Assemblée Législative de la Nouvelle-Écosse

Les travaux de la Chambre ont repris le
21 septembre 2017

HANSARD 03-20

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

FRIDAY, OCTOBER 24, 2003

TABLE OF CONTENTS PAGE
STATEMENTS BY MINISTERS:
Commun. Serv. - Foster Families Appreciation Week, Hon. D. Morse 1611
GOVERNMENT NOTICES OF MOTION:
Res. 597, Environ. & Lbr. - Waste Reduction Wk. (10/20-10/26/03):
Events - Participate, Hon. K. Morash 1613
Vote - Affirmative 1614
Res. 598, Educ. - Science Learning: Participants - Congrats.,
Hon. J. Muir 1614
Vote - Affirmative 1615
Res. 599, NSLC: Check 25/Don't Buy For Minors - Congrats.,
Hon. E. Fage 1615
Vote - Affirmative 1616
Res. 600, Agric. & Fish. - Eskasoni Aquaculture Ind.: Participants -
Congrats., Hon. C. d'Entremont 1616
Vote - Affirmative 1616
Res. 601, Celtic Colours: Brown, Blair/Vols. - Congrats.,
Hon. Rodney MacDonald 1616
Vote - Affirmative 1617
Res. 602, Energy - NSCC (Marconi Campus): Imperial Oil -
Donation - Thank, (by Hon. D. Morse), Hon. C. Clarke 1617
Vote - Affirmative 1618
INTRODUCTION OF BILLS:
No. 28, Commissioner on Resources and Environment Act,
Mr. J. MacDonell 1618
No. 29, Forest Act, Mr. J. MacDonell 1618
NOTICES OF MOTION:
Res. 603, Harnett, William - Metro Transit Passenger:
Emergency Response - Congrats., Mr. D. Dexter 1618
Vote - Affirmative 1619
Res. 604, Sysco - Cleanup: Full Accounting - Release,
Mr. Manning MacDonald 1619
Res. 605, NSCC - Stellarton Campus: Expansion -
Importance Recognize, Mr. J. DeWolfe 1620
Vote - Affirmative 1620
Res. 606, Myers, Edith Marie: Birthday (90th) - Congrats.,
Mr. K. Deveaux 1620
Vote - Affirmative 1621
Res. 607, Fin.: Responsible Gaming - Promote, Ms. D. Whalen 1621
Vote - Affirmative 1622
Res. 608, Justice - Female Law Enforcement Officers: Importance -
Acknowledge, Mr. W. Langille 1622
Vote - Affirmative 1623
Res. 609, Insurance - Pub. Auto Plan (Can.): Lessons - Learn,
Mr. G. Steele 1623
Res. 610, Health - Celiac Assoc. (Hfx. Chap.): Best Wishes - Extend,
Mr. David Wilson (Glace Bay) 1623
Vote - Affirmative 1624
Res. 611, Educ. - Kings Co. Learning Assoc.: Vols. - Congrats.,
Mr. M. Parent 1624
Vote - Affirmative 1625
Res. 612, Pub. Library Wk. (10/20-10/26/03) - Capt. Wm. Spry Library:
Event (10/25/03) - Success Wish, (by Ms. M. More),
Ms. M. Raymond 1625
Vote - Affirmative 1626
Res. 613, Topley, Heather: Young Scientist Footprints Award - Congrats.,
Hon. J. Muir 1626
Vote - Affirmative 1626
Res. 614, RCL Br. 153: Commitment - Congrats., Mr. W. Estabrooks 1627
Vote - Affirmative 1627
Res. 615, RCL Br. 156: Commitment - Congrats., Mr. W. Estabrooks 1627
Vote - Affirmative 1628
Res. 616, Fin.: Sydney Casino Charity Trust - Re-Establish,
Mr. David Wilson (Glace Bay) 1628
GOVERNMENT BUSINESS:
PUBLIC BILLS FOR SECOND READING:
No. 20, Workers' Compensation Act/Occupational Health and
Safety Act 1629
Mr. W. Estabrooks 1629
Mr. C. Parker 1636
Ms. J. Massey 1651
Hon. K. Morash 1656
Vote - Affirmative 1656
ADJOURNMENT, House rose to meet again on Mon., Oct. 27th at 2:00 p.m. 1657
NOTICES OF MOTION UNDER RULE 32(3):
Res. 617, Econ. Dev. - N.S. Co-Op Council: Success (2002) - Congrats.,
Hon. E. Fage 1658
Res. 618, Churchill, Stan - Burke Mem. Garden: Kindness - Commend,
Hon. R. Hurlburt 1658
Res. 619, New Glasgow Wishmaker Parade: Participants/Organizers -
Recognize, Mr. J. DeWolfe 1659
Res. 620, Health Prom. - Tennis Assoc. (N.S.)/Cusack Sch.:
Initiatives - Applaud, Hon. Rodney MacDonald 1659

[Page 1611]

HALIFAX, FRIDAY, OCTOBER 24, 2003

Fifty-ninth General Assembly

First Session

9:00 A.M.

SPEAKER

Hon. Murray Scott

DEPUTY SPEAKERS

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

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

PRESENTING AND READING PETITIONS

PRESENTING REPORTS OF COMMITTEES

TABLING REPORTS, REGULATIONS AND OTHER PAPERS

STATEMENTS BY MINISTERS

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of Community Services.

HON. DAVID MORSE: Mr. Speaker, I would like to start by saying that I very much appreciate the indulgence of the Opposition Parties in allowing me to do this on very short notice. This is the last sitting day we are going to have during Foster Families Appreciation Week. I feel that I was blessed to be able to attend last night a beautiful function over in Shearwater to honour some of the people who are involved in fostering. It was a very moving experience and as best I can I would like to share a little bit of it here today.

1611

[Page 1612]

There are two things in particular. One is I would like to talk about how you should never give up on a child. I met one young foster mother there, her name is Nancy, and I would just say that just like Barb, who we introduced here the other day in the Legislature, there are more people who potentially could be on the Pope's list for sainthood in addition to Mother Teresa. These are beautiful people. Nancy was offered the chance to take in a newborn baby, three weeks old, hydrocephalic. The doctor said that the little girl would never be able to eat on her own, she would never be able to sit up, never be able to talk, never be able to walk. He said that she was a vegetable and she would remain a vegetable and furthermore, if this foster mom adopted her, she could also expect the little girl to die shortly. There was no question on Nancy's part, that little girl was coming home. She not only brought her home, she adopted her.

It is now four years later. There have been numerous operations, including placing a shunt in the little girl's head to address the swelling, and I want to tell you, I saw the picture that was proudly carried by the mom and the foster sister of a beautiful four-year-old girl. I guess she's smarter than I am because she speaks two languages. First of all, she learned to sign and now she is learning to speak English and she's looking forward to going to school. I would tell you, honourable members, that the power of love should never be underestimated by the health care profession. That is one story, Mr. Speaker.

The other one is about this very accomplished young girl who greeted me when I came in. I'm not able to use her full name, because she's a foster child, but her first name is Tamika. She made quite an impression. She was one of the first speakers to address us. Now this is her perspective of being a foster child and what it means to her and other foster children. This is what she shared with us that evening.

"I am 13 years old. My brother, sister and I have been with my family for 6 years and plan to be here forever. I just wanted to give all of the foster parents a special thanks for all your hard work and if it wasn't for you wonderful people where would children be? Every child wants a home and parents to call their own but a lot of kids don't get that and that's why we have to be thankful for what we have and not what we don't have. This is a dream come true for me to have such a great home and family who will love me no matter what. So on behalf of all the foster children all over Nova Scotia I would like to make a toast of thanks." That's from Tamika. Again, she's a 13-year-old foster child.

Mr. Speaker, it was a very moving experience to be in that room, the love and caring was electric. The point of this is to say that for men and women out there who have something to share or perhaps who are missing something in their lives, this is a wonderful opportunity, to become a foster parent. Again, thank you, Mr. Speaker, and I thank the Opposition Parties for allowing me to make this statement today.

[Page 1613]

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

MS. MARILYN MORE: Mr. Speaker, the Official Opposition wants to join with the minister and his government in paying tribute to the 700 foster families across Nova Scotia. The generosity of love, time and energy that they share with one another is very inspiring. I especially want to congratulate the children who paid tribute to their foster parents last evening for the wonderful job that they did. Children are our greatest investment and resource in Nova Scotia, and they deserve to be treated with the utmost of care and love, and should be treasured and protected by all Nova Scotians. I would just encourage us all to keep that in mind during our upcoming budget discussions. Thank you.

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

MR. MANNING MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, I'm pleased to rise in my place today and join with the government and Official Opposition in paying tribute to foster parents. While this week is Foster Families Appreciation Week, I think we would all agree in this House that every week should be Foster Families Appreciation Week; they are very special people. And there are many Tamikas out there in Nova Scotia who need the love and nourishment of foster parents in this province.

Certainly, I want to congratulate the minister for making us aware of that this morning and to say to the minister that all of us, I believe, in this House, really and truly know about the value of foster parents. I think each and every one of us has probably had a personal experience with foster parents or with foster children, one way or the other, either by extension in our families or by friends and neighbours who have nourished and loved foster children over the years.

Mr. Speaker, I just wanted to join with the other two Parties in saying thank you to the minister for bringing this forward. As I said at the outset, every week should be Foster Families Appreciation Week. Thank you.

GOVERNMENT NOTICES OF MOTION

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

RESOLUTION NO. 597

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

[Page 1614]

Whereas Nova Scotia continues to be a leader in diversion of waste management from landfills through reuse and recycling; and

Whereas everyone needs to be involved in maintaining this leadership position;

Therefore be it resolved that this House urge all Nova Scotians to participate in one of the many community swap shops, recycling demonstrations and composting workshops to be held this weekend, to conclude another successful Waste Reduction Week 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.

RESOLUTION NO. 598

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

Whereas Katie Atkinson, Emily Clarke, Natalie Lamoth and Jay McNeil, winners at their regional science fair in Truro, were members of Team Nova Scotia for the Canada Wide Science Fair in Calgary last Spring; and

Whereas these young scientists will display their exhibits here at Province House this morning, to mark National Science and Technology Week; and

Whereas the Truro-Bible Hill area is a hotbed for science fair enthusiasm, winning the bid to host the national event, in Truro, in 2007, and home to students who won three silver medals and several awards at the 2003 event;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House applaud the commitment of students, teachers, parents and administrators in Truro and Bible Hill, and across the province, for making science learning relevant and fun.

[Page 1615]

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice and before you call that, I invite all members to go downstairs into the foyer later this morning to see those exhibits.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable Minister of Economic Development.

