Assemblée Législative de la Nouvelle-Écosse

Les travaux de la Chambre ont repris le
21 septembre 2017

HANSARD 03/04-28

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

TUESDAY, APRIL 20, 2004

TABLE OF CONTENTS PAGE
PRESENTING AND READING PETITIONS:
TPW: Operation Impact - Oppose, Mr C. Parker 2231
TABLING REPORTS, REGULATIONS AND OTHER PAPERS:
Justice: Civil Procedure Rules - Amendments, Hon. M. Baker 2232
Anl. Rept. Of the N.S. Freedom of Information and Protection
of Privacy Review Office, The Speaker 2232
GOVERNMENT NOTICES OF MOTION:
Res. 941, Estimates: CWH on Supply - Referred, Hon. P. Christie 2232
Res. 942, Webster, Marilyn - Educ. Wk. Award, Hon. J. Muir 2233
Vote - Affirmative 2233
Res. 943, Hewitt, Michael - OH&S: Service - Thank, Hon. K. Morash 2234
Vote - Affirmative 2234
Res. 944, Serv. N.S. & Mun. Rel.: Web Site - Template, Hon. B. Barnet 2234
Vote - Affirmative 2235
Res. 945, Arcadia Entertainment: Success - Wish,
Hon. Rodney MacDonald 2235
Vote - Affirmative 2236
Res. 946, Commun. Serv.: Foster Families - Commend, Hon. D. Morse 2236
Vote - Affirmative 2237
INTRODUCTION OF BILLS:
No. 53, Gaming Control Act, Mr. S. McNeil 2237
No. 54, Saint Peter's Evangelical Lutheran Church Incorporation Act,
Mr. J. Chataway 2237
No. 55, Lenihan (Municipality of the District of Chester) Retiring
Allowance Act, Mr. J. Chataway 2237
No. 56, Nova Scotia Federation of Anglers and Hunters Act,
Mr. B. Taylor 2238
NOTICES OF MOTION:
Res. 947, Mtl. Canadiens Fans: Victory - Congrats., Mr. W. Estabrooks 2238
Res. 948, N.S. Youth Strategy - Develop, Mr. R. MacKinnon 2239
Vote - Affirmative 2239
Res. 949, Farmers/Woodlot Owners: Tax Relief - PM Submit,
Mr. B. Taylor 2239
Vote - Affirmative 2240
Res. 950, Cole Hbr. DHS: Wrestling Team - Congrats., Mr. K. Deveaux 2240
Vote - Affirmative 2241
Res. 951, Kings Mutual Ins. Co.: Anniv. (100th), Mr. L. Glavine 2241
Vote - Affirmative 2242
Res. 952, Can.-N.S.-Offshore Accord - Gov't. (Can.): Commitments -
Fulfill, Mr. Ronald Chisholm 2242
Vote - Affirmative 2242
Res. 953, N.S. Duck Tolling Retriever - Breed Recognition,
Mr. J. MacDonell 2243
Vote - Affirmative 2243
Res. 954, Victoria-The Lakes: Fire Depts. - Honour,
Mr. Gerald Sampson 2243
Vote - Affirmative 2244
Res. 955, Cdn. Lebanon Soc. - Anl. Awards, Mr. J. Chataway 2244
Vote - Affirmative 2245
Res. 956, Richards, Tyler/Carvery, Irvine - Basketball Honours,
Mr. H. Epstein 2245
Vote - Affirmative 2246
Res. 957, Digby Reg. HS - Envirothon Team, Mr. H. Theriault 2246
Vote - Affirmative 2246
Res. 958, Sports: Shelburne Co. Bantam A Flames - Hockey Title,
Mr. C. O'Donnell 2246
Vote - Affirmative 2247
Res. 959, River John Winter Carnival: Organizers - Congrats.,
Mr. C. Parker 2247
Vote - Affirmative 2248
Res. 960, Nat'l. Med. Lab. Wk. (04/19-23/04): Technologists -
Recognize, Mr. David Wilson (Glace Bay) 2248
Vote - Affirmative 2249
Res. 961, Turks & Caicos - N.S.: Annexation - Initiate, Mr. W. Langille 2249
Res. 962, Saulnier, Chris - Duke of Edinburgh Award (Bronze),
Ms. M. More 2249
Vote - Affirmative 2250
Res. 963, Baird, Cst. Robbie: Commun. Service - Congrats.,
Mr. K. Colwell 2250
Vote - Affirmative 2251
Res. 964, Blades, Michael - Skeet Championship, Mr. C. O'Donnell 2251
Vote - Affirmative 2251
Res. 965, Health: Enzyme Replacement Therapy - Funding, Mr. J. Pye 2252
Res. 966, Agric. & Fish.: Ind. Slaughterhouse Owners - Meet,
Mr. L. Glavine 2252
Res. 967, Pictou Co. Businesses: KPMG Study - Results,
Mr. J. DeWolfe 2253
Vote - Affirmative 2254
Res. 968, Sydney Vol. Spirit Day: Participants - Congrats.,
Mr. G. Gosse 2254
Vote - Affirmative 2254
Res. 969, LeRue, Ron/Pattison, Bob: Firefighters Awards - Congrats.,
Mr. D. Dexter 2255
Vote - Affirmative 2255
Res. 970, Ball, Allan/Bourque, Roger: Firefighters Awards - Congrats.,
Mr. D. Dexter 2256
Vote - Affirmative 2256
ORAL QUESTIONS PUT BY MEMBERS:
No. 271, Fin.: Tax Fraud - Problem Address, Mr. D. Dexter 2257
No. 272, Treasury & Policy Bd.: Opposition Parties -
Advertising Policies, Mr. Manning MacDonald 2258
No. 273, Educ.: Funding - Clarification, Mr. D. Dexter 2259
No. 274, CNS: NDP Brochure - Tendering Procedures, Mr. K. Colwell 2261
No. 275, Health: Queens Gen. Hosp. - Surgical Services, Mr. D. Dexter 2262
No. 276, Serv. N.S. & Mun. Rel.: Forest Haven Cemetery -
Delay Explain, Mr. David Wilson (Glace Bay) 2263
No. 277, Commun. Serv.: Commun. Supports for Adults Prog. -
Consultation, Ms. M. More 2265
No. 278, EMO: Disaster Relief Claims - Documentation,
Mr. H. Theriault 2266
No. 279, Health - Strait-Richmond Hosp.: Detox Ctr. - Closure,
Mr. G. Gosse 2267
No. 280, Serv. N.S. & Mun. Rel. - Forest Haven Mem. Gardens:
Remains - Protection, Mr. F. Corbett 2268
No. 281, Fin.: User Fees - Justification, Ms. D. Whalen 2269
No. 282, Service N.S. & Mun. Rel.: Heatherdale Mem. Gardens -
Sale, Mr. C. Parker 2271
No. 283, Educ.: Funding - Tuition Reduction, Mr. L. Glavine 2272
No. 284, Commun. Serv.: Daycare - Underfunding, Ms. M. More 2273
PRESENTING AND READING PETITIONS:
HRM/URB - District D:Boundary Proposal - Amend, Mr. K. Colwell 2276
GOVERNMENT BUSINESS:
PUBLIC BILLS FOR SECOND READING:
No. 46, Public Service Act 2277
Hon. Rodney MacDonald 2277
Mr. G. Gosse 2278
Mr. David Wilson (Glace Bay) 2281
Ms. Maureen MacDonald 2282
Mr. D. Graham 2287
Ms. M. More 2293
Mr. Gerald Sampson 2295
Ms. M. Raymond 2297
Ms. J. Massey 2298
Mr. J. Pye 2300
Mr. R. MacKinnon 2304
Hon. Rodney MacDonald 2310
Vote - Affirmative 2311
No. 47, Council of Atlantic Premiers Act 2311
Hon. R. Russell 2311
Mr. Michel Samson 2313
Hon. R. Russell 2319
Vote - Affirmative 2319
No. 48, Education Act 2319
Hon. J. Muir 2319
Mr. W. Estabrooks 2321
Mr. S. McNeil 2333
Mr. G. Gosse 2335
Mr. R. MacKinnon 2338
Adjourned debate 2340
INTRODUCTION OF BILLS:
No. 57, Cemetery and Funeral Services Act, Hon. B. Barnet 2340
PUBLIC BILLS FOR SECOND READING:
No. 57, Cemetery and Funeral Services Act 2341
HOUSE RECESSED AT 5:52 P.M. 2342
HOUSE RECONVENED AT 6:01 P.M. 2342
ADJOURNMENT:
MOTION UNDER RULE 5(5):
Fin. - Tax Cuts: Vital Services - Effect:
Mr. D. Graham 2343
Hon. M. Baker 2345
Mr. G. Steele 2348
ADJOURNMENT, House rose to meet again on Wed., Apr. 21st at 2:00 p.m. 2351
NOTICES OF MOTION UNDER RULE 32(3):
Res. 971, Celebrating Women Comm. (Pictou Co.): Efforts -
Recognize, Mr. J. DeWolfe 2352
Res. 972, Sports: Thorburn Atom B Golden Hawks -
Hockey Championship, Mr. J. DeWolfe 2352
Res. 973, McIntyre, Ann & Tom: A&T Diner - Congrats.,
Mr. J. DeWolfe 2353
Res. 974, Crosby, Sidney: Success - Wish, Mr. B. Taylor 2353
Res. 975, Sports: East. Shore Mariners Atom AA Hockey Team -
Congrats., Mr. W. Dooks 2354
Res. 976, Jupiter Fdn. Ltd.: Contributions - Recognize, Mr. W. Dooks 2354
Res. 977, Down East Carpet Ctr.: Contributions - Recognize,
Mr. W. Dooks 2355
Res. 978, Budget Glass & Mirror: Contributions - Recognize,
Mr. W. Dooks 2355
Res. 979, Bernfield Kennels Ltd.: Contributions - Congrats.,
Mr. W. Dooks 2356
Res. 980, Aquaprime Mussel Ranch: Contributions - Congrats.,
Mr. W. Dooks 2356
Res. 981, Knol, Zack - Sportsmanship Award, The Speaker 2357
Res. 982, Springhill Highcrest Nursing Home: Community -
Commitment, The Speaker 2357
Res. 983, Bragg, Andrew: MVP - Congrats., The Speaker 2358

