Assemblée Législative de la Nouvelle-Écosse

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21 septembre 2017

HANSARD 03-23

DEBATES AND PROCEEDINGS

Speaker: Honourable Murray Scott

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

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

Annual subscriptions available from the Office of the Speaker.

First Session

WEDNESDAY, OCTOBER 29, 2003

TABLE OF CONTENTS PAGE
TABLING REPORTS, REGULATIONS AND OTHER PAPERS:
The Agricultural Task Force on Bovine Spongiform
Encephalopathy Report, Mr. B. Taylor 1808
Anl. Rep. of the Colchester East Hants Health Authority,
Hon. A. MacIsaac 1808
GOVERNMENT NOTICES OF MOTION:
Res. 683, Col.-Musq. Valley MLA - Election: Anniv. (10th) - Congrats.,
Hon. R. Russell 1809
Vote - Affirmative 1809
Res. 684, Nat. Res. - Deer Hunting Season: Safety - Encourage,
Mr. R. Hurlburt 1809
Vote - Affirmative 1810
INTRODUCTION OF BILLS:
No. 35, Emergency Measures Act, Mr. H. Epstein 1810
No. 36, Medicare Protection Act, Mr. D. Dexter 1810
No. 37, Canada-Nova Scotia Offshore Petroleum Resources
Accord Implementation (Nova Scotia) Act, Hon. K. Morash 1810
No. 38, Motor Vehicle Act, Mr. J. Pye 1810
No. 39, Health-care Spending Accountability Act,
Ms. Maureen MacDonald 1810
NOTICES OF MOTION:
Res. 685, Serv. N.S. & Mun. Rel.: CBRM Governance Study -
Analysis Release, Mr. D. Dexter 1811
Res. 686, NDP/Hfx.-Chebucto: Power Trolling - Chastise,
Mr. R. MacKinnon 1811
Res. 687, Cobequid & Onslow-Belmont Fire Brigades -
Smitty's Rest. Fire: Response - Commend, Mr. B. Taylor 1812
Vote - Affirmative 1813
Res. 688, Sports: East. Passage Peewee Sharks Baseball Team -
Congrats., Mr. K. Deveaux 1813
Vote - Affirmative 1814
Res. 689, St. Peter's Commun. Club: Anniv. (50th) - Congrats.,
Mr. Michel Samson 1814
Vote - Affirmative 1815
Res. 690, Environ. & Lbr. - Nova Scotians: Earnings - Increases,
Mr. G. Hines 1815
Vote - Affirmative 1815
Res. 691, McNeil, Jean - Gov.-Gen's Award: Nomination - Congrats.,
Mr. Gerald Sampson 1816
Vote - Affirmative 1816
Res. 692, Smith, Mike: Gemini Award - Congrats., Mr. J. DeWolfe 1816
Vote - Affirmative 1817
Res. 693, Hurricane Juan - Property Damage: Insurance Deductable -
Eliminate, Ms. J. Massey 1817
Res. 694, Coward-Ince, Thelma: MSVU Graduation - Congrats.,
Ms. D. Whalen 1818
Vote - Affirmative 1819
Res. 695, Shelburne Co. Marksmen - Target Range: Fundraisers -
Congrats., Mr. C. O'Donnell 1819
Vote - Affirmative 1819
Res. 696, Irving Family - MLAs: Fishing Trip - Invite, Mr. H. Epstein 1819
Res. 697, Patterson, Gordon & Norma: Anniv. (44th) - Congrats.,
Mr. Gerald Sampson 1820
Vote - Affirmative 1821
Res. 698, Kentville Vol. FD - Aerial Truck: Acquisition - Commend,
Mr. M. Parent 1821
Vote - Affirmative 1821
Res. 699, Environ. & Lbr./Serv. N.S. & Mun. Rel. - Abandoned Sites:
Remediation Leg. - Prepare, Ms. M. Raymond 1822
Res. 700, Hines, Joe - Poultry Assoc. Fall Classic: Accomplishments -
Applaud, Hon. R. Russell 1822
Vote - Affirmative 1823
Res. 701, MacCormack, Clara: Birthday (80th) - Congrats.,
Mr. K. Deveaux 1823
Vote - Affirmative 1824
Res. 702, Environ. & Lbr. - Herring Cove Backlands: Wilderness Area -
Designate, Ms. M. Raymond 1824
ORAL QUESTIONS PUT BY MEMBERS:
No. 220, Health - Care Providers: Promise - Breach Admit:
Mr. D. Dexter 1825
No. 221, Insurance - Small Bus.: Liability Insurance - Affordability,
Mr. D. Graham 1826
No. 222, Health - C.B. Staff Shortages: Plans - Details, Mr. G. Gosse 1828
No. 223, Health - Carson Case: Surgery Cancellation - Explain,
Mr. David Wilson (Glace Bay) 1829
No. 224, Agric. & Fish. - BSE Task Force: Recommendations -
Funding Commit, Mr. J. MacDonell 1830
No. 225, Fin. - Budget: Dep. Min.'s Objections - Memos Release,
Mr. D. Graham 1832
No. 226, Health - System Wait Times: Indicator - Accuracy,
Ms. Maureen MacDonald 1834
No. 227, Fin. - DHAs: Bus. Plans Approval - Delay Explain,
Ms. Diana Whalen 1835
No. 228, Econ. Dev. - Stenpro: Layoffs - Gov't. Assistance,
Mr. D. Dexter 1837
No. 229, Health - Paramedic Prog.: Bursaries - Details,
Mr. David Wilson (Sackville-Cobequid) 1838
No. 230, Commun. Serv. - Bourgeois Case: Dept. Error - Admit,
Mr. R. MacKinnon 1839
No. 231, Commun. Serv. - Autumn House: Strike - Resolve,
Ms. M. More 1841
No. 232, Health - Richmond Villa: Land Purchase - Status,
Mr. Michel Samson 1842
No. 233, Commun. Serv. - Busk Case: Follow-up Meeting - Outcome,
Mr. J. Pye 1843
No. 234, Agric. & Fish. - N.S. Fishery: Independent Licence Owners -
Importance, Mr. H. Theriault 1844
No. 235, Insurance: Actuarial Repts. - Table, Mr. G. Steele 1845
No. 236, Environ. & Lbr.: Round Table on Environ. & Economy -
Reinstate, Mr. K. Colwell 1847
No. 237, Prem. - Long-Term Care: Fairness - Explain, Mr. D. Dexter 1848
No. 238, Commun. Serv. - C.B. Children's Training Ctr. Closure:
Residents - Placement Details, Mr. F. Corbett 1849
No. 239, Health - Midwifery Rept.: Non-Implementation - Explain,
Mr. David Wilson (Glace Bay) 1850
No. 240, Agric. & Fish. - Northwest Cove Fish Farm: Licence Review -
Details, Ms. J. Massey 1852
OPPOSITION MEMBERS' BUSINESS:
PRIVATE MEMBERS' PUBLIC BILLS FOR SECOND READING:
No. 3, Home for Special Care Act 1853
Mr. D. Dexter 1853
Hon. A. MacIsaac 1857
Mr. D. Graham 1860
Ms. Maureen MacDonald 1865
MOTIONS OTHER THAN GOVERNMENT MOTIONS:
Res. 51, Autumn House Dispute: Commun. Serv. Min. -
Responsibility Assume, Ms. Maureen MacDonald 1868
Mr. C. Parker 1868
Hon. E. Fage 1871
Ms. D. Whalen 1874
Mr. F. Corbett 1878
ADJOURNMENT, House rose to meet again on Thur., Oct. 30th at 12:00 noon 1881
NOTICES OF MOTION UNDER RULE 32(3):
Res. 703, Agric. & Fish. - Agric. Science HS Course: Importance -
Recognize, Hon. C. d'Entremont 1882
Res. 704, Mitchelmore, Enid - Yar. Breast Cancer Support Group:
Efforts - Thank, Hon. R. Hurlburt 1882
Res. 705, Surette, Keith: East. Cdn. 9-Ball Championship - Congrats.,
Hon. R. Hurlburt 1883
Res. 706, Roach, Cpl. Aloysius: Peacekeeping Medal (Posthumous) -
Recognize, Hon. C. Clarke 1883
Res. 707, Muizelaar, Gerald: Softball/Academic Achievements -
Congrats., Mr. B. Taylor 1884
Res. 708, Oyster Pond Vol. FD - Hurricane Juan Aftermath:
Assistance - Applaud, Mr. W. Dooks 1884
Res. 709, Musq. Hbr. Vol. FD - Hurricane Juan Aftermath:
Assistance - Commend, Mr. W. Dooks 1885
Res. 710, Chezzetcook Vol. FD - Hurricane Juan Aftermath:
Assistance - Commend, Mr. W. Dooks 1885
Res. 711, Ostrea Lake & Pleasant Point Fds. - Hurricane Juan
Aftermath: Assistance - Applaud, Mr. W. Dooks 1886
Res. 712, Lawrencetown Beach Fire & Emerg. Serv. -
Hurricane Juan Aftermath: Assistance - Applaud, Mr. W. Dooks 1886
Res. 713, Clam Hbr. Beach - Sand Castle Day: Participants -
Efforts Acknowledge, Mr. W. Dooks 1887
Res. 714, Abriel, Annie: Birthday (102nd) - Congrats., Mr. W. Dooks 1887
Res. 715, Wournell, Pearl: Death of - Tribute, Mr. W. Dooks 1888

[Page 1807]

HALIFAX, WEDNESDAY, OCTOBER 29, 2003

Fifty-ninth General Assembly

First Session

2:00 P.M.

SPEAKER

Hon. Murray Scott

DEPUTY SPEAKERS

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

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

PRESENTING AND READING PETITIONS

PRESENTING REPORTS OF COMMITTEES

TABLING REPORTS, REGULATIONS AND OTHER PAPERS

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

MR. BROOKE TAYLOR: Mr. Speaker, would I be permitted to do an introduction before I table this report?

MR. SPEAKER: By all means.

MR. TAYLOR: Mr. Speaker, in your gallery, I would like to introduce some very special guests and perhaps we will start to your left. I would like to recognize, and ask the individual to stand and every individual to stand who we do introduce here because they worked very hard over the last month. I would like to introduce George Archibald, a former Minister of Agriculture and colleague of mine in the House. (Applause)

1807

[Page 1808]

I would also like to introduce the Executive Director of the Nova Scotia Federation of Agriculture, Mr. Laurence Nason. (Applause) Mr. Larry Weatherby, Larry is a farmer just outside of Truro in Lower Harmony, Colchester County. (Applause) Mr. Speaker, I know that you know our next guest because he is a constituent of yours and a beef producer from Collingwood, Cumberland County, Mr. Kurt Sherman. (Applause) As well, I would like to introduce Mr. Don Cox, a producer and the 1st Vice-President of the Nova Scotia Federation of Agriculture and, as well, a member of the task force. (Applause)

As well, a producer and a Past President of the Nova Scotia Federation of Agriculture, Mr. Anthony Van Oostrum. (Applause) Mr. Leo Cox has now joined the entourage, I believe, with his wife, and I would ask Mr. Cox, who is the Chairman of the Nova Scotia Farm Loan Board and a producer from Inverness, to take a bow. (Applause) So I trust we were able to name the members of our task force.

Of course, Mr. Nason is down today because, Mr. Speaker, getting back to the agenda, I am very pleased today to table The Agricultural Task Force on Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy Report. Thank you very much for the opportunity. (Applause)

MR. SPEAKER: The report is tabled.

I certainly want to welcome all our special guests to the gallery today and hope they enjoy the proceedings this afternoon.

The honourable Minister of Health.

HON. ANGUS MACISAAC: Mr. Speaker, I beg leave to table the Annual Report of the Colchester East Hants Health Authority.

MR. SPEAKER: The report is tabled.

The honourable member for Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley.

MR. BROOKE TAYLOR: Mr. Speaker, I know this is a little out of sync with the agenda, but I neglected to mention a very, very important member of the Agriculture Task Force on the BSE and mad cow disease and that's Mr. Stephen McNeil, the Agriculture Critic for the Liberal caucus. (Applause)

STATEMENTS BY MINISTERS

[Page 1809]

GOVERNMENT NOTICES OF MOTION

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of Transportation and Public Works.

RESOLUTION NO. 683

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

Whereas this Sunday, November 2nd, will mark the 10-year anniversary of the election of the member for Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley to this historic Chamber; and

Whereas in that time span of 10 years, the member for the beautiful Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley has won four successive elections, all of them by huge majorities; and

Whereas the member for Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley is articulate, colourful at times, but first and foremost represents his constituents in an exemplary fashion;

Therefore be it resolved that MLAs in the Legislature commend the member for Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley on his 10-year anniversary this week and wish him at least another successful 10 years of electoral success. (Applause)

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable Minister of Natural Resources.

RESOLUTION NO. 684

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

Whereas October 31st is the opening day for the general deer hunting season for 2003; and

[Page 1810]

Whereas more than 50,000 people will take part in hunting and trapping activities throughout the year and make a significant contribution to the province's rural economy; and

Whereas hunter education has been mandatory in Nova Scotia since 1980 and the time and effort put into this program by volunteer instructors is reflected in the low number of accidents over the past number of years;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House encourage hunters to continue to make safety a number-one priority while respecting the rights of Nova Scotia landowners, and to remind them to obtain proper training, permits, and licenses.

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. 35 - Entitled an Act to Amend Chapter 8 of the Acts of 1990. The Emergency Measures Act. (Mr. Howard Epstein)

Bill No. 36 - Entitled an Act Respecting the Protection of Medicare in Nova Scotia. (Mr. Darrell Dexter)

Bill No. 37 - Entitled an Act to Amend Chapter 3 of the Acts of 1987. The Canada-Nova Scotia Offshore Petroleum Resources Accord Implementation (Nova Scotia) Act. (Hon. Kerry Morash)

Bill No. 38 - Entitled an Act to Amend Chapter 293 of the Revised Statutes of 1989. The Motor Vehicle Act. (Mr. Jerry Pye)

Bill No. 39 - Entitled an Act to Provide for Accountability in Health-care Spending. (Ms. Maureen MacDonald.)

[Page 1811]

[2:15 p.m.]

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

NOTICES OF MOTION

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

RESOLUTION NO. 685

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

Whereas the Cape Breton Regional Municipality received a governance study recently which reinforced the long-held perception that Cape Breton was not receiving its fair share of support from this government; and

Whereas the Premier's response to this report was flippant and curt; and

Whereas what the CBRM council is looking for is a reasoned, thorough, respectful response from this government;

Therefore be it resolved that this government release the independent analysis being conducted on the CBRM governance study and that the Premier meet with the CBRM council to discuss the challenges facing the region.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

I hear a No.

The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Cape Breton West.

RESOLUTION NO. 686

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

[Page 1812]

Whereas the Leader of the socialist NDP has publicly declared support for the Tories' budget in the Spring of 2004 without even knowing its substance; and

Whereas this is the same lacking logic applied by the member for Halifax Chebucto when that member declared that he would vote against the budget in 1998 even before the budget was tabled; and

Whereas responsible legislators will examine all aspects of a $4.5 billion budget, including medical costs for seniors, escalating university tuition fees, DHA budgets, the growing debt, just to mention a few;

Therefore be it resolved that the Leader of the socialist NDP and the clairvoyant member for Halifax Chebucto be chastised for their continued trolling for power.

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 Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley.

RESOLUTION NO. 687

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

Whereas the early morning hours of Sunday, August 10th will be ones remembered in infamy by members of the Cobequid and District and Onslow-Belmont Fire Brigades; and

Whereas in response to a call at Smitty's Restaurant in Lower Truro late Saturday evening, Cobequid firefighters at first were told a small fire had been extinguished; and

Whereas this proved to not be the case and within a short period of time Cobequid Fire Chief - and I might add - farmer James Yuill was ordering firefighters from the roof structure less than five minutes before the roof caved in;

[Page 1813]

Therefore be it resolved that MLAs in the Legislature commend the training and knowledge put forth by members of the Cobequid and Onslow-Belmont Fire Brigades which ultimately prevented tragedy from striking and commend the other Colchester County brigades for their quick mutual-aid response to the $1 million Smitty's Restaurant fire.

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. 688

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

Whereas the Eastern Passage PeeWee Sharks baseball team, after a slow start this season, went on to finish regular play with a record of 14-7; and

Whereas these young athletes won silver medals at Woodside to advance to the provincial championships; and

Whereas the Sharks finished off their season winning the gold medal at the Provincial Tier 2 Championship in Springhill;

Therefore be it resolved that this House congratulate the Eastern Passage PeeWee Shark players on winning the Nova Scotia PeeWee Baseball Tier 2 Championship and thank their parents and supporters, manager Don White, coach Garnet Wilson, and assistant coaches Tom McMahon and Jamie Hoyt for their commitment to these young players and the game of baseball.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

[Page 1814]

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 Richmond.

RESOLUTION NO. 689

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

Whereas on October 30, 1953, the St. Peter's Community Club held its first meeting at the new MacDougall School with the mandate to provide new furniture for local schools; and

Whereas since that time, the community club was instrumental in the establishment of Battery Park, a provincial camping park; the organization of the first municipal waste collection system in Richmond County; the building of the Nicholas Denys Museum in 1967; lobbying for sidewalks in the community; offering scholarships and other initiatives to help grow the community of St. Peters; and

Whereas this Thursday evening, October 30, 2003, the community and members of the St. Peters Community Club will meet at the St. Peters Lions Hall to celebrate the 50th Anniversary of the formation of the group, with an evening of celebration which will also recognize the 90th birthday of Mrs. Charlotte Stone, one of the founding members;

Therefore be it resolved that members of this House congratulate the membership of St. Peters Community Club for their 50 years of dedication to the community of St. Peters and encourage them to continue their efforts for many years to come.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

[Page 1815]

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Waverley-Fall River- Beaver Bank.

RESOLUTION NO. 690

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

Whereas Nova Scotia's average weekly earnings in the month of August 2003 increased 0.1 per cent over July 2003; and

Whereas Nova Scotia's average weekly earnings increased 1.3 per cent over August 2002; and

Whereas the average weekly earnings increase in Nova Scotia is above the national average;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House be encouraged by the increase in our average weekly earnings and its positive impact on Nova Scotian families.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Halifax Needham on an introduction.

MS. MAUREEN MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, it gives me great pleasure to introduce to members of the House visitors who are in our west gallery from Autumn House in Amherst, Cumberland County. We have here today with us: Caroline Foster, Wilma McCarron, Nancy Gayton, Carolyn Sutherland, Patty Ferdinand, Ruth Currie, Carole Wilson and Rhonda Canfield. They are eight of the 10 women who are on strike at Autumn House in the twelfth week of a labour dispute. They are here to watch the proceedings in the House

[Page 1816]

today. They are missing their colleagues Terry Cove and Agnes Douglas, who are at the CUPE convention, out of province. I would ask them to stand and receive the warm welcome of the members of this House. (Applause)

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

The honourable member for Victoria-The Lakes.

RESOLUTION NO. 691

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

Whereas Jean McNeil of Boularderie, Victoria County, is one of two Nova Scotians nominated for this year's Governor General's Award; and

Whereas the Governor General's Award is one of the prestigious literary prizes in Canada; and

Whereas Ms. McNeil has written two novels, a collection of short stories and one of the popular Rough Guide travel books;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House congratulate Jean McNeil for being nominated to receive this year's Governor General's Award.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Pictou East.