RESOLUTION NO. 599

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

Whereas the Nova Scotia Liquor Corporation is continuing to make it difficult for minors to purchase alcohol; and

Whereas the corporation's Don't Buy for Minors and Check 25 ID have been very successful and bring awareness to the problem of underage drinking and in preventing it; and

Whereas between January and June of this year, liquor store employees asked more than 135,000 customers for a legal identification, turning more than 7,000 customers away for inadequate identification;

Therefore be it resolved that members of this House acknowledge the dedication of all those who work for the Nova Scotia Liquor Corporation - both in the stores and out - and who have made the Check 25 and Don't Buy for Minors programs so successful.

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 1616]

The motion is carried.

The honourable Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries.

RESOLUTION NO. 600

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

Whereas the community of Eskasoni has worked hard in becoming a leader in the local aquaculture industry and is leading the way in protecting the Bras d'Or Lakes; and

Whereas this year, the province was pleased to recognize Eskasoni for its leadership in the field of aquaculture; and

Whereas the aquaculture initiatives in Eskasoni are good examples of co-operation and collaboration with federal, provincial, municipal and First Nation governments;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House join me in recognizing all those involved with the aquaculture industry in Eskasoni and wish them much success with their future aquaculture 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 Tourism and Culture.

RESOLUTION NO. 601

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

Whereas 48 visitors from Ontario enjoyed Cape Breton's famous hospitality after their bus became unable to transport them to their next destination; and

[Page 1617]

Whereas organizers for the Celtic Colours music festival quickly arranged for transportation of the stranded visitors to their next destination; and

Whereas while the travellers waited for their alternative rides, they were made comfortable in Cape Breton style with refreshments and music at the Canadian Legion in Iona;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House recognize Blair Brown and all the Celtic Colours' volunteers who have continued Cape Breton's fine tradition of hospitality and friendship to the visitors of our province.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable Minister of Community Services.

[9:15 a.m.]

RESOLUTION NO. 602

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

Whereas the Imperial Oil Foundation will contribute $250,000 to the Nova Scotia Community College Marconi Campus over the next five years; and

Whereas the money will be used to enhance the oil and gas program in refinery process operations; and

Whereas the enhanced curriculum will be developed in partnership between the college and Imperial Oil to help develop workers who will meet the needs of Nova Scotia's growing offshore oil and gas industry;

[Page 1618]

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House join me in acknowledging Imperial Oil's ongoing commitment to grow a successful oil and gas industry in this province and extend to them our appreciation for their efforts to increase educational opportunities in this industry 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.

INTRODUCTION OF BILLS

Bill No. 28 - Entitled an Act Respecting the Appointment and Duties of a Commissioner on Resources and Environment. (Mr. John MacDonell)

Bill No. 29 - Entitled an Act to Amend Chapter 179 of the Revised Statutes of 1989. The Forest Act. (Mr. John MacDonell)

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

NOTICES OF MOTION

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

RESOLUTION NO. 603

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

Whereas Metro Transit's William Harnett observed that one of his passengers was in need of assistance; and

Whereas following Metro Transit's procedures, Mr. Harnett and other staff confirmed that the passenger appeared to be in need of immediate medical attention; and

[Page 1619]

Whereas the Metro Transit passenger was taken to the Dartmouth General Hospital Emergency Room, where she was treated for a life-threatening diabetic coma;

Therefore be it resolved that this House congratulate William Harnett and his co-workers at Metro Transit for their procedures and prompt attention with which they ensured that a passenger received life-saving emergency medical treatment.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Cape Breton South.

RESOLUTION NO. 604

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

Whereas the accounting firm of Ernst & Young is involved in a secret process to clean up Sysco with $250 million in taxpayers' dollars;

Whereas the Sysco cleanup is being conducted under a veil of secrecy with no accountability to this Legislature; and

Whereas the people have a right to know how their tax dollars are being spent;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House demand that the government release a full accounting of the Sysco clean up since Ernst & Young became the principal operator of Sydney Steel.

Mr. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Pictou East.

[Page 1620]

RESOLUTION NO. 605

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

Whereas the upcoming expansion to the Stellarton campus of the Nova Scotia Community College will increase the accessibility of education for the students of Pictou County and will provide increased benefits to the community; and

Whereas Stellarton Mayor Art Fitt and Nova Scotia Community College Principal Mike Hill have been working together to find ways in which the new community college facilities can be accessed for town activities; and

Whereas the $11 million expansion of the Stellarton campus will increase the student population from 360 to more than 900 students;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House recognize the excellent investment this government has made in the community colleges that will not only benefit those students seeking to expand their skills, but the entire communities.

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 Cole Harbour-Eastern Passage.

RESOLUTION NO. 606

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

Whereas Edith Marie Myers was born on October 30, 1913, in Eastern Passage, where she has lived all her life; and

[Page 1621]

Whereas Mrs. Myers, with her husband, raised five children, Stephen, Roseann, Lorraine, Paul, and Joan; and

Whereas Mrs. Myers has seven grandchildren and four great-grandchildren;

Therefore be it resolved that this House congratulate Edith Marie Myers on her 90th birthday, and wish her many more years of health of happiness.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Halifax Clayton Park.

RESOLUTION NO. 607

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

Whereas Nova Scotians are being reminded to play games of chance responsibly during Nova Scotia's second Responsible Gaming Awareness Week, being held from October 19 to 25, 2003; and

Whereas this week's overall focus is to educate people and heighten awareness about the importance of playing games of chance responsibly; and

Whereas the key message being promoted during the week is: Part of playing responsibly is knowing you can't control the game;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House promote responsible gaming, not just during this week but all through the year.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

[Page 1622]

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 North.

RESOLUTION NO. 608

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

Whereas in Truro on October 16th, the MLA for Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley and myself, the member for Colchester North, attended the 11th annual Atlantic Women in Law Enforcement Awards Banquet, entitled A Time to Reflect; and

Whereas women still consist of less than 12 per cent of all police officers in Canada, with 140 of them working here in Nova Scotia; and

Whereas the conference has become so popular, because of information sessions on everything from homicide investigations, to shift work and sleep, and balancing the job with your children, that male police officers now attend because of the excellent training opportunities presented at this conference;

Therefore be it resolved that MLAs acknowledge the critical importance of work by female law enforcement officers across Nova Scotia, and applaud them on the conclusion of another successful conference.

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 1623]

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Halifax Fairview.

RESOLUTION NO. 609

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

Whereas on October 23, 2003, New Brunswick Premier Bernard Lord and Manitoba Premier Gary Doer met in Fredericton to discuss interprovincial co-operation; and

Whereas one topic was the noteworthy success and wide public support for Manitoba Public Insurance, which has backing from all three Parties in the Manitoba Legislature; and

Whereas Premier Lord acknowledged that Manitobans have good reason to be proud of the public auto insurance plan, which provides lower rates and much better benefits than will be available in Nova Scotia;

Therefore be it resolved that this House urge the government of this province and their Liberal allies to learn the lessons from decades of success with public auto insurance in Canada, instead of digging in deeper to defend a system that has enraged Nova Scotia drivers with unfair rates, arbitrary treatment, and a 65 per cent overall increase in premium costs in just one painful year.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

I hear several Noes.

The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Glace Bay.

RESOLUTION NO. 610

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

Whereas October is designated as Celiac Awareness Month in Nova Scotia; and

[Page 1624]

Whereas celiac disease is a digestive disease that damages the small intestine and interferes with the absorption of nutrients from food; and

Whereas the Halifax Chapter of the Canadian Celiac Association, one of 27 chapters in Canada, makes celiac awareness a cornerstone of their mandate;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House extend our best wishes to the Halifax Chapter of the Celiac Association in their future endeavours, including their role as host of the 2004 National Conference to be held in Halifax on May 28th, 29th and 30th of 2004.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Kings North.

RESOLUTION NO. 611

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

Whereas literate citizens are more likely to be employed in better and higher-paying jobs, enjoy better health, take part in community activities and are less likely to be in conflict with the law; and

Whereas in Kings County 1 in 4 adults has difficulty with basic reading, writing and math skills; and

Whereas the Kings County Learning Association in Kentville will officially open its doors on November 5th of this year and will provide a wide range of programs for adults to learn or improve their writing, reading and math skills;

[Page 1625]

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House join me in congratulating all the volunteers involved in making the programs of the Kings County Learning Association possible and extend to them our best wishes as they establish this very valuable initiative.

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. 612

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

Whereas October 20th to October 26th marks Public Library Week in Nova Scotia; and

Whereas libraries across the province are holding events this week commemorating this year's theme, Look At Us Now; and

Whereas on Saturday, October 25, 2003, the Captain William Spry Library will celebrate with a puppet show, cake and visits from local dignitaries;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of the Legislative Assembly congratulate the staff, trustees and many volunteers on making the Captain William Spry Library such an important part of our community and wish them every success at their public library event tomorrow.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

[Page 1626]

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. 613

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

Whereas Heather Topley of Truro has been named the Atlantic region winner of the Young Scientist Footprints Award by the Council for Biotechnology Information Canada; and

Whereas the $5,000 Young Scientist Footprints Award is presented in five regions in Canada in recognition of the 50th Anniversary of the discovery of the structure of DNA in 1953; and

Whereas Heather Topley, who is a master's degree candidate at the Nova Scotia Agricultural College, earned the award for genetics research on potatoes;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House congratulate Heather Topley on receiving a Young Scientist Footprints Award and wish her continued success in her academic pursuits and in her future career.

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 Timberlea-Prospect.

[Page 1627]

RESOLUTION NO. 614

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

Whereas Royal Canadian Legions across Nova Scotia are recognized for their involvement and dedication; and

Whereas the Atlantic Branch, Royal Canadian Legion #153 in Whites Lake, provides valuable service in our community; and

Whereas veterans and Legion members will hold Remembrance Day ceremonies on November 11th;

Therefore be it resolved that this House of Assembly congratulate and thank the members of the Royal Canadian Legion Branch #153 for their commitment to our province, our country and our history.

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 Timberlea-Prospect.

RESOLUTION NO. 615

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

Whereas Royal Canadian Legions across Nova Scotia are recognized for their involvement and dedication; and

Whereas the MacDonald Branch, Royal Canadian Legion #156 in Lakeside, provides valuable service in our community; and

[Page 1628]

Whereas veterans and Legion members will hold Remembrance Day ceremonies on November 11th;

Therefore be it resolved that this House of Assembly congratulate and thank the members of the Royal Canadian Legion Branch #156 for their commitment to our province, our country and our history.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Glace Bay.

[9:30 a.m.]

RESOLUTION NO. 616

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

Whereas the weather is beginning to turn colder as we approach the winter and, of course, the holiday season; and

Whereas as the holiday season turns into the new year, charity groups throughout Nova Scotia will need help more than ever; and

Whereas in a failed attempt to balance the budget, this government continues to take money that would have gone to charity, but instead is going to pad the bottom line.