[Page 2231]

HALIFAX, TUESDAY, APRIL 20, 2004

Fifty-ninth General Assembly

First Session

12:00 NOON

SPEAKER

Hon. Murray Scott

DEPUTY SPEAKERS

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

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. Before we begin the daily routine, the subject for this evening's late debate was submitted by the honourable member for Cape Breton South:

Therefore be it resolved that the $147 million tax cut and $155 cheques means less money is available for vital services like health, education and transportation.

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

We will begin the daily routine.

PRESENTING AND READING PETITIONS

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Pictou West.

MR. CHARLES PARKER: Mr. Speaker, I beg leave to table a petition on behalf of several Pictou County residents who are concerned about the spot checks on motor vehicles. The operative clause is, "We the undersigned wish to protest the ongoing campaign called Operation Impact that unfairly targets rural residents." It has been signed by 55 Pictou County residents and I have affixed my signature as well.

2231

[Page 2232]

MR. SPEAKER: The petition is tabled.

PRESENTING REPORTS OF COMMITTEES

TABLING REPORTS, REGULATIONS AND OTHER PAPERS

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of Justice.

HON. MICHAEL BAKER: Mr. Speaker, in my capacity as Attorney General and pursuant to Section 51 of the Judicature Act, I hereby table amendments to the Civil Procedure Rules that were made pursuant to the Judicature Act by the Judges of the Nova Scotia Court of Appeal on November 17, 2003.

MR. SPEAKER: The document is tabled.

At this time I would like to table the Annual Report of the Nova Scotia Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Review Office for the period January 1, 2003 to December 31, 2003.

[The document is tabled.]

STATEMENTS BY MINISTERS

GOVERNMENT NOTICES OF MOTION

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of Finance.

RESOLUTION NO. 941

HON. PETER CHRISTIE: Mr. Speaker, I hereby give notice that on a future day I shall:

(1) read and table the message from Her Honour the Lieutenant Governor transmitting the Estimates of Sums required for the service of the province for the fiscal year ending March 31, 2005, for the consideration of this House;

(2) table the Estimate Books;

(3) table the Crown Corporation business plans;

(4) table the Estimate and Crown Corporation business plan resolutions;

(5) deliver my Budget Speech; and

[Page 2233]

(6) move that the Estimates of Sums required for the service of the province, for the fiscal year ending March 31, 2005, being Supply to be granted to Her Majesty, and the Crown Corporation business plans be referred to the Committee of the Whole House on Supply.

Mr. Speaker, for the information of the House, the budget will be presented on Thursday, April 22nd of this week. (Applause)

MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.

The honourable Minister of Education.

RESOLUTION NO. 942

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

Whereas during Education Week we give awards to honour teachers in our province, who educate young Nova Scotians and help shape our society; and

Whereas this year we gave an Education Week Partner Award to Marilyn Webster, a science teacher who works for the Department of Education, to develop curriculum and provide teacher professional development; and

Whereas teachers across the province applaud Marilyn's extensive knowledge and enthusiasm for making science fun for students and teachers alike, as well as her volunteer contribution to science fairs at the provincial and national levels;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House thank Marilyn for her service to Nova Scotia as a leader in science education.

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 2234]

The honourable Minister of Environment and Labour.

RESOLUTION NO. 943

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

Whereas Michael Hewitt has served for seven years as Chairman of the Occupational Health and Safety Appeal Panel; and

Whereas Mr. Hewitt was also the founding Chairman of the Occupational Health and Safety Appeal Panel when it began operating in 1997; and

Whereas Mr. Hewitt made a significant contribution to occupational health and safety in this province, not only through his work on the panel, but also as a facilitator for the Occupational Health and Safety Advisory Council, and as chairman of a working group on underground mining regulations;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House thank Mr. Hewitt for his years of valuable service and wish him all the best on his move to British Columbia.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable Minister of Service Nova Scotia and Municipal Relations.

RESOLUTION NO. 944

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

[Page 2235]

Whereas representatives from Service Nova Scotia and Municipal Relations, several municipalities, the Union of Nova Scotia Municipalities, and the Association of Municipal Administrators have developed a Web site template for municipalities to deliver Web-based information and services to their residents; and

Whereas the template will help municipalities build a functional, user-friendly Web site without investing a lot of time, money and resources to enable access to municipal and provincial services through the Internet more effectively; and

Whereas Nova Scotia continues to be in the forefront of providing e-services;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House congratulate representatives of the Nova Scotia Government, Nova Scotia e-Government Provincial/Municipal Joint Venture Group for developing the Web site template, which is an important step towards seamless e-government.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable Minister of Tourism, Culture and Heritage.

RESOLUTION NO. 945

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

Whereas a 13-part worldwide broadcast series deal has been signed between Halifax Arcadia Entertainment and National Geographic Channels International; and

Whereas this deal will see the series broadcast in 143 countries around the world on National Geographic channels in 25 different languages; and

[Page 2236]

Whereas the 13-part series will be finished by the end of 2004, and examines the world of technology and the world's vast oceans, including habitats found undersea and even the watery sound stages used for mega-pictures such as Pirates of the Caribbean;

Therefore be it resolved that the efforts of Halifax Arcadia Entertainment be recognized by all members, while recognizing the company's continued success.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable Minister of Community Services.

[12:15 p.m.]

HON. DAVID MORSE: Mr. Speaker, before I enter my resolution, I would like to beg your indulgence to introduce some friends we have here in the Legislature today. In the east gallery, we have students from Grade 11, Central Kings Rural High School, the new school which has just opened a new junior high wing. Although the Grade 11 students were not able to enjoy that, I'm sure that they're very pleased that their colleagues in Grades 7 to 9 are in a new wing. With them today would be their teacher, Jo-Leigh MacPhee, Stephanie Johnson and Gaye Weir, and 26 Grade 11 students from the beautiful Annapolis Valley, Central Kings Rural High School. Please rise and accept the warm greetings from the members of the House. (Applause)

MR. SPEAKER: We certainly welcome our special guests to the gallery today, and hope they enjoy the proceedings and their tour of the Legislature.

The honourable Minister of Community Services.

RESOLUTION NO. 946

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

[Page 2237]

Whereas the week of April 19th to 23rd is Foster Family Recruitment Week in Nova Scotia, and foster care resource teams are working across the province to raise awareness about the rewards of fostering a child or youth; and

Whereas in Nova Scotia, foster parents work as part of a team of professionals who ensure that the children and youth receive the love and support they need; and

Whereas Nova Scotia is committed to attracting and training caring families who can help children and youth, and Nova Scotia has made great strides in recruiting and retaining foster parents in recent years, with significant success;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House commend Nova Scotia's existing foster families and encourage more families to open their hearts and homes to children in need.