RESOLUTION NO. 692

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

[Page 1817]

Whereas the Gemini Awards honour the finest in Canadian television broadcasting; and

Whereas this year, my constituent, Thorburn native Mike Smith won the Viewer's Choice for his role on the Trailer Park Boys; and

Whereas Mr. Smith plays Bubbles - a character identified most notably by his Coke-bottle glasses - on the television hit;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House join me in extending our congratulations to Mike Smith on winning the Viewer's Choice Award at this year's Gemini's.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Dartmouth East.

RESOLUTION NO. 693

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

Whereas many people in Dartmouth East, and certainly across this province, suffered damage to property and possessions, including the food in their freezers due to Hurricane Juan; and

Whereas the government is offering assistance to those who suffered losses but, with a deductible of $1,000; and

Whereas many people who suffered the most are among the working poor, and could not afford insurance in the first place and certainly cannot afford a deductible of $1,000;

[Page 1818]

Therefore be it resolved that this government eliminate the $1,000 deductible charged to those who can least afford it, and reimburse these very same people for their losses suffered as a result of Hurricane Juan without charging them this ridiculous deductible.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver.

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

Is it agreed?

I hear a No.

The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Halifax Clayton Park.

RESOLUTION NO. 694

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

Whereas on October 19th, Mount Saint Vincent University held its Fall convocation ceremony; and

Whereas Thelma Coward-Ince was part of that convocation ceremony, receiving her Arts degree, with a major in Women's Studies; and

Whereas single mothers, like Thelma, face special and difficult challenges in education and in life;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House extend sincere congratulations to Thelma Coward-Ince for facing those challenges head-on and earning her diploma from Mount Saint Vincent University.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

[Page 1819]

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Shelburne.

RESOLUTION NO. 695

MR. CECIL O'DONNELL: Mr. Speaker, I hereby give notice that on a future day I shall move the adoption of the following resolution:

Whereas through difficult negotiations but extreme persistence, Shelburne County marksmen now have a target range, their first since 1992; and

Whereas with the assistance of municipalities, the Shelburne Fish and Game Association raised nearly all of the $20,000 needed to make the shooting range a reality; and

Whereas the range is certified for use by a shooter for any calibre rifle, while preparing big-game hunters for the hunting season;

Therefore be it resolved that MLAs in this Legislature commend the Shelburne Fish and Game Association, local area municipalities, the provincial Department of Natural Resources and the Nova Scotia Department of Justice for making this new target range a reality for Shelburne County.

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 Chebucto.

RESOLUTION NO. 696

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

[Page 1820]

Whereas several federal Liberal Cabinet Ministers have been guests of the Irving family at their fishing camp in New Brunswick; and

Whereas it appears that accepting such benefits is a violation of Cabinet conflict-of-interest guidelines; and

Whereas the Irving family must be very lonely for company if they keep inviting Cabinet Ministers to go fishing with them, even if it violates federal Cabinet ethics;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House, particularly those who own or part-own a fishing camp of their own, reach out to the lonesome Irvings and invite them to go fishing with us the next time we head out for some recreational angling.

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 Victoria-The Lakes.

RESOLUTION NO. 697

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

Whereas on Sunday, October 26, 2003, Gordon and Norma Patterson of Kempt Head, Boularderie Island celebrated their 44th Wedding Anniversary; and

Whereas Gordon Patterson, on this special occasion, proudly displayed his peacekeeping medal, symbolizing not only his contribution to world peace but his accomplishments in maintaining peace at home for 44 years; and

Whereas the celebration was well attended by family members and friends, which is a clear indication of the Pattersons' commitment to both family and community;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of the Legislature extend their best wishes to Norma and Gordon Patterson on the celebration of their 44th Wedding Anniversary, and wish them many more happy years together.

[Page 1821]

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. 698

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

Whereas the Kentville Fire Department is now in receipt of their new 2003 95-foot platform aerial ladder truck; and

Whereas the purchasing of fire emergency apparatus is an expensive proposition, with this new aerial truck costing over $1 million; and

Whereas the new unit replaced a 19-year-old aerial truck, which was deemed no longer safe for firefighters to use;

Therefore be it resolved that MLAs in this Legislature commend Fire Chief Shaun Ripley, the executive, and all members of the Kentville Volunteer Fire Department for putting in tremendous time and effort toward seeing this new vehicle arrive in Kentville.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

[Page 1822]

The honourable member for Halifax Atlantic.

RESOLUTION NO. 699

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

Whereas many commercial sites in the City of Halifax, particularly along the Herring Cove Road and the Old Sambro Road, have lain for years, without any cleanup or environmental remediation; and

Whereas these abandoned sites are now unfit for use and are sometimes hazardous to neighbours; and

Whereas the growing City of Halifax has a nearly insatiable appetite for development land which is being filled by expansion into wilderness areas;

Therefore be it resolved that this House request the Minister of Environment and Labour and the Minister of Service Nova Scotia and Municipal Relations to draft legislation which requires environmental remediation of abandoned sites within a specified time frame, and impose penalties which are a genuine incentive to the cleanup and reuse of these lands.

[2:30 p.m.]

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

I hear a No.

The notice is tabled.

The honourable Minister of Transportation and Public Works.

RESOLUTION NO. 700

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

Whereas 11-year-old Joe Hines of Windsor is taking the idea of showcasing poultry to a new height in the province; and

[Page 1823]

Whereas Joe will be participating this weekend in the Nova Scotia Purebred Poultry Association's Fall Classic in Truro; and

Whereas Joe has become such a hit with all Maritime poultry owners that a lady from Prince Edward Island, whom Joe has never met, sent him four chicks, three hens, and a rooster, all of them just days old during the past winter, and Joe now looks after them in his spare room in the upstairs of his parent's home;

Therefore be it resolved that the MLAs in this Legislature applaud the significant accomplishment of Joe Hines, son of well-known Windsor area residents, Terry and Lisa Hines, and grandson of Hants County Exhibition Manager, David Coombes, as Joe prepares for this weekend's major Nova Scotia Poultry Fall Classic in Truro.

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. 701

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

Whereas lifelong Eastern Passage resident, Clara Theresa MacCormack, was born on November 2, 1923; and

Whereas Clara and her husband Louis raised five children - Anne-Marie, Jerry, Philip, Monica and Janice - and enjoy their nine grandchildren; and

Whereas family and friends will gather on November 2, 2003, to celebrate Clara's 80th birthday;

Therefore be it resolved that members of this House congratulate Clara MacCormack on her 80th birthday and wish her many more years of health and happiness.

[Page 1824]

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 Atlantic.

RESOLUTION NO. 702

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

Whereas the high coastal barrens between Herring Cove and Ketch Harbour is a fragile ecosystem, much of which is under Crown ownership; and

Whereas the Herring Cove Backlands was proposed as a wilderness area in 2001 and Halifax Regional Council requested a feasibility report on this proposal from the Department of Environment and Labour in 2002; and

Whereas the survival of such areas is essential to the health and well-being of Nova Scotia and Nova Scotians alike, particularly on the outskirts of a growing urban core, and according to the economist Thomas Power, "Protected natural areas make adjacent areas more attractive as places to live, work and do business.";

Therefore be it resolved that this House request the Department of Environment and Labour to proceed with the designation of the Herring Cove Backlands as a wilderness area under the Wilderness Areas Protection Act.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

I hear a No.

[Page 1825]

The notice is tabled.

ORDERS OF THE DAY

ORAL QUESTIONS PUT BY MEMBERS

MR. SPEAKER: Question Period will begin at 2:34 p.m. and end at 4:04 p.m.

The honourable Leader of the Official Opposition.

HEALTH - CARE PROVIDERS: PROMISE - BREACH ADMIT

MR. DARRELL DEXTER: Mr. Speaker, during the last election we heard promises from the Conservatives that they would hire 350 new nurses, 100 doctors, and 88 lab technologists over the next four years. The 2003-04 business plan for the Department of Health says that Nova Scotia places a high priority on health human resource planning initiatives in the areas of recruitment, retention and retraining of health care professionals.

Mr. Speaker, I am tabling a document which is entitled the Status of Recruitment Strategies at Capital Health, which says that of the 10 different types of positions listed, vacancies remain in every area except for X-ray technicians - and in that case they are forecasting upcoming severe shortages. My question to the Minister of Health is, given that the Department of Health says in their business plan that they want to see an appropriate number, and distribution, of health care providers in this province, will the minister admit now that this is another failure of his government and more broken election promises?

HON. ANGUS MACISAAC: Mr. Speaker, what I can tell the House, through you, is that this government, in fact, will work very vigorously at meeting its commitments made in the blueprint and that progress is underway. The commitments will be met and we will improve patient care in this province as we move forward.

MR. DEXTER: Mr. Speaker, the first hard-to-fill position that is listed in the document is psychologist. The response of Capital Health is to fill these positions on a temporary basis with less qualified individuals. We have heard from people in mental health at Capital Health District that they are uncomfortable with being asked to provide what is called a provisional diagnosis. Patients have been treated as if they saw a properly qualified professional. My question to the Minister of Health is, will he confirm that mental health patients are being given provisional diagnoses by staff because his government is failing to recruit enough psychologists?

MR. MACISAAC: Mr. Speaker, the task of recruiting physicians of all types in this country is a challenging one and it is one that we are working toward. We are working very hard in that recruitment. As all honourable members would know, it is a situation that is right

[Page 1826]

across Canada and it is one which we are addressing, we are addressing very vigorously. We have had results in the past. We will continue to have results as we move forward.

MR. DEXTER: Mr. Speaker, I don't think the Minister of Health actually gets it. People are being treated as if they had a diagnosis they didn't actually get. Capital Health says that three cardiac profusionist positions have been vacated in the past two years, two due to better compensation offers elsewhere. Now, cardiac profusionists are responsible for providing life-maintaining support during cardiovascular surgery and they are not an optional member of the team. My question to the minister is, given that he is now squeezing hospital budgets even further, what is he prepared to do to effectively begin a real recruitment strategy for health care professionals in this province?

MR. MACISAAC: Mr. Speaker, what we are doing is building on what we have accomplished in the past, as I have indicated previously. We are working very hard at ensuring that we attract the highest qualified individuals that we can find to come to Nova Scotia to address the concerns indicated by the honourable member and many other concerns that are out there. It is an ongoing challenge. It is one that we work at daily and will continue to work at and address the health care and patient needs of the people of this province.

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

INSURANCE - SMALL BUS.:

LIABILITY INSURANCE - AFFORDABILITY

MR. DANIEL GRAHAM: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Premier. Nova Scotians have seen rapidly increasing automobile insurance rates over the last couple of years. This government knew that auto insurance was a problem long before it became a crisis. One and a half years ago, the Liberal Party proposed an all-Party committee that would examine this issue but it was rejected by the other Parties. (Interruptions)

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

MR. GRAHAM: The government responded only when this became a crisis. The Canadian Federation of Independent Business issued a report in September of this year that outlined the challenges facing small businesses in Nova Scotia. I have a copy of this report and I will table it for the House. This report indicates that over 33 per cent of small businesses in Nova Scotia have experienced rate increases between 20 per cent and 49 per cent. My question for the Premier is, what steps has this government taken to ensure that small businesses in Nova Scotia will have access to affordable commercial liability insurance?

[Page 1827]

HON. JOHN HAMM (The Premier): Mr. Speaker, I refer that to the Minister responsible for the Insurance Act.

HON. RONALD RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, in response to the Leader of the Third Party, I would like to advise him that really he is Johnny-come-lately to this particular problem. We started looking at this problem two years ago and we came forward, looking at only auto insurance, admittedly, but we came forward with a plan. Now I'm delighted that the Liberals have joined with the government in getting that bill through the House. With regard to casualty and property insurance, I would advise him to talk to his representatives in the federal government, who are responsible for that particular element of insurance.

MR. GRAHAM: Mr. Speaker, this government has a responsibility to act. The East Hants Tourism Association, a volunteer organization that promotes two important tourist attractions in their area, has seen their insurance premiums rise from $1,700 to $6,600 in the past year alone. This, after members of the board contacted 25 companies to find a company willing to provide coverage. Many of our community and volunteer organizations will be left to fill in the gaps. Affordable insurance is a necessity for these organizations. My question for the Minister responsible for the Insurance Act is, what specific action is being taken by this government to ensure that community organizations like the East Hants Tourism Association have accessible liability insurance?

MR. RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, that's a very good question. Quite seriously, it's one that has to be addressed. The volunteers in Nova Scotia and the organizations that they support are indeed worthy of our utmost efforts to resolve the problems that they're presently having in getting liability insurance. One of the things that we have done is to assign, to the Automobile Insurance Review Board, the task of monitoring the situation with regard to other insurances, including liability insurance, and they will be reporting back to government by November 1st of next year. In the interim, our Superintendent of Insurance, whenever she hears of an organization that is having difficulty obtaining liability insurance, is indeed working to obtain that insurance for those particular organizations.

MR. GRAHAM: Mr. Speaker, my final supplemental is for the Premier. We, the Liberal caucus, are once again calling on this government to respond to the challenges of insurance, and we want an all-Party committee to be struck on commercial, liability and home insurance. My question for the Premier is, will the Premier agree to strike an all-Party committee immediately, to respond to the emerging crisis?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, the government is far ahead of the Opposition Party. The piece of legislation that has passed the House is addressing that particular issue, and addressing it effectively.

[Page 1828]

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

HEALTH - C.B. STAFF SHORTAGES: PLANS - DETAILS

MR. GORDON GOSSE: Mr. Speaker, my question, through you, is for the Minister of Health. We've already heard today about the failure of this government on recruitment initiatives for the Capital District. Here I have a letter from Linda MacNeil - which I will table - the President of CAW Local 4600 in Sydney. She says that the staff shortages throughout this local have progressed to a point of crisis in our health care system. She goes on to say that this issue has been discussed through various avenues, but the bottom line is recruitment. My question for the Minister of Health is, given that he can't seem to recruit health professionals to metro Halifax, what exactly are his plans to deal with what workers in Cape Breton are calling a crisis there?

HON. ANGUS MACISAAC: Mr. Speaker, we are working with all of the health authorities right across the province in order to recruit health care workers. We're working, for instance, with the physicians of this province to ensure that we get the proper combination of physicians to fill the needs that are in the province. We're actively identifying those needs, and we're actively recruiting. We will continuously have to recruit in order to fulfill all of the needs that are out there. It's an ongoing process, and it's one that we're going to continue to do.

MR. GOSSE: Mr. Speaker, Ms. MacNeil says in her letter that her members are working 36 hours straight, and that soon our health care workers will become health care patients. She says this is unsafe and unacceptable for both the workers and their patients. My question to the Minister of Health is, what is he prepared to do today to deal with this disaster that Ms. MacNeil is predicting in Cape Breton health care services?

MR. MACISAAC: Mr. Speaker, as the district health authorities bring forward their needs to us, we work very actively with them in recruitment activities in order to fulfill those needs. We do work with the health authorities, we do work to address the concerns that they have, relative to personnel, in delivering patient care in this province, and we will continue to work with the district health authorities as they identify their needs.

MR. GOSSE: Mr. Speaker, it's clear that part of the problem is the uncertainty over budgets and resources for health care, a problem that this government seems unwilling to deal with. Ms. MacNeil indicates that her union will be lobbying the provincial government for more funding for recruitment of professionals. My question to the Minister of Health is, will he today commit to a meeting with Ms. MacNeil and her members as well as members of the Cape Breton District Health Authority to find ways to address this critical situation?

[Page 1829]

[2:45 p.m.]

MR. MACISAAC: Mr. Speaker, as I indicated to the honourable member in answer to his previous question, we work very closely with the district health authority in addressing the concerns they have. We will continue to work with them, we meet with them on an ongoing basis and I'm quite prepared to continue working with the district health authority to address any concerns which they identify. Thank you.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Glace Bay.

HEALTH - CARSON CASE:

SURGERY CANCELLATION - EXPLAIN

MR. DAVID WILSON (Glace Bay): Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Health. Recently our office has been contacted by Mrs. Dorothy Carson of Five Islands to express some concerns on the experiences her mother is encountering with the health care system. For over a year Mrs. Carson's 81-year-old mother has been waiting for knee replacement surgery, wheelchair-bound and living in pain. Mrs. Carson thought her mother's painful journey had come to an end when her surgeon's office contacted her October 17th to schedule surgery for October 24th. On October 23rd the family made the trek to Halifax . . .

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. The honourable member for Glace Bay.

MR. DAVID WILSON (Glace Bay): On October 23rd the family made the trek to Halifax, went through X-rays, blood work, EKGs, all of the standard requisites for pre-admission. At 12:00 noon on October 24th she arrived at the hospital, was checked in, prepped for surgery and only told by the surgeon at 2:30 that afternoon that her surgery was cancelled due to a lack of beds. My question for the minister is, could the minister please explain to Mrs. Carson how her mother's situation was allowed to happen?

HON. ANGUS MACISAAC: Mr. Speaker, we have an ongoing process in place through the Department of Health with the co-operation of all of the district health authorities to address the wait time issue, both from the perspective of patient to specialist, from the perspective of diagnostic treatment to the issue of surgery, in particular orthopaedic surgery. That group is headed by Dr. Mike MacKenzie who is the Chief of Staff for St. Martha's Hospital in Antigonish and we look forward to their work to assist us in addressing the concerns as outlined and identified by the honourable member.

MR. DAVID WILSON (Glace Bay): Mr. Speaker, this is an 81-year-old Nova Scotian who has been living in pain for over a year and I'm wondering if this is what our older population is looking forward to. Today, we heard the Deputy Minister of Health tell the Public Accounts Committee that wait times are not an indication of how well the health care system is running. I stand here in my place on behalf of Mrs. Carson and her mother and

[Page 1830]

many others to say it is a very clear indication of just how our health care system is operating. My question to the minister is, could the minster please explain in his own words how the case I've just described is an example of how a health care system is running effectively?

MR. MACISAAC: Mr. Speaker, the issue of wait times is one which we take very seriously. It is one that affects patient care. It is one, as I have indicated in my answer to the previous question, that we are addressing through the combined efforts of the Department of Health and the district health authorities. It is an issue, it is a challenge, we're working toward that and we're going to address it.

MR. DAVID WILSON (Glace Bay): Mr. Speaker, I don't think, quite frankly, that the people of Nova Scotia have much faith in this minister's rather hollow answers. The reality is that the health care system is failing them. It's this minister, it's this government who are to blame and a $147 million tax scheme, supported by the NDP won't do anything to help address the problem either. Absolutely nothing (Interruptions)

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. The honourable member for Glace Bay on his final supplementary.

MR. DAVID WILSON (Glace Bay): Mr. Speaker, my question to the minister is, what is the minister willing to do today to ensure that situations experienced by Mrs. Carson's mother and many others like this will never happen again?

MR. MACISAAC: Mr. Speaker, all members of this House have, in fact, encountered citizens of the province who are concerned about wait times and, indeed, there are situations where people want to be treated much more quickly than they currently are. That is being addressed and as the honourable member might remember from the testimony he heard this morning, it is not a matter of money, it is a structural approach that needs to be addressed and we're working towards that. We're going to resolve that issue and resolve it satisfactorily. It cannot happen overnight, however, but we will work towards reaching a resolution.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Hants East.