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House recognize that the government should apologize to charity groups for denying them a source of funding and as an act of contrition - re-establish a Sydney Casino charity trust.

MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.

[Page 1629]

ORDERS OF THE DAY

GOVERNMENT BUSINESS

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Government House Leader.

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

PUBLIC BILLS FOR SECOND READING

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Government House Leader.

HON. RONALD RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, would you please call Bill No. 20.

Bill No. 20 - Workers' Compensation Act/Occupational Health and Safety Act.

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

MR. WILLIAM ESTABROOKS: Mr. Speaker, for the members of the House who had the opportunity to hear me make some comments the other day, and I know the member for Lunenburg West, particularly, is always intrigued with a history lesson or two from me, so today I'm going to make myself useful again, as he would say on certain occasions, and and bring out some examples, because I can remember exactly where I was the other day on this topic of Bill No. 20.

I had the opportunity to mention the impact of injured workers and I had gone through, for the information of the members of the House, some personal cases in which I had been involved as an MLA. I hope members opposite take the opportunity, and I know members of our caucus are taking the opportunity to stand in their place and speak on this piece of legislation, this Bill No. 20 that after all has resulted - and it's important that members understand that, you know, not the hypothetical situation that I'm going to bring forward, but if, and there's that word if, the Supreme Court of Canada had not brought forward that decision that we had been waiting for for so long, if that had not been brought forward, would there have been a Bill No. 20?

Well, that's a question that I guess we will just have to speculate on, because we have this piece of legislation, and this piece of legislation is going to move on to the Law Amendments Committee, at which time members opposite, the members of this caucus and the members of the Third Party will have the opportunity, if they haven't had already, to listen to injured workers. As I've said before in my comments, Mr. Speaker, I want you to know there is probably no more emotional topic than I've ever dealt with in my years as an MLA than this topic of injured workers.

[Page 1630]

Mr. Speaker, if I may, I want to bring to the attention of the House an incident, and again with your indulgence, I'm not mentioning names as I usually do because with the permission of these workers and families that I've been referring to, I'm not going to use their names, I'm not going to use their addresses, I'm certainly not going to make any more than a passing reference to who they are and what their injuries are, without their names, because many of these injured workers are worried about the response that the WCB will have to me raising their cases here because some of them are still under review. I mean, when you get into the review of the workers' compensation bill, it doesn't take months, it take years. The backlog, the unfortunate backlog, and the absolute animosity that's created between injured workers and the WCB is certainly tragic.

So, Mr. Speaker, I want to bring to your attention an incident that happened while I was the school principal in the community that I'm fortunate enough now to represent. There was a young man and a young girl in this school, they were in Grade 8 at the time, both in the same grade, and I want you to know that they were pretty fine kids. This one Friday morning, however, the young guy was sent to my office, as is the habit in schools when students are misbehaving, and I was quite surprised to see him come into my office, and I said to him, typical school administrator on a grumpy Friday morning, what are you doing here? Oh, Ms. so-and-so sent me to the office, Mr. Estabrooks, he said. I said, you go in my office and you sit down and don't you move. In my usual diplomatic fashion I figured, I have never has this little fellow in my office before so what's the problem. This was about 9:15 in the morning, Mr. Speaker. I went up to his English teacher, who was also his home room teacher, and said to the teacher, - a veteran, experienced teacher, who took care of many of her own problems in her classroom and referred very few kids to my office - if I may, Mr. Speaker, I will just insert a name without reference to his real name - what is Johnny doing is my office? The teacher said to me, he's asleep, I can't keep him awake; 9:15 a.m.

I go back to my office and as I come into the office the secretary stops me and she goes, if I may, "Shhhh" and she shushes me - on occasion that many women have been telling me to do recently - and tells me to be quiet. In my office, on probably on one of the most uncomfortable chairs deliberately put there just to get the attention of a student who is sent to your office, the young man was asleep again. By this time it may have been, at the outside, 9:30 a.m. So, my first intent is to say, what's going on here, but the school secretary has said, no, no, let him sleep. Don't you know about his father? I had been in the school at that time, two school years, and I said to that wonderful school secretary, Donna Hopkinson at Brookside Junior High, Donna, what's the story on this young fellow? His father is an injured worker, Bill. His father is an injured worker. What has that to do with anything?

So I called his father and I am talking to him on the phone. By this time it's about 9:45 a.m., his son is asleep in my office and I say to the dad, listen is there any chance you can come up to school and pick Johnny up because he's asleep in my office and I don't really understand the fact that at this time of the day there should be a problem. This is the personal part that I know some members don't want to hear, that father of that young man in my office

[Page 1631]

said, Mr. Estabrooks, I can't come and get him because I'm drunk and I've been on a two-day bender and the kids weren't in their own home last night, they were not sleeping in their own beds last night.

That is a personal example that stuck with me and when I began to hear about workers' compensation and when I began to realize some of the implications that come from injured workers, I tell you, that personal incident, along with some other incidents that I can bring to your attention, has stuck with me for the longest time. So, of course, the young man needed some sleep - his sister miraculously made it through the school day. I woke him up and said to him, come on, I was talking to dad, I will take you home. No, sir, I don't want to go home. I said to him, I was talking to your dad. Your dad and I are going to have a chat. So I went home, the dad - I guess we could use the expression, Mr. Speaker, you know of what I speak - was in pretty hard shape but he was feeling remorse and guilt. He hugged his son and sent him off to his bedroom. Then I sat down that Friday morning in the kitchen with that injured worker and I listened to of what he spoke.

At that stage I had never dealt with an injured worker. I, under no circumstances, wasn't aware of all the complications, the frustrations and delays, because, of course, I never had been personally involved. I was a school teacher in my community and as a school administrator I had the opportunity to deal with many problems. I had never been confronted with a young man asleep, first period of the day and then asleep in my office because of the situation that his father was an injured worker.

I want to tell you what that injured worker said to me that morning, because he felt bad. I think he felt bad for a couple of reasons, because of what he had been imbibing for the last couple of evenings in his home and for what had happened to his family. One of the things he said to me that day was very curtly put this way, I feel that I should have a brand right on my forehead, injured worker. It's like it's a target for me. Injured worker. I can walk around my community and I can have it right on my forehead, injured worker. The community can say, ah, the poor injured worker, we understand his problem, we understand the problems it has caused in his family, we understand the problems that it has caused for his children in school. That way the community could be receptive to the fact that when you're an injured worker, it's not just something physical. The other results and the other things that happen to you and your family are much deeper than just being injured.

Now that's another example that I want members here to be present for. These people aren't just numbers. They are real people. They are people who are hurting and through no fault of their own, Mr. Speaker - this is key, through no fault of their own - they were hurt at work. They should not and must not be treated like criminals, because many of them feel that way. That particular injured worker, after he was hurt at work, he was told, go to your doctor, get the forms, get them completed, and get them into workers' compensation.

[Page 1632]

The well-intentioned injured worker, of course, knows the doctor, goes to the family doctor. The family doctor knows the man is injured, he of course realizes this man has worked hard all his life. Why would he be shirking his responsibilities for his family? Do you think he wants to have to lay home on the sofa, because of his injury to his back? Do you think that he doesn't want to go to work and feel that he is a contributing member of the economy of this province and this country? So of course, the family doctor completes the necessary forms, writes the letters, says what the problem is, and it's all sent off to workers' compensation.

Then the maze begins. I know members opposite have heard of this. I think members on both sides of the House have heard of this. It doesn't make any difference, this is his family doctor, this doctor knows the history of this man. This is a doctor who's been in the community a long time. He's aware of the physical situation of this man. But guess what? There is a doctor at workers' compensation who has never met the injured worker, who doesn't know the circumstances in the family, doesn't know about the circumstances in the community, and that doctor, who works for Workers' Compensation Board, suddenly puts in a report that says, well, we just can't settle for this, we can't settle for that, that's not that serious of an injury. He never once consulted or met with that injured worker, but based upon what a family physician, in probably a rushed situation, filled out, there is a doctor who is going to put in another report contradicting the very family doctor who knows the situation so well.

The reaction from injured workers is, this isn't fair, this isn't the way to be treated, I'm going to appeal this. In certain situations, Mr. Speaker, injured workers, believing, after all, it wasn't their fault that they were injured at work, they will say, the government will take care of me, it's not my fault, I'm going to go to this appeal. Many of them go with their wives, with their partners and go to an appeal.

Mr. Speaker, it is one intimidating process. The intimidating process of it - and I encourage members opposite to go visit that particular building - and the security as you enter the lobby in that building, I want you to know, will rival coming into Dorchester Penitentiary. Mr. Speaker, you know from personal experience, of which I've spoken in this House before, having worked at Dorchester Penitentiary as a school teacher and having seen federal maximum at that time, because at that time that was the federal maximum penitentiary for the Atlantic Provinces, there was no Renous Prison on the Miramichi at that time. But when the comparison can be made to going into the main foyer at Workers' Compensation Board to the same entrance as you come into the main hall at Dorchester Penitentiary, you have that feeling that there's some suppression going to happen here. Security, locked doors, identification, all the things when an injured workers arrives for an appeal, he's saying am I going to be listened to here in the midst of this atmosphere?

[Page 1633]

[9:45 a.m.]

Mr. Speaker, I have had the opportunity to go to these appeals. In fact, I encourage all members present when an injured worker comes to your office, when an injured worker contacts you, your number one responsibility is to say to that injured worker, I'll go to the appeal. Now, the first reaction, of course, always comes when you go to the appeal, ah! you were a school teacher, you're not a lawyer. Well, heaven forbid, you're telling me that as an elected official who wants to make this case for an injured worker, that I have to know all the legalese and all the expertise of what I didn't get as an education? Instead, I can bring and you all can bring, as MLAs, the personal circumstances of what has happened to some of these injured workers.

Mr. Speaker, I want to tell you of one of those cases. I want to tell you of a case that was, in my opinion, a wrong decision from the first. Again, another injured worker, hurt through no fault of his own. An injured worker from one of the coastal communities that I represent and let me tell you, he's not - and he will admit it - a well-educated man, he is one of those typical men of his age who has those big hands and that big heart and he has worked hard all his life and, of course, unfortunately, he was injured at work. So, we go through the process of the paper appeal, we go through the process of having all the documentation in place, we have the medical evidence, this man is injured. It is a known fact. The community is aware of his injury, the community is aware of what happened at the accident. But you know, he was at that time 53 years of age. It was decided through various processes, work hardening and retraining, that this 53-year-old man, who has worked all his life on the government wharf, in the fish store, on the wharves, on the boats where he has worked, that this man should be retrained as a parking lot attendant - a parking lot attendant!