Mr. Speaker, I would ask for 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. 53 - Entitled an Act to Amend Chapter 4 of the Acts of 1994-95. The Gaming Control Act. (Mr. Stephen McNeil)

Bill No. 54 - Entitled an Act to Amend Chapter 35 of the Acts of 1881. An Act to Incorporate Saint Peter's Evangelical Lutheran Church, of Chester, Lunenburg County. (Mr. John Chataway)

Bill No. 55 - Entitled an Act to Authorize the Municipality of the District of Chester to Provide a Retiring Allowance for Barry Lenihan. (Mr. John Chataway)

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

The honourable member for Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley.

[Page 2238]

MR. BROOKE TAYLOR: Mr. Speaker, if I could, I'd like to, through you, make an introduction before I introduce this bill. In your gallery, I would like to introduce a member who has given his lifetime to the Nova Scotia Federation of Anglers and Hunters and erstwhile the Nova Scotia Wildlife Federation. For 15 years, Tony Rogers has been the Executive Director of the Federation, and I'd ask Tony to rise and receive a warm welcome from the House. (Applause)

Bill No. 56 - Entitled An Act to Amend Chapter 148 of the Acts of 1930. An Act to Incorporate the Nova Scotia Fish and Game Protective Association and County or District Fish and Game Associations. (Mr. Brooke Taylor)

MR. SPEAKER: Ordered that this bill be read a second time on a future day.

NOTICES OF MOTION

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

RESOLUTION NO. 947

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

Whereas the legendary Montreal Canadiens last evening eliminated the Boston Bruins in another historic struggle between those two Original Six NHL teams; and

Whereas there are many more knowledgeable hockey fans across this province other than the MLA for Timberlea-Prospect; and

Whereas among these hockey experts are included, Laura and Mike Boutilier, Pat White, Bryan Feetham, Ron Shanks, Dennis Doyle, the MLAs for Cape Breton Centre, Sackville-Cobequid, Inverness, Lunenburg West, et cetera, and the very own and very hockey wise member for Pictou Centre, our Premier;

Therefore be it resolved that the Nova Scotia Legislature congratulate the fans of the Montreal Canadiens on their victory over the Bruins, with best wishes in their pursuit of another Stanley Cup.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

[Page 2239]

I hear a No.

The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Cape Breton West.

RESOLUTION NO. 948

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

Whereas Nova Scotia's youth are our trustees to tomorrow's prosperity; and

Whereas the unemployment for Nova Scotia's youth is twice the provincial rate of unemployment; and

Whereas three out of four young Nova Scotians refuse to vote because of a sense of apathy;

Therefore be it resolved that the provincial government develop a long-term comprehensive employment strategy for Nova Scotia's youth.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley.

RESOLUTION NO. 949

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

Whereas Nova Scotia's approximately 850 beef farmers and thousands of woodlot owners have experienced a year like no other in their resource-based history; and

[Page 2240]

Whereas the BSE catastrophe and Hurricane Juan placed enormous financial and emotional strains upon not only the beef farmers and their families, but woodlot owners and their families as well; and

Whereas this financial burden could be alleviated dramatically if individuals impacted could be shown a form of tax relief, whether it is allowing them to submit their tax returns a number of months late this year, once they finally know their true financial position, or even a one-year tax hiatus to relieve their suffering and uncertainty;

Therefore be it resolved that the Speaker write and submit this resolution to the Prime Minister and Canada's Minister of National Revenue for their consideration and hopeful approval.

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. 950

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

Whereas Cole Harbour District High School has a long tradition of success in high school athletics in Nova Scotia, in particular with regard to wrestling; and

Whereas the Cole Harbour District High School wrestling team has won the provincial senior championship the previous three years; and

Whereas the Cole Harbour District High School wrestling team was again successful in the provincial championships in 2004, winning the senior boys championship for the fourth straight year, and the senior girls and intermediate boys were runners-up;

[Page 2241]

Therefore be it resolved that this House congratulate the Cole Harbour District High School wrestling team and, in particular, coaches Sean Kent, Darrell Dempster, TJ Grant and Bo Gay and the team members, especially those who won gold medals at the provincial championships: Brandon Benjamin, Chris Vining, Ryan McKeough, Kyle Corbett, Kyle Scott, Mike Toulany, Ian Grant, Melissa Ashton, Janine Publicover, Cheryse MacDonald and Patricia White.

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 West.

RESOLUTION NO. 951

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

Whereas the story of the Kings Mutual Insurance Company is more than just that of a successful corporation, it reflects the social, agricultural, and municipal development of Nova Scotia over the past 100 years; and

Whereas the company had its roots in the orchards of South Berwick at the start of the 20th Century, when a group of farmers began looking for affordable insurance to protect themselves from financial ruin through loss of property or livestock; and

Whereas those concerned farmers and those who joined them and followed them over the ensuing century were not concerned only about their own livelihoods, they were and are dedicated, community-minded citizens with a deep commitment to the principle that sparked the formation of the company, and which stands as its motto: Neighbour Helping Neighbour;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House congratulate and commend this Annapolis Valley company on the occasion of their 100th Anniversary.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

[Page 2242]

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 Guysborough-Sheet Harbour

RESOLUTION NO. 952

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

Whereas in 2001, our Premier launched on behalf of Nova Scotians, the Campaign for Fairness, calling on Ottawa to recognize agreements with the province dating to the 1980s that say Nova Scotia should be the main beneficiary of offshore royalties; and

Whereas the major issue is that for every dollar in royalty revenues, our province loses 70 cents due to a clawback on equalization payments; and

Whereas in its February budget, the federal government took its first financial step to acknowledging the right of Nova Scotians to have a greater claim to their offshore resources by resetting the clawback to 2000-01, when the Sable Gas project started rolling;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House applaud this positive first step taken by the federal government and urge them to fulfill the commitments made to the people of Nova Scotia under the Canada-Nova Scotia Offshore Accord.

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 2243]

The honourable member for Hants East.

RESOLUTION NO. 953

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

Whereas the 128th Westminster Kennel Club Show took place in New York in February; and

Whereas 2,624 dogs participated in the two -day show at Madison Square Garden; and

Whereas 2004 marked the first showing at Westminster for the Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever, which is a newly recognized breed in the United States;

Therefore be it resolved that this House congratulate the dedicated Nova Scotia dog owners and breeders who maintained the Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever and worked to gain wide recognition of our province's official dog.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Victoria-The Lakes.

RESOLUTION NO. 954

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

Whereas volunteer fire departments are an integral part of the emergency response system of Nova Scotia; and

[Page 2244]

Whereas volunteer firefighters have a long and proud history of protecting and serving the communities in which they live; and

Whereas volunteer firefighters train on their own time and at their own expense, saving the taxpayers of Nova Scotia millions of dollars;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House honour the 14 volunteer fire departments in Victoria-The Lakes, and indeed all volunteer fire departments in the province;

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

[12:30 p.m.]

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Chester-St. Margaret's.

RESOLUTION NO. 955

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

Whereas the Government of Lebanon, as a way of recognizing the various contributions made by Lebanese people worldwide, established the Day of the Lebanese Emigrant; and

Whereas I recently had the pleasure of attending the Lebanese Emigrants Day ceremonies 2004 in Nova Scotia; and

Whereas remarks offered by the President of the Canadian Lebanon Society of Halifax Youssef Faddoul stated, "the Lebanese have been most fortunate to have Canada as our adopted home, because it meant living in a nation where everyone's heritage is respected and voiced, and that Canada was a place of dreams with a positive outlook for the future";

[Page 2245]

Therefore be it resolved that MLAs congratulate the Canadian Lebanon Society of Halifax on their annual awards and information day and wish them continued success.

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. 956

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

Whereas Tyler Richards, a forward for St. Pat's High School Provincial Champion Division 1 Boys' Basketball team, was recently the only player selected in Atlantic Canada to be on the all-Canadian Division 1 Boys' Basketball team; and

Whereas Tyler will be competing in Toronto on May 5th; and

Whereas St. Pat's High School Division 1 Boys' Basketball coach, Irvine Carvery was also selected as an all-star Division 1 boys' team coach;

Therefore be it resolved that this House extend our congratulations to both Tyler Richards and to Irvine Carvery on their selection for national recognition and wish them both all the best in Toronto on May 5th and in their future endeavours in basketball.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

[Page 2246]

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Digby-Annapolis.