AGRIC. & FISH. - BSE TASK FORCE:

RECOMMENDATIONS - FUNDING COMMIT

MR. JOHN MACDONELL: Mr. Speaker, the BSE task force report was tabled earlier today. The task force found what we knew before, that current programs could not address the present crisis in the beef industry. What the members of this House may not know, but the minister knew, was that I told him a month ago I would join his task force under one condition. That was if the task force recommended spending money and he would guarantee me that he would do that, I would've joined the task force.

[Page 1831]

AN HON. MEMBER: Show me the money!

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please.

The honourable member for Hants East has the floor.

MR. MACDONELL: So I guess the members here know what the answer was that I got from the minister. So I ask the minister today in light of the two recommendations that require money from the government, will he commit today that his government will spend the necessary money to carry beef, dairy and sheep producers through this ongoing crisis?

HON. CHRISTOPHER D' ENTREMONT: Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the member for the question and his apparent interest in this issue. I do recall a conversation that I had with him when I did ask him to participate. The members know full well . . .

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please.

The honourable Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries has the floor.

MR. D'ENTREMONT: Members know full well that I just got the recommendations and I will be looking at them and finding out what we can or cannot do.

MR. MACDONELL: Mr. Speaker, that minister may be a rookie in this House but I'm not. He has had a member from his caucus as chairman of that task force. He has lots of opportunities to know where the direction of this task force has been going. (Interruptions)

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

The honourable member for Hants East on his first supplementary.

MR. MACDONELL: The minister has had a month to run what he would suspect to be a reasonable request from the industry for money past his colleagues at the Cabinet table. So I want to ask him, has he done that?

MR. D'ENTREMONT: Mr. Speaker, if he would look at the recommendations from the task force, he would understand that it was done at arm's length to look at the industry, to come back with their recommendations and I got them today.

MR. MACDONELL: Mr. Speaker, I fail to see how a member of the Tory Party as chairman would make it at arm's length.

AN HON. MEMBER: And a former Tory minister.

[Page 1832]

MR. MACDONELL: Yes, a former Tory minister on it.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. Order, please. How can anyone hear the questions or the answers?

I hope the honourable member is not imputing motive to another member in this House. (Interruption)

Order, please. Well, imputing motive is not a statement of fact nor is it accepted in this House. That's the way the Chair would take that. Read Hansard and what he said.

The honourable member for Hants East.

MR. MACDONELL: Mr. Speaker, I am not imputing motive but if I can move the minister to a motive to help beef farmers in this province; that's what I'm doing. This government takes great fanfare in hooking any support for agriculture, which is precious little, on any federal program that may or may not be coming in this case. I want to ask the minister, in light of the fact that we need a "made in Nova Scotia solution", in light of the fact that other provinces have anted up and helped their producers, I want to know today what is your commitment to beef, dairy and sheep producers in this province who need help in this ongoing crisis?

MR. D'ENTREMONT: Mr. Speaker, my commitment to the beef and all ruminant livestock industries is that we are there to help them and that we understand the problems that they are having. I will remind the members opposite that the farming community was not looked at in their seven platitudes, nor was the member willing to participate in my task force, nor was he able to make a presentation to that group. (Interruption) Thank you very much. Doesn't care. (Interruptions)

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

FIN. - BUDGET: DEP. MIN.'S OBJECTIONS - MEMOS RELEASE

MR. DANIEL GRAHAM: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Finance. Nova Scotians like Dorothy Carson - who was referenced by the member for Glace Bay a short while ago - and Dorothy Carson's mother, are concerned about cancelled operations, long waiting times, hiring freezes, cutbacks that occur in health. This morning in the Public Accounts Committee, the Deputy Minister of Health shared with the committee some interesting information about his concerns that were expressed last Spring about a budget that was tabled before this House. He conveyed to the Public Accounts Committee that last Spring he vigorously and repeatedly objected to more senior officials in the government that the allocation for the Department of Health was inadequate in this year's budget. My question for the Minister of Finance is, will the minister avoid a freedom of information

[Page 1833]

application and share with Nova Scotians and this House, the memos that express the vigorous and repeated objections of the Deputy Minister of Health about the budget this year?

HON. PETER CHRISTIE: Mr. Speaker, to the honourable member, I will ask the Minister of Health to respond on that. What I know he did as part of the process was to increase and give three-year funding to the DHAs. There is a lot of pressure from all the departments in government to advance their programs and indeed, pressures on them all. That is why again we reacted in September to some of the pressures of the DHAs. For the honourable member to say, let's talk about one month, there has been a process since this government became the government, of having to fund those DHAs and to give them the money they need.

MR. GRAHAM: Mr. Speaker, this question is about what was known back in the Spring, the pieces of the bogus budget mystery are finally coming together. A full five months after the Deputy Minister of Health said there was a budget shortfall in Health, the Finance Minister admitted in September of this year that indeed, there was a $19 million problem with the Health budget. For even longer the Department of Finance knew about a census equalization problem that amounted to $22 million, but again, it didn't make it into the Spring budget. If either of these amounts were allotted for, we wouldn't have had a balanced budget. My question is for the Premier. Mr. Premier, why did you allow a budget to be tabled before this House in the Spring of this year, that your government knew was not balanced?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, I'm very pleased to have that question today because it allows me to remind the House of a release from the Metropolitan Halifax Chamber of Commerce, in which they, in October of this year - well after the budget was tabled in the Spring - extended ". . . congratulations to the government of Nova Scotia for improving the Province's bond rating from A-minus stable to A-minus positive. According to Standard & Poor's, Nova Scotia's credit rating improved based on some of the following factors . . .", and this is from the chamber of commerce, "two consecutive balanced budgets, 'due primarily to measures undertaken by the government to control spending;' lower debt-to-GDP ratio and foreign currency debt exposure; solid economic performance in 2002 with expectations for continued growth in 2003; Nova Scotia's debt reduction plan; and the province becoming one of the first in Canada to report its finances on a fully consolidated basis." (Interruptions)

[3:00 p.m.]

MR. GRAHAM: Mr. Speaker, absolutely nothing that was said by the Premier went to the question that was put to him in the first place about what he knew. Isn't it interesting that the Premier is selective about citing from the chamber of commerce when he knows full

[Page 1834]

well that with respect to the choices that were made in this budget, the chamber of commerce said that the debt was more important than his misspent tax scheme.

Mr. Speaker, Nova Scotians want to know what this government knew at the time that this budget was tabled. Could it have been that there was an election coming down the pike at some later date in the year and for that reason we had ourselves in a situation where there were two balanced budgets? My question for the Premier, without referring to the Dominion Bond Rating Agency, which itself said the tax cut shouldn't go forward, will the Premier admit that this government knew the Spring budget was not in balance?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, every expert who has analyzed what is happening in Nova Scotia has praised this government for its budgeting, for its controlling of expenditures, for its good management of the public purse. The only Nova Scotian who questions this government is the Leader of the Third Party and he has an agenda.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Halifax Needham.

HEALTH - SYSTEM WAIT TIMES: INDICATOR - ACCURACY

MS. MAUREEN MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, my question, through you, is to the Minister of Health. Today at the Public Accounts Committee, the Deputy Minister of Health stated that long wait lists for health care don't really tell us anything about the state of our health system. This statement is disturbing in light of the long wait times that many Nova Scotians face for surgeries and diagnostic procedures. The wait for joint replacement surgery can take up to two years and in the meantime patients have pain, the deterioration of other joints may lead to the need for even more surgery. So I would like to ask the Minister of Health, do you share your deputy minister's belief that wait times for health care aren't really an important indicator of how well our health care system is doing?

HON. ANGUS MACISAAC: Mr. Speaker, the members of the Official Opposition at times like to take things out of context and they like to use opportunities to create pictures that don't really exist. The honourable member knows full well that the deputy this morning, in his answer, referenced the structure and the need to address the structure of the delivery of the health care problem and we are doing that. The honourable member, in fairness, would share with the House that the deputy did, in fact, express his compassion with respect to the issue of wait times and the need to address that particular concern. That is what went on this morning.

MS. MAUREEN MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, with all due respect to the minister, I was there, I asked the question, I heard the answer and I know what the deputy minister said and it's on the record and with all due respect, he does not. Other procedures such as MRIs and cardiac catheterization are necessary before further treatment can occur. In some cases, a patient's condition can worsen while they are waiting for these procedures and in the end

[Page 1835]

they require more treatment but apparently, if we listen to the deputy minister, this is only a structural problem, it's not really a problem in our health care system. So health care delayed is often health care denied. So I want to ask the Minister of Health, when will you admit that your deputy minister was trying to downplay your government's failure to fix the problems in the health care system?

MR. MACISAAC: Mr. Speaker, we are in fact addressing the wait-list problem. For cardiac care, for instance, we've increased our capacity, we've opened a new cardiac lab and that has resulted in reduced wait times in that area. We are addressing other areas. To say that something is just a structural problem is not minimizing the problem. What it does is distinguish how the problem is to be addressed, and it is not to be addressed simply by throwing more money at it - which is the first and only answer that that group over there can come forward with.

MS. MAUREEN MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, the former Liberal Government tried to hide the problem when it stopped releasing the annual updates on wait times after 1996, and then this government has followed suit - failing to release any comprehensive statistics for all wait times across this province during its entire mandate. So I want to ask the minister, what is your government so afraid of that you're trying to downplay and disguise the real problem with wait times from the people of Nova Scotia?

MR. MACISAAC: Mr. Speaker, when you put in place a process and when you put in place officials and medical practitioners, people from the district health authorities, to go out and address the problem of wait times, you're not hiding it, you're meeting it head-on, you're dealing with it, and you're going to come forward with a solution to it. That's the approach we're taking.

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

FIN. - DHAs: BUS. PLANS APPROVAL - DELAY EXPLAIN

MS. DIANA WHALEN: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Finance. Today, both at the Public Accounts Committee and in media interviews, the Deputy Minister of Health indicated that he did not have any problem with the fact that we are seven months into the fiscal year and business plans for the district health authorities have yet to be approved by government. As the Minister of Finance would know, this type of indecision leads to serious challenges in this fiscal year and provides obstacles in planning for next year. My question to the Minister of Finance, how is any organization expected to operate effectively or plan for the future when it is seven months into the fiscal year and their budget plan has yet to be approved?

HON. PETER CHRISTIE: Mr. Speaker, since her question was directly at the DHAs and the Department of Health, I will ask the Minister of Health to respond.

[Page 1836]

HON. ANGUS MACISAAC: Mr. Speaker, what the DHAs did in fact know is that they had approved increased funding in the amount of 7 per cent for their operations as they began the year. What we did request of the DHAs was to examine their business plans to see what other areas. Now, just to put it in context, we have gone, as a government, from deficits of DHAs of $220 million a year, last year it was down to $20 million a year, and this year we're approaching zero and that's how we're managing the health care system.

MS. WHALEN: I think the federal government has had a great deal to do with the improved results, Mr. Speaker. (Interruptions)

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. The honourable member for Halifax Clayton Park on her first supplementary.

MS. WHALEN: Mr. Speaker, that's all very interesting, but I did ask the question of the Minister of Finance. The fact of the matter is this government is slow in approving these health plans. They went through an election by stalling and asking DHAs to resubmit their plans. The reality is these DHAs should be working on the plan for next year, not addressing the challenges faced because of the government indecisions this year. My question to the Minister of Finance is, could the Minister of Finance explain why the DHAs were asked to resubmit business plans either just prior to, or during, an election?

MR. CHRISTIE: Mr. Speaker, I think that in response to that question, I will point out to the honourable member what we told him in September, when we were making our mid-term correction in our Finance forecast. We indicated that we saw some possibility that the revenues were going to go down, so we had to undertake some plans that would make the correction for that, because we knew we had to bring in a balanced budget. We knew we had to look at the options to be able to find some areas of savings. That's what the Minister of Health just told the member that DHAs are doing. We recognized their problem last year in the increase of the long-term funding. We recognized the pressure they had in September, and they're just working their way through the process. The honourable member, if she's been in the corporate world, would know that's what corporations do all the time.

MS. WHALEN: Mr. Speaker, I think what we're hearing is that the pressures were recognized even at the budget time, last April. There were one of two reasons, as I see it, for resubmitting, either because there was bad news contained within the plans, because the budget numbers this government originally provided were unrealistic for Health, or the original budgets and business plans submitted by the DHAs needed to be reworked to address the fact that the books of this government are indeed not balanced. My final question to the Minister of Finance is, in July, were the DHAs asked to resubmit their business plans because they contained unrealistically low budget numbers that would have resulted in bad news during the election, or were DHAs being asked to cut back their requests to reflect the fiscal crisis the government knew we were facing?

[Page 1837]

MR. CHRISTIE: Mr. Speaker, as I indicated before, all the departments, as they look at pressures, as they look at the pressures that are coming on them, look for ways to be able to stay within their envelope. I do want to come back to one thing that the honourable member said, she referred to the fact that the federal government provides a lot of that money. I think what she should be saying is that this House should be talking to Ottawa about getting the Romanow report, so we can provide the health care that Canadians want.

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

ECON. DEV. - STENPRO: LAYOFFS - GOV'T. ASSISTANCE

MR. DARRELL DEXTER: Mr. Speaker, my question is to the Premier. We have news today that Stenpro, Steel & Engine Products Limited, has announced the layoff of 90 employees at its Queens County operation. We're talking about the loss of 90 jobs in a part of the province that has seen its population decline by 5.6 per cent in just the last five years. With a job loss of this magnitude, your government must have known that the news was coming. My question to the Premier is, what did your government do to help Stenpro's owners and employees avoid these layoffs?

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

HON. ERNEST FAGE: Mr. Speaker, the honourable member asks a very good question. This government and myself, as the minister representing the department, have had contact with the Irving Group in regard to the business plan, go forward with Stenpro. As well, as late as yesterday, we met with the mayor and economic development people from the area of Queens County.

MR. DEXTER: Mr. Speaker, again my question is to the Premier. This is the same area of the province that was recently left holding the bag for over $400,000, when Service Zone walked away from an agreement to open a call centre in Liverpool. I saw as well the Mayor of the Municipality of Queens here at the House yesterday. Today he has called the layoffs devastating news and a huge dislocation for this community, and he is calling for assistance from the province. My question to the Premier is, what have you told the Mayor of Queens that you will do to help save or help replace these jobs?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, I personally have not spoken to the mayor in the last 24 hours about this initiative. I think it's fair to point out that the Opposition Party can't have it both ways. When government spends money on economic development, they criticize government. Here, now, they have a specific instance in which they want government to become involved. I don't mind them having a position, but they can't have two positions on the same question.

[Page 1838]

MR. DEXTER: Mr. Speaker, I think it's unfortunate that we have a rhetorical response to a serious question. My question for the Premier is, Stenpro has been a vital part of the Queens County economy for more than 50 years. The current owners of Stenpro, the Irvings, have said that it was trying to carve out another niche for the operation doing offshore and other service work. If this government and the previous Liberal Government had bargained hard for an offshore benefits agreement that truly benefited Nova Scotians, there would be much more work for operations like Stenpro. So my question to the Premier is, what are you doing to help find new markets for Stenpro products in order to save jobs at this operation that are so vital to Queens County?

[3:15 p.m.]

THE PREMIER: I refer that to the Minister of Economic Development.

MR. FAGE: Mr. Speaker, obviously the honourable member's question points out his need for playing politics instead of dealing with business growth in rural Nova Scotia. Here we have a company that has worked in the community, owned by the same company, with fluctuating employment levels for over 30 years. They've experienced downturns through those years and they've experienced good times. We're prepared to work with that company to find other forms of work to see if we can keep the fabrication in line and going. We're prepared to work with the community instead of playing politics, unlike the honourable member.

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

HEALTH - PARAMEDIC PROG.: BURSARIES - DETAILS

MR. DAVID WILSON (Sackville-Cobequid): Mr. Speaker, my question through you is for the Minister of Health. As with many other health professionals, paramedics have learned the hard way the level of respect which the government views them and their roles in the health care system. When paramedics read one of this government's election promises in the blue book which I can table, new bursaries for advanced care, paramedic program, they were somewhat skeptical. Since you need to be a current paramedic to take advantage of this program, many of them are married with families and financial commitments, a return to school is a major decision. Will the minister tell this House and all paramedics the value of these bursaries and when they will be available?

HON. ANGUS MACISAAC: Mr. Speaker, that's a matter that is being actively worked on. When we are in a position to come forward with the details relative to the program, we will make that known.

[Page 1839]

MR. DAVID WILSON (Sackville-Cobequid): Mr. Speaker, I guess that might be on the list of one of the unkept promises as we've seen in the previous government mandates. Everyone in this House is aware of the trends we see of nurses, technologists and other health care providers being recruited out of province. I'm sad to say that the same things are happening to paramedics presently. I'm personally aware of over 20 paramedics who in the last two years have left this province and have left many positions unfilled, most of them in rural Nova Scotia. Since this service agreement is part of the proposal and the bursaries, will the minister give any details on how long these agreements will be for the service agreements?

MR. MACISAAC: Mr. Speaker, when the program is in place, we will provide as much detail as we can. I can tell the honourable member that we value highly the paramedics of this province. I had an opportunity yesterday evening to spend a couple of hours with many of Nova Scotia's paramedics as they embarked upon a three-day seminar on the issue of research and the role paramedics should play in research and it was a very interesting discussion. I spent the time there because I value the service that they provide to the people of this province.

MR. DAVID WILSON (Sackville-Cobequid): Mr. Speaker, but I was a paramedic outside this House not too long ago when the government was showing how much respect they had for paramedics then. Tuition for this paramedic program is very expensive, more than $10,000 for a full-time program and believe it or not, $20,000 for the part-time program. Yes, the part-time program is even more expensive than the full-time program. Since this government made the commitment with no plan in place as of yet to achieve this, will the minister commit to establishing an advisory committee of paramedics to design this program for the 2004-05 budget?

MR. MACISAAC: Mr. Speaker, the work relative to the program is underway. I can (Interruption) We're not going to govern by committee here. When we have a program in place, we will make it known and that program will include consultation with those who were most affected, being the paramedics.

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

COMMUN. SERV. - BOURGEOIS CASE: DEPT. ERROR - ADMIT

MR. RUSSELL MACKINNON: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Community Services. Albert Bourgeois of 20 Colby Street, in Sydney, had need to collect social assistance more than 10 years ago, and Mr. Bourgeois at the time was required to apply for Canada Pension, which he did, and when his Canada Pension came in there was a clawback which he obliged very willingly to the Department of Community Services and they collected upwards of $7,000 out of the money that he received. Ten years after the fact, the Department of Community Services is now looking for an additional $600 from Mr.

[Page 1840]

Bourgeois, even though he followed all the rules and the regulations and the department conducted their own audit of this particular file. Will the minister please admit - given the fact that he is familiar with this case - that his department is in error and stop harassing Mr. Bourgeois?

HON. DAVID MORSE: Mr. Speaker, I think the member opposite would know that we do not discuss individual cases here on the floor of the House. That's not appropriate; it contradicts the whole concept of confidentiality. But if the member would like me to talk about policy, I would be pleased to discuss it here in this Chamber.

MR. MACKINNON: Mr. Speaker, I will table a letter from Mr. Bourgeois authorizing to raise this issue in the House publicly, so that the minister will feel comfortable in responding forthright. I will also table a copy of a letter that was sent to the minister on this particular file by my colleague, the member for Cape Breton South, asking for the minister to take corrective action.