I can remember when that news was dropped on that particular man that day. Mr. Speaker, as I have been wont to do on certain occasions, I can be a little impatient and a little abrupt. In fact, on that day I will tell you, I was very impatient and very abrupt, because it would seem to me to be absolutely shameful for anyone to suggest to a 53-year-old man with a limited formal education, who had worked hard his whole life, during his employment career, that he was going to be told, we cannot help you, you are going to be a parking lot attendant.

Now, as members know, and I said it in my comments earlier, I'm not mentioning the location of these particular injured workers, but I'll put it to you this way, that the closest parking lot to this man's home is a few kilometres away, we might even say Peggys Cove is the closest one. So we're going to take this man in a coastal community, who has been injured through no fault of his own and it's been suggested, we're going to make him a parking lot attendant in Peggys Cove. Now, Peggys Cove is not that far from the community from where this man lives. Not that the locals, if I can call ourselves that, spend a lot of time going to Peggys Cove, especially in the middle of the summer when its busy and the parking lots are full. A great time to go to Peggys Cove and I know that considering what happened

[Page 1634]

recently, the best time to go to Peggys Cove is on a cold winter's day with a little onshore breeze, making sure that you're warmly dressed and you stay away from those slippery rocks, that's the time to go to Peggys Cove.

Consider the implications of a man who worked in the community nearby who was injured and was told, we can get you a job as a parking lot attendant in Peggys Cove. Now the tour buses that arrive, they would see this big-hearted man, this man who greet them with a smile and say, welcome to this community, you can go here or you can go there, because that's the sort of person he would be. But the implication would be what if, in the middle of the summer, when you have a visitor from Yorkton, Saskatchewan, as I did this summer, and, of course, they want to go to Peggys Cove, they want to see the Swissair memorial, they want to go and see coastal communities. They want to be able to stop in and pick up a few - maybe this is the wrong term but I am going to use it - trinkets so they can take them home to their family and relatives and friends.

When that person, who is a local, arrives at the parking lot and sees an injured worker who they know of the community was hurt in an accident and the message is, workers' compensation wouldn't help him, workers' compensation wouldn't be for him, wouldn't be there to assist him and his family with proper assistance, instead they told him, you become a parking lot attendant.

Mr. Speaker, let me tell you. That was a tearful day at that appeal. That was a tearful day for that fisherman. That was an upsetting day for his wife. That was an upsetting day for that rookie MLA in his first session at that time and I will tell you that was this MLA for Timberlea-Prospect. The battle goes on. The battle goes on in that case to this day. You think of that. That was during our first session when you and I sat on this side of the House, Mr. Speaker, when you sat in this chair right here and I heard you so passionately speak on issues. I recall you standing in your place that day when those members on the other side - you were concerned about that open pit mine in Springhill. You, at that time, Mr. Speaker, were representing your constituents. I also recall what happened to that Private Members' Bill and what the Liberal Government at the time did to it but that's history and I know you have it stored away in your memory.

But that's after all, Mr. Speaker, the feelings that I came in with during that first session. I don't know whether I shared it with you or not on that day but I can recall after coming home from that appeal, I remember coming home and saying, what did I ever get in this business for? I can't help that man. They have turned him down. That man is hurt. That man needs help and a government agency with funding in place has said no.

Now, Mr. Speaker, I want to tell you, if the workers of this province are going to have faith in the process, legislation has to be brought forth that they are not going to have to fight the courts and the lawyers and judges. They want to feel this happened to me at work. I can't provide for my family as I did previously so I believe that I am deserving of this help. That's

[Page 1635]

common sense. These men, and many of the people who I have dealt with as injured workers, are men but let me assure you, the examples that I am going to bring to your attention, every one of them are hardworking or were hardworking contributors to the economy of this province. I know particularly, because of my friend, the member for Cape Breton Nova, who has brought up examples from his personal experience in the steel plant and I know of the examples that he speaks of because, of course, his father spent many long years in the plant in Sydney and contributed to the economy of Cape Breton.

Mr. Speaker, those hard workers who have been injured at work deserve to be treated fairly. The member for Cape Breton Nova mentioned to me, after I had finished my comments the other day, that he was concerned that the word suicide had been used. I did use that word; suicide because of being an injured worker. There are no statistics about it, of course. Heaven forbid that we would look at a core issue like this and realize that a man or a woman has decided they no longer are really of any use to their family or to their community or more importantly, to themselves, to take their own lives. But my friend, the member for Cape Breton Nova, has brought examples forward in this House. He has mentioned to me, on the sensitive topic of suicide, that there are injured workers who have felt so useless and so frustrated and so hurt that, what's the point.

Mr. Speaker, I bring to your attention the example that I have been asked to bring forward again on the floor of this House. When I received the call that night, I want you to know, I didn't expect to talk to a man on the phone who said, I'm in my garage, Bill, and I got a gun that's loaded. I've also got a quart of rum with me, Bill, why don't you come down and share it with me because I'm going to kill myself. Now that's a personal example. I know members of this House, members of the Third Party in particular, one member, always gets upset when I bring up cases like this. I have the permission to bring that forward but I do not and will not use, under any circumstances, the name of that man, where he lives or any of the other personal things of which would identify who he is because, of course, he is still scrapping with WCB. Let me tell you, that night, when I got that call at home and when I took that drive and spent that night with that man, it was reassuring when the time came, finally, that the ammunition was removed and it was decided that it would be best for us both to go our separate ways, him off to his bed and me to return to my home about half an hour away.

Mr. Speaker, those are personal examples. Those are the types of things that legislators, those are the types of things that lawmakers, those are the types of things that people who work for WCB should know about, because those are the personal examples that hit home when it comes to dealing with injured workers.

Now this piece of legislation is going to, hopefully, move through this House and it is going to go over to the Law Amendments Committee. Mr. Speaker, as you know, I have the privilege of speaking and listening at the Law Amendments Committee. I have this question that I ask injured workers all the time. I asked injured workers this question when

[Page 1636]

they appeared before and I know that some members of the government at that time and members of the Liberal Party, perhaps, will get upset with it, but it's a personal question and it is a question that has to be answered. The question that I ask to an injured worker is, so how does your injury affect your personal life?

I tell them in advance that I am going to ask the question because I think it's important but if they said, I don't want to talk about the personal side of it, then I don't ask the question. But I ask that question because that's what puts a real face on some of the implications of being an injured worker. So when this piece of legislation goes through to the Law Amendments Committee and we begin to see and we'll hear them, the injured workers as they appear in front of us, when they appear through that committee process, I encourage members opposite, and I know Cabinet Ministers can't be members of the committee, but I encourage them to come in and to listen to some of the comments that are going to be made and we're going to hear from them on this piece of legislation again.

So those rookie members who, perhaps, have never had, except through some personal connection, to deal with injured workers, come to the Law Amendments Committee, listen, if you can take a seat in your particular Party, take a seat, engage them in a conversation, let them explain to you the effects of dealing with the bureaucracy and the administration and the medical forms and the doctors and the lawyers and the concerns that they will continually bring forward to us as legislators. When that's complete, Mr. Speaker, let me tell you, people listening will understand the frustration of which I speak.

The examples that I've brought forward, Mr. Speaker, are personal. They are examples that have affected me and affected me deeply. I will assure you, rhetoric aside, this member will continue to push for every possible benefit in this province for injured workers. They are, after all, Nova Scotians who need our help. With those comments, I will take my place.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Pictou West.

MR. CHARLES PARKER: Mr. Speaker, it is a privilege for me this morning to have a few minutes to talk also on Bill No. 20, an Act to Amend Chapter 10 of the Acts of the 1994-95, the Workers Compensation Act and Chapter 7 of the Acts of 1996, the Occupational Health and Safety Act. Well, it's a complicated set of words to describe Bill No. 20, but basically it's all about finding a way to help our injured workers and to make sure that the system, overall, is fairer for everybody in the province - employers, workers, and certainly those who have had the misfortunate of being injured.

[Page 1637]

[10:00 a.m.]

As an MLA here in Nova Scotia, I am one of 52 members in this Legislature, and I certainly know that it's an issue that has come up time and time again in our constituencies, and that we've each had to deal with the problems and concerns of justices and injustices created by the workers' compensation system. Going back, I guess 1998 was my first initiation with the Workers' Compensation Act here in Nova Scotia; I suppose previous to that, as an employer in this province operating a small business where, as an employer, I had to pay premiums on behalf of the workers I had in my employ, but my first real initiation to the whole system and how it really worked, or didn't work perhaps might be a better description, probably came in 1998, when I started seeing injured workers, en masse, coming to my nomination meeting or to my constituency office.

In Pictou County, where I come from, there is a large and active group of organized injured workers, the Pictou County Injured Workers' Association, aptly and capably led by Mary Lloyd. Mary is probably recognized as one of the most capable individuals and most knowledgeable on the Workers' Compensation Act, perhaps of anybody in Nova Scotia. She has researched it, carefully studied it, lobbied for positive change and has worked very hard with injured workers throughout Nova Scotia to try to bring some justice to their cases. Certainly here in Pictou County, I know she has worked with many different individuals who have had the misfortune of being injured. She has been able to lobby and give advice and help those individuals to better get some sense of justice in their own individual cases.

I would think, overall, if there is any particular issue that I've dealt with as an MLA - and certainly we get all kinds of issues, the whole gamut, in rural Nova Scotia there are a lot of issues coming to us around rural roads and community service issues, environmental issues, quite often people dealing with not enough money to make ends meet, and that involves things like employment insurance or just getting through the red tape with Community Services, and lots of other particular concerns around employment - but of all the issues that we've had to deal with, probably issues around the Workers' Compensation Act have been some of the most difficult for us as legislators to deal with and to try to find a workable solution.

Naturally, when a constituent comes into our office and has an issue, whether it's around trying to get a larger settlement from the WCB or a larger monthly payment or just getting back on the system again after being there for a time and then the benefits being denied, it's one of the more difficult issues, I think, that we have to deal with as MLAs. It's trying to deal with the bureaucracy at the Workers' Compensation office and trying to figure out what's the simplest and easiest way to get help for them or to find a solution that's going to be acceptable.

[Page 1638]

Some of these workers who have come into my office have been severely injured. They're walking with canes, sometimes with crutches, and they're coming in seeking my help. I'm sure every MLA has seen people come into their office. Some are suffering certainly from chronic pain. Maybe it's an invisible injury, you can't really see that they've had an injury, but they are certainly an injured worker and if you meet them on the street, it's hard to recognize that they are an injured worker. They're simply somebody who looks the same as you and I, perhaps as healthy as can be, but underneath they're scarred, they're hurting. They've got an injury that maybe has been diagnosed, or maybe it hasn't been diagnosed, but it's one that they're suffering with not only physically, but probably suffering financially because they're not getting an adequate benefit or an adequate amount of monthly income that's going to allow them to support their family and have a sense of dignity in their life.

