the numbers that were released in July, in the middle of the election, were the numbers for the month of June. In the month of June there were 2,700 more people working than in the month of May. During the election we set an employment record in the Province of Nova Scotia, an employment record. That is the kind of information that the government had at the time of the election.

MR. GRAHAM: Again, I won't bother with the seven tries at getting a question answered, Mr. Speaker, but I would point out with respect to the unemployment figures that happened around the time that this $155 stimulus was supposed to happen to the Nova Scotia economy, the unemployment rate in Nova Scotia actually started to rise significantly. But, on the question at hand allow me to provide the Premier with some background information about when knowledge was known.

On April 25, 2003, the previous Minister of Finance before the Committee of the Whole House on Supply raised these concerns about the census problems. We are now seven months into the fiscal year facing a $92 million problem. Mr. Premier, through you, Mr. Speaker, why did you wait so long to tell Nova Scotians the whole story about our finances?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, what Nova Scotians have been hearing about this government is a congratulatory or laudatory analysis of what has gone on in this province. The Leader of the Liberal Party seems to indicate that he likes numbers and the number I want him to remember is 27, 2-7, because when Standard & Poor's came out after the election, they upgraded the financial rating of this province. They improved the financial rating for the first time in 27 years after the election that was held this summer in the Province of Nova Scotia.

[Page 772]

[2:45 p.m.]

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

FIN.: HST FRAUD - ESTIMATES

MR. DARRELL DEXTER: Mr. Speaker, with all respect to the Premier, I think the number he needs to remember is 25, the number on that side of the House.

This government's budget situation looks bleaker and bleaker by the day. The combination of lower transfer projections and election time rebate cheques is putting their balanced budget in question. This reality means that the government can do one of two things, they can either cut expenditures or they can increase their revenues. So far, the only thing this government has done is propose to cut. Since the inception of the HST, this government has known the estimated extent of fraud being committed, which means lost revenue to this government. My question for the Premier is this, will the Premier tell the House what estimates his government has obtained about the levels of HST fraud in this province?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, I refer that to the Minister of Finance.

HON. PETER CHRISTIE: Mr. Speaker, as the honourable member will know, the federal Minister of National Revenue was in town probably three weeks to a month ago speaking to us and to Service Nova Scotia and Municipal Relations about that very problem. Their estimate of the numbers are all over the map. They don't have a national estimate of the numbers. I don't have the numbers of what the estimate for this is. I do know the federal government have asked the provinces to share in a process to looking at these numbers. I will endeavour to get a number for the honourable member, I just don't have a number.

MR. DEXTER: Mr. Speaker, I'm not surprised that the minister is not able to answer the question because his government has repeatedly ignored this problem to this day. But, it's one they should pay attention to because one of Canada's leading experts in the underground economy estimates that Nova Scotia could be losing as much as $70 million to fraud on HST every year. If we need any reminder of the extent of this problem, let us consider the events of the last 10 days and the amount of HST to be paid into government coffers for things like renovations and repairs in commercial establishments alone. So my question is this, since the government has consistently failed to address the issue, will they commit today to establishing an enforcement unit to try to eliminate HST fraud in this province?

[Page 773]

MR. CHRISTIE: Mr. Speaker, as the honourable member indicates, that is an issue that we all take seriously. I know Service Nova Scotia and Municipal Relations have a unit that is working on the gas tax issue, working on the fraud in that area, they're working on areas in terms of tobacco fraud. That issue, as I indicated, in talking with the national minister, we're looking for national approaches to this. It's not something that each province takes on a project by itself. This has to be a national approach, cross border smuggling and those other things. The honourable member raises a good point that we are giving consideration to.

MR. DEXTER: Mr. Speaker, the minister misses the point that because we have a blended sales tax, it is so much more important to the Atlantic Provinces. Enforcement works. It worked for the federal government before 1995 and it will work to protect the government, small business owners, the workers who are associated with doing that work here in Nova Scotia, if this government has simply the sense to do it. So my question for the minister is, how can Nova Scotians accept your government's refusal to provide adequate disaster relief or aid to farmers and fishermen when you ignore this legitimate source of revenue?

MR. CHRISTIE: Mr. Speaker, the honourable member raises some of the challenges that we have as a government and indeed all people across this province have in the challenges and the events that have occurred. What I've indicated to the member is that we have not ignored that, there are federal and provincial people working on that and we view it as a combined venture, not just one that we stand alone with. The Atlantic Provinces, indeed all provinces, work with the federal government to find solutions to that problem.

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

PREM. - BUDGET CUTS: PLAN - PUBLICATION TIME FRAME

MR. DANIEL GRAHAM: Mr. Speaker, yesterday I took a pass when the Premier made reference to the Standard & Poor's analysis that was done, I note, after August 5th and before September 19th. What they relied on was the same bad information that Nova Scotia voters relied on on August 5th. They were duped, Standard & Poor's was duped just as the people of Nova Scotia were duped on August 5th. So we have $92 million in cuts that will have to be made in six months. Mr. Speaker, $92 million in six months will be as painful for Nova Scotians as $184 million worth of cuts in 12 months. We're in the seventh month of this fiscal year. The question for the Premier is, when will Nova Scotians see a full plan for the coming cuts?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, I hope the Leader of the Liberal Party, when he reviews Hansard, will be prepared to say he misspoke because he seemed to be impugning the reputations and the professionalism of the people who work in the Department of Finance. He seemed to be saying that we are being given the wrong information. So if the

[Page 774]

member opposite has information that would indicate that we are being given improper information, he should either table it in this House or report it to the RCMP.

MR. GRAHAM: Mr. Speaker, yesterday the Premier was given seven opportunities to provide Nova Scotians with information about what he knew before August 5th. On all seven opportunities he took a pass. Common sense dictates whether or not he knew information that was relevant to the voters of Nova Scotia. We have just seven days to notify Ottawa of a possible change in this tax structure for Nova Scotians. If there is no plan at the seven-month mark to make up the $72 million to $92 million in shortfall through cuts, surely the government is considering cancelling this inappropriate tax cut?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, thank you. That's a question better dealt with by the Minister of Finance.

HON. PETER CHRISTIE: Mr. Speaker, I think we should clarify two things here, the honourable member has indicated $92 million. What he is making the assumption on is that the numbers I gave to people, saying if all conditions remained the same, would be the issue. (Interruptions)

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. The honourable Minister of Finance has the floor.

MR. CHRISTIE: It is the same information I shared with him and the Leader of the Opposition when we sat down to go over the briefing. Three weeks ago we shared that with them, that the numbers were just coming in, that we weren't sure what the numbers were going to be from Ottawa, and even still, the numbers from Ottawa are still not finalized. We will get a better indication as those come through and we will deal with things as we know when they are through. (Applause)

MR. GRAHAM: Mr. Speaker, the question that Nova Scotians are asking is, when these shortfalls will finally appear on the books and when will this government finally put a plan in place to provide a clear sense of where we are going over the next six months? If this government is not going to cancel the tax cut, perhaps they're no longer committed to balancing the budget of Nova Scotia. Mr. Premier, are you committed to balancing the budget and the books of this province?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, the member opposite must have had an opportunity over the last four and a half years to witness how hard this government has worked to deliver a balanced budget. Ultimately, we were successful two years ago, we were successful a year ago, and we were successful again this immediate past Spring. That is the way in which we will continue to run the province.

[Page 775]

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Halifax Fairview.

INSURANCE: FACILITY ASSOC. - NUMBERS

MR. GRAHAM STEELE: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister responsible for the Insurance Act. The Facility Association, the so-called insurer of last resort, has seen a boom in business since 1999. Many Nova Scotians were unfairly sent into the Facility Association to improve insurers' bottom lines, because of things like missing one monthly payment. As we informed the House last Spring, there was a 600 per cent increase in drivers going into the Facility Association between 1999 and 2002. When the minister announced this government's so-called anti-discrimination regulations in June, he said that as a result at least 5,000 people would be dropped from the Facility Association. My question to the minister is a simple one, how many people have been dropped from the Facility Association

since August 1st?

HON. RONALD RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, I can't deliver that number off the top of my head, however, I will give a commitment to get it for the member.

MR. STEELE: Mr. Speaker, it doesn't surprise me to know that we have better information than the minister does. My office has learned directly from the Facility Association head office in Ontario that, contrary to the minister's promised drop in those insured by the Facility Association, there were many new policies written for Nova Scotia in August this year - how many? - 2,673 more policies. My question to the minister is, why did the minister promise there would be 5,000 fewer people insured by the Facility Association, when in fact the number grew by 2,673?

MR. RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, I would like to see those figures. I took the original question under advisement, and I will deliver an answer to the member. I would point out to the member that there are still several people being covered under the Facility Association who simply do not know that they are no longer required to be there. In fact we have a number of calls coming in every week from people who are complaining about their high rates, and we check on it and find that they were put into the Facility Association for reasons that are no longer acceptable. I should point out that those people are coming out of Facility because of the actions of this government in reaction to the high price of insurance.

MR. STEELE: Mr. Speaker, it's no wonder that Nova Scotians are cynical about this government's auto insurance policy - 2,673 more Nova Scotians have been dumped into the Facility Association. Now they're told by the minister that it's their own responsibility to figure out if they no longer belong there. My question to the minister is, will the minister agree or when will the minister agree that he was simply making numbers up off the top of his head and that the minister has no idea how many people will be dropped from Facility as a result of this government's policy?

[Page 776]

MR. RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, I'm not deriving numbers out of the top of my head. I told the honourable member that I would get the numbers for him and report them to him. I don't know what date the actual numbers are that the honourable member for Halifax Fairview just brought forward, but I can assure the honourable member that because of our regulations, which take away discrimination in assigning people to the Facility Association, that there are hundreds of people in the Province of Nova Scotia who are enjoying lower rates at the preset time, and there will be thousands who will after we get this bill through.

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

PREM. - BUDGET BALANCING:

FAILURE - RESIGNATION TENDER

MR. DANIEL GRAHAM: Mr. Speaker, I've asked the Premier when he first knew about the census problem, and he took a pass. I asked the Premier why did he wait to tell Nova Scotians about the fiscal problems, he took a pass. Did he have a plan, he took a pass. Will you cancel the tax cuts, he took a pass, but he did seem to indicate in the last question that we had and I put to him, in answer to the question whether or not he was committed to a balanced budget, he said yes. My question to the Premier is, Mr. Premier, if the books aren't balanced, will you resign? (Interruptions)

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

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, the one thing I will never be able to accuse the Leader of the Liberal Party of being is original. (Laughter) It would appear the only person on the continent who is critical of the fiscal management of this government is the Leader of the Liberal Party. For example, the senior economist from the Bank of Nova Scotia said yesterday that Nova Scotia must continue its multi-staged fiscal repair begun this Spring. As part of a roundup of provincial economics across Canada, Mary Webb said Nova Scotia is making the right moves.

AN HON. MEMBER: Put that in the fireplace too, John. (Laughter)

[3:00 p.m.]

MR. GRAHAM: Mr. Speaker, the question is a serious one and it requires a serious answer. The quote that he provided certainly comes before the new information that has been put before this House. The question is a straightforward one. If the budget of this province is not balanced this year, Mr. Premier, will you resign?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, the Leader of the Liberal Party is obsessed with his analysis of the fiscal state of the Province of Nova Scotia. A lot of things have happened that are jeopardizing the fiscal position of the Province of Nova Scotia but this government is

[Page 777]

geared and determined to ride out the storm and to bring Nova Scotia again to calm fiscal waters.

MR. GRAHAM: Mr. Speaker, it is Nova Scotians who are obsessed about whether or not they were misled on the question of whether or not the books were square on August 5th. It is Nova Scotians who are obsessed about whether or not they might lose their jobs. They are the people who are obsessed about how they might be affected by this. The question is a simple one, Mr. Premier. (Interruptions)

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. The honourable Leader of the Liberal Party has the floor. Final supplementary.

MR. GRAHAM: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Premier. If the books of this province are not balanced, will you resign?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, the member opposite is disappointing. He's disappointing the people he told that he would bring a new civility, he would take a new level of decorum and debate to the House. What we are seeing is simply the same old attack on motives instead of a real, honest debate on issues and policies and the record of the government.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Halifax Chebucto.

HURRICANE JUAN - PUBLIC REVIEW: FORM - DETAILS

MR. HOWARD EPSTEIN: Well, speaking of storms that we have to ride out, Mr. Speaker, I have a question to the Minister responsible for the Emergency Measures Act. Thousands of Nova Scotians were affected by Hurricane Juan and thousands of Nova Scotians have questions. So far the only proposed formal scrutiny of any aspect of our preparedness, of our reaction of the coordination of the local municipal role, of the electrical hookup and claims for compensation is an in-house review of its own functions to be conducted by the Emergency Measures Organization. This is entirely too narrow a focus. Will the minister put before us now his thoughts on what form a public review of the entire range of Hurricane Juan issues ought to take?

HON. ERNEST FAGE: Mr. Speaker, obviously the member forward has many thoughts on many subjects but it is standard practice under any EMO disaster or situation to do the normal debrief. This situation, though, offers a great opportunity, as each one of those debriefs happen, to learn from the circumstances from all the various organizations that participated so that we can improve the delivery. I would ask the member opposite and remind him, the motion that passed unanimously earlier in the House congratulates the province by the Senate as well as the city.

[Page 778]

MR. EPSTEIN: Mr. Speaker, what we know is that it is crucial for public confidence that all scrutiny of all aspects of Hurricane Juan issues take place in public but if the minister is focused just on EMO, I can tell him that his core legislation seems to have some gaps in it. It is not clear on workers rights to leave the workplace during a state of emergency. It is not clear on how to resolve price gouging disputes. Will the minister tell us whether he has now identified gaps or weaknesses in his EMO legislation and what they are?

MR. FAGE: I can tell the honourable member, obviously, there can be many interpretations and his interpretation yesterday of a state of emergency and how it's continued was wrong as reported to the press and I would urge him to read the Act so he can correct himself.

MR. EPSTEIN: Mr. Speaker, the minister seems to be wilfully blind about his legislation. I hope that he and his government will not be wilfully blind about the full range of Hurricane Juan issues. Will the minister at least agree to hold to the EMO self-assessment, in public, to contribute to the accountability and openness of the review process, something his government claims to believe in?

MR. FAGE: I would urge the honourable member to think back in his wolfish ways to yesterday at the press interview and review the papers and the television commentary where I committed yesterday that they would be reporting an open public process in regard to the review.

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

FIN. - EQUALIZATION QUESTION: ANSWER - VENUE EXPLAIN

MS. DIANA WHALEN: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Finance. Yesterday I asked the minister to update this House about the impact of changes to the numbers of the census and what those changes will have to the bottom line for Nova Scotia's books. He did not answer my question during Question Period. The minister did, however, tell the media that it would mean a loss of $40 million to $60 million. This statement was made to the media outside the Chamber before Question Period took place. Mr. Speaker, this is the Legislature for the people of Nova Scotia, and Nova Scotians have the right to have their questions answered here where we are all accountable to the public. The minister's choice to provide financial details to the media and yet skirt the question in the House shows a disregard for the purpose and the work of this Legislature. My question is, why did the minister not answer the question directly here in the House yesterday?

HON. PETER CHRISTIE: Mr. Speaker, I am wondering if the honourable member remembers when she came over to the Department of Finance with her Leader about three weeks ago, we answered the question then. The question that she asked yesterday, we answered it again. What we have said is that there are some options, there are some

[Page 779]

possibilities that we are going to have some losses through equalization. What those are, I don't know. I indicated to the member yesterday that I am not going to speculate on what might happen. That was the answer I gave her yesterday and that is the answer I will give her today.

MS. WHALEN: Mr. Speaker, I think there is a big difference between speculating in those meetings earlier and providing exact concrete figures to the media. A range of $40 million to $60 million was suggested as the impact for the change in our population census figures. That was not provided here in the House and it was not provided earlier during any briefings. We were told that the numbers were not available and that there was no way that they could speculate at that time. However, new information was made available yesterday. I think the impact and substance of those changes is important for the public to understand.

As my secondary question, could the Minister of Finance outline to this House any discussions that the minister has had with the Auditor General regarding the year in which equalizations shortfalls will be recognized on the books of the province?

MR. CHRISTIE: Mr. Speaker, yes, our department has had discussions with the Auditor General. We had discussions about a whole series of events that might happen and, indeed, the issue is when would those be booked, what's the trigger date for those actions and those things. I would like to repeat again for the honourable member, as I said yesterday, I hope the honourable member is working with this government, as are all Parties, to assist in working with Nova Scotia and Ottawa to get us a fair equalization deal for this province.

MS. WHALEN: Mr. Speaker, I am sure that all members of this House are interested in the financial health of the province and will do what they can to ensure that it remains in somewhat of a healthy situation. By his own admission though, the minister has said that there is an additional $40 million to $60 million shortfall that may be expected this year. I'm interested to know again, and my question is, has the minister or his staff discussed this particular situation with the Auditor General and what are the results?

MR. CHRISTIE: Mr. Speaker, as I indicated, the department staff has discussions with the Auditor General all the time. Indeed, the Auditor General comes in when we're doing the budgets and looks at the forecast numbers. This issue that we are talking about, about equalization, and the honourable member has raised what will be the impact in this current year; discussions with the Auditor General would be what had happened in previous years. Those discussions we've had. The Auditor General has not been involved in the discussion for this year because, Mr. Speaker, again I will say, I have nothing to tell the Auditor General. I don't know the details yet until Ottawa gives them to us and then we will be able to talk to everybody.

[Page 780]

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

AGRIC. & FISH. - VERMEULEN FARMS:

ASSISTANCE - TIME FRAME

MR. DARRELL DEXTER: Mr. Speaker, the agricultural community is still waiting for answers about relief for Spring floods, the BSE crisis, and damage from Hurricane Juan. So far the best this government has offered is existing funding with unrealistic deadlines and a toothless task force. That's not good enough for Vermeulen Farms near Shubenacadie. Their damages from Hurricane Juan exceed $1 million and insurance covers less than half of it. I want to ask the Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries, when can the Vermeulen family expect some help from your government?

HON. CHRISTOPHER D'ENTREMONT: I thank the member for the question and, Mr. Speaker, we're working quite diligently to try to get all the assessments done of the total cost to this province and to the federal government. We're working closely with them and we should have a good aids package coming forward in the very near future.

MR. DEXTER: Mr. Speaker, it will have to be very soon because time and tide, as they say, wait for no one. The snow is coming. The season is upon us. The repairs that need to be done on family farms that were devastated by this hurricane need to be done in time for winter. Over $1 million of devastation to the Vermeulen Farm and the family will have to come up with $600,000 to repair their equipment and buildings and to offset the loss of their crops. This family and other farm families in Nova Scotia are looking to this government for support in this time of very real crisis. So my question is this, I would like to ask the minister, what is the province going to do on its own, not relying on the federal government, what is it going to do on its own to help farmers?