Mr. Speaker, my question to the minister is, will the minister review the actions of the collections unit and please stop bothering Mr. Bourgeois given the fact that this is 10 years after the fact and he followed all procedures, even abiding by the audit within the Department of Community Services itself?

MR. MORSE: Mr. Speaker, one of the difficulties in trying to explain the department's decisions when people take advantage of the immunity that's given to them in the House is that they can bring up specific cases, but we are not able to address specific cases in the House, and I know that the member opposite would not want me to betray that confidence that's placed in the minister.

MR. MACKINNON: Mr. Speaker, I tabled a letter authorizing disclosure and Mr. Bourgeois did that in his own handwriting. So the minister can bury his head, hide behind the bureaucratic or the political process - or whatever he wants to do - it doesn't matter, the fact of the matter is Mr. Bourgeois has followed all the rules of engagement, if you want to put it that way, he has abided by every law, every rule, every regulation, and yet the department continues to harass him because they made a mistake, apparently, 10 years ago. Would the minister please table the complete departmental policy from the collections unit as being prescribed in cases such as Mr. Bourgeois?

MR. MORSE: Mr. Speaker, the Department of Community Services is a place to go for people who have run out of other options.

AN HON. MEMBER: They do.

[Page 1841]

MR. MORSE: Sometimes, Mr. Speaker, when people become sick or they have an accident and they're not able to work anymore, they will apply to the Canada Pension Plan. The Canada Pension Plan, I would suggest, at least from my experience, it is a difficult process to obtain a Canada Pension Plan disability pension. The Department of Community Services will step in in those instances and support people until such time, and assuming that they get their Canada Pension, but the condition is that upon receiving the pension they have to repay the monies that are advanced to them. Should they not be successful in getting the pension, it is forgiven.

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

COMMUN. SERV. - AUTUMN HOUSE: STRIKE - RESOLVE

MS. MARILYN MORE: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Community Services. For 12 weeks women and children experiencing family violence in Cumberland County have had very reduced services due to the labour dispute at Autumn House. The board of Autumn House, faced with an operating deficit, is asking staff to give up their benefits and allow volunteers to do some of their work. Staff says it should not have to give up benefits to make up for this underfunding.

Mr. Speaker, this strike has dragged on long enough and these critical services are threatened. So my question to the Minister of Community Services is, as sole funder of Autumn House, when is your department going to step in and resolve this dispute?

HON. DAVID MORSE: Mr. Speaker, this has been a difficult situation. I know that, in fact, the two MLAs, the member for Cumberland North and the member for Cumberland South have also expressed their concerns to me about anything that possibly could be done. What we have is a situation where we do fund transition houses, all nine of them across the province, to provide certain services. That is also being done with Autumn House. Should the board of directors of Autumn House wish to augment those services and provide more, then it is up to the board of directors to cover the incremental costs of the additional services.

MS. MORE: Mr. Speaker, Autumn House is emulated by transition houses not only across Canada but in the United States as well, because of its community outreach approach, it is unique in Nova Scotia. This model was adapted for rural communities so it could better meet the needs of women and children. The board has stated that it will likely have to revert to a shelter-only model, because it cannot fundraise enough each year to make up the 25 per cent funding deficiency. These services are filling a critical need in rural Nova Scotia, so I ask the minister instead of copying this successful model, why are you allowing it to be torn apart by inadequate funding?

[Page 1842]

MR. MORSE: Mr. Speaker, when the province took over the delivery of community services, uploaded it from the municipalities, it fully funded nine beds and eight full-time positions for Autumn House, which is what was prescribed by the formula. This is a fully funded nine beds and eight full-time positions. It is not a partial funding situation.

MS. MORE: Mr. Speaker, transition houses, women's centres and men's treatment programs in Nova Scotia have gone on for over a year with quarter to quarter funding. Autumn House isn't alone in its budgetary crisis but the need is still there. My question to the minister, when will your government stop the delays and provide secure, adequate, long-term funding for essential services like Autumn House?

MR. MORSE: Mr. Speaker, in order to make sure that transition houses such as Autumn House are able to attract good employees and - we do appreciate the staff, who are here today, delivering those services or wanting to deliver those services - this government provided a 9.3 per cent raise so that all the transition houses in the province would be able to pass that on to their employees. I think in view of the financial circumstances in this province, that is a significant commitment on the part of this government.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Richmond.

HEALTH - RICHMOND VILLA: LAND PURCHASE - STATUS

MR. MICHEL SAMSON: Mr. Speaker, a report undertaken some years ago identified the need to replace the existing 75-bed Richmond Villa, a long-term care facility located in St. Peter's, Richmond County. Since that time there have been a number of delays causing great concern for the residents, their families and staff of the facility. For some time now negotiations have been underway between the government and the St. Peter's Lions Club for the parcel of land on which the new facility will be constructed. My question to the Minister of Health is, can the Minister of Health advise this House and the residents of Richmond County as to the status of the land purchase negotiations?

HON. ANGUS MACISAAC: Mr. Speaker, the board of directors of Richmond Villa are developing or have developed an offer-to- purchase agreement and it is my understanding that they are, if they have not already done so, in the process of bringing that forward to the Lions Club in question and they're going to bring it forward to the department. We have not yet received it from the board, but we do anticipate receiving it in the very near future.

[3:30 p.m.]

MR. MICHEL SAMSON: Mr. Speaker, the current Richmond Villa must be replaced due to mould, air problems and environmental concerns with the facility. The initial timetable from the government called for construction of the new facility to start in the Fall of 2002. Therefore, my question, again, to the Minister of Health is, can the minister advise

[Page 1843]

this House and the residents of Richmond County as to what the current plan is for the construction and completion of the new Richmond Villa?

MR. MACISAAC: Mr. Speaker, I can indicate to the honourable member, through you, that as a result of the property having been identified and the assumption that, indeed, a purchase will occur, that detailed design work is currently underway with respect to that facility. We anticipate that design work being completed in time for the necessary contracts to be let, so that hopefully construction would be underway by the Spring of 2004.

MR. MICHEL SAMSON: Mr. Speaker, I am sure the residents of Richmond County will be pleased to hear that. This government made a commitment to a new Richmond Villa some time ago. Residents, their families and the staff at the current Richmond Villa have been very patient in the face of these delays. For my final supplementary, to the minister, in light of the budgetary pressures faced by this government, will the Minister of Health confirm today that the construction of the new Richmond Villa will proceed in the Spring of 2004?

MR. MACISAAC: Mr. Speaker, I had the opportunity to be in St. Peter's on Saturday, and when asked that question at a public gathering there, I did indeed confirm that it's our intention to proceed with construction in the Spring of 2004.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Dartmouth North.

COMMUN. SERV. - BUSK CASE:

FOLLOW-UP MEETING - OUTCOME

MR. JERRY PYE: Mr. Speaker, my question, through you, is to the Minister of Community Services. Two years ago this week, Tiffany Busk moved into Edwards House. This troubled teenager suffers from bipolar disorder and depression. Her mother informed staff about her condition. On November 13, 2001, Tiffany told a counsellor that she was suicidal, but she received no treatment or intervention. Six days later, she committed suicide. My question to the Minister of Community Services is, your staff met with the staff at Edwards House on Monday, what lessons has your department learned from this tragedy?

HON. DAVID MORSE: Mr. Speaker, I will acknowledge that there is extensive correspondence between the member opposite and me on this. I am aware that he was pressing for this meeting. I have not been briefed by staff on the outcome of the meeting as of this time, but I will look forward to hearing from them.

MR. PYE: Mr. Speaker, when the minister receives the briefing, I am sure that he will inform this honourable member and the House with respect to what lessons they have learned. Tiffany's mother, Karen St. Onge, has been asking for two years that a judicial inquiry be held into the circumstances surrounding her daughter's death. She has reason to

[Page 1844]

believe that proper procedures for care were not followed, and that her daughter's mental illness was not taken seriously enough. Ms. St. Onge has not been able to obtain her daughter's record in spite of the fact that her daughter was under 18-years-old when she died. Through you to the Minister of Community Services, I ask the minister, will you commit in this House today to release those records to Ms. St. Onge, Tiffany's mother and next of kin?

MR. MORSE: Mr. Speaker, the member opposite would know that this case has received a tremendous amount of scrutiny, not only within the department but by professionals outside the department. To date, what has been allowed to be disclosed, has been disclosed to Ms. St. Onge.

MR. PYE: Mr. Speaker, I would say to the honourable minister that the minister is aware and so is Karen St. Onge that this is not sufficient nor is it enough. So far, Ms. St. Onge has been denied a judicial inquiry into her daughter's death. She has been denied information for so long that she feels the only way to get answers is through an independent process. Mr. Speaker, through you to the Minister of Community Services, my question is, given the implications of Tiffany Busk's case may have for other Nova Scotians in group homes, will you recommend an independent public inquiry to be held in this case?

MR. MORSE: Mr. Speaker, I would appreciate having the chance to hear staff's recommendations as a result of their meeting this past Monday. Based on those recommendations, I would be able to give a better answer. Thank you.

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

AGRIC. & FISH. - N.S. FISHERY:

INDEPENDENT LICENCE OWNERS - IMPORTANCE

MR. HAROLD THERIAULT: Mr. Speaker, my question is to the Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries. I take great pride in my fishing background and I'm proud of all those who continue to make their living from the sea and would love to see this continue. There's a threat to this way of life and I'm sure the minister is aware of it and if not, I will tell him - it's about the Atlantic Fisheries Policy Review. Large fish-processing companies and other investors are quickly buying up fishing licences through under-the-table financial agreements that circumvent government policy. This needs correcting through the Atlantic Fisheries Policy Review. My question is, could the minister tell Nova Scotians that he is committed to the principle that independent licence owners are the foundation of the Nova Scotia fishery and not of large corporate interests?

HON. CHRISTOPHER D'ENTREMONT: Mr. Speaker, I thank the member opposite for the question. At the last ministers of the Atlantic Provinces meeting, Nova Scotia put forward those very concerns. Since the owner-operator concept is so important to the inshore fleet - that's the under-45 size in Nova Scotia and is not functional in the 45 - 65 range, the

[Page 1845]

policy is being very much opposed by the offshore sector. This government put forward that there are strict concerns in this and will be looking forward to a response from the federal government.

MR. THERIAULT: Mr. Speaker, our fishermen don't seem to know anything about this. Nova Scotia needs this government to advocate on their behalf. If our owner-operator fishing fleet falls under monopoly interests, our entire coastal community network would be at risk. Can the minister tell the House what specific steps his government is taking to ensure that independent fishermen can continue their livelihood in the face of threat by large corporate interests?

MR. D'ENTREMONT: Mr. Speaker, as I mentioned before, at our meetings with the or with the provincial ministers, this has come up on a number of occasions. In my conversations with the honourable federal Minister of Fisheries, we have discussed this on a number of occasions. DFO did release a discussion paper on the topic, the processing sector and other sectors were not mentioned in it. They seem to be ignoring the issue and it's something that I'm bringing forward to my federal counterpart. Thank you.

MR. THERIAULT: Mr. Speaker, I believe the inshore fishermen would have a great respect for this government if that was pushed a little harder. Individual fishermen are the backbone of fishing communities around this province. What specifically is the minister going to do to ensure the owner-operator principle is upheld at the federal level?

MR. D'ENTREMONT; Well, I would urge all of this Assembly to speak to their members and speak to the federal government to push this issue. I will be pushing it as best I can at all meetings that I have with our federal counterparts.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Halifax Fairview.

INSURANCE: ACTUARIAL REPTS. - TABLE

MR. GRAHAM STEELE: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the minister responsible for the Insurance Act. Yesterday the president of the Insurance Bureau of Canada said they have seen new documents from the government's actuary. The IBC said that those documents say there will not be a 20 per cent savings to insurance from Bill No. 1. This information was prepared by the government actuary as late as last week, but the only actuary's report this government has tabled in the House is the one dated July 23rd of this year. This government didn't get the moniker of the most secretive government in Canada for nothing, they earned it. Last week I asked the minister to table all further actuarial reports that he has and so far that has not happened. So my question to the minister is, when will the minister table all of the actuarial reports about the true impact of Bill No. 1?

[Page 1846]

HON. RONALD RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, there's no hiding of any actuarial reports. As a matter of fact, the media have them. So I will be quite happy to table them. The report that the IBC is referring to is not a government report. It was one that they commissioned, or somebody commissioned, but certainly not the Government of Nova Scotia. So I don't know if a report commissioned by the IBC should have more credence than a report asked for by the government, but I would suggest to you that they have a certain bias and a certain agenda that they're trying to push.

MR. STEELE: Mr. Speaker, in condemning both the government and the Liberal Party yesterday, the IBC challenged the government to release all the actuarial information that it has. The IBC commissioned an actuarial report which they gave to the government and to the Liberal Party. The government actuary, they say, has commissioned and has submitted another report and the Liberal Party, last week, said that they were in possession of additional reports that were not shared with the rest of the House. So my question to the minister responsible for the Insurance Act, why did this government allow Bill No. 1 to pass through the House without telling the people of Nova Scotia everything it knew about the bill's impact?

MR. RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, we did, our actuary came forward with a report based on the definition that we had arrived at and the one that's included in the Act and, based on that, our actuary stated that depending on the ROE, that the savings to the insurance companies would be between 18.3 per cent, I believe it was, and 23 per cent. That's how we derived our 20 per cent saving for the motoring public of this province who effective on Saturday, just two days from now, will be, insofar as their insurance premium is concerned, 20 per cent better off than they are today.

MR. STEELE: Mr. Speaker, surely the government can't be referring to this letter of October 13th from KPMG which was drafted 10 days before the bill was amended and a full two weeks before the bill was passed by this House? The government can't have it both ways. There are only two possibilities and I would like to ask the minister which one it is - did the government pass Bill No. 1 without knowing the full implications of the bill as actually adopted by this House or is there further actuarial advice that the government chose not to table and show the people of Nova Scotia?

MR. RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, the October 13th report, which I believe is the one the honourable member is speaking about, is the one on which we based our bill. Every time that we came forward with, or at least I should say the Liberal Party came forward with changes to the definition, we ran those changes through the actuary and the actuary actually came back with different results for those various words. We abandoned those particular suggestions. The definition of a minor injury, as is in the Act, is the one that we used and that was the last actuarial report that we received dated October 13th and that is it.

[Page 1847]

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Preston.

ENVIRON. & LBR.: ROUND TABLE ON ENVIRON. &

ECONOMY - REINSTATE

MR. KEITH COLWELL: Mr. Speaker, earlier this year the Hamm Government said in future they would add the development of a government-wide policy to incorporate environmental concerns in their programs. That statement came four years after the government took for granted Nova Scotia's natural beauty and failed to deal with environmental problems. Clearly, one of the ways of developing policy is through the reinstatement of the Roundtable on Environment and Economy. The Nova Scotia Round Table on Environment and Economy was established in 1998 by the previous PC Government to promote sustainable development and provide input to the province's policies relating to it. Yet it was this government that cut the Round Table.

My question to the Minister of Environment and Labour is, will the government commit to reinstating the Nova Scotia Round Table on Environment and Economy to permit Nova Scotians the opportunity of forwarding ideas that provide input to the province's environmental policies?

[3:45 p.m.]

HON. KERRY MORASH: Mr. Speaker, I would like to bring to the attention of the member opposite the green plan, part of our election campaign plan, which is towards a sustainable environment, and it's something that we will be moving forward on. We will be consulting with stakeholders in the Province of Nova Scotia to ensure that we have sound environmental policies in place.

MR. COLWELL: Mr. Speaker, what we have from this Tory Government is inaction on important issues. An independent body conducted a legislative review of the Environmental Act and submitted its recommendations to the Hamm Government in 2000. The government promised to respond to this report within six months, but has not done anything with the 46 recommendations. Three years later, we see more inaction from the government when it said it would do something to address environmental issues. According to the green plan, the government said it would introduce amendments designed to strengthen the Environment Act during the Fall 2003 legislative session, which hasn't happened. My question is, when can Nova Scotians see concrete steps from this government with respect to updating the Environment Act?

MR. MORASH: Mr. Speaker, certainly, because of all the issues that are on the table, it was difficult to get everything brought forward in time for this sitting of the Legislature. Through the green plan and through consultation with stakeholders in the province, we are certainly looking forward to bringing forth amendments to the Environment Act in the future.

[Page 1848]

MR. COLWELL: Mr. Speaker, Nova Scotians have yet to see long-term leadership by this government in terms of promoting and sustaining our province's environmental health for future generations. They haven't updated the Environment Act, they've delivered a vague water strategy and an inadequate green plan, but that's only part of the problem. This government has done almost nothing to increase the number of protected areas for most of the last four years, only committing to designating two specific spaces, days before the call of an election.

My question to the Minister of Environment and Labour, again, is, what long-term plans does this government have in placing protected areas of the province, especially when they don't follow through with their commitment to the introduction of the environmental legislation this Fall?

MR. MORASH: Mr. Speaker, we've certainly committed to moving forward with the designation of two protected areas, Gully Lake and Eigg Mountain. My understanding is that there will be an exhaustive consultation process that will take place early in the Spring and work its way through the summer months, so that we can ensure that we have total involvement in that. We will designate those areas at that point in time, when that consultation is completed.

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

PREM. - LONG-TERM CARE: FAIRNESS - EXPLAIN

MR. DARRELL DEXTER: Mr. Speaker, as of July of this year, this government has identified $59 million in assets of Nova Scotians requiring nursing home care. That figure surpasses the amount identified in all of 2002. Every day this government delays bringing fairness to long-term care, another $277,000 is taken from the pockets of seniors requiring nursing home care. That's $192 every minute seniors are forced to wait. My question to the Premier is, Nova Scotians want to know where is the fairness?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, the government has a number of serious challenges that it must deal with, many of which, of course, require the expenditure of taxpayers' funds. The government has acknowledged that the health care needs of those in a long-term care facility should be provided out of the public purse. We have a program that is addressing that.

MR. DEXTER: Mr. Speaker, perhaps most disturbing is that this $59 million identified in just seven months happened after the Hamm Government made its changes and said that it would bring fairness to nursing home costs. The reality is that seniors continue to pay and pay and pay for health care that would be covered in any other setting. So, I ask the Premier, why have you chosen to ignore over 20,000 Nova Scotians who signed an NDP petition asking for this injustice to stop?

[Page 1849]

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, yes, there is a great deal of public interest in this issue. The government has responded with a program that will allow it to do exactly what Nova Scotians are indicating we should do. That is provide health care for those in long-term care facilities. We will do that in a program that we can afford.

MR. DEXTER: Mr. Speaker, the budget planning process is beginning for 2004-05. The government will have to make many choices. My question to the Premier is this, will you finally listen to Nova Scotians, eliminate the unfair assessment process and cover health care costs of nursing home residents beginning April 1, 2004?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, perhaps I should refer this to the Minister of Finance but I will answer the question nonetheless. The budgetary process is a very difficult one in Nova Scotia, that's something that we learned the moment we took office back in 1999, but we have incrementally addressed many very serious issues that we faced in 1999 and we will continue to do so, not the least of which is providing appropriate funding for health care in the long-term care facilities.