In some cases I think you almost have to be a Philadelphia lawyer to get through the system and to figure out the nuances of the whole system. The injured worker reports his injury to their employer and then it goes on to the system. They're on the benefits for a time and then, all of a sudden, they get a letter that they're denied without any real explanation. So they're told that they have to go for another medical examination, or see a specialist, to see if it's possible maybe to have their case reviewed and to see if they're eligible again for benefits. So it's rather disconcerting for that particular injured worker and his family when all of a sudden his source of income is cut off and he has to then try and find other means to support himself - looking at social assistance or perhaps other family income that would make ends meet.

Overall, Mr. Speaker, it's a very complicated system and it's difficult for the layperson, an individual who maybe is working in a sawmill, or working on a woodlot, working at a manufacturing business, and all of a sudden one day they have the very great misfortune of injuring their hand, or their arm, or their leg, or some other body part, that just doesn't allow them to continue on with their employment. Then they start to get into the system and they go through a rather complicated process in order to determine whether they're eligible for benefits or not.

Mr. Speaker, I just want to give you a couple of examples of individuals who have come into my office as injured workers to show some of the frustrations that they've held. I can remember one lady who came in to see me, probably it was 1999. She had worked in an office for a business that produced a newspaper and her job was very repetitive. She was on a typeset machine and in time she developed what they call carpal tunnel syndrome and she wasn't able then to use her wrist, or use her fingers or her hand in the work that she had been doing for many, many years. Again, to meet her on the street, she looked the same as you and I, just an ordinary person, but she had an injury in her tendons in her wrist and in her hand that prevented her from doing the work that she had been doing for, I think, about 15 years, but her injury was caused by the stress in the continual job that she was doing over and over. She had been on benefits and then she was cut off for some reason and they wanted

[Page 1639]

more medical evidence. She had to go to see a specialist and get diagnosed. She almost had to prove again that she was an injured worker.

We did the best we could to help her and tried to lobby with some of the people in the workers' compensation system and I think she went back to the tribunal, WCAT, and through time she was able to get her benefits reinstated, but it just shows the difficulty of the system. She went months and months without any income because she was cut off and she had to prove again that she was seriously injured and couldn't work. She was almost to the point of desperation when she came to see me, even to the point of tears. This was affecting her whole life, this was her life, her life was almost being taken away from her, and she had no income to support her family.

Mr. Speaker, I remember another individual who came in to see me, also. It was a gentleman who had worked in construction. He was up a ladder one day, unfortunately he fell off the ladder, he fell backwards and ended up on a hard surface. He hurt his back. Again, to look at him, he didn't look too bad. He seemed to have a pretty good means to walk, he could carry on, but his back was seriously hurt. Again, he had been denied benefits. He had been on benefits for a time, and for some reason they decided that he didn't deserve benefits any longer. They cut him off, he had to go back through an appeal process to try to get reinstated. In time I believe he did.

It's just the whole system, it seems to work against the injured worker. They have it really hard, really tough. It's that period of time when they don't have any income that they start to lose their sense of worth, they lose their sense of dignity, and they feel like they're not contributing to society, they're not able to support their family, and it's a really hard, tough time for individuals in those situations.

Mr. Speaker, as I mentioned, over the years I've had contact with a number of different injured workers, both on an individual basis, who have been my constituents who have come in to see me, and also in mass demonstrations. I think in 1997-98, there were a lot of MLAs' offices that were occupied by injured workers. I can remember in particular the former member for Pictou East, Wayne Fraser, I think his office was taken over in late 1997, going into the 1998 election campaign. I can remember visiting that hall, where there were probably 50 injured workers. They occupied that building and stayed there overnight, on a continual basis. The media certainly was following their story.

It's to the point, sometimes they really felt they had no other choice, they had to make their voices heard. They would take over an MLA's office 24 hours a day. In that particular case, the former member for Pictou East, I think they were there for about a month, trying to make their point. Then some other members, the member for Pictou Centre, Dr. Hamm, his office was occupied for a time by a group of individuals, injured workers, as well over the last year, I think there have been a few individuals on their own who have demonstrated and tried to get their point across, that they needed help.

[Page 1640]

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. Would the honourable member for Pictou West allow for an introduction?

MR. PARKER: Sure.

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

MR. GERALD SAMPSON: Mr. Speaker, I thank the honourable member for allowing me to interrupt him in his dissertation to recognize people in the gallery. Before this House I thanked everyone I could remember, during my Reply to the Speech from the Throne. I made the statement that we always forget to mention somebody. The main one I forgot to thank was my wife, who is in the gallery this morning, so I better make a focus on that. I want to be in the good books for this coming weekend. My wife, Mary, is in the gallery.

I also made a reference to a young grandson of mine who started his political career by campaigning two days before the election and got elected as class representative. That's young Brennan MacNeil up there - Brennan, you can stand to be recognized - and my wife is next to him. Next to her is the youngest grandson, Samuel MacNeil, and then next is our fiddle player and stepdancer, Jessica MacNeil and, of course, my son-in-law and assistant, Vince MacNeil. I would like the House to give them a warm welcome and a round of applause and welcome them to the House of Assembly. (Applause)

[10:15 a.m.]

MR. SPEAKER: We certainly welcome our special guests to the gallery today and I thank the honourable member for Pictou West who now has the floor.

MR. PARKER: Mr. Speaker, it's always nice to have guests in our gallery and oftentimes we look up at our gallery and there are lots of empty seats but family members, in particular, are always nice to have with us.

I was talking, Mr. Speaker, about some of the injured workers I have met over the years and I guess the most recent example I want to mention, just in the last three weeks or so, I've had an injured worker come into my office. This was a gentleman who, unfortunately, in his line of work was struck by a snowplow and was seriously injured. He had to fight for, I think this actually happened in Cape Breton in the early 1990s and he had to fight for many years to get a settlement from government. Finally he was successful after a long legal case and then in time he was also able to get a compensation package from WCB. But the concern that he came to me with most recently was he was really wanting to be able to commute that benefit to a lump-sum payment. He has run into a roadblock so far with that. He feels that he could, with his payout from the accident that he had, from government, he was able to get a monthly income that's sufficient and the small amount of

[Page 1641]

the WCB monthly payment he would prefer at this time to have that as a lump sum. So we are trying to help him with that.

So we are seeing injured workers coming into our constituency offices on a continual basis and I think it is important, as legislators, that we get all the information that is available and have good contact with the folks down on South Street at the WCB headquarters. One thing I did find helpful, just within the last two or three weeks, I did get a call in relation to this particular case from the liaison person, I guess you would call her, who works for WCB who deals in particular with MLA offices. I guess she is a good contact for us to go through to deal with individual cases and then she can get through the fabric and through the network within the offices of the WCB.

Mr. Speaker, this bill that we are dealing with here, Bill No. 20, has come about basically as a result of the court case that came down on October 3rd by the Supreme Court of Canada. In a unanimous decision the court ruled that the Province of Nova Scotia could no longer, through the WCB system, discriminate against injured workers who are suffering from chronic pain. The history of the WCB in this province certainly goes back a long, long way, almost a century now we have had a workers' compensation system in Nova Scotia. In fact, Nova Scotia was the second province in Canada to recognize the need for a workers' compensation system that would work for employers and would work for workers and in the end would work for injured workers.

I think the principles upon which the system was founded were good and it goes all the way back to the year 1910 when, through a similar system in Ontario, there was a WCB system set up there and our province looked at it and continued to build on it. The system was actually created by the ideas of Judge Sir William Meredith, who later became a Chief Justice of the Supreme Court and he looked at how workers were protected, were compensated in other countries around the world. He looked at systems in the United States, in France, Belgium, England and Germany and by studying the best that those countries had to offer, he came up with a set of principles to found the Workers' Compensation Act in this country. Those principles are called the Meredith Principles in honour of Judge William Meredith.

Basically, Mr. Speaker, there are five principles upon which the Workers' Compensation Act in this province are founded. I just want to take a minute to run over those principles. The first one is that there would be no fault compensation, injured workers would be compensated regardless of the fault, whether it was accidents that are just that, they're accidental and nobody certainly wants to go out and be injured. So it was important to recognize that fault really was irrelevant. The compensation then became the focus of the Act.

[Page 1642]

The second Meredith Principle is around collective liability. The total cost to the compensation is shared by all employers. Now, that was the principle but, unfortunately, not all employers became involved in the workers' compensation system, and there are still many today that are not included under the Act. I'll be coming to that in a few minutes, the idea of having full protection for all workers, whether they're an employee or whether they're self-employed. But the principle was that all employers would contribute to a common fund to protect the workers.

The third Meredith Principle was security of payment. A fund would be established to guarantee that compensation monies will be available. Injured workers are assured of prompt compensation and future benefits. So there always would be a guarantee that if somebody got injured that there would be a fund there available to pay out benefits, either in a lump sum or in monthly instalments.

Exclusive jurisdiction was the fourth Meredith Principle. That all compensation claims are directed solely to the compensation board and nowhere else. So the board then is the decision maker, the final authority for all claims. Nowhere else can you go to seek help.

Finally, an independent board . The governing board is both self-supporting and non-political. That was the principle. Whether that has happened or not is a question for debate. But the idea was that no political interference would come on the board when a decision was to be made by the panel.

So those Meredith Principles, Mr. Speaker, were the founding basis for the Workers' Compensation Act in Nova Scotia. I think they're strong, they're good and in many ways we need to get back to make sure that those founding principles are still adhered to today. I think if they were, we would have stronger legislation and more protection for workers.

Over the years, of course, there have been various challenges to the legislation and various court cases have come forward that have changed some of the ideals, I guess, upon which the Act was based. But when a court makes a decision that applies, then that can change how things operate from there on out. I know there have been different court cases that have influenced the payouts or what the board can or cannot do from there on out.

In some way, that's been part of the difficulties, because when a court decision comes down and they make a ruling, then it sometimes only applies back to that certain date. So if an injured worker was injured before that, they're working under an older set of rules and if they're injured after the court case has been delivered, then there is a new set of rules. So injured workers are not always treated equally. Some have better benefits than others, depending on when they were injured, which doesn't seem to make sense in many ways, but on and off the Act continued to serve Nova Scotians for better or for worse through the decades, from 1915 on and, as I said, there were some changes in the Act with court cases.

[Page 1643]

In the year 1996 there was a new Act proclaimed here in Nova Scotia under then Labour Minister Jay Abbass, and that's sometimes referred to as the Act that brought in the clinical rating system or, in more layman's terms, sometimes referred to as the meat chart. That Act allowed for compensation to injured workers more or less based on the amount of loss that they had physically as a percentage of their wages. So if somebody lost a finger, you would get a certain amount of compensation based on your inability to do your particular job; if you lost a whole arm, you got more compensation; if you lost an arm and a leg, you received even further compensation.