MR. D'ENTREMONT: One thing that we are doing, Mr. Speaker, is that not too long ago we signed the APF which is the Agricultural Policy Framework. The Vermeulen would be very much invited to call the 1-800-number and apply to that funding and have my department work with them very closely through the Disaster Assistance Program. I'm sure as that rolls out we will be able to help them.

MR. DEXTER: Mr. Speaker, perhaps the government just isn't getting this. This is not just an agricultural issue. This is an issue of economic development, an issue about the impact on communities from one end of this province to the other. In the month of August alone, Vermeulen Farms spent $150,000 in the local community on goods and services. I want to ask the Minister of Finance now, what consideration has his government given to the loss to these communities, the losses that they will face if these farms go under?

[Page 781]

HON. PETER CHRISTIE: Mr. Speaker, all the members of this government are concerned with, whether it's the farms, the fishermen, all of the economy of this province. That's why the Minister responsible for EMO, the Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries, have been coming forward with these programs so we can assist people, so we can get the economy coming, so we can strengthen our economy, and that's part of the whole budget of this government.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Hants East.

BSE DEBATE - FARMERS:

ATTENDANCE DISCOURAGEMENT - DETAILS

MR. JOHN MACDONELL: Mr. Speaker, my question will be for the Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries as well. Farmers came to this House last Thursday to listen to and support a debate on the BSE crisis. They were also looking for some acknowledgment of the value of agriculture generally by this government. Some of those farmers were called by department staff, telling them it would not be worthwhile for them to attend. That, in itself, is bad enough, but the person who was doing the calling was Mike Johnson, in charge of the investment fund, who oversees programs that give financial assistance to farmers. I ask the minister, was he aware that Mr. Johnson was calling farmers and suggesting it would be pointless to attend the debate?

[3:15 p.m.]

HON. CHRISTOPHER D'ENTREMONT: Mr. Speaker, the answer is no, I did not know.

MR. MACDONELL: Mr. Speaker, maybe if the minister stuck around, he might find out what's going on in his department. (Interruptions) Farmers are looking for help. They don't need intimidation tactics from this government in a time of crisis. I want to know, what is the minister going to do to reassure farmers that he has their best interests at heart?

MR. D'ENTREMONT: Mr. Speaker, I fail to understand why the member opposite is in this line of questioning. That day was the day that I got a meeting with the federal Minister of Agriculture to talk about (Interruptions)

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

The honourable minister has the floor.

MR. D'ENTREMONT: . . . to talk to the . . .

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please.

[Page 782]

The honourable minister has the floor.

MR. D'ENTREMONT: Mr. Speaker, the very reason why I was in Ottawa, talking to two federal ministers was to try to help out our farming and our fishing communities. Beyond that, there is a very important piece that we talk about, in thinking whether or not the agriculture industry is important to us. Of course it's important to us. That's why I'm out there doing those kinds of things. If the member opposite figured it was time to discuss and have the people in the House on that day, then that was his prerogative. We did have other members here who did take part and did a very good job of it. Yes, we're here for farmers.

MR. MACDONELL: Mr. Speaker, the minister and that government are here for farmers as long as the federal government is here for farmers, but you're not here to do anything for farmers on your own. Farmers have been disillusioned with this government (Interruptions)

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

The honourable member for Hants East has the floor.

MR. MACDONELL: Mr. Speaker, farmers have been disillusioned with this government for four years. The past few months have only served to confirm what farmers have come to believe, that this is a government and now a new minister who has no regard for their industry. Is the minister willing to try to mend fences, and will he do the right thing and phone those farmers contacted by Mr. Johnson and apologize for his actions?

MR. D'ENTREMONT: Mr. Speaker, I would like to understand something, we talk of respect in our farming community, about enjoying what they're doing, appreciating what they're doing, and that's what this government is doing. We have a problem with mad cow disease right now, we have a task force. The member opposite decided not to participate in it because he doesn't believe the agricultural industry is important to this province. (Interruptions)

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

The honourable member for Kings West.

EDUC. - HIGH SCH. DAYCARE:

ELIMINATION - MIN. AWARENESS

MR. LEO GLAVINE: Mr. Speaker, my question is to the Minister of Education. There are many students across the province who are trying to receive their high school education. They have taken it upon themselves to improve their education, and consequently improving their chances to be an active contributor in our economy. They are able to do this

[Page 783]

because government provides the resources to these individuals to make it possible. Recently the Southwest Regional School Board was told by the Department of Education that it must divest itself of child care spaces. My question to the minister is, was the minister aware that his department has implemented a policy eliminating child care spaces for students attending high school?

HON. JAMES MUIR: Mr. Speaker, I think it's fair to point out that that is not just a facility which provides child care spaces for people who are upgrading themselves in the high school.

MR. GLAVINE: Mr. Speaker, my question to the minister is, childcare services was notified that their daycare will be eliminated on December 31st of this year. Childcare services has been in operation for 10 years providing 32 daycare spaces of which over half are used by students attending high school. They are able to attend high school because of the resources available to them which are now being taken away. My question to the minister is, what do you propose that the people who are utilizing these daycare spaces do after your government removes this valuable resource?

MR. MUIR: Mr. Speaker, it's not the intent of this government to remove that resource. As the honourable member knows and other members should know that there was a partnership between the school board and the people running that facility. They were informed a year ago that the school board would not be continuing that partnership and they should find a new partner and that search continues at the present time.

MR. GLAVINE: My question is to the Minister of Education. It is unfortunate that this government is unable to afford these daycare spaces. The only reason why they can't afford those spaces must be due to the ill-fated tax scheme. My final question to the Minister of Education is, if not for your tax scheme and $155 cheques, would you have been able to afford the daycare spaces for these students attending high school?

MR. MUIR: Mr. Speaker, I think the honourable member is a bit confused. The Department of Education does not fund daycare spaces - that's under the Department of Community Services and the funded daycare spaces will remain there whether they're housed in that particular facility with that partner or as long as they stay in that community with another partner. Those daycare spaces are not affected by this decision.

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

GAMING CORP. - REVENUES: INCREASE - PLAN

MR. WILLIAM ESTABROOKS: Mr. Speaker, this government is sending mixed messages to Nova Scotians about problem gambling and video lottery terminals. On one hand, the Tory MLA for Kings North wisely called for less addictive VLTs. The Premier said

[Page 784]

in response, his Party would consider studying the cost of problem gambling in this province. Then the Minister of Finance was recently in the media saying the Gaming Corporation would have to improve its bottom line. So my question is for the Minister of Finance - how do you expect the Gaming Corporation to increase its revenues?

HON. PETER CHRISTIE: Mr. Speaker, I think the honourable member misinterpreted what was said in the media. What was said in the media was that we expected the Gaming Corporation to meet the target reductions of all other departments.

MR. ESTABROOKS: Mr. Speaker, when the current Minister of Education was the Minister of Health, he ignored his own staff's recommendations regarding the newer, more addictive VLTs that have been allowed in our province. Now a report from Quebec shows that suicides from problem gambling have increased five-fold since 1999 and it squarely blames VLTs. A problem gambler in Quebec commits suicide every two weeks in that province. Problem gambling in Quebec, problem gambling in Nova Scotia - they are one and the same. I'll ask the minister responsible for the Gaming Corporation, Quebec is admitting there is a link between VLTs and suicide. What data, if any, is your department tracking on this tragic topic?

MR. CHRISTIE: Mr. Speaker, the honourable member does raise a very serious topic. As he indicates, we have been tracking data on gamblers and their habits for a number of years. The honourable member will perhaps be aware that they are coming out with an education program. They're starting to do that in various areas and indeed, they're starting to run a test program in Kings County to try to deal with gamblers and addiction. So, a lot is going on, we take that very seriously and the corporation will keep working on it.

MR. ESTABROOKS: Mr. Speaker, there is an obvious connection in the Province of Quebec and I will assure you from some personal experience, there are connections in this province on the topic of VLT gambling and suicides. Study after study has shown that VLTs are highly addictive; evidence in our own province demonstrates an increase in problem gambling. So I will ask the minister very clearly, how much longer will you ignore this obvious connection between suicides and problem gamblers?

MR. CHRISTIE: Mr. Speaker, I would refer that to the Minister of Tourism and Culture.

HON. RODNEY MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, I would like to indicate to the member, and I'm sure he may possibly have heard back a few months ago that we are undertaking a prevalence study as we speak with respect to gambling addictions here in Nova Scotia. That report will be due out in a couple of short months.

[Page 785]

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

COMMUN. SERV. - YARMOUTH DAYCARE SPACES:

REDUCTION - MIN. NOTIFICATION

MR. RUSSELL MACKINNON: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Community Services. As has been noted by my colleague, the member for Kings North - I'm sorry, the member for Kings West, the issue of the care centre (Interruptions)

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. The honourable member for Cape Breton West has the floor.

MR. MACKINNON: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Recently the minister, I'm sure, learned from the Department of Education, the Southwest Regional School Board gave notice to the childcare services that the daycare would close December 31, 2003; 32 children will no longer have a daycare space due to the actions of the Department of Education and adherence to the Financial Measures Act. So my question to the minister is, would the minister please inform members of this House whether or not the Minister of Education informed him of the fact that there would be 32 less daycare spaces in the Town of Yarmouth as of December this year?

HON. DAVID MORSE: Mr. Speaker, the answer to the question is, I was given a briefing note that came from the Department of Education.

MR. MACKINNON: Mr. Speaker, Yarmouth is a very small town and reduction of 32 daycare spaces is extremely significant. People who work and rely on daycare to take care of their children will face considerable pressure. The socialization these children receive on a daily basis will be gone unless something can be done. So there's no question that these 32 children, their families, and indeed those children who attend after-school programs, are being sacrificed, obviously, because of the $155 tax rebate. My question to the minister is, would the minister please advise this House as to why this very important program is being sacrificed because of the ill-advised tax scheme, or any other financial measures that are required of each department in cutting their programs and services?

MR. MORSE: Mr. Speaker, I think if the honourable member had been paying attention to the Minister of Education's answers to the first round of questions, he would have taken note of the fact that notice was given a year ago, which was long before the government came forward with the budget. This has nothing to do with the Financial Measures Act or the budget.

MR. MACKINNON: Mr. Speaker, what the minister has just indicated is that this is a problem that has been in the minister's department for nearly a year and a half, and he's done nothing about it. So I would ask, given the fact that we have some 60 people on waiting

[Page 786]

lists for daycare spaces in Yarmouth - and that's certainly before the 32 are added with the closure - would be the minister in question be kind enough to give indication as to whether he will ensure that daycare spaces will be provided as of January 2004?

MR. MORSE: Mr. Speaker, I thank the member opposite for the question. With regard to the portable daycare spaces, that will follow the child; other daycare spaces that may be assigned to a particular daycare will remain in that community.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Cole Harbour-Eastern Passage.

HURRICANE JUAN - ASSISTANCE:

TIME FRAME - CREDIBILITY

MR. KEVIN DEVEAUX: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Premier. Since Hurricane Juan slammed into Nova Scotia 10 days ago, there has been much discussion about the level of disaster financial assistance that Nova Scotians will be receiving. Nova Scotia needs assistance and it needs it now - no excuses, no delays. When confronted with this question, this government seems to pass the buck either to municipal or to federal levels of government. Nova Scotians have good reason to worry about long-delayed assistance just as victims of the floods this past Spring, many of whom are still waiting for disaster relief assistance.

[3:30 p.m.]

Mr. Speaker, my question to the Premier is, will he tell this House, why it is that those affected by Hurricane Juan should expect disaster assistance soon when we have examples from the Spring flood of people who are still waiting for assistance?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, one of the challenges that Hurricane Juan presents is damage that would certainly fall outside the current parameters of the disaster financial agreement that we have with Ottawa. We had verbal confirmation from Minister McCallum and Minister Thibault and soon-to-be Prime Minister Paul Martin that they are receptive to working outside the box and providing a program that is more closely addressed to the situation as it exists today. I will have an opportunity tomorrow to discuss this face to face with the Prime Minister and to very quickly orchestra an appropriate response that I would hope would address the issue being brought to the House by the member opposite.

MR. DEVEAUX: Mr. Speaker, there are concerns in this province, given the very recent examples with the Spring flooding. The Premier only has to ask residents of West Main Street in Kentville how satisfied they are with the DFAA program or talk to farmers in Stewiacke, who were wondering only a few weeks ago when they were going to get their disaster relief funding. The funny thing is, and the Premier talks about the federal government, other provinces have actually stepped in and have dealt with it themselves. In

[Page 787]

Newfoundland, Badger got $1.7 million in debt relief from the government and the provincial government also sponsored a $3 million disaster relief program themselves.

MR. SPEAKER: Question, please.

MR. DEVEAUX: So my question to the Premier is, what will this government do in concrete terms, not rhetoric, to assist these people sooner rather than later and not just wait for the federal government?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, I refer that to the Minister responsible for the Emergency Measures Act.

HON. ERNEST FAGE: Mr. Speaker, as the Premier has indicated, this province has already indicated that our disaster program is available and will be provided to the citizens of Nova Scotia. Having some flexibility and specific programs to address the Hurricane Juan situation is the critical part. That agreement we have with the federal government needs to be expanded to include those situations and I am extremely hopeful that those discussions between the Premier, myself and those other federal ministers will produce that.

MR. DEVEAUX: In response to that I can say that this government shouldn't just be waiting for what the federal government is going to do but should actually be acting on its own. I want to ask the Minister of Service Nova Scotia and Municipal Relations, Mr. Speaker, next week the UNSM is meeting in Yarmouth and there are many councillors, mayors and wardens who will want to know in detail what this government will be doing to ensure that other municipal services will not be affected because of the demands placed on their budgets from natural disasters like Spring flooding and Hurricane Juan?

HON. BARRY BARNET: Mr. Speaker, I thank the member for the question. The member is right, next week is UNSM and it is my intention as the minister to attend that conference and to meet with municipal councillors and mayors and to hear from them directly their concerns. It is our government's intention to work with those municipalities as best we can to ensure that we can address those concerns in the best way we possibly can.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Richmond.

PREM. - MINOR INJURY: DEFINITION - VERACITY

MR. MICHEL SAMSON: Mr. Speaker, more and more questions are being asked about the accuracy of some the statements made by the Premier in the recent election, whether they be statements on the finances of this province or statements on this government's insurance plan. On July 9th of this year, the Premier said, with KPMG's initial findings in hand, he announced at a press conference a $2,500 cap on minor injuries as his Party's plan to address the insurance crisis. The Premier, on that same day, provided an

[Page 788]

example of what a minor injury would be, saying it was "muscle pain that gets better". We know that the government hired KPMG on July 2nd, exactly one week before the Premier made that statement. KPMG were given specific instructions from this Tory Government to include a definition for minor injury, using the more limiting, harsher Ontario definition that captured far more than just minor injuries. My question to the Premier is, will the Premier please tell this House, and more importantly tell Nova Scotians, why he told Nova Scotians a definition for minor injury, which he must have clearly known was false?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, much of my appreciation for this issue comes from my previous experience and the whole issue of how insurance companies and their clients are affected by so-called minor injuries. The fact of the matter is that in any insurance scheme, there can't be more money going out than coming in. If we're going to have lower rates, there has to be less money going out.

MR. MICHEL SAMSON: Mr. Speaker, this is a question of credibility. It's a question of a statement made by the Premier, which the facts seem to clearly indicate was untrue. The Premier stood and gave Nova Scotians, during the election, a definition of minor injury, which he must have known was not correct. Because, it's his own government that had already told KPMG to use a much-harsher definition of minor injury which would allow for amputations, which would allow for broken legs, which would allow for scarring. Mr. Premier, that is not muscle pain that gets better. I ask the Premier once again, why did you tell Nova Scotians that your definition was just minor muscle pain that gets better, when you must have known that that clearly was not what you had asked KPMG to add in their report?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, I refer that to the minister responsible.

HON. RONALD RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, the honourable member for Richmond has it all wrong. Let's start from that premise. Eighteen months ago, when we started to get serious about the insurance reformation in this province, one of the things we looked at is how far we had to reduce the rates to make rates affordable for the people of this province. We decided on the number of 20 per cent. Starting from that premise, we worked back to what we had to do to achieve that 20 per cent reduction. We made a commitment to the people of this province that we would come forward with a plan that would give Nova Scotians affordable insurance, insurance policies that they could understand, fair policies, and we would institute it as soon as we got the legislation through the House. That's exactly what we've done. I thank you very much for bringing this to the attention of the people of Nova Scotia.

MR. MICHEL SAMSON: Mr. Speaker, there's one thing we have learned in this debate on insurance, there are two key people in this province who have absolutely no idea what's contained in Bill No. 1 and what it's ramifications are. We've clearly learned that that's the Premier and the minister responsible for the bill itself. I will ask the Premier another question, you stated, and you repeated it again yesterday, during the campaign that

[Page 789]

your insurance plan would not look at taking away any economic benefits from Nova Scotians, yet the KPMG report clearly was given instruction from your Party to look at taking away economic benefits from Nova Scotians as part of your plan, and that is in this bill. Therefore, I ask you . . .

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. I would ask the honourable member to put the question. As well, this question is getting very close to being a direct question about a bill that is before the House. (Interruptions) Order, please. There is lots of time (Interruptions) The question, please, the third supplementary for the honourable member for Richmond. I would ask him to put his supplementary question, please.

MR. MICHEL SAMSON: Mr. Premier, why did you tell Nova Scotians that you would not include economic loss as part of the KPMG report, when you said that you had already given the instructions to KPMG to look at taking away economic loss, economic benefits to Nova Scotians?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, I would ask my learned friend, who has actually been trained in the law, to read the bill because, clearly put, patients even with minor injuries will in fact be compensated for economic loss.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Dartmouth East.

ENVIRON. & LBR. - BADDECK RESIDENTS:

SEPTIC OVERFLOW ADDRESS

MS. JOAN MASSEY: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Environment and Labour. For more than six months, a group of people living in Baddeck, Cape Breton, have been worrying about their health. They've been worried since last Spring when they found a septic site overflowing near their homes. This site was overflowing into a local brook and groundwater supplies. The company has pleaded guilty to violations. In the meantime, residents are still waiting for test results and details. Mr. Minister, I know your office has been contacted, what are you personally going to do to address the issues of these residents?

HON. KERRY MORASH: Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the honourable member for the question. Yes, the department has been contacted and we are working through the local office to ensure that we get accurate information out to those individuals.

MS. MASSEY: Mr. Speaker, the last information I had, in fact the local residents are trying to get information and they've been, I guess, directed to go towards retrieving some information through the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act, that that was a possibility for them to get some information. Concerned residents on Crowdis Mountain have started doing their own digging and what have they found? Well, what they found will shock us - they found a septic site in their backyards leaking into their water supplies; they

[Page 790]

found a composting site on the other side of their mountain flowing into local water supplies; and water tests from these sites show high chloroform levels.

MR. SPEAKER: Question, please.

MS. MASSEY: The question is, when is your department going to step in and address these practices that are putting us all at risk?

MR. MORASH: Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the honourable member. The department has been involved and there has been remedial action that has taken place to try to address the issues that have come forward and that will continue. The Department of Environment and Labour will continue to monitor and stay in contact with the residents.

MS. MASSEY: Mr. Speaker, there is no doubt that septic sites across this province are not being handled properly. Last week, in fact, we heard of problems in the Valley of untreated sewage being dumped in fields. Today it is Crowdis Mountain. Mr. Minister, will you please conduct a review of these sites and report back to this House?

MR. MORASH: Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the member for the question. Without a doubt, the department gets involved and investigates all complaints that are called in or communicated to us and we do what's necessary and needed to ensure the health and the well-being of Nova Scotians.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Glace Bay.

HEALTH - WAIT TIMES: LENGTH - ACCEPTABILITY EXPLAIN

MR. DAVID WILSON (Glace Bay): Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Health. Yesterday, when I asked the Minister of Health a serious question about wait times, he seemed somewhat unconcerned. Well, I've been contacted by Mr. Tom Weller of Halifax who is very concerned and is looking for answers from this government. On September 25th, after an 18-month wait, Mr. Weller was being wheeled into the operating room for his herniated disc surgery. He was told then the surgery was cancelled due to a lack of beds - this was the third postponement of his surgery.

Mr. Speaker, the minister may not understand this is an important issue, but I'm certainly sure that the Premier will be able to empathize with Mr. Weller, whose constant back pain has left him unemployable. So my question to the minister is, could the minister please indicate whether he thinks an 18-month wait for orthopedic surgery is acceptable?

[Page 791]

HON. ANGUS MACISAAC: Mr. Speaker, I thank the honourable member for the question. We're obviously very concerned about any waits for surgeries and I can tell the honourable member that we are actively addressing the issue of wait times and it is a very high priority with our department and with the district health authority.

[3:45 p.m.]

MR. DAVID WILSON (Glace Bay): Mr. Speaker, I'm sure that a lot of us here can understand just how serious a problem wait times are in this province. Perhaps, Mr. Weller is fortunate. I say fortunate because he's been rescheduled for November. Almost a two-year wait for an individual in constant pain. In our opinion, that's unacceptable. My question to the minister is, given that this is certainly a serious problem, why won't the minister release wait time information that he has in his department so all Nova Scotians can see just exactly what's happening in our health care system?

MR. MACISAAC: Mr. Speaker, I can inform the honourable member and the House through you that when we have completed our analysis of the wait time study that's being done, we will of course be making that available to all appropriate authorities.

MR. DAVID WILSON (Glace Bay): Mr. Speaker, while the minister tells us to hold on, things are only getting worse. Business plans for the district health authorities still haven't received final approval. This delay by this government could mean the closure of more beds and, certainly, Mr. Tom Weller can't get the surgery he requires to become employable again. So it all falls back again to the $155 cheque and the $147 million tax cut, all money that is not available, for instance, to improve our health care situation. My question to the minister is, why does the minister then believe that a $147 million tax cut is more important than investing in a plan that could address long wait lists for orthopaedic surgery currently being experienced by average Nova Scotians?

MR. MACISAAC: Mr. Speaker, I can tell the honourable member and the House through you that we are working very actively to stimulate the economy of this province so that we can increase revenues and, through increased revenues, add to the funding base of our health care system.

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

ENVIRON. & LBR. - C.B. NOVA:

COAL DUST PROBLEM - ALLEVIATION PLAN

MR. GORDON GOSSE: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Environment and Labour. Last Spring my community was covered in petcoke by a company called Logitech. It covered local properties, cars and homes. Petcoke is an incredibly harmful substance, yet in response to this incident, the company offered local residents car washes

[Page 792]

and received a $1,200 fine. This month I learned that coal dust, again, on homes is a problem in my community. I would like to table some of these pictures of the damage done to the homes. My question is for the minister, how are you going to fix this problem?

HON. KERRY MORASH: Mr. Speaker, I'd like to thank the honourable member for the question. I'm not aware of the details of this particular case so I'll take that under advisement and get back to you.

MR. GOSSE: Mr. Speaker, from where I stand, it appears that this company is being handled with kid gloves. The residents of Whitney Pier already have to live by one of the worst toxic waste sites in Canada thanks to the blunders of successive Tory and Liberal Governments. They have been voicing their concerns about Logitech and their own health and safety for more than a year. It's time their concerns were listened to. Mr. Minister, will you commit to meeting with concerned residents on this issue as soon as possible?

MR. MORASH: Mr. Speaker, I'd like to thank the member for the question. Certainly I would meet with anybody who would like to meet to discuss the issue.

MR. GOSSE: Mr. Speaker, I'll even drive him down if he wants to go. Coal dust and petcoke are an ongoing problem in this community. Residents were promised they would not have to worry about their health when this business was set up. Obviously, there is something wrong. Mr. Minister, will your department commit to fully investigating this situation and report back immediately to this House?

MR. MORASH: Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the member for the question. We certainly will fully investigate all complaints and concerns that come into the department to ensure that we're doing what we can to protect the environment and protect people.

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

TOURISM & CULTURE - BLUENOSE: IMAGE - PROTECTION

MR. DAVID WILSON (Sackville-Cobequid): Mr. Speaker, my question through you is to the Minister of Tourism and Culture. This summer an ugly battle brewed in the courts over the rights of the image and name of the Bluenose. The province stepped in as intervener and the case is on hold. However, Nova Scotians are left confused and concerned over this cherished image. I ask the Minister of Tourism and Culture, what steps is your department taking to ensure the image does not become the exclusive domain of one company?

HON. RODNEY MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, thank you to the member for the question. Indeed, the Bluenose is a provincial icon and one that is very well respected by all Nova Scotians. Our department has been very proactive with regard to this issue and, in fact,

[Page 793]

we have seen our officials meeting with the trust as we speak, this week, to discuss the situation, to hopefully keep it out of the courts.

MR. DAVID WILSON (Sackville-Cobequid): Mr. Speaker, media reports indicate the province itself received complaints from the society for using the image of the Bluenose II, which it owns, in tourism material. This image belongs to all Nova Scotians and we have the right to know that photographers and legitimate businesses that use this image will not be bullied by the society. I ask the Minister of Tourism and Culture, why didn't his department address this issue after the first complaint instead of waiting until this hit the courts?

MR. RODNEY MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, the fact of the matter is that this government will ensure that the image of the Bluenose is protected for the people of Nova Scotia and we will do whatever necessary to ensure that that happens.

MR. DAVID WILSON (Sackville-Cobequid): Mr. Speaker, is the Preservation Trust Society going to begin to charge the Royal Canadian Mint for the use of the Bluenose on the dime? I ask the minister, what assurances can you offer this House and the people of Nova Scotia that the Bluenose will remain in the ownership of the people and not one interest group, society or business?

MR. RODNEY MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, as I said to the member, the fact of the matter is that if the discussions fail with respect to the trust and senior officials from our department, we will do whatever it takes to ensure that the image for Nova Scotians is protected.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Richmond.

ECON. DEV. - OFFSHORE: FED. REGS. - MIN. ACTION

MR. MICHEL SAMSON: Mr. Speaker, once again Nova Scotia's confidence in this government's ability to deal with the offshore has been shaken with the decision by yet another offshore company to send its business for the greater part outside of this province. This government that created a Department of Energy with great fanfare has now seen its third minister in less than a year. The minister now laments federal regulations, the same laments we heard from the previous ministers in that department and Nova Scotians are left wondering how could these regulations once again be allowed to send work outside this province. My question, therefore, to the minister, why has your government waited so long to deal with federal regulations which are hampering the ability for Nova Scotians to get contracts and offshore work here in this province?

[Page 794]

HON. CECIL CLARKE: Mr. Speaker, he refers to federal regulations, but in fact they're joint regulations that affect the operation of the Canada-Nova Scotia Offshore Petroleum Board, one which the contractor refers to will see up to $0.25 billion of benefits to Nova Scotians. However, an all-inclusive contract for the process is not deemed appropriate for development and we're working to do that and I've spoken with Minister Dhaliwal today, as we move forward, to ensure that regulatory process is improved.

MR. MICHEL SAMSON: Mr. Speaker, this contractual process started over a year ago. This is not something that started overnight. It's not something this minister learned of just a few days ago. It's over a year that this government has had to make the necessary changes that both the provincial and the federal regulations needed to make sure Nova Scotians see more of their offshore. This is a government that in 1999 campaigned saying that the previous government had not done enough for the offshore, they would do better. Rather than see natural gas go to all ends of this province, it will now go to 4,000 homes. The Premier spends an awful lot of time at the Halifax International Airport waving goodbye to offshore companies as they leave this province. I, therefore, now ask the minister, can he tell this House as to when Nova Scotians can expect to see results out of the action plan that he has referred to, to have these regulations changed and make sure that Nova Scotians benefit from our offshore?

MR. CLARKE: Mr. Speaker, as I've stated before this House in Question Period, as well as in late debate, ExxonMobil has made a commitment to up to $0.25 billion in Nova Scotian content on Tier II of the Sable Offshore Project, a project that its development plan approval was done by the previous Liberal Government. We're going to see, too, that that benefit for Nova Scotia is to the 34 per cent that they did, and we will continue to work with the Government of Canada as we mutually agree, the process can and will be improved.

MR. MICHEL SAMSON: Mr. Speaker, four years and they're still blaming the previous government for their own ineptitude in dealing with the offshore. Enough is enough, it's time to get real. Four years, this government has had to deal with this issue, and four years they have done nothing. The minister now has the opportunity to have representatives from offshore companies throughout the world here in Halifax this week. In a statement earlier in the week, he said he did not want to criticize the offshore companies for not investing enough in Nova Scotia. Nova Scotians are wondering why he will not ask those companies to show responsibility to the people of this province by making their investment here. I, therefore, ask the minister, will he take the opportunity this week, at the CORE conference, to call upon all players in the offshore to work with the government and to work with Nova Scotians to maximize the benefits in this province, regardless of any regulations that may stand in the way?

MR. CLARKE: Mr. Speaker, I want to assure the member, he need not worry about this week because we've already undertaken that, and in the last two months that I've been the minister responsible, working with the Government of Canada, first, that government

[Page 795]

processes can be improved to create a better climate for business in response to business. As well, they would reflect on the criticism we've received for speaking up for Nova Scotian companies. Well, we make no apologies because we have qualified, competent and capable Nova Scotians working in the offshore. We will ensure that the $0.25 billion is resulted in benefits here to Nova Scotia.

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

ENVIRON. & LBR. - NEW WATERFORD HOSP.:

EMPLOYEES - ILLNESS

MR. FRANK CORBETT: Mr. Speaker, last week in this House I asked the Minister of Health about an incident that happened at the New Waterford Consolidated Hospital that caused employees to get sick. This is a very serious problem, and a problem that has existed now for 18 months. I want to ask the Minister of Environment and Labour, what did your department do to investigate this workplace illness?

HON. KERRY MORASH: Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the member for the question. I'm trying to remember - I'm not sure of all the details over the inspection issue, but I will get back to you with what we've done.

MR. CORBETT: Mr. Speaker, those types of answers are fast becoming the norm from that minister, and it's fast becoming unacceptable. (Interruptions) Now I hear oohs and aahs from the other side. What we're talking about is workers in a health care facility, so you not only have to worry about the workers but you have to worry about the sick people within that building. Answers like that, quite honestly, no matter if you're a new minister or a minister who has been around for awhile, are inadequate when we talk about worker and patient safety. I ask once again, what substantially has been the investigation around this incident at the New Waterford Consolidated Hospital? What did you do?

MR. MORASH: Mr. Speaker, I'm sure if there was a complaint made to the department that it was investigated fully.

MR. CORBETT: Mr. Speaker, last week the minister told me - and he was listening to his colleague, the Minister of Health - he clearly said they investigated. So, obviously, you people are not talking or whatever or the people who work in and around hospitals in New Waterford, their health and safety isn't important to you. I hope I'm wrong. This opens a whole other question. With this illness happening there, it causes a couple of things. One, not the least of which, is that people will not want to work in that system and will compromise the general operation and probably drive workers out of there, including emergency service workers, where it's under attack now. I want to ask the minister, when are you going to set this as a priority and find out what is making those workers sick?

[Page 796]

MR. MORASH: Mr. Speaker, this certainly is a priority. I understand from my colleague that testing is taking place and inspectors are doing their jobs now to try to remedy the problem.

[4:00 p.m.]

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Annapolis.

AGRIC. & FISH.: FUNDING - SOURCE

MR. STEPHEN MCNEIL: Mr. Speaker, yesterday the Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries announced $2.5 million for Nova Scotia farmers (Applause)

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

MR. MCNEIL: It's unfortunate for the minister that they all don't get a chance to vote for him. Is this new money or is this money that's being reallocated?

HON. CHRISTOPHER D'ENTREMONT: Mr. Speaker, I'd like to thank the member opposite for believing in the agricultural community and participating in my task force. (Applause) In reference to the question that was asked, the $2.5 million has been in the budget for some time and we felt it was better served in farmers' hands than it was in our coffers.

MR. MCNEIL: Mr. Speaker, my question is, is this $2.5 million specifically to be used to address the BSE issue or is it to be used for other agricultural problems?

MR. D'ENTREMONT: As it was stipulated in my statement yesterday, it is across all commodities, to help people get into some new programs, to help them if they're down and to really help this industry.

MR. MCNEIL: Considering this is a far cry from the $7 million that the Federation of Agriculture asked for, I'm asking the minister, is he prepared, today, to allow the task force to recommend financial spending when we meet and finalize our plan on October 31st?

MR. D'ENTREMONT: Mr. Speaker, as the member well knows, we're asking for recommendations from the task force and we'll look at those recommendations when they come forward to this House when it comes.

[Page 797]

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Halifax Atlantic.

COMMUN. SERV. - CAPT. WILLIAM SPRY LODGE:

ELEVATOR INSTALLATION - FAILURE EXPLAIN

MS. MICHELE RAYMOND: Mr. Speaker, my question through you is for the Minister of Community Services. This government has done nothing to rectify past governments' records of steadily degrading the standard of living for seniors in this province. It is true that many seniors in long-term-care facilities are there because they can no longer feed, clothe or care for themselves, but others suffer primarily from limited mobility. They need canes, walkers, wheelchairs to cover even the shortest distances, and so climbing stairs is just not an option. But many seniors' housing projects confront them with stairs and one of them is, as you know from a previous resolution, in my constituency, the Captain William Spry Lodge. The result of this stair challenge is that the people there are forced into long-term-care facilities, with the well-known devastating financial consequences for themselves and their families. Why has this government failed to install the much-needed and long-overdue elevator at the Captain Spry Lodge?

HON. DAVID MORSE: Mr. Speaker, I thank the member opposite for her question. She gives us a chance to point out that this government is very concerned about seniors and particularly the question of accessibility. I think it has been mentioned before in this Chamber, 85 per cent of our seniors' units are accessible, either ground floor or through elevators. Of course, when time takes its toll and those who maybe once could climb the stairs now need the use of an elevator or a ground floor apartment, we encourage them to work with the housing authority and we will find them a place that is accessible.

MS. RAYMOND: Mr. Speaker, unfortunately, some of the 15 per cent of seniors' centres are in my constituency and some of the residents of the Captain William Spry Lodge, for some of them time has taken the final toll and they have been forced into long-term care. My predecessor, the former MLA for Halifax Atlantic, raised the issue last Fall when he presented a petition signed by over 700 residents of the area. The petition called on the minister at the time to undertake immediate action to have an elevator installed in this residence to ease the burden for senior citizens who have contributed so much to our society. Given this long-term knowledge of the situation, how can one justify the continued non-existence of this badly-needed elevator?

MR. MORSE: Mr. Speaker, indeed, there are 12,500 units roughly of public housing in this province, many of which are occupied by seniors and many of which are there on a very affordable rent-income basis. We are very proud of what we do for seniors with regard to public housing and we look forward to doing more through the affordable housing initiative.

[Page 798]

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

We have two introductions.

The honourable Premier.

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, I would draw to the attention of all members in the gallery opposite, a well-known Nova Scotian, a member of the Council of Richmond, and, as well, a former Warden of the County of Richmond, Mr. Richie Cotton. (Applause)

MR. SPEAKER: We certainly welcome our guest to the gallery today.

The honourable member for Dartmouth South-Portland Valley.

MS. MARILYN MORE: Mr. Speaker, it gives me great pleasure to introduce to the Legislative Assembly, in the west gallery, a resident of Dartmouth South-Portland Valley, and a much-valued volunteer, Helen Fleet. (Applause)

MR. SPEAKER: Again we welcome our special guest to the gallery today and hope she enjoys the proceedings.

OPPOSITION MEMBERS' BUSINESS

MOTIONS OTHER THAN GOVERNMENT MOTIONS

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable House Leader for the Liberal Party.

MR. MANNING MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, would you please call Resolution No. 246.

Res. No. 246, Fin. - Budget Balancing: Difficulties - Recognition Time Frame - notice given Oct. 6/03 - (Ms. D. Whalen)

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

MR. DANIEL GRAHAM: Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise and speak on this particular resolution which goes to the core of what concerns Nova Scotians most at this particular time. The ultimate question that this resolution raises is whether or not Nova Scotians deserve to know whether the tax cut they voted for on August 5th was based on false information. That I would submit, is clearly a relevant question on October 8, 2003.

[Page 799]

At first when I thought of this, Mr. Speaker, I thought that this is a question of fairness. Was it fair for Nova Scotians not to have the full information about the state of the finances of the province on August 5th, but I realized this is a question of more than just fairness. This is a question of integrity and credibility as we move forward. This is a question of trust. It's a question of whether or not we are going to be able to resolve the fiscal challenges that this province presently finds itself in.

Now I understand that the government is saying that there are still variables that need to be considered and that we don't have the full, final, dotted information. What seems clear, however, Mr. Speaker, is that there has been a great deal of information that has been known for some period of time. If I were to take you back to the Committee of the Whole House on Supply debates of April 25th, and at that time, the then Minister of Finance was commenting on the challenges that faced this province and specifically he spoke about a problem with respect to a census.

Now despite that, and despite that concern not finding its way into the books, despite a contingent liability not being put in place, despite contingencies not being put in place, we have this razor-thin surplus that was projected. The government still went forward with election-spree promises. Whether it was the schools or the bridges or whether it was the seniors on the day before the election who seemed to receive a suggestion that they, too, were going to receive money in the pocket. At the end of the day, it ultimately becomes troubling that Nova Scotians on August 5th didn't know the full picture of the province's finances, particularly when finances were at the core of the issues that were being debated at that time.

Advertisement after advertisement was being portrayed in the Nova Scotia newspapers and also on our televisions and radios that spoke about two balanced budgets, spoke about fiscal responsibility. This government will remember that the two promises that it made back in blue book 1 was that above all else we will fix the health care system, and above all else, we will live within our means. There was the expression that was used on Page 1 of the old blue book, it's wrong to borrow - millions of dollars - to mortgage the future of our children without so much as a plan.

Frankly, Mr. Speaker, that couldn't be more true, and it couldn't be more true today, given the history of this province, because for many of us we have our children going to schools that are under-resourced, for many of us we find ourselves with waiting lines that are too long, and we find ourselves in a province that has the highest tuition rates of any province in this country, the highest debt problems of any undergraduate students in this entire country, and when you finally come back to it, and you look at the state of our roads, you ask yourself the question, how did we get here? How did we forsake the present? How did we forsake our children?

[Page 800]

Inescapably, we've come to the conclusion that it was because we failed to manage the finances of this province. Now the New Democrats, to their credit, speak often about the needs of the underdog, the needs of seniors for example, and they should be applauded for that. But one thing that needs to be recognized by the New Democrats and others is that in order for us to provide the level of support that is needed for seniors, we need to make sure we're living within our means first.

If we continue to talk about cutting cheques and making promises that are irresponsible, if we're not transparent about the choices that we have to make, if we dupe Nova Scotians into buying a 10 per cent tax cut that isn't affordable, then where does that leave us at the end of the day? It leaves us with repeating the same old problems that got us in this situation in the first place. That's what we find in this present day.

We find ourselves in a situation, Mr. Speaker, where Nova Scotians were told over and over that the books were fine and the books were balanced. Well, we know with certainty that this problem - April 25th was when the former Minister of Finance first started to speak about it - as was revealed by the Minister of Finance today stretches back for a number of years. This $150 million problem that was announced today - potential problem - is one that stretches back for some considerable period of time.

How in the name of good fiscal management could we not have foreseen that? How in the name of good fiscal management, in a province that has failed so often to manage the books of this province, could we have missed putting that on the books, could we have spoken to Nova Scotians about that liability? How could we be at this stage of the fiscal year with just less than six months left, trying to adjust now?

It seems, according to the minister's comments yesterday, $72 million to $92 million in shortfalls. What does that mean to the services that we provide? We spoke about the needs of farmers, we spoke about the needs of students, as the member for Glace Bay said earlier, he spoke about lineups in our health care system that continue to grow longer. All of this presents enormous questions to Nova Scotians. They recognize that government is ultimately about making choices, and the choices that Nova Scotians were faced with was one of being responsible, living within our means, and making sure that education, health and our roads are properly taken of, or to move forward with information that was clearly, at the very least, incomplete.

Advertisement after advertisement, and then you have the letter that I sent on July 9th to the Premier - July 9, 2003, I would be happy to table this, if any members wish - asking nine questions, referring to the state of the finances of this province, suggesting that, clearly, we are not in the fiscal order that the Premier and members of his government have suggested for so long. Clearly, Nova Scotians, before they go to the polls, need to know the whole story. It was on July 15th that the Province of New Brunswick announced, oops, we too have a problem. On July 15th, New Brunswick knew that they had a problem.

[Page 801]

But it took us more than two months later before we were able to speak to the nature of the problem that we have in Nova Scotia. Coincidentally, that happened shortly after an election. Nova Scotians are, I would suggest, Mr. Speaker, as the Premier implied in his response to one of my questions earlier today, tired of cynical politics. It is the height of cynicism, I would suggest, for Nova Scotians not to be told the full story about whether or not they can afford a tax cut, when that is squarely one of the questions that sits before them.

Now the tough choices have to be made. The tough choices about whether or not to cut services in our hospitals; the tough choices about whether or not we cut child care down in the South Shore with respect to students who might be in the high school; tough choices that will continue to grow about whether we can reduce class sizes, whether we can provide the need to our students with special needs at the level that they properly need it. Those are questions that Nova Scotians need to hear.

[4:15 p.m.]

Overriding all of that, clearly the people who are civil servants in this province want and need to know whether or not they are going to have a job in six months' time. I said in the debate that the Premier did not attend, hosted by the NSGEU back in the Spring of this year, that the greatest threat to the civil servants in this province was the tax cut that was irresponsible and premature. That is the nub of the problem about whether or not we're going to be facing significant layoffs.

We understand, having worked in government - unlike the NDP - the pressures that come with being in government. We recognize the choices that the Premier and his government have to make are not easy ones and that the list of demands on government are great. But we recognize an irresponsible decision when it comes forward.

There is often a comment made by the NDP about whether or not this last election was about providing a better deal for working families. Well, let's consider what this tax cut accomplishes. First of all, the people who did not receive the $155 cheques will not be receiving the tax benefit from this. Well, it's interesting to note also that 16,000 Nova Scotians who did receive the $155 cheque on the previous occasion, on this occasion, because they earn less than $10,000, will only receive $13 in tax relief in 2004 - so they're receiving less than the $155 than they received before - and a huge 84 per cent of the money is going to the Nova Scotians who need it least. Well, that to me doesn't strike the note of trying to provide a better deal for working families in this province, Mr. Speaker. What we need is a fair deal for all Nova Scotians.

We had the announcement a day before we came up to the election and post-election, of course, we had the new position that was taken by this government on September 19th . Yes, we are concerned about the state of the finances of this province, we are concerned

[Page 802]

about the state of the finances of this province because it goes right to the root of whether or not we're going to get mired in the old problems that we do right now.

We do have a choice in these circumstances, Mr. Speaker, through you to the Premier, and the choice that we are presenting is one that we recognize would be politically difficult in the circumstances. It involves cancelling this tax cut. It involves, at the very least, addressing the question for at least one year that we could delay this tax cut until we determine what the state of the books are at some later date.

These are all reasonable and balanced positions. In providing this olive branch of a suspension as opposed to a cancellation, we are trying to make this minority situation work so that we are not finding ourselves in a situation where we are hurting seniors and hurting students and hurting farmers and hurting regular Nova Scotians. It is folly to go forward with the plans that this government has set forward.

We've had the new announcements. They started on September 19th with the quarterly report. September 30th I received a letter from the Minister of Finance suggesting that we could follow up, perhaps after October 10th, with more meetings with the Liberal Party to talk about the state of the finances of the province. At that time we were looking to seek out a consensus, to find as best we could all of the information that was available, because we want to work with the Department of Finance and the people there, to determine whether or not the choices we have to make are ones that we as a Party in a minority situation can ultimately support.

We can't afford to delay, however, Mr. Speaker, because we know with certainty that October 15th is the deadline that is given to us in normal circumstances for notice to come from the provincial government of a change in the tax structure in this province; that's seven days away. There may be some flexibility - I hope. I understand from the comments that the Premier provided in the answer to one of his questions that he would be speaking to the Prime Minister tomorrow; obviously fiscal situations are going to be at the top of the agenda.

We in the Liberal Party recognize that governing is not easy. It's ultimately about choices and it's difficult to go back on decisions that were made and voted on by the people of Nova Scotia. But one thing that we are committed to, and we will remain committed to for as long as we can stand here, is fiscal responsibility so that generations of Nova Scotians don't continue to be sold out by irresponsible fiscal financing.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of Finance.

HON. PETER CHRISTIE: Mr. Speaker, I'm pleased to have an opportunity to join this debate on this motion that was brought forward and to share a few views on this motion. I think, as I read the resolution, the text of the resolution and what the Leader of the Liberal Party spoke about were kind of two different things. I think I want to deal with those in two

[Page 803]

separate segments and let me first direct my comments towards the resolution. The resolution indicates that with spending that the finances are in jeopardy.

Mr. Speaker, as I address those, I would like to talk about the past for a moment. Yes, this government did announce that we were going to build new schools. Those schools have been allowed to deteriorate and we had many requests from all across the province to replace those schools. Our government takes the risk of the health of children, teachers and staff in those schools very seriously and we knew that they had to be replaced.

Yes, Mr. Speaker, it's true that we did put millions of dollars into health care. We have provided a 7 per cent increase to the DHAs and, just in their last quarterly update, we provided additional money for the DHAs to be able to provide the service that people expect. That money was directed towards dialysis, fighting of cancer, research, drugs, therapies and finding new doctors and nurses to look after Nova Scotians' medical health.

Yes, Mr. Speaker, this government did put new money into paving. Right now we are watching new stretches of highway open on Highway No. 101. Just last week, the Transportation and Public Works Minister, Mr. Russell, announced the 11 kilometres of new twinned concrete pavement was open to drivers. The minister indicated that the end is in sight of this phase. The twinning of Highway No. 101 makes available a first-class section of road. With better safety and improved travel for motorists and their families, that is something that this government did invest in. I don't presume that this motion suggests that we not spend any money and let the people who want new schools, highways, health care, and better roads, that we just not provide money for that.

Mr. Speaker, the Premier mentioned today, it's true, this government has presented two balanced budgets to the House. In 2002-03, we achieved the first balanced budget in four decades. It wasn't easy, there were many challenges and those challenges we had to meet. That was what this government was committed to, and we met that challenge. We have managed responsibly, providing the level of care that Nova Scotians deserve. We have reduced our debt to GDP ratio and we have reduced our foreign debt exchange exposure and we have hit that target ahead of time.

Mr. Speaker, as I announced in the financial update, we have reduced our debt servicing costs; the dollar, of course, is a major factor in that. We've introduced our four-year debt reduction plan. We believe by introducing the tax relief and providing tax relief to taxpayers, we are providing assistance to those Nova Scotians and we are making our economy competitive. When we balanced the 2002-03 budget, we knew that each and every year would be a challenge. Some of those challenges are predictable. We knew that there were increased demands for health care. We knew there was a need for new infrastructure and need to replace the aging infrastructure. Now we have new, less predictable, challenges coming to us.

[Page 804]

Mr. Speaker, we presented a balanced budget in the House for the 2003-04 fiscal year and it is our intention to end that year with that balance, but first we must look after the needs of Nova Scotians in difficulty. Over the past 10 days we have been responding to the emergencies created by Hurricane Juan. Our EMO centre has been held up as a model for operations for other jurisdictions to follow. We proved that co-operation is the only way to respond to emergencies. A great many Nova Scotians continue to need help in the wake of the hurricane and just as the province has been doing before the emergency recovery we will be there during the financial and economic recovery as well. We anticipate the federal government will be a full partner in that effort, as they have been before and we would expect them to be there again.

Mr. Speaker, as has been said here in the House by a lot of people, Nova Scotians need help and they need it now. The province has initiated a range of activities at every level with the federal government to remove roadblocks and get dollars flowing to farmers, fishermen in dire financial need. I would like to take this opportunity to thank all the front-line workers who provided response to this emergency. (Applause) I want to thank all of those who put in hard days and nights, working sometimes around the clock to restore power to homes through the last 10 days, and we want to thank all of those directly affected, whether living in Bedford or in Tatamagouche, for your patience in this time.

In response to this resolution, we are not going to allow anything to put in jeopardy the immediate needs of Nova Scotians. In the meantime, officials throughout government are examining options to reduce spending so that we can reach the savings that we need to reach of $32 million. Yet, again, this is another challenge. At the quarterly update when we looked at that, we had based that on figures that had been for the first half of the year. Those figures, from January to June were released, the statistics were released and when we got those in the early part of September, we felt it was prudent to react to the declining revenues that we saw coming. That's why we forecast the declining revenues and that's why we put in a plan to start to mitigate that.

At the end of this year perhaps the revenue stream will have changed, but we saw that there was something coming along that was showing our forecast was going to be less than we had already projected, so we put in a process to take those out. That was just one of the challenges.

Sometimes it's a challenge dealing with the federal government. I'll be sitting down with my provincial and territorial counterparts this week and we'll be sitting down with the Minister of Finance and on Friday there will be several topics on the agenda. One topic is clearly the renewal of the equalization process. That process has been going on for some time, but there is a deadline looming. That deadline is for April 1st of next year. We have to have legislation in place and so that's why the Finance people are meeting this week with the federal minister. We have to move that process along.

[Page 805]

The second part of the process will be to talk about the federal government's commitment on CHT to health care and the money they announced last year. We knew at the time when they announced that money that there were conditions - the conditions were that they were in a financial position to do so. That's why, as a government, we didn't book those dollars because we weren't certain they would be able to meet that commitment, but they had said they wanted to move forward with a new stream of cash for both health care and for the other social services.

Of course, the other main item we'll be talking about with them will be the census change, and the need for relief in terms of that census. This is not something new - when the ministers had met before and in the history of this process, what the government has done is they've found ways to mitigate this relief and they've changed the census. Not only that, but just last Fall when they had the stock transfer issue with four provinces and there were some overpayments on that, which went way back prior to the open years that the federal government had opened, they forgave the first year. We're not talking about breaking new ground here, we're not talking about something new, they've done this before.

We will be pushing the federal government to make the changes to the equalization formula. We want to ensure the equalization program is adequately funded so that the original purpose and intent of the program to provide a basic and comparable level of service to all Canadians is not forgotten. We will be looking for some enhancements to the equalization.

[4:30 p.m.]

I want to hear from Mr. Manley that the federal commitment to additional health care funding is there. We want to know that the equalization-receiving process will be getting that census relief I referred to earlier. But as we know, Mr. Speaker, the federal government has had accumulated surpluses and they have ranged in the tens of billions of dollars over the past several years. So expecting the provinces to come up with money to pay back seems rather silly at this time and it just seems simply not fair.

These are some of the factors that impact, not only on this year's budget, but future budgets as well. There may be further potential negative impacts on the equalization program but there could be positive offsets as well. We are at a critical stage of this right now and when the data is updated weekly, the true picture won't be clear for weeks or even months to come. That is clearly one of the situations that the Finance people will be asking the federal minister to do, is to bring that information and get it available on a more timely basis, and have it so we can do more accurate projections and have a better idea of where we are going to be.

[Page 806]

So, Mr. Speaker, the federal-provincial ministers, we want to meet with the federal minister. We want him to act and recognize their obligations to all Canadians. I hope that all Parties in this House are anxious for the federal government and the provinces to be able to work out an equalization plan that is fair for not only Nova Scotians, but for all Canadians. As we move forward, that's what our goal will be.

Mr. Speaker, on a brighter note, contrary to Resolution No. 246, I think members should realize and recognize that the U.S. economy is starting to strengthen but there are many factors that come into our budget. The U.S. economy, as I indicated at the briefing of the Opposition Leader and the Liberal Leader, was one of the factors that we had to change because the GDP factor wasn't increasing for a variety of reasons. One of the reasons was the fact that Nova Scotians weren't spending as much as anticipated. One of the reasons was the U.S. economy wasn't coming back as quickly as possible, and the variety of reasons we had talked about. So that was the reason that we had to change our forecast. We had to look at those things and say all right, now we are projecting for six months out from now, if we are starting to see trends, and starting to see trends that our revenues aren't going to be as strong, we have to react to it. That's what we did as we moved forward.

Now I think there are two issues that I would like to clear up with the Leader of the Liberal Party. There are two issues here, Mr. Speaker. The issue of the equalization structure is not only this year, but the equalization process goes back a number of years. It goes back to the books that the federal government has opened. Indeed, what we are speaking about here, are changes and what the provinces are talking about, it's not simply the fiscal year we are in now, we are talking about adjustments to year 2000-01, 2001-02, 2002-03 because those are the years that the census data was given to us. The years the census data which was projected by Statistics Canada, those were the four years that the data had been paid out on. So obviously when they changed those statistics and they came up with new population census figures, those four years have to be adjusted.

So, Mr. Speaker, we will have to, in this province, as those numbers come through, those previous years, we will have to book in our last year. That will be the date we will have the numbers and we will have to book those adjustments that we have in our fiscal year which will close in the very near future, but it will be for the fiscal year ending 2003, obviously the impact for this year. So when we talk to the federal government about what they have done before under this condition, they have always done with the years that they have open.

Now I understand that their years open and our years open aren't the same and I understand that they only go back with their open years a couple of years, but, Mr. Speaker, that is what we will be speaking to them about and that's what we hope to have from the federal government.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. The honourable member's time has expired.

[Page 807]

The honourable member for Halifax Fairview.

MR. GRAHAM STEELE: Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise as the Opposition Finance Critic on this motion, Resolution No. 246, which I would actually like to read to maybe provide some grounding to the debate since the Liberal Leader apparently didn't feel the need to be burdened by the actual wording of the resolution under debate.

Mr. Speaker, it reads as follows:

"Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House urge the government to tell the people when it knew it might not achieve a balanced budget and reveal the full extent of the possible new deficit, including less-than-expected equalization payments and the impact of Hurricane Juan."

That's the resolution on the floor. There's a certain amount of the resolution that is easy to agree with. First of all, I think the government needs to be much more forthcoming than it has been over the past number of years with the true state of the province's finances. I and my Party still do not agree or admit that this province has ever had a balanced budget, because the first so-called balanced budget was proposed to this Legislature for the 2002-03 fiscal year, and we have still not received the final audited Public Accounts for that year.

It appears that the Public Accounts may not be delivered in the month of October, as they usually are, because the Department of Finance is arguing with the Auditor General over the final numbers. Although the Auditor General didn't say it today, reading between the lines, I can only assume that the reason the Department of Finance is arguing is because the final audited Public Accounts are not going to show a balanced budget. Why else would the department argue with the Auditor General, be continuing to argue this late in the year? There has not been independent third party, arm's-length verification, at any time, that last year's budget was in fact balanced.

Mr. Speaker, that brings us to the current fiscal year, the 2003-04 fiscal year, when all that has happened this Spring was that a surplus, a very small surplus was projected by this government, based on dozens of assumptions, which, of course, are now in play. We don't know for sure how those assumptions are going to match with the real world. That's just the way things work. The budget is a projection, saying, all other things being equal, and if our assumptions prove to be true, this is how the year is going to play out.

But of course the government projected a tiny surplus, a fraction of 1 per cent of the overall provincial budget, and any of a number of things could knock the budget projections out of whack. The least of those would be a natural disaster, such as we have all suffered in this province in the last couple of weeks, Mr. Speaker. We still don't know today, what is the cost of the damage caused by the hurricane, nor do we know how much of that cost is going to have to be picked up by the province, nor do we know how much the federal

[Page 808]

government is going to share, nor do we know what the ultimate impact on the provincial budget is going to be. That is one of dozens of things that are in play right now.

There is still too much game playing with the provincial budget. Yes, the government follows Generally Accepted Accounting Principles, and, if I may say, the first and last compliment I'm going to pay to the Liberal caucus in my remarks today, the move towards Generally Accepted Accounting Principles was started by the Liberals when they were in government. It was started by them, and they moved rather slowly on it. It was a process completed by the current government or I suppose, technically speaking, the last government, the government that existed before the last election.

Just the fact that we are now at a state of Generally Accepted Accounting Principles doesn't mean there is not a lot of hocus-pocus going on, because there is, Mr. Speaker. Especially in the current year, I'm not talking about any audited year for which the books have closed, because that's all above board, there are so many ways for the government to hide, deliberately or otherwise, what's really going on. My colleague, the member for Richmond, mentioned, as an example, the pension adjustment, pension valuations. A big issue, which hasn't really come to a conclusion yet. The result of that one is still to be seen.

That's only one example. There are a number of choices the government makes about how and when it's going to change its financial assumptions. There are many, many ways for the government to not tell the public everything that it knows about the state of the province's finances.

Now, having said that and to that extent, the resolution is correct as far as it goes. I have to say that the Liberal view of the provincial budgetary process is unbelievably simplistic, Mr. Speaker, unbelievably simplistic. There are dozens of factors at play, billions of dollars at stake. There are many things going on in the world that have a positive or negative effect on the provincial economy and every time something happens, the Liberal Leader jumps up and says, aha, I told you. When any reasonable person where they're handling their own personal budget or family budget, or business budget, or the provincial budget, knows that absolutely the last thing to do, the worst thing to do, is to have a knee-jerk reaction to every small blip in the economy or in other events. Every single day the Liberal Leader stands up with something new and says, look, they have to change their projection, they have to change the budget. We need more briefings, we need this, we need that.

Mr. Speaker, if that's how that Leader would manage the finances of the province, waving with the wind at every event that happens instead of steering a long-term course, then I for one am glad that that Leader's Party came third in the last election.

Mr. Speaker, the resolution today says that the government should announce when it knew it might not achieve a balanced budget. Well, the government knew this from day one. The government knew from day one they might not achieve a balanced budget because

[Page 809]

they announced a surplus that was so small that from an accounting point of view, it's insignificant. They knew that the smallest change in world events could change the balance of the budget. So, of course, the government knew and has known from the day they presented the budget. They want the government to say when they knew what the possible new deficit was as if the government and the officials of the Department of Finance aren't monitoring that thing every single day, whether there's a disaster or not.

Mr. Speaker, if the Liberal Leader doesn't know already, there are major risk factors at play in any budget in any year at any time, like equalization payments, like prior year adjustments, which amount to tens of millions of dollars. They dwarf any program cuts the government could make and yet they amount to tens of million of dollars using a formula and a negotiation process that's a mystery to all but the initiated in the Department of Finance. Currency swings, we're in the midst of a currency swing with the Canadian dollar going up. The Canadian dollar goes up, goes down, it has a multi-million dollar impact day by day on the provincial budget. Interest rates have the same impact; the pension valuation, the same; wage settlements, the same thing; and those are some of the major risk factors worth tens of millions of dollars.

So now we come to Hurricane Juan and I think the thing that is most unseemly about the Liberal Leader's approach to this whole issue is both the resolutions that the Liberal Party has called for debate today draw a link between the Liberal election platform and Hurricane Juan. You know if there was anything more cynical, more partisan, more inappropriate at a time of a natural disaster, it's hard to think of what it is, than this crowd over here trying to fight the last election in the wake of a natural disaster. Saying to the government we just had a hurricane, it proves we were right all along in what we were saying in the election.

Mr. Speaker, they should be embarrassed. Instead, the Liberal Leader stands up and preaches to all of us about fiscal integrity. If I have time, I may have a few thoughts in a few minutes about the Liberal approach to fiscal integrity when they actually had their hands on the controls, but let me say what Hurricane Juan was in my constituency. It wasn't an occasion for partisan rejoicing. It was a human disaster. People were killed. Businesses were badly disrupted, very badly disrupted.

Not to mention the impact of people in their homes, seniors who could not get down the stairs of high-rise apartment buildings. People who had stored food away in their freezers for the winter, who lost it all and have no money to replace it. People who had uninsured losses to their vehicles when trees or heavy branches fell down and crushed their vehicles. People who went without power. In my constituency there is still, as far as I know, one street without power, and we are now how many days after Hurricane Juan, those people are having a very difficult time. Their street was by far the worst damaged in my constituency.

[Page 810]

[4:45 p.m.]

That is what Hurricane Juan was about, and that's what the government is dealing with and needs to deal with. That's what we in the Opposition need to be holding their feet to the fire about. Making sure that the response is appropriate, and where it's not appropriate, to make sure that appropriate changes are made for the next time. When it comes to Hurricane Juan, that's what the people in this House should be talking about, but instead, the Liberals bring forward a partisan resolution linking the hurricane with the correctness of their election platform. If they're not embarrassed about drawing that direct link, well, I'm embarrassed for them.

Mr. Speaker, the Liberal Leader gave the same speech he gave during the election. He's trying to re-fight the last election, and some day the Liberal Leader will accept that his Party came third. I was shocked in Question Period today and doubly shocked when the Liberal Leader repeated it in his remarks today, that in his opinion the election result can be explained by the fact that the voters of Nova Scotia were duped. That's the word he used, duped. He used it in Question Period and he used it again in his remarks today. The Liberal Party, which sees itself as the natural governing Party of Nova Scotia, still cannot understand or believe or accept that they came third. They are the third choice of Nova Scotia voters, and that with voters knowing what the Party platforms were, what the Parties stood for and what they were going to get, depending on how they voted.

The voters of Nova Scotia were not duped. Again I would say, the Liberal Leader should be embarrassed about putting forward that point of view in this Legislature, that the people who put each of us here were duped, because they didn't vote for his Party. I wonder if, maybe, the Liberal Leader might think about that line of thinking and perhaps retract it at some point.

Mr. Speaker, there is one word that comes to my mind when I hear any member of this Legislature talking about the voters being duped and having been fooled into voting the way they were, but since I can't use that word in this Legislature, I will just use the word hubris. That Leader comes into this House having just celebrated his second month in office and he lectures us about his experience, his second month of holding public office, and he's lecturing us about his experience.

Let me turn then to his Party's experience - do I have one minute left, Mr. Speaker, or more?

MR. SPEAKER: A little more.

MR. STEELE: My time is running out, so let me say this, Mr. Speaker, that if that Liberal Leader feels that he wants to change the way that politics is done in Nova Scotia, very possibly the first place he should look is at changing the way his Party does things. That

[Page 811]

Liberal Leader stands up here and preaches to this House about how things should be done, when his Party was thrown out on their ears in 1999, because the people of Nova Scotia were sick and tired of the way the Liberal Party ran the government. That is the same Party that tried to argue there was a balanced budget, even though the government was borrowing $600 million, and Merlin the Minister tried to wave his magic wand and pretend that it was really balanced.

That's his Party's track record, and then he dares, this gentleman with two months' experience, to come in and preach to this House about fiscal integrity and doing the right thing with the province's books. Mr. Speaker, I look forward to continuing this line of discussion in the next resolution.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Richmond.

MR. MICHEL SAMSON: Mr. Speaker, you see all sorts of things in this House. I've been here five years, I should point out it's longer than the member for Halifax Fairview, who has all this wonderful experience now all of a sudden to, himself, be able to preach to us. I have to tell you, who would have thought we would see the member for Halifax Fairview be the chief apologist for the Conservative Party of this province. Who would have thought we would see that day.

Now, Mr. Speaker, I would like to give notice, especially this week, because the Offshore Energy Conference is taking place in Halifax, that the Minister of Energy should be talking with the member for Halifax Fairview because if the member for Halifax Fairview buries his head any deeper in the sand, one can only hope he hits natural gas. But with our luck, he'll only find granite at the end of the day.

Mr. Speaker, let me speak in simple terms for the member for Halifax Fairview. I am going to try to make it as simple for him as possible. The budget, as he has said, is based on assumptions, but the budget in itself, if it is based on false assumptions, misleading assumptions, then obviously there are questions to be asked of that budgetary process. When the budget was first introduced, the Liberal Party immediately questioned the assumptions made on federal equalization payments. The record shows that. The member for Halifax Fairview can go and look into that at that point, because we were told their assumptions are false. They will not receive the equalization payments they are projecting.

Our Leader throughout the campaign continued to ask the Premier, can you assure us that your assumptions are correct as you claim. The Premier refused to answer. Why did he refuse to answer? It is because the Liberal Party and most Nova Scotians who were watching, knew that the assumptions were false. Ironically, who was the other Party that was following these false assumptions - the New Democratic Party, the socialist Party, who were saying yes, the Tories are doing a wonderful job, yet they can't understand why they only

[Page 812]

picked up three seats in the last election. (Interruption) Well we picked up five seats. So I can point that out to the member.

Mr. Speaker, for the member for Halifax Fairview to suggest that our Leader or our Party is trying to link the financial troubles of this province with the hurricane, that is the most simplistic, backward, ignorant argument that I have heard in this House from that member.

Mr. Speaker, let me make it easy for the member. On August 5th, our province was off-target by $32 million. Hurricane Juan was not even in sight. So we are off $32 million. Then, when we start asking the Finance Minister, what about the equalization payments? He then tells us, well we could be off $40 million to $60 million. Hurricane Juan still hasn't hit shore. So, at that point, our province is in the red, potentially, by over $90 million. Still no hurricane - that's the reality. That's why we have questioned this Premier as to when was he aware that these problems existed. What was he doing to prepare, knowing that there were problems. When the Premier's face showed up in my local paper and around this province smiling and saying balanced budgets, did he know while those ads were running under his approval that they were false?

Mr. Speaker, I would submit to you the fact that the Premier refused to answer our Leader's question on when did he know - on seven occasions - leads us to conclude that the Premier did know. That is why our Leader has questioned whether Nova Scotians went to the polls on false assumptions.

That is not questioning the outcome, Mr. Speaker. That is not saying they should have voted for us rather than them, it is questioning the credibility of the Premier, it is questioning whether they were honest and forthright with Nova Scotians or whether they intentionally - I shouldn't say intentionally because you are not supposed to infer intent - but whether they withheld information that would have been very valuable to Nova Scotians in determining whether they wanted to re-elect this government.

I would submit to you, Mr. Speaker, that if Nova Scotians had been told prior to August 5th and they had known that this province was off-target by $30 million, there would not be 25 Conservative members sitting here in this House. Yet that information somehow was withheld. And to question the Premier on that is a legitimate question and I can tell you, we have said in this House since the election that we wanted to work together, to try to make the minority government work. But based on the answers that we received from the Premier today, being asked simply if he would keep his word only to see him hurl insults across the floor and to argue our Leader was cynical for asking him if he was going to keep his commitment, I can tell you, Mr. Speaker, not that I have my crystal ball but, if I had one, I would say the long-term future of this government, after what we've seen today, is not going to be very long.

[Page 813]

AN HON. MEMBER; It's very dim, I'd say.

MR. MICHEL SAMSON: It is very dim, Mr. Speaker. The Premier of this province doesn't seem to have caught on that he has a minority government; he doesn't seem to have caught on that he only has 25 members whereas he needs 27 for a majority. He doesn't seem to have caught on that he can't put things through as he wants, as he did in the past. There will be no more Bill No. 68s. There will be no more paramedic strikes in this province. There will be no more legislation that the Opposition will not approve being passed in this House. I think the member for Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley should maybe sit down with his good friend, the Premier, and explain that to him - and use as simple terms as possible if he has to, maybe bring some milk with him and some cookies, and explain to him - you need the support of one of the Opposition Parties or we're going back to the polls.

I can tell you, Mr. Speaker, my suggestion to my own colleagues would be to tell their campaign team to shine up their signs for the Spring because if this government's attitude keeps up the way it is, I fear they will not get a budget through this House unless - I could be wrong, but maybe the member for Halifax Fairview with his new-found conversion and love of Tory financial policy, maybe the NDP will prop up this government because they suddenly believe that the Tories are doing a great job fiscally. That's what we heard from the member for Halifax Fairview.

Well, Mr. Speaker, all along it was the Liberal caucus that said we have some concerns here. We are not willing to accept at face value when the Minister of Finance says all is well, but apparently the NDP were prepared and still are prepared to accept that. So, today, before Hurricane Juan hit shore, we know that we're off by almost $90 million. The hurricane has nothing to do with that, and the member for Halifax Fairview knew that. For him to try to link those two together was irresponsible and I don't think any fair-minded Nova Scotian watching would be fooled by that kind of an argument that was made there. But now the reality today is we have Hurricane Juan and we have the additional pressures that are going to be put on. So is it irresponsible to ask the Premier, you're $90 million before the hurricane, now you've got the hurricane and you've just told the media the hurricane might cost us $100 million, is it not an appropriate time to question whether that 10 per cent tax cut should go forward?

The Liberal caucus has said tax cuts are a good thing - they're a great thing, but you have to do it at a time when you can afford to do so. For our Leader to ask the Premier, are you willing to reconsider the tax cut in light of the circumstances today, only to watch the Premier hurl insults across the floor, well, Mr. Speaker, I've got to tell you, the good country doctor, the veil is being lifted by the day. To see him hurl insults across at being asked when did you know, to being asked will you keep your word, to being asked will you reconsider a decision, but that's not the Tory way and that's not the Premier's way because once the Premier said something, regardless of what impact it might have on the bottom line or on Nova Scotians, it's going to go through - but on August 5th, that's why I think the member

[Page 814]

for Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley should sit with the Premier and explain to him, boss, something changed and something went wrong. We don't have a majority any more. It can't be your way. You're going to have to cooperate and you're going to have to listen and you're not going to be able to put through a budget that's going to add to the debt of this province and walk away and say I did it again.

Now, Mr. Speaker, I want to tell you what was most appalling, if I am to use the word, was the spectacle that took place at the Public Accounts Committee today. To see the New Democratic Party's member for Halifax Fairview, who is chairing the Public Accounts Committee, a committee established to review the expenditures or the finances of the Province of Nova Scotia, refuse to call as their first witness the Deputy Minister of Finance in light of a deficit potentially of $90 million is incredible. What did they put forward as their first witness, they want to bring in the Nova Scotia Liquor Corporation Board because the CEO left and they gave him $90,000 in severance. So is it $90,000 or $90 million that Nova Scotians are interested in? That's the priorities of the NDP Party.

At the end of the day it's neither, they have the Department of Health coming in. Is that an important department? Without a doubt, very important, many important questions to be asked, but we have already said there are only seven days left to rescind that tax cut - seven days. Would it not have been more opportune to bring the Department of Finance in, bring in the Deputy Minister of Finance and say there's no way out. You're here for two or three hours and you're going to answer our questions before you go. You're going to tell us when the Premier knew, you're going to tell us at what point the Department of Finance knew. You're going to tell us whether the assumptions in the budget were accurate or was there some playing with those figures.

[5:00 p.m.]

What I would like to see Mr. Speaker, you also having been part of the class of 1998, you I believe - I'm not sure if you sat on Public Accounts at the time, but your colleagues certainly did - I'd love to see the former Minister of Finance come into Public Accounts and explain to us why his budget is now off by $90 million. I remember, Public Accounts has certainly brought in former ministers, it's brought in former Premiers, so there's precedent there. Yet, what was the meeting concentrating on today? Was it concentrating on asking questions in the best interest of the people of Nova Scotia, of the finances of this province? No. The questions from the NDP and the Tories was, can our Leaders sit on Public Accounts? That is what your duly elected representatives from the Tories and NDP were discussing while we have a $90 million potential shortfall in this province. That is the reality, Mr. Speaker.

I believe you're going to see more of the same. I'm often reminded when I think of the former member for Cape Breton Nova - I say former, but I think in our hearts he will always be the member for Cape Breton Nova - if he were here, he would remind us of his

[Page 815]

long-standing argument of the NDP-Tory alliance that exists in this province. After these types of actions today we're left to ask again whether there is such an alliance.

When you see a committee of Public Accounts which is now a minority, it is now dominated by the Opposition. When committees are dominated by the Opposition, you would think this is a great opportunity to keep the government's feet to the fire, to bring in the Deputy Minister of Finance, to bring in whatever other officials from Finance and to be able to tell Nova Scotians, here's the real deal. You're not only going to sit here and have the Premier tell us all is well, everything's fine, the Minister of Finance now when he answered a question today, he was criticizing our Finance Critic because she was using his figures in her argument. And he said, well, she shouldn't use my figures, I just said that, don't be throwing questions at me based on what I said.

That's the reality. But, bring them in front of Public Accounts for two hours. In Question Period, you have maybe three to five minutes. The minister can dance around, avoid the question. When they're sitting there for two to three hours in Public Accounts, that's a different story. They can't get away with the little smart answer or little snide remark because it'll be followed by another question and another and another for two hours. Was that opportunity taken today in Public Accounts? Did the NDP say yes, we agree and the Liberal Party, no, we agree, there's a $90 million potential shortfall even before the hurricane - forget about the hurricane for a minute - even before and yet, the Chair and the NDP have said that they were not interested in bringing forth the Deputy Minister of Finance as the first witness. The one individual who could answer questions about how much are we off, whether the assumptions in the budget were accurate assumptions, or was there something else at play?

That is what we had this morning. That is why Nova Scotians once again have to wait, they will have to wait because the NDP worked with the Tories to avoid having the Department of Finance in and instead spent the valuable time of that committee arguing that our Leader, who is the one person who led the charge in asking for fiscal accountability and making sure Nova Scotians are aware of what the status is of the finances of the province. They wanted him removed from the committee. Why? Why, because maybe he'll get an extra media clip from the member for Halifax Fairview. I would assume that's probably one of the main arguments right there. Maybe our Leader might get on the camera, he might make it on the news before he will. That's probably why they want him removed.

Were the people of Nova Scotia well served this morning at Public Accounts? I would submit to you they were not. I would submit to you, it was shameful what took place this morning in light of the fiscal situation we are in. In light of the fact that we have a government, we have a Party that keeps saying a better deal for Nova Scotia families. Yet, $90 million is going to have to be cut out of services of this province and who is that going to hurt? It's going to hurt the same families they speak of, yet they somehow can't get their heads out of the sand to figure that out. They stand there and say . . .

[Page 816]

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. The honourable member's time has expired. The Minister of Service Nova Scotia and Municipal Relations has about 50 seconds left. The time was adjusted. No speaker can speak more than 15 minutes.

The honourable Minister of Service Nova Scotia and Municpal Relations.

HON. BARRY BARNET: Thirty seconds doesn't give me enough time to speak about the first whereas of the resolution:

"Whereas prior to the election, millions of dollars in spending was announced by the government . . ."

The Leader of the Liberal Party was very critical during his speech about that type of spending, but I want to remind members of the House that on April 23rd, in the House, I asked the Liberal Party and the Leader, is Danny Graham going to cut the Cobequid Multi-Service Centre, is he going to cut the new school for Kingswood? I submit to you, Mr. Speaker, he didn't answer . . .

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. The time has expired on Resolution No. 246.

The honourable House Leader for the Liberal Party.

MR. MANNING MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, would you please call Resolution No. 173.

Res. No. 173, Fin. - Financial Troubles: Tax Rebate - Causation - notice given Oct. 3/03 - (Ms. D. Whalen)

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

MS. DIANA WHALEN: Mr. Speaker, I think just to start the debate it would be good to read the operative clause, since it was pointed out that might have been missed in the last resolution. I will learn very quickly, no doubt.

"Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House remember that when this government attempts to use Hurricane Juan as the reason for our financial troubles, we will all know the truth, that it is due to the ill-advised rebate."

I think that says it very clearly. What we're saying here is not in any way to minimize or belittle the damage and the difficulties that have come from Hurricane Juan. Certainly all of us have been stunned and horrified by the things that we've seen and the damage that has taken place, the way people's lives have been changed, and some people have lost their lives. What we're saying here is that the government cannot explain their financial difficulties on

[Page 817]

this latest financial stress that they will suffer. The people of Nova Scotia will be looking for some help, and the funds need to be available to provide that assistance. We're just saying this is only the latest in a series of difficulties.

I would like to outline some of those things. We also felt it is ironic, as the resolution says, that cheques continue to be sent out, based on the $155 rebate from last year's taxes, and some of those were sent out, something like 10,000 of them, the very week of Hurricane Juan. The total amount of money that has been sent out, just on that $155 rebate, has now crept over $72 million, and that is a substantial amount of money, given some of the other financial realities we're now learning about, Mr. Speaker.

I think it's also important to note that the people of Nova Scotia continue to talk about these cheques, even though some time has passed and many of us received them in June. The reason they're talking is because it still remains very surprising and almost scandalous that they were sent out at that time. People are also questioning whether or not we can afford it. At the time they were perhaps more confident that we could afford it, now there are a lot of questions that are arising in their minds. Again, because we've suffered a more recent disaster, that will increase those questions. Have we actually given up a lot of services and help that we need now as a result of that earlier, ill-advised tax rebate?

The government originally submitted, for this year, a budget with a very tiny surplus. I think one of the other speakers mentioned that this was almost certain to be very difficult to maintain. It didn't allow for any unforeseen difficulties that we're now running into, no changes in the economic forecast could really - no negative changes anyway - be absorbed by that. We also didn't take into account pressing needs that would arise.

Mr. Speaker, I feel the government did not properly allow themselves the room in which to respond to all kinds of eventualities, including emergencies. Was there any indication that this $32 million would be coming up as early as the first quarter? Even as these cheques were sent out, the minister had presented their best guess or best projections for the year, that was on September 19th. The first quarter results show the budget is at least $32 million short. Within that, the reasons that are given are very clear, and they're on the Web site right now, from the Department of Finance as well. They say a slow-down in consumer spending affecting revenue, lower-than-expected revenues from HST, and of course the district health authorities' budgets came in and that was $19.2 million more than was anticipated. So, altogether, we're looking at a $32 million shortfall, without going into any other issues.

Why is this important to Nova Scotians, why should they care? They have to care because we have the highest debt per capita in the country; we spend more on debt than on education. What does debt really mean? It means that we aren't going to have services that we badly need, so we have to be considerate of that. It means that if we have a shortfall in revenue, even the amounts that we've budgeted for this year are not going to be achieved.

[Page 818]

We aren't going to be able to pave roads or look after overcrowded classrooms, build new schools, provide for lower waiting lists and faster emergency service. There are all kinds of things that individual Nova Scotians will have to give up or will feel the pain from if we don't respond to a shortfall of that magnitude.

Now in the budget that was updated or presented to us on September 19th, which would be the best estimate for the coming year, there was no change made to personal or corporate income taxes, even though the gross domestic product is now estimated to be lower. If the GDP figure is a measure of the economic activity of the province, then if it declines, so too can we expect our incomes and the profitability of our companies to be affected. So let's be very clear, the members of the House, and Nova Scotians in general, need to remember that Hurricane Juan is not the reason for any of our financial problems, it's other indicators that were already listed on the government's Web site for the first quarter, and other things that we've heard about in more recent weeks and perhaps suspected even earlier.

We've talked about the transfer payments from Ottawa, and I won't go into that again because I think people are very clear on that and I think the Minister of Finance has been clear that he's not prepared to provide any substantial figures until he returns from Ottawa, or some other event occurs, so unfortunately we're being left to wait on that. The official Web site says, "Official data revisions from the federal government will not be available until later this fall." So it gives a blanket excuse to get out of all of that.

In June 2003 the Bank of Montreal came out with their regional outlook, as it's called, so it's their economic outlook for the country. In that they cited the following reasons for downgrading the estimate for growth in Nova Scotia: EnCana's decision to delay its proposed $1 billion Deep Panuke natural gas project, which was supposed to bring benefits in 2003; it mentions that the rate of the natural gas production has slowed noticeably so far this year; and it talks about difficult export conditions which have hurt our exporters.

Just yesterday the dollar closed at over 75 cents U.S., which is the first time it hit that mark in seven years. As the dollar climbs, our exports suffer, Mr. Speaker. Exporters have been facing a slower economy in the United States, as well, although we hope that that will turn around. But the dollar itself is going to have a negative impact on our exports.

The final outcome of the Bank of Montreal report in June of this year - and I really stress that this was in June, which means there was a lot of information around even months ago - their final outcome of the report was that they downgraded the growth rate they were projecting for Nova Scotia to 2.1 per cent. This is interesting as it shows that there were economic forecasts already signalling alarm in June of this year. The promise of a tax rebate was made and kept at about the same time, but at what cost? The writing was already on the wall economically, and this is just one report that would show that. The 10 per cent tax reduction has to be on the table now, as well.

[Page 819]

Make no mistake, Mr. Speaker, our province was already headed for trouble and Hurricane Juan has simply added to the financial demands. The purpose of the resolution today is to ensure that the House will not be misled and Nova Scotians will not be misled into thinking that the cost of helping people recover from the hurricane is the main reason that the government is going to come in short of funds. We want to be perfectly clear about that.

Hurricane Juan created a swath of damage across the province, and here in HRM we can see the very direct results of that, particularly in the central part of Halifax, but also very much in Halifax Clayton Park which is the area that I represent. The Halifax Regional Municipality has announced just recently that they will have to spend millions to clean up and restore the city to the state that it was in prior to Hurricane Juan. The damage and associated costs are very real and they are dramatic, as all of us know.

In the newspaper today, the HRM says that it will be looking for disaster relief from the federal and provincial governments. That is what the people of Nova Scotia expect, that in times of crisis the provincial government will step in and provide relief. The fishing communities along our coast in villages like Prospect, Sambro and Chezzetcook have been hit hard and many people lost their livelihood when lobster traps, fishing sheds, wharves and even the fishing boats themselves were badly damaged and lost completely. These people need help to restore their lives and return to their own livelihood.

[5:15 p.m.]

People on fixed and low incomes are also asking for help to repair their damaged homes and replace their lost food. Very little has been announced so far that is going to help those people in need. We recognize the need, it is time for the government to find out how we are going to respond to it. All of us have constituents and people known to us who are in need and the government needs to pony up and help them.

That is not the purpose of this resolution to, in any way, signal that we should not help those people and do the right thing. What we want to make sure is that the government is doing the right thing now in making decisions that will not adversely impact many other people as the year unfolds. As has been mentioned here today, we're seven months into this fiscal year. There is not a lot of time left to make changes, but there is time to cancel the tax cut and that doesn't require a legislative change. If Ottawa is notified by October 15th, just notified by the government that's all that's required. We don't need to bring through legislation to make that change.

The government has to be held to account for the decision that has passed to spend the $72 million on tax rebates and the decision that is coming to continue to give Nova Scotians a 10 per cent tax cut. As was said by my colleague, the Liberal caucus has always been in favour of tax cuts when they can be afforded. There is some evidence that they can

[Page 820]

help an economy and help individuals and buoy confidence in the economy. I don't believe that this year, with the kind of impact that we see on the financial books right now before they've even come in, as was mentioned, we have yet to see, really, the outcome of the previous fiscal year. We're months and months past the end of the 2002-03 year and we don't know when we'll see those results. It will be interesting to see if that budget was actually balanced when the final figures come in.

So, right now we are left with a budget for this year that has left no room for bad news, no room for changes in the economy that could adversely affect Nova Scotians. An emergency like Hurricane Juan has simply helped to point out the fact that the government hasn't allowed the room for responding to difficulties.

The tax rebate scheme was clearly short-sighted and it is leading to increased shortfalls in funds. These funds are needed for important services to Nova Scotians, for providing quality education, for providing good, reliable health care, home care to people who need it, community services to the people who are most vulnerable in our society. Nova Scotians, seniors, students, fishermen, workers, they will all suffer from the cuts that are needed to programs and services if the government continues on the tack of seeking the cut rather than rescinding the tax cut they've proposed. Cuts to programs and services are going to hurt people and the delivery of services. We're already a province that has the lowest and often the most meager services offered to our public. Ask anybody who has moved here from other provinces. You'll certainly find that people who are in the recruitment business have found they have tried to attract people to Nova Scotia and some won't come because they don't like the state of our education system or the state of the schools. That's a known fact. It certainly is here in HRM, perhaps, some of you should visit, pay some attention.

The financial problems were clear before this storm hit and the storm has made them even more acute. We are very much concerned that that be very clear and that . . .

MR. SPEAKER: Thirty seconds.

MS. WHALEN: I appreciate your time, Mr. Speaker, thank you.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley.

MR. BROOKE TAYLOR: Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to see you in the Chair. I will be sharing some of my time with the honourable member for Chester-St. Margaret's. But first of all I would like to say, believe you me, Mr. Speaker, if I thought for one moment that the Liberals brought this resolution forward, as the NDP have suggested, to make political hay on the backs of those who have been impacted and plundered by Hurricane Juan, I would spend a great deal of this valued time criticizing, chastising and scolding the Liberals, but I'm going to take this resolution at face value and give the Liberal caucus the benefit of the doubt.

[Page 821]

Most all of my constituents in Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley, Mr. Speaker, and that represents a good portion of the Halifax Regional Municipality, especially eastern Halifax County and Colchester County, and I might add including my family and I, were greatly impacted and had to endure and bear the devastation and ruin of Hurricane Juan. Fortunately, in terms of life and limb, the good folks in Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley were spared in that context; but we certainly weren't spared as far as homes, barns, trees, other buildings, woodlots, highways, and things of that nature. We were hit extremely hard.

It seems today that, yes, everything comes with a price tag. Let's make no mistake about it, we must commend the paramedics, the police, the firefighters, the health care workers, the community service workers, and EMO. EMO in Dartmouth, the Premier and our Minister responsible for EMO met every day last week as a consequence of Hurricane Juan. I'm proud to say that the government employees and this government, and no doubt members of the Opposition, recognize and acknowledge the hard work that the volunteers and the government employees put into the results of Hurricane Juan.

Mr. Speaker, in Elderbank, close to the Middle Musquodoboit line and the beautiful Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley, Mr. John Dillman - a life-long farmer - and his family sustained great damage. Their farm, their building, they could just sit in their kitchen and look out the window and see the devastation and ruin - just a pile of rubble. Mr Dillman and his family milked some 35 to 40 cattle to keep within their quota and certainly work within the provisions of the supply management system that we value in the agricultural community. But for Mr. Dillman, his life and the life of his family has been turned upside-down.

Do you think that the implications of Hurricane Juan haven't impacted the Dillman family? Yes, of course, there are financial costs to Hurricane Juan. Just look at the powerlines. Just this afternoon I had a call from the good folks on Route 227, Carrolls Corner, Dutch Settlement. Some families are still without power. Yes, there are economic costs. There are also social costs associated with Hurricane Juan. So let's not forget that we are talking about a hurricane that rained hell and devastation and ruin on many, many parts of this great province we call Nova Scotia and we're so proud to live in.

So if we hear bafflegab and claptrap from members about whether or not the Liberals are sincere about this resolution, then I think what we have to do is just dismiss that, just dismiss that, and let's not lose sight of the fact that there are costs. There are many, many costs associated and connected with Hurricane Juan. They're not all financial, but they darn well impact Nova Scotians. I'm very, very proud, again, we can't emphasize enough, how Nova Scotians stood behind their values. Neighbours, brothers and sisters, fathers and mothers, uncles and aunts, grandparents, stood behind each other. They started to rebuild as a consequence of Hurricane Juan.

[Page 822]

Mr. Speaker, just outside in Fort Ellis, Havey Whidden and his family, a farmer, a man who has put his life, his soul, into farming, saw the very thing that he worked so hard for just disintegrate as a consequence of Hurricane Juan. This big silo that usually stored his moisture grain came tumbling down, overthrew his milk house, and there's probably $180,000-some worth of milking infrastructure, or you could call it the leasehold, inside that barn that has been ruined and, as well, a valued dairy cow was killed.

Just back the road in Shubenacadie, the Irving family, John, Jessie and Margaret, saw their building and perhaps their world come tumbling down. For that poor family, that was their life, that was their livelihood. Yes, there are financial consequences of Hurricane Juan, there are also social costs. That barn is just a pile of rubble, with a few square bales sticking out. That's all that's left, and a little brick milk house with a bulk tank in it. That's all that's left, that's all that's left of the Irving family's world. They live down the road in a house, and they're wondering how they can rebuild.

Mr. Moxsom up in Fort Ellis, his property, Mr. Moxsom and his family sustained somewhere around $300,000 worth of damage, Mr. Speaker. It disturbs me greatly to drive through the constituency, to speak to people and learn that they have had to endure and bear such great devastation, be it financial, be it social, be it whatever it is, but it impacted their lives most of all.

Yes, there are implications, there have to be implications. Does the Liberal caucus think that because of Hurricane Juan there won't be costs connected to it? They can't be so naive. It's just like Halifax Harbour Solutions. Now, just to digress a little bit, although the member opposite who sponsors this resolution is on record as not supporting Harbour Solutions, this government provided $30 million to Harbour Solutions. We stood behind our word, we put $30 million into Harbour Solutions (Applause) And a further $2 million into land to accommodate the Harbour Solutions project.

We know, as a government, how to be responsible and we have financial commitments we're going to make, we're going to keep, and we're going to stay within the balanced budget, Mr. Speaker. It's very important, but from one end of Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley to the other, the riding has been impacted, whether it's the Halifax County Exhibition Grounds or whether it's poor Mr. and Mrs. Macdonald in Cooks Brook. They've seen their world literally turned upside down. Will there be cost implications? Of course there will be.

Mr. Speaker, as I indicated earlier, I would like to share some of my time with the honourable member for Chester-St. Margaret's. Thank you very much. (Applause)

[Page 823]

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Chester-St. Margaret's.

MR. JOHN CHATAWAY: I want to give thanks to the member for Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley for giving me this opportunity, because, indeed, we've all seen a very busy couple of weeks. On September 28th, of course, Mother Nature showed us her power. Hurricane Juan was the worst storm to hit Nova Scotia in living memory. Although the loss of two Nova Scotians at the hands of the hurricane is tragic, we were very fortunate the loss of life was so limited. Juan's wrath ripped trees from the ground, ruined some homes and schools, and left thousands of Nova Scotians without electricity, water, or telephone service. There were indeed parts of Chester-St. Margaret's that were devastated by the storm.

Mr. Speaker, I don't need to tell anybody in this House that one of the most-pronounced characteristics of Nova Scotians is a generosity of spirit that has long sustained us through the bad times and allowed us to revel together when times are good. Nova Scotians have a reputation for working together to overcome adversity, and I think we are all very encouraged to see that that community spirit is alive and well in Chester-St. Margaret's and in many other parts of Nova Scotia. In the days immediately after the storm, we saw the community spirit manifest itself in impromptu neighbourhood barbecues and the generous sharing of items such as generators or chainsaws or even offers of a hot shower. I could go on and on, but I think we are all aware of that.

We also owe a debt of gratitude to the hundreds of members of the armed services who did the exhausting and back-breaking work of clearing roads and streets so that the utility workers could restore phones and electrical service. The mere presence of these young men and women on our streets brought to many people a feeling of calm and reassurance, feelings that were much-needed and much-appreciated after Sunday's nerve-shattering storm. There were hundreds of telephone people, technicians, et cetera, from New Brunswick and Maine who helped us out in our hour of need. Now, of course, we look to the federal government, the federal cousins of our Third Party - I don't have to remind everyone - to show the same kind of compassion, in fact, the same kind of compassion they have given to other regions of our country during other crises.

[5:30 p.m.]

Our Premier has said that the damage to Nova Scotia is in the tens of millions of dollars. It would not even be beyond comprehension right now that it might be well over $100 million. Of course, unfortunately, our present Prime Minister has been too busy to visit Nova Scotia. Of course, (Interruptions) no, no, he has not . . . Jean Chretién, has not come here, but basically, of course, I think most Nova Scotians will appreciate that we don't need face-to-face time with the present Prime Minister. What we do need is relief, relief assistance that is both swift and sufficient.

[Page 824]

Of course, indeed many Cabinet Ministers, many federal MPS have visited Nova Scotia and they've come with this very same idea, they've seen the extraordinary circumstances brought by Hurricane Juan deserve a specific assessment from the federal government and with a specific remedy.

In short, now is the time for the federal government to work with the province, the municipalities affected by Hurricane Juan and with individual Nova Scotians to ensure the damage done by the storm does not leave a lasting scar on our province. There are hundreds of examples of how Nova Scotians have risen to the many challenges presented by Hurricane Juan. We are now asking the federal government to match that effort and rise to the challenges presented by the insufficient disaster relief program in its present state. But we are going to, I really do believe, change. I understand I have a minute and a half. When one has the honour of representing a riding and visiting that riding and I have visited the riding and it has been good that the Premier has come out. We have visited - I don't know, I can't count them all. I could go through every community - East Dover, West Dover, Peggy's Cove, Indian Harbour, Hubbards, Aspotegan, it goes on and on. But we are going to sit down, I have assurance that we are going to sit down after it's over. What did we do right, and we'll certainly have a good consensus on that, and second is, can we improve. Because the great strength of Nova Scotians to handle adversity like this is people working together and working well together and practice makes perfect and we do have practice, especially in Chester-St. Margaret's - SwissAir as an example, I don't have to go into that.

We're working together. I'm very, very proud. Guess what? We had one week and a lot of work was done in the last week. All sorts of work, good voluntary work, and professional work. We're on the right track and basically we certainly have to thank everybody that has done it. Thank you.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Halifax Fairview.

MR. GRAHAM STEELE: Mr. Speaker, I think there's an important lesson to be learned here from the fact that what the Liberals want to talk about and what the Conservatives have talked about are so very different. I think the members on that side of the House have done the right thing by talking about the hurricane and the devastation it's wrought on their constituencies as it did in mine. Although naturally mine, being an urban constituency, the nature and extent of the damage and impact is different than it is in more rural ridings.

But that's because the Liberal Party, for their own reasons, have attempted to draw a link between the tax rebate - that $155 tax rebate - and Hurricane Juan. It's unfortunate that in the wake of a natural disaster of this scope that the Liberals would choose to bring forth two resolutions that attempt to link their fiscal position with this natural disaster. But, I don't blame the members on that side of the House for ignoring the fiscal side of the resolution and instead addressing the human side of the hurricane.

[Page 825]

Mr. Speaker, in my own constituency, there was a great deal of damage. I, myself, saw a number of examples of very large trees falling directly onto houses. I drove around in the wake of the storm and was amazed at the number of streets that were just blocked, impassable because of the damage, the number of wires that were down. Of course power was out to most, not all, of my constituency for an extended period. There was flooding.

Mr. Speaker, I'm sorry to say that my own constituency office was completely wrecked by the storm. My constituency office is in a shopping centre. The roof of the shopping centre was peeled back by the storm, and the entire office area of the mall was thoroughly flooded and soaked, not only my office but many other offices have had to leave those premises for several months. But compared to the damage and devastation that we saw, that I saw with my own eyes, that we saw on television every night, it seems a very small thing to lose the use of an office and to lose some papers and computers and furniture to the wrath of the storm.

Having said that, Mr. Speaker, I would like to turn back to this issue of the tax rebate, which really is what the Liberals wanted to get at, although if I were to give some advice to the Liberals it would be that if they want to talk about the tax rebate, maybe they could bring forward a resolution that's about the tax rebate and doesn't try to link it with some other completely unrelated issue, like the natural disaster that Hurricane Juan was.

I think everybody knows that everybody on this side of the House was opposed to the tax rebate. It was misconceived from the beginning.

MR. RUSSELL MACKINNON: You voted for it.

MR. STEELE: Mr. Speaker, the member for Cape Breton West says we voted for it, and of course we didn't. Of course we didn't, I spoke at length on numerous occasions, vehemently, vociferously against the tax rebate, and the Liberals joined us in that. I think everybody knows that we voted against it, because it was just wrong-headed from the beginning. After four years of having imposed hundreds of millions of dollars in new taxes and user fees on the Nova Scotia public, the government decided that after that punishment, punishment to the tune of hundreds of millions of dollars, that when it came time for the reward, they were going to deliver it through the income tax system, which is progressive.

They had studiously avoided directly raising - they did it indirectly, but that's another story - income tax rates over the course of their term, but they had raised every other tax they could get their hands on, created new taxes, raised every user fee they could think of and created many new user fees. All of which are regressive, so that if somebody doesn't have much money, a licence fee has a much greater impact than on somebody who is earning a great deal of money, if they have to pay exactly the same amount.

[Page 826]

As I said, when it came time for the reward, the Conservatives chose the income tax system to deliver that reward. Now if you're going to raise regressive taxes and user fees, when it comes time to a reward, what you should be doing, as we said on numerous occasions, is lowering those things that you've raised or eliminating those things you've created. Instead, the Conservatives left all those regressive taxes and user fees in place and delivered the reward, the pre-election reward, in a different way.

What that meant was that for the 300,000 Nova Scotians of working age who don't earn enough money to pay income tax, they got nothing. Mr. Speaker, I spoke to one lady on one street early in the election who really wanted to meet the Premier. She really wanted to give the Premier a piece of her mind about the tax rebate scheme, because she knew that she paid all these new taxes and user fees, but because she was on a disability pension, she knew that she wasn't going to get the $155 and neither was her husband who was also on a disability pension. They felt the pain, but those two people were among the 300,000 who got nothing from this government, nothing. They said that they really hoped the Premier would knock on their door during the election, but unfortunately he didn't. They had a thing or two they wanted to say to him.

Not to mention just the pure partisan cynicism of sending out over 400,000 cheques within a couple of weeks of an election, Mr. Speaker. It seems to me, it's difficult to know, but it seems to me that that explains at least in part the reduction in the vote obtained by the Conservative Party because of the cynicism it engendered in the public about a government so crass as to send out cheques within two weeks of an election, hoping that people would say with gratitude, thank you very much, I think I will vote for you now and, of course, it was evident to everybody that that was not going to happen.

So certainly our caucus can support the resolution to the extent that it condemns the tax rebate scheme which was wrong, wrong, wrong, from the very beginning, Mr. Speaker, but I'm still uncomfortable, I will say personally I'm very uncomfortable that the Liberals in this resolution have drawn a link between the tax rebate and Hurricane Juan which is why, even though this resolution won't come for a vote, it would be difficult to support the resolution in its present form.

I do now want to turn to the question of Hurricane Juan and I do want to address, through you, Mr. Speaker, the Finance Minister. The damage caused by Hurricane Juan has not yet been fully assessed. Every person, every business, every community affected by the storm is acutely aware of the damage in their midst, but yet it will be a long time before an accurate financial value is placed on the damage. The government needs to make it a policy priority to get people back to where they need to be - individuals, families, businesses, communities. They need assistance from their governments, governments plural, to help them recover from the devastating losses. It is not yet clear what the financial damage is. It is not yet clear what the shares of the insurance industry and three levels of government will be.

[Page 827]

Mr. Speaker, that is something that will be clear in time, but it is not clear yet and that is why it would be a mistake to say, as I believe the Minister of Finance was quoted as saying, it may have been misquoted, I don't know, that no matter what outlay the provincial government would make as a result of the hurricane, that the budget would be balanced no matter what and that before anybody knows what that outlay is going to be, the minister would put the balanced budget ahead of the human toll of the hurricane. Now, it is possible that the government will be able to do its duty and still maintain a balanced budget, or it may not, but it is hard to believe that anyone in this House, in any Party, would condemn the government for running a deficit if that deficit in this fiscal year were the direct result of the government assisting Nova Scotians to recover from this devastating natural disaster.

If that is the cause, then we forgive the government for running a deficit because it is more important to put people first. It is more important to put people, their families, their businesses and their communities first, but that is not a blank cheque for the government to do whatever it pleases, to run whatever deficit it may want to do, spend whatever it wants on any other project or thing, to waste any money anywhere in its operations. This is not a blanket blessing of a deficit period. What I'm saying is it would be difficult for anyone in this House, certainly difficult for this caucus, to condemn the government for running a deficit that is the direct result of spending necessitated to help Nova Scotians recover from the hurricane.

The government must still be vigilant on every other program and service. It must police waste and root it out mercilessly wherever it can find it. It must be vigilant at every turn with the public's money, because it is the public's money. It must start doing things like going after HST fraud, it must seek out those sources of revenue that rightfully belong to the government today, but which I believe and the Opposition Leader believes - as he stated in Question Period today - which our caucus believes, are not being fully pursued. We need that revenue and if we are not getting revenue to which we lawfully are due, then we need to do what it takes to get it.

[5:45 p.m.]

We need to stop wasting money on things like firing the CEO of the Nova Scotia Corporation and giving him $90,000 to walk away, after head hunting that same CEO a year ago at a cost of $100,000 or more. That is a direct and complete waste of money; that kind of thing must not be allowed to happen. We will continue to be vigilant in watching over the government to make sure that that does not happen.

Make no mistake about it, Mr. Speaker, this government's priority must be - and we support the priority - to help this province, its people and its businesses recover from Hurricane Juan.

[Page 828]

Mr. Speaker, in summary on this resolution today, we condemn the $155 rebate today as we did from the day the budget was released, from the day that Nova Scotians first became aware that this is what the government was proposing. Every single day after budget day, we condemned it soundly and roundly and we voted against it. The Liberals, I think, just need to go and review Hansard. Of course, the Liberals don't stop at saying things that are not true I have to say, if I may, as Chairman of the Public Accounts Committee who is trying to forge a consensus, that I am quite taken aback that a member of that committee, after its first meeting, would stand up in this House and give a version of what happened this morning that was simply not true. I don't know why he's doing it, but he does. So the Liberals are not past standing up and saying things that are not true.

We know that the NDP spoke loudly and strongly against the tax rebate from day one. It was the wrong thing to do; it was the wrong thing then, it's the wrong thing now. But that does not mean that we should link that tax rebate with the devastation of Hurricane Juan. Nor should it cause us to say to the government anything other than what we all have to agree is true, which is that recovery from the hurricane must be the government's priority and after that, Mr. Speaker, we will talk about the financial consequences.

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

MR. RUSSELL MACKINNON: Mr. Speaker, I rise to speak in favour of this particular resolution. Unfortunately, unlike the previous speaker who likes to feel he has a patent on intelligence over all others on political, social and economic matters for the province, I guess he will just have to bear with my limited experience and knowledge.

Mr. Speaker, the previous speaker indicated that the NDP were solidly against the $155 rebate. Well, it's unfortunate that he didn't speak to the Leader of his Party who went around during the election saying I would never take that back, I'm in favour - you got it, keep it. So on one hand they're saying you keep it, we're glad you got it, but on the other hand they're coming into the House here and saying no, we're totally opposed to it. Again, trying to be on both sides of the issue at the same time - typical socialist Party.

Mr. Speaker, we're speaking to the issue of financial credibility. The previous Minister of Finance stood in this House in a debate with me, on a previous Opposition Day, and admitted in their exchange, that the government had borrowed $118 million over and above their balanced budget. So how can you have a balanced budget if you're spending $118 million more than you're taking in in taxes, transfers or whatever? So there's no balanced budget even before we start talking about the shortfall from the transfer payments or from the $32 million that was referenced by the Minister of Finance, or Hurricane Juan or anything else. So let's put that on the table

[Page 829]

The NDP, the socialist Party, talk about financial accountability and being prudent managers. They introduced a bill in this House, which they refused to call for debate, asking the taxpayers of Nova Scotia to pay for the cost of setting up public auto insurance, but they refused to tell us how much it's going to cost. The Leader of the NDP said it was going to be $2 million, and then when we asked for the financial data on that, they said go West, go find it yourself. What kind of leadership is that, that any Party would try to hold itself out as wanting to be in government and then they tell those who they should be held accountable to, go West if you want the information, go west boy. Well, what kind of leadership is that?

Mr. Speaker, the fact of the matter is they have no idea how much that's going to cost and what impact that would have on the bottom line. We're talking about credibility on financial, fiscal management. If it's only $2 million, by golly, it shouldn't be that complex to provide the rationale for it. If you take 1,200 employees or 300 or whatever number they want to inject into that process, just the rental fees for office space and heat and lights and leaseholds and so on, that would be more than $2 million.

Mr. Speaker, take the square footage, multiplied by the cost of the square footage and look at fair market value, and the honourable may, just may, have an answer. But since they don't think like that, we wouldn't expect them to provide the detail. I would submit that there has to be at least one, at least their Finance Critic, he holds himself out as being the - well, I don't know, it's almost indescribable how he sees himself - guru of political intelligence on the finances of this province. They couldn't balance the budget on a fudge sale, for heaven's sake, because they won't even make that little bit of information available to the people of Nova Scotia.

So how can that be a credible alternative to any government, whether it be Liberal, Tory or what have you? This is what we're talking about. (Interruptions) Well, Mr. Speaker, if the honourable member for Hants East wants to go in that direction, let's not argue with an unarmed man, let's leave it that way.

Mr. Speaker, the $155 cheque during the last election, people took it. Why wouldn't they take it? The reason I received, as I went door to door, was if the government is that bad at managing money, it's better we get some of it and we can do something with it anyway, because they can't look after our finances, so we will do it ourselves. Give us our tax money back, and we will do something. But time after time, do you know what they said on the big picture? They would have been better off taking that money, that $68 million or $72 million or whatever figure you want to use, and putting it into roads, fix the roads of this province, so that people can drive on a half-decent road.

Mr. Speaker, I had a call from a constituent this morning who is facing a $1,600 bill, damage to his vehicle, because of the deplorable state of the roads in the community that he lives in. The Department of Transportation and Public Works is saying that's not our fault, you should have been able to see that massive hole in front of you and avoid it, even though

[Page 830]

it takes up two-thirds of the asphalt that he would be driving over. We're not in these stock car races where you have to kind of manoeuver your way around.

If the government had allocated that money in a responsible fashion, whether it be on the roads - Mr. Speaker, at $100,000 a kilometre, they could have paved over 680 kilometres of secondary roads in this province, 680 kilometres. Can you imagine the savings to people's vehicles? It doesn't matter whether it be all in Tory ridings or NDP ridings or Liberal ridings, every mile that's done or every kilometre that's done, that's one less you worry about, and that's one less incident where people are paying through the teeth, exorbitant fees such as my constituent had to do in this one case, and then to be left high and dry by the government.

Think of the impact on insurance rates in this province. That impacts on the bottom line. What about health care? If they didn't want to put it in roads, they could put it in health care. The DHAs are coming up short. They always do, because of the demand for health care. What's the government doing, nothing, nothing.

Let's look at this famous RIM program that the government brought in two years ago. There was $8 million allotted for that. (Interruptions) The Tory members are saying it's a good program. Well, Mr. Speaker, let's go there, let's go there. The whole purpose was to assist rural Nova Scotia, improve the infrastructure as best they could, and to help the local contractors who were shut out because the big contractors, like Dexter's, and Dillman's and so on, were getting the lion's share of all the major contracts and these small contractors were being shut out. The members in the Tory backbenches know this, and what happens? The government starts putting it out to tender, and we have contractors coming in from New Brunswick, like Miller's, bringing in their own workers. What was the benefit there? What was the benefit there to the local contractors? What was the benefit there to the local economy? They stomp on their chests and say what a great job.

Do you know what's even more disturbing, Mr. Speaker? Talk about on the bottom line, they're now tapping into, I'm told, the operating budget that the OS's have, the operating supervisors at the local level, are now tapping into the regular budget to compensate for overspending in the RIM program. Maybe that's why the government is cropping it up to $20 million this year, but they don't say that. That's part of their privatization plan. That's why they have 50 less tractors on their fleet this year than they did two years ago when they started this program. It's all part of the cynical Tory plan to privatize. They're compromising service, the quality of service (Interruptions) Mr. Speaker, the Minister of Transportation and Public Works says, big spender. Well, you have to spend a little to save people's lives and to give them safe roads to drive on, which is being compromised.

[Page 831]

It defeats the purpose of what the whole thing was set up for. (Interruption) Well, if that minister hadn't been in a government that bankrupted this province, maybe we wouldn't have to make those decisions back between 19993 and 1998. He knows the public record will show that when the creditors got a hold of the books in 1993 that they said the province was on the verge of bankruptcy. Now we've got them back at the trough again. We've got them back at the trough again. Is it any wonder we're concerned about a balanced budget?

Mr. Speaker, thank heavens the Minister of Transportation and Public Works is not the Minister of Finance, we would really be in trouble. We would really be in trouble. At least there are a few checks and balances in there. I do have some confidence in this minister that, at least at the end of the day, he will owe up to the fact that there will not be a balanced budget at the end of the fiscal year.

Mr. Speaker, I realize my time has pretty well come to a close. There are so many issues that we could cover on this here. Here's the newspaper clipping, I will table it, and it's headed: "NDP Won't Contest Cut", referring to the $155. So, so much for consistency.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member's time has expired on the debate and I thank all the members for taking part in the debate.

The honourable Government House Leader on tomorrow's hours and order of business.

HON. RONALD RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, I move the House do now rise to meet again tomorrow at the hour of 12:00 noon. The House will sit from 12:00 noon until 8:00 p.m. The order of business following the daily routine will be Public Bills for Second Reading. We will start off with Bill No. 2. When we complete, or if we complete Bill No. 2, we will carry on down the order paper, Bill Nos. 6, 7, 8, 10, 11, 15, et cetera. I move the House do now rise.

MR. SPEAKER: The motion is that the House adjourn until 12:00 noon tomorrow.

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The House is adjourned until 12:00 noon tomorrow.

[Page 832]

We have now reached the moment of interruption. The subject for this evening's late debate was submitted by the honourable member for Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley:

"Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House acknowledge the recent challenges faced by farmers in this province."

ADJOURNMENT

MOTION UNDER RULE 5(5)

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley.

AGRIC. & FISH. - FARMERS: CHALLENGES - ACKNOWLEDGE

MR. BROOKE TAYLOR: Mr. Speaker, I'm pleased to rise during late debate this evening and speak about some of the challenges that the farming community in Nova Scotia face. As well, I would like to encourage all members in the House to recognize and acknowledge those challenges and possibly, through the various caucuses, we can collectively agree to support the agriculture community.

Mr. Speaker, as you know, just a couple of years ago, the Province of Nova Scotia had to endure and bear a very severe drought. As a consequence of the drought many farmers were put behind the eight ball. They were required to bring feed in from western locations and as well, there was a financial toll that was sustained by the farming community. That was a challenge just a couple of years ago that the farming community had to deal with.

More recently, of course, the farming community has been wrestling with what is truly a national crisis and that is the BSE issue, or mad cow disease. Mad cow disease, as mythical as it may be, is certainly a very, very devastating and serious issue for Nova Scotia farmers. It doesn't matter what commodity, or at least it seems as though it doesn't matter what commodity you're engaged in as a farmer, you are impacted and affected by mad cow disease. Did you know, Mr. Farmer, Mr. Speaker - and I know you're very keenly interested in this issue because you took time out of your busy schedule to attend the rally that was sponsored by the Nova Scotia Federation of Agriculture out in Murrays Siding not too long ago, but did you know that as well as beef - whether it's beef on the hoof or muscle meat or things of that nature, that dairy replacement cattle are shipped, or at least were shipped before May, across the United States border.

Dairy replacement cattle. So, we're not just talking about the dairy farmer that has to cull a few and that's a regular occurrence on a dairy farm, at least on a reasonably-sized dairy farm, you have to slaughter cows, you have some culls. On many occasions the farmer will take those cattle to the Maritime cattle market - as we refer to it in Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley, they take their cattle to the auction in Murrays Siding. That auction

[Page 833]

is held every Thursday. There are a variety of animals that go through the auction, but I remember as a small boy going to that auction so it's been around for awhile and especially late in the Fall, or in the Spring and in the winter months, it didn't seem unusual to see that auction run - or operate and function - from the late morning hours through until maybe midnight on occasion. Certainly into the late hours - 10:00 a.m. or 11:00 p.m. or things of that nature. But now, if you go to the cattle sale barn in Murrays Siding, I have, you may find that auction has wrapped up before 2:00 p.m. or 3:00 p.m. and the reason for that is because mad cow disease has impacted the beef, the dairy, the hog, the sheep, poultry - all those sectors.

So, while the farmers and their families have been directly impacted, the facilitators of the Maritime cattle market have been impacted as well. The gentleman right across the road, John Huestis, who repairs machinery, right directly across the road - I stopped in to see John, John's a constituent, a heck of a nice fellow. John said that his business, relative to farm machinery and things of that nature, has certainly lessened since mad cow disease became such an issue.

The Minister of Agriculture in our government, the honourable member for Argyle, in an effort to support the Nova Scotia Federation of Agriculture and the farming community has decided to put together a task force on mad cow disease. I did lose my notes, but going by recall, I understand that the mandate or the terms of reference of the task force is to determine the impacts of the BSE - mad cow disease - on the agriculture industry in Nova Scotia and determine whether or not the existing provincial, federal and industry programs have the capacity to deal with the consequences of the mad cow disease.

Having said that, I think we recognize and I trust all committee members - and I'm very pleased that the honourable member for, and he will have to tell me his riding, I know he's not King West because Mr. Glavine is . . .

MR. STEPHEN MCNEIL: Annapolis.

MR. TAYLOR: The honourable member for Annapolis, Mr. Speaker, has agreed to come on the task force, and we're very pleased that he has, because he will be joining with some very, very prominent stakeholders and producers who have been keen to find out the what consequences, what the rationale for the mad cow disease is, and what we might be able to do better to assist the farming community in Nova Scotia. Unlike the NDP Agriculture Critic, I might add, who has all kinds of time in this Legislature to table resolutions that would negatively impact the farming community and table petitions - and I have a couple here that it probably wouldn't hurt to table again, but for the purposes of this discussion I will keep these documents for a later date.

[Page 834]

We know that mad cow disease is a threat and it presents a threat and it will continue to present a threat to the Nova Scotia farming community until the border is fully open. It's a national crisis. It would be naive for any of us to think that we can solve the mad cow disease here in this province, but what we can do, I believe, is look at the farming community as a whole, listen to what they're saying, and as the minister indicated today in Question Period in response to a question that was directed to him by the honourable member for Annapolis, try to come back with some recommendations and hopefully find some possible solutions.

The provincial Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries will be meeting, I would like to think, on a frequent basis with the federal Minister of Agriculture, but the report that we will table here in the Nova Scotia Legislature will provide the Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries with some necessary information, and in fact evidence that will help him with his negotiations, it will help him in his department and, I trust, the deputy minister and the bureaucrats quite frankly with guidance and with direction - it may not mean just throwing money at something.

Mr. Speaker, you suggested, as the MLA for Cumberland South, before the large audience in Murrays Siding, that we're here to listen, we came out, as you indicated, and there may be some things that we can do in promoting Nova Scotia commodities and beef and things like that, but just to say that we can pull the answer out of the sky or out of the air, that's not going to happen, and I don't think anybody in here thinks that.

I am very pleased with the composition of the task force. I have been asked to chair the task force. We have producers; we have a former Minister of Agriculture who appears to have a good rapport with the agricultural community; we have the chairman of the Nova Scotia Farm Loan Board, from Inverness, Cape Breton; and I might add, we have Mr. Don Cox who is the First Vice-President of the Nova Scotia Federation of Agriculture.

I know that the Agriculture Critic for the NDP perhaps didn't decide on his own but he probably made it clear to his caucus colleagues when they caucused whether or not he would go on the task force that it may be in his best political interests not to go on it. What we're trying to do is help solve an issue that the farming community has, and I would challenge the member for Hants East. The other day he made what I consider to be a very unflattering comment that I had been asked - Mr. Speaker, you recognize the rationale behind my being asked to chair the task force, but for that honourable to make an insulting comment like it was done to keep me shut up or something like that, and not as an acknowledgement. I would challenge him to come over into my riding and go to the farming community and speak to the beef farmers and talk to the people across Nova Scotia, and tell them that he would like Mr. Taylor to just go away, into a corner, and to not say anything about agriculture.

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Well, if he thinks that's what he's going to do by staying off the task force, then he can take that agenda, but I would think that the Tory caucus and the Liberal caucus are interested in finding out the root cause of the mad cow disease and try to help the agricultural community, not take an adversarial approach as the member for Hants East has. With that, Mr. Speaker, I will take my seat. (Applause)

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Hants East.

MR. JOHN MACDONELL: Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the resolution by the honourable member for Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley. I never knew the member for Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley before coming to this House. He is fairly well thought of in his constituency and I have no large axe to grind with him. If he's put out by my comments the other day about the only thing I've seen the task force do was to keep him quiet, he probably doesn't have as thick a skin as I thought. He certainly doesn't mind hurling comments around about me and I will address one of those right now around the petition that he railed about the other day. The woman who brought that petition to me asking if I would table it was one of his constituents and she was sick, quite sick, had the doctor's information there to explain why she was sick from the use of a pesticide. She had 400 signatures. Her MLA wouldn't table that for her. I told her that I didn't agree with everything in the operative clause. I found the setbacks for spraying, I said we hadn't really investigated what they could be, should be, might be or anything like that. But, I did believe she had every right to have her petition tabled in the House.

Actually, the member's staff at the department worked with them and with the farmer and it was her neighbour who was leasing the land to the farmer who was using the pesticide, who was actually the one who came to her aid really for the most part and wouldn't allow the lessor to use that pesticide in the future. So, it was really her neighbour who came to her aid, a farmer who came to her aid, and I think people deserve help when they come looking for it.

A lot has been said about my lack of involvement in the task force. I want to say that I'm willing to give anyone the benefit of the doubt. As a matter of fact, if the government had come and asked me to go on a task force in May when the mad cow crisis had occurred I think I would have been happy to do that. Five months. Five months and I have correspondence back to the previous member for Digby-Annapolis when he was minister, I think going back as late as May. It's just been more of the same.

Actually, the terms of reference as the member for Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley alluded to, the goal of the Nova Scotia task force on BSE is to assess the government's response to the BSE situation by October 31st. In pursuing this goal the task force will be guided by the following objectives: determine the impact of the BSE crisis on the Nova Scotia agriculture industry; determine the capacity of existing federal, provincial and other industry programs to address the impacts.

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The minister has a department who can tell him that in an hour. The minister had made the statement after they announced the task force, the minister made the statement there would be no new money and the member for Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley is saying, money isn't everything, you can't always throw money at these problems. But, that's what the industry is saying. They need money. They gave an inventory of where they thought that money should be spent, they are in trouble. Agriculture in this province is in serious trouble.

I want to table this. This is part of my thinking about going on the task force. This is a task force that was done with the department and Pork Nova Scotia and was given to me by Mr. Herman Berfelo of Pork Nova Scotia who is a constituent of the member for Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley. They said, you might as well take that, we were on a task force, nothing has come out of that task force and that was done in April. If that's evidence of what this government is going to do with information gained in a task force, then I want to say that it is a waste of time. I told the minister, I told the member for Annapolis, if something good comes out of this task force for the farmers of Nova Scotia, beef producers, then they will have my accolades. I will stand in this House and I will applaud them and I will congratulate them for doing the right thing - if they do the right thing, which I am not expecting to see happen.

"Be it resolved that all members of this House acknowledge the recent challenges faced by farmers in this province." Well, we can stand here and acknowledge it. We had an emergency debate to try to draw attention to it. But I am not at all assured that anything is going to happen other than the talk. If this government wants to show that they really mean what is in this resolution, then do something. Farmers are out of time. The honourable member for Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley mentioned the Irving family. They're constituents of mine. I went to school with them. I heard yesterday, actually, that they sold out, that they sold their operation and they're out of it. They're out of dairy farming. They couldn't wait for nothing. They couldn't wait to hear what this government was going to do because they need to know, farmers need to know now.

The question the honourable member for Cole Harbour and the Leader of our Party, had raised today about the Vermeulen family, I worked for them for a year, 20-plus years ago. I know them well. They didn't get to where they are by doing nothing. They made an investment in their community, they are here for the long term, they need help and they're not small operators. They've spent in August $150,000 in the surrounding communities. Now, to me, if the government was looking at any other business, they would say, we're going to get that back through jobs and taxes, et cetera, et cetera, but when it comes to agriculture, they don't take that view.

So, if this government really wants to acknowledge the recent challenges, then they would act accordingly, Mr. Speaker. I want to say - if I can find it, which I probably won't - I had a couple of excerpts, one was from an op-ed piece from Bruce Roberts - here it is - from The Chronicle-Herald - and I can table this - Friday, October 3rd, "The government's

[Page 837]

current approach to farming and farmers borders on neglect and disrespect. Structures and attitudes that wants supported communications and co-operation between farmers and their government have all but disappeared. The government's current attitude is one that implies that it knows what is best for the industry and that farmers should just be quiet and take what it decides to impose upon us."

Now, Mr. Roberts has a Ph.D. in agriculture, a farmer, consultant and 2nd Vice-President of the Nova Scotia Federation of Agriculture. He was originally in New Brunswick and came to Nova Scotia because he thought that their government actually had programs and policies in place that were far more progressive than where he had been farming and he thought Nova Scotia would be a better place to set up a farming operation.

In the debate the other night, a former minister, the Minister responsible for the Emergency Measures Act, he made this statement that there has been some success, but the recent round of negotiations leading up to the new APF that was signed, obviously, I think, provides more money, it's an additional $3 million for income support for farmers per year, although linked to the agreement. But what was not readily supplied to the provincial government and to the producers was definition in detail. I don't believe the producers are sure it's a better program. The dollars are better, there's no question about that, but if I'm a producer, the devil's in the details.

What the minister is saying, is that the detail wasn't available to the government when they signed the APF. So why did they do it? Why would they not make sure they knew what they were signing? Why wouldn't they make sure that that was something that would really help Nova Scotia producers? I don't think I have to table this because I got it out of Hansard.

It is great to acknowledge agriculture. But let's not make it just talk. Let's make it some action that is really going to do something. I see the task force as a dodge for the minister in Question Period for a month. Anything that we raise, well, the task force is looking into that. So, Mr. Speaker, I really want to see some action by this government that shows that it really does acknowledge the challenges that face agriculture today.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Annapolis.

MR. STEPHEN MCNEIL: Mr. Speaker, I come from an agricultural community. It is quite diverse, as a matter of fact, not only is beef a major part of my riding, but dairy as well, cranberry bogs, chicken, just to name a few. What has been interesting though, I don't think I've stood on a more fertile piece of ground than since I've come to Halifax. Listening to some of the talk that has been happening in the House over the last little while has been interesting to say the least.

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I want to thank the member for Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley for bringing forward this motion and I, too, want to comment. It's easy for us to acknowledge that there were recent challenges faced by the agriculture industry, we could easily get 52 people to agree to that, but that has to be followed with money. Where does the money come from? If I had any advice to the Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries, it would be that, first and foremost, he should start developing a good rapport with the Federation of Agriculture. Whether we want to admit it or not, there is absolutely no confidence in the agricultural community in the government department, absolutely zero.

Now, we can say that didn't just happen yesterday and that's probably true, but if we look from 1999 to the present day at what has happened in agriculture, the department has been merged, $20 million taken out. Time after time when a crisis hits, the answer is let's look to Ottawa. Well, if that is the solution of this government to allow Ottawa to dictate the agricultural policy of Nova Scotia, let's say that. Let's eliminate the minister. Let us talk directly to the federal minister.

Part of that restructuring took place which created a government-sponsored, government-funded technology branch department, if you want to say, AgraPoint. We're putting roughly $2 million a year into this. If you look at the financial statement of that entity, they've got $1.34 million in the bank and we're standing here saying we can't come up with any money to support a real issue in the agricultural community, one that I think, personally, will be the end to agriculture in rural Nova Scotia if we do not deal with the issue of BSE. The member for Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley mentioned, correctly, this is not just a beef industry problem. When you look at the dairy industry, many of them will tell you they feel somewhat, I won't say ashamed, but embarrassed by the fact that they're in a pretty good spot, but they're feeling the crunch. Imagine if you don't have the milk production to fall back on and you're sitting there, the federal BSE program has run out and is not being extended by the province. Much of our industry is a cow-calf operation. Many of them held onto their product until the fall. What do they do? Where does the money come from for them to move forward? It doesn't. Many of them will not survive. Many of them just will not survive.

Mr. Speaker, I found it interesting today when I asked the minister about the $2.5 million, whether it was new money or not, and the answer was that he had found that and that was in the department, $2.5 million has been sitting in the department. Why wasn't that allocated to producers long before this? Why are we sitting here saying we have no money, yet today we come up with $2.5 million? That's just not good enough and it's certainly not good enough for rural Nova Scotia.

I did agree to sit on this task force and I am looking forward to it, actually. It's going to give me an opportunity to get around the province and meet a number of people in the industry, but it also will give me an opportunity, I think, to develop a relationship with the member for Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley. I don't know him personally, I know his

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reputation, and I believe if the people in the agricultural community say that they need money, he and I will stand shoulder to shoulder together and I expect that. That's one of the reasons why I accepted this because he was going to be chairing it, because I believe he will do the right thing. He comes from an agricultural community, as I do. This is beyond political Party. This is, as far as I'm concerned, the survival of agriculture in rural Nova Scotia. The task force in many ways can help deal with a long-term fix to agriculture.

When we look at a short-term solution, we're looking directly at needing money. When I mentioned earlier about the Federation of Agriculture, they put together a plan, $7 million. They were told at that point, there wasn't any money. Well, lo and behold, today we came up with $2.5 million. I think when they put together their plan, they were being very conservative in their estimates on what was really necessary to come through. They didn't put outlandish amounts of money on the table thinking that they're going to lowball this and come in and give us a little bit of money, and that will suffice. They hit what was really necessary, and that's $7 million, not $2.5 million.

When we get a chance to go around and listen and talk to the different members of the agricultural community to hear what's going to happen, I look forward to that. As you may tell, I'm not quite as gifted at standing on my feet and talking as all of the other members of the House. One of the things that I want to go back to is - and we spent a lot of time today - talking about the last election. I do want to talk just a little bit about that. Part of this is why we were bringing forward a separate ministry dealing with rural economic development, because agriculture, whether we want to admit or not, is more than just farmers, it is really part of what drives the economic engine of rural Nova Scotia.

In my own riding, I think we have four pillars of what keeps us alive. One of them is agriculture, then there's forestry, fishing and tourism. The one that is agriculture is being undermined so badly that I'm not sure that my constituency could withstand any more hits from it, to be honest with you. Many of the people in my community, in the agricultural community I should say, are saying the $155 and a 10 per cent cut is great, if I was making any money. I'm not making any money. How is that going to impact on us?

The better question is, how will that impact on rural Nova Scotia? It won't. Those industries are hurting. A 10 per cent tax cut will do nothing; but $7 million directed into that, directed so that we could spend that money, keep that industry alive so there would be a tomorrow. When you look at a 10 per cent tax cut and a $155 cheque, I would dare say the $155 cheques are probably gone. (Interruptions) The member says his is. I'm sure it is.

But what did it do to the economy of your area? What has it done for the agricultural people in your area? Maybe it hasn't done anything. This may come down to being an urban/rural split. This government was elected on dividing this province. Is that the secret? Four years ago we went Cape Breton against mainland. Is that it, divide and conquer? I can tell you rural Nova Scotia is going to remember this.

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Mr. Speaker, I do appreciate the opportunity to talk. I look forward to the task force and an opportunity to really try to find a solution to this. I think the immediate solution is money. You were in Murrays Siding and you mentioned the fact that some solutions need money as the solution sometimes. I agree. But that's not the only solution. It is incumbent on the members of this House to look at agriculture, to look at our resource industries and try to find a long-term solution. We cannot be continually trying to find solutions in crisis management. We need to be stepping in when the times are good, and working with the industry.

In closing, I just want to encourage the minister to start forging a relationship that is for the long-term good of agriculture, and by doing that working with the Federation of Agriculture. Thank you.

MR. SPEAKER: I would like to thank all the honourable members for taking part in this very important debate this evening. I would have to say that all members articulated very well that an industry is in crisis in this province.

The House is adjourned until 12:00 noon tomorrow.

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

[Page 841]

NOTICES OF MOTION UNDER RULE 32(3)

RESOLUTION NO. 295

By: Hon. Murray Scott (Speaker)

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

Whereas Stephanie Arsenault from Oxford, Nova Scotia, is the newest and youngest member of the Oxford Volunteer Fire Department; and

Whereas Stephanie is 19 years old and has always dreamed of joining the fire department and knew that once she turned 19 she would apply, therefore becoming the first female to join the Oxford Volunteer Fire Department; and

Whereas Stephanie joins her grandfather, Ken Harrison; uncle, Chesley Harrison; and brother Stephen Arsenault as a member of this very credible service;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House congratulate Stephanie Arsenault on being endorsed by the Oxford Volunteer Fire Department and wish her continued success in the future as she serves the residents of her community in this very important and much-needed volunteer service.

RESOLUTION NO. 296

By: Hon. Murray Scott (Speaker)

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

Whereas Pat Boyce, who is a building inspector for the Town of Springhill, Nova Scotia, has a new job; and

Whereas Pat will begin training immediately and assume the responsibility as the fire inspector for the community; and

Whereas the Springhill residents are pleased with the selection and feel Pat Boyce will do a great job in the new position;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House congratulate Pay Boyce on his new position and wish him all the best in the future.

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RESOLUTION NO. 297

By: Hon. Murray Scott (Speaker)

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

Whereas the Oxford Capitol Theatre is celebrating a milestone with its 80th Anniversary; and

Whereas the Oxford Theatre actually opened on September 23, 1923, and was built by A.E. Smith; and

Whereas the Oxford Theatre had a special evening on Friday, August 22, 2003 to mark its 80th Anniversary;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House congratulate the Oxford Capitol Theatre on its 80th Anniversary and look forward to seeing it remain an historic and very important gathering place in Oxford for many more years to come.

RESOLUTION NO. 298

By: Hon. Murray Scott (Speaker)

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

Whereas the Oxford Fire Department's Ladies Auxiliary was there to help during a difficult time in the aftermath of Hurricane Juan; and

Whereas when the rural area of Westchester was hit by the hurricane and left without power, the Oxford Fire Department's Ladies Auxiliary brought in hot food for those without power; and

Whereas between 150 to 200 people were fed hot meals in this difficult time thanks to the Oxford Ladies Auxiliary efforts;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House congratulate the Oxford Ladies Auxiliary and commend them for their efforts to make this difficult time a little easier for the residents of Westchester in their time of need.

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RESOLUTION NO. 299

By: Hon. Murray Scott (Speaker)

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

Whereas Katie Spicer from Advocate, Nova Scotia, continues to excel in the sport of soccer; and

Whereas Katie captured the Golden Boot Award as the top scorer in the Under-18 Division of the Nova Scotia Provincial Soccer League this year and she will be heading to the University College of Cape Breton on a scholarship this fall; and

Whereas Katie graduated from Advocate District High School and got her start in soccer playing for six years in the Fundy Youth System in Amherst and was also a member of Nova Scotia's provincial team programs for four years and for the last two years has been attending the CSA's Atlantic National Training Centre;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House congratulate Katie Spicer for this outstanding achievement and wish her continued success in the future.