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

COMMUN. SERV. - C.B. CHILDREN'S TRAINING CTR. CLOSURE: RESIDENTS - PLACEMENT DETAILS

MR. FRANK CORBETT: Mr. Speaker, my question is to the Minister of Community Services. We are now 10 years into the Liberals' so-called health care reform. Part of that so-called health care reform was the closure of such institutions as the Cape Breton Children's Training Centre and the Halifax County Rehabilitation Centre. One of those residents was a young man by the name of Joseph Rich. Now, Mr. Rich, after 10 years has still not found a permanent location in which to live. I want to ask the Minister of Community Services, how has this been allowed to happen?

HON. DAVID MORSE: Mr. Speaker, I am going to speak to the downsizing of that facility in the Dartmouth area. There was a program that was undertaken, it was to try to get the residents back out to their own respective communities, where that's possible. In some cases, the level of care that's required by the residents did not permit that to happen and they had to stay in some sort of institutional setting. In this particular case, that care for those who were unable to go back to their home communities was provided by Quest - that's a non-profit association - and Quest moved forward initially to have us build a smaller institution but subsequently chose to buy a couple of small options homes and made other provisions for those residents.

MR. CORBETT: Mr. Speaker, while I may agree with the minister's assertion about Quest, the reality is that it is still his department's responsibility to look after Mr. Rich.

[Page 1850]

Mr. Speaker, Mr. Rich's mother has been very vocal in trying to obtain in a responsible way an appropriate area for her son to live. Now, I have here and I will table it at the end of my questions, from August 29, 2001, a memo and public statement by the then Minister of Community Services, stating that the negotiations are underway to locate a site for a new setting that will provide longer-term specialized care for accommodation for these residents. These residents are now being housed at Sunrise Manor, a very inappropriate place for these 11 young men. Mr. Minister, when will you change your attitude and find them real accommodations?

MR. MORSE: Mr. Speaker, I think that the reference is to find an appropriate site for them. The service provider, which is now Quest, is located in Sunrise Manor and, in fact, to adapt this senior citizens' complex or provide a proper home for those 11 remaining residents, over $0.5 million was spent to renovate the ground floor.

MR. CORBETT: Mr. Speaker, these are temporary locations for the people in our province who should be given the best priority when it comes to care. They've been living over two years in temporary locations, a location that is totally inadequate for their needs - small rooms for recreation, small bedrooms, really no green space for them. Mr. Minister, my question is very simple, when will your department provide them with the facilities that they need?

MR. MORSE: Mr. Speaker, as I referenced before, Quest abandoned its plan to build another institution. They went for the small options version. They bought a couple of properties and those who were remaining have been housed at Sunrise Manor. We have invested substantially to make those accommodations appropriate and we look forward to continuing to work with Quest.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Glace Bay.

HEALTH - MIDWIFERY REPT.:

NON-IMPLEMENTATION - EXPLAIN

MR. DAVID WILSON (Glace Bay): Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Health. Since 1999 this minister and this government had a report in the Department of Health completed by an extensive interdisciplinary working group on midwifery. This report included recommendations for the regulation and implementation of midwifery in Nova Scotia. My question to the minister is, why has this government made the decision to ignore this report?

HON. ANGUS MACISAAC: Mr. Speaker, we have not taken the decision to ignore the report. As a matter of fact, earlier this week I met with advocates of midwifery in this province. We had an extremely good meeting, it was very positive and constructive. They seemed to be very pleased with the direction we're taking in that regard.

[Page 1851]

MR. DAVID WILSON (Glace Bay): Mr. Speaker, then I'm glad to hear that because midwives play a vital role in the delivery of health care, or they can if the minister will allow it, especially when the number of physicians practising obstetrics is declining and they're leaving. In fact, it's interesting to note there are two fully trained professional midwives in the Valley area who are ready to work in this province, but they can't. They would certainly provide an option to women in Yarmouth, who have to drive for two hours, who go into labour on the weekend. The services midwives deliver are cost-effective and go a long way to assist in the health and wellness of both mother and child. My question to the minister is, why has this government failed to see the benefits of regulating the profession of midwifery in this province?

MR. MACISAAC: Mr. Speaker, the honourable member should choose his words a bit more carefully. Indeed, there is service now available in Yarmouth and there is no need for him to be causing alarm. It is not a permanent solution, but there is a situation in place that will address things. We are moving forward with respect to the full reform of the delivery of primary care in this province and we're developing the necessary documentation and regulations to be able to do that. I anticipate that the Legislature in the near future will have an opportunity to discuss this even further with respect to putting in place that which the honourable member is requesting.

MR. DAVID WILSON (Glace Bay): Mr. Speaker, there is another report on the minister's desk that's collecting dust. It's called The Primary Health Care Renewal: Action for Healthier Nova Scotians. On Page 25 of that report it states that there are regulatory and licensing options that would support the introduction of midwives in Nova Scotia without any legislation. So my question to the minister is, given the immediate obstetric challenges in this province, why hasn't the minister acted on that recommendation to provide a regulatory licensing regime for midwives that would avoid the time consuming process of drafting legislation?

MR. MACISAAC: Mr. Speaker, the issue of delivery in the reform of primary health care involves not only the need to address by way of legislation and regulation the issue of midwifery, but the whole range of services that are out there that need to be addressed as we move forward with reform so that we can improve patient care in this province. That is the direction we're taking and we're going to deal with midwifery, we're going to deal with other facets of the reform of primary care. As I indicated, we had an extremely good meeting with the advocates of midwifery in this province. They seemed enthused with the direction we're taking and we will stay in touch with them and I'm sure we will be in a position to bring forward very significant reforms in the delivery of primary health care in the very near future.

[Page 1852]

[4:00 p.m.]

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Dartmouth East.

AGRIC. & FISH. - NORTHWEST COVE FISH FARM:

LICENCE REVIEW - DETAILS

MS. JOAN MASSEY: Mr. Speaker, residents of Northwest Cove in St. Margarets Bay are against a fish farm development in Northwest Cove. Residents are concerned that the fish farm will destroy their local economy, their local fishery, their ecotourism industries and threaten their environment. Just before the election, the Hamm Government promised to review the licence it issued for a fish farm in Northwest Cove. My question is for the Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries, has your government honoured that promise and when can we expect your findings?

HON. CHRISTOPHER D'ENTREMONT: Mr. Speaker, I know that we've been monitoring this issue quite closely. During the election campaign the good member for Chester-St. Margaret's had asked the minister at the time to conduct a review of the licence agreement. Since taking office, I've been brought up to speed on the history and the status of the Horse Island aquaculture project, including the approvals and the court processes. I feel at this point that all things are being adhered to.

MS. MASSEY: Unfortunately, the residents are still waiting for the honourable member for Chester-St. Margaret's and this government to act on their promised review. A fish farm of this size and scope which is proposed by the company involved will destroy much of the Northwest Cove. Ninety per cent of these residents oppose this operation. They've been fighting this fish farm for four years. Forcing a fish farm on a community is not the right thing to do. My question to the Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries is, what will it take for you to cancel this licence once and for all?

MR. D'ENTREMONT: Mr. Speaker, at this point, from the processes that have been followed in order to award this contract, all the process is a good process, it was one that was followed and adhered to. There are a number of conditions involved in that and when the company decides to set up shop we'll be monitoring that continually. Thank you.

MS. MASSEY: Mr. Speaker, when this government was in the mood to make promises, they promised the residents of Northwest Cove that they would review the fish farm licence threatening their community. It's been months and residents have heard nothing. My question to the minister is, when will the minister provide the residents of this community with the detailed update that they deserve and that they're looking for?

MR. D'ENTREMONT: I've communicated to the member, I've communicated to the community of what the process will be and I look forward to adhering to that.

[Page 1853]

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

OPPOSITION MEMBERS' BUSINESS

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Opposition House Leader.

MR. KEVIN DEVEAUX: Mr. Speaker, would you please call the order of business, Private Members' Public Bills for Second Reading.

PRIVATE MEMBERS' PUBLIC BILLS FOR SECOND READING

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Opposition House Leader.

MR. KEVIN DEVEAUX: Mr. Speaker, would you please call Bill No. 3.

Bill No. 3 - Homes for Special Care Act.

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

MR. DARRELL DEXTER: Mr. Speaker, it's with some pleasure I rise today to speak with respect to this bill. As the Speaker knows and as the members of government know, this is a bill that would ensure that the residents of nursing homes, homes for the aged, the disabled are not billed for health care costs and does not require that a per diem charged for room and board is based on the ability of the residents to pay those costs from income.

I want to do, if I may, a very brief review for the members of government and for the members of the Opposition of why this bill came to the House of Assembly and why it is we introduced it again at the beginning of this session.

Mr. Speaker, a little over a year ago, the members of the NDP caucus undertook a wide-ranging review of long-term care policy, a campaign that was designed to raise the awareness of the people of Nova Scotia of what was going on in long-term care. For most people in this province, what was found and the information that came forward was absolutely startling. What we revealed over the course of some months was a system which was put in place by the Liberal Party that was designed to strip seniors of everything that they had worked their lives for in order to pay for health care that in any other circumstances would have been part of the publicly-funded Medicare system. The excuse that was used was that the Canada Health Act only provided for payment of medical costs in certain specified establishments such as hospitals, and because long-term care facilities were not hospitals, the cost of that medical care could be passed directly on to the patients.

[Page 1854]

I know the Liberals will stand up at some point in time and they will say that somehow this was actually attributable to the Tories back in the 1980s, at some point in time, and it is nonsense. The Liberals were there from 1993 to 1998 and could have changed the system any time they wanted, but decided that they would not. They decided that they would, over that period of time, take from the seniors of our society as much as they could reasonably get away with taking in order to pay for health care that everyone else received as part of the publicly-funded Medicare system.

Mr. Speaker, I also know - I just want to deal with this and get it out of the way - the Liberals, at some point in time, will stand up and say, well, gee, if we only had $147 million more or something like that, we could pay for this. Well, there are certain realities about this claim that they make over and over again, and I think it's appropriate to address them. First of all, they like to claim that we supported the tax cut that the Tories put forward, and you know and we know that this is fundamentally untrue. In fact, we voted against the budget that contained the tax cut, and we voted against the $155 cheques that went out to everyone.

The other fabrication that the Liberals like to heap on people is that there is actually a tax cut to begin with, because this is fundamentally false. The reality is that the tax burden that is being shouldered by the people of Nova Scotia every single day is greater now than it was when the government came to power. So, in effect, there has been no tax cut. They know that and we know it. I think it's passing ironic, Mr. Speaker, that for years they claimed that the NDP only wanted to tax and spend and tax and spend, and now they turn around and try to criticize us for not wanting to tax because they want to tax. This is an irony that is in the debate that the Liberals put out.

But do you know something, Mr. Speaker, they ran a campaign on that . . .

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. The honourable Leader of the Official Opposition has the floor.

MR. DEXTER: They ran a campaign on that, and the reality is that the people of Nova Scotia understood that this was not the case, and that what they were saying was not a fact. That, I suppose, explains the relative standings of the Parties in the House, although I am still at a loss to understand why there seems to be so many of you over there.

Mr. Speaker, the reality is that this is an opportunity for us, and we're entering now into a phase of the debate around this issue that is a very important one. Here we are almost in November, preceding a budget year, and the opportunity is coming very quickly for the government to make choices about the next budget. One of the choices that the members of the government can make and one of the choices that the members of Cabinet can make is to ensure that this particular issue is resolved once and for all, that seniors who find that it is necessary for them, for whatever reason, or those who through no fault of their own end up in need of long-term care, aren't subjected to the injustice, the indignity, and the

[Page 1855]

disrespect of a system that will take away everything that they have worked their entire lifetimes for in order to be able to pay for a basic health care service.

Mr. Speaker, we're not talking here about questionable medical services. We're talking about things that are absolutely, fundamentally, an integral part of the health care system itself. We're talking about our RNs; we're talking about intravenous; we're talking about the most basic health care services. So here we are at what I consider to be the meat of the debate. The government has a minority government. They're looking for areas on which we can find agreement, and what do you know? This is one, because the members on this side of the House - and I count among those the 15 members in my Party and the 12 members of the Liberal Party - were elected on a platform that said that they would end the charging of seniors for long-term care. That's what we said respectively. Now what differed was we felt that that is something that should end immediately, forthwith, the day of the election, and the Liberals took the position that it should end with the first budget.

Mr. Speaker, the Liberals and the Conservatives are going to be put to the test when this budget comes forward because this will be the first budget, and both of the Parties on this side have said that is at the maximum - we had a different time frame - but they said at the maximum, the point in time when this should end, and here is going to be the opportunity to ensure that it does end.

You should not misunderstand, Mr. Speaker. We have travelled the province from one end to the other. I met with caregivers, I met with administrators from long-term care facilities, and I met, obviously, with the families of people who were in long-term care facilities and all of them, universally, provided me with example after example of the kind of dismay that they felt around the way that their loved ones, their patients, were being treated in this system. And I think the government misunderstood this, the government felt that this was a narrow matter that affected only a small number of people, and they kept saying over and over and over again that 80 per cent of the people in the long-term care sector are already covered by government, it's only 20 per cent and therefore they would come up with a number and say it's only a small number of people.

Well, there were two things about that, Mr. Speaker, that were fundamentally untrue. First of all, everybody who went into the system, or almost everybody who went into the system, went in with something. They were, of course, very quickly stripped of whatever it was that they had, so they became dependent on government while they were in there, but in the meantime they had whatever small asset base they earned over their lifetime taken from them. Secondly, even the 20 per cent who were still there were going through that agonizingly slow - well, maybe not so slow - agonizing process of having everything they own taken from them month after month after month after month. Their families sat there and watched this go on and it was a terrible thing for them, and for their families.

[Page 1856]

Mr. Speaker, the government in the last budget year came forward and said we're going to make some changes, we're going to increase the amount of funding on a per diem basis and this is going to make a big difference to all of the people out there. Well, unfortunately, the evidence is very much to the contrary. As of July 31st, this government identified an additional $59 million that they intend to systematically strip from individuals who are unfortunate enough to find themselves in a long-term care facility - $59 million that the government is going to take from people. And I want you to think about this, these are people who are helpless, who are lying in long-term care beds, who have sometimes no one to defend them. These are people who are ill, who require medical treatment that under any other circumstances would be provided to them.

[4:15 p.m.]

I can't imagine a case of greater injustice, a case of greater disrespect for a group of people, after all, Mr. Speaker, who spent their lifetime defending this province, building this province, raising their children here and, as I've said before, paying taxes every single day. Every single day they paid tax revenue into this province, because they felt that there was a contract between them and their government. That contract said that when they were in need, when it came time for them to require basic health care services from their government, their government was going to be there for them, their government was going to make sure that they were looked after.

There was no asterisk on that, there was no caveat from the government, there was nothing explained to them that said, well, this may not be available if you happen to be unfortunate enough to go in a long-term care facility. That was never mentioned. People expected that they would receive basic health care services because it was the right thing to do, that as part of a caring and compassionate society, we look after one another. We pay our money into the collective commonwealth and in return for that, in return for being part of that process, we receive back the services we need when we are in need.

Mr. Speaker, unfortunately for many people, the brutal reality has been that when they needed government most, the government turned its back and walked away. The government decided that they would take everything that that person owned in order to pay for those services. This year $277,000 a day will be stripped out of the pockets of seniors, $277,000 a day. That's $11,500 an hour, and as I pointed out to the Premier, it's $192 every single minute that a person is in a long-term care facility.

Mr. Speaker, this must end, and it must end in the upcoming budget year. The government has it within its capacity to ensure that this comes to an end. It has it within its capacity to exercise the good judgement to ensure that it ends. I believe that the people of Nova Scotia expect no less, because they watched, over the course of an election campaign that was fought vigorously, a Premier who said, over and over again, I recognize that this

[Page 1857]

injustice exists, I recognize that there is great hurt among the seniors' population, and we are going to struggle to try to fix it, as we can.

Mr. Speaker, we cannot engage in an unconscionable compromise. That is why I have challenged the Liberals, who ran on this same platform, that they would end it in the first budget, and I challenge the government, as part of its budget-making process, to bring forward a budget in the Spring that will, for once and for all, put an end to this unjust, disrespectful policy, and will, once and for all, fund long-term care properly. Thank you.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of Health.

HON. ANGUS MACISAAC: Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the Leader of the Official Opposition for providing this opportunity to discuss this subject, which is one that receives sympathy from all sides of the House, and it's one that all of us have addressed, in one form or another, in our recent election platforms. Reference was made by the Leader of the Official Opposition to that, and he spoke about some of his expectations, based on what their approach has been.

Mr. Speaker, there is no question that covering these costs for seniors is the right thing to do. That is why we have committed to do that and more by 2007. I want to point out that that is - and it's been made very clear (Interruptions) if the honourable member wants to talk, he can get up. Otherwise, he can show me the courtesy of allowing me to participate in the debate.

So, nursing home care is not included under the Canada Health Act. Provinces do not receive funding to support nursing home care and this has led to the patchwork approach that exists right across the country. That is a reality of where this issue is coming from.

Nova Scotia has been leading a campaign to urge Ottawa to include home care and the medical costs in nursing homes as an insured medical service. That is an extremely important approach and if the federal government were to recognize their role in this regard, then obviously the desires of members opposite could be achieved much more quickly than otherwise would be the case.

We've made some progress with regard to home care and it is recognized as a priority under the new health accord. However, provinces remain on their own regarding medical costs in nursing homes. If that were able to change, as I indicated, we could make significant progress with respect to this issue.

Even without federal support, we agree Nova Scotia seniors should not have to pay for their medical costs in nursing homes. We are now the first Atlantic Province to begin putting a plan into action. In November 2002 we expanded the list of seniors' assets that are protected and no longer used when calculating what seniors pay toward their care. We

[Page 1858]

announced the next steps in April and I'm going to just review those steps as we have put them forward.

The first step is contained in the current budget and that is $8.5 million to cover the asset protections and to reduce what seniors pay. After annual cost pressures are taken into account, seniors will save an average of $4, 600 per year. That is with step one. In step two, at least another $8.5 million for a total of $17 million, will be in next year's budget, reducing the seniors contribution by an average of $12,000 per year. The third step, the annual savings for seniors will continue to go up each year until seniors pay room and board only. This will cost about $34 million on an annual basis. In the event that the provincial economy improves, we may be able to afford the full bill sooner. We have committed to get to the point where seniors only pay room and board no later than April 1, 2007.

Our plan, however, doesn't stop there. Beginning no later than 2007 we will spend about $8 million more for a total of $42 million annually so only income is used to calculate what seniors will pay. Married or single, none of seniors' assets will be considered. We believe this is a significant step in treating our seniors with dignity and respect. Seniors will be able to pass their lifetime belongings and assets on to their families. Their privacy will be respected as we look at income only and not pry into their financial history before they decide to enter a home.

Which finally brings me to the crux of the matter. If we all agree this is the right thing to do, then what is the issue with respect to waiting? This answer is never popular, but it reflects reality. When you're in government, there are many demands and needs that must be met. For instance, we want to move with respect to assisting diabetics, low-income diabetics. That is a major priority. Members speak to me with respect to home care and self-directed home care programs. That is a priority. So there are many, many directions out there in which we could move with respect to addressing problems. It is an issue of establishing priorities and this is a priority and as our resources become available, it is our intention to address it.

Our approach in government is to tackle important priorities over time. Whether it is buying much-needed medical equipment, building more schools, adding more books in our classrooms, training more nurses, paving roads or twinning highways, adding daycare seats, offering much-needed and promised tax relief, assistance to diabetics, self-directed home care programs, Mr. Speaker, the priority list is long. In all of these areas we are responding in measured but significant steps that will make a difference to Nova Scotians without putting the province back in the red and jeopardizing our ability to pay for essential services in the future. As Health Minister, I am also responsible for providing a balanced response to the needs within the health community. This includes addressing affordability of nursing home care, as well as affordability of drugs, and support for high-quality, accessible, home and long-term care. Since forming government we have provided this balance.

[Page 1859]

Remember, Mr. Speaker, just 3 per cent of seniors over 65 enter nursing homes and of that number, government subsidizes 80 per cent, leaving just 20 per cent who pay for their nursing home care. As a government we have acted first in areas that benefit 100 per cent of seniors. Overall, we have added more than $100 million to nursing home and home care budgets. We worked hard on single entry access - moving from a system where people could buy their way into a nursing home to a system where people who need care get care first and a system where wait times for nursing home beds has dropped by more than 20 per cent in one year alone.

This year we budgeted $10 million to freeze seniors' Pharmacare premiums and cap the co-pay. This is part of a $34 million increase we made to the Pharmacare Program compared to a $6 million reduction by the previous government. As you know, the cost of the Pharmacare Program will continue to grow and we need budget flexibility to keep drugs affordable. If we all agree that seniors should pay for room and board, then why do we not do it all at once? The Opposition Parties say that we should put in place the plan immediately, but they haven't explained how to pay for it. They say we should immediately fix the $42 million issue, but they are suggesting that we can do it with only $25 million. We can't make things more affordable by underestimating their true costs. The reality is that getting out of the asset assessment business is expensive. However, we do believe that it is the right thing to do. We are committed to getting out of the asset assessment practice and we are the first Atlantic Province to announce a plan to do so.

Yes, our plan will take time because it is expensive. The Opposition may urge us to stop assessing assets immediately, but they have not explained where they would come up with the dollars needed to do that and, as I indicated, their assessment of the costs is $11.5 million short of the true figure. This has been a tough budget year for Nova Scotia. Revenues are down and we've had some unexpected setbacks. We will do what we can during the budget process to fund as many needs as we can, but we must also be realistic. As a responsible government, you can only do what you can afford. You can't pretend that you can afford something by underestimating its cost by $11.5 million.

This is not an issue that can be fixed overnight and care for seniors is much broader than nursing home care alone. To address this, we are beginning a broad consultation that will lead to more care options for seniors in nursing homes, homes and communities. Our population is aging. We need to be more innovative in our programs and services so seniors have more options and can remain independent and close to their families as long as possible.

[4:30 p.m.]

The best answers are not always the immediate answers. To sum up, government sometimes, in fact often, is not able to say yes or at least it can't say yes immediately. One of the issues of more affordable nursing home care is that we are the first Atlantic Province to say yes to this issue. We, obviously, are not moving as quickly as the Opposition would

[Page 1860]

like, but we are investing millions of dollars to help seniors each year of our plan. Our big picture plan will not only make home care more affordable, higher-quality care and more options to support seniors at home and in their communities will be available.

Mr. Speaker, I didn't raise this issue early in the debate, because I did not want to be perceived as taking action to stop the debate or interfere with the debate taking place in any way whatsoever, but I was curious because in my previous time in this House it was always my impression that when legislation was brought forward that required government to spend money or the result of that legislation would require government to spend money that that legislation could only be brought forward by members of the Executive Council, that legislation by members who are not members of the Executive Council requiring the government to make an expenditure of money would always be ruled out of order.

I am just intrigued and, as I said, I'm not raising the issue because I want it to be ruled upon, but I do find it interesting that we are dealing with a piece of legislation, the result of which, if passed, would require government to spend money, and that does not follow the custom, as I had understood the custom, of such legislation only being in order when it is brought forward by members of the Executive Council in the Legislature. I believe that is also the state of affairs with respect to the operation of the House of Commons and the Parliament in Great Britain.

I've noticed a lot of changes in the operation of this place since I had been here previously. This is one of those many changes that I have noticed. I'm interested to see just how all of this plays out with respect to changes and reforms of the operation of the Legislature. But the fundamental principle of the Legislature and the fundamental principle of Parliament is that government comes forward on behalf of Her Majesty to seek approval for expenditures, and that it is only the government that has the authority to make those requests of the Parliament and, in this case, of the Legislature. We are dealing here with, as I view it, Mr. Speaker, a piece of legislation that does, in fact, require government to spend money if the legislation were to be passed. I raise it not for the purpose of asking for a ruling, but I raise it out of interest, because I do note that there has been considerable change that seems to have taken place. Thank you. (Applause)

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

MR. DANIEL GRAHAM: Mr. Speaker, it gives me great pleasure to rise in the House to speak on Bill No. 3 before the House today. I am encouraged to see that the former Minister of Health has stayed around for the discussion. I'm not sure whether this feels like déjà vu or a bad dream, because it was he who took the brunt of the condemnation with respect to the government's position in the second-last sitting of the House, as I recall it, when this was a particularly hot matter. We know that he is quite familiar with this issue, and perhaps he's here lending moral support to this colleague for being part of this discussion as well.

[Page 1861]

I also want to commend the NDP for bringing this matter forward once again, and, in what might be considered an uncharacteristic compliment, I think I want to recognize the NDP for all of the great work that they've done with respect to seniors in raising this particular issue. This is an issue that our Party identified back in June 2002 and again in the Fall of 2002. The NDP came forward with a more visible campaign than one that was brought forward by the Liberals - it started with a review, petitions, a broader campaign and they certainly brought cases before the House in Question Period. The Liberal position has been clear since the Fall of 2002.

I would take exception to a number of comments that were made by the Leader of the Official Opposition when he rose to speak on this particular bill just a short while ago. In fact, before I commence the main part of my comments, I would like to address a number of things that he had said.

The first thing that he commented on that caught my attention was that he said this was put in place by the Liberal Party in the first place. Later in his comments, he said it wasn't exactly, and the Liberals are apt to say that it's attributable to the Tories, but the Liberals could have changed it in the 1990s when they had an opportunity to do so. I daresay there's a significant difference between someone who may have put something in place and someone who chose not to make a change when they may have had an opportunity to do it. I think it's important to review the record to recognize that in 1989, first with the Social Assistance Act and later through other amendments, this was put forward by a Conservative Government at a previous time. Through the 1990s, under the Savage Government, stability was provided to long-term care facilities, increasing the standards of nursing care services and a variety of other improvements that in better fiscal times could have gone better, but I think everyone recognizes the challenges that were faced by that particular government at that time.

The second thing that the Leader of the Opposition was somewhat defensive about was the suggestion or the anticipation that I might have said that the NDP supported the tax cut. Well, I draw your attention, and I'm happy to table this if necessary, to a report from the Halifax Herald dated July 26th. When referring to the tax cut in question, the Leader of the Opposition said, taxes and user fees in this province have increased. Then he goes on to say, it's time people got a break. The common refrain that we hear from the Leader of the NDP when it comes to this tax arrangement is that it's a done deal. We certainly heard that throughout the entire campaign. It's a done deal. Despite the fact that the Liberal caucus tabled before this House a letter from the federal Minister of Finance saying that it's certainly not a done deal until October 15th. Beyond that, there's even a period of flexibility.

I dare say that if the government chose, perhaps with the insistence from the NDP side that indeed the tax cut was premature. Indeed the issue of seniors was more important and indeed we might have something that would be able to provide seniors with the kind of attention and dignity that is being urged upon us by the NDP in this circumstance.

[Page 1862]

In addition to that, the third point, that caught my attention, raised by the Leader of the New Democrats was that he said there's no tax cut coming. He tried to make the stretched argument that there's no tax cut coming because taxes are higher than they were back when government first came into place, they will still be higher. As my memory would have it, there was one Party that said they would end bracket creep, would actually end the increases that happened year over year. There was only one Party that said they would put a freeze on user fee increases and that was the Liberal Party, looking to do the responsible thing.

Let's not forget that once again we have the Centre for Policy Alternatives, a body to whom the New Democrats, I think from time to time, prefer to refer, who came out with a number of studies that did an analysis on what this tax cut actually provided. They determined that for all of those people who didn't receive the $155, well, they're not going to receive a dime's worth of benefits from this tax cut that's being proposed to come into place on January 1st. For the 16,000 Nova Scotians who earned less than $10,000, well they're going to receive only $13 apiece. What about the 84 per cent of the money that's going to come from this tax cut? Well, we realized that's going to Nova Scotians who need it least. It's hardly a better deal for working families as advertised by the New Democrats. What's missing in this debate is the question of cause and effect, the issue of taking an action and then not following up and taking responsibility for this.

I want to reiterate the point that we have made throughout the last year and that is that the Liberal Party, as a top priority, remains committed to seniors, to their dignity, ending the unfairness that has happened in long-term care facilities. This is a matter of dignity. This is a matter of fairness. This is something that is provided in other parts of Canada and it remains a priority for us. I was interested to hear the comments from the Minister of Health when he talked about the budget pressures that exist now and the unforeseen circumstances that bring about those budget pressures. Well, many of those, as I pointed out in Question Period, were foreseen circumstances. I think it's important as we look at this issue to read through the whole record and what the NDP would like to have us believe is that they have been the only people who have been speaking out on behalf of seniors in this particular matter.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. Would the member allow a moment of his time for an introduction?

MR. GRAHAM: Certainly.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Kings North on an introduction.

MR. MARK PARENT: Thank you very much and I appreciate the opportunity, honourable member. I would like to draw your attention to two visitors in the east gallery who are visiting and watching the proceedings - Gordon Williams from Greenwich, keenly

[Page 1863]

interested in political activity, and Wayne Atwater, a Councillor in Kings County, who has forgotten more about politics than I will ever learn in my lifetime. So I would ask them both to rise and receive the warm welcome of the House. (Applause)

MR. SPEAKER: Indeed, welcome to all our visitors in our gallery today.

MR. GRAHAM: Mr. Speaker, when you make big promises to the people of Nova Scotia, it seems to me it's only fair that you find a way to say that we can afford it through this manner, or we can afford it through that manner. It's the way that we run businesses in Nova Scotia. It's the way that we run our families. When our children come to ask us for something, we often check to see whether or not the money is indeed in the bank. When you talk about a minimum of $25 million that is going to be spent for this particular item, I think it's only the responsible thing for the Party that is proposing it, and I'm saying again that this is something that we want to press for, to provide some clear answer on how this is going to happen.

In the past week or so we've heard the New Democrats speak about the important issues with respect to wait times, shortages of medical professionals. We've listened to them talk about the reduction of overtime costs. We heard them talk about the need for woodlot owners to be compensated in the wake of Hurricane Juan, the agriculture sector needs provisions because of the BSE crisis. We often hear about the fully-funded tuition freeze that they talk about, technical aids for people with disabilities, the list goes on and on and on, Mr. Speaker. At some point somebody has to say, where's the money? Is it in the bank? The NDP is going to say the Liberals and the Conservatives are only talking about money and we're talking about people. I can hear the echo in my ears right now.

Well, before you can help people, Mr. Speaker, you need to have money in the bank to do it and it's something that this particular Party doesn't seem to recognize. There is a cause and effect and it is why the Liberal Party continues to talk about the importance of ultimately living within our means. So if we're going to talk about seniors, the member for Dartmouth North loves to talk about seniors, but there was a battle that went on for the last six months and it was about whether or not we could afford to support seniors and the whole time the NDP sat on their hands, said can't do anything. See no evil, speak no evil, was essentially the mantra that they piped up with and now when the October 15th deadline passes, what do they say? It's time to open up the vaults again. It's time to cut the cheques. It's time to spend the monies. We care for everybody in Nova Scotia.

This is about living within your means once and for all and this Party, the New Democrats, don't recognize the importance of that because at the end of the day, Mr. Speaker, this is about people. This is about people. Politics is about people. Politics is about helping people and you can't help people unless you have money in the bank to do that. That's why we've made the choices that we have. They had their chance to speak out for seniors for the last six months and they sat on their hands and now that the opportunity to

[Page 1864]

speak for seniors has passed, they go on and try to speak out of both sides of their mouth. (Interruptions)

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

MR. GRAHAM: Mr. Speaker, for the past six months this Party has tried to be all things to all people. We don't run a government with blank cheques. We need to recognize that this is an important priority; the issue of seniors getting fairness in long-term care facilities is an important issue that needs to be taken care of at the first opportunity. It is why the Liberal Party was committed to doing this in their first year of government, but if Spring arrives and the issue of health care costs being covered for seniors is not taken care of, it will be the NDP that needs to look in the mirror and say that we didn't oppose the proper measures to ensure that we live within our means.

[4:45 p.m.]

I only need to remind the Official Opposition of the choices that they'd make. It is not a done deal. They may choose not to read the letter that came forward from the federal Minister of Finance that said up until October 15th, with flexibility, there was still the opportunity for us to make the right choices for seniors, for students, in classrooms, for patients - that's the priority that we're going to continue to step forward with.

Mr. Speaker, governing is about making choices; it's about making choices for the people of this province. We can't pretend that the choices that we make don't have consequences, and the choices that Nova Scotians want are for the people of Nova Scotia to be provided with fairness and that includes our seniors, that includes the most vulnerable people in our society. We can speak about the importance of supporting those vulnerable people, but if you do not take the steps that are necessary to really live within your means, then we're going to head down the same road that they headed down in Ontario, the same road that they headed down in British Columbia with the New Democratic Government cutting cheques over and over and over - you can't have it both ways.

Now, the challenge has come out from the Leader of the Opposition for the Liberal Party to support these measures now that the October 15th deadline has passed. We look forward to entering into a discussion with this government to do what's in the best interests of Nova Scotia. We'll continue to press for the importance of having fairness for seniors in our long-term care facilities, but we also need to recognize, Mr. Speaker, that there are consequences for our choices. The consequences in these circumstances may be that this government ultimately makes a choice that hurts seniors because of the choices made by this New Democratic Party in not blocking that tax cut. Thank you, very much.

[Page 1865]

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Halifax Needham.

MS. MAUREEN MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to be able to rise in my place to speak to Bill No. 3, an amendment to the Homes for Special Care Act to ensure fair treatment for residents of nursing home or a home for the aged or disabled.

Mr. Speaker, I have in my constituency such a facility as this particular piece makes reference to, and of course, most people here will know of Northwood Manor. In addition to that, I certainly have a lot of constituents in my area of Halifax Needham who have followed this issue very closely and, to be frank, I take my advice and information quite often from the people who are most directly impacted by the policies of government, with respect to their health care needs.

Mr. Speaker, I am very proud to be a member of a political Party whose tradition is one of having a vision, particularly a vision for health care and the provision of health care. It is this Party, the Party of Tommy Douglas that believed in the importance of the socialization of the costs of health care services for people in illness and old age. I will remind members of this Chamber that when Tommy Douglas went forward and introduced socialized medicine, medical care, in the Province of Saskatchewan, he was a pioneer and a groundbreaker. He did not wait for the federal government to take action, he did not wait to see what was going to happen in sister provinces, he acted on behalf of the people in his province who he represented because he knew it was the right thing to do. I would say to the Minister of Health, who opened this debate by saying this is not covered by the Canada Health Act, well, Tommy Douglas was never held back by a federal piece of legislation from doing the right thing for the people in his province. (Applause) And this is the right thing.

Mr. Speaker, we can look to the Province of Saskatchewan today, in terms of what it is they do for their residents in homes for long-term care, we can look at what they do in home care, we can look at what they do in Pharmacare, the legacy of Tommy Douglas and the vision of the New Democratic Party in that province are clear. The genesis of that vision is contained in Bill No. 3. This is what members of this caucus have sought for the people of this province, and it's what we have been fighting for for the past two years, and we will continue to fight for this vision until it's a reality (Applause) for the people of the Province of Nova Scotia. Make no mistake about that.

Mr. Speaker, it's approximately a year ago today that this government made an announcement that as of November they were making some modifications to the assessment process, the way in which the assets of seniors were taken from them and applied to the cost of long-term care. We welcomed those changes, but we recognized that they were quite modest changes. The minister spoke to additional measures that the government took. I think the former minister called them small steps, when she made the announcement in my constituency, at Northwood Manor, where she, in fact, talked about increasing the subsidies that the government was providing in terms of the per diems. The minister today talked about

[Page 1866]

how seniors, as a result of those measures, have seen, on average, a savings of $4,600 per year.

Mr. Speaker, let's look at this. A savings of $4,600 a year, when the government is in many cases ripping out of the pockets of seniors, on average, $50,000 a year for the expense of being in a home for special care. We all know that the measures that were introduced by the government in April have basically done very little to provide relief to people who are in need of care, in a long-term care facility. Moreover, what we have been hearing is that as the government increased the subsidy, the per diem subsidy, the homes for special care have increased their per diem, daily cost. So, in fact, the rising cost of being in a home for special care has grown to the extent that the subsidy has practically become meaningless for people.

Mr. Speaker, the government really needs to listen to the Opposition, listen to seniors and other groups with respect to the fairness of this issue. We all recognize that this is an issue that is not fair to the seniors. In my constituency, there is a wonderful retired member of the clergy, Reverend Mel Scott, who may be known to quite a few members of this constituency. Reverend Mel, as he's called and known, was a chaplain at Northwood for many years, and he performs with the Northwood Players. He has talked with me at some length about not just the financial implications but of the psychological impact of the current system on seniors and their families. He talked to me about the bewilderment and the shame that people needing long-term care feel as that assessment process happens, as their resources are depleted - and the day or the week that sees them lose the last penny that they have is a week of great shame and humiliation for people in these homes for special care. I cannot communicate with the kind of urgency that he brings to this issue when he tells me the stories from the people he has known and he has ministered to over the years in this facility as this happens.

The members of the Liberal Party and the Minister of Health get up and they talk about the dollars. They talk about dollars and they talk about the numbers, and they do forget about the humanity that's at stake here for people. And the Leader of the Liberal Party can stand there and condemn this Party for talking about people all he likes, but do you know what? We're not going to stop because we know what is at stake here and we are here for the people, we are here to represent the people in our constituencies and we will not back down and we will not succumb to the politics of division that the members of that Party are intent on promoting.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. Would the member permit an introduction?

MS. MAUREEN MACDONALD: Yes.

[Page 1867]

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of Energy.

HON. CECIL CLARKE: Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the honourable member for ceding the floor to do this introduction. I would call the members' attention to your gallery this afternoon and I want to introduce David Anderson, a very good friend I know of the MLA for Pictou East, and a Municipal Councillor in Pictou County. I would ask all members to recognize David, and I would ask him to rise and receive the warm welcome of the House. (Applause)

MS. MAUREEN MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, we, in this caucus, are well aware that there are many needs in our province and we are well aware that choices have to be made. We are prepared to stand here and say clearly, and say firmly, this is a choice we would make. This is a priority, and this should be a priority for the members of this House. This is an issue of fairness for seniors and other people in this province, particularly seniors who built this province and made it what it is today, and in their hour of need, of illness, infirmity and old age, we, as elected officials, should not be turning our backs on these seniors. If these people lived in any other province in this country, outside of the Atlantic Region, they would have full citizenship and have their health care covered, and we should expect no less in this province.

Mr. Speaker, I don't know where the Leader of the Liberal Party gets his information, but I will tell you right now there's a fair amount of inadequate and non-factual information coming from this member. First of all, I'm a member of the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives. I've been a member of that centre for some time, and you know it's true that tax cuts are generally bad public policy, and when this government brought forward their budget with the tax cuts in the budget last year, the members of this caucus voted against those tax cuts and the members of this caucus stood up and spoke about the problems of that proposal. However, Mr. Speaker, let's be clear. Let's situate that particular bit of public policy in the context of what has really occurred here. This government has raised revenue into the operating budget of Nova Scotia by more than $1 billion in the first four years of its mandate and they've done that through the growth that occurred because more people have been in the labour force and there has been an increase in the GDP, but, also, they've done it because of an increase in regressive taxation; and they've done it through user fees and other fees; gambling revenues; they've done it because of smoking, tobacco taxation.

[5:00 p.m.]

Mr. Speaker, the revenue that has come into this province over four years is $1 billion greater as a result of that. The Leader of the Liberal Party stands here and he goes on about a tax cut of $130 million approximately in the face of this ballooning revenue that has been grabbed by this government. So let me tell you, and let me tell the member of the Third Party that the revenue is certainly there to deal with the needs of seniors in long-term care and it's all about choices, it's all about where they are going to direct that revenue.

[Page 1868]

Mr. Speaker, with respect to the notion that the Liberal Party did not create the current situation in long-term care, I know that the Leader of the Liberal Party wasn't in this House under the Liberal Government five years ago. But, I was, I was here, and the health care system was in an incredible mess. The expenditures were absolutely out of control; there was no plan, not only in long-term care, but there was no plan in any aspect of the health care system. That government couldn't keep a deputy minister. How many deputy ministers did we have? We had probably five or six deputy ministers. (Interruption) Well, perhaps. The former Minister of Health says, more than that. We had an enormous problem in our health care system.

I remember what was happening in the long-term care system. We had a moratorium on beds, we had strikes in nursing homes from one end of this province to the other as workers were concerned about the need for parity, the need to be able to retain and bring staff into their sector, so we don't need lectures from the Leader of the Liberal Party about the status of health care under the Liberal Party. Thank you. (Applause)

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Opposition House Leader.

MR. KEVIN DEVEAUX: Mr. Speaker, would you please call the order of business, Motions Other Than Government Motions.

MOTIONS OTHER THAN GOVERNMENT MOTIONS

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Opposition House Leader.

MR. KEVIN DEVEAUX: Mr. Speaker, would you please call Resolution No. 51.

Res. No. 51, Autumn House Dispute: Commun.Serv. Min.- Responsibility Assume - notice given Sept. 26/03 - (Ms. Maureen MacDonald)

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Pictou West.

MR. CHARLES PARKER: Mr. Speaker, it's a privilege for me today to have the opportunity to speak for a few minutes on this very important issue concerning Autumn House, which is located in Amherst, Nova Scotia. The NDP had a choice as to what we were going to put on the agenda, and we looked at several different issues, and said, what's more important than this particular issue at this time. For 80 days the women of Autumn House have been on the picket line, 80 days too long, 80 days without services to the women, children and the residents of Cumberland County, and it's time for it to stop.

I guess I had an opportunity to meet many of the workers - they were introduced in our House earlier - the eight women of Local 4326, and they are here with us this afternoon and we are very pleased that they were able to stay around and listen to this debate.

[Page 1869]

I had the opportunity about 10 days back to also meet with them when we held a vigil and rally in the Town of Amherst, to show support for this cause and for the women here who have been out on strike since August 11th. I certainly commend them for their courage and their determination, their perseverance, really, in staying with it. I know they have the will within them to fight until the end is met, and they get fairness and justice, and we get the services restored back to the women and children and all the residents of Cumberland County.

I know we've had support here from our caucus for them. As I mentioned earlier, I went to Cumberland County on October 18th, and I know my colleague, the member for Halifax Needham, had also met with them at an earlier point. Also, this afternoon, earlier, we had a press conference in the Uniacke Room with our member for Dartmouth South-Portland Valley. So there's strong support here from the NDP caucus for these ladies who are fighting for justice and fairness in their community.

I believe government has a role here, to step in now. Eighty days is too long, too long for these workers to be on strike and too long for services to be denied to the people of Cumberland County. I know the minister was here earlier this afternoon, and he was talking with the members, I believe in the library. That's good. That's a first step, a face-to-face discussion, and hopefully from that he will get to know some names, he will get to recognize faces and be able to work towards a just solution.

The whole problem here, really, is inadequate funding. The crux of the problem is there's just not enough money to fund these women's shelters, not only here in Amherst but throughout the province. I believe it was earlier last year, in 2002, that this government cut $897,000 out of the budget for women's centres and shelters, and transition homes and men's programs as well. It was $897,000. That really has never been restored back to the programs. It seems transition homes and men's programs, whatnot, they have to go cap in hand every quarter, trying to get enough money to balance their budget.

In addition, of course, they have to fund raise themselves. Up to 25 per cent of the money has to be found within their own community, from bake sales or art shows or whatever means they can find. It's not right that this government is not funding these necessary programs. This fight here today is not so much about wages, it's really about benefits that are being taken away from them. It's really also about ensuring that the positions will be there, so that these women can provide the necessary services to their county. I understand the total number of positions is 9.3 in total, and they just want a guarantee that those will remain and they will be able to provide the services again to the community.

Coming from Pictou County, I am quite familiar with the services that are offered in my county. I know they're the same in Cumberland County. Tearmann House in Pictou County is a similar shelter for women, as is Autumn House. We also have the Pictou County Women's Centre, and a men's program. In our county it's called New Leaf, in Cumberland

[Page 1870]

County it's called New Directions. They're providing important, necessary services, protection for women, protection for children.

One thing that's unique about Cumberland County and Autumn House is the outreach service that's provided. The workers actually go out into the communities, into Pugwash or Parrsboro, River Hebert, Springhill, wherever their services are needed, and meet with women and counsel them and provide advice to them around how to meet with a lawyer or how to access a doctor, how to prepare for a court case, if the case need be. So they're providing a lot of outreach services and I understand that's unique in all of Canada. This program is for outreach workers who go out to the community, to the homes or the community centre, and meet with their clients there. Whereas in many women's shelters, the client is actually coming to the shelter is my understanding. So it's a different approach, it seems to be working and it's actually a model for many right across this continent.

At any rate, I'm disappointed to see the minister is not able to direct this, but the services are not being provided at this point in time in Cumberland County and I think women and children are at risk. You just need to look at the headline that was in today's Chronicle-Herald. There's an example of the services that maybe were not provided in time and a man has been charged with the murder of a young woman and a child was there to witness what took place. It's that type of service, that counselling, that's lost. Sometimes hopefully you can be there in time to make a difference. Obviously, in the case that was in the paper it was not. That's why these services are needed in Cumberland County. For 12 weeks now women have not had anywhere to turn to seek the advice or knowledge that they need or a shelter, away from an abusive situation.

So, women and children are at risk in the communities in Cumberland County at this time and I would call upon the minister and this government to step up to the plate and provide the adequate funding that allows this strike to be settled. Earlier this afternoon we had a press conference and a letter was read by a former client of the home and she said - I thought it was very poignant and to the point - Autumn House was my candle in the dark. Please don't blow out our candle.

It's important that this government take that message and provide the dollars that are necessary to continue the programs throughout Cumberland County and throughout the province so that these programs are there when needed by women and children at risk.

I know my time is short, but I just want to sum up by saying that we need a government to take the bull by the horns and settle this strike so that these 10 workers are back in Autumn House. They can provide the services that are so necessary to Cumberland County and the people there will have protection.

[Page 1871]

If I have time, one other issue is the board of Autumn House and the need there for an annual general meeting of their board. It's been many months past the year when they haven't met and been accountable to the community. I know the people of Cumberland County would like to have an opportunity to come before an annual general meeting and express their - maybe - frustration over this particular issue and the loss of services at this time to the community. So, I believe under the laws of the province an annual general meeting has to be held once a year and we're well past that 12 month period. I would hope the government too will take the initiative to make sure that the board is meeting with their public and is held accountable to the citizens of Cumberland County.

I guess, finally, it's past time - 80 days is too long to deny needed and necessary services to the women and to the children and all the residents of Cumberland County so Mr. Minister and government, let's get this settled and provide protection to those communities.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of Economic Development.

HON. ERNEST FAGE: Mr. Speaker, it's my privilege to rise tonight and debate the resolution. First of all, I think it's important to go back a little bit in time and review the beginnings of Autumn House and the situation.

[5:15 p.m.]

In the communities of Cumberland County, in the late 1980s and early 1990s, there was a strong need for an agency of the community to be established that was concerned, as were many people in the general public, myself included, with women's issues, men's treatment centres. At that time, a number of concerned community volunteers, myself included in that support, worked with government to found the first Autumn House. Those volunteers were very dedicated people who were concerned about the issues of violence towards women, children and certainly the treatment of men goes along with those particular issues.

During that time, Mr. Speaker, I know, on a number of occasions, I helped with arranging for donations of furnishings and various other monies to be appropriated to acquire the facility and to have that facility remain a facility that was not widely known within the community, so that people who were clients had that seclusion, that trust and that opportunity to be at a residence, a facility where they could recover and receive counselling. Through the years, the Autumn House facility grew with much more expertise and counselling services, which were very important to the community and certainly important to the clients and the treatment.

Mr. Speaker, through those years, more staff was acquired and the staff became, through upgrading of their own and their own hard work and care and concern for their clients, a very professional staff. Their hard work and efforts are felt in the communities

[Page 1872]

throughout Cumberland County, whether it's in Amherst or Springhill or River Herbert or Pugwash. Those communities rely on Autumn House to meet those needs and those services.

As well, the staff of Autumn House has certainly interacted well, I believe, with the various government agencies, whether it's adult protection for the province, whether it's community services, whether it's health, whether it's the justice system, the local police, the RCMP. They've established those critical relationships where this province and that community offer support that is critical for someone traumatized through a situation to be able to negotiate, navigate and receive the type of treatment they require, and the opportunity to become whole people, returning to society.

I know over the last several years, there has been much debate provincially about what is the best model with Community Services for transition houses, and a lot of discussion over the long-term plans and funding. I must correct the honourable member opposite, I know he was absent from the House for four years, but there was no cut in the Community Services budget two years ago to transition houses. I think it's important to point that out to the honourable member.

As well, Mr. Speaker, I think it's also key to point out to the House that this government certainly believes strongly in transition houses and treatment centre programs, and that belief is carried forward for Autumn House. This province funds nine beds, eight full-time positions, and in the last year, Autumn House received approximately $360,000 for transition house services from the province, and $83,000 to operate the men's treatment centre. As is the norm in any community across Nova Scotia, additional monies are raised by the community. I'm always pleased to support those fundraisers because, Mr. Speaker, there's no question, it's a vital service that is needed in our community and one that is appropriate that the community themselves, who were the creators of transition houses and identified the need, help support as well.

I would also like to point out to the House and the member opposite, Mr. Speaker, this government certainly wanted to be fair to transition house workers and that is why earlier this year a 9.3 per cent wage increase was allocated to all approved staff across all transition houses and men's centres across the province. This is reflective of this government, which is a very progressive government, unlike previous governments that froze wages of workers or rolled them back 3 per cent. We bargain in good faith, we bargain on behalf of the taxpayers of Nova Scotia, but we certainly believe that workers for the province deserved the raise. These workers, although not employed by the Province of Nova Scotia but by the board of the transition house in Cumberland County, or the board of the transition house in New Glasgow, or Pictou, are employed by the volunteer board in the community.

Mr. Speaker, certainly that funding was made known publicly, well in advance of August 11th, so that that board of directors, as other boards of directors in the province, had the dollars to offer in the form of wage increases to their staff members under the provincial

[Page 1873]

formula. I think that is a key recognition and an important recognition by this government that although they are not employed by the Province of Nova Scotia, these people work very hard, are very dedicated to their clients, and were deserving of a raise. So certainly the provincial formula and the portion of funding afforded by the Province of Nova Scotia, that 9.3 per cent, was allocated across that operational wage component. So I think that was certainly important that that was offered to the employees in Amherst at Autumn House as well as other employees across the Province of Nova Scotia.

I also think it's important to remember that the collective bargaining process is certainly one that my colleagues in all seats in this House strongly believe in in this province. It's the backbone of labour relations between an employer and employee and with the support of conciliators and various other mechanisms, when appropriate, is how resolution comes to a labour dispute. Certainly I understand in my discussions and taking forward on behalf of the employees of Autumn House, that the Minister of Community Services, along with the Minister of Environment and Labour, certainly have made a conciliator available throughout this process.

It's unfortunate that a resolution has not been reached, Mr. Speaker. These employees have been off work for 12 weeks. Yes, there is a contingency plan in place and thank goodness that no one has had to be moved out of the community, but full service cannot be supplied under a contingency plan. It's a short-term situation and certainly not a desirable long-term situation that the community of Amherst, or Cumberland County, wants to see in place and want to continue.

The conciliator is still in place, Mr. Speaker, and certainly in my discussions with members of the workforce when we have the occasion to speak, I urge them to continue to try to work through the conciliator to negotiate an agreement so that the differences that the board of directors have in their package and the ones that are acceptable to the workforce can be narrowed and an agreement can be achieved, so that the services are then again continued in full to the communities of Amherst, Springhill, River Hebert, Joggins, Parrsboro and Pugwash and a number of other communities that are served by Autumn House - and the people of Cumberland County.

In closing, I want to make a few points very clear. It's clear that these services are extremely important to the citizens of Cumberland County. Autumn House has been able to bridge that gap between services supplied by the provincial government, by the federal government, and some services that are supplied by the municipal level of government. They have become and are the advocates of change. They're the advocates for clients who find themselves in the unfortunate situation of an abusive relationship and they help correct and mould the lives of people after such distressful circumstances occur. They really and truly are the advocates of the people of Cumberland County.

[Page 1874]

I also want to strongly point out that this government was aware that contracts, increases were necessary, and that's why the 9.3 per cent wage increase was made available to the board of Autumn House so that there were new dollars on the table to be used in this labour dispute. I will take my chair, and I thank you for the opportunity to participate in the debate.

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

MS. DIANA WHALEN: It certainly is a sad day to be rising and speaking on this resolution, No. 51, particularly because the resolution was made originally on September 26th, we've debated it October 1st, and here we are on October 29th with the strike in its 80th day - exactly 80 days, 80 days of hardship and stress on the women who work at Autumn House, and that is a terrible thing. But 80 days of no service in the community of Amherst, I think it's a real travesty that that has been allowed to languish and continue for this length of time. It was one of the first issues that came to my attention as a new MLA, the fact that the staff at Autumn House were on strike and there was an impasse with the volunteer board.

To see that we are here near the close of this session of the House and that it's still continuing, I think is something that we should all be very alarmed about, and the fact that in an earlier debate, which I reviewed today when we spoke about this on October 1st, the Minister of Community Services spoke about a contingency plan in place, that the board had done their job by providing a contingency plan. What kind of plan is it that insists women and children would travel 135 kilometres to another community, all the way to New Glasgow? If you're in crisis, if you've been beaten or abused, it's just outrageous to consider that.

We have to remember that in any location - whether you're in the city or in a rural area, transportation is a huge challenge. We're talking about incidents that often happen in the middle of the night or in times when there isn't transportation or other help available. Distance is a challenge as well, we're talking about a rural community where people would be travelling into this centre to get the help they need in Amherst. I think it's just absolutely outrageous that this has been allowed to continue and that the contingency plan which is considered adequate to serve the people of Amherst is that they travel 135 kilometres to Tearmann Place in New Glasgow. As I say, I find this an extremely sad time to be rising and speaking on this resolution.

[5:30 p.m.]

The stress and the hardship on the strikers has been severe and I think it is time for leadership from the government. The government has tried to distance themselves, as the resolution says - I like the way it's been worded - it says that they're hiding behind the skirts of the Autumn House board and really, in fact, that seems to be the case that even up to this point, 80 days into the strike, they can still claim an arm's-length distance, in terms of

[Page 1875]

management, from the volunteer board. Many of us in this House have served on volunteer boards, we know the difficulty of trying to manage and fundraise and make ends meet, but that board has a responsibility as well. The only reason they exist is to provide the services that Autumn House is expected to provide. If they have shut the doors and allowed this impasse to occur and if the government has stood by and watched it, then they have failed in their duty to provide for the very reason why they're there; volunteers are there for a purpose.

I don't understand why a volunteer board would allow itself to be in this position. I understand it's a perennial problem of underfunding, I understand that all the transition houses and many of the women's centres run deficits and have difficulty in making ends meet, and that's because we require those services to raise as much as 25, 30 - maybe even more - per cent of their revenue in order to provide the basic services. We know that the people who work in these centres work under a lot of stress because they are working with people in crisis and we know that they do that for a very minimum salary.

Mr. Speaker, they don't ask for high wages; they're well-qualified people, they often have many credentials and training and counselling and intervention, but they're not well paid for what they do. A lot of it is work that they do because they have a dedication and a vision and a commitment to people in need. I think perhaps there's even something to be said for the fact that most of them are women and that keeps their salaries lower again. If they were a group of men on strike for this length of time, I wonder how much attention we would be paying to that centre. If their client base were men and not women and children, I wonder if we wouldn't be paying more attention to the withdrawal of that service.

I would like the attention of the House in that regard because I think there's something to be said here. I think a lot of the men who run our government and work in government with us, should pay attention and imagine if that service was offered to men only and it had gone on for 80 days that the services were not available in Amherst, I think we would be hearing a lot more about it. The reason it's silent and the reason it tends to be lost on the agenda is because it's women and children that are the victims and because the women are the workers in this particular centre. (Applause) Thank you.

Just to go on about the board and their role, as I say, I can't understand why they've allowed this to languish. It seems like a very perverse thought that every day or every month they remain closed they're saving money; well, they're going to do very well with their budget this year, but to what avail? The damage and the harm that they caused in this community is going to be far greater, so it's very perverse thinking to think that this is one way to get ahead on your budget. They have to look at providing the service first and foremost, they can't close the entire centre for this length of time.

[Page 1876]

This is where we come to the role of government. The role of government is to step in. If the Minister of Community Services doesn't feel it's his role, does he not think that this board has failed in its duty to provide the service with our government that they have a contract to provide? This government provides the funding, the people of Nova Scotia provide the funding, however inadequate, to run those services across the province and in the case of Autumn House, that service is not being provided. So there's a breach of contract, in a sense, a failure to provide the service that we have provided money for. I think it's fine to allow a certain period of time to hope that the parties will come together and resolve their differences, but where nothing has happened and so much time has passed, I think it's about time the government stepped in and reassessed the relationship that they have with this particular voluntary board.

I think it is wonderful to allow important community services to be delivered within the community by local boards and groups, but if they're dysfunctional or if they've come to some impasse where they can't seem to get going and deliver the service, we need to have government - and the Department of Community Services is a huge department with a large budget and many employees, I'm sure that they have the resources and the facilities and the people to intervene and go there and see that this is mediated and that the situation is resolved. I think enough time has passed already, as I have said.

The government did provide - and I heard the Minister of Economic Development refer to the 9.3 per cent wage increase that was provided, so funding was provided to increase wages. If this particular board decided to allocate the funds differently, then that again is a breach of the contract or the arrangement with the government and I think that is grounds in itself to go back and review the situation that you have right now.

The funding is in place for the staff. I think it actually pays for 9.3 full-time equivalents, the funding that is currently in place, and yet this board has chosen to allocate it differently. They've chosen not to provide retroactive pay increases as was the intent of government. The Minister of Community Services, I believe, gave 2 per cent as an increase for the year 2000-01 and the same for the following two years and yet that money is only being offered to the employees of Autumn House retroactively to April of this year.

So I think that again shows they may be trying to do the best they can in difficult circumstances, but they have not done what was expected with the money that has been provided. Yes, as has been said by other members in a previous debate, this does show that we have a chronically underfunded social service and that it's a very comfortable thing for the government to hive off some of these activities and allow volunteer boards and hardworking communities to pick up the need and run things like food banks and shelters, but we have to have more leadership and provide at least the basic amount of money to allow people to live and have dignity in their jobs and also to provide the services. We have to listen to the people who have gone on strike on August 11th and understand the situation they're in.

[Page 1877]

There are a number of things I understand that the board has been trying to do in terms of changes to the work arrangement. One thing was trying to replace workers to some extent with volunteers and I think volunteers are wonderful and they're needed in all of these centres and, as I mentioned, in food banks and other voluntary community services, but they should supplement the professional staff who are employed in these centres. They can't take the full burden of (Interruption) The good term is complementary service, exactly. It should be run by professionals, people with training and experience.

As I mentioned, the women who come to a centre like Autumn House are in crisis. Their children are in crisis. They need to have professionals who can counsel and guide them. They need to have the intervention and co-operation of the police and they need people who can take them to the police services, or the health services they require, and do so in a very sensitive and trained manner. The volunteers, however well meaning, can't do that. They're not able. They're not trained and they don't have the first-hand experience. So that would be unfair to the people who are in crisis.

I think what we have to do is see that, as much as possible, volunteers are not used to replace front-line service providers in community services. It's just not responsible on the part of the government and you will see some very serious repercussions if we get down that road. I'm sure we will see more and more cases where people left in crisis are not served or, you know, some other catastrophic thing will happen to people because the professionals were not available. So I would urge the government to look at that very seriously.

There is also a question of workers' compensation that I was made aware of and apparently the staff at Autumn House, rather than being covered under workers' compensation, they have had medical insurance that would provide for them in the event of some long-term disability. That was provided entirely with funds from the Autumn House board. So the employer was paying the cost of that benefit, such as it is, it's an important benefit. However, the employer was also exempted from workers' compensation payment. But now in the new arrangement they hope to see the employees, who are earning very modest incomes, they hope to transfer 50 per cent of the cost of that medical disability insurance to these employees and thereby cut their costs and make more money available for themselves, and to operate the service, I must say, but it's not fair to those employees.

MR. SPEAKER: One minute.

MS. WHALEN: One minute, thank you very much. What I feel should be done is that these employees, with the intervention of government, require that their benefits be maintained. They have very scant and slim benefits. These are not people who are covered by a host of many generous government benefits and I think they need to preserve that. That was one of the small benefits they were able to enjoy and, as an employer, Autumn House, the board was required to provide workers' compensation. So I would urge that the government intervene and select a mediator as soon as possible and if that doesn't work,

[Page 1878]

intervene directly to see that services are reinstated in the Amherst area. Thank you. (Applause)

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

MR. FRANK CORBETT: Mr. [Deputy] Speaker, I think it's the first time I rose in the House that you were in the Chair. Welcome to the Chair and good luck. The first thing I want to say is I don't believe these women want to work at this house. Women like this don't want houses like this to exist, really. They would like to live in a society where women do not have to seek refuge in these types of homes. They are caring people. They're the type of people who don't get into this job because it's an afterthought. They're not the type of people who are working in a home such as that because they love the environment. No, they're working in that home because there's a need in their community to have that home. They don't wish to have a home like that in Amherst or Antigonish or Truro or Sydney. They wish that was one our society could do without.

But, Mr. Speaker, it isn't such. It is so that we need these homes. We have to start with that premise, that these are necessary. These are not, as government would have you believe, kind of an ancillary thing to have in your community, that it's, oh well, we can get by without it, these women don't really understand that the need is not there, shouldn't be there, that it's not that great. Well, government is wrong. Government has to get their priorities straight. We've lived through almost five years, four and a half years, of this government and its rule around how it funds, whether it's health care and/or community services. They are the most vulnerable people in our society.

Mr. Speaker, these situations often come to us because of the economy of an area. We know that. We see increased crime rates and so on and spousal abuse, when it comes to the economy. So it's an overall burden of government to make sure that that is weighted out properly, that when these things happen, whether it's the extreme downturn of the economy or fluctuations in the economy, when these things arise that there is a social safety net for the most vulnerable.

Yet, we've seen, historically, if you want to use a period of about five years with this government as an historical period, we've had a government that's not responsive to that side of society. As I said in a previous speech, Mr. Speaker, around this government trying to cut almost $900,000 from their budget as it related to transition houses, that same day they did that, downstairs here, with the Halifax Chamber of Commerce, the Premier was getting this big award because the province was in the black. That night I stated to the Premier directly, I said, Mr. Premier, you care more about one bottle of black ink than one black eye on a woman. That's where this government comes from.

[Page 1879]

There has to be compassion, not merely to have a minister like the Minister of Community Services say things just to make the situation go away as opposed to being directly involved. There's complicity of wrongdoings and misdoings in this strike from just about every level of that government over there, whether it's Community Services in underfunding, whether it's the minister who lives in the area really doing nothing, or the Minister of Environment and Labour who doesn't have particularly good trade union laws to protect workers when they go out on strike.

So where are we now, Mr. Speaker? We are at a strike that's allowing the employer to strip away every other thing that they've fought for, and bring them back to labour standards. The people who run Autumn House have said, okay, the collective agreement has expired, so instead of living with the terms of the agreement, we're going to take you right down to the very basics, - whatever labour standards says, that's all we're going to abide by.

[5:45 p.m.]

Is that good faith? Is that what it's going to take to resolve this issue? No, Mr. Speaker, I'm saying that group now is fanning the flames. Instead of being responsible and trying to find a way to resolve this labour impasse, it has decided to fan the flames. We're not dealing with a group of individuals who wanted this huge raise. Quite different. They were dealing with a group that wanted the status quo. They're on the street because of take-backs of government.

Where is the responsibility of government? At what point does government say to itself, the reality of the money that this house saves government, whether it's in policing by their way of intervention and education, whether it's in community services directly by helping to feed and clothe and shelter these families. Where's the bottom line on that? The health care costs - that Amherst doesn't see a Serena Colson so tragically murdered in her apartment because they have a place to escape to, to know there's a safe haven for them.

Where does government lay that cost at? When they're doing their budgets, how do you cost that out? Apparently, on the social scale of things, this government has no idea of that. There is no factoring that in, no way, no how. Why won't government do that?

I would put forward a proposal that it's something that philosophically they're just not there with. They just will not own up to it that philosophically they see the benefits of such homes. I started my conversation today, maybe for a bit of shock value, saying they don't want to work there. It's because of that. Mr. Speaker, you and I both know the great work that the transition house does in Cape Breton. We've been - I can't speak for you, Mr. Speaker, but for myself - had the ability to speak to Executive Director Bea LeBlanc on many occasions and had tours and the idea when I talk to the residents was that it was such a warm place for their kids to get to. These folks were fleeing violence, violence of unimaginable sorts.

[Page 1880]

We're all abhorred when we watch the news and we see tanks going into Iraq and these other places - as we should be. But, there's just another - albeit a much smaller one, a more violent world out there that these women live in every day. The violence of domestic violence, it's the war that's raging within homes. Homes that we could walk by on our way home from here tonight, thinking isn't that a lovely house, it's got the perennial little picket fence and the grass is done nice and this time of year all the leaves are raked and isn't that the perfect little world? But none of us know what goes on when that door is shut. For the 20 seconds we walk by their frontage.

But, I'll tell you what, those ladies in the gallery do. They know it. They know that domestic violence isn't the unemployed worker solely. As I said earlier, the economy has to do with it, but domestic violence is well beyond that. It goes beyond the socio-economic, whether you're a lawyer, doctor, whatever, it's there. These front-line workers see it every day.

But we have a government that doesn't think that's worth paying people for. It's a government that thinks it does its duty when it says, we've spent our money on funding. We'll fund 9.3 per cent and that's it. They don't really sit back and say, let's look at the real cost. Let's look at the cost of not having those workers. Let's look at the real cost of what it does to families because of the domino effect. It goes down. It's not one woman that goes into a shelter, it's women and children, it's the break-up, it's where everyone goes after it.

Mr. Speaker, you and I are fortunate enough to come from large family backgrounds, and one of the downsides of having a large family is when something goes wrong it's like the proverbial pond, it ripples through the whole extended family and so on. When these women are called upon to intervene at Autumn House, can you imagine the ripple that goes off in the community in and around Amherst caused by the disruption. Yet, when they're there as the safety net, they act as the calming effect on the water, because there's somewhere to go, there's somewhere to seek refuge for these people who had violence visited upon them.

Let's talk in terms of the child who is in that system, Mr. Speaker, the child who is in that system - and the cost. We know the real cost may be that child's life, but let's look at the way government looks at it. Let's look at it in the dollar-and-cents value of it. We have the young person who can't get to school, and if you can't get to school, you can't learn, you don't get educated, you don't get a job. It's simple; it's arithmetic that even this government should have learned over its close to five years in government.

Mr. Speaker, we know that government is about making choices, so let's choose some things. Let's choose the life of that Primary student or that Grade 3 student who has their learning life disrupted because of violence in the home. Yet the government doesn't want to put a cost on that. Government will come by and tell you this is it. Well, what I want to say in wrapping up is that this is a resolution that has come before this House that I think

[Page 1881]

should be supported by everybody here, that my heart and my wishes are to the workers in this, and if the government has the gumption, it should go in and get this resolved and do it forthwith. Thank you. (Applause)

MR. SPEAKER: The time allotted for Resolution No. 51 has expired.

The honourable Deputy House Leader.

MR. WILLIAM DOOKS: Mr. Speaker, I move that the House do now rise, to sit again tomorrow. The hours will be 12:00 noon to 8:00 p.m. After the daily routine, which will include Question Period, we will entertain, maybe, a bill from the member for Cape Breton West. (Interruptions)

MR. SPEAKER: The motion is that the House do now rise and adjourn until tomorrow at 12:00 noon, to sit until 8:00 p.m.

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

The House is adjourned.

[The House rose at 5:53 p.m.]

[Page 1882]

NOTICES OF MOTION UNDER RULE 32(3)

RESOLUTION NO. 703

By: Hon. Christopher d'Entremont (Agriculture and Fisheries)

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

Whereas the Nova Scotia Agriculture Awareness Committee is pleased to announce that an official high school science course on agriculture will be offered to Nova Scotia's Grade 11 students this fall; and

Whereas the course has six modules on areas ranging from primary production to global marketing and food safety; and

Whereas students will learn about the science and technology components of agriculture and the many career opportunities it has to offer;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House recognize that having this course is an important achievement for our agriculture industry.

RESOLUTION NO. 704

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 Enid Mitchelmore, a member of the Southwest Health District Cancer Committee, is launching Yarmouth's first breast cancer support group during Breast Cancer Awareness Month; and

Whereas as a breast cancer survivor herself, Enid understands how important it is to have a support system available; and

Whereas getting information to women who have been diagnosed with breast cancer is the goal of the support group;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House thank Enid Mitchelmore for her efforts in providing a breast cancer support group for the Yarmouth community and wish her well in this important endeavour.

[Page 1883]

RESOLUTION NO. 705

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 Yarmouth's Keith Surette kicked off another season of pool tournaments on a winning note over the Thanksgiving weekend - capturing his third Eastern Canadian 9-ball championship; and

Whereas Mr. Surette is the first competitor to win the event three times; and

Whereas Mr. Surette bested the field of 119 players in the tournament;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House congratulate Yarmouth's Keith Surette on capturing his third Eastern Canadian 9-ball championship and wish him well as he competes in the 2003-04 season.

RESOLUTION NO. 706

By: Hon. Cecil Clarke (Energy)

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

Whereas a Reserve Mines man who died almost 30 years ago while on a peacekeeping mission in Cyprus has been honoured with the Dag Hammarskjold Medal; and

Whereas the prestigious medal was established by the Secretary-General to honour peacekeepers who died in the line of duty; and

Whereas Margaret Roach accepted the medal on behalf of her late husband - Corporal Aloysius Roach;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House join me in recognizing Corporal Aloysius Roach and all the brave men and women who serve as peacekeepers so that other nations will be able to enjoy the same freedoms that we do in Canada.

[Page 1884]

RESOLUTION NO. 707

By: Mr. Brooke Taylor (Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley)

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

Whereas Shubenacadie native Gerald Muizelaar led his New York-based team to the International Softball Congress Championship in Kimberly, Wisconsin, this summer; and

Whereas despite being almost settled in Grand Forks, North Dakota, Gerald is a homeboy at heart saying, "As long as there is a team from Nova Scotia or the Maritimes interested in competing on a national level, I will be playing for them."; and

Whereas the win for Muizelaar was his second in the international tournament, having led his Nebraska-based team to the championship in 2001;

Therefore be it resolved that MLAs in this Legislature commend the prolific success of Gerald Muizelaar, while also congratulating him in obtaining his Master's Degree in Business and Finance at Dalhousie this past Spring, and wish him many more championships in the future.

RESOLUTION NO. 708

By: Mr. William Dooks (Eastern Shore)

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

Whereas Hurricane Juan brought immense damage to the Eastern Shore of Nova Scotia - leaving many families without electricity, some without running water for a lengthy period of time; and

Whereas despite the hardship created by Hurricane Juan, the Oyster Pond Fire Department offered an invaluable community service by opening their fire station to community residents in need of hot meals, water, or perhaps simply some comfort; and

Whereas this service continued for approximately two weeks until the fire department was assured that all residents living in their fire coverage area had their electricity turned back on or a comfortable residence to go to;

[Page 1885]

Therefore be it resolved that MLAs in this Legislature applaud the initiative undertaken by the members of the Oyster Pond Volunteer Fire Department for offering the concern and care which they did in a time of real need.

RESOLUTION NO. 709

By: Mr. William Dooks (Eastern Shore)

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

Whereas Hurricane Juan brought immense damage to the Eastern Shore of Nova Scotia leaving many families without running water, electricity for heat, some for as long as two weeks; and

Whereas despite the inconvenience and hardship created by Juan, the Musquodoboit Harbour Volunteer Fire Department offered a tremendous service by opening their fire station to local residents in need of hot meals, water or perhaps simply some tender comfort; and

Whereas this service continued for approximately two weeks until residents could be assured electricity had been turned back on at their place of residence or other comfortable living arrangements had been found;

Therefore be it resolved that MLAs in this Legislature commend the sacrifice and hard work demonstrated by the members of the Musquodoboit Harbour Volunteer Fire Department for offering the concern and care which they did in a time of disaster management.

RESOLUTION NO. 710

By: Mr. William Dooks (Eastern Shore)

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

Whereas Hurricane Juan brought immense damage to the Eastern Shore of Nova Scotia leaving many families without running water, electricity for heat, some for as long as two weeks; and

Whereas despite the inconvenience and hardship created by Juan, the Chezzetcook Volunteer Fire Department offered a tremendous service by opening their fire station to local residents in need of hot meals, water or perhaps simply some tender comfort; and

[Page 1886]

Whereas this service continued for approximately two weeks until residents could be assured electricity had been turned back on at their place of residence or other comfortable living arrangements had been found;

Therefore be it resolved that MLAs in this Legislature commend the sacrifice and hard work demonstrated by the members of the Chezzetcook Volunteer Fire Department for offering the concern and care which they did in a time of disaster management.

RESOLUTION NO. 711

By: Mr. William Dooks (Eastern Shore)

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

Whereas Hurricane Juan brought immense damage to the Eastern Shore of Nova Scotia leaving many families without running water, electricity for heat, for a lengthy period of time; and

Whereas despite the hardship created by Juan, the Ostrea Lake and Pleasant Point Volunteer Fire Department offered an invaluable community service by opening their fire station to community residents in need of hot meals, water or perhaps simply some comfort; and

Whereas this service continued for approximately two weeks until the fire department was assured that all residents living in their fire coverage area had their electricity turned back on or a comfortable residence to go to;

Therefore be it resolved that MLAs in this Legislature applaud the initiative undertaken by the members of the Ostrea Lake and Pleasant Point Volunteer Fire Department for offering the concern and care which they did in a time of real need.

RESOLUTION NO. 712

By: Mr. William Dooks (Eastern Shore)

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

Whereas Hurricane Juan brought immense damage to the Eastern Shore of Nova Scotia leaving many families without running water, electricity for heat, for a lengthy period of time; and

[Page 1887]

Whereas despite the hardship created by Juan, the Lawrencetown Beach Fire Department and Emergency Services offered an invaluable community service by opening their fire station to community residents in need of hot meals, water or perhaps simply some comfort; and

Whereas this service continued for approximately two weeks until the fire department was assured that all residents living in their fire coverage area had their electricity turned back on or a comfortable residence to go to;

Therefore be it resolved that MLAs in this Legislature applaud the initiative undertaken by the members of the Lawrencetown Beach Fire Department and Emergency Services for offering the concern and care which they did in a time of real need.

RESOLUTION NO. 713

By: Mr. William Dooks (Eastern Shore)

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

Whereas the annual Sand Castle Day at Clam Harbour Beach on August 10th was once again an overwhelming success for community volunteers; and

Whereas literally thousands of people turned out for this spectacular community event which was celebrating its 25th Anniversary this year; and

Whereas with cars being forced to park miles away from the site because of the enormous popularity of the event, in many cases community buses picked families and friends up from where they parked their cars and drove them to the sand castle site;

Therefore be it resolved that MLAs in this Legislature acknowledge the efforts of Ms. Jude Major, Sand Castle Coordinator and a member of the Lake Charlotte Leisure Planning Association and all her community volunteers in making this event one of the top tourist events in Nova Scotia.

RESOLUTION NO. 714

By: Mr. William Dooks (Eastern Shore)

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

[Page 1888]

Whereas a very special occasion took place on September 24th when Mrs. Annie Abriel turned 102 years old; and

Whereas Mrs. Abriel, formerly of Tangier, now resides in Birches, Musquodoboit Harbour; and

Whereas to appreciate the lifespan of Mrs. Abriel, she was born before the ice cream cone was invented as it celebrated only its 100th birthday on September 22nd this year;

Therefore be it resolved that MLAs in this Legislature extend their warm and heartfelt birthday congratulations to Mrs. Abriel and wish her continued good health and prosperity.

RESOLUTION NO. 715

By: Mr. William Dooks (Eastern Shore)

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

Whereas for many years Mrs. Pearl Wournell was a friendly nursing face to expecting mothers at Twin Oaks Memorial Hospital; and

Whereas Mrs. Wournell passed away this weekend at the age of 104; and

Whereas Mrs. Wournell took exceptional pride in her job as nurse at the Twin Oaks Hospital until her retirement in 1972 and was a well-known and respected lady from Head of Jeddore;

Therefore be it resolved that MLAs in this Legislature extend their deepest sympathies to the family of Mrs. Wournell and the community of Head of Jeddore where Pearl lived such a wonderful life.