It didn't seem to be totally fair because it was a judgmental decision by somebody who decided how much the injured worker would get, and it's hard to put a value on an arm or a leg as compared to what you're able to do within your job. But overall I think that led to some of the demonstrations and some of the mass groups of injured workers that came here to this Legislature and were occupying MLAs' offices in the late 1990s because of that Act and the meat chart emphasis that was really perceived and was seen as unfair to many injured workers.

So it became a problem; it became a major problem and the injured workers just weren't going away. They were making themselves known. They were turning up on MLAs' doorsteps on a continual basis and here at the House as well. I think probably that's what might have led to - in 1998 the government of the day decided to set up a select committee to investigate the system and why it wasn't working, what was working, and to make recommendations on how to improve the system for employers and for workers and, most of all, perhaps for injured workers.

I had the privilege, Mr. Speaker, I guess in 1998, when I was here in the House before, to be appointed to that select committee. Our task or our mandate was to travel around the province and to visit with people who had a reason to be concerned about the Workers' Compensation Act as it was at that time. It was an all-Party committee. There were three members appointed from each Party in the House and we held public meetings and received input from employers, labour groups, doctors and health care professionals who were involved in the system - and we had hundreds of submissions from Nova Scotians from Yarmouth to Bridgewater, New Minas, here in Halifax, Truro, Stellarton, Amherst, Port Hawkesbury, and Sydney. We heard from a lot of different individuals, but maybe there are two or three stories I want to relate that come perhaps fresh to my mind from injured workers that really stood out for me at that time and really showed the frustration and the pain that some of these injured workers were suffering in their lives.

There was one lady I can recall who came before our committee in Port Hawkesbury and she told of the pain and the suffering, of what it was like to be an injured worker. I looked at her, you know she didn't look any different than you or I in many regards, Mr. Speaker, and then she started to cry. She just said this has just been so hard on myself and my family. It was difficult. It was a difficult situation for her, but she was not the injured

[Page 1644]

worker. She was there on behalf of her husband, who was the injured worker. He was at home, he wasn't able to come out to the hearings. So she gave the perspective or point of view of a spouse of an injured worker. It took us a while to figure that out, that she wasn't the injured worker, it was actually on behalf of her husband that she was telling us this information. A real heart-wrenching story of how it had affected her and her family and her children, not only physically and financially, but emotionally. There is a real attachment of the stress and strain that this injury had caused this particular family.

[10:30 a.m.]

I can remember another situation. It was in Truro, an injured worker came before us and he had a real tough job of walking. He was walking with two canes. He had been severely injured in an accident. One of the roles of the Workers' Compensation Board is to try to rehabilitate workers, and to see if they can be found a suitable job in some other occupation, something different. Anyway, this gentleman had lost an arm, his right arm, in a workplace accident, and had also injured his back and his legs. He had difficulty walking. One thing was that he could still drive his car. I don't know how or why, but it was decided that the rehabilitation program for this individual was that he would retrain as a truck driver for an 18-wheeler.

It didn't seem to make sense to him, but somebody pushed the agenda that he should be retrained as a truck driver. So he went before the board and that's what was decided, they would retrain him as a truck driver. He went to the school in Masstown and started to take some training, but they soon realized that there was no way that he could do this type of training. He had lost his right arm, and if you can imagine a truck driver, well, he might be able to steer with his left arm, but there was no way he could go over and change the gears and steer at the same time. I don't know who or why decided that this one-armed gentleman should be trained as a truck driver, but in the end, of course, he had to give it up. It was just one of those rulings from the board that didn't seem to make sense. Hopefully he's found some other type of training.

I remember another case, Mr. Speaker, I think we were in Amherst. There was a doctor who came before our board. Her role was to interview and to test and to diagnose injured workers. She indicated at our hearing that night that she was told that they wanted a certain diagnosis. She didn't think that was right, so she quit as a board doctor and left the employ of the WCB. She was told that they wanted a certain medical evidence report, and it just shows the length the board was going to to try to deny injured workers their right to justice.

Mr. Speaker, at any rate, in this end, this select committee, after a few months of travel around the province and getting input from many employers, health groups, injured workers and others, finally put a report together and it came back here to this Legislature in the form of Bill No. 90. Bill No. 90, as some will remember, I think it came before this

[Page 1645]

House in 1999, I really had hope, I really had faith that out of all the stories that we had heard from injured workers, that something worthwhile and good would come out of this. I said, surely, with all these stories of injured workers and their pain and suffering that we've heard, that have been recorded, that have been written up in the media, surely we will get some good help here for injured worker. I had faith that would happen.

Then, when the bill came here before the House, it seemed that the government of the day, the Liberal Government, and the Conservative Opposition, at that time, sort of gutted the bill, and it didn't end up with any real help or real serious recommendations that would help injured workers.

Chronic pain, I guess, is one of the big items we had heard that, over and over, people were suffering with long-term pain known as chronic pain. It just wasn't what I had hoped would come out of what we had heard around the province. So Bill No. 90 didn't work and injured workers were still unhappy. I think employers are still unhappy.

So what was best for the injured worker? Well, it certainly wasn't in Bill No. 90. What was best for the board? Well, maybe that's where the government of the day and the Third Party at that time combined to prevent real change that would help. Injured workers had seen that there was a bias against them still and some have described it as an institutional bias against them. It just really wasn't working for them.

So out of that, after the failure of Bill No. 90 to really address the issue of helping the system or helping injured workers, this government, in early 2000 I think it was, decided to review it all again, to have another task force look at the situation and see what could be recommended. I believe it was in April 2001that the Dorsey report came down. The Dorsey task force was similar. It travelled all around Nova Scotia, went to all the different communities that, probably, the select committee had also visited. I'm sure they heard from some of the same people that our select committee had heard from.

The Dorsey committee was a broad section of individuals made up of representatives of the province with people who had some real background in workers' compensation knowledge and history. Mr. Dorsey, himself, was a graduate of the Dalhousie Law School and is recognized, probably, across Canada as one of the foremost experts in workers' compensation. He had worked as Chairman of the Workers' Compensation Act Committee of Review in Saskatchewan. He had served as a special minister's representative, studying the Saskatchewan Workers' Compensation Board, and he has also served as Chairman of the Board of Governors of the British Columbia Workers' Compensation Board. So he came very well qualified, very knowledgeable in the Workers' Compensation Act and brought a lot of expertise to this province when he set up this committee to study the issue here in the province.

[Page 1646]

It wasn't just Mr. Dorsey. Also on the committee was Michael Power. He is the Vice-Chairman of Power Dempsey Cooper & Leefe from Bridgewater. I had met Mr. Power when he served as counsel to our select committee in 1999. Also, Janet Hazelton, a representative of the Nova Scotia Nurses' Union, brought a medical perspective to the committee; Carol MacCulloch, from the Construction Association of Nova Scotia, she had her master's degree in Atlantic Canada Studies and completed her thesis on workers' compensation; Gary Penny from the Cape Breton Injured Workers' Association was also a committee member; and Steve Rankin, from the Canadian Manufacturers and Exporters Association represented industry on the committee.

The final two members were Bob Cook from the Nova Scotia Association of Health Organizations, who had worked in the health care field for almost 25 years and, finally, Betty Jean Sutherland from Pictou County and representing the Nova Scotia Federation of Labour. She had served on the Occupational Health and Safety Committee for the Canadian Labour Congress.

So as you can see, Mr. Speaker, there is a very broad cross-section of members representing industry, labour, injured workers and medical professionals, as well as Mr. Dorsey as head of the board.

So these eight members of this committee after their deliberations, of visiting around the province came up with a consensus report and they had a lot of good recommendations, a lot of ideas that would improve the workers' compensation system. I just want to briefly run over a few of those recommendations that were put forward by the Dorsey committee.

One thing they suggested was to repeal the three worker exclusion rule. The way the system is set up, companies that employ less than three don't have to be covered by workers' compensation rules. We're saying that all workers, no matter if they have one employee, two employees, everybody should be covered.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. Would the honourable member allow for another introduction?

The honourable Minister of Education on an introduction.

HON. JAMES MUIR: Mr. Speaker, I would like to draw the attention of the members of the House to the east gallery where some very special guests are with us this morning. This week is National Science and Technology Week, so we have invited some students who competed in the Canada Wide Science Fair in May to display their exhibits here at Province House, and they are downstairs and I hope that members will take some time and go down and visit those exhibits.

[Page 1647]

I would like to introduce four students: Katie Atkinson, Emily Clarke, Natalie Lamoth and Jay McNeil, who were participants in that science fair in Calgary. They're all from the Truro area (Interruptions) and Katie and Jay both won silver medals and Natalie received an honorable mention, another prize. I should also mention that Bible Hill Junior High, which is one of the schools where two of these students attended last year, students from all three Colchester constituencies go to that school.

Also, accompanying them is Michael Price, who is the Principal of the Valley Elementary School. He was the co-chair of the committee that won the bid to have the Chignecto-Central area host the 2007 Canada Wide Science Fair.

As well, there are two parents in the gallery, accompanying their young people this morning.

AN HON. MEMBER: One.

MR. MUIR: One, okay, I know her. Karen McNeil, who is Jay's mother. There are also two people from the Department of Education, Marilyn Webster, who is our science consultant, and Cliff Coveyduc, who works in the testing division. Both of these individuals are very active volunteers with the Nova Scotia Youth Experience in Science Foundation, which supports science fairs in our province. Marilyn is the President of that group and she is also on the board of directors for the Youth Science Foundation Canada, which oversees the national science fair.

I am delighted to see such enthusiasm for learning about science from our area. I would ask all members of the House to join me in giving these young people and those accompanying them a very warm welcome. (Applause)

MR. SPEAKER: We certainly welcome our guests in the gallery today and certainly welcome our youth to Province House, we hope they enjoy their stay with us today.

The honourable member for Pictou West has the floor.

MR. PARKER: Mr. Speaker, I certainly welcome our guests as well. I did see the set up of the display downstairs earlier and as a former science teacher I have an interest in having a look at that and I will be going down to have a peek at it after.

I want to come back, Mr. Speaker, to the science of this workers' compensation bill. I was mentioning the Dorsey report that came out in 2001. There were a number of recommendations in there that the Dorsey committee thought would be important to have in our legislation here in Nova Scotia and to work towards improvements in the bill. One of them, as I mentioned, was repealing the three worker exclusionary rule. As the system is set up, that if an employer has less than three employees then they don't have to be covered by

[Page 1648]

the Workers' Compensation Act. I suppose if they chose to be involved they could, but, generally, many employers would not opt in to the workers' compensation system unless they had to. So, a small employer with one, two, or three employees, were not obligated to be in the system.

[10:45 a.m.]

I know some employers purposely chose to keep their business to a certain size so they wouldn't have to be employed. For example, woods contractors, at one time some of them would employ 10, 12, or 15 men in the woods and absolutely had to be covered under the system. But with technology and changes to the way the wood is harvested these days, many of them downsized and a lot of wood now is not cut by power saw but usually with a processor and a skidder. So they can get away with maybe just two employees, one to run the processor that cuts the trees and the other one with a forwarder or a skidder that would take it out of the woods. They found it was a whole lot cheaper to operate, because the rates are very high in the forest industry. I think about 12 per cent of your payroll went toward workers' compensation premiums. So if you could cut your costs down by 12 per cent, many were choosing to do that.

However, if an accident were to occur to one of those employees, they are not covered under the system. I suppose that employee could then sue their employer, and that is one of the benefits, of course, of the whole workers' compensation system. When the system was set up in 1915, there was a trade off between the employer and the employee. The employer would fund the whole system, would pay for the cost of the premiums and make sure there was a fund there that would pay out benefits if a worker was injured. On the other hand, the workers did not have the right to sue their employer, so there was a trade off that seemed to work reasonably well for both parties.

The Dorsey report which came out two years ago, also recommended that casual employees should be covered under the workers' compensation system. Part-time workers, some of them are excluded now from protection, but, when you think about it, maybe a part-time worker coming on staff, a young person or really of any age, probably is less experienced than a full-time worker and perhaps they need coverage as much or more than anyone.

Self-employed people also are not covered under this system at the present time, unless they choose to, unless they opt in and want to be covered under workers' compensation. The Dorsey report is recommending that people who work for themselves, as owners of a business, should also be covered under the Act.

The Dorsey report also recommended things like: the maximum insurable earnings that would be covered should rise to $44,500; the lump sum pay out or computation on demand should be available. If an injured worker wants to take their benefits in one lump

[Page 1649]

sum, then they should be allowed to do that. As it is now, they are usually restricted, they are only on a monthly basis and they should at least have the option to make a choice. There were other recommendations in there around medical opinions, making them more fair, not making it as complicated.

I remember one injured worker who came before our select committee in Stellarton. He had had a head injury of some type from an accident. He went to the board and they weren't satisfied he had an injury that could be compensated for, so the local doctor here said no and he was denied, he didn't get his benefits. He appealed it and went to see a specialist in the city, here in Halifax, and again he was denied, but he didn't give up. He went back to the board and said, you know, I'm an injured worker, I have a head injury, I cannot work, you've got to help me. So he appealed again to the board and this time they sent him off to see a specialist in Chicago and, lo and behold, yes, the specialist did diagnose him with a head injury and so he was able to get benefits, but it took a long, long time for him fighting against the system in order to be compensated for what truly was an injury that he needed help with and he needed to be able to support his family.

The Dorsey committee recommended a few other things, that WCAT, the Workers' Compensation Appeals Tribunal, that there should be no statutory time limits and they should correct errors as they come along. If an injured worker needs to appeal, if he has new evidence, or he feels he's not being properly diagnosed, then he has the right to go back to WCAT and re-appeal and try to get a fair decision.

There were other recommendations in there on adjudication and appeal process, as I mentioned. I guess the final thing I will mention is they thought the board should be reconstituted. The Workers' Compensation Board, as we know it, is made up of government appointees and some appointees from labour groups and employers' groups, but they recommended that the Act be amended to reconstitute the Board of Directors of the Workers' Compensation Board to have all the responsibilities of the current board of directors plus to have oversight for the Occupational Health and Safety Division, the Workers' Advisers Program and the Workers' Compensation Appeals Tribunal, have it all under one board, really to start from scratch and to shake up the whole system down there on South Street and have some fair-minded people who will make fair decisions.

This report came to government, Mr. Speaker, in 2001 and I believe the government reported that they were going to report on it and make some recommendations but, of course, with everything, there is a cost. They recommended in the Dorsey report that premiums go up to employers by 3 cents. No, I guess that came out of government, that the premiums would increase by 3 cents, to $2.57 per $100, to help pay for some of these recommendations. It seemed like a reasonable request, but the government has been slow to act on these recommendations and I think mainly because of the unfunded liability that's there, I believe it's around $240 million, and the board feels they want to pay down that unfunded liability much quicker than what the Dorsey people were recommending. If that

[Page 1650]

happens, then there's going to be less money to help injured workers and to institute some of these changes that are recommended.

I guess it all came to a head, Mr. Speaker, on October 3rd of this year when the Supreme Court unanimously ruled 9-0 that the Dorsey report had some good recommendations and that the issue around chronic pain, in particular, was unconstitutional, that the Workers' Compensation Board could not discriminate against injured workers if they had chronic pain. Really that's been the crux of the whole problem of what we heard in the select committee and I know the Dorsey committee also heard. Chronic pain is something that's hard to see. It's hard to identify. It's hard to describe what it is.

I just want to take a minute, Mr. Speaker, to give a definition of chronic pain. Chronic pain is medically described as pain that persists for an unusually long time or is disproportionate to the initial injury, or can't be supported by more specific medical diagnosis. There is no question that there are many injured workers in this province who are suffering, who are walking around - if they are able - and really do have chronic pain. The Supreme Court ruled that the Province of Nova Scotia, through their WCB, can no longer discriminate against injured workers who suffer from chronic pain.

So I guess, overall, Mr. Speaker, to sum up here in Bill No. 20, as I mentioned at the start, I think it is important that we get back to the principle on which the Act was founded, back in 1915, the Meredith Principle. It was sound then and somehow we have strayed away from some of that. We need to make sure that the Act is founded on good, solid principles, like the Meredith Principle.

The bill here that is before us today is, I guess in itself, not bad for what is there but there is just a whole lot missing. There are a whole lot of things from the Dorsey report that are not there. Issues around universality, for example, are not in this particular bill, anywhere that I can see. There is not a lot of support to change the medical evidence system, where injured workers have to go and prove before a doctor or a specialist that they are suffering from a particular affliction that prevents them from returning to their place of employment, or at least prevents them from going back full-time.

I didn't see anything in the bill either around help for widows. I can remember on the select committee, when we went to Sydney, there were a lot of widows who came before us, widows of miners who died in the mines, either through a direct workplace accident or through black lung disease, or some other dibilitating disease, and now these widows were left on their own without any compensation or very little help for them.

There are a number of things not in the bill, Mr. Speaker, that I feel would strengthen it, make it a better system, make the Act stronger.

[Page 1651]

The second part of the bill is around occupational health and safety. It mentions in this Act that this is going to be taken away from the Workers' Compensation Board. There is no mention of where it is going - is it going to the Department of Environment and Labour, is it going to a private company or just where it is heading?

I just want to point out that I think we need a little further explanation on where Occupational Health & Safety is going to end up. I know it has, in the past, been with the Department of Environment and Labour, but where it is going to be now is not too clear.

The other thing I will mention is that a lot of the specifics, a lot of the details are left I guess to the government of the day to enforce through regulations. That can be changed at any moment, at any time - the Cabinet of the day can decide that they like something or they don't like something and they can add to it, or even subtract from it. So there is a lot missing in this bill that as legislators here in this House, I think, we should have the right to have some input. That is just not there, and there is too much, I believe, left to the will of the government of the day and may end up supporting things that are not necessarily in the best interests of workers in this province.

I guess, overall, Mr. Speaker, I have rambled on here about the Workers' Compensation Bill for the last few minutes, but I think it is important that we make this bill as strong as we can. I am looking forward, when we go to the next stage - at Law Amendments Committee - perhaps we can strengthen up what is here and make it even better, to make it fairer, to make it balanced, and to make it work for employers, to make it work for workers and, in particular, to make it work for injured workers, to make it work for all Nova Scotians.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Dartmouth East.

MS. JOAN MASSEY: Mr. Speaker, I would like to take a little bit of time to speak on Bill No. 20, and I have to be honest with you, as a new MLA there are many issues that I am trying to find out as much as possible on, so I can speak in an informed manner. However, at the same time, there is a sharp learning curve here at the House. There is a lot of information to try to read through and to try to comprehend as best you can so that you can speak in some sort of an educated way on certain topics.

[11:00 a.m.]

Mr. Speaker, I have been listening intently to the debate so far. Many of my colleagues have spoken out on Bill No. 20 with what I believe is an honest concern for the people of Nova Scotia. I can certainly only hope that in the future I can speak as eloquently and with as much passion as they have been able to do. I certainly will attempt to say as much as I can on this subject, which I believe is a very important issue with many people throughout the province.

[Page 1652]

Mr. Speaker, after listening to the debate, I'm trying to find out what the overall feeling is. What's coming through here, what am I hearing? One of the things I think I'm hearing is the typical story of government inaction, not in action but inaction, not taking action. How many committees have we seen, how many reports have we seen, how many recommendations have we seen? How many of these things do we have to see come before government, before government will take action on these specific items?

It all sounds too familiar to me. When I was on the school board, there would be policies that would come through, reports which, because of funding issues, we could not enact the said reports. I think I'm hearing the same sort of thing here. Mr. Speaker, I'm hearing about the lack of trust in government. It's no wonder that there's such a low voter turnout when we have our elections. Why would people come out to vote when they are wondering, well, I volunteered for this committee, I volunteered for that committee, I've said my piece, I've worked hard, nothing is being done? There's no wonder that people don't believe that government can work.

Mr. Speaker, a lot of people have lost hope. They've lost hope that the government is out there listening to their concerns, and that once they've listened, they will act on these concerns. The people who are out there have real concerns that need to be addressed now, by this government, not in six months, not in regulations, but in a bill that speaks up for what the people of this province need. Regulations can be changed at any time by the government. What we need is a bill that protects injured workers' rights now. We need concrete steps to improve the lives of people who have been hurt on the job. We can't wait until the last minute to make these changes in policy that will help these people.

Mr. Speaker, I will attempt to do the best job I can to advocate for people on this issue.

AN HON. MEMBER: It's why you got elected, Joan. It's why you got elected.

MS. MASSEY: Mr. Speaker, it's unfair. It's unfair for injured workers to have to fight every step of the way. That's what I'm hearing from my colleagues. These stories that they're relating, that I'm listening to, and you can say fortunately or unfortunately enough, I have not had somebody come to my constituency office yet with one of these issues. It's sad. It makes me sad to sit here and listen to my colleagues speak about real people in real pain. Many people do suffer from long-term chronic pain. This can be muscle damage, back pain, something that happened on the job.

People wake up every day in this province suffering from pain. They go to bed at night suffering from pain. They suffer. Mr. Speaker, you look like you're in pain there, you're crunched up in that chair. That might be a worker's injury, there, I don't know. I would try that one out.

[Page 1653]

Mr. Speaker, seriously, it's true. People are suffering here. This government has to do something about this ongoing problem. This kind of suffering that is long term, that never goes away, can lead to things like depression. Depression doesn't only affect the person feeling the depression, but their family and, as one of my colleagues mentioned, this can spin off into your children's problems. Your children can begin to act out at school. They have problems at school. Not all kinds of pain can be measured. You can't put somebody on a scale and say I'm going to measure your pain and then we will tell you how much money you can receive for that amount of pain. It's not that easy. Not all suffering can be seen on an X-ray machine or on an MRI.

Mr. Speaker, not every worker in this province is fortunate enough to have an employer who is going to look after them in the way that they should. Not everybody has extra medical coverage insurance that would make it possible for them to return to a job when they are 100 per cent better. Some employers do provide a kind of atmosphere for workers to come back in an improved working environment. It might be something as simple as a new desk that they can sit at. Sometimes somebody may be employed in a job that they love, that they've been doing their whole life, that they trained to do, that is supporting them and their family, making their family life into something that they enjoy. Then they find out, as one of my colleagues spoke, you know, they have carpal tunnel syndrome. Maybe they're a music teacher and they've been doing the same movement with one arm for 10, 15 to 20 years and they can no longer do that job. They have to either be retrained or go into another line of work. It may be teaching. Maybe it's not a music teacher anymore, maybe it's going to be an English teacher, or a math teacher.

These are the kinds of things that happen in this province. Sometimes workers won't be able to go back to the job that they were trained to do. Sometimes they're going to go into another line of work that maybe they're not going to enjoy as much because, for whatever reason, they have no choice. They now have to do this other kind of job which is maybe less strenuous in a way. Maybe if they've got back problems, long-term chronic pain with their back, they need a job where they're either going to stand, or they may have to sit.

Mr. Speaker, the reason the government has boards, specifically the Workers' Compensation Board, is to protect our injured workers. Some workers require a longer time to recover from an injury. Some may never, ever return to the way of life and the kind of health that they enjoyed previous to their injury. I guess a couple of my questions are, isn't it the WCB's job to work for injured workers? Isn't that why those people go to work every day in those buildings throughout the province, to work for injured workers? If everybody all of a sudden, tomorrow and from here on in, there were no injured workers, these people would be out of a job. So shouldn't they be doing everything they can within their power, within their training, to help injured workers?

[Page 1654]

From what I've been hearing, there seems to be a roadblock. Now, maybe it's the government that has put regulations in place to stop these people from doing what they know is right and just for injured workers - I'm not going to put the blame on government workers. Government is the people who should be taking the blame in this issue. Government is the people who are put in place to work for the other people of this province. We're here for the people of this province. WCB has to find a way to improve what's going on down there and make things happen for injured workers in this province.

Mr. Speaker, I have the Nova Scotia Workers' Compensation Program booklet here. There's a lot of information in here. I've been listening to the debate and I think I heard that this committee, the Dorsey committee as it's known, travelled around the province for, I think I heard a year and a half, I could be wrong. It seems to me they had many qualified members on this committee. I want to read, if I can, just a little bit from the introduction of that report, if you want to call it that, it's "A Focused Review". In the introduction it says:

"Nova Scotia's workplace health and safety and workers' compensation program is beginning to recover from the radical surgery of the 1990s. Profound changes were made because the integrity of the program had been drastically compromised.

Before the 1990s, for whatever reason - incompetence, mismanagement, bungling, deceit, apathy, expediency or indifference - there was a breach of the faith workers and employers placed in government and the members of the Workers' Compensation Board.

Because of that breach of faith, many injured workers and their families paid, and continue to pay, with reduced compensation benefits. Businesses paid, and continue to pay, through their annual assessments, for the administrative practices and suppressed assessment rates of the 1970s and 80s. Today, the Nova Scotia workers' compensation program has the second lowest benefits in Canada and the second highest average assessment rate. It no longer has the second highest percentage of unfunded liability."

It goes on, Mr. Speaker, from there. These people who worked so hard in producing this review made recommendations. Great, they made recommendations. We have to implement these recommendations. Why were these people sent out to travel the province to talk to the concerned people, to get written submissions, to get verbal submissions, and I'm assuming most of these people, in fact, the injured workers themselves came to speak at these hearings? Perhaps their families came too. Again, we need to implement these. We need to implement these recommendations. How long does it take it to implement recommendations in Nova Scotia? Your guess is as good as mine.

[Page 1655]

Mr. Speaker, the Supreme Court ruling has made a decision that has struck down Nova Scotia legislation that previously barred compensation payments to workers suffering from chronic pain syndrome. I won't read the definition of chronic pain syndrome, it's been done before. The Nova Scotia Government has just six months to revamp its workers' compensation system. Six months. I think they're going to be very busy. I hope while they're revamping that, that they open up this little book here and implement some of these things.

Mr. Speaker, the Supreme Court is now saying that claims must be assessed on a case-by-case basis. Well, I'm new to this, but I'm wondering what were they assessing people on before? Somebody else's injury and relating it to yours? I'm not sure on that. I'm going to try to find out the answer to that.

Mr. Speaker, chronic pain is real. It's not imaginary. People suffering from chronic pain are not complainers. They're not people trying to get out of going to work. Compensation does not replace all your wages. You still have bills to pay, a mortgage to finance, your children need to go to school. Mr. Speaker, I think most people in here have children and grandchildren. They want to be in certain kinds of sports, they want to have the newest clothing items, and you want to do the best you can for your children. How do you think these people feel when they go to WCB, say they're injured, they're looking for help, they've paid into the system probably their whole working career, and then they're just told, we don't believe you, we don't believe that you're suffering. It's either you're going to go back to work or we will give you x amount of dollars, which isn't going to replace the amount of money they enjoyed before and were used to.

[11:15 a.m.]

Mr. Speaker, it's not easy for people in this province to live with chronic pain. As I said, it's not imaginary, they are truly suffering. In fact, when I was listening to my colleagues, I was thinking - not wishing that I had somebody who had come to me with an injury so that I could relate that specific story - I recalled, I think it was just a week or so ago, I was on Spring Garden Road, and as you know on Spring Garden Road, there are a lot of people who are looking for handouts, and there was a gentleman, he was probably 65, but I don't know how old he was. It's hard to say, because when you're in pain for a long time it does things to you. It changes your looks, your facial features. It changes a person. This man was sitting over on Spring Garden Road, on a chair or a box, I don't know what, looking for money. He had injured his leg, and believe me, he said he was still going to fight. I gave him some names, people who he should call. He said he could not live on the amount of money he was receiving, and this is what he ended up having to do - panhandle.

Mr. Speaker, I'm going to sum up. Again, these people are truly suffering, they only want what they have the right to - to be treated fairly and in a respectful manner by this government. Thank you. (Applause)

[Page 1656]

MR. SPEAKER: If I recognize the honourable Minister of Environment and Labour it will be to close the debate.

The honourable Minister of Environment and Labour.

HON. KERRY MORASH: Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the members opposite for the discussion and the points that they brought up. We certainly have been listening to those, and I'm sure that we will explore them more fully when we get to the Law Amendments Committee portion of this bill. I would, at this point in time, like to move second reading of Bill No. 20.

MR. SPEAKER: The motion is for second reading of Bill No. 20. (Interruptions)

There has been a request for a recorded vote.

We'll ring the bells to the satisfaction of the Whips.

[11:18 a.m.]

[The Division bells were rung.]

[11:31 a.m.]

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. Are the Whips satisfied.

The motion is for second reading of Bill No. 20. Would all those in favour of the motion please say Aye. Contrary minded, Nay.

The motion is carried.

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

The honourable Government House Leader.

HON. RONALD RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, could I have the consent of the House to revert to the order of business, Presenting Reports of Committees?

MR. SPEAKER: Is it agreed?

The answer is No.

The honourable Government House Leader.

[Page 1657]

HON. RONALD RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, I move the House do now rise to meet again on Monday at the hour of 2:00 p.m. The House will sit from 2:00 p.m. until 10:00 p.m. The order of business will be Public Bills for Third Reading, Public Bills for Second Reading and Committee of the Whole House on Bills. I ask all members to enjoy their weekend and see you all on Monday.

MR. SPEAKER: The motion is the House adjourn until 2:00 p.m. on Monday.

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 2:00 p.m. on Monday.

[The House rose at 11:32 a.m.]

[Page 1658]

NOTICES OF MOTION UNDER RULE 32(3)

RESOLUTION NO. 617

By: Hon. Ernest Fage (Economic Development)

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 represents 400 Nova Scotia co-operative businesses and 300,000 members/owners; and

Whereas co-operatives are locally owned and controlled; and

Whereas the co-operative provincial industry represents approximately $5 billion in assets;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of the House congratulate the Nova Scotia Co-operative Council and the co-ops that, in many cases, are the main drivers for rural economic activity, on their success in 2002, and wish them continued growth.

RESOLUTION NO. 618

By: Hon. Richard Hurlburt (Natural Resources)

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

Whereas Allison Burke and her mother Karen died tragically in a house fire last March; and

Whereas Allison's school bus driver Stan Churchill is keeping her memory alive with a memorial garden he created at his own expense at Drumlin Heights Consolidated School; and

Whereas the garden features a miniature crabapple tree whose blooms match the colour of Allison's red hair and freckles;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House commend Mr. Churchill on the kindness and generosity he has shown in creating a lasting memorial to a little girl who touched the lives of so many in the community.

[Page 1659]

RESOLUTION NO. 619

By: Mr. James DeWolfe (Pictou East)

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

Whereas 150 walkers hit the streets of New Glasgow recently as part of the 12th Annual Wishmaker Parade; and

Whereas the proceeds from the parade go towards the Children's Wish Foundation - an organization that grants wishes to children with life-threatening illnesses; and

Whereas this year, the New Glasgow parade raised almost $28,000, enough money to make three children's dreams a reality;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House recognize all the participants and organizers of New Glasgow's 12th Annual Wishmaker Parade and express our appreciation for the meaningful work of the Children's Wish Foundation, helping kids be kids again.

RESOLUTION NO. 620

By: Hon. Rodney MacDonald (Tourism and Culture)

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

Whereas Cusack School in Sydney, in conjunction with the Nova Scotia Tennis Association, has teamed together to encourage more young children to be physically active; and

Whereas the Nova Scotia Tennis Association is describing the opportunity as a tremendous breakthrough, enabling the association to get involved with the schools;

Therefore be it resolved that MLAs applaud the initiatives being undertaken by the Nova Scotia Tennis Association and their willingness to get involved with today's school children, as they have done at Cusack School in Sydney.