RESOLUTION NO. 957

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

Whereas Digby Regional High School's Envirothon team recently competed in the qualifier for the Canon International Envirothon held in Tatamagouche; and

Whereas this year's competition focused on natural resources management in an urban environment, and had team members Shawn Oliver, Molly Warner, Keigh D'Eon and Jill Balser coming up with solutions for soil management, forestry, aquatics and wildlife; and

Whereas this year's team placed first in the aquatics section, second in forestry, and third in wildlife, with an overall third place finish;

Therefore be it resolved that members of this House congratulate the Envirothon team for Digby Regional High School.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Shelburne.

RESOLUTION NO. 958

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

[Page 2247]

Whereas a three-goal performance from Shannon Smith paced the Shelburne County Bantam A Flames to a 5 to 1 win over Port Hood, Inverness County in the 2003-04 Nova Scotia Bantam A Hockey Championship at a tournament in Bedford over the March break; and

Whereas the provincial title for the Shelburne Bantam Flames was their fourth in six years; and

Whereas the Flames, showing the example of an excellent championship hockey club, limited Port Hood to only four shots on goal in the final period;

Therefore be it resolved that MLAs applaud the efforts of coach Andrew Holland and the Shelburne County Bantam A Flames for winning their Nova Scotia hockey title and wish them continued success both on and off the ice.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Pictou West.

RESOLUTION NO. 959

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

Whereas the River John Winter Carnival, held in February, hosted the first Good Ole Hockey Game Tournament; and

Whereas hundreds of people spent hours watching the outdoor fun from lawn chairs, picnic tables and snowbanks on the pond behind the River John Legion; and

Whereas five mixed teams of men, women and children competed for the village trophy;

[Page 2248]

Therefore be it resolved that this Nova Scotia Legislature congratulate the organizers of the River John Winter Carnival for keeping alive our rich hockey heritage and bringing back some good old-fashioned fun.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Glace Bay.

RESOLUTION NO. 960

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

Whereas April 19th to April 23rd is National Medical Laboratory Week; and

Whereas medical laboratory technologists play an integral role in our health care system by working with other health care professionals to provide effective patient care; and

Whereas, yesterday, medical lab technologists held an open house at the Cape Breton Regional Hospital to celebrate this week and to inform both the public and young people of the vital role medical lab technologists play in our health care system;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House recognize medical lab technologists throughout this province for the vital role they play in every aspect of health care and extend our best wishes to all of them during this National Medical Laboratory Week and in all the times ahead.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

[Page 2249]

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Colchester North.

RESOLUTION NO. 961

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

Whereas the Turks and Caicos is a Caribbean treasure consisting of 40 islands and a population of almost 19,000 people that is currently governed as a British territory; and

Whereas the Government of the Turks and Caicos has expressed an interest in joining Canada; and

Whereas the Province of Nova Scotia has a long and proud history of conducting trade with the Caribbean;

Therefore be it resolved that the Government of Nova Scotia initiate discussions with the Turks and Caicos to become part of the Province of Nova Scotia and encourage the Government of Canada to welcome the Turks and Caicos as part of our country.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Dartmouth South-Portland Valley.

RESOLUTION NO. 962

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

Whereas the Duke of Edinburgh's Award is a program of activities to challenge Canadian youth to become involved in worthwhile extracurricular activities; and

Whereas these activities encourage youth between the ages of 14 and 25 to excel in community service and personal growth and development; and

[Page 2250]

Whereas a student from Prince Arthur Junior High, currently attending Dartmouth Senior High, was recently presented with his Bronze Award;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of the Nova Scotia Legislature congratulate Chris Saulnier for earning his Duke of Edinburgh's Bronze Award and wish him success in his future endeavours.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Preston.

RESOLUTION NO. 963

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

Whereas since 1977, the Black Cultural Centre for Nova Scotia has served as an educational centre and museum for Nova Scotians, recognizing the achievements of African Nova Scotians; and

Whereas on March 20, 2004, the Black Cultural Centre for Nova Scotia honoured Halifax Regional Police Officers of African heritage; and

Whereas the Halifax Regional Police Wall of Recognition was created to acknowledge their contribution to our community, and Constable Robbie Baird's name has been added to the wall;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House congratulate Constable Robbie Baird and honour his service to our community.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

[Page 2251]

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Shelburne.

RESOLUTION NO. 964

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 Centreville, Shelburne County native Michael Blades has been named to the All-American Junior Skeet Team after winning the World Junior 12 Gauge Skeet Championships in Massachusetts last summer; and

Whereas Michael, who is just completing his first year of business administration studies at Acadia University, is the son of Brian and Bonnie Blades; and

Whereas Michael defeated 110 other competitors in the 12-gauge competition and hopes to compete once again in the World Junior Championships scheduled this summer in Houston, Texas;

Therefore be it resolved that MLAs commend Michael Blades for his outstanding accomplishment on winning a world title, while wishing him continued success and the best of luck in defending his title in Texas this summer.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

[Page 2252]

The honourable member for Dartmouth North.

RESOLUTION NO. 965

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

Whereas there are 65 Nova Scotians afflicted with a serious metabolic storage disorder known as Fabry's disease; and

Whereas this disease causes severe pain and deterioration of the kidney, heart, brain and nervous system, thereby causing persons with the disease to endure emotional and physical suffering that ultimately ends in premature death; and

Whereas the enzyme replacement therapy needed to allow persons with Fabry's disease to experience dramatic improvement in their health and quality of life costs approximately $250,000 per person per year, which they cannot afford;

Therefore be it resolved that the Nova Scotia Government recognize the importance of providing health care to all Nova Scotians and make a decision regarding the funding of enzyme replacement therapy.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

I hear a No.

The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Kings West.

RESOLUTION NO. 966

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

Whereas in his speech at the most recent annual general meeting of the Progressive Conservative Party of Nova Scotia, the Premier made a commitment to ensure increased use of Nova Scotia beef in Nova Scotia's public institutions; and

[Page 2253]

Whereas small independent operations such as the one owned by Glenn Bowlby, a fourth-generation independent slaughterhouse owner in the Greenwood area, require immediate assistance in order to be able to capitalize on this business opportunity;

Therefore be it resolved that the Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries meet with the independent slaughterhouse owners to determine what specific support is needed, and that the minister commit to provide all possible support to ensure these business owners are able to meet the present business demand.

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 Pictou East.

RESOLUTION NO. 967

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

Whereas the 2004 KPMG International Business Cost Study Analysis shows Pictou County as the most cost-effective place to do business anywhere in Canada, and possibly even the world; and

Whereas the analysis compared the cost of doing business in 121 cities and urban centres in 11 countries; and

Whereas the average cost to do business in Pictou County was 15 per cent better than any of the other centres, while also making it the most cost-effective of 39 Canadian centres included in the study;

Therefore be it resolved that the Pictou County Chamber of Commerce, in crediting the local workforce and employers for making themselves cost competitive, MLAs applaud workers and businesses across Pictou County for their outstanding score and being able to stand on the world stage proudly.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

[Page 2254]

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Cape Breton Nova.

RESOLUTION NO. 968

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

Whereas in the Cape Breton Regional Municipality, Monday, April 19, 2004, in conjunction with National Volunteer Week, Volunteer Spirit Day was celebrated; and

Whereas the volunteer flag was raised and a human chain of volunteers was formed, signifying the commencement of this week of celebration; and

Whereas we remember our volunteers, the heart of our community;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this Legislative Assembly congratulate the sponsors of this event, the Cape Breton Volunteer Network Initiative, the Volunteer Resource Centre, and the Cape Breton Regional Municipality Recreation Department for their efforts in honouring the dedicated, hard-working volunteers of our community.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable Leader of the Official Opposition.

[Page 2255]

RESOLUTION NO. 969

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 Westphal-Cole Harbour Firefighters Association is hosting its annual banquet and awards night on Saturday, April 24th; and

Whereas the Westphal-Cole Harbour Firefighters Association is renowned for its many brave members who risk life and limb to serve and protect the residents and the communities in the area and beyond; and

Whereas the evening will honour veterans Ron LeRue and Bob Pattison, who have served tirelessly with distinction during their 25-year careers;

Therefore be it resolved that members of the House join me in extending congratulations to Westphal-Cole Harbour Firefighters Ron LeRue and Bob Pattison for their perseverance and commitment to duty and to the community they serve.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable Minister of Tourism, Culture and Heritage on an introduction.

HON. RODNEY MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, I would like to draw the attention of the members to the east gallery. I would like to bring to their attention that we have Mary Jessie MacDonald from the Nova Scotia School Board Association who is also from Inverness County. I would ask Mary Jessie to rise and receive the warm welcome of the House. Welcome. (Applause)

[12:45 p.m.]

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

[Page 2256]

The honourable Leader of the Official Opposition on your resolution.

RESOLUTION NO. 970

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 Westphal-Cole Harbour Firefighters Association is hosting its annual banquet and awards night on Saturday, April 24th; and

Whereas the Westphal-Cole Harbour Firefighters Association is renowned for its many brave members who risk limb and life to serve and protect the residents in communities in the area and beyond; and

Whereas the evening will honour veterans Allan Ball and Roger Bourque who have served tirelessly with distinction during their 10-year careers;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of the House join me in extending congratulations to Westphal-Cole Harbour firefighters Allan Ball and Roger Bourque for their perseverance and commitment to duty and to the community they serve.

Mr. Speaker, I would ask for waiver.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

ORDERS OF THE DAY

ORAL QUESTIONS PUT BY MEMBERS

MR. SPEAKER: Question Period will begin at 12:47 p.m. and end at 1:47 p.m.

The honourable Leader of the Official Opposition.

[Page 2257]

FIN.: TAX FRAUD - PROBLEM ADDRESS

MR. DARRELL DEXTER: Mr. Speaker, the Premier has gone to great lengths to convince Nova Scotians that his government has a revenue problem. He's blamed it on just about everything from SARS, mad cow, Hurricane Juan, White Juan and you know, it's just about everybody's fault but their own. When the previous Liberal Government imposed the unfair HST, they disbanded the sales tax enforcement unit following the lead of the federal Liberals who had shut down the GST enforcement unit. Last summer the Premier denied that there was a problem with HST fraud, despite the lack of enforcement and in this House his ministers have also denied the problem. My question is this, when does this government intend to do something about the growing problem of revenue lost due to tax fraud?

HON. JOHN HAMM (The Premier): Mr. Speaker, that is a good question. I'm referring it to the Minister of Finance.

HON. PETER CHRISTIE: Mr. Speaker, the honourable member did raise that issue last year. As the honourable member knows and as I indicated last year, the Minister of National Revenue for the federal government has been having some discussions with the provinces to take a national approach to this. It is a significant problem. In some parts of the country it's greater than others. We all know that there are revenue losses and we have to deal with it but we believe that it's best dealt with on a national basis.

MR. DEXTER: Mr. Speaker, the Hamm Government sits by despite the existence of organized, large-scale fraud to evade payment of sales tax. Recent published estimates put the underground economy at a staggering $4 billion in Nova Scotia alone. The Progressive Conservative Government created a special enforcement squad to take away the life savings of seniors - what will it take for this Premier and his government to take and to make the same concerted effort to enforce the payment of HST as they have been doing to seniors and their families for long-term care?

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

MR. CHRISTIE: Mr. Speaker, as I indicated, as we start looking at that issue, we view it in a national context. However, we have been looking at certain areas of that. As the member indicates, areas of the government have been strengthened to look at reserving some of those. I certainly agree with the honourable member - there's a long way to go and it's one of the challenges that we have to meet.

MR. DEXTER: Other provinces with blended sales taxes aren't sitting on their hands. They're taking action. I want to table figures showing that since 1996, Quebec has been fighting the underground economy and for every dollar they have invested for sales tax enforcement, the Quebec Government have received more than $23 back. That is both a solid return and the kind of protection and enforcement that all taxpayers deserve. When will the

[Page 2258]

government move to protect taxpayers from the big-time fraud schemes; when will they move to gain revenue and protect businesses that obey the law by cracking down on massive HST fraud?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, I share the concern of the member opposite, the Leader of the Official Opposition. There is HST fraud going on, and it is a constant challenge for government to put in place the appropriate safeguards to protect law-abiding citizens, who are anteing up with the difference. The Minister of Finance has acknowledged, as well, his appreciation of the problem. Government will work, as it has worked in the past, to continue to provide assurances and the safeguards that will promote all Nova Scotians paying their legitimate share of taxes.

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

TREASURY & POLICY BD.:

OPPOSITION PARTIES - ADVERTISING POLICIES

MR. MANNING MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, my question today is to the Minister responsible for the Treasury and Policy Board. Recently the NDP caucus sent a glossy brochure to every household in Nova Scotia. It is clear to anyone who has seen the brochure that it is nothing more than campaign-style political literature; in fact, it is nothing more than a classic push poll with two leading questions. The Leader of the NDP has publicly confirmed that the production and distribution of this brochure was paid for out of the NDP's caucus office budget. We are all well aware that public funds provided to run our Opposition offices are intended to be used for salaries and administration - legitimate Opposition expenses, not political advertising.

On that point, I am tabling here today a sampling of the press releases issued by the NDP over the past four years, criticizing the government for using public funds for political advertising. The headline is NDP ACCUSATIONS OF POLITICAL SPENDING. One quote, from the former member, John Holm: "We have a province with a $500 million deficit and the Tory Party is charging taxpayers for public opinion polling." My question to the minister is, what policies are in place to ensure that public funds provided to the Opposition Parties are not used for political advertising?

HON. MICHAEL BAKER: Mr. Speaker, I, like the honourable member, share his concern about the brochures in question and about the questions that have arisen around the propriety of those brochures being done at the taxpayers' expense. I can indicate to the honourable member, as he's aware, that the Office of the Speaker ordinarily reviews matters of correspondence and brochures in many cases and determines whether those expenditures are proper. That is ordinarily the process that is used in determining whether things are proper expenses.

[Page 2259]

MR. MANNING MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, my first supplementary. As we all know, the Speaker's Office never did approve this expenditure. I want to ask my question of the minister, because in excess of $90,000 of taxpayers' money was used to produce and distribute this political campaign brochure for the NDP - given the fact that the Speaker's Office never did approve this, what steps will the minister take to investigate the use of public funds by the NDP?

MR. BAKER: Mr. Speaker, I thank the honourable member for the question. As you're aware, the Office of the Speaker, Administration, is reviewing the matter and is reviewing the expenditure to determine what the rules are and what the practices have been with respect to the House in the past, with respect to similar expenditures. I expect that the Speaker's Office will continue their review of the matter.

MR. MANNING MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, it's obvious procedures were not followed in this case, and someone in Communications Nova Scotia cut a cheque for this political brochure that went out by the NDP. My final supplementary to the minister is, will the minister demand that the NDP repay this money to the public purse?

MR. BAKER: Mr. Speaker, I would refer the matter to the Minister responsible for Communications Nova Scotia.

HON. ERNEST FAGE: Mr. Speaker, when I learned that this situation had occurred, the first thing, in co-operation with the Speaker's Office, that we began was a review of the procedure and the document trail of how the brochure was commissioned, and currently the acting Director of Communications Nova Scotia is reviewing the facts of the situation, how that request was made and how the tender came about, and as well, the Director of Procurement is doing the same analysis in that department to ascertain the facts on the situation.

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

EDUC.: FUNDING - CLARIFICATION

MR. DARRELL DEXTER: Mr. Speaker, yesterday, the Minister of Education sent out a news release entitled, "More Money for Universities and Libraries", announcing, "Universities received $8 million in additional operating funds on March 31." It seems the government got the headline they wanted, I guess it's too bad they didn't tell Nova Scotians the truth.

There is not, as the government claims, an additional $8 million in the university system today, because the government is working from the 2002-03, budget year. This means that there is only $2 million more in universities than at this time last year. That is a whopping

[Page 2260]

1 per cent. My question for the Premier is, why does the government insist on misleading Nova Scotians about education funding?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, the member opposite is quite right, the $8 million represents $6 million being restored to bring the amount up to last year's level, and the actual increase was $2 million, which is a 1per cent increase.

MR. DEXTER: Mr. Speaker, universities' administrators know the truth and they can separate government fact from fiction. Last fall universities were forced to give back a million dollars as the government scrambled to make up for the $155 rebate cheques, and now they are being asked to make due with the 1 per cent increase. Worse still, the Minister of Education is making the incredible claim that this paltry increase will help limit tuition increases. I wonder if he's taking the time to ask for student's opinion on that. How does the government expect the universities in Nova Scotia to continue to offer high-quality education, when they are continually starved for funding?

HON. JAMES MUIR: Mr. Speaker, universities in Nova Scotia offer extremely high-quality education, indeed the university system that we have in this province is probably the best in the country, if you take all the institutions together.

Like the honourable member, I, too, am concerned about the rising costs of university education, indeed, the rising cost of higher education, whether it takes place in a university setting or a community college setting. What I can tell the honourable member is, and it's well documented, that the commitment to that this government has made over its term in office to higher education has been unequaled in the history of our province.

MR. DEXTER: Mr. Speaker, Nova Scotia's university sector is plagued with sick buildings, with massive annual tuition increases, little provincial investment in research and a government that treats it with contempt. Since 1999, this government has cut the loan remission program, clawed back millennium scholarship funding, frozen operating grants, cut capital grants and pushed our system from publically financed to publically assisted. My question is this, what will it take for this government to see that a real meaningful investment in higher education is an investment in our province's future, not just a budget expenditure?

MR. MUIR: Mr. Speaker, I don't think there is a person in our province who knows about higher education that would not stand up and endorse the $123 million commitment this province made to higher education through its upcoming investment in the Nova Scotia Community College.

[Page 2261]

[1:00 p.m.]

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Preston.

CNS: NDP BROCHURE - TENDERING PROCEDURES

MR. KEITH COLWELL: Mr. Speaker, my question is to the Minister responsible for Communications Nova Scotia. As has just been explained by my colleague, the member for Cape Breton South, the NDP recently sent a political brochure to every household in Nova Scotia at the taxpayers' expense. The Leader of the NDP publicly stated that the expenditure was approved and paid for through the NDP caucus office budget. We are well aware of the restrictions on the use of public funds provided to run our Opposition offices. That is why the NDP went through the office of Communications Nova Scotia to accomplish what they knew they could not do through the Speaker's Office. My question to the minister is, was the minister aware that the NDP used Communications Nova Scotia to do an end run around the proper process?

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. The question is out of order. It is imputing motives. (Interruptions) Order, please. I will allow the honourable member to rephrase the question, please.

MR. COLWELL: What part was out of order? The whole thing?

MR. SPEAKER: Well, there are actually two parts. (Interruptions)

MR. COLWELL: The first part was all right.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. The honourable member for Preston on the question, please.

MR. COLWELL: Okay, I will go to the next question. Mr. Speaker, as you understand today, Communications Nova Scotia approved a bill payment totalling in excess of $90,000 of taxpayers' money to provide and distribute a campaign-style brochure for the NDP. My question to the minister again is, what steps will the minister take to investigate this gross misappropriation of funds by the NDP, aided by Communications Nova Scotia?

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. (Interruptions) Order, please. The question itself is bringing into question the credibility of members or a collection of members in the House and it is not permitted. I offer the member one last question of the Minister responsible for Communications Nova Scotia.

[Page 2262]

MR. COLWELL: I will try this again. Mr. Speaker, the NDP claim that proper tendering procedures were followed by Communications Nova Scotia to have the brochure produced and distributed. My question to the minister is, will the minister undertake an investigation as to the appropriateness of the tender process used in this instance and report this back to the House?

HON. ERNEST FAGE: Mr. Speaker, I thank the honourable member for his question because certainly it is a very serious question and there need to be very direct answers and an open process. I can assure all members of the House that this situation only came to my attention as minister responsible in the last week. I certainly have initiated a total review of the procedure that was followed with Communications Nova Scotia as well as the procurement department of Economic Development which did the actual tendering in this process. Certainly, we are turning over the facts as they are reported to us to the Speaker's Office but I certainly do intend to take the undertaking to, once that is complete, report those findings to the House as well as to the people of Nova Scotia.

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

HEALTH: QUEENS GEN. HOSP. - SURGICAL SERVICES

MR. DARRELL DEXTER: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Health. Queens General Hospital in Liverpool is in danger of losing its surgical services due to a loss of an anaesthesiologist and the near retirement ages of the remaining three anaesthesiologists. The district health authority is looking for a replacement physician but as we all know, recruiting doctors to rural communities is challenging at best. So my question for the minister is, how will the new chief health human resources officer help the Queens General Hospital with this immediate, pressing need?

HON. ANGUS MACISAAC: Mr. Speaker, the new officer to which the honourable member referred, of course, will help us better prepare for the situation which he has just described, not only prepare for it but put us in a position to be better able to respond to those circumstances when they arise. In the interim, he will work very closely with the district health authority to assist in their finding a replacement.

MR. DEXTER: Mr. Speaker, the South Shore Regional Hospital is running at over 100 per cent capacity and the loss of services at the Queens' General Hospital will only add to the problem. Doctors will come to rural communities if they have the necessary supports. They need less on call and cross-coverage responsibilities. They also need to be able to upgrade their skills and develop specialties. Young physicians need ongoing support and orientation as their careers progress.

Mr. Speaker, I ask the Minister of Health, where are these supports to assist the district health authorities to recruit medical professionals to their rural communities?

[Page 2263]

MR. MACISAAC: Mr. Speaker, we continue to work with the district health authorities and I can tell the honourable member and I can tell the House that the Cumberland District Health Authority has recently had tremendous success, as you would know, sir, in recruiting additional surgeons and an anaesthesiologist. So we do work with the district health authorities and we will continue to work with them and we will get the kind of successes that Cumberland has received in this province.

MR. DEXTER: Mr. Speaker, long ago doctors in this province were promised alternative funding arrangements, some pilot projects in rural communities were cancelled and the key element preventing alternative funding from becoming a reality is the necessary funding. So my question to the Minister of Health, you can't undertake health reform without the necessary funding, when will your government provide adequate financial support to keep services at rural hospitals?

MR. MACISAAC: Mr. Speaker, I can say to the honourable member and to you and to members of the House that we are continuing to support the district health authorities with additional funding year over year. We absorbed the additional costs associated with delivering those services and we're going to continue working with them. Their budgets increase on an annual basis. The only province in Canada that provides that level of support to the district health authorities and we will continue to provide that level of support and will continue to ensure that the people of this province are well served by their health authorities.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Glace Bay.

SERV. N.S. & MUN. REL.:

FOREST HAVEN CEMETERY - DELAY EXPLAIN

MR. DAVID WILSON (Glace Bay): Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister for Service Nova Scotia and Municipal Relations. We're all too familiar with how this government ignores Cape Breton but this is a rather tragic tale. In February of this year, the government was made aware of the situation at Forest Haven cemetery. This past weekend a tragic situation occurred that proves just how callous this government can be. Twelve bodies and caskets have been on the floor of a shed at that cemetery since February 20th and just a few days ago the shed was vandalized and broken into. There are at least 12 other bodies in funeral homes around Cape Breton awaiting burial at Forest Haven; it was a cemetery that conducted winter burials. I understand the minister will introduce a bill later this afternoon concerning this situation. I am just wondering why has the government waited so long to do something about this very tragic situation?

HON. BARRY BARNET: Mr. Speaker, in February of this year our staff travelled to Newfoundland to meet with administrators of the company involved to ensure that Nova Scotians' assets would be protected and that the remains of their loved ones would be dealt with in a dignified manner. At that time we were assured by administrators of the company

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that that would happen. We are now increasingly becoming more concerned about the fact that that may not happen in the way that we expect and those families expect it to happen. So that's why we intend to introduce legislation as quick as possible to ensure that those remains are dealt with in a dignified manner.

MR. DAVID WILSON (Glace Bay): Mr. Speaker, those remains have been sitting there on the floor of this tool shed for far too long. The minister is right, this is a matter of dignity. Those remains deserve the respect of this government and they deserve the utmost attention. I note that it is an offence under Section 182 of the Criminal Code to mistreat human remains. So my first supplementary is for the Minister of Justice. Why has it taken so long for this government to take any measures when there could be a violation of that section of the Criminal Code?

HON. MICHAEL BAKER: Thank you very much for the question. I would indicate that, as the member would know, the duty to investigate criminal offences is with the police and I will refer the matter to the Minister of Service Nova Scotia and Municipal Relations.

MR. BARNET: Mr. Speaker, we're unaware of any circumstance that involves an offence like the member spoke about. I know the police have been involved in an investigation and they're not aware of it either.

MR. DAVID WILSON (Glace Bay): Mr. Speaker, I don't know how you couldn't be aware of it - this story has been going on for months. This story has been in the media. This story has been in the papers. The minister's department is fully aware of it because staff at that department made press releases about this situation. These are bodies that are being stored on the floor of a tool shed like they were a carton of tools. It's a matter of dignity and respect for those remains. At the very least, this government has to show those remains respect, and the family of those deceased as well. They should be cognizant of the public health implications as well.

So my final supplementary question then is to the Minister of Health. Upon hearing all of this news, what actions are you going to take, Mr. Minister, to minimize what is now a public health risk as a result of what is happening at Forest Haven cemetery?

HON. ANGUS MACISAAC: Mr. Speaker, we are working very closely with the Minister of Service Nova Scotia and Municipal Relations to ensure that this matter is resolved in an appropriate manner.

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

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COMMUN. SERV.: COMMUN. SUPPORTS FOR ADULTS PROG. - CONSULTATION

MS. MARILYN MORE: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Community Services. In 2002, the Department of Community Services launched a renewal of its Community Supports for Adults program. This program affects thousands of mentally ill, developmentally challenged and physically challenged adults across the province. Therefore, any changes to the program will have a major impact not only on the clients of the program but on their families, family caregivers and service providers. My question for the Minister of Community Services is, how many groups and individuals were consulted by the steering committee in developing this discussion paper?

HON. DAVID MORSE: Mr. Speaker, to give an exact number would be difficult but I am glad that the honourable member brings up the consultation process because I can assure the honourable member that it was extensive. It included clients, their families, service providers, advocacy organizations, staff - everybody was invited to come in and contribute to the process. It was a very positive process and we're very pleased that the discussion paper is out there and we're taking note of the comments that are coming back thus far and we're pleased with the response thus far.

MS. MORE: Mr. Speaker, in March, this discussion paper on the future of the Community Supports for Adults program was released and the public was invited to respond to the recommendations in the report. However, the May 14th deadline for submissions isn't adequate to allow groups to consult members and disseminate the report to as many clients, families and service providers as possible. Groups have indicated that they would like that deadline extended to October 31st to ensure interested persons or groups can respond to this very important paper. My question to the minister is, will his department extend the deadline for responding to the discussion paper?

MR. MORSE: Mr. Speaker, I want to assure the member opposite that we want to make sure that there's adequate time to accommodate all the people that would like to respond. We will make sure that is so.

MS. MORE: Mr. Speaker, I'm not sure if that's a yes or a no. In addition to extending the deadline, groups have indicated that many of the clients' families and service providers with important perspectives on community supports for adults would find making a written submission difficult. My final question to the minister is, will your department also set up town hall meetings across the province to allow all Nova Scotians who wish to comment to have their voices heard?

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[1:15 p.m.]

MR. MORSE: Mr. Speaker, in fact, one of the avenues that we used to gather input for this discussion paper was to go out with focus groups which would encourage that sort of discussion. Also we were looking outside of the Province of Nova Scotia. We went to other provinces to see what was happening there. It is fluid right across the country what's happening with the community supports for adults programs and we are also looking at best practices. So, in fact, I would suggest that that opportunity has already been provided as we came up to releasing the discussion paper.

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

EMO: DISASTER RELIEF CLAIMS - DOCUMENTATION

MR. HAROLD THERIAULT: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister responsible for the Emergency Measures Act. On March 4th the federal government announced $8 million in advance funding for damages from last Spring's flooding and from Hurricane Juan. The EMO Minister claimed at the time that he had submitted expenses in excess of $20 million. This morning we learned from the media reports that what the minister submitted was at the very least disorganized and, at worst, misleading. He provided little, if any, proof of many of these supposed expenses and the auditors were unable to find anything to back them up. My question is, would the minister please tell this House why he allowed claims for disaster relief to be sent to the federal government without the appropriate documentation?

HON. ERNEST FAGE: Mr. Speaker, it's a very good question because what the federal government asked us under their program last fall was if we would want an advance payment here in Nova Scotia. So we replied as a province in the affirmative because of the large scale of devastation from Hurricane Juan. The federal government asked us to send in estimates, not finite bills, on that particular Hurricane Juan. We responded with the estimates so that they would trigger an advance payment. The number that was requested and had been agreed upon was $10 million on $25 million worth of receipts. As normal with the federal government, it was six months late and only half of what had been agreed upon. So the comments in regard to the detailed expenditures, they request them on a case-by-case basis when the accounting is done and we are supplying them to them.

MR. THERIAULT: Mr. Speaker, the issue of compensation is very important to thousands of Nova Scotians who were hurt by natural disasters in 2003. Will the minister please tell the House who prepared these claims for him and if he reviewed the documentation that was sent to Ottawa?

[Page 2267]

MR. FAGE: Mr. Speaker, as with any program that lacks flexibility, like the federal disaster program, it's an extremely difficult and tedious process to achieve final payment under this program. We're still waiting for a final payment on the 1999 disaster and there have been five since that. The federal government has a protracted auditing system that requires each individual invoice to be audited. We supply the material and once they go through that process, hopefully some time in the future the Nova Scotia Government will be reimbursed for those expenses that we've paid upfront because people in need in disaster situations here in Nova Scotia require the money now. We, as a province, supply it and we wait for the federal government.

MR. THERIAULT: Mr. Speaker, to a cynical mind that might seem like an attempt to get additional money to prop up a disastrous budget. Would the minister be willing to provide this House with the receipts and reports required by Ottawa? If so, when? If not, why not?

MR. FAGE: Mr. Speaker, I think the honourable member has certainly asked good questions, but he has not gone to where the heart of the problem is. The federal auditors certainly should have spent their time, instead of harassing provinces like Nova Scotia and citizens of Nova Scotia and municipalities, auditing such things as the gun registry, DNR, as well as the sponsorship program.

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

HEALTH - STRAIT-RICHMOND HOSP.: DETOX CTR. - CLOSURE

MR. GORDON GOSSE: Mr. Speaker, my question, through you, to the Minister of Health is, last weekend the Guysborough-Antigonish-Strait Area Authority used a memo to staff at the Strait-Richmond Hospital to close the detox unit from Friday, April 16th, at 7:00 p.m. to Monday, April 19th, at 7:00 a.m. I'm going to table a copy of that memo that went to addiction services staff directing them to send people seeking addiction services to Pictou or Sydney. As the Minister of Health knows, it is a fact that Cape Breton is facing a prescription drug abuse crisis, something this government has refused to take much action to resolve. My question to the minister is, why did he allow the closure of the detox unit at this time of crisis in Cape Breton, and what is he prepared to do to ensure that these services are not interrupted again?

HON. ANGUS MACISAAC: Mr. Speaker, the honourable member would understand and appreciate that the closure to which he refers occurred as a result of very short notice being provided by staff members who were unable to be present. The fact is that those who required services were in fact accommodated in the short term, and others came back and were accommodated at the beginning of this week.

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MR. GOSSE: Mr. Speaker, the Hamm Government seems to have a new-found attention to the Office of Health Promotion, but it isn't clear that the minister is going to back it up with substantive funding to expand addiction services. One of the reasons the Strait Area closure happened is that they didn't have enough resources or staff to keep it going on the weekend. In fact, they tell me that the unit is frequently closed. My question to the minister is, will he commit today to putting the necessary funding in place to allow front-line health care workers and the Office of Health Promotion to deliver addiction services support to people in crisis, around the clock if necessary?

MR. MACISAAC: Mr. Speaker, as I indicated in my answer to the first question, the difficulty to which the honourable member refers is one that arose not as a result of a shortage of funding. We continue to provide funding for the services in question, and we will continue to do that into the future. We will work very closely with the DHAs to ensure that these situations are minimized to the greatest extent possible.

MR. GOSSE: Mr. Speaker, the last thing that Cape Breton needs is a loss of any addiction-related services, even on a short-term basis. We knew this was going to be a problem when the government allowed the closure of a 21-day residential treatment program which provided structured treatment for about 80 people a year. In the media lately there has been lots about the deaths in Cape Breton related to prescription drug use. My question to the minister is, given the ongoing crisis with prescription drugs and the frequent closure of the Strait-Richmond detox unit, will the minister commit today to reopening the residential addiction services program in Sydney and start dealing seriously with the drug crisis in Cape Breton?

MR. MACISAAC: Mr. Speaker, the honourable member would know that the funding that was provided for addiction services in Sydney was reallocated, and that is based on the best professional advice that is being brought forward to the DHA and we will continue to ensure that that funding is there and that the services that are provided are those services which the professionals in the field feel are appropriate for the circumstances.

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

SERV. N.S. & MUN. REL. - FOREST HAVEN MEM. GARDENS:

REMAINS - PROTECTION

MR. FRANK CORBETT: Mr. Speaker, the previous member asked the Minister of Service Nova Scotia and Municipal Relations regarding what's going on at Forest Haven Memorial Gardens, I would also like to ask the minister because earlier, when the minister was asked in the media, he said I want the Forest Haven clients to know that their money is safe. Well, I think in reality what the folks where I come from want to know is, are the remains of their loved ones safe. So I ask the minister, what are you doing to protect the remains of those people's loved ones?

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HON. BARRY BARNET: Mr. Speaker, our staff has been working closely with the administrator of the facility. Currently the administrator has installed a security guard on the site and the security guard will be there round the clock, 24 hours a day, but even with that, we believe that it's the government's best move is to move forward with amendments to the legislation to enable us to step in and make sure that those remains are treated in a dignified manner.

MR. CORBETT: Mr. Speaker, as it sits now under the Cemetery and Funeral Services Act, there are funds that go into perpetual care, when people purchase those lots. People with loved ones in that gravesite spent the greater part of this winter without access. There was no plowing being done. There was nothing being done to allow loved ones to get in, whether it was Valentine's Day or birthdays, to pay special respect to their loved ones. So again I want to ask the minister, why didn't your department step in then and allow these people to have access to this vital piece of property?

MR. BARNET: Mr. Speaker, as I indicated, the legislation that's before the House will enable us to do that. Currently there is no legislation in the Province of Nova Scotia that will enable us to step in. That's why I encourage members opposite to support the bill when it comes forward so that we can speedily pass this through and resolve this matter.

MR. CORBETT: Mr. Speaker, we will certainly enjoy seeing that legislation when it comes, but what I'm trying to tell the minister, there is funding now in perpetual care by virtue of the government taking certain portions when people do buy plots in that area. I want to ask the minister, once again, why isn't he accessing that money to allow contractors to clear that area so that people can get in and pay their proper respect to their loved ones who are buried on that site today and to allow that they be properly stored instead of in work sheds with shovels and rakes?

MR. BARNET: Mr. Speaker, it isn't a matter of funding being in place, it's a matter of us having the legal jurisdiction to do so. It's a matter of dignity and respect and our government is committed to bringing forward amendments to legislation to enable us to step forward and to resolve this matter in a way that is satisfactory to the families who have family members in that facility and we intend to do that and that's why I encourage all members opposite to support that legislation as quickly as possible.

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

FIN.: USER FEES - JUSTIFICATION

MS. DIANA WHALEN: Mr. Speaker, my question today is for the Minister of Finance. The Supreme Court of Canada has ruled that in order for a government to create or increase a user fee without introducing legislation, the fee must be equal to or less than the cost of the related service. Frankly, I expected a flood of documentation to accompany the

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release of over 500 user fees that were created or raised on March 31, 2004. Without any evidence on which to base the increases, Nova Scotians are left to guess whether the user fees abide by the Supreme Court of Canada's ruling or if the government has, in fact, enacted new taxes on Nova Scotians. My question for the minister is, could the minister commit to tabling in this House by the end of today each department's calculations that justify the increased user fees?

HON. PETER CHRISTIE: Mr. Speaker, the fees that the honourable member has referred to, some of those fees will be addressed in the Financial Measures Act which will be tabled in this House in the next few days. Some of those fees were just done through regulations, but we can indicate, as I indicated at the time of the fees, these were just cost-of-living adjustments to enable us to provide the service Nova Scotians want at a reasonable rate and fee.

[1:30 p.m.]

MS. WHALEN: Given that some of these user fees will be reflected in the Financial Measures Act, I think we can be led to believe then that they are indeed new taxes, not just user fee increases. The problems with user fees run deeper than just a lack of openness and accountability, in fact they hurt the poor much more than they do the wealthy or the people with stable income. It is very much like Robin Hood in the reverse. Cutting income taxes while increasing user fees is having a devastating effect on those who can afford it least. My question, Mr. Speaker, is, can the minister please explain to this House why the government is following a policy of taking from the poor and giving to the rich?

MR. CHRISTIE: I think the honourable member is attempting to go somewhere she really doesn't want to. When the budget is introduced this week, and we have indicated we are going to protect poor people, we have indicated that our whole budget and our process will be to support those working Nova Scotians, and people on lower income, it'll all become clear to that honourable member.

MS. WHALEN: I think perhaps the Minister of Finance is referring to his reversal of a tax cut to some degree, because they realize the mistake that was made earlier in this year. Since the government has spent so much time as well this year talking about the federal government, I think it's worth noting that the federal government has introduced (Interruptions)

MR. SPEAKER: Order, order. There is too much noise in the Chamber.

The honourable member for Halifax Clayton Park has the floor.

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MS. WHALEN: The federal government has introduced a policy on user fees, Bill C-212, that ensures that user fees are justified and not simply a new tax. So my final question to the minister is, is the Minister of Finance prepared to follow Ottawa's good example and introduce in this House, (Interruptions). I'll just wait.

MR. SPEAKER: Order please. Order.

The honourable member Halifax Clayton Park on the question.

MS. WHALEN: Is the Minister of Finance prepared to follow Ottawa's good example and introduce in this House a bill that would implement a clear and transparent user fee policy and protect Nova Scotians from unjustified user fee hikes?

MR. CHRISTIE: I presume the bill she refers to was the one that just went through at the end of March. What I can tell this House is this government will never follow Ottawa's example.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Pictou West.

SERVICE N.S. & MUN. REL.:

HEATHERDALE MEM. GARDENS - SALE

MR. CHARLES PARKER: My question, through you, is to the Minister of Service Nova Scotia and Municipal Relations. As we heard earlier, Forest Haven Memorial Gardens of Cape Breton are facing some difficulties. So is Heatherdale Memorial Gardens in Pictou County. Their operations in both cases ceased last year. In these cemeteries burial and maintenance have been put on hold until there is a sale. This is causing undue distress for families in Pictou County as well as elsewhere. My question through you, Mr. Speaker, with time being of the essence, what are you doing to facilitate a sale as soon as possible at Heatherdale Memorial Gardens?

HON. BARRY BARNET: We have been in discussion with the administrator of the company. As the member pointed out, the company has wound down operations as the result of the owner, the proprietor passing away last year. We have been in discussion with possible owners, as well we have been in discussion with the administrator and we will work with the administrator and possible owners to ensure that this facility will continue to operate in a seamless fashion.

MR. PARKER: I understand that at Heatherdale Memorial Gardens there have been some difficulties there. First of all, locating accurate maps that show the burial plots and other records. I know there are funeral home directors, waiting to do spring burials. Many of those plots in this location have been pre-purchased for many years. My question through you, Mr.

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Speaker, to the minister what assurances can you give to these families that their loved ones will be buried in an accurate and timely fashion?

MR. BARNET: I will assure the families that we will do everything in our power to ensure that will happen. Part of that will require a speedy passage of a bill that we intend to bring before this House and we will do that as soon as it's ready. It's my expectation that'll be ready at some point in time today so that we can move forward in a legal way and deal with this issue in a timely manner. Thank you.

MR. PARKER: Mr. Speaker, as you know, Spring has sprung and the grass is starting to grow. I know in the cemetery the grass will soon be coming under full bloom. Under the Cemetery and Funeral Services Act that's been established, maintenance is part of the responsibility of the cemetery owner. I would like to ask the minister, if no sale occurs soon, is your department prepared to step in and look after necessary maintenance?

MR. BARNET: As I indicated earlier in responses, amendments to the Act will enable us to step in and administer and operate this facility for the interim basis. There is a perpetual care fund in place. We believe it is sufficient to handle costs associated with the maintenance of that facility and when we get this piece of legislation before the House and passed, we will then be able to do what is necessary to ensure that the facility operates in a seamless fashion, and we intend to do that.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Kings West.

EDUC.: FUNDING - TUITION REDUCTION

MR. LEO GLAVINE: My question is for the Minister of Education. University tuition is at an all-time high in Nova Scotia - in fact, the highest in Canada - and there's no relief in sight. Yesterday the government announced $8 million in additional funding; in fact, they were simply re-announcing $6 million. There is only $2 million of real new money. Given this government's lack of real support for post-secondary institutions in this province, it is not surprising that students have not seen relief from skyrocketing tuition fees. Could the minister explain to the House how much tuition fees will be reduced after yesterday's $2 million announcement?

HON. JAMES MUIR: The Premier answered about the distribution of funds very well; I think it was the first question starting out today. What happened was, at the end of 2002 - or was it 2003? - the universities were given a certain amount of money and it flowed through the same way this year, in March 31, 2004. You're right about the new money; however, I would encourage the honourable member to wait until the budget documents are tabled before he draws a conclusion.

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MR. GLAVINE: The truth of the matter is that $2 million is not going to slow down the rate of tuition increases. In fact, as we sit here, the Dalhousie University Board of Governors is increasing tuition fees by 7.25 per cent. The current system is simply unsustainable. This government has promised a multi-year funding strategy for universities, but instead we get half measures and sleight-of-hand announcements, like the one made yesterday. My question is, when can universities and students expect the government to introduce multi-year stable funding?

MR. MUIR: The Department of Education and other representatives of government are currently trying to establish a memorