Assemblée Législative de la Nouvelle-Écosse

Les travaux de la Chambre ont repris le
21 septembre 2017

HANSARD 03-18

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 22, 2003

TABLE OF CONTENTS PAGE
TABLING REPORTS, REGULATIONS AND OTHER PAPERS:
Anl. Rept. of the Cumberland Health Authority, Hon. A. MacIsaac 1452
GOVERNMENT NOTICES OF MOTION:
Res. 521, Environ. & Lbr. - N.S. Bus.: Waste Reduction Strategies -
Implement, Hon. K. Morash 1452
Vote - Affirmative 1453
Res. 522, Hfx.-Cornwallis Progress Club: Women of Excellence Awards -
Nominations, (by Hon. C. d'Entremont), Hon. C. Bolivar-Getson 1453
Vote - Affirmative 1453
Res. 523, Power, Ann - Women of Excellence Award: Nomination -
Congrats., Hon. J. Muir 1453
Vote - Affirmative 1454
Res. 524, Hicks, Dr. Philip - NSAC: Pres. - Installation Congrats.,
Hon. C. d'Entremont 1454
Vote - Affirmative 1455
Res. 525, Richmond Co.: CMA Award - Congrats.,
Hon. Rodney MacDonald 1455
Vote - Affirmative 1456
Res. 526, Atl. Progress Top 101 Companies: Contributions - Congrats.,
Hon. P. Christie 1456
Vote - Affirmative 1456
Res. 527, Educ.: ADIANS - Congrats., Hon. J. Muir 1457
Vote - Affirmative 1458
Res. 528, Conrad, Lawrence: Bus. Dev. Bank Award - Congrats.,
Hon. E. Fage 1458
Vote - Affirmative 1458
Res. 529, Environ. & Lbr.: Cdn. Securities Administrators -
Financial IQ Contest, Hon. K. Morash 1458
Vote - Affirmative 1459
Res. 530, Atl. Progress Top 101 Ranking: Companies - Congrats.,
Hon. P. Christie 1459
Vote - Affirmative 1460
Res. 531, Serv. N.S. & Mun. Rel.: Co-Ops - Congrats., Hon. B. Barnet 1460
Vote - Affirmative 1461
NOTICES OF MOTION:
Res. 532, Rock, Allan - Resignation: Cdn. Alliance - Demand,
Mr. D. Dexter 1461
Res. 533, Media Spark Inc.: Silver Leaf Award (2003) - Congrats.,
Mr. Manning MacDonald 1462
Vote - Affirmative 1462
Res. 534, Williams, Danny: NL Election Win - Congrats., Mr. B. Taylor 1462
Vote - Affirmative 1463
Res. 535, Newcombe, Donald - Atl. Agricultural Hall of Fame:
Induction - Congrats., Mr. J. MacDonell 1463
Vote - Affirmative 1464
Res. 536, NDP - Chronic Pain Compensation: Funding - Source,
Mr. R. MacKinnon 1464
Res. 537, Higgins, Bill: Potato Crop - Congrats.,
Hon. Rodney MacDonald 1465
Vote - Affirmative 1465
Res. 538, Commun. Serv.: Staffing/Funding Problems - Resolve,
Ms. J. Massey 1465
Res. 539, Mar. Travel Inc. - Top 100 Employers: Inclusion - Congrats.,
Ms. D. Whalen 1466
Vote - Affirmative 1467
Res. 540, Pictou Library & Innovation Ctr.: Supporters - Congrats.,
Mr. C. Parker 1467
Vote - Affirmative 1467
Res. 541, Turner-Anderson, Faith: MADD Poster Contest - Congrats.,
Mr. H. Theriault 1468
Vote - Affirmative 1468
Res. 542, Commun. Serv. - Hunger Victims: Numbers - Decrease,
Ms. M. More 1468
Res. 543, Agric. & Fish. - BSE Crisis: Farm. Commun. -
Efforts Endorse, Mr. S. McNeil 1469
Vote - Affirmative 1470
Res. 544, Nat. Res. - Assess. System: Plan - Table, Mr. W. Estabrooks 1470
Res. 545, Dreams Take Flight Prog.: Participants/Sponsors - Congrats.,
Mr. G. Gosse 1470
Vote - Affirmative 1471
HOUSE RECESSED AT 2:30 P.M. 1471
HOUSE RECONVENED AT 2:32 P.M. 1471
ORAL QUESTIONS PUT BY MEMBERS:
No. 178, Health - Aberdeen Hosp.: Nursing Positions - Cuts Explain,
Mr. D. Dexter 1472
No. 179, Fin. - Budget Cuts: Details - Timeline, Mr. D. Graham 1473
No. 180, Serv. N.S. & Mun. Rel.: Defective Air Bags - Recall,
Mr. D. Dexter 1474
No. 181, Health - Front-Line Care: Promises - Breach Explain,
Mr. David Wilson (Glace Bay) 1475
No. 182, Prem. - Naval Vessels: Made-in-Can. Policy - Action,
Mr. D. Dexter 1476
No. 183, Commun. Serv.: Secure Treatment Facility - Status,
Mr. D. Graham 1478
No. 184, Educ. - Stock Transport.: Buses - Fund, Mr. W. Estabrooks 1479
No. 185, Prem. - Digby Neck Quarry: Opponents - Free Speech Ensure,
Mr. H. Theriault 1480
No. 186, Health - Chronic Disease Prevention Strategy:
Recommendations - Publicize, Mr. G. Gosse 1481
No. 187, Health - Aberdeen Hosp. Cuts: ER Wait Times -
Increase Prevent, Ms. Maureen MacDonald 1482
No. 188, Tourism & Culture - Visitations: Decline - Halt, Mr. S. McNeil 1483
No. 189, Health - Flu Shots: Teachers - Exclusion Explain,
Mr. W. Estabrooks 1484
No. 190, Treasury & Policy Bd. - Critical Issues Meeting: Attendees -
Name, Mr. Manning MacDonald 1486
No. 191, Environ. & Lbr. - Alternative Energy: Reliance - Explain,
Ms. J. Massey 1487
No. 192, Justice: FOIPOP Fees - Reduction, Mr. Michel Samson 1488
No. 193, Health: Service Cuts (Bob) - Justification, Ms. J. Massey 1489
No. 194, Environ. & Lbr. - Gateway Quarry: Stop-Work Order - Details,
Ms. D. Whalen 1491
No. 195, Nat. Res. - Cockscomb Lake: Protection - Details,
Mr. J. MacDonell 1492
No. 196, Transport. & Pub. Wks. - Trucking Tenders: 20/80 Rule -
Enforce, Mr. C. Parker 1493
No. 197, Nat. Res. - Private Woodlot Owners: Disaster Assistance -
Details, Mr. K. Colwell 1494
No. 198, Health - Lay Educators: Pilot Projects - Extend, Mr. G. Gosse 1495
No. 199, Environ. & Lbr. - L'Ardoise Residents: Water Strategy -
Details, Mr. Michel Samson 1497
No. 200, Health - Cobequid Health Ctr.: Tender Call - Delay Explain,
Mr. David Wilson (Sackville-Cobequid) 1498
No. 201, Commun. Serv. - L'Ardoise: Well Repairs - Assist,
Mr. Michel Samson 1499
OPPOSITION MEMBERS' BUSINESS:
MOTIONS OTHER THAN GOVERNMENT MOTIONS:
Res. 489, Fin. - Deficit: Action Plan - Table, Ms. D. Whalen 1502
Ms. D. Whalen 1503
Hon. P. Christie 1505
Mr. G. Steele 1510
Mr. Gerald Sampson 1514
Res. 289, Health - Wait List: Seriousness - Min. Realize,
Mr. David Wilson (Glace Bay) 1518
Mr. David Wilson (Glace Bay) 1518
Hon. A. MacIsaac 1522
Ms. Maureen MacDonald 1526
Mr. L. Glavine 1529
ADJOURNMENT:
MOTION UNDER RULE 5(5):
Educ. - Civics: HS Curriculum - Include:
Mr. M. Parent 1533
Mr. L. Glavine 1536
Mr. W. Estabrooks 1538
ADJOURNMENT, House rose to meet again on Thur., Oct. 23rd at 12:00 noon 1541
NOTICES OF MOTION UNDER RULE 32(3):
Res. 546, Sports - West Hants Thunder Mites: Coaches - Compliment,
Hon. R. Russell 1542
Res. 547, Mt. Denson Garden Club - Speakers: Calibre - Congrats.,
Hon. R. Russell 1542
Res. 548, Martock & Windsor Forks WI: Anniv. (90th) - Congrats.,
Hon. R. Russell 1543
Res. 549, Moore, Sister Dorothy: Order of N.S. - Congrats.,
Hon. C. Clarke 1543
Res. 550, MSVU - Hon. Degs.: Recipients - Congrats., Hon. J. Muir 1544
Res. 551, Nat'l. Foster Family Wk. (10/19-10/25/03): Foster Families -
Thank, The Speaker 1544
Res. 552, Ross, Lesley: UNB Athlete of Wk. - Congrats., The Speaker 1545
Res. 553, Rushton, Nita: Lifesaving Effort - Congrats., The Speaker 1545
Res. 554, Purdy, Kyle: ORHS Track/Field Meet - Congrats.,
The Speaker 1546
Res. 555, Boyce, Stephen: Golf Achievements - Congrats., The Speaker 1546
Res. 556, Goguen, George - Art World: Contributions - Congrats.,
The Speaker 1547
Res. 557, Ships Co. Theatre - New Complex: Groundbreaking -
Congrats., The Speaker 1547
Res. 558, Spicer, Katie: Advocate Ladies Coyotes Soccer Team -
Congrats., The Speaker 1548
Res. 559, River Hebert Women's Dart League: Championship -
Congrats., The Speaker 1548
Res. 560, Pieroway, Michelle: Cosmetology Exams - Congrats.,
The Speaker 1549
Res. 561, Patriquin, Megan: Tri-County Idol Contest - Congrats.,
The Speaker 1549
Res. 562, Sprague, Phil: Springhill Centennial Club Championship -
Congrats., The Speaker 1550

[Page 1451]

HALIFAX, WEDNESDAY, OCTOBER 22, 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 Kings North:

Therefore be it resolved that civics education should be a part of Nova Scotia's high school curriculum.

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

1451

[Page 1452]

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 Cumberland Health Authority, Healthy Communities For A Healthy Future, for the year 2002-2003.

MR. SPEAKER: The report is tabled.

STATEMENTS BY MINISTERS

GOVERNMENT NOTICES OF MOTION

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of Environment.

RESOLUTION NO. 521

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

Whereas October 20th to October 26th is Waste Reduction Week in Nova Scotia; and

Whereas reducing waste increases efficiency and maximizes profit, proving that what's good for the environment is good for business; and

Whereas there are still many opportunities for waste reduction to become part of our day-to-day business practice;

Therefore be it resolved that this House urge all businesses in Nova Scotia to realize the potential for profit, enhanced corporate reputation, and new business opportunities by implementing waste reduction strategies throughout their operations.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

[Page 1453]

The motion is carried.

The honourable Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries.

RESOLUTION NO. 522

HON. CHRISTOPHER D'ENTREMONT: Mr. Speaker, on behalf of the honourable Minister responsible for the Advisory Council on the Status of Women Act, I hereby give notice that on a future day I shall move the adoption of the following resolution:

Whereas each year the Halifax-Cornwallis Progress Club honours five outstanding women at the Women of Excellence Awards dinner; and

Whereas women are nominated in the fields of communications and public affairs, arts and culture, entrepreneur/innovator, health, sport and fitness, education/research, and corporate management and the professions; and

Whereas proceeds from this event's ticket sales, expected to be $35,000, will go towards Phoenix youth programs;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House recognize the Halifax-Cornwallis Progress Club for the support of the Phoenix youth programs and extend our best wishes to all the nominees of the 14th Annual Women of Excellence Awards.

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. 523

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

[Page 1454]

Whereas Ann Power, the Director of Student Services for the Department of Education, has been nominated for a Women of Excellence Award; and

Whereas Ms. Power has gained the respect of staff and colleagues for her work in public education as a resource teacher, Special Education Program coordinator and consultant and, for the last 10 years, as Director of the Student Service Division in the Department of Education; and

Whereas she has worked with her partners to provide leadership to school boards and teachers in special education, guidance counselling, English as a Second Language, multicultural education and other services for Nova Scotia's students;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House join me in congratulating Ms. Power on her nomination and in thanking her for the dedication and leadership she's shown for public education in Nova Scotia.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries.

RESOLUTION NO. 524

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

Whereas this evening, during the Autumn Assembly of the Nova Scotia Agricultural College in Truro, Dr. Philip Hicks will be installed as president; and

Whereas Dr. Hicks has obtained a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology, a Bachelor of Science in Biology, a Doctorate in Philosophy and Physiology, and comes to us from the Canadian Embassy in Japan, where he was a science and technology counsellor; and

[Page 1455]

Whereas Dr. Hicks will be the first president of this prestigious and longstanding institution;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House congratulate Dr. Hicks on his installation as the first President of the Nova Scotia Agricultural College and wish him much success in his new position.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable Minister of Health Promotion.

RESOLUTION NO. 525

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

Whereas the Canadian Medical Association has established awards that recognize significant contributions by individuals and organizations towards a healthy population; and

Whereas the Canadian Medical Association has recognized Richmond County for its efforts to limit smoking in its municipality; and

Whereas the county was awarded an Excellence in Health Promotion Award for its ban on indoor public smoking;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House congratulate Richmond County on their receipt of the Canadian Medical Association's Excellence in Health Promotion Award and extend to them our best wishes in their future health promotion endeavours.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

[Page 1456]

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 Finance.

RESOLUTION NO. 526

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

Whereas this month marks the tenth year of the Atlantic Progress top 101 ranking of Atlantic Canadian companies; and

Whereas the top 101 companies employ in excess of 100,000 full-time workers and contribute over $32 billion to the economy of the Atlantic Region; and

Whereas nearly 50 per cent of the total are Nova Scotia businesses;

Therefore be it resolved that this House congratulate the top 101 companies for their contributions to a vibrant business community in Atlantic Canada and recognize the entrepreneurial spirit we have in Nova Scotia.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable Minister of Education.

[Page 1457]

HON. JAMES MUIR: Mr. Speaker, with your permission, I would like to make an introduction in advance of reading this resolution.

MR. SPEAKER: Certainly.

MR. MUIR: With us in the gallery today, Mr. Speaker, are Mr. Hal Davies, who was Chairman of the Aerospace and Defense Industries Association of Nova Scotia Human Resources, and Catherine MacDonald, who is the Managing Director of Aerospace and Defense Industries Association of Nova Scotia Human Resources. They are here in the House for a very specific reason and I would ask them to rise and receive the warm welcome of the House. (Applause)

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of Education.

RESOLUTION NO. 527

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

Whereas the Aerospace and Defense Industries Association of Nova Scotia employs more than 5,200 Nova Scotians; and

Whereas the Aerospace and Defense Industries Association of Nova Scotia signed an agreement with the province today, to work together to improve employability, recruiting, training and retention of a skilled workforce; and

Whereas Nova Scotians will see more job opportunities within industries such as aircraft manufacturing and maintenance, and industrial and electrical trades, as a result of this agreement;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House congratulate ADIANS and its members on the forward thinking of this agreement to work together with the government to narrow the skills gap.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agree.

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

[Page 1458]

The motion is carried.

The honourable Minister of Economic Development.

RESOLUTION NO. 528

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

Whereas the co-owner of a Halifax-based security firm has been named by the Business Development Bank of Canada as its 2003 Entrepreneur Award for Nova Scotia; and

Whereas 32-year-old Lawrence Conrad is co-founder of industry leader Independent Security Services Atlantic Inc. and Independent Armored Transport Atlantic; and

Whereas the company started with just two employees and today it employs over 80 people;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House congratulate Lawrence Conrad on being named the Business Development Bank of Canada's Young Entrepreneur of the Year for Nova Scotia and wish him much success in his future business endeavours.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable Minister of Environment and Labour.

RESOLUTION NO. 529

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

Whereas Canada's security regulators are raising the awareness of investing concepts among young Canadians by launching the second annual Test Your Financial IQ contest; and

[Page 1459]

Whereas the goal of the essay contest is to encourage Canadians from 14 to 18 years of age to learn more about investing; and

Whereas each provincial winner will receive a prize of $750, and the national grand prize winner will receive $2,500;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House recognize the efforts of the Canadian Securities Administrators to raise awareness of investing concepts among Canada's young people and encourage 14 to 18-years-olds in Nova Scotia to participate in the Test Your Financial IQ contest.

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 Finance.

[2:15 p.m.]

RESOLUTION NO. 530

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

Whereas this month marks the 10th year of the Atlantic Progress top 101 ranking of Atlantic Canadian companies; and

Whereas Clearwater Seafood Ltd. Partnership, DownEast Communications, Rideau Construction, the Luckett Group of Companies, and Pivotal Power Inc. have all made a lasting impression on this area and reside in the constituency of Bedford; and

Whereas these five companies have created over 2,500 jobs for the local economy and exceed sales of $490 million;

[Page 1460]

Therefore be it resolved that this House congratulate these five companies for their contribution to a vibrant business community in Atlantic Canada and recognize the entrepreneurial spirit we have in Nova Scotia.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable Minister of Service Nova Scotia and Municipal Relations.

RESOLUTION NO. 531

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

Whereas the Nova Scotia Co-Operative Council will mark Co-op Week 2003 with a wine and cheese reception in Halifax on October 22nd; and

Whereas one in every four Nova Scotians belong to at least one of the 300 co-operatives in the province; and

Whereas co-operatives provide exceptional housing, health care, water, funeral and education services to their members across this province;

Therefore be it resolved that this Legislature congratulate co-ops, their members and staff around the province for the positive impact they make to the lives of their members.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

[Page 1461]

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. 532

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

Whereas the Canadian Alliance Members of Parliament have demanded that the federal Minister of Industry resign because he supported the Halifax Shipyards bid to build the Alma platform for the Sable offshore project; and

Whereas the federal minister claims that he worked closely with the provincial Conservatives to get that contract for Canada and for Nova Scotians; and

Whereas Nova Scotians now await the expected merger that will see the five Progressive Conservative MPS swallowed up in the Canadian Alliance caucus;

Therefore be it resolved that the Canadian Alliance should demand Allan Rock's resignation because he continued to let ExxonMobil award its major offshore contracts overseas instead of pursuing him for his support of the Halifax Shipyards and the thousands of skilled workers who are ready to work in Nova Scotia.

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 Cape Breton South.

[Page 1462]

RESOLUTION NO. 533

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

Whereas Media Spark Inc. of Sydney has been recognized with a national award for quality writing for its Go Venture Live the Learning newsletter; and

Whereas the International Association of Business Communicators - Canada awarded a 2003 Silver Leaf Award of Merit for excellence in writing for an electronic newsletter; and

Whereas Go Venture Live the Learning is a free newsletter designed to help educators and facilitators bring business to life;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House congratulate the people at Media Spark Inc. for winning the 2003 Silver Leaf Award of Merit.

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. 534

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

Whereas the political landscape of Newfoundland and Labrador changed dramatically yesterday with the victory of Danny Williams and the Progressive Conservative Party; and

Whereas the victorious Tories captured 34 seats, the Liberals won 12 and the NDP maintained their 2 seats; and

[Page 1463]

Whereas Danny Williams and his team rode to victory on a campaign of eliminating the deficit and cutting waste in government;

Therefore be it resolved that this House congratulate Danny Williams and his PC team for their electoral win in Newfoundland and Labrador and wish them well as they get on with the difficult business of governing.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Hants East.

RESOLUTION NO. 535

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

Whereas agriculture is considered to be the backbone of the rural economy; and

Whereas that distinction is a result of those who believe in the potential of the industry; and

Whereas the late Donald Newcombe of Port Williams, a visionary, as shown by his lifetime of commitment to the industry has been selected as Nova Scotia's inductee into the Atlantic Agricultural Hall of Fame;

Therefore be it resolved that this House of Assembly recognize the lifetime commitment of Donald Newcombe to the agricultural industry and offer its congratulations to his family on his induction into the Atlantic Agricultural Hall of Fame.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

[Page 1464]

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 ON. 536

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

Whereas the NDP member for Hants East claims that participating in an all-Party provincial task force to examine the impact of BSE is a waste of time; and

Whereas the NDP member for Hants East also claims that all-Party participation in the drafting of regulations for Bill No. 20 is a waste of time; and

Whereas the NDP member for Hants East also feels all injured workers should be compensated for chronic pain dating back to 1915, regardless of the cost to businesses in Nova Scotia;

Therefore be it resolved that the NDP please explain how they propose to tax industry an additional estimated $450 million to pay for this costly policy.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

I hear several Noes.

The notice is tabled.

The honourable Minister of Tourism and Culture.

[Page 1465]

RESOLUTION NO. 537

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

Whereas they talk about the big fish that got away but never about the big potato that actually stayed; and

Whereas Christmas Island resident Bill Higgins did have one that stuck around - one so big that it could be the largest ever grown in the province; and

Whereas the potato taken from Mr. Higgins' garden weighed 1.36 kilograms and, if one huge potato wasn't big enough, Mr. Higgins retrieved 10 from his garden weighing an incredible 9.28 kilograms;

Therefore be it resolved that the House of Assembly express our congratulations to Mr. Higgins for having such a potato crop and only hope that he grows them even bigger and better next year.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Dartmouth East.

RESOLUTION NO. 538

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

Whereas Nova Scotians across the province are telling us their home care hours have been cut, or service has been denied outright; and

Whereas a resident of Dartmouth East has fought these decisions through all the appropriate steps available to him; and

[Page 1466]

Whereas he is still having his home care hours reduced and may face entering a nursing home - at a significantly higher cost - if he cannot access improved care;

Therefore be it resolved that this government exercise some fiscal common sense and, more importantly, alleviate the injustice of arbitrary cuts in home care hours and service by taking immediate action to resolve staffing and funding problems in home care.

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 Halifax Clayton Park.

RESOLUTION NO. 539

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

Whereas Maritime Travel Incorporated of Halifax placed in the top 100 employers in all of Canada; and

Whereas the editors of the 2004 edition of Canada's Top 100 Employers selected companies based on criteria ranging from vacations to philanthropy; and

Whereas the top 100 employers were selected from approximately 51,000 candidates, nationwide;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House congratulate the owners and management of Maritime Travel Inc. for being one of the top 100 employers to work for in Canada.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

[Page 1467]

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. 540

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

Whereas the Pictou-Antigonish Regional Library just held the official launch for the Pictou Library Innovation Centre; and

Whereas the Town of Pictou, Industry Canada, the Nova Scotia Office of Economic Development, and the 144th Airfield Engineering Flight Pictou County, are the innovation centre's community partners and contributors; and

Whereas this new innovation centre will better enable residents of Pictou West to learn and interact with the world of the 21st Century;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of the Nova Scotia Legislature congratulate the Pictou Library and Innovation Centre and its supporters, and wish them all the best in the future of this important project.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Digby-Annapolis.

[Page 1468]

RESOLUTION NO. 541

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

Whereas Faith Turner-Anderson, a Grade 3 student at Digby Elementary School, beat out hundreds of students across Canada in a poster contest sponsored by Mothers Against Drunk Drivers; and

Whereas Faith's poster illustrated pictures of ballet, swimming, an office and even a bride - everything she accomplished in her past and everything she wants to do in the future; and

Whereas the poster contest is dedicated to the memory of a young child who was killed by an impaired driver in 1990;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House congratulate Faith Turner-Anderson of Digby for placing 1st in the 10-and-under age category for all of Canada in the Mothers Against Drunk Drivers poster contest.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Dartmouth South-Portland Valley.

RESOLUTION NO. 542

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

Whereas on October 21st, in response to the alarming increase in the use of food banks, the Minister of Community Services claimed that his government had not cut income assistance; and

[Page 1469]

Whereas the government's own estimates show that the Hamm Government has cut income assistance by more than $37 million;

Therefore be it resolved that the Minister of Community Services should dedicate himself to decreasing the number of people going hungry, instead of increasing the level of public misinformation about the harsh cuts he and his colleagues have made.

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 Annapolis.

RESOLUTION NO. 543

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

Whereas the BSE crisis has been devastating for Nova Scotia beef farmers; and

Whereas Nova Scotia beef farmers, the Nova Scotia Federation of Agriculture and the Nova Scotia Cattlemen's Association have taken a lead in trying to find a solution; and

Whereas they still require the support of the government;

Therefore be it resolved that all Parties endorse the work of the Nova Scotia farming community in trying to find a solution to the BSE crisis, and recognize their importance to the rural economy.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

[Page 1470]

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Timberlea-Prospect.

RESOLUTION NO. 544

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

Whereas municipal councillors and mayors condemned the existing assessment system as flawed at the Union of Nova Scotia Municipalities conference in Yarmouth this past weekend; and

Whereas councillors disputed the way the province determines property value by using recent real estate sales; and

Whereas the assessment problem needs answers from this provincial government;

Therefore be it resolved that this government tables in this House its plan to address the assessment issue in this province, with the necessary legislation.

MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Cape Breton Nova.

RESOLUTION NO. 545

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

Whereas the Air Canada Dreams Take Flight Program provides magical memories for special kids between the ages of seven and 11 by flying them to Disney World for a day; and

Whereas four members of the Whitney Pier Youth Club boarded a flight this morning at the Halifax International Airport, bound for Disney World; and

Whereas the Kiwanis Golden K Club of Sydney is a major sponsor of the four youths from the Whitney Pier Youth Club;

[Page 1471]

Therefore be it resolved that this House congratulate the four youths from the Whitney Pier Youth Club on being chosen to spend a day at Disney World, and thank Air Canada and the Dreams Take Flight Program and the Kiwanis Golden K Club for making this memorable day possible.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

ORDERS OF THE DAY

ORAL QUESTIONS PUT BY MEMBERS

MR. SPEAKER: Question Period will begin at 2:29 p.m. and will end at 3:59 p.m.

The honourable Leader of the Official Opposition.

MR. DARRELL DEXTER: Mr. Speaker, I see that we're still awaiting (Interruptions)

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please.

The honourable Government House Leader. Are we awaiting the presence . . .

HON. RONALD RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, I believe that the Premier is just outside, but I don't know how long he is going to be. We shall go get the Premier.

MR. SPEAKER: Thank you. We will stand in recess just until the arrival of the Premier, at which time Question Period will begin.

[2:30 p.m. The House recessed.]

[2:32 p.m. The House reconvened.]

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. Question Period will begin at 2:32 p.m. and end at 4:02 p.m.

[Page 1472]

The honourable Leader of the Official Opposition.

HEALTH - ABERDEEN HOSP.:

NURSING POSITIONS - CUTS EXPLAIN

MR. DARRELL DEXTER: Mr. Speaker, I appreciate your patience with respect to this matter. I am sure by now the Premier is aware, if he didn't know before he got here, he knows now that we have learned that five nursing positions have been cut in DHA 6 at the Aberdeen Hospital in New Glasgow, I understand in pediatric nursing. Now, the Minister of Finance said in this House that this year's cuts to the budget would not affect front-line health care. That was the undertaking that the Minister of Finance made. My question for the Premier is very simple. Why are health care nursing positions being cut at the Aberdeen Hospital?

HON. JOHN HAMM (Premier): Mr. Speaker, I learned of this issue about 45 minutes ago, certainly no more than that. I don't have all the facts at my disposal but what I do have indicates that positions will be made available for any nurse who will no longer be required in the pediatric unit. I don't have a study in front of me in terms of bed utilization in the pediatric unit and all of the things that may have gone into the decision by the DHA to reduce the number of beds. So I don't have all of the information at hand and what information I do have is less than 45 minutes old.

MR. DEXTER: Well, here's another little piece of information for the Premier that he may not know. Today, Mr. Speaker, the Eastern Connecticut Health Network is here recruiting Nova Scotia nurses. They are here - and I will table this - this is the Web site MedHunters and it's their business to go out and find people like the pediatric nurses who are being cut from the Aberdeen Hospital. The message from this government to the nursing staff and to the health care workers of this province is loud and clear: we don't need you here. That's why MedHunters are in this province. My question for the Premier is this, how do you expect to retain and recruit nurses when you continue to allow chaos in the health care system?

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

AN HON. MEMBER: Show leadership, John.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. The honourable members allowed for the question, I would ask the members to allow for the answer.

The honourable Minister of Health.

[Page 1473]

HON. ANGUS MACISAAC: Mr. Speaker, the situation referenced by the honourable member is a situation where the nurses are, in fact, being redeployed elsewhere in that facility and it does not result in a reduction of those numbers.

MR. DEXTER: Mr. Speaker, you may remember, as I do, the Provincial Health Council in their last report said there was chaos in the health care system and nothing has changed. DHA budgets haven't yet been approved. Some of them have been submitted and resubmitted up to five times. The Department of Health keeps sending them back. My question for the Premier is this, will you undertake not to approve a DHA budget where nursing positions and services are cut?

THE PREMIER: I refer that to the Minister of Health.

MR. MACISAAC: Mr. Speaker, I can say to the people of this province that we, as a result of our analysis of business plans of DHAs in this province, will do our utmost to ensure that the resources of this province are being deployed as effectively as possible in order to ensure good health care for the citizens of Nova Scotia.

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

FIN. - BUDGET CUTS: DETAILS - TIMELINE

MR. DANIEL GRAHAM: Mr. Speaker, yesterday I asked the Minister of Finance about $54 million worth of problems in this province's books. It took five and a half months before this government came forward to tell Nova Scotians that they had a $32 million problem. But after delays in telling Nova Scotians we had a problem, it's now more troubling that we have delays in telling Nova Scotians what are the solutions. My question is for the Premier. It has been five weeks since the Minister of Finance told Nova Scotians that there would be $32 million worth of cuts, and there is little more than five months left in this fiscal year, when will Nova Scotians be told where these cuts will come from?

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

HON. PETER CHRISTIE: Mr. Speaker, as I indicated to the honourable member yesterday, we are reviewing the opportunities that the department has put in. We have asked them to come back with some other ones, we've sent some back to them. When those are complete, we will present those to Nova Scotians. Indeed, as I indicated to the honourable Leader of Liberal Party, I'm happy to brief him before we present it to Nova Scotians, as we have done before.

[Page 1474]

MR. GRAHAM: Mr. Speaker, yesterday I asked the Minister of Health questions concerning the budgets of Capital Health District. Today, my question for the Premier is whether or not he anticipates budget changes for Capital Health District, Pictou County Health Authority or Colchester-East Hants Health Authority?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, that's a question for the Minister of Health.

HON. ANGUS MACISAAC: Mr. Speaker, we have met with two of those health authorities, Colchester and Pictou, and we are in the process of working through, with them, their business plan. We will continue to work with them and support them relative to that. I can say to the honourable member, with respect to the Capital District Health Authority, that there is an additional $27 million being injected into that authority by this government in this fiscal year.

MR. GRAHAM: Mr. Speaker, as we said yesterday, federal money. Specifically, my question then is for the Minister of Health. My question for the Minister of Health is whether or not there were specific discussions about freezing nursing or nursing assistant positions with respect to Colchester-East Hants Health Authority or Pictou County Health Authority?

MR. MACISAAC: Mr. Speaker, the discussions that were held with both of those health authorities centred around the challenges that they face. They, of course, as health authority responsible for the delivery of health care within their areas, are addressing those issues. We believe that they have the capacity and the wherewithal to make appropriate decisions relative to their challenges.

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

SERV. N.S. & MUN. REL.: DEFECTIVE AIR BAGS - RECALL

MR. DARRELL DEXTER: Mr. Speaker, in 2001, the Government of Quebec investigated two companies that manufactured rebuilt air bags. What it found was disturbing, air bags with gun powder for a catalyst and metal fragments inside. An immediate recall was issued in that province and Ontario quickly followed suit. Yet, in Nova Scotia, where 200 of these air bags were sold between 1998 and 2001 no order was issued. My question for the Minister of Service Nova Scotia and Municipal Relations is, why are there no similar warnings, recalls or public advisories coming from that department?

HON. BARRY BARNET: Mr. Speaker, I thank the member for the question. It's something that I'm unaware of and I'll look into it and I'll bring it back to the House and the member opposite.

[Page 1475]

MR. DEXTER: Mr. Speaker, we're going to make him aware of it. The Quebec Government issued warnings internally and through media outlets. No such warnings can be found on the government Web site from 2001 until now. In 2002, the Canadian Council of Motor Transport Administrators held its national convention here in Halifax where they announced that they were seeking a national ban on rebuilt air bags. This ban was accomplished later that year. My question to the minister is, the information is out there now, how can you explain your department's failure to warn Nova Scotians of this safety hazard?

MR. BARNET: Mr. Speaker, as I said earlier, I informed the member opposite that I will speak to our staff and report back to this House and the member opposite.

MR. DEXTER: Mr. Speaker, the section of Service Nova Scotia and Municipal Relations that handles public awareness and information had its budget cut by nearly $7 million between 2001 and 2003. I ask the minister, this is just one recall of one product. How many more recalls under provincial responsibility are out there and have not been brought to the public's attention?

MR. BARNET: Again, Mr. Speaker, I remain committed to the same answer I gave the first two times. I will say this though, the staff at Service Nova Scotia and Municipal Relations do an excellent job protecting the people of Nova Scotia and they handle each and every response in a very professional way. I'm appalled at the way the member opposite would talk about our staff. (Applause)

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Glace Bay.

HEALTH - FRONT-LINE CARE: PROMISES - BREACH EXPLAIN

MR. DAVID WILSON (Glace Bay): Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Health. We learned today that the Aberdeen Hospital is eliminating nursing positions. As a matter of fact, also closing half of the pediatric beds at the hospital, a result of budgetary pressures on the district health authority there. My question for the Minister of Health is, will the minister please tell this House why his government has broken its promise not to affect front-line health care as a result of budget cuts?

HON. ANGUS MACISAAC: Mr. Speaker, the situation is that we're not dealing with cuts in nursing positions. We in fact are dealing with a situation where there's a redeployment of nurses within that facility. The fact is that the beds in question were not being utilized anywhere near capacity and an appropriate decision was taken, relative to the use of those beds, to redeploy staff in other areas. I can assure all people served by that health authority that any child who needs a bed for medical treatment will in fact get a bed. I can suggest that for members opposite to be expressing a view contrary to a more effective use of resources demonstrates that they are not being fiscally responsible.

[Page 1476]

MR. DAVID WILSON (Glace Bay): Mr. Speaker, for the minister to say and say it to the nurses outside, those are the people who are here to talk to the minister and the Premier today about these concerns, for the minister to have the assertion that front-line health care is not going to be affected is naive, an insult to the nurses who are here today. The work those people do is indispensable for this province. I'll ask the minister again, why has your government broken its promise not to affect front-line patient care because of your fiscal mismanagement?

MR. MACISAAC: Mr. Speaker, the health authority in question has identified an area or areas within their operation where resources can be deployed more effectively than is currently the case. As a government, we support decisions that are taken to allow that more effective use of resources to occur and that is the situation that is taking place with respect to the Pictou County Health Authority. That authority will continue to work to be more effective in the delivery of health care in this province and there is no cut in the number of nurses being employed.

[2:45 p.m.]

MR. DAVID WILSON (Glace Bay): Mr. Speaker, the minister should tell that to the nurses being cut. You can't have a baby now in Yarmouth, Nova Scotia. On the weekend, you can't go to an ER in Glace Bay at certain times, or in the Strait area, or in the Valley, and now you can't be a sick kid in New Glasgow. What's next? Wait times in Nova Scotia are up across the province. Will the minister promise the rest of Nova Scotia that he will reinstate those positions and, at the same time, that any other nurses will not suffer the same fate as those of the Aberdeen Hospital?

MR. MACISAAC: Mr. Speaker, the honourable member should, in fact, keep his research up-to-date. The situation in Yarmouth is now operating normally and the people of that area are being well served. I can also say to the honourable member that the services being provided by the Aberdeen Hospital are first-class services. They will continue to be first-class services and, I repeat, there is no reduction in the number of nurses employed in that facility.

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

PREM. - NAVAL VESSELS: MADE-IN-CAN. POLICY - ACTION

MR. DARRELL DEXTER: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Premier. As we all know, the federal Liberals are great ones for waiving the rules, especially when it's to help one of their own but, for once, their waiving the rules may be a good thing because it set a precedent that could help Nova Scotia's shipbuilding industry. When the Liberals bought new Challenger jets, they waived the tendering rules to buy made-in-Canada jets because, "Ministers should fly in airplanes made by Canadians."

[Page 1477]

It makes me wonder, Mr. Speaker, why the same waiver wasn't given when the federal Liberals bought used submarines from Great Britain - used submarines from another country - while our shipyards sat idle. So my question is this to the Premier, what has your government done to lobby the federal Liberals to create a made-in-Canada policy that would see naval vessels built right here in Halifax in our shipyards?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, we are concerned and this government has been proactive in attempting to have a shipbuilding policy established in Canada. We have been at this point singularly unsuccessful. There is no shipbuilding policy in Canada that puts us on a level playing field with many other countries in the world, including the United States. We have lobbied for this. We have talked with officials. To date, we have been unsuccessful.

MR. DEXTER: I thank the Premier for that answer, but I want to point out to him that this is clearly a new window of opportunity, clearly a precedent has been set by the federal Liberal Government to buy Canadian-made equipment when it set out to purchase new Challenger jets so that their ministers could fly in planes made in Canada. Surely, the same logic should apply to the procurement of naval vessels. As the Premier pointed out, Brian Tobin headed up a federal task force that was supposed to develop a shipbuilding policy for this country but, obviously, a buy-Canadian policy wasn't part of it. My question again to the Premier, can he tell this House what his government is doing to press the federal Liberals to develop a shipbuilding policy that would benefit the Nova Scotia economy?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, the member opposite will remember that this government was involved, as were others, in a shipbuilding conference in St. John's, Newfoundland, in an attempt to generate enthusiasm in Ottawa for a Canadian shipbuilding policy. I have credited a former Member of Parliament, former federal Cabinet Minister Brian Tobin on his efforts to have developed a Canadian shipbuilding policy. However, he was unsuccessful. He is no longer on the scene but we do need a policy. It would certainly benefit us not only with the building of naval vessels but also with the building of other large vessels that are used by Canadian companies.

MR. DEXTER: Mr. Speaker, my question again is to the Premier because very soon there are going to be two Liberal Leaders and I guess two Prime Ministers in this country, one of which knows a fair amount about shipping even if he won't fly the Canadian flag. The Prime Minister, PM II we'll call him, says that he will go to the polls sooner rather than later. So my question is this, since we all know that it's only at election time that we get the Liberals' attention, will the Premier commit today to pressing the federal government to extend the made-in-Canada tendering policy to the Nova Scotia shipbuilding industry, the same policy that extends to the Quebec airplane manufacturing industry?

THE PREMIER: Yes.

[Page 1478]

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

COMMUN. SERV.: SECURE TREATMENT FACILITY - STATUS

MR. DANIEL GRAHAM: Mr. Speaker, our caucus has been asking on behalf of Nova Scotians for an accounting of the $32 million to $54 million worth of cuts that are coming but despite what this government thinks, you can't keep $32 million to $54 million worth of cuts secret. Back in 1999, Premier MacLellan announced that there would be a secure treatment facility for youth and that it would open around 2002 in the Truro area but that was delayed. It has now been delayed until 2003. (Interruptions)

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

MR. GRAHAM: Mr. Speaker, there had been delays that continue with respect to this facility. Another delay may be on the way. My question is for the Minister of Community Services. Will we continue to ship young Nova Scotians off to other provinces or is there a delay in the bringing into force and the implementation and the running of the secure treatment facility for youth in Nova Scotia?

HON. DAVID MORSE: Mr. Speaker, I thank the member opposite for the question. It is a good question. This is a facility that in fact really could have been put in place many years ago. It was a commitment of this government. It is soon to be opened. There are staff hired now and they are in the process of the final training and when that is done, it will open.

MR. GRAHAM: Mr. Speaker, $32 million is somewhere in this government's mind but it isn't known by Nova Scotians and what we do know is that this government made a commitment to not cut public education but they certainly excluded post-secondary education. Back in 1999, they reneged on an agreement for $24 million worth of funding in the operating budgets of universities. My question is for the Minister of Education. Has he been asked to cut budgets from the post-secondary education in this province and if so, where and how much?

HON. JAMES MUIR: Mr. Speaker, when one talks about cuts to higher education in Nova Scotia, one has to talk about the previous Liberal Government. The fact is that this government has increased the money given to higher education in the five years that it has been in power and indeed if it hadn't been for the cuts by the Liberal Government, probably there would be no pressures on those institutions at all.

MR. GRAHAM: Mr. Speaker, university administrators across this province, and most importantly students, need to know where they are moving from here. This government has not made a commitment to stop the cuts to post-secondary education. My question again

[Page 1479]

for the Minister of Education is, can you tell us where the cuts will be coming to the universities and community colleges in this province?

MR. MUIR: Mr. Speaker, the universities and community colleges in Nova Scotia, up to this point, have not been asked to make any cuts.

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

EDUC. - STOCK TRANSPORT.: BUSES - FUND

MR. WILLIAM ESTABROOKS: Mr. Speaker, my question through you is to the Minister of Education. Today we learned that the Hamm Government's mismanagement of the education system has put safety of students at risk. School boards across this province are struggling to stretch their limited dollars. In the HRM, this effort led to school buses on the road that are rusting badly. Recently, the school board, the HRM and the private company involved, Stock Transportation, bought used buses at a great cost to replace the aging buses. My question to the Minister of Education is, will your government provide the necessary funds for these buses?

HON. JAMES MUIR: Mr. Speaker, the arrangement for those school buses is between the Halifax Regional School Board and the private contractor. As the honourable member would know, they opted for a private contract service. There are a number of school boards who have opted for a board-delivered service.

MR. ESTABROOKS: Mr. Speaker, as the minister well knows, extending the life expectancy of school buses put students in this province in serious jeopardy. It is the province's responsibility to replace school buses in other boards across the province and the province should step in here. Every dollar the board has to pay on bus service is a dollar taken out of the classroom. So my question to the Minister of Education is, what will it take for your government to fund the replacement buses needed for student safety in the Halifax Regional School Board?

MR. MUIR: Mr. Speaker, I do believe that the students who are travelling on the buses in the Halifax Regional School Board are travelling safely.

MR. ESTABROOKS: Mr. Speaker, on the promised tour of Sir John A. Macdonald that the Minister of Education gave me, I am going to show him first-hand some rusty school buses and I'll guarantee you, you will not want your children or grandchildren travelling on those buses. School bus safety must be a priority. We can't afford to have these rust-riddled buses on the roads. The knowledge that this was happening has caused real concern among parents, students and staff. So my question to the Minister of Education is, to address these concerns, will you file a school bus safety status report with this House as soon as possible?

[Page 1480]

MR. MUIR: Mr. Speaker, let me repeat the answer to the first supplementary and it is that the students who are travelling on buses in the Halifax Regional School Board are travelling safely. I believe that. I do know that the board, in co-operation with the private contractor, did examine buses, they did find some rust. They were new buses purchased to replace those which they felt were not safe, there were others fixed. Safety is not an issue for the students who are travelling on the buses in the Halifax Regional School Board.

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

PREM. - DIGBY NECK QUARRY:

OPPONENTS - FREE SPEECH ENSURE

MR. HAROLD THERIAULT: Mr. Speaker, my question is to the Premier. During this government's last mandate, they handed over a permit to Global Quarry Products to mine a 3.9 hectare basalt rock on Digby Neck, without an environmental assessment. We are all aware that this came under considerable scrutiny from residents and environmental groups from across this province. This company views itself as community-minded and this government leaped at the chance to attract their industry.

Mr. Speaker, this same company has now filed a lawsuit against the Digby Courier, its editor, a reporter and even a senior citizen for voicing their concerns. My question to the Premier is, since you let this company into Nova Scotia, what is the Premier prepared to do to ensure that the people named in this suit have the right to free speech?

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. I am not so sure if that's a matter that possibly could be before the court, whether it can be put on the floor of this House or not.

AN HON. MEMBER: It's a civil matter.

MR. SPEAKER: Well, that's hasn't been explained. So, I believe the question is out of order.

The honourable member for Digby-Annapolis can still have his time on the floor.

MR. THERIAULT: Mr. Speaker, I have a problem getting these questions out. I got more too. A lot more. (Laughter) I am just trying to speak for the people I care about and care about where they're from and I will get them out before I leave here, hopefully.

[3:00 p.m.]

Mr. Speaker, again my question is to the Premier. Protecting citizens rights is government's responsibility. They also have the right to voice their concerns, particularly when it comes to the upcoming hearings of the Joint Review Panel. This panel is an

[Page 1481]

agreement between the federal Department of Environment and the Minister of Environment and Labour. The people in Digby County are now literally scared to speak out about the Digby quarry. My question to the Premier is, will you assure the people of Digby Neck, and anyone else involved, that when they voice their concerns in front of the review panel, they will not be held libel by Global Quarry Products?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, what I can assure the member opposite, and through him to the people whom he represents, is that this government will make sure that the people of Digby County have access to the full process of the law.

MR. THERIAULT: Mr. Speaker, my final question to the Premier, local media has now started to refuse to do interviews for fear of retribution. This is the province of Joseph Howe, it is the province of free speech, and my final question to the Premier is, if this company continues its tactics of intimidation, will the Premier tell this company they are not welcome here in Nova Scotia?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, all Nova Scotians have access to the same legal system that we all enjoy and what the government can allow to happen is that the law is made equally accessible to all Nova Scotians.

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

HEALTH - CHRONIC DISEASE PREVENTION STRATEGY: RECOMMENDATIONS - PUBLICIZE

MR. GORDON GOSSE: Mr. Speaker, through you, my question is for the Minister of Health. Last week we saw two studies that showed Atlantic Canadians are more likely to have unhealthy lifestyles which is putting them at greater risk of dying from heart disease. On Monday, stakeholders' groups working on the chronic disease prevention strategy met and a report from those groups is expected by the end of the month. They will deal with exactly those issues that were identified in the report. My question to the minister is, will he assure this House that the recommendations of the chronic disease prevention strategy, including the proposed budget, will be made public when it's received by the Office of Health Promotion?

HON. ANGUS MACISAAC: Mr. Speaker, I believe that the question is probably more appropriately put to the Minister of Health Promotion.

HON. RODNEY MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the member for bringing the topic forward on the floor with respect to chronic disease. Indeed, chronic disease costs this province and costs our country many millions of dollars and we will be moving forward on the chronic disease prevention strategy following receipt of the report.

[Page 1482]

At such time, I don't know how long following that, but government will review the recommendations being put forward.

MR. GOSSE: Mr. Speaker, during the last election campaign, the Premier promised in his blue book that he would double the funding for the Office of Health Promotion. That's on Page 27 and I will table that for the minister to look at. My question is for the Minister of Health Promotion, what are the timelines for doubling the budget of the Office of Health Promotion and will he be consulting with the stakeholder groups about how that new money will be allocated?

MR. RODNEY MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, the timeline outlined was over the four-year period of our government.

MR. GOSSE: Mr. Speaker, we saw another study this week that shows waiting lists for some procedures in Nova Scotia are growing. I'm sure that the minister realizes that some of these waiting lists would be shortened if the people in our province were living healthier lives. The director of the Atlantic Health and Wellness Institute says that governments need to put more money into preventive health care and cites statistics that indicate a $1 investment could get as high as $19 in return investment. My question to the minister is, given the lack of action in other areas of preventive medicine - speech pathology was noted last week - what investment is this government willing to make in health promotion? Will the minister give us a specific figure today?

MR. RODNEY MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, I'm very proud that this government has set up the first ever Office of Health Promotion in this province. Indeed, the $15 million investment will be doubled over the next four years. Finally a government has moved forward and will move forward on a chronic disease prevention strategy for the long-term benefit of the health and well-being of Nova Scotians.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Halifax Needham.

HEALTH - ABERDEEN HOSP. CUTS:

ER WAIT TIMES - INCREASE PREVENT

MS. MAUREEN MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, my question through you is to the Minister of Health. Earlier today in Question Period we learned that bed closures are occurring at the Aberdeen Hospital in New Glasgow in pediatric nursing. The minister said that no child would go without needed health care and that's a good thing for us to hear and we will hold the minister to that. I've learned that beds in that unit were not always occupied by children, but actually were also occupied by acutely medically ill adults and they took an overflow of surgical clients. My question for the minister is this, will you commit that these cuts will not mean an increase in ER waiting times at the Aberdeen Hospital?

[Page 1483]

HON. ANGUS MACISAAC: Mr. Speaker, the situation that the honourable member referenced is a situation where the nurses involved are in fact going to be moved to parts of the hospital where they are needed most to address the health care needs provided by that particular facility. That is part of the decision-making process of the DHA and it is based on providing the best health care possible to that facility and the patients at that facility.

MS. MAUREEN MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, the nurses may be moving some place else, but there are beds that will be left empty because there are no nurses in this unit to look after people who were coming out of surgery and being admitted to hospital acutely ill. So I want to ask the minister whether or not these cuts will result in an increase in waiting times for surgery or surgery cancellations at the Aberdeen Hospital?

MR. MACISAAC: Mr. Speaker, the situation that we are addressing is one which I have referenced, it is a situation where the resources of that facility are being used in such a way as to address the health care needs of everyone in that facility who uses that facility. The actual pediatric beds in question are beds that were not used at anywhere near capacity, therefore it is appropriate for the resources to be used elsewhere in the facility to address the health care needs of all patients that use the Aberdeen Hospital.

MS. MAUREEN MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, the minister gives no commitment not to increase wait times at the Aberdeen as a result of these cuts, no commitment to see that more surgeries aren't cancelled in this area. This is a shameful situation for the people in the New Glasgow area. My final question is that the DHA budgets have not been approved to date and quite simply, I want to ask the minister, when will the DHA budgets be approved? Will they be approved before the next budget year?

MR. MACISAAC: Mr. Speaker, the provision of health care in the facility in question, the Aberdeen Hospital, is second to none in this province and it will continue to be that way. That is the reality. We are very, very concerned in this province and the DHAs are very concerned with the issue of wait times. That is an issue that would have been considered in their decision-making process. I can tell the honourable member that the issue of business plans is something that will be dealt with in the near future.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Annapolis.

TOURISM & CULTURE - VISITATIONS: DECLINE - HALT

MR. STEPHEN MCNEIL: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Tourism and Culture. I wish to table the September's Tourism Insights which says, "Tourism activity resilient but lagging last year's results." In fact, visitations are down 2 per cent to 3 per cent. Could the minister tell this House what steps his department is taking to stop this downward trend?

[Page 1484]

HON. RODNEY MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, as always, we continue to work very closely with the industries, through such avenues as the Tourism Partnership Council. When there is a needed change with respect to our marketing approach, we take those approaches.

MR. MCNEIL: Mr. Speaker, in May it was one mad cow, now we have a crisis in Nova Scotia. I would suggest that we not allow this to become the next crisis facing rural Nova Scotia. In fact, the tourism industry has been stagnant since 1999. Could the minister tell this House if his department budget is being cut for next year? Yes or no.

MR. RODNEY MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, indeed I'm very proud of the investment we've made this year. In fact, we have increased the budget this year by $1.9 million.

MR. MCNEIL: Mr. Speaker, my question was, will your budget be cut this year? Yes or no.

MR. RODNEY MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, as the member knows, will Tourism play a part with respect to making sure the fiscal house of the province is in order, the answer is yes. But the fact of the matter is our budget has increased $1.9 million. The facts also speak for themselves in that the tourism industry has shown its resilience. If you take a look across the country, Nova Scotia is doing better or on par with every other jurisdiction across this country.

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

HEALTH- FLU SHOTS: TEACHERS - EXCLUSION EXPLAIN

MR. WILLIAM ESTABROOKS: Mr. Speaker, my question through you is to the Minister of Health. Last week the Health Department announced free flu shots for various groups in the province. This program has been providing free flu shots to health care workers for three years, but this year the program was correctly expanded. My question to the Minister of Health is, why isn't your department providing free flu shots to school teachers?

HON. ANGUS MACISAAC: Mr. Speaker, I can say that we have, in fact, expanded the distribution of flu shots throughout the province for people who come in contact with others. We are primarily, and as a priority, concerned with those who are most at risk. That would be the elderly among our population, and that is who we are attempting to address first and foremost.

MR. ESTABROOKS: Mr. Speaker, maybe I should refresh the minister's memory, because this government's expanded program provides free flu shots to health care workers and volunteers, people over the age of 65, as the minister has said, people with chronic illness, dentists, dental assistants, hygienists, pharmacists, physiotherapists, students in health

[Page 1485]

care, police officers, firefighters and other "essential volunteers." So my question to the Minister of Education is, will you not urge the Minister of Health and his government to add teachers to that list for free flu shots?

HON. JAMES MUIR: Mr. Speaker, the honourable Minister of Health gave a response to that question earlier. Certainly I would be prepared to hold those discussions. The fact is that the flu program has expanded a whole lot in recent years. As a matter of fact, if you take a look at the number of people receiving free flu shots from 1999 to 2003, you will see that this government has probably, by percentage increase, the best record in the country.

MR. ESTABROOKS: Mr. Speaker, I'm sure the teachers in the community that I represent who have been in contact with me will not be pleased with that sort of evasive answer. Our teachers provide a valuable service. They teach our children. Their good health is in all of our best interests, especially our kids. Teachers should be included in this government's flu shot program.

[3:15 p.m.]

Mr. Speaker, I want to go back to the Minister of Health. When can we expect a response from your government on this issue or are you willing to give out those extra dollars for all those substitute teachers who will be sent through to the Minister of Health?

MR. MACISAAC: Mr. Speaker, as I indicated previously, we are, first and foremost, concerned with those who are most at risk, and the strategy is to protect those who come in contact with the elderly in our population.

MR. ESTABROOKS: So teachers aren't an essential service?

MR. MACISAAC: If the honourable member would cool himself . . .

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

The honourable minister allowed for the question, would you please allow for the answer.

MR. MACISAAC: Mr. Speaker, so that is the priority that we've approached and it is one that we're working on. As always, members of this House make suggestions from time to time that are worthy of consideration and we're always open to those suggestions, and this is one that we're certainly open to and will investigate appropriately.

[Page 1486]

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

TREASURY & POLICY BD. - CRITICAL ISSUES MEETING:

ATTENDEES - NAME

MR. MANNING MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, my question today is to the Chairman of the Treasury and Policy Board. This minister is in charge of a body that was directing cuts across government. On two occasions I asked this minister to reveal to Nova Scotians the documents that will give Nova Scotians a true picture of the province's finances. While people were picking up the pieces from Hurricane Juan, the deputy of Treasury and Policy Board, staff from the Premier's Office, and other deputies, attended a meeting to discuss the critical issues faced by the province. At that meeting a paper was submitted by a senior corporate financial analyst of the government.

Mr. Speaker, once again, I ask the minister, will he reveal who was in attendance at a meeting held October 6, 2003, including whether the Premier's chief political operative, Jamie Baillie was in attendance?

HON. MICHAEL BAKER: Mr. Speaker, in government we have many meetings that are attended by many staff members, that's routine business across government that the member should ought to know about.

MR. MANNING MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, the provincial finances are not routine business, with all due respect to the minister's answer. The code of silence will only be broken when this minister decides to give the truth instead of blocking and stonewalling at every turn. The documents that I have asked for are not advice to Cabinet. I repeat, they are not advice to Cabinet. It is not government policy but it is a document that will reveal the true state of the provincial finances of Nova Scotia. The minister is ducking his responsibility to Nova Scotians and I ask the minister, again, why won't the minister let Nova Scotians know the true state of the province's finances and release the documents I have asked for on two separate occasions?

MR. BAKER: Mr. Speaker, the Minister of Finance has provided a detailed update on the state of the province's finances and continues to speak in this House on a regular basis providing Nova Scotians with information on the province's finances.

MR. MANNING MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, the minister knows full well what I am asking for here. It is a set of documents that went forward that he steadfastly refuses to let Nova Scotians know what's in them. But the business plan for the Treasury and Policy Board states, "To ensure that the expenditure and policy initiatives of the public service are planned, communicated and implemented in a way that reflects the priorities of government and inspires confidence in the people of Nova Scotia." I will table this document.

[Page 1487]

Mr. Speaker, the code of silence by this minister is not inspiring confidence to the people of Nova Scotia. Mr. Minister, again, why won't you table the information and reveal the truth about the state of the province's finances by releasing the information I have asked for?

MR. BAKER: Mr. Speaker, quite simply, the Minister of Finance, in particular, has spent many, many hours trying to detail for the honourable members the details of the province's finances. The honourable member does not care to listen and there is nothing I can do about that.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Dartmouth East.

ENVIRON. & LBR. - ALTERNATIVE ENERGY:

RELIANCE - EXPLAIN

MS. JOAN MASSEY: Mr. Speaker, a list of the top 10 air polluters in Nova Scotia was released recently. Nova Scotia Power counted for half of the top polluters in Nova Scotia. Its generating stations in Lingan, Trenton, Point Tupper and Point Aconi are the four biggest polluters in the province. It is clear that we must find cleaner sources of electricity and heat.

Mr. Speaker, my question through you to the Minister of Environment and Labour is, why is this province relying on private interests to develop alternatives such as wind power, instead of making measures to promote cleaner energy?

HON. KERRY MORASH: Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the member for the question. There's no question, since I've been involved with the Department of Environment and Labour, I've come across a lot of work that has been undertaken by the department to ensure that we have better air quality and a lot of work has been done in that area, and it will continue. We will continue to assess areas and look for improvements and make suggestions through to people who will be able to use the technology.

MS. MASSEY: Mr. Speaker, Russian President Putin plans to ratify the Kyoto Accord, unlike the Hamm Government that has fought it at every step. With our natural gas resources, Kyoto emissions targets could mean improved prosperity for this province, yet mishandling of our offshore resources by Tory and Liberal Governments has left the majority of Nova Scotians without access to this fuel. I ask the minister, why are we allowing the majority of our resources to benefit other provinces and the United States while we continue to burn imported coal and oil?

MR. MORASH: Mr. Speaker, I would like to pass that along to the Minister of Energy.

[Page 1488]

HON. CECIL CLARKE: Mr. Speaker, it's no surprise the NDP would follow the practices of a Russian Government, but here in Nova Scotia we follow along the private sector one. (Interruptions) Quite simply, we are working with our green policy, and our energy strategy sets out clearly how Nova Scotia is going to be leading the country when it comes to energy policy and implementation.

MS. MASSEY: Mr. Speaker, seriously, technologies for clean, sustainable power are out there. They are out there, but our province continues to use 19th Century methods to generate heat and lights. I ask the minister, today you challenged businesses to reduce waste, when is this government going to take a leadership role in reducing air pollution as well?

MR. MORASH: Mr. Speaker, I think it's fair to say that we challenge industry each and every day to try to reduce pollutants of all types, to try to ensure that the environment of Nova Scotia is a better place for our grandchildren.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Richmond.

JUSTICE: FOIPOP FEES - REDUCTION

MR. MICHEL SAMSON: Mr. Speaker, the increased freedom of information application fees have earned this government the shameful distinction of being labelled the most secretive government in Canada by the Canadian Association of Journalists. Yet, instead of doing something meaningful to ensure that it's not considered once again for the code of silence award, this government continues to treat it like an honour by doing absolutely nothing. All the while, there continues to be a decrease in the number of FOIPOP applications filed by Nova Scotians. The minister just simply doesn't appreciate the ramifications of the changes he has made. My question to the Minister of Justice is, when will this minister finally admit that it's time to lower FOIPOP fees so that average Nova Scotians can get access to this government's records?

HON. MICHAEL BAKER: Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the member's question. Quite simply, there's a FOIPOP Review Committee that will be reporting very shortly. The honourable member, like myself, will have a chance to review those recommendations.

MR. MICHEL SAMSON: Mr. Speaker, my colleague questions whether we will see the results of that committee or if that will be kept a secret also. Only time will tell. This government and the Premier have said you don't need to file a freedom of information application, just pick up the phone, give us a call, we will give it to you. My colleague, the member for Cape Breton South, has asked on three occasions for documents which are important information for the people of Nova Scotia, to know exactly what this government's plans are for cutting services here in this province due to their financial mismanagement, yet the government continues to refuse to do so. All the while, applications continue to decrease in this province due to the onerous fees put forward by this government. My question, again,

[Page 1489]

is, why is the minister more concerned about maintaining the title of the most secretive government in Canada rather than restoring the application fees to a reasonable level?

MR. BAKER: Quite simply, Mr. Speaker, the honourable member should be patient and wait for the review committee's report. We will both see it very shortly. It will be made public very shortly and I can assure the honourable member that our government's position with respect to routine access to information will also be available very shortly.

MR. MICHEL SAMSON: Mr. Speaker, Nova Scotians expect that if user fees are going to be increased, that the government come forward and justify it by explaining that the cost and the charge are reflective of the cost of implementing the actual program. The minister, to date, has absolutely refused to show Nova Scotians why the fees were increased. Therefore, I ask the minister again, why will the minister not admit today, the numbers are in, the decreases are there, that your increase in freedom of information fees was simply an attempt to curb Nova Scotians' access to government information?

MR. BAKER: Mr. Speaker, quite simply, what the fees do is establish a reasonable fee to users of that system to allow the public to recover a tiny, tiny fraction of the actual cost of running the system.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Dartmouth East.

HEALTH: SERVICE CUTS (BOB) - JUSTIFICATION

MS. JOAN MASSEY: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Health. In the media today is a story of Bob. I know Bob well, he lives in Dartmouth East and has muscular dystrophy. When this gentleman first started receiving home care back in 1991, he received 28 hours of home care a week. Staff would visit and help with dressing, laundry, housekeeping, meals, cleaning, foot bathing, and other support. Now his service has been drastically reduced to 15 hours per week. My question for the minister is, Bob's disease has progressed in 12 years so how can this government justify cutting his services by nearly half?

HON. ANGUS MACISAAC: Mr. Speaker, the individual in question, I understand, is visited on a daily basis by careworkers and, as a result of that, there is a continuing exposure to those careworkers relative to the level of care that he has and there is a protocol in place for people to observe any changes that may occur with respect to individuals in that situation. (Interruptions)

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. Order, please. The honourable member for Dartmouth East on her first supplementary.

[Page 1490]

MS. MASSEY: Mr. Speaker, although he may be getting care on a daily basis, the hours have been nearly cut in half. So the total hours are what we're talking about here. Home care recipients and those who need home care have been complaining about problems getting home care service. Many have had their hours reduced or certain services cut entirely. Others requiring post-surgical care can wait hours beyond scheduled appointments for pain injections and dressing changes. These stories suggest home care is in trouble.

So, Mr. Speaker, through you, my question to the minister is, since home care is intended to replace hospital services that have been cut, why is this government providing inadequate service to patients?

MR. MACISAAC: Mr. Speaker, I'm not in a position where I would agree with the premise or the question of the honourable member. Indeed, in the previous month there were 2,500 cases in the Capital Health District. They're adjusted each month and we have less than a handful of appeals on those decisions.

MS. MASSEY: Mr. Speaker, adults with disabilities and their families report service cuts and far less involvement in managing their own care since home supports for disabled adults was taken over by Home Care Nova Scotia. I ask the minister, this government made election promises of improved home care and self-managed attendant care, when do they plan on delivering that?

[3:30 p.m.]

MR. MACISAAC: Mr. Speaker, we are, in fact, delivering that on a daily basis to people in this province. We are seeking ways to improve on the delivery of that service. I can say that with respect to the person in question, we would be glad to offer that person the services of an occupational therapist, if that would enhance the situation. I can say that there is always room for improvement. We are seeking ways of improving. One of those areas that we would want to look at (Interruptions)

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. I have the record here, if anybody would like to come and see it. I would challenge anyone in this House to question the length that anybody else is on the floor.

The honourable Minister of Health has the floor.

MR. MACISAAC: Mr. Speaker, as I indicated previously, there are 2,500 cases in a month, less than a handful of appeals. We want to ensure that the appeal process is indeed appropriate, and that is something that is being reviewed.

[Page 1491]

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

ENVIRON. & LBR. - GATEWAY QUARRY:

STOP-WORK ORDER - DETAILS

MS. DIANA WHALEN: Mr. Speaker, my question is to the Minister of Environment and Labour. As you are already aware, a blasting accident occurred at the Gateway Materials Quarry in Clayton Park West on August 14th of this year. Pieces of blast debris, some as large as 150 kilograms, were sent across the Bicentennial Highway. These rocks crashed into apartment buildings on Parkland Drive. Jeremy Delaney, his wife, Tammy Wagner, and their four-month-old son, Alex, were lucky to escape serious injury when a 40-pound boulder came through their ceiling. The Department of Environment and Labour placed a stop-work order on Gateway Materials after the accident, but last Friday this order was lifted. My question to the minister is, why did you allow your department to lift the stop-work order without releasing to the public the full cause of the accident?

HON. KERRY MORASH: Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the member opposite for the question. There were codes of practice that came in and were reviewed by the department, to the satisfaction of department staff. Because of that, the stop-blasting order was lifted, and they were allowed to continue to blast.

MS. WHALEN: Mr. Speaker, the residents of Clayton Park West and the drivers using the Bicentennial Highway are concerned about the possibility of another 150-kilogram boulder flying in their direction. This accident at the Gateway Quarry is not the first incident of so-called fly-rock being thrown from the quarry either onto the highway or into the residential neighbourhood. For the safety of those residents and drivers, I want to ensure that this will be the last. Therefore, my question to the minister is, will the minister provide this House and all the residents in the vicinity of Gateway Quarry his assurance that their safety and well-being are not being put at risk by the continued operation of the quarry?

MR. MORASH: Mr. Speaker, we have taken every possible precaution and reviewed all aspects of the incident with the people responsible to ensure the public safety. There is no question that the department is fully aware of the problems associated with things when they go wrong, therefore, that's why they take all the precautions that are necessary. We're confident that this will not happen again.

MS. WHALEN: Mr. Speaker, my final question to the Minister of Environment and Labour is a two-part question. I would like to know when that report will be available. I know the residents are very anxious to see the full investigation report made available. Secondly, will the minister agree to accompany me on a tour of Gateway Materials Quarry, to personally inspect this operation and give his assurance of its safety?

MR. SPEAKER: One question please, and one answer.

[Page 1492]

MR. MORASH: The investigation is still ongoing, and that's why it isn't public at this point in time. Certainly, when the investigation is complete, we will do everything and make available what portions of that investigation we can.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Hants East.

NAT. RES. - COCKSCOMB LAKE: PROTECTION - DETAILS

MR. JOHN MACDONELL: Mr. Speaker, my question will be for the Minister of Natural Resources. Residents in Hants County are concerned about the protection of a local

treasure, Cockscomb Lake. For years people have been using the lake's sandy beach for rest and recreation. There's a local lake association that organizes community picnics and other activities. Residents have recently become aware that the area is technically not protected by this government. My question for the minister is, why hasn't your government provided protection for this valuable area?

HON. RICHARD HURLBURT: Mr. Speaker, the question the member raises here on the floor today I'm not aware of the situation, but if the member would like to bring it to my attention after Question Period, I would endeavour to get the answer for him.

MR. JOHN MACDONELL: Mr. Speaker, I will do better than that, I will bring it to the minister's attention during Question Period. The Integrated Resource Management Division of the Department of Natural Resources already views this area as a park reserve. The problem is that the province has given this area a Class 2 assessment, which means that it's open for mining and forestry and other uses. In order for residents to be assured this area is protected through legislation it would have to be designated a Class 3. I'm aware that the Department of Natural Resources is doing a strategic review of all of its park properties. My question to the minister is, will your government finally give this valuable Cockscomb Lake area a Class 3 protected status?

MR. HURLBURT: Mr. Speaker, I will give the members of this House my guarantee that I will investigate this situation and I will report back to the member.

MR. MACDONELL: Mr. Speaker, I have absolutely no reason not to take the minister at his word. There is an active Cockscomb Lake Association that will be pleased to work with the minister to protect the area, and I'm sure local municipal leaders would also be prepared to provide guidance. So, Mr. Minister, will you begin discussions with community residents on the protection of this great community resource as I know you've indicated at other times in this House?

MR. HURLBURT: Absolutely, Mr. Speaker. As I indicated in my two previous answers, I would definitely meet with the member and with the community group if they so wanted to meet with me. Thank you.

[Page 1493]

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Pictou West.

TRANSPORT. & PUB. WKS. - TRUCKING TENDERS:

20/80 RULE - ENFORCE

MR. CHARLES PARKER: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Transportation and Public Works. Small independent trucking operations are struggling to make ends meet in light of rising gas and insurance prices. Now these truckers are informing me that they're being cut out of provincial jobs because the government is not enforcing regulations calling for 80 per cent of the trucking to be done by small, private operators. Several projects in Pictou County have frozen out independent operators entirely. So my question to the Minister of Transportation and Public Works is, why isn't your department enforcing the 20/80 rule on all tenders?

HON. RONALD RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, there are several questions involved in that particular question. Number one is we're doing something about insurance, as the honourable member is probably aware, and secondly, with regard to the 80/20 rule, it only applies to government tenders from the Department of Transportation.

MR. PARKER: Mr. Speaker, to make matters even worse for these independent truckers, the rates the Department of Transportation pays these operators, if they can get work, are lower today than they were in 1991 - 12 years ago - and I wish to table information that is proving that. Is it fair to ask these truckers to work for 1991 rates? As one operator told me, with gas prices and insurance, at the end of the day I owe the truck money. These operators pay taxes and they support the local economy, but they really cannot survive on these rates. So I ask the minister, why are small operators being frozen out of government work through unreasonable trucking rates?

MR. RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, the Department of Transportation does not pay the truckers - they're paid by the contractors who tender for the jobs. We come forward with a rate, which is called the government rate, which is a rate established periodically to cover the transport of gravel and sand and pitch, et cetera, for highway construction. But, I would say I think we're the only province in Canada that has that kind of a system. If the truckers would like to abdicate from that system, they're entirely welcome to do so. It's always curious to me why it is that truckers come to the government to set a rate, but then will go and work for a municipality at a lower rate.

MR. PARKER: Mr. Speaker, it is this government that sets the rates and you're determining what the truckers are earning out there. One operator told me that in comparing costs with a taxi, they found that a taxi travelling the same distance would only cost $20 less than what he would get paid to haul a load of gravel - at a significantly higher overhead cost to the trucker.

[Page 1494]

So, Mr. Speaker, through you again to the minister, how many small operators have to go out of business before the department ensures they get a fair share of government work at a decent rate?

MR. RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, I would suggest that this government, by putting more money into highway construction, is putting more truckers to work than what that government over there, if they ever came to power, would put into work.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Preston.

NAT. RES. - PRIVATE WOODLOT OWNERS:

DISASTER ASSISTANCE - DETAILS

MR. KEITH COLWELL: Mr. Speaker, my question is to the Minister of Natural Resources. The forests in my riding were severely affected by Hurricane Juan. The private woodlot owners in the area of Westphal, Mineville and Preston lost a significant amount of forested area. These trees represented great value to these landowners in the area. The landowners have yet to hear what resources this government is going to provide. They're aware that there is going to be a very large personal loss to them and they're still totalling the costs. Small woodlot owners will not be covered under the current disaster program. My question to the minister is, what assistance is the Department of Natural Resources planning to provide to these private woodlot owners?

HON. RICHARD HURLBURT: Mr. Speaker, I would like to refer that question to the Minister responsible for EMO.

HON. ERNEST FAGE: Mr. Speaker, certainly it was our intention when we had the press conference and published the material on Monday, there would be an opportunity for members of this House and the general public, especially woodlot owners, to take advantage of the extended DFA policy. Small woodlot owners are included in that policy if they have significant damage and a number of woodlot owners across this province are now accessing the application forms through Access Nova Scotia, the 10 designated centres in the zone.

MR. COLWELL: My question is again to the Minister of Natural Resources. Mr. Speaker, the forests mentioned previously also have another problem. It is in the quarantined area for the longhorn spruce beetle. These areas are fine to be processed under the supervision of the Canadian Food Inspection Agency. However, the beetles' behaviour in Europe favours trees that are already dead or weakened by disease or other factors - hence the upcoming possible spread of the beetle in this area as trees will die if they're not harvested immediately and lay on the ground. The adult beetle emerges in late Spring and early summer and will be looking for new homes to reproduce and with the forests the way they are, the trees laying flat on the ground, it's almost impossible to harvest these.

[Page 1495]

MR. SPEAKER: Question, please.

MR. COLWELL: My question is, will these trees be cleaned up in a timely manner, with assistance from the department, to make proper use of these trees before they become homes to the longhorn spruce beetle?

MR. HURLBURT: Mr. Speaker, I'm very pleased to rise in my place and respond to the question today. This government has seen the impact that this has had on the private woodlot owners and the industry in the Province of Nova Scotia. The forestry industry, I may let the member opposite know, is the second largest industry in the Province of Nova Scotia. It contributed approximately $1.4 billion to the economy of Nova Scotia last year. It employs approximately 18,000 to 20,000 in the Province of Nova Scotia. That's why this government has seen to enhance the disaster relief program for the forestry.

MR. COLWELL: Well, the minister didn't answer my question - what is going to happen with these trees that are going to be host to the longhorn spruce beetle and are going to create more problems and, at the same time, losing this valuable resource. My question to the minister is, when will the government begin to pay attention and get involved with the losses that are being incurred by these small woodlot owners and not the large forest industry

people?

[3:45 p.m.]

MR. HURLBURT: Mr. Speaker, every day since Hurricane Juan, this minister, along with his department staff, has been discussing our plan to help the private woodlot owners and the industry out. I can tell the member opposite that I met with industry this morning at 7:00 a.m. to discuss a way we could help the private woodlot owners out. I had met with the Forest Products Association last week, which has approximately 900 members. They are all willing to contribute and help one another out to enhance this program that we have put forth to the private woodlot owners.

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

HEALTH - LAY EDUCATORS: PILOT PROJECTS - EXTEND

MR. GORDON GOSSE: Mr. Speaker, my question through you is to the Minister of Health. Last week, Cancer Care Nova Scotia reported that while incidents of cervical cancer in Nova Scotia decreased by 52 per cent between 1971 and 2001, Nova Scotia still has the highest rate of cervical cancer in Canada. Sadly, in Cape Breton, the rates are even higher than the provincial average. We've all seen the ads on television urging women to get regular pap smears. My concern is the successful pilot projects in Cape Breton are currently being evaluated and may be in danger of losing their continuing funding. My question for the

[Page 1496]

minister is, will he commit to extending pilot projects for paid community lay educators to allow them to continue their valuable work in this community?

HON. ANGUS MACISAAC: Mr. Speaker, the important part of any program is an evaluation stage. Usually, if programs are effective, the evaluation demonstrates the effectiveness of that program. We are dedicated, within the Department of Health and as a government, to ensuring that as many citizens as possible are able to detect signs of disease as early as possible in order to ensure that the adequate treatment is provided, and that is the approach we will take in this regard.

MR. GOSSE: Mr. Speaker, there are a number of factors that contribute to controlling cervical cancer, such as STD prevention, being a non-smoker and regular testing. Target interventions in Cape Breton did show results, with nearly a 3 per cent growth in pap smears between 1993 and 2001. My question to the minister is, given the higher rates of cervical cancer in Cape Breton, will the minister assure this House and the women in Cape Breton that targeted education and prevention programs will be widely available to them again?

MR. MACISAAC: Mr. Speaker, I thank the member for making the House and Nova Scotians aware of the success of the program. Obviously what we need to do is increase the number of women who seek tests, not just in this particular area of cancer care, but in all facets of cancer care throughout the province. That is our objective, and we will look at the evaluation very carefully. Our objective will be to ensure that we increase the numbers of people who participate in these tests. That is the cheapest, most effective form of health care in the long term.

MR. GOSSE: Mr. Speaker, Cancer Care Nova Scotia indicates that pap screening participation has always been the lowest in Cape Breton, and this continues to be the case. My question to the minister is, what further resources have been identified specifically for Cape Breton to increase pap screening rates for the women in my constituency and others in Cape Breton?

MR. MACISAAC: Mr. Speaker, again, I thank the honourable member for bringing this forward. For instance, one of the things I was able to look at this morning on my desk is a new teaching aide that is going to be made available within classrooms. That is an integral part of ensuring that there is a greater awareness of the need for this. That is part and parcel of our continuing commitment to ensure that there is greater participation. Cancer Care Nova Scotia has done a tremendous job in promoting the need for preventative action on the part of our citizens, and we will continue to encourage and support Cancer Care Nova Scotia in that regard.

[Page 1497]

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Richmond.

ENVIRON. & LBR. - L'ARDOISE RESIDENTS:

WATER STRATEGY - DETAILS

MR. MICHEL SAMSON: Mr. Speaker, following a great deal of delay, the Conservative Government finally released its water strategy in October 2002. At the time, the government told individual homeowners it was their responsibility to have their private wells tested, and actually encouraged them to do so.

Mr. Speaker, this summer the community of L'Ardoise and surrounding area in Richmond County did just that - 359 tests were carried out on private wells and the results are staggering. Twenty-seven per cent tested as clear, 12 per cent tested with fecal coliform, 61 per cent tested with total coliform. That means 74 per cent of the private wells in this community have water that does not meet safe drinking standards. Needless to say, this has caused alarm in the community and they are now looking for direction and solutions.

My question to the Minister of Environment and Labour is, could the minister please inform this House and the residents of L'Ardoise what plan is contained within the provincial water strategy to provide immediate solutions to these residents?

HON. KERRY MORASH: Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the member for the question. I understand he was present at a meeting this past weekend, along with department staff, that were discussing and looking at this. Unfortunately, I am sure he is aware that there are no immediate solutions to this. This is going to be a longer term issue. We certainly were there and we indicated that we would work with the community and make sure that we could give as much advice and information as possible to assist them in working through this.

MR. MICHEL SAMSON: Mr. Speaker, as the minister has indicated, I did attend, along with his staff, a public meeting on Sunday in L'Ardoise. At that time the minister's staff made it clear that most of the private wells in question had their own individual circumstances such that a universal solution that would apply to each homeowner was not realistic. This therefore made the situation that much more complicated. I would also submit to the minister that the water results in L'Ardoise are not unique and are more likely indicative of the results we will see in communities throughout the province.

My question to the minister is, while your government has urged all homeowners with private wells to have their water tested, is your department prepared to offer these Nova Scotians advice and guidance as to how they can fix their wells to get clean drinking water as soon as possible?

[Page 1498]

MR. MORASH: Mr. Speaker, again, I would like to thank the member for the question. This is certainly a very important issue and we have offered to set up community workshops, and make sure that every bit of information that is at our disposal will be available to those residents to assist them in this.

MR. MICHEL SAMSON: Mr. Speaker, in light of the situation in Walkerton and in other communities, many Nova Scotians, and especially the residents in L'Ardoise are concerned that their well water will have a negative impact on their overall health. Clean drinking water must be a right in our province, not a privilege.

My final supplementary is, what assurance can the minister, either through the provincial water strategy or through his department, give to the residents of L'Ardoise that his government is prepared to deal with this issue and will provide immediate solutions so that residents can once again enjoy clean drinking water?

MR. MORASH: Mr. Speaker, again, I would like to thank the member for the question. There is no doubt that the department will work in all possible ways with the residents to assist them in correcting this problem.

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

HEALTH - COBEQUID HEALTH CTR.:

TENDER CALL - DELAY EXPLAIN

MR. DAVID WILSON (Sackville-Cobequid): Mr. Speaker, my question through you is for the Minister of Health. When it comes to good news announcements this government has no shame in making the same ones over and over. Few people in Nova Scotia know this better than residents of Sackville, Bedford, Waverley, Fall River, East Hants and surrounding areas. These people have one important thing in common. They are served by the Cobequid Community Health Centre. Increasingly, these health care workers providing that service have been feeling more stretched and stretched every day.

Last year, for example, the centre served over twice the number of patients it was designed to handle. This government has made a number of different announcements about the construction of a new centre. Mr. Speaker, my question to the minister is, why has your government still not called the tenders for this new facility?

HON. ANGUS MACISAAC: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. The steps with respect to any facility, of course, is to ensure that there appropriate site work takes place. I can tell the honourable member that the budgeted amount of $33 million is in place. The site work is now underway and tenders will be called in the near future.

[Page 1499]

MR. DAVID WILSON (Sackville-Cobequid): Mr. Speaker, many of the residents who use this centre are represented by members of the government and are starting to run out of patience for this new centre. The Liberals made an election-style promise regarding this hospital in 1998, and it appears this government did the same thing this past Summer, just prior to the election. All talk and no action. Not only are the tenders not called for in this new facility, but the staff are still stretched to the limit, serving twice as many as it was intended to do. My question to the Minister of Health, through you, Mr. Speaker, could the minister tell this House whether the government's financial cut backs have led to any positions going unfilled at the new Cobequid Community Health Centre?

MR. MACISAAC: Mr. Speaker, I can tell the honourable member that the machinery is on site, the work is underway with respect to the construction of that facility. I understand there was an event held last week to commemorate the start of that facility and I would have thought the honourable member would have been there to see it for himself.

MR. DAVID WILSON (Sackville-Cobequid): Well, after several false starts, sir, I had previous engagements. The public knows the initial startup hasn't really started to get the new facility on site. I'm sure the government has wrung as much news value out of announcing and re-announcing the construction of this new community centre. Now it's time they actually follow through on their commitments for the residents of Sackville and surrounding areas. I ask, through you, Mr. Speaker, to the Minister of Health, will he provide this House with a timeline for when the tenders will be called and all the subsequent steps leading up to the completion of this most important facility?

MR. MACISAAC: Mr. Speaker, I can assure the honourable member that the tender call, with respect to this facility, will be done in time so that the ground clearing and preparation now taking place can be taken advantage of in a timely manner. We'll be quite pleased to get that time frame for him and make it available to him.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Richmond.

COMMUN. SERV. - L'ARDOISE: WELL REPAIRS - ASSIST

MR. MICHEL SAMSON: Mr. Speaker, based on the water test results in the community of L'Ardoise, many seniors and low income earners in that community will potentially be faced with significant costs to fix their wells in order to achieve clean drinking water. My question to the Minister of Community Services is, what provisions has the minister made to ensure that housing grants will be made available to seniors and low-income earners in Richmond County to ensure they can pay for the cost of repairing their wells?

[Page 1500]

HON. DAVID MORSE: I believe, as the member is aware, there is a program through Community Services, it's an income-tested program, and your position in the queue is prioritized based on your need. That is in place, it's a cost-shared program with the federal government, it's called the Rural Residential Assistance Program. Thank you.

MR. SAMSON: Well, Mr. Speaker, there's only one problem with that. There's nearly 100 people in Richmond County who are already in the queue, as the minister likes to say, which means they're on a waiting list. Now we find out that 74 per cent of the residents in L'Ardoise with private wells are also potentially going to be looking for assistance from this government to have this matter addressed. Residents are once again asking whether this minister, in conjunction with the Minister of Environment and Labour, has turned their minds to addressing the fact that most Nova Scotians will be reporting these types of results. Therefore, my second supplementary again, Nova Scotians are aware that your department has received money from Ottawa to deal with social housing and housing issues. Will the minister today indicate whether he is finally prepared to take some of that federal money and put it toward housing grants that Nova Scotians and the residents of Richmond County can access?

MR. MORSE: Mr. Speaker, I thank the member opposite for bringing this up, because this is a serious matter and for some time now there has not been sufficient RRAP monies across the country to address the demand. Certainly, Nova Scotia is no exception to this rule. In fact, the member opposite brings up a point, and we are working with the Secretary of State on this issue. He, in fact asked me as the chairman of housing, the provincial-territorial housing group, to work with him on this. I'm doing that, and I've encouraged my colleagues to send in letters of support to expand the RRAP program.

[4:00 p.m.]

MR. MICHEL SAMSON: Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the minister saying it's a good idea that's coming on this issue. The only problem is, I've been raising this since 1999 and the government has refused to act. We've had home insurance companies starting to tell seniors and low-income earners that they're being cut off unless they make significant, costly changes to their homes. Now we have private wells being tested, which show there's going to be some costs involved there. My final supplementary to the minister is, what more is it going to take for you to finally put the funding necessary in these programs to allow low-income earners and seniors throughout the province the ability to stay in their own homes?

MR. MORSE: Mr. Speaker, the member opposite is perhaps extending a hand to lobby his partisan federal counterparts to work with us so that this can happen, because, in fact, this is definitely the wish of the provincial and territorial ministers. We're working together with them. Secretary of State Mahoney has indicated that he would like to work with us, and he's asked for our assistance to bring this point to his federal counterpart, the

[Page 1501]

Minister of Finance. If the member opposite would assist in that regard, then perhaps this cost-share program can be expanded to address the demand.

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

HON. BARRY BARNET: Mr. Speaker, on a point of order. Earlier, during Question Period, I indicated to the Leader of the Official Opposition that I would table in the House staff's response with respect to air bags. I want to table a letter from our department to all automotive repair shops, concerning air bag deployment and the issue that the member spoke about, as well as a press release that remains on the government Web site, and as well the briefing notes on that issue that indicate clearly that there have been no devices in Nova Scotia involved in motor vehicle accidents.

MR. SPEAKER: The information is tabled. (Applause)

MR. MANNING MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, on a point of order. Earlier in Question Period, the member for Digby-Annapolis asked a question regarding the Digby Quarry. Your ruling at the time was that this question was out of order because it was before the courts. There seems to be some difference of opinion as to whether a civil matter applies here or whether it's criminal and civil matters that are before the court or just criminal matters. I would ask the Speaker to perhaps rule on that, and maybe tell us tomorrow what your ruling is.

MR. SPEAKER: I will.

MR. KEVIN DEVEAUX: Mr. Speaker, on that point of order. I guess I will just make note that I agree with the point of order from the member for Cape Breton South. In particular, my understanding is that - I was just looking at Marleau with regard to this - the situation is it's predominantly criminal matters that we are trying to protect questions from being raised on, and I think there is some dispute as to whether civil matters are covered.

In this particular case, in my understanding, the precedents at least in federal Parliament, in Marleau, are that even in civil matters the Speaker should have some discretion and that discretion should be used, obviously, very cautiously where they think that clearly there are facts that are going to come into play. But in this case, I don't think that is the situation and it would be important to have a clarification of the ruling.

HON. MICHAEL BAKER: Mr. Speaker, on that point of order, I just want to point out for the benefit of the speaker that libel and defamation matters in Nova Scotia are required to be tried by juries. Being one of the very rare civil matters that are required to be tried by juries, that obviously one of the concerns would be, if it is a question and answer of

[Page 1502]

the House, that it may, in fact, affect the jury pool that would be available for the matter. I also indicate that I certainly always understood it to be all court proceedings.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. The honourable member for Cape Breton South.

MR. MANNING MACDONALD: Just on a call of business, Mr. Speaker.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. The honourable Government House Leader.

HON. RONALD RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, I think that you have established that the precedents of this House have always been that that applies to both civil and to criminal cases.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. Just for the honourable members, I will take it under advisement. I just want to point out that when the question was asked, first of all, it wasn't quite clear. I did understand that it would have been before a court and I wasn't quite clear at the time, but I still feel that under Oral Questions, Section 409(9) in Beauschene says, "A question cannot deal with a matter that is before a court." Period.

Although we go to some other authorities, it does talk about civil versus criminal. I will take it under advisement but I really believe that to err on the side of caution with regard to an issue that may be before a court, I don't think we want to deal with something in this House that could influence something outside of here. However, I will take it under advisement and report back.

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. 489. Before you do that, it is now 4:06 p.m. and I would ask you that you will have to adjust the times between now and 6:00 p.m. in the spirit of the anticipated vigorous debate that will be coming up.

Res. No. 489, Fin. - Deficit: Action Plan - Table - notice given Oct. 20/03 - (Ms. D. Whalen)

[Page 1503]

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

MS. DIANA WHALEN: Mr. Speaker, I would like to read the relevant clause for Resolution No. 489. It is, "Therefore be it resolved that the Finance Minister table in this House his specific plan to deal with the growing deficit."

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. There is quite a bit of noise in the Chamber. I would ask the members to take their conversations outside, please.

The honourable member for Halifax Clayton Park has the floor.

MS. WHALEN: As I said, this resolution relates to the outstanding deficit that we can see rising almost weekly in this province. Some weeks ago, five weeks ago, we were told that they were $32 million short in the first quarter results so the projection for the year is that $32 million has to be found elsewhere in order to balance the budget.

Then more recently we were told of the equalization problems and the problems of a lack of proper accounting of the population. We were left with another $22 million in a shortfall. So, really, what we are talking about, as the resolution refers to, is $54 million that we know of as of today that is a shortfall in this year's budget. We have only five and a half months left to address it. I think that we are in a considerably difficult situation and the government should be called to task to show us how they intend to deal with that $54 million shortfall. It is a real surprise to me as a newcomer to the House to see what I see as a very great lack of specifics on the finance side.

First of all, you introduce a budget which comes through in April and is passed to great fanfare, elaborate budgets for every department and there is your plan for the year. But as it rolls out and as changes are noted, there is no mechanism that brings it back here to the House for accountability.

What we saw was the first quarter results announced on September 19th showing that $32 million was missing from the budget, missing because of revenue shortfalls in projections and because of additional spending for district health authorities, and also because we are expecting higher wage settlements. Those things will happen through the year. We understand that. But there are a multitude of issues that can change through the year.

Numerous factors affect both the cost and the revenues in the budget. The revenues can be affected, as we have seen, by changes in the transfer payments from the federal government; from income tax changes as the economy unfolds for the year, whether that be personal income tax or corporate; it is affected by unemployment rates; by the gross domestic product; by the Canadian dollar and how that affects exports and purchasing; it is affected by national trends and disasters; it is affected by tourism and the number of visitors that we

[Page 1504]

have in our province. So we know there are a multitude of issues and that only begins to scratch the surface.

The revenue is also affected by fees that are collected and whether or not various departments or offices are active. All of these things combine to affect the revenue we will get and there is a multitudinous number of expenses as well that can change through the year as demands change. We saw that specifically with our health budget going up $19.2 million as of the end of June, as of the most recent information available.

Again, as I say, being a newcomer to the House, it is interesting to me to see that we cannot yet even discuss the books for the year 2002-03 because they are not yet closed. So it is very difficult to have a discussion on pertinent factors that affect the province today. That is why it is, more than ever, important that the province provide information on where they see these cuts coming. The information that's known to us today is that we have this shortfall of up to $54 million right now. What we hear is that the Minister of Finance is adjusting the spending across the board, but the word adjusting is not sufficient to help all of us understand where it's coming from. That's the only thing we know for sure, is we are looking at a 1 per cent cut across virtually every area of government.

In reality, it's a 2 per cent cut at least because we have five and a half months left in this fiscal year. So the delays that occurred just around the reporting and substance of our finances is very difficult to deal with at times. The government would like to be more forthcoming in their information, I'm sure of that. Most branches of government don't have a great deal of flexibility when it comes to making a cut of even 2 per cent in their annual budget when they're this far into a fiscal year. Their programs are underway, initiatives have already begun. They can't stop all of that right off the bat. So hiring freezes are one way they go about it. They leave positions unfilled if there is any such thing. They will try to cut back on staff because that's the one element that they can move on most quickly. It's the most flexible element.

This will undermine government services even more if that is, in fact, how the cuts are going to be achieved because, especially in any of our health areas, even if it's not front-line health, then I suppose it would behoove me to mention that in the announcement the government made on September 19th, they said that they would exclude front-line health care and Primary to Grade 12 education, but from what it appears now, there will be a lot of cuts that will affect all the periphery of that. Still, half of the Department of Health's budget would not be considered front-line health care. So we're looking at other services that are still very essential to the community and to the people.

Again, as I said, the 2 per cent cut this late in the year is going to create tremendous pressure on all departments, every branch, every office of government, as they try to find a way to respond in a fast and flexible manner to this cut. I would like the government to come forth and tell us where it's coming from because I fear it will be in front-line services through

[Page 1505]

the cutting of staff and that will mean longer waits for all kinds of things. One area I see in our area is the length of time it takes to get your condominium registered, you know, things that don't affect everybody, but they lead to great disarray in the marketplace, whether it's going to be things like how long you have to wait for home care, or how long you wait to be processed for any kind of community service or assessment in health care. So there's going to be tremendous pressure put on people.

This fiscal problem and the accompanying harm to Nova Scotians is a problem of the government's own making and now they are asking Nova Scotians to sacrifice even more. Last Spring the people of Nova Scotia were assured of a balanced budget. We hear very often, I would say time and again, how the government is proud of that balanced budget and that it's the second year they've had a balanced budget but, as I said earlier, we have yet to see whether the first year was balanced because those books have not even been closed yet for the year 2002-03. We know there are pressures on that year because of the equalization payments that have to be marked against that previous year. So we haven't even yet seen whether or not we have had a balanced budget, let alone two. The government has said they're committed to a balanced budget and they're committed to their current scheme that's in place to allow the taxes to be reduced whether or not we can afford it from the service point of view. So we're faced with a definite clear pattern. We have to see $54 million cut out of the spending, out of government programs and services.

Other provinces had planned somewhat better. If we look at New Brunswick, they identified a problem with their finances related to the BSE scare and the SARS problems and costs and also the change in the equalization due to the census. Both New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island had made efforts to record that on their books so that there would be an amount set aside for that eventuality. Nova Scotia did not choose to do that. They chose a different route to see exactly, you know, what would happen down the road, which isn't really very good planning. It may be wishful thinking that something would happen to mean that they would never have to own up or account for that money. Our government has refused to acknowledge the problems and they failed to take action. They have refused to reassess or rescind the tax scheme in place for next year. They've refused to even reduce it or look at it again and they've failed to take any action.

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

The honourable Minister of Finance.

HON. PETER CHRISTIE: Mr. Speaker, I'm pleased to have an opportunity today to make a few comments on this motion. I was interested in listening to the previous speaker speak about numbers. She obviously has a number that, in her opinion, is the deficit number. She has obviously made some assumptions about what things will happen and where things will happen. The interesting question she raised with the House was, since she has come in here, there's no process.

[Page 1506]

Well, Mr. Speaker, if she would go back in the legislation, she would see that the Legislature anticipated this issue years ago and therefore has put into place a reporting requirement for the first quarter at the end of September, for the second quarter and for the rest of the year at the end of December. So there is a process to go through.

[4:15 p.m.]

Nova Scotia has come a long way in a relatively short time. In this government's first mandate, we pledged to balance the budget, in the third year of our mandate we achieved that goal. We introduced the province's first balanced budget in 40 years. It took years to build those deficits and nobody thought it would be easy to eliminate those deficits and to bring the budget in balance. If it had been easy, it would have happened years ago.

Mr. Speaker, Nova Scotians recognize the importance of a balanced budget and they know it was an enormous challenge. Our first balanced budget was a challenge and future balanced budgets will be a challenge and we all know about the various incidents that can happen and come at different years.

The honourable member mentioned about these equalization grants. What she didn't say is that a number of the provinces also booked the CHST money. Those provinces aren't on the accrual system so they booked the equalization numbers, they also booked the numbers in anticipation of the CHST. Now those provinces know that perhaps that isn't going to come through as we anticipated. Nova Scotia chose not to because what we have chosen to do is deal with things when they become a reality. That is the fundamental basis of accrual accounting that you deal with things as you know that they're real and you can put a number on them.

When this government came into office we were faced with a $500 million deficit. Just stop and think about that - $500 million. The members of the Liberal Government before us obviously had tried to come to grips with that, but when we finally finished the books and we had the books brought forward for the final year, it was a $500 million deficit. There were some challenges with that, but we have worked our way through that and we have come now so we are in the position of presenting the next balanced budget for this year. I will say again, it's not an easy process to do. (Applause)

Not only do we say that, but two government rating agencies have boosted our credit rating based on the performance and our projections for the future. Those government rating agencies knew what the projections for GDP were. They knew what the projections for the gross national product were. They knew what the projections for employment in this province were. They knew the projections for equalization, they knew what the projection for CHST was. It wasn't a question that we just said, here, take a few of these files and look at these. Those agencies were in the province for sometimes up to five or six days reviewing the details. They didn't just go to the Department of Finance and say, what do you guys

[Page 1507]

think? They went to different departments and they looked at the projections, they looked at the estimates and numbers, they looked around to build a business case. That's what they were doing. It has nothing to do with the question of our statements and assumptions. Those people had to report and they had to build a business case to do it. They did that.

When they were done doing that, they said, yes, we agree. We think things are moving in a direction. They liked the fact that we had a lower debt to GDP ratio. They liked the fact that our foreign currency debt exposure had been accelerated and we had achieved the goals we had set at a much quicker rate. They agreed and they liked the solid economic performance we had in 2002 and, indeed, our expected growth for 2003. Yes, indeed, that gross is off a little bit. The GDP forecast is now 2.9 we've dropped to 2.3, as we did in the economic update. We've indicated, the Royal Bank and the Conference Board of Canada have recently come out, updating their forecast in that area. We didn't wait until October to do that. We did that back in September, in our first economic update, so we could start to take those actions that we were doing.

We're putting money back into the hands of working people. We believe that a competitive tax structure is essential to our economic development. It's not only us, 75 per cent of the members of the Canadian Federation of Independent Business agree. They said in their survey that they believe that this tax reduction will help people in the small businesses. They also agree that changing our small business tax deduction to follow the federal government is beneficial. They've agreed on those two.

Mr. Speaker, with all these factors, we acknowledge the financial pressures and we acknowledge the challenges to put a budget together. As the member just mentioned, when we did our economic update in September, we knew that our projections for revenue were on, but we also made the commitment about front-line health care and classrooms. We also recognized there was additional pressures on the DHAs and the Health Department, so we put additional money in for that.

Mr. Speaker, that's having to find ways to adapt, making mid-course corrections and adapting to deliver the challenges that people of Nova Scotia know we need to do. When we identified the $32 million in pressures, it was clear, we identified and we were very clear to everybody that $13 million of it was going to be because of our reduction in our outgoing forecast for revenues, an additional $19 million was to cover the cost of high-cost drugs and for overtime for the DHAs. That was crystal clear to everybody, and if it's not, I'm happy to provide them with a copy of the paper that we put out.

Mr. Speaker, what we did with our plan is we've asked departments and agencies to look for ways to find ways of reducing spending. Yes, we went to them and we said we need to find the money, the $32 million, and we need to find some savings. We indicated to them the areas to look are those areas where there are unfilled vacancies, where there are people who are perhaps temporary, where there are unfilled vacancies as opposed to slowing down

[Page 1508]

and bringing people back on. That plan, when it's done, when we've finished talking to the departments, we've had a chance to talk to the departments and, indeed, ensure that the plans that come in meet our criteria. When we have done that, we will be happy to share that with the House and with all Nova Scotians, because that's our commitment. We said we were going to move on this plan, which we will be happy to do. We will happily present that plan.

Mr. Speaker, before we do that, I am happy to once again bring it to the people of Nova Scotia, is to have the Opposition Parties in and do what we did before the fiscal update, brief them on it, answer their questions, provide them with background material so they will be clear on where we're going. There's nothing transparent here. It's quite simple. We have to meet the targets of our financial forecast. It's just that simple. It's what people do in their households, businesses do all the time. That's what they do. When your revenues start to show they're going down, you have to be able to find ways to adjust it. That's what we're doing.

We know uncertainties lie ahead. I heard the honourable member mention federal transfers. Now there's eight different numbers out there, you can choose the one you like. There is one on the Web site, there's one I hear the honourable member for Halifax Clayton Park mentioning, there are a variety of numbers. The issue is very simple. We have been involved in this province, and all the provinces across the country have been involved in trying to come to a new equalization agreement. That's been the federal government objective, that's the objective of all of the provinces, to come to a new agreement on the equalization plan. We know that that plan runs out on March 31, 2004.

Mr. Speaker, I'm told that in the House of Parliament today they introduced a motion to extend that plan until March 31, 2005, simply for the fact that they're concerned that they won't get this plan done, and when they get it done, it won't clear the House. What they will tell you is that if that plan is not in place and not approved by the Legislature, they have no authority to pay out money to the provinces.

Mr. Speaker, we've been working with them, as are all the provinces, to try to get that. Now there's a variety of issues surrounding that. There is the five-province standard that was changed in 1986, the provinces are looking for a 10-province standard in the calculation. Yes, that would mean more money goes to the provinces, and the federal government has been saying, well, perhaps we can't afford it. So we said fine, then phase it in over a period of time. There's the issue surrounding B.C. and Quebec. They have concerns about the way assessment is done. They're moving from an income-based assessment to a real property value assessment. They have concerns with that. If they move in that direction and it goes in the calculation, then they're going to come close to where they don't fall under the equalization plan.

[Page 1509]

The majority of provinces, some which get equalization and some which do not, those provinces have said, let's go towards the 10-province standard, but they've also said something else, the key part of all of the negotiations over the last five years is the issue of stabilization. Every province, it doesn't matter which one it is, has said, we aren't able to fight these large spikes and ups and downs in revenues, because we forecast a figure, then all of a sudden, a couple of years later, something changes and the spike goes up or goes down. We can't absorb that. For the last two years, the federal government has undertaken to find a process to try to do what they refer to as the smoothing process. That process, they've been working on.

Mr. Speaker, they presented that process to us in Ottawa some two weeks ago. If that's the case, and they're going to do smoothing and they're going to look out five years to do a smoothing on a variety of things, the province has said to them, why don't you take that back to the start of 2000, and why don't you do the smoothing out over the few years? That would change the way the equalization is going to affect provinces. Indeed, the federal government said they were prepared to look at that.

What we then said, Mr. Speaker, is we, as a region, the four Atlantic Provinces, are going to meet here in Halifax in mid-November, and we would like you to devise and come back with a solution then. We have to deal with our current year, we have to deal with our next year's budget, and we need to deal with those in a timely basis. We've said to the federal government, we need you to respond here and we need you to respond in a timely manner. In doing that, we sort of tried to put a sunset on it and say, we're going to have this discussion in Halifax in mid-November when we have the meeting.

So we've moved along to try to bring that to a head. Mr. Speaker, all of these things are up in the air. So for any honourable member in this House to say they have a number, that they know what our equalization is going to change, for them, any honourable member in this House, to say they know when and if we are going to get the CHST money, I would say they have a good crystal ball, because the provinces and the territories and the federal minister that I met with two weeks ago don't have those numbers. The 10 provinces and the federal minister don't know if we're going to get the CHST money.

What the minister would commit to the provinces is that they would not insert any other programs ahead. Let's be clear, Mr. Speaker, what the minister said when he talked about the $2 billion in Health, he's saying now, what I'm told and the commitment is, we have to have $5 billion on our budget, on our deficit, we have to have $2 billion in our contingency account, and when we meet those two criteria, what's left over, then we will take out to service the $2 billion they talked about in the CHST.

Now the question then to him was, well, what if you don't achieve the $5 billion and the $2 billion contingency, are you going to be prepared to give some of that money? That's under consideration. What he did commit to us is that he wouldn't put any other programs

[Page 1510]

ahead of it. Now he will tell you he has a lot of programs that could go ahead of it. There's a lot of tragedies that have occurred across the country.

Mr. Speaker, in closing, what I want to say to the people of Nova Scotia is this government has brought the budget a long way from the deficit position to our current balanced budget, and we will continue to move in that direction. (Applause)

[4:30 p.m.]

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. Time has expired.

The honourable member for Halifax Fairview.

MR. GRAHAM STEELE: The resolution on the floor this afternoon is, "Therefore be it resolved that the Finance Minister table in this House his specific plan to deal with the growing deficit.", which I can say without hesitation is something that we can support. But what I wanted to start my remarks on today was the fact that when I heard this resolution I had the strangest sense of déjà vu or déjà entendu - I knew that I heard all of this before. I was thinking to myself, where have I heard all this before? Then I remembered, it was 1998 and the Honourable Don Downe was the Minister of Finance.

That's the last time that the Liberals formed a government. Now, the member for Halifax Clayton Park may not remember too well, that's back when she was a Conservative, but I wanted to remind that member and the members on the opposite side of the House what exactly happened in 1998 and why I have such a strong sense of déjà vu here.

In the Spring of 1998, the Liberal Government introduced a budget with a claimed surplus of $1.8 million. Well, there was this small matter of - well, we won't go into that, that's ancient history - anyway they claimed a surplus of $1.8 million, but on September 30, 1998, when the Liberal Government released its first quarterly report, it turned out that they were now projecting a deficit. It is very interesting, the then Finance Minister's description of this deficit. Now, I just want to paint this picture for you, Mr. Speaker. There was a $1.8 million projected surplus, and after the quarterly report there was a $51 million and change deficit - adding up to a total of, believe it or not, $54 million, exactly the amount that the Liberals today, in 2003, are complaining about.

What did the then Liberal Finance Minister say, Mr. Speaker? He called it a $51 million burp. There's the newspaper report; there's the headline. He called it a $51 million burp.

AN HON. MEMBER: He had a way with words, didn't he?

[Page 1511]

MR. STEELE: He said, or it's a giant pothole, whatever you want to call it. So then we have a Liberal Finance Minister in exactly the same position as today's Conservative Finance Minister, and he dismisses it all and says, oh, this is just a burp.

I want to go on to talk a bit more about what that Liberal Finance Minister did. In the same quarterly report he didn't update the revenue forecast. So he was only telling part of the story and the Conservatives at the time took him to task for only telling part of the story. The new deficit projection didn't include overspending by regional health boards or stand-alone hospitals such as the QE II. Finance Minister Don Downe said, he didn't know what those figures were.

He also said, the Finance Minister when asked - oh! I should say that in order to deal with this deficit, the Finance Minister at the time, the Liberal Finance Minister, mounted a program of government-wide restraint that would add up to $30 million - almost exactly what this government has done. At the same time of year, they have done exactly the same kind of thing. When pressed, when asked how specifically the Liberal Government would save that money in the rest of the fiscal year, Finance Minister Don Downe couldn't say.

Mr. Speaker, when asked, the Liberal Premier of the day, the Honourable Russell MacLellan, said, the plan was still a work in progress. They suggested that the savings would come from government travel, a hiring freeze and reduced capital spending, but Mr. Downe had no specific examples.

Mr. Speaker, there is more to the story than that, because in the following two quarterly reports the Liberal Government of the day continued to claim that they had found savings adding up to almost, not quite, but almost $30 million. Then in the final quarterly report of the year, in May 1999, all those savings had evaporated, and the government was reporting no savings, as if the whole $30 million plan had been a mirage in the first place which, of course, it was.

Mr. Speaker, it is ironic, to say the least, to hear the Liberals complaining about something that this government has done when they did exactly - not approximately or nearly the same thing but exactly - the same thing only five years ago. The same amount of money was involved, the same issues were on the table and the Liberal minister of the day had the same feeble excuses and defences that today's Conservative Finance Minister is offering.

Here is something else that the Liberal Finance Minister of the day said. As you listen to this, Mr. Speaker, I want you to imagine that the Liberal Party, now that they are on this side of the House, are complaining because our Conservatives are saying exactly the same thing. "It would be folly to release a long-term fiscal strategy before the health care element is determined", said Mr. Downe. "Those who are clamoring for instant solutions to our current financial shortfall risk imposing short-sighted remedies on issues that have been

[Page 1512]

building for a generation." That was the Liberal Finance Minister's answer to the complaints, that they were not telling the whole truth on the budget or on the fiscal updates.

Now, Mr. Speaker, it would be easier to take the Liberals seriously if they had not done exactly the opposite thing when they were sitting on the government side of the House. The Liberal way is to say, do as we say, not as we did. Make no mistake about it, there is plenty to complain about.

Our government now reports its audited results on the basis of Generally Accepted Accounting Principles, and that is a good thing, but the quarterly reports do not have to be reported the same way. There is still a lot of hocus pocus going on with the way that those unaudited financial projections are reported.

What we need, both from Liberal Finance Ministers and Conservative Finance Ministers, is better disclosure of current results, so that this Legislature can make appropriate public policy choices. The standard that is applied in the private sector is the same one that should be applied here, exactly the same one. It is the responsibility of the Minister of Finance to present to this House, to the people of Nova Scotia, credible information that is fairly interpreted. Mr. Speaker, that, in my submission, is not currently being done by this government. It certainly was not done by the last government.

We need quarterly updates that present the key risk considerations, both the upside risk and the downside risk. What events could occur and what is the likelihood of those events that the targets spoken about in the quarterly reports will not be met, Mr. Speaker?

If there was anything that, in my view, seriously impaired this current Finance Minister's credibility on financial matters, it was a recent example of what I would call upside risk, that the results will be better than forecast, that at precisely the time that it appeared that the financial results for the last fiscal year were going south, they were turning out badly, that there were a number of elements that had not been taken into account. The minister announced that there was no problem, there was about $100 million not previously spoken about, accounted for, discussed, that things were about $100 million to the good in the last fiscal year and, therefore, all these series of financial hits could be absorbed, no problem.

Just when it is convenient, the minister pulls $100 million out of his hat. How did the minister do that? He still hasn't explained to us, hasn't explained to this House, hasn't explained anywhere, how can a minister wake up one morning and discover that he has got $100 million that he has never, ever mentioned in public before? I'm still waiting for an answer to that question.

[Page 1513]

We also need to know the downside risks because there's been a shock with the equalization payments and there is a real question, a legitimate question, about how long the government has known about that downside risk. It appears that the government has known about it for some considerable time, certainly other provincial Finance Ministers did. The alternatives are simple - either our Finance Ministry ought to have known about it and didn't or they did know about it and didn't tell anybody.

Over the time that I've been the Finance Critic for the Official Opposition I've developed a high respect for the professional staff at the Department of Finance. They know what they're doing, they do a difficult job and they do it well. It's their political masters that I worry about - the people who take the information provided to them by Finance Department staff and decide how it's going to be communicated to this Legislature and to the public. That is where the problem lies.

At some point, not today, then some other day, the Minister of Finance is going to have to explain when did he know that census results were going to result in lower equalization payments? When did he know? And why did he not report it to this House as soon as he knew it?

What is happening here is the same thing that happened under the Liberals. We all remember the failed Liberal public/private partnership scheme or P3 scheme. They like to talk about schemes, so let's talk about their scheme. The Auditor General of Nova Scotia has said that the reason the Liberals made the P3 choice was strictly because of accounting treatment - not because it was a good financial deal for the people of Nova Scotia, but because they thought they could build schools and keep it off the books of the province. That's why the Liberals made that choice. It was a bad choice because, as we demonstrated in detail, it ended up costing the people of Nova Scotia millions of extra dollars simply so that the Liberals could report the Public Accounts in a certain way.

The problem that we have with provincial finances in Nova Scotia today is this government is doing the same thing, but for different reasons. They would argue more honourable reasons, perhaps they are, perhaps they aren't. This government is so politically committed to reporting a balanced budget that there seems no accounting rule, no convention of communication, that they will not twist in order to present the results they want. It is far more important to this government politically to appear to be in the black than to report, as I said earlier, credible information fairly interpreted. So now, when we get these quarterly reports, we don't quite know what to believe. When the minister says there's no money to pay for long-term care, we don't know whether to believe him or not because when it was convenient for him he just snapped his fingers and found $100 million.

This is a government that continues to strip seniors and their families of everything they have in order to pay for their health care. The only people in Nova Scotia who cannot benefit from the system of public medical insurance that we have, one of our proudest

[Page 1514]

achievements in Canada, this government continues to say they don't have the money for it and at the same time they are not fairly presenting the accounts of the province. I, for one, do not believe they don't have the money. They know how to find money when it's convenient for them. That is something they should find convenient. Thank you.

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

The honourable member for Victoria-The Lakes.

MR. GERALD SAMPSON: Mr. Speaker, I rise today to speak in support of my honourable colleague for Halifax Clayton Park when she made her presentation. Unlike the previous speaker from the NDP, I want to deal with the present. You can only change the present and plan for the future. You can't change the past. So there's not much use in standing here and pointing fingers back at what they did, or he did, or whatever Party was there, so let's concentrate on what we're dealing with today. I always like to take a positive approach when I speak, but today I can't.

[4:45 p.m.]

Mr. Speaker, I want to take a moment to discuss this resolution because it affects the interests of Nova Scotians from one end of the province to the other. The government has an obligation to tell the people where the cuts will come from. People will find out the truth eventually, and the courage now to tell the people where the cuts are going to come from or do they have to wait until the Spring budget arrives? Every department is under a cloud. When I speak to different people all I hear is cut, cut, cut, and more cuts.

By being down at the Union of Nova Scotia Municipalities' conference, Mr. Speaker, down in Yarmouth, and also dealing with the people on the Cape Breton end of it and here in the HRM, I've had the opportunity to discuss with people - just using the Department of Transportation and Public Works for an example - I've been told that although there is some paving going on and programs, highways have been let go so long that the basic fundamental fact I was told was, Gerald, I only have enough money to put out fires. That came from several people on Department of Transportation and Public Works, and that is why if you go over 10 potholes, you will find one that's filled, then you drive over another 10 and you're wondering why they did the one in the middle - that was the one that got the most complaints.

Mr. Speaker, we want the government to work in the best interests of the people and I hope they plan to do that because it's the best interests of the people that we're hoping to look after. We have an opportunity here in a minority government to co-operate, to work together, and we want to make sure that it's a responsible session of the government.

[Page 1515]

It's an odd thing to have to quote, but when responses are coming from the government today, politicians have a very negative image out there. I've said on different occasions, I think I speak English, I think I understand English, but what did he or she just say? It took me back to my childhood. One of my older brothers, Mike, who spent his life living in Ontario and wishing he was back in this wonderful province used to say to me, Gerry, do you know what that sounds like, it sounds like a chicken with the pip. If you can explain that one to me, that's what it sounded like and that's what I hear today. That's an old saying, it's a long time, but that's what I have to equate it to.

So I urge the Minister of Finance to table the cuts today in the House, Mr. Speaker, so Nova Scotians can understand the impact on their lives. As I said, to go back to the Department of Transportation and Public Works - I will just focus on the Department of Transportation and Public Works again - workers retire and they're not replaced. Summer workers go out to do patching work and seem to be going out late and finish early, for lack of funding. Winter workers get called out late, the plow operators and whatnot, and they're let go as soon as possible. So they're working under a cloud and it's kind of a hard way to have to make a living. You work for a department for years and you're always under a cloud of, do I get enough work or don't I.

Mr. Speaker, the cuts can come in several forms and the honourable Minister of Tourism admitted today in the House when questioned, that cuts are coming to his department also, and, as we heard, there will be cuts in all departments. But tourism is a multi-million dollar revenue generator for this province and we should be in a position where we're using more money than cutting money. I can go right back to the tax cut again. You give $147 million and then turn to work and cut the equivalent in services. It just doesn't balance out, not in my way of thinking anyway.

I will touch on the hospitals. A relative of mine who worked there for 20 years recently retired, basically forcefully, because basically run ragged in the emergency department where they worked, along with all the nurses. Even the floor girls are doing work that three and four other workers should be doing. They're cut back to the bare bone. The nurses are run off their feet. It's a threat to health care and the services being given, Mr. Speaker.

Somebody mentioned home care today. The question came from the NDP side of the House, about home care. I had an incident in my area. I had a call - Gerald, can you increase home care for this elderly person? I made a call. I was kind of impolitely informed that I shouldn't be calling there, because this person was in a position of authority. Anyway, I made the call. I requested the time be increased; the lady was looking for two visits a week, not one. The one visit she was getting was a two-hour visit once a week. By the time she received her bath and whatnot, the two hours was consumed.

[Page 1516]

I kind of insisted that she could really use two visits a week. I was called and told, Mr. Sampson, you got your wish. Well, I was very pleased at being effective. Lo and behold, I got a call within a week from the lady herself saying, Gerald, what they did was take my two hours in my one visit and cut it into two visits, one hour each, which not even provided enough time for a complete bath. So that's what cutbacks are doing, Mr. Speaker.

I move now to the residential care project in Truro. I surely hope that's not one that's going to be delayed, as was evidenced when the honourable member for Glace Bay spoke today. I hear a lot of reference to DHAs. Well, when you talk about a DHA, it's like saying ABC. There's no personality, there's nothing to it. It's a rather cold way of referring to something. But if you said the district health authority, now that's more effective. That's what we're dealing with. I would prefer to deal with them in their proper name, because it shows the severity that we're dealing with. The first question today to the Premier was about cuts in the local Aberdeen Hospital. The rumour mill is rampant, it's give a tax cut, but cut more services. That worries me on behalf of the people of Nova Scotia.

As I said, we have a poor reputation as politicians. Some of these cuts we will feel immediately, but there are going to be more cuts that are going to come through the back door. As we experience the increase in user fees, that was mentioned in the House here today, the Housing department was mentioned here today in the House. I have numerous calls from seniors, and when I discuss with the department of Housing about getting grants for people, their focus is totally on emergencies, leaky roof, lack of electricity, or heat and water. They can't focus on refurbishing some windows and doors that might keep an elderly person in their home, just to keep out the winter drafts and cold. So there's more money needed there, not cuts.

Some people may refer to the cuts as pass the buck. After being in municipal government, that word downloading has become, I don't know, it's a negative word, it's a word that nobody seems to want to use, but when you have been on the bottom rung of the ladder in municipal politics as long as I was, and any of that stuff, we all know it runs downhill and, when it stops, it stops with the municipal politician. You're being asked to do more with less, and I don't know how you can.

One of the things in the downloading vein that I would like to touch on is the cost of assessment; $12 million, I understand, is the cost of running the department for the year. I will speak about Victoria County because that's what I'm familiar with. The cost of Victoria County, Mr. Speaker, was $147,000. For some of the large municipalities that's only a drop in the bucket, but what it meant to Victoria County was a 5 cent increase on the tax rate. Because of us being so frugal and keeping a tight lid on things, we were able to absorb that. But that was just one cost that came forward, Mr. Speaker, and that's a detriment to a municipality with a small $6.5 million budget.

[Page 1517]

Nova Scotia Power finally, after a lot of haranguing, we don't want to touch on that, but that's a common theme, after all the media attention and I'm sure Nova Scotia Power doesn't like it either, finally, two years in a row, this year and last year, we got $39,000 in taxes paid to Victoria County. You're well aware of CBRM pushing for the proper assessment of Point Aconi and Lingan, Mr. Speaker.

I presented the budget one time, three or four years ago, at the Union of the Nova Scotia Municipalities Conference, to the honourable members of the day. That budget showed, in black and white figures, that 52 per cent of the budget was predetermined by the province. All you have to do to put that into perspective is, if I or anyone walked into your house and took hold of 52 per cent of your money and asked you to operate the way you always have, it's almost an impossibility.

The cost of education has increased, and it's going further. Policing costs have increased. Another reason that we have the negative image that we have, and I focused on it here in the House not too long ago, is the meeting that was held pertaining to Aboriginal education. Gordon MacIvor is the CEO of Education for Aboriginals in Cape Breton. Chief Morley Googoo and he were both totally incensed at the fact that a meeting was held without representation from them.

I feel that you lead by example. Pay your own way. Live within your means. That way, you become credible, Mr. Speaker. I don't think we're doing that the way that the present situation is. Whether municipal assessment are going to be downloaded, we know municipal assessments were downloaded, but I'm also thinking of the cost of road maintenance. Will that be downloaded next? If it is, it brings forth the big question, is it now time to ask this government whether or not it will download the current budget crisis to municipalities? Is it all coming down, or is it coming down little bits at a time? Slow and steady, you feel the effect, or does it all come down at once. Sooner or later, we're going to have it downloaded to municipalities, where it does not belong.

Mr. Speaker, I'm also hoping that the provincial portion of policing costs - I think of the rural areas where they're policed by the RCMP and some of the other areas that have their own police forces. The provincial portion of the RCMP policing, I just hope that will not be downloaded to municipalities. If it is, if it's downloaded to municipalities, there's only one taxpayer, when the bill comes to the municipalities, it will automatically be downloaded onto the taxpayer.

Mr. Speaker, we also have the Sable Gas Project, which is a bad deal for Guysborough and Richmond, if the government settles for less tax assessment on that. The government has an opportunity to clear up the confusion. Now the municipalities are like children of abusive parents. At one time they were allowed to keep a few crumbs if they fell off the table, now there's not even any crumbs. I want to ask the minister to table the list of

[Page 1518]

cuts today, so that we are assured that the government is not downloading onto municipalities. Thank you very much. (Applause)

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please.

The honourable House Leader for the Liberal Party.

MR. MANNING MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, would you please call Resolution No. 289.

Res. 289, Health - Wait List: Seriousness - Min. Realize - notice given October 8/03 - (Mr. David Wilson) (Glace Bay)

[5:00 p.m.]

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Glace Bay.

MR. DAVID WILSON (Glace Bay): Thank you, Mr. Speaker, for a chance to debate one of the most important issues, I think, facing this province today, the issue of wait times in health care. The resolution dealing with the fact that the Hamm Government has yet to release any information with respect to improvements in wait times since they have assumed power and the defensive response provided by the Minister of Health in this House that further illustrates that either the minister is not concerned or perhaps the government is hiding this information with the cancellation of surgeries that have been occurring in this province, albeit some of them because of the effects of Hurricane Juan, over the past number of weeks, delays in approval of district health authority business plans. We are more than halfway through the fiscal year for district health authorities to come up with their business plans; this government has done absolutely nothing about it.

The resolution says, "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 don't think we have to go any further than our own constituencies, to talk to our constituents, who have had to go into an ER room, who have had to wait for, perhaps, orthopaedic surgery, who have had to wait for any number of services that are offered by hospitals to know that wait times in this province are not getting shorter, they're getting longer. In some cases, it is approaching or is at a crisis stage in this province, in terms of health care.

To further prove that - Mr. Speaker, again, this is not just me standing here and saying that - just this week, as a matter of fact, a report was released by the Fraser Institute, a report that indicated that, indeed, yes, the Fraser Institute's 13th annual Waiting Your Turn document, one of the most extensive wait time documents that's produced in this country, use it as a guide because we have no other guide here in Nova Scotia as to what's happening

[Page 1519]

in our health care right now, pertaining to wait times. It shows that one of the areas that stands out, for instance, is orthopaedic wait times. If you take as an example of a referral from a general practitioner until treatment, then wait times for orthopaedic surgery in this province have increased by nine weeks - an increase of almost two months over last year.

Nova Scotians, according to the Fraser Institute, are waiting 11 months for orthopaedic surgery. There are some pretty dismal results from the Fraser Institute's report - there's information provided and the result of research across the province, and almost all of the studies and wait times for various procedures - who is at the bottom of the list? The Province of Nova Scotia is at the bottom of the list. The number of procedures waited for rose from the year 2001 to 2002 in this province and there is the longest wait in the country for a MRI. The longest wait in the country, at 24 weeks, for an MRI.

The previous Health Minister should know that, because a lot of these statistics are the result of the work of the previous Health Minister which has led us to this situation. This mess that we're in came from previous Health Ministers, the ones that are left over on that side of the House, so we know what's led us here, now it's a matter of just trying to finally do something about it.

The waiting period, for instance (Interruptions) If we want to go there, that's fine.

HON. JAMES MUIR: Mr. Speaker, on a point of order. It's nice to hear this member get up and talk about the health system because it was about this time about 18 months ago that he came to me and told me what a great health system we had.

MR. SPEAKER: It's not a point of order. The honourable member for Glace Bay has the floor.

MR. DAVID WILSON (Glace Bay): Mr. Speaker, I'm not here to talk about something that happened to me personally, or make jokes over on that side, I'm here to talk about Nova Scotians who are waiting abnormally long times for certain procedures in this province. They can't get in an ER, they can't get orthopaedic surgery, and the former minister knows that. It's in a mess in this province. The latest result is indicated today with what happened at the Aberdeen Hospital in New Glasgow and nurses actually being laid off - positions eliminated, I should say, in the Aberdeen Hospital. Half of the pediatric beds there closed and the minister would say sure, what happened in my instance? I don't want to go there - what happened in my instance was great care. The minister knows that happens. Sure it does, I'll be the first to admit it.

Standing here, speaking as I am, is proof of that for the former minister but what I'm talking about right now is wait periods in this province. For instance, from referral by a general practitioner to an appointment with a specialist rose in the past year - the wait is now listed at 8.8 weeks. The waiting period from an appointment with a specialist to treatment

[Page 1520]

has also risen to 10.6 weeks, and now you cut the nursing positions for instance in New Glasgow, it essentially goes against exactly what that government was saying it would not do. It would not do anything to front-line health care in this province. As a matter of fact, it promised to recruit 500 more nurses and doctors in Nova Scotia.

How, as the current minister of Health outside today, can eliminating five nursing positions in this province not affect front-line health care? If nurses are not front-line health care employees and workers, then who is? How can that not have a dramatic effect if you start closing pediatric beds? For instance, in Glace Bay, where you really have to start guessing now when the emergency room is going to be open, you have to pay special attention to radio broadcasts or newspaper ads to see when your ER is open or not open. The same situation occurs in the Valley on a regular basis; and Yarmouth, there was a point when you could not have a baby on the weekend, you would have to travel hours away in order to give birth.

Mr. Speaker, either the former minister or the current Health Minister can stand up and say that health care is in great shape in Nova Scotia. Is that just a case of them being naive or is it a case of just not caring what's going on or is it a case of not knowing what's going on in the health care industry? You can't take care of the business - and I'm sure this is what district health authorities are saying - how can they possibly plan, how can they properly plan when they haven't been given any indication from the province as to what they're planning for, what's to be cut from their government? Now, they have to wait, as I have said, more than half of their fiscal year is gone and they still haven't been able to do their job.

Mr. Speaker, this government starts talking about cuts and they start talking about, they're going to balance the books. They're going to balance the books on the backs of nurses, or on the backs of hospital workers, health care industry workers; they're going to balance the books for sure on their backs no matter what. It will put us in a very grave position in this province. That's clearly indicated by the Fraser Institute's report that has been released, that wait times in this province are not moving in the proper direction and, indeed, it is a case that this government has broken its promise, in effect, that it was promised not to affect front-line health care. What they've broken that promise with is their own fiscal mismanagement. That's what happening.

Now, we're paying the price for it. Not only the nurses at the Aberdeen Hospital, I suggest, Mr. Speaker, there is more to come. We've only seen the first part of what's going to happen here. A health care system is going to pay, for instance, for that government's rhetoric and that government's - let's go back, because we all know that in the end when you start giving $147 million, or throw out your $147 million tax scheme and you know because of that, because you have lived up to that promise, that because of that, health care is going to suffer in this province. There is no doubt about it whatsoever in my mind.

[Page 1521]

Mr. Speaker, as I said at the beginning of my speech, you need go no further than your constituency or each and every one of us here can check with our constituents and I'm sure that there's not an MLA in this House who has not had a complaint at one time about what's happening at their local hospital, their local health care centre, about waiting times, whether you are waiting for, as I said, an emergency room, or waiting for orthopaedic surgery, or you're waiting to get to see a specialist, whatever the case may be.

We know how serious the problem is. I hear about it all the time, I hear about it, and this has nothing to do with the health care facilities in my area. It has nothing to do with the health care workers in my area - dedicated people - who are working and breaking their backs actually to try to provide health care to the people of that area, but they just can't do it. They just can't do it and in some cases the constituents are saying that they've been waiting for hours, whether it be blood work, or an X-ray, or whatever the case may be.

Mr. Speaker, you have to wait, as the report has indicated, 24 weeks for an MRI in this province, the longest wait in the country. You could take all of the resources and you can take all of the money and you can sink it into these things that are now necessary in this world, MRI is a great diagnostic tool, but if you have to wait that long to use it, then what purpose is it serving and why is that? Let's get to the root of the problem. Why is that happening in this province? Why should we have to wait so long to see a specialist? Why should we have to wait so long to get a referral from a general practitioner for an appointment with a specialist? Why are we closing obstetric units at the Northside General Hospital in North Sydney? Why is that happening?

Well, Mr. Speaker, for close to five years now this government, under various Ministers of Health, has had the opportunity to make some changes. This was a government that, when it came to power, said they were going to fix the health care system in this province and they were going to do it for next to nothing. It has not occurred. All of the statistics, all of the reports, all of the indications, all of the first-hand reports that we're getting from front-line health care workers are telling us that the situation has not been fixed. Indeed, the situation continues to worsen. Our health care industry is sick and it needs some help. It's not getting it from this government.

Mr. Speaker, as I mentioned, part of the problem is trying to balance the books, you know, with a very narrow view of exactly what's happening and what's needed in the health care industry, but instead just seeing that bottom line and focusing in on that at the expense of everything else, it does not work. If we have people who are waiting, as you've read many, many times in newspapers, letters to the editors, people who are waiting for 10 to12-plus hours in emergency rooms to be seen, just to be seen, it's a clear indication that there is something wrong in the health care industry in Nova Scotia.

[Page 1522]

Mr. Speaker, in closing, I know I don't have much time left, but what is clearly indicated here, whether it be a report from the Fraser Institute, whether it be nurses in our hallway here from the Aberdeen Hospital who are saying, look, it's not right to close half of the pediatric beds, whether it be the people of Yarmouth saying we should have our hospital open on the weekend so that women in our area can have babies, people in Glace Bay who are saying keep our ER open on a regular basis, why is it closing from time to time, why can't the government do something about this, it's your responsibility, people at Soldiers Hospital in the Valley, you know, why are we at this stage? I suggest to you it's because of the mismanagement, both fiscal, the incompetence of this government that promised, made it one of its key promises when it was elected the first time in 1999, that health care would not suffer as a result of them coming to power. Indeed, Mr. Speaker, it has.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of Health.

HON. ANGUS MACISAAC: Mr. Speaker, I welcome this opportunity to discuss the very important items that are discussed in the resolution. I want to preface my remarks by pointing out to the House and to all who are interested in this very important topic, that we are in a situation where we have, in fact, increased funding to health care in this province. Last year, we increased it by $131.2 million in last spring's budget. That included an amount of over $43 million to the district health authorities and the IWK.

[5:15 p.m.]

We also, subsequent to that, Mr. Speaker, added an additional $19.5 million to the district health authorities to assist them in addressing matters relative to the increased costs of nursing care and increased costs related to the aging population within our facilities. So that does not translate into cuts to the health care system.

We have made progress in the DHAs of this province. When we came to power we were coming in with double digit cost overruns, Mr. Speaker, on their budgets. That has been improved immeasurably, to the point where most DHAs in this province were able to come in on budget in this current fiscal year. In addition to the numbers I just referenced, also picking up the increased cost of wages for health care workers in the health care system. That is part of the budget in the previous year.

Mr. Speaker, for members to stand in their place and to use the term "cut" in relation to the activities of this government and health care, is very far from the reality of the situation where we are involved in increasing funding on a year-over-year basis to all of the facilities that provide health care in this province.

Now this issue, Mr. Speaker, is common to all of us. It is not unique to this particular province. It is an issue that affects the entire country. We know that in this province people who urgently need a test or treatment get that care without delay. For example, at the Queen

[Page 1523]

Elizabeth II, no one is on a wait list for urgent cardiac procedures. People awaiting less critical or elective tests and treatments do wait longer than they should. While we are committed to turn this around, this situation is not unique to our province. It is common to our closest neighbours in the Atlantic Provinces and common to the largest health centres like Edmonton, Toronto and Montreal.

We are talking about this today because it is an issue of common interest among the men and women in this room who represent Nova Scotians. Mr. Speaker, I know all the members commonly agree on something else too - the work of our health care providers to address these challenges on a daily basis has been nothing less than admirable.

On September 28th, Nova Scotians saw one of the most powerful storms we have seen in over 40 years rip through our province. It took our power lines down, it disrupted water and other public services and it stopped our lives for days. Hospital buildings and the homes of health care workers and patients were not spared, Mr. Speaker. Surgeries were cancelled, appointments postponed, the wait list for many services grew as a result of this catastrophe. Yet, the nurses, doctors, technologists, specialists, administrators and others who had been working tremendously long hours and had been committed to ensure urgent patients did not wait. These people are to be commended for their inspiring efforts.

Mr. Speaker, at this time I would like to share with the members what I saw and heard while on a tour of the Centennial Building at the Queen Elizabeth II Health Sciences Centre in Halifax last Friday. This was the hospital's most heavily damaged building during Hurricane Juan.

While I was there I was able to first of all see the extent of the damage on the roof itself. The whole section of the Centennial Building had the roof literally ripped off of its surface and transported across the property over to adjoining buildings. Right across the entire space. You can, in fact, see the marks of the roof on the side of buildings that it was blown to. That resulted in the entire roof being exposed to the torrential downpour that occurred. As a result of that downpour, as you travelled through the operating theatres and you travelled through the hallway servicing those operating theatres, you see the locations of water which literally poured out of the ceiling, poured out of the walls into the theatres.

I was shown a stairwell where the water that was flowing down that stairwell was paramount to a waterfall with tremendous force. A force so powerful that it was difficult for workers to stand in that water that came cascading down that stairwell. That force and that water created incredible damage to that particular building, but what was really incredible was the work done by the nurses and the technologists and those employed in those operating theatres in saving the equipment, very expensive equipment. Taking that equipment and travelling through water up well above their ankles and pushing that equipment to safer areas, carrying that equipment, working extremely hard under very, very difficult

[Page 1524]

circumstances. That, Mr. Speaker, is what went on and that is the kind of dedication that was exhibited by the health care workers who were employed in that particular facility.

I was accompanied on the tour by the head nurse, Sunny Russell, who came and related to me the work that was done by these health care workers. I met a number of the workers on that tour and I was totally impressed by their dedication to getting those facilities up and running and operating again. I'm very happy to report that, indeed, they met their objective, which was to be up and running on Monday, services fully restored.

That only happened because we had public servants in this province, health care workers who were willing to forget their own difficulties, their own properties which were damaged by the storm, and dedicate themselves to restoring the level of service in that facility. I informed Nurse Russell on that occasion - and I'm sure that I spoke for all members of the House because you did pass a resolution unanimously to that effect - that members of the Legislature very much appreciated their efforts in getting the health care facility back and running. I appreciate the opportunity to relate what I was able to see as I toured that facility because we are blessed with dedicated health care workers who worked so hard on that occasion.

We know that weeks and months after the trees and bushes are picked off the streets, and after windows and roofs are fixed, the effect of Juan will still be felt on the health care system. This impact reminds us just how much our health care workers do every day. Yet, while their extraordinary efforts continue, for those patients and their families who are waiting, I know that this is not an easy time for them. I want to assure them that anything that can be done, is being done, and the department remains in regular contact with the capital district to help in any way we can. Of course, well before the hurricane, our government was working on a plan to reduce patients' wait times for tests, treatment and care. The plan involves, first, getting meaningful, reliable information; second, using the information to shorten wait lists; third, investing in the right equipment; and, fourth, sharing more information to increase accountability.

Mr. Speaker, parts of our plan are well underway. We are fortunate to have some excellent health professionals on our provincial wait list committee. In fact, the Chair announced before I became Health Minister is from my very own constituency, Dr. Mike MacKenzie, Chief of Staff in the Guysborough Antigonish Strait District.

The Provincial Wait Time Monitoring Project Committee has found that there is a lack of consistency in wait time data. For many areas of the health care system there is no wait time data collected at all. This group is developing clear standards so as we measure wait times across the province, everyone is measuring the same thing. This will lead to reliable and comparable information on wait lists and wait times, essential to improve patient care, health care planning, governance and accountability to the public.

[Page 1525]

To start, the group will be focusing in three areas where Nova Scotians are experiencing the longest waits. These are, Mr. Speaker: the time to see a specialist, once referred by a general practitioner; waits for diagnostic tests like MRIs and CT scans; and the wait for orthopaedic joint replacement surgery. They are working with district health authorities to ensure these issues can be improved over time, yet, change cannot happen overnight. This is a complex system and a very large issue.

A common-sense approach from health care experts across the country is that it will take time, money and people. The committee and our health care professionals know this, yet, are focused and continue to work diligently. They are to be applauded for their dedication to the project and to make recommendations that will make the biggest difference to Nova Scotians. Of course, even more importantly is when we have good, reliable information, how do we use it to shorten wait times?

This brings us to step two in our plan. The wait list committee is looking at actions taken in other provinces such as coordinated wait lists that enable patients and their health professionals to see where wait lists may be shorter, and may allow them to access the tests and treatment more quickly. The committee's first report expected before the end of this calendar year should help us understand the current status and the next steps. I know all members of this House look forward to reviewing this important information.

The third step of our wait list plan is also critical, investing in the right people and equipment to provide critical tests, treatment and care to patients. This government has already demonstrated that we are prepared to act and to invest when we have good information on which to base decisions.

Since cardiac tests and surgeries are provided at just one hospital in Halifax, we already have good data there and we know the people are waiting too long for elective procedures. That is why we invested an additional $5 million this year with capital that was used to increase staff and equipment and in turn reduce wait times, cardiac tests and surgeries.

Mr. Speaker, we have also - and I want to express our appreciation to the Government of Canada - invested $30 million for additional diagnostic equipment. We will soon be making additional announcements throughout the province with respect to more diagnostic equipment from additional $45 million that is provided by the federal government. This is much welcome money and we are very grateful to them for having it. It will allow us, with the report of the wait time committee, to address this issue more effectively than we are now. That is progress that can be made and it is progress that would be real.

I believe that probably brings me to the end of my allotted time. Again, Mr. Speaker, I remind members and everyone, we have increased budgets for health care in this province, not decreased. (Applause)

[Page 1526]

MR. SPEAKER: Time has expired.

The honourable member for Halifax Needham.

MS. MAUREEN MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to have an opportunity to rise in my place and speak on what I think is an issue of great concern to many Nova Scotians, and that is the extensive waiting times in our health care system for getting access to a specialist, getting a timely diagnosis. In particular areas, as the minister said, particularly with respect to orthopaedic procedures, joint replacement surgery, there seems to be extensive waiting. I think the other area that certainly can be part of this mix here is the extensive wait times that people often experience when they go to emergency departments. I think that's an equally important area for government to pay attention to and attempt to address.

[5:30 p.m.]

I want to echo what the Minister of Health had to say with respect to the words of appreciation that he extended to all of the health care workers and the employees of the Capital District Authority in the face of the destruction that had such a serious impact on the QE II during Hurricane Juan. This is a situation where we know that prior to the hurricane we already had fairly extensive wait times for surgery in that particular facility, which is the main tertiary health care facility here on the mainland of Nova Scotia.

The fact that more than 600 surgeries have now been cancelled because of the shutting down of some of those operating rooms is of great concern. I know that prior to the hurricane, I was contacted by a constituent of mine, an older woman who has some serious back problems and is in a great deal of pain, and has had surgery but requires more surgery. I wrote the Minister of Health and asked him what his plan was to address the extensive waiting times for people like this lady in my constituency. Mr. Speaker, I was very disappointed in the letter that I received back from the Minister of Health. He essentially did not address my question about what the government's plan was with respect to reducing wait times, and basically referred this woman to her surgeon and to her specialist. That's not really an acceptable response to people who are in the situation where they are very justified in asking the question, what is the government's plan for reducing wait lists in hospitals?

Mr. Speaker, with your indulgence, I would like to make an introduction, if that would be okay, since I don't have to yield the floor to anyone. In our west gallery, I am very pleased to draw the attention of members of the House to two visitors who are here visiting from the U.K. They are Graham and Leslie Stevenson, who opened their home to me when I attended the University of Warwick some years ago. Graham has been to Canada before, but to the West Coast, to Vancouver, and this is Leslie's first visit. They are here for 10 days. I would like members to extend the warm welcome of the House to them. (Applause)

[Page 1527]

AN HON. MEMBER: You wild and crazy youth.

MS. MAUREEN MACDONALD: Not so wild and crazy youth, wild and crazy middle age. (Laughter) There you go.

Mr. Speaker, as I saying, these wait times for various procedures in our health care system have gotten to be quite excessive, and in spite of the fact that we press the government to bring forward a very clear plan to reduce wait times, we've seen very little evidence that they're about to embark on any action that will result in a reduction of wait times. This is very distressing. I note that the honourable member who brought forward this resolution, in the Liberal Party, though, was relying on research from that right-wing think-tank, the Fraser Institute, and I just can't have this opportunity to speak go by without making reference to the fact that really where the Fraser Institute is coming from with their annual reports on wait times, in Canada, is to try to build a case for the privatization of health care in this country and the introduction of a two-tiered system where people who have money can pay for services and people who don't have money will languish on longer and longer waiting lists, as we see in the health care system of our neighbours to the south.

So I would caution members of the Liberal Party when they look at the research from the Fraser Institute and their use of the information from that particular right-wing institute, that they be very clear about where that particular research is coming from and what their ultimate agenda is with respect to producing that research. It is the privatization of health care and I remind members that Romanow and the Romanow Commission very clearly pointed out that this is something that Canadians will not tolerate. It is not part of our values that we go to a privatized fee-for-service health care system, irrespective of the research that comes from institutes like the Fraser Institute. So I think that is an important point to be made.

Mr. Speaker, there are many things that need to occur in order to reduce wait times, and the minister talks about the studying that will be going on in his department. You know it's true that you always need to assess the situation, gather information, analyze it, and identify where your priorities lay and develop your plans, but you know one of the things we've seen with this government is every time we raise an issue, they're studying it, they're assessing it, they're gathering information, they've put together a work group - but we never see the results of any of these processes.

I think that now people are quite skeptical that really what is happening when we raise these questions about wait lists, the minister stands up, he has a pat answer on every issue we raise with respect to improving services for Nova Scotians in need. He used the very same set of arguments around children with autism just last week and he has used the same argument with respect to seniors in small, unlicensed homes for care throughout the province. So it's beginning to be a bit of a worn pattern with this minister. He spends an

[Page 1528]

awful lot of time hiding behind a process of study and we see very little action as wait lists continue to grow.

Mr. Speaker, one of the things that we in this Party have talked about repeatedly, and have made a very high priority, is the covering of the financial costs for long-term care for seniors. This is an issue that actually has a very direct relationship to wait times in our acute care facilities. In many of our acute-care facilities there are people who are in beds who are waiting for the financial assessment process and the appeal procedures and all of these things to unfold, who, if we did not have that financial process, if they were entitled to the health care that they eventually will get in a home for special care, they would not be occupying an acute care bed.

Mr. Speaker, we can go all around the province and speak to health care workers in the tertiary care facilities and they will tell us of the numbers of seniors and people with serious illnesses requiring long-term care who are what they call "blocking beds" to people who need to come in for surgery, because of this Draconian financial assessment process that has taken so much of the hardworking, life savings and resources of people in our province. I would urge the minister, in his mix of studies, to take a look at the amount of bed time, bed days, that are taken in our acute care facilities by people who are waiting for nursing home care. To deal with that aspect of our health care system would really make a huge difference in terms of reducing wait times. It is certainly a very high priority for members of my Party.

Mr. Speaker, we heard today about cuts in pediatric services in the Aberdeen Hospital, and we learned that the minister says, well, there was excess capacity in that unit. The beds were only used 66 per cent of the time. So this is his justification for reducing services, pediatric services, in that facility. But we've also learned that those beds weren't just used for sick children, perhaps 66 per cent of the time there were sick children in those beds, but the rest of the time those beds were actually being used for adults with serious surgical needs, and those beds were used to take pressure off the ER.

The former Minister of Health says, well, who told you that? Well, I will tell the former Minister of Health that he should have talked a little bit more when he was the Minister of Health to nurses in the health care system, because nurses in the health care system are the people who know these things. As you know, Mr. Minister, they were here today. There were nurses here today, and they basically said, as they listened to the minister, well, just wait a second here. He's only telling you half the story, which is what this government generally does. It tells you half the story, and the little piece that they're leaving out here was the whole fact that those beds, in fact, are fully utilized, and what's occurred in Aberdeen today is not insignificant but, in fact, it does represent a reduction in service, it does in fact mean that there will be a lengthening of wait times in other aspects of that operation.

[Page 1529]

We all know, Mr. Speaker, that the reason this occurred and this is happening is that the DHAs still do not have their operating budgets for this fiscal year that we're in right now. This government has failed to tell those health care providers what the total envelope by the end of the year is going to look like. The result of that is that they're starting to panic and look for places where they can cut. Unfortunately, if you're going to make cuts in a health care system that's already stretched to the limit, you're going to have reductions in service.

Mr. Speaker, we've had 10 years of austerity in health care in this country and in this province, former Liberal Governments, current Conservative Government, where we have seen the wait times grow. Throughout the remainder of this session it will be the focus of this Party to continue to press for a plan and a clear plan with some action attached to make sure those wait times decrease. Thank you.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Kings West.

MR. LEO GLAVINE: Mr. Speaker, it is certainly a pleasure today to rise on a very important resolution, one regarding wait times and, perhaps, in this particular issue, the general state of health care in the province.

[5:45 p.m.]

I would like to draw attention to the House, and in particular to the honourable member opposite who just spoke, that on Monday of this week, NDP Leader Darrell Dexter released figures from the Fraser Institute, a Conservative think-tank in Vancouver, that indicated it's taking longer for people to get several types of surgery and MRI exams and I would like to table this. (Interruptions)

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. The honourable members know that it's not permitted in the House to name members by their name, but by their constituency, or their portfolio, or by their position.

The honourable member for Kings West has the floor.

MR. GLAVINE: I shall use the name of the Leader of the Official Opposition. The points that he did go on to make in his article, various quantitative information was provided in result of research across the province and in almost all the studies on wait times for various procedures, Nova Scotia was at the bottom of the list. The number of procedures waited for rose from 2001-02 in Nova Scotia and it has the longest wait in the country for an MRI at 24 weeks. The waiting period referral by a GP to an appointment with a specialist has also risen in the past year and the wait is now listed at 8.8 weeks and the waiting period from appointment with specialist to treatment has also risen to 10.6 weeks.

[Page 1530]

So that's the general state of where we are on wait times and it is not, I don't think, very comforting, perhaps to the government and to any of us, when we take a look at "An Overview of Health Issues in the Atlantic, August 7, 2003", and in that issue, as they reviewed August 5th, they said "Their losses included three seats in the Annapolis Valley where health issues weighed heavily during the campaign." Certainly I can speak very clearly to that particular area of the province and the impact of a $7 million reduction in the health care budget and how it impacted on our area and continues to impact.

Just weeks after the announcement of the $7 million cut, the base commander at CFB Greenwood, before Kings County Council, made some of the following statements: Some military personnel refused transfers to 14-Wing Greenwood, the largest Air Force Base in Atlantic Canada, because the area is lacking in health and education services. They are a very sophisticated population. They have significant demands, Colonel Morey said in his annual report to Kings County Council's Committee of the Whole. Certainly that is very much in evidence in our community and I know in a couple of weeks' time, when I once again meet with the colonel, I am sure that this will be one of the topics high on his agenda, that is the fact of waiting time to get a GP. If other members of the House had the opportunity to go through PMQs, which I had just three months ago, I was astounded simply at the number of military personnel, this is the families, who do not have a family doctor in our area.

In fact, my family doctor, who did much visiting with me, concluded he could easily start another practice from those who do not have GP at the moment. Certainly we are fortunate in our area that they are for the most part young, healthy families, but it is certainly not comforting that many now are without which, again, puts pressure on the emergency services at Soldiers Memorial Hospital. Many of these people without a GP have to wait their turn in outpatients to see a doctor and certainly that's another situation which in our area certainly seems to be deteriorating by the day. We have had one weekend, one 24-hour period, when there was no coverage in emergency at Soldiers Memorial Hospital and according to local doctors, certainly the first time this has occurred in the period in which they can remember and some now have practised there between 30 and 40 years. This again shows a deterioration of health care services in the Annapolis Valley.

Just doing a quick little tally, we basically have 63 acute care beds for about 100,000 population. For example, on Thursday of last week - I know the Premier can relate to this because when he came to announce $1 million last Spring for a study and also a little bit towards the cut of the $7 million made a little bit earlier, he saw 13 people in the overflow who were waiting for beds. Just on Thursday of this past week, there were 18 in the overflow who did not know whether they would get admitted that day, whether they'd be able to have their surgery based on the recovery time they would need a room and so forth. So that's the state of wait times and a deteriorating situation that we have in the Valley.

[Page 1531]

Certainly I got a very, very clear indication of perhaps some of the 1 per cent cut that the health departments will have to reel themselves in by because the Nurses' Union were developing a contingency plan last week because they were told that overtime would not be an option and that they would have to come up with a clinical strategy for dealing with the extra patient or two that they would have to deal with in the ICU or in emergency at Valley Regional, which certainly indicates a growing wait time for many of the services in our area.

Last week, also, two major surgeries were cancelled and just in April of this year it was calculated that cancelled surgeries at the regional hospital in Kentville had gone up 70 per cent from the previous year. We can see the kind of backlog that is impacting on our area. This is only going to grow. We've had the 42 acute care beds at Valley Regional reduced to 37, I think actually just since the House started this sitting and they've gone over to long-term care. At the root of the cause here is long-term care and getting those people, who are in transition, into nursing homes. So that is one of the biggest needs that we are facing now, getting patients out of hospital and into the kind of care that will allow for a proper transition.

I would be remiss in not talking a little bit about the fact that while we use the past and sometimes often in this House the past four or five years as a starting point to take a look and compare how things are going and looking at the present state of the Valley District Health Authority, we know they are under immense pressure. I know the members opposite from that area of Kings North and Kings South know the tremendous quality of health care professionals we have, but we also know the tremendous stresses under which they're performing. It looks like that's going to be continuing.

I think I would be a bit remiss if I didn't kind of also point a little bit towards looking at the future. We all know that investment in preventive medicine in developing a healthy population here in Nova Scotia is really the long-term solution because over the course of the lifetime of the residents of Nova Scotia, it certainly would reduce people having to wait in line for many medical procedures. Many countries, many jurisdictions have made a lot of progress in that area. While we have opened the Health Promotion add-on to the Department of Health - I guess I should say Recreation - there's a lot of concern growing that perhaps the dollars won't be there now in a tight fiscal situation.

When you take a look, the Conference Board of Canada last year estimated that it cost businesses more than $2,000 per year to employ a smoker rather than a non-smoker. Workplace health promotion yields a return of $2 for every dollar invested, something many employers are beginning to understand. So preventable chronic diseases cost the Nova Scotia economy 5 per cent of the GDP. This is a major concern area. It is obvious, then, we must say, why is a 10 per cent tax cut seen as an economic stimulant when a healthy population often is not? Why is our health care system preoccupied with treating illness and thereby running up health care costs instead of preventing disease and keeping costs down?

[Page 1532]

Just to review a little bit: smoking, obesity, physical inactivity and poor nutrition cost the health care system $500 million per year. That is enough money to make university education free, pay for the health care costs of seniors in nursing homes, twin 50 kilometres of highway, pay the salaries of 100 nurse practitioners and still have money for a 10 per cent tax cut.

Why is the government putting $49 million of $50 million from an increased annual tobacco tax toward general revenues and, thereby, to a tax cut that will yield less than $8 per week for a family earning $40,000 a year? That is a question, I think, that all of us are facing. I thank you, Mr. Speaker, for this time today.

MR. SPEAKER: That brings us to the end of Opposition Members' Businesses.

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

HON. RONALD RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, I move that the House do now rise to meet again on the morrow 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 and Question Period, we will go into Committee of the Whole House on Bills and we will consider Bill No. 1 and Bill No. 6. If we still have sufficient time, we will go on to Public Bills for Second Reading and Bill No. 20, the Workers' Compensation Act.

MR. SPEAKER: The motion is for the House to 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.

[6:00 p.m.]

This now brings us to the moment of interruption. The subject for this evening's late debate was submitted by the honourable member for Kings North.

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[Therefore be it resolved that civics education be a part of Nova Scotia's high school curriculum.]

ADJOURNMENT

MOTION UNDER RULE 5(5)

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Kings North.

EDUC. - CIVICS: HS CURRICULUM - INCLUDE

MR. MARK PARENT: Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak to this resolution. I should sharpen up the resolution because I am aware that civics or citizenship, is the modern terminology - although I prefer the word civics because of its connection with civil society and the emphasis upon civility. But I am aware that, I believe it is Grade 6, they teach how the municipal system works; in Grade 7, the provincial system; in Grade 8, the federal system. Of course, I want to laud our government for introducing courses on Canadian history in Grade 11. I hope that as those take hold that it will be able to resolve some of the concern that I want to bring before the House this evening.

Nonetheless, for whatever reason, in spite of the fact that we have these elements in the course work in Grades 6, 7 and 8, students are abysmally ignorant of our political system and of their duties and responsibilities as citizens, as members of the Country of Canada and as citizens within the Province of Nova Scotia. This was brought home to me last night. I was lecturing at Acadia University. I was asked there by a poli sci professor to speak. The topic that I was given was, What does an MLA do? In my talk, I talked about the various branches of our government, the executive branch, the judicial branch, and then, of course, I came to the legislative branch which is what I, as an MLA, am part of. I talked about the various duties of advancing legislation, of representing geographic districts, of acting as an ombudsman for citizens, for constituents and helping them, and of being the presence of government, the face of government in many of the places that I go to.

We had a very interesting discussion, a very frank discussion, and they got to ask me questions. Then I said at the end of my discussion and the questions, I said, I want something from you and what I would like to know from you is, why are people your age, why are you not voting, why are you not involved in the political process to the extent that you should be?

Some very interesting answers came out. One answer was that one person didn't vote because they felt discouraged that most political representatives won by less than 50 per cent of the vote and didn't really represent the population. This particular person came from a riding where the victor won by 40 votes over the second-place person and they felt, well, how can you really feel that person has a mandate to represent the population. I did a little bit of research today on it, and, in 2003, 16 people in this House won by more than 50 per

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cent of vote; yourself, Mr. Speaker, being the top dog. I just managed to eke in on that 51 per cent margin this time, so I'm part of that 16. In 1999, it was the same figure, 16 out of 52. So this was the person's reason why he wasn't involved and why he didn't think voting was worth the time.

Another couple of people talked about the behaviour of politicians. Of course, one went on at quite length about Allan Rock and his accepting this trip from the Irving family to this lodge, and how they felt this was unethical and this was symptomatic of politicians. Another person got up and talked about Peter MacKay and the fact that he signed this document with David Orchard and then a month later reneged on it. So for a large class of students, that was the main reason why they didn't bother voting.

A third person got up and talked about how we don't represent our constituents anymore. They feel that once we're elected that we're under the control of the Party organization, of the Leader of the Party, the Premier, the Prime Minister, and they feel this sort of disconnect that we're their representative and yet we're not representing them. I explained a little bit about representational government versus direct democracy and a little bit about how we have lost some of that. I liken it to three legs on a stool, where your constituents, your conscience and your Party are the three legs. I think that perhaps we've lost a little bit of the balance. I admitted that that may be a problem, and that in Canadian politics we need, I think, in my opinion, reformation of the political system.

Another person, very interestingly enough, stated that one of the reasons why they didn't vote is that the policies of the Parties seemed to be all the same, that they were all sort of interchangeable. It's very interesting. There's the old joke, why does a Canadian cross the road? The answer is, to get to the middle. It is sort of true when you look at the three different Parties, really.

I find it quite interesting that the NDP are very supportive of the tax cut now, moving to the right on these issues, trying to get the support of the business community, I suspect. Whether they will be able to do that or not is something that's yet to be resolved.

The last person is the one that I want to talk to. This young woman said I didn't vote because I don't know anything about provincial politics, I don't know anything about our political system. This young woman, fortunately, didn't come from my riding, I think she came from Cape Breton, maybe the riding represented by an honourable member who just spoke out. But anyway, she didn't know anything about Canadian politics. She didn't know anything about provincial politics. Mr. Speaker, I was appalled. I was chairing the Law Amendments Committee when the discussion on the insurance bill, Bill No. 1, and Mr. Graham Steele . . .

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. Order, please. I just warned the previous member there about speaking a member's name. Thank you very much.

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The honourable member has the floor.

MR. PARENT: The honourable member for Halifax Fairview, he asked every person, who is your MLA? He wanted to make the point that they should go talk to their MLA, which is a very good point. Out of every person who he asked the question, the only one who knew who their MLA was was one person who had gone to him with her concerns. Once she said, you're my MLA, he remembered the meeting. All the others didn't know who their MLA was. This sort of came home to me when this young woman spoke to me, she said I didn't vote because I don't know anything about our political system.

The problem, of course, is not just why is it important that they know something about Canadian politics, about Nova Scotia politics, about our duties as citizens, it's not just a question of knowing information for information's sake, there's so much information out there, we can drown in it. But the importance of Nova Scotia students knowing the political system of Nova Scotia, how it works, the political system of Canada and how it works, and understanding their duties as citizens of their country is because of the health of democracy. I think one of the troubling signs in our modern democracy, both provincially and federally, is voter participation.

I was looking at the statistics for the Province of Nova Scotia. In 1960, 82 per cent of eligible voters voted; in 1970, this dropped to 77 per cent, a marginal drop; but in 1999, all of a sudden it plummets to 69 per cent; and in 2003, down to 65 per cent. This is for the Province of Nova Scotia but this mirrors what happens federally as well. There are some notable exceptions, P.E.I. being one of them.

When young people aren't voting, our democratic system is in trouble and will be in trouble unless they change their voting patterns. When one of the problems is lack of knowledge, lack of information, lack of teaching, lack of, perhaps, support at the home for the teaching that does go on - because I don't want to blame it on our school system totally, I think that the home doesn't support it - we have problems.

The second reason is because I am very worried, Mr. Speaker, that we have swung in the balance between collective responsibility and individual rights, too far in the direction of individual rights. When we don't teach about our political system, about civic responsibility, about the responsibility of citizens, we lose that balance. No man is an island, the poet John Donne said, and yet, we seem to be acting as if my rights are all that count and we forget our larger responsibilities to society. We need to inculcate that, we need to teach that when people are young. We need to do more of that.

We have some courses but we need to do more. We need to emphasize a better - I'm hopeful this Grade 11 course on Canadian history will help to turn the tide and that young people won't come up to me at university and say, I know nothing whatsoever about Nova Scotia politics, even though they are raised in this country. They will know about our

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political system, they will participate, they will vote, they will take their civic responsibility more seriously and we will have a better and stronger society. Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Kings West.

MR. LEO GLAVINE: Mr. Speaker, I thank you, first of all, I guess, for a little civics lesson right here in the Chamber tonight when I did get out of line and call the Opposition Leader by his name. So thank you very much for that.

I do want to thank the member for Kings North for the resolution today. Civics education should be a part of the Nova Scotia high school curriculum. I know I have had a very strong interest in this as a social studies teacher over the years. It is very much akin to something that I believe very strongly in, and will go a little bit further and actually say that some civics should be part of every single grade in our school system.

All it needs is a small, little add-on to our social studies curriculum. I think we have drifted away in our school system from some of the civics I know that were part and parcel of our, perhaps, earlier curriculum, when the idea of learning about your local government and government, generally, was often brought up in a social studies classroom.

I know that in my very first year of teaching, in Labrador City - and I was reminded of this today, they just had an election yesterday - teaching Grade 8 social studies and I decided that I would hold an election in my classroom. I held it one day before the actual election took place. The results got out to the radio station of the percentages for Liberal, Conservative and New Labrador Party. It so happened, the next day when the election took place, the percentages were within 2 per cent of the actual results. In other words, the kids were reflecting the way their parents were going to vote. It so happened that there was going to be a federal election in the same school year and I was told that I could not hold my classroom vote until the actual day of the election, and keep the results there.

So those were the kinds of things that I think we engaged in perhaps a little bit more in our classrooms years ago, and we have fallen away from that. I believe very strongly that students in the early years, but certainly in high school, as the resolution says today, that students should know how their village commission, all the way up really to the United Nations, how they actually operate, and the kind of influence that they actually have in our world, and of course with provincial and federal politics and local municipal politics, how they impact on our daily lives. So I think that kind of connection needs to be there in the curriculum.

I sort of pick up on a little phrase that we have maybe associated more with the environmental movement and that is: Think globally, but act locally. I think if students could actually engage a little bit with some of the local commissions, the municipal politics, during

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their school years, or even have ways of engaging them through the curriculum - I know at the high school where I spent 25 years, West Kings, we have had political science as a course for 25 years and because of the nature of our Social Studies Department we kept some of the civics topics as close to the other areas of social studies curriculum as we possibly could - so while we have to develop as global citizens, I think we really do need to know a lot about basic civics and citizenship, taking a responsible role in society.

I think this maybe could be expanded on in some way where we could capitalize and draw attention to it here in the House, and that in fact we could have a small component of our social studies curriculum at the high school level given over to pure civics, and that really from a provincial curriculum standpoint is perhaps not all that difficult to do. It is easy to develop a unit appropriate with literacy and so on appropriate to particular grade levels.

I know the political science course that we offered at West Kings really brought home the idea of engagement at the local, the provincial, and the national scene and students would do quite a bit of telephone conferencing. They would actually talk to politicians at the different levels of politics and that certainly, I think, really is very, very engaging and has a big impact. I know the day I went into our political science teacher, his classroom, and the students were actually in conversation with Prime Minister Diefenbaker. Now, I mean those are the things that students in that class will remember forever and a day.

AN HON. MEMBER: That wasn't yesterday.

MR. GLAVINE: That wasn't yesterday, exactly. So those were the kinds of conversations that would go on in that particular classroom - civics was alive and well there.

Just this past Friday, I had the opportunity to engage in part of a lesson in civics. I went into the French school in our community, Rose des Vents, to check on the progress of how their renovation project was going, and the principal actually teaches a political science class by teleconferencing to a student in Dartmouth, one in Cheticamp, one in Sydney, and two at Rose des Vents. So it's kind of timely. The only unfortunate thing about it was that I had to speak in English. I'm not bilingual - so they took the liberty - and what was really interesting was that students, and I was really hit by this, wanted to know what was happening with Bill No. 1, what were my views and the Party's views, and the different Parties' positions, on Sunday shopping. They knew of the two major bills, of course, drawn together by their teacher. So those I think are what I call some of the foundational interest areas. I mean there's more to civics than just what's of the moment, but certainly that's what engages them

[Page 1538]

[6:15 p.m.]

Very interestingly enough, tomorrow, we as members will have an opportunity to greet that class. They're coming here to the Legislature and what's really interesting about it, it is the first time that this class will be physically together this year as they come from the different points around the province. I think if we can create an interest with a number of practices such as the one I just described, I think we can go a long way.

I would just end off with three little points that I think can help stimulate the interest in civics. One is to have a designed and designated unit in our social studies curriculum at each of the high school levels if we can't add civics as a course to the curriculum. I think there's also a little bit here with teacher education. If civics never comes up as a topic to integrate into the curriculum, that is the way that many of the areas in social studies are going, it's such a vast area, social studies, if we could integrate a little, then I think we could have teachers knowledgeable about how the different levels of government work and also draw attention to the political events throughout the calendar year, and I think it's a really major step forward.

The last one - I think it puts a little bit of responsibility on ourselves - I just did a little quick calculation and if each of us as members were to visit eight schools, we would cover 416 schools out of the 440 schools currently in the province. I think that visibility in a school is one of the things that I believe in very strongly and I thank you, Mr. Speaker, for the time.

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

MR. WILLIAM ESTABROOKS: Mr. Speaker, just for the direction of the House, the resolution says, "Therefore be it resolved that civics education should be a part of Nova Scotia's high school curriculum."

Well, it's apple pie and motherhood of course, I expect that from that member. I expect that we're going to understand the fact that because there's a lower voter turnout, we'll turn to the school system. The school system has all the answers. We'll have civics and if we have civics, there will be more young people interested in the political process.

I heard the previous speaker and I respect his career as an educator. Having taught history and taught political science, I think many young people are fully aware of what goes on in this province. They might not be aware of what goes on in here - in some ways I'm glad they don't because I've had the opportunity to bring students into this place. When I brought them in and I remember at the invitation of the MLA for Sackville-Cobequid, actually for Sackville at the time, Mr. Holm, those invitations of course would be forthcoming and we would bring in students and they would watch the activities - Question Period and the theatrics of that. Then when we returned, the high school would be insisting upon decorum, behaviour and all kinds of other things. At the time I was involved - the Speaker, Mr.

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Donahoe, did a very credible job based upon his expertise - I'm sure we felt comfortable with how the Legislature was working.

The concern I always come back to though is that if we look at civics as the answer to try to get more young people interested in politics and involved in politics, that's not necessarily the way it works. I've survived career life management. I've survived physically active lifestyle. Curriculum changes in Nova Scotia - here, teachers, do it. So you suddenly have civics as part of a course, a half course or whatever half-baked idea is forthcoming and the issue is going to be, where do I get the resources? How do I bring in the things that are necessary to teach this class?

If you have a staff member who's innovative and who has lots of energy and one who has perhaps some expertise, then you have no problem. But then again you have that other teacher in smaller schools and their teaching line-up might be like this - they might teach Grade 12 English, they might teach Grade 11 history, Grade 10, two sections of math, and then of course they will get physically active lifestyles, career life management. Now, they're going to be called upon to have civics. In that situation, the funding has to be put in place for such curriculum development.

Mr. Speaker, as you well know, and I want you to know that I've had the opportunity to visit every school in my community already this year, and I've had the opportunity to be in schools where I've met some outstanding young teachers. One of them, I think you know very well, and I hope you're proud of her accomplishments, and I know that she's moved on to another school and she's missed at Brookside Junior High School.

AN HON. MEMBER: . . .she takes after her mother.

MR. ESTABROOKS: I don't need to be coached, because that thought was on my mind, that her mother must have been a wonderful student. But let me tell you, Mr. Speaker, I want to be clear on this, I want this to be very clear when I hear further suggestions put on the plate of educators. Now we're going to be involved in another venture when it comes to civics and citizenship in this province, another topic, something more that the teacher is going to be turned to to solve a problem. It is a problem of decreasing enrolments - not enrolments, decreasing interest when it comes to voter turnout. There's the decrease.

Mr. Speaker, I still have an opportunity in the high schools where I am responsible of going in and teaching a unit. I'm asked each year to go to the high schools and to teach a unit on Joe Howe. It's an opportunity that I've always taken. It's an opportunity because when that situation comes forward and the history teacher is involved, they look forward to the fact of saying, well, I've got a week of the MLA, a week of the history teacher, and he is coming in to teach Joe Howe. I prepare for students in the way that I usually did it, with the materials that I had and the information you needed, because no longer do you go into a high school class, stand at the front of the class, like the young member for Cole Harbour-

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Eastern Passage was taught at Cole Harbour High School when he was a student councillor president there, and let me tell you, you don't go in and lecture and be the talking textbook for 45, 50 or whatever number of minutes.

On a semestered school system, and the semestered schools, the high schools that I have in my community, let me tell you, it takes more than just the innovative teacher to come in and be the talking textbook. Today, we're going to talk about Joe Howe. It's not done that way, Mr. Speaker. It has to be done in a manner that will attract these young people, will attract their interests, have them involved, have them report back to you at the end of the week on whatever assignment has been given to them. That idea where teachers in the past spoke at length and then two weeks later it was burped back up - excuse the expression, but that's literally what happened - on paper when they recited what they had learned. That sort of workbook approach, that is not the way to teach Grade 12 history or teach Grade 11 history or certainly not teach civics.

Now as the member for Kings West can attest, we had our day at teaching civics. We had our day at it. Let me tell you, I want you to know, Mr. Speaker, it was part of a course where we would look at it and go, God, we have to cover this stuff, verbatim. We have to go through this. Fortunately, along came a political science course, students have the opportunity to pick the classes in high school, generally. It's like a buffet table, you go to the buffet, you need the meat and potatoes, math, English, the compulsory courses, one of which is Canadian history, rightfully so, that Grade 11 course. Unfortunately physically active lifestyles, career life management are also compulsory, for whatever reason, but that's another topic.

What I want to assure the member opposite, aside from his good intentions, if the Minister of Education is looking at this resolution, the Minister of Education and the Department of Education will look at that and go, oh no, not something else, not something else that we have to become responsible for. Now the Minister of Education, based upon his education experience when he was the Principal of the Nova Scotia Teachers College, we are called upon - and I say we, it's not we anymore - teachers are called upon to match all these expectations, and when the courses come out and suddenly this school has a higher rating than that school, you remember that, as far as I'm concerned, absolutely bogus study on rating schools. And then they begin to look also at the test score results. You must have a certain amount of math each day, you must have a certain amount of English each day, and of course if they're in the Immersion program, there's different instruction with regard to French instruction.

All of that is dependent upon the fact of how kids are doing in school. You know what the measuring stick of a successful school usually is, unfortunately, how many of them go on to university. Let me tell you, Mr. Speaker, that is no way to measure a successful school. A school that is successful is measured on things that you cannot just count up. You

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have to feel it, you have to hear it from the kids who've been in the school, you have to hear from the parents, and yes, you have to hear it from the teachers.

So, if in the middle of all these demands that are on teachers, particularly mathematics, particularly making sure they have a good reading level, you can't ask teachers to now be involved in another course, in another suggested activity. As well intended as this resolution would be, I would think there would be many staff members of the Department of Education who, for once, are in agreement with the MLA for Timberlea-Prospect, well intended but not the way to go.

Now, the problem, of course, exists, we must have these young people more involved politically. That's where the member for Kings West has an excellent idea. We should all visit our schools. We should all go in and be a guest speaker, have the opportunity to speak to a particular class. They see real politics, they see real people, they will become involved in the process. Thank you for your time. Thank you to the member for bringing the resolution forward.

MR. SPEAKER: I would like to thank the member for bringing it as well. Just some passing comments before we close, actually I just spoke to the Minister of Education as the debate was going on, because, in fact, in Alberta, there is a Speaker there who initiated a program, and I think in Manitoba as well, where some members of the House have joined with the Speaker and actually made a program that would take this out throughout the province. Maybe it's something we should give some consideration to, that instead of relying on the teachers who are already overworked, maybe the members of the Legislature would be interested in taking part in a program where we could actually take it out to the students of this province, and tell them exactly what it is that we do in this Legislature on their behalf. It may be something the members want to give consideration to.

The House is adjourned until 12:00 noon tomorrow.

[The House rose at 6:27 p.m.]

[Page 1542]

NOTICES OF MOTION UNDER RULE 32(3)

RESOLUTION NO. 546

By: Hon. Ronald Russell (Transportation and Public Works)

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

Whereas the West Hants Thunder Mites softball team recently concluded their 2003 season by winning the provincial silver medal after losing in the Nova Scotia championship game to Timberlea; and

Whereas the West Hants Thunder Mites team consisting of eight-year-old and nine-year-old players was coached by Darrell Lyttle with help from Phil Brison, Graeme Swain and Steven Parker; and

Whereas the West Hants Thunder Mites are hopefully the beginning of a new age of championship-calibre softball players that will keep the Windsor-West Hants area, especially Newport and St. Croix, on the national softball radar screen for many years into the future;

Therefore be it resolved that MLAs compliment Darrell, Phil, Graeme and Steven on a tremendous season of sportsmanship and teaching, and wish them every success in the future.

RESOLUTION NO. 547

By: Hon. Ronald Russell (Transportation and Public Works)

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

Whereas the Mount Denson Garden Club held their monthly meeting earlier this month and heard a fascinating presentation from renowned landscaper Tim Amos; and

Whereas Amos, who teaches landscaping at Kingstec Community College, spoke about his students training at a castle in London, England; and

Whereas the student training involves helping three regular groundskeepers take care of 500 acres of land including England's second largest collection of water lilies;

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Therefore be it resolved that the Mount Denson Garden Club be congratulated for bringing in such interesting speakers and expanding their knowledge on the wonderful hobby of gardening.

RESOLUTION NO. 548

By: Hon. Ronald Russell (Transportation and Public Works)

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

Whereas the Martock and Windsor Forks Women's Institute recently celebrated their 90th Anniversary with a banquet at the Manning Chapel on College Road in Windsor; and

Whereas long-time member Susie Daniels recently celebrated her 104th birthday; and

Whereas during the banquet Mary Smith was presented with a 50-year women's institute certificate;

Therefore be it resolved that MLAs applaud the tremendous efforts of the Martock and Windsor Forks Women's Institute while congratulating the unit on their 90th Anniversary and wish them every success now and in the future.

RESOLUTION NO. 549

By: Hon. Cecil Clarke (Energy)

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

Whereas the Order of Nova Scotia is our province's highest honour and is bestowed on those Nova Scotians who have given of themselves, their time and their talent and have made extraordinary contributions to our people and our province; and

Whereas Sister Dorothy Moore has dedicated many years to the preservation and restoration of the Mi'kmaq language and culture; and

Whereas because of her work, the Nova Scotia Department of Education has developed a provincial Mi'kmaq language curriculum;

Therefore be it resolved that this House applaud Sister Dorothy Moore on being named to the Order of Nova Scotia and for her educational and cultural leadership that will carry on for generations to come.

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RESOLUTION NO. 550

By: Hon. James Muir (Education)

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

Whereas more than 385 students received degrees, diplomas and certificates from Mount Saint Vincent University during its 2003 Fall convocation ceremonies; and

Whereas public relations graduate and four-time dean's list scholar Denise Antle was valedictorian, and master of education graduate Joanne Burns-Theriault was awarded the President's Prize; and

Whereas honorary degrees were awarded to internationally renowned pianist Angela Hewitt and Maritime filmmaker Shelagh Mackenzie;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House congratulate Denise Antle, Joanne Burns-Theriault, Angela Hewitt, Shelagh Mackenzie and all the new Mount Saint Vincent University graduates, and wish them much success in their future endeavours.

RESOLUTION NO. 551

By: Hon. Murray Scott (Speaker)

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

Whereas October 19th to October 25th marks National Foster Family Week which honours the commitment and generosity of foster families; and

Whereas those foster families who offer themselves and their homes to children who are in need of love, care and protection as they are unable to live with their birth parents are to be commended; and

Whereas all Nova Scotians, and particularly here in Cumberland County, we are forever indebted to foster families who provide a healthy and secure environment for children and youth throughout our communities;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House thank all foster families in Nova Scotia during this year's National Foster Family Week for their commitment, not only this week but throughout the entire year, for their selfless efforts to children.

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RESOLUTION NO. 552

By: Hon. Murray Scott (Speaker)

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

Whereas Lesley Ross who made legendary achievement as an Advocate Coyote is now doing the same thing for the University of New Brunswick; and

Whereas Lesley was named the Athlete of the Week for her third-place finish in the UNB cross-country meet; and

Whereas Lesley has been the UNB's top runner in both of the Atlantic university sports meets so far this year;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House congratulate Lesley Ross on this outstanding achievement and wish her continued success in the future.

RESOLUTION NO. 553

By: Hon. Murray Scott (Speaker)

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

Whereas an emotional reunion took place in Pictou on August 4, 2003, between Springhill native Nita Rushton, 88 years of age, and 2 of 4 men whom Nita rescued from drowning when their boat tipped over in Halifax 60 years ago; and

Whereas Nita Rushton was deemed a hero and presented with the Royal Canadian Humane Society Award in Halifax for her heroic actions and presence of mind in assisting with the rescue of the four boys from drowning in the waters of the North West Arm on August 13, 1943; and

Whereas Rudy Gillam, who was the oldest boy rescued at 14, and Vince Billard, who was the youngest at 8, met Ms. Rushton for the first time since that summer day in 1943 and both men agreed that they would always be grateful to her for what she did that day;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House congratulate Ms. Nita Rushton for her heroic act of being instrumental in saving the lives of these boys and wish her all the best in the future.

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RESOLUTION NO. 554

By: Hon. Murray Scott (Speaker)

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

Whereas Kyle Purdy of Oxford, Nova Scotia, represented Oxford Regional High School at the NSSAF Provincial Track and Field Meet; and

Whereas Kyle did his school proud as he won the gold medal for his efforts that weekend; and

Whereas Kyle won the gold with a personal best javelin throw of 43.54 metres in the juniors boys class;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House congratulate Kyle Purdy on this outstanding achievement and wish him continued success in the future.

RESOLUTION NO. 555

By: Hon. Murray Scott (Speaker)

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

Whereas Stephen Boyce, a 14-year-old Fall River youth, turned heads at many golf events during the past summer, not bad considering that Stephen broke his leg in April playing hockey and couldn't walk for quite some time; and

Whereas his grandparents, Richard and Darline Boyce, played a big part in his success since he spends a lot of time at their cottage in Parrsboro, allowing him to practise at the Parrsboro course; and

Whereas Stephen finished in second place at the Saturn-sponsored tournament in Halifax and followed that up with another tournament in Truro where he won the junior division and placed second overall ahead of many pros. As well, Stephen placed second at the midget championships in Clare to qualify for provincials at the River Hills Club in Shelburne where he also placed second, qualifying him for the Atlantic championships in Mill River, P.E.I., where he won his age group and his Nova Scotia squad also won the team championship;

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Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House congratulate Stephen Boyce on these outstanding achievements and wish him continued success in the future.

RESOLUTION NO. 556

By: Hon. Murray Scott (Speaker)

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

Whereas George Goguen of Moncton, New Brunswick, is being honoured by his friends, peers and co-workers on Saturday, October 25, 2003; and

Whereas George has made a living for himself and his family by selling his unique artwork for many years; and

Whereas over the past 20 years, George has been reusing recyclable items in his work to make his work interesting and unique while doing his part to recycle, especially recycled paint from throughout Nova Scotia;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House congratulate George Goguen on being honoured for his many years of contribution to the art world and for his outstanding achievements in this field, and wish him continued success for many years to come.

RESOLUTION NO. 557

By: Hon. Murray Scott (Speaker)

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

Whereas one of Nova Scotia's much-loved theatre companies has begun the process of building its new home; and

Whereas Parrsboro's Ship's Company Theatre held a groundbreaking ceremony in September and the construction of the new facility is expected to be completed in time for the company's next season; and

Whereas the new complex will replace the MV Kipawo which has served as the company's main stage for the past 20 years;

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Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House join me in congratulating all those involved in the Ship's Company Theatre, including Board Chairman Nancy Cleveland, Artistic Director Scott Burke and Facility Chairman Bruce McCulloch, on the groundbreaking for their new complex.

RESOLUTION NO. 558

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, a former student of Advocate Regional High School and a member of the Advocate Ladies Coyotes, has been turning heads on the soccer field as a member of the University College of Cape Breton Capers; and

Whereas Katie was known to local soccer fans as a dangerous striker, she has started every game for her new team at left midfield and has played 85 to 90 minutes per game for her team; and

Whereas Katie's new team is ranked fourth in the country with a record of six wins and one tie;

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

RESOLUTION NO. 559

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 River Hebert Women's dart league of Legion Branch 14 travelled to Westmount, Cape Breton, to participate in the ladies over 50 division of the provincial championships; and

Whereas these ladies placed first in their division making them the Nova Scotia provincial champions; and

Whereas members of the winning team are Captain Ruth Morris, Ruth LeBlanc, Effie Carde and Janie O'Brien;

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Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House congratulate the members of the River Hebert women's dart league of Legion Branch 14 and wish them continued success in the future.

RESOLUTION NO. 560

By: Hon. Murray Scott (Speaker)

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

Whereas Michelle Pieroway, a student at Nova Scotia Community College, Cumberland Campus, Springhill, scored first in the province on the provincial cosmetology examinations; and

Whereas Michelle is the recipient of the Florence Orminston Award presented by the Cosmetology Association of Nova Scotia for the highest average on the provincial examination; and

Whereas Michelle also received an honourable mention award for achieving a mark of 85 per cent and above on each phase of the practical exam;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House congratulate Michelle Pieroway on this outstanding achievement and wish her all the best in the future.

RESOLUTION NO. 561

By: Hon. Murray Scott (Speaker)

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

Whereas Megan Patriquin of Wentworth, Nova Scotia, performed for a live audience for five weeks and it paid off for her; and

Whereas Megan was the grand prize winner of the Tri-County Idol contest in Tatamagouche; and

Whereas the contest was hosted by the North Shore Community Development Association and Megan was pleased to be a part of this as it built her confidence and hopes that it will help her music career blossom;

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Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House congratulate Megan on this achievement and wish her continued success in the future.

RESOLUTION NO. 562

By: Hon. Murray Scott (Speaker)

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

Whereas Phil Sprague was the 3rd division winner at the annual Springhill Centennial Club Championship in Springhill, Nova Scotia; and

Whereas the tournament sponsored by D & J Home Hardware is a major event in the Springhill area and was held on August 23-24, 2003; and

Whereas Phil finished the two-day tournament with the honour of placing first in his division;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House congratulate Phil Sprague on this prestigious win and wish him continued success in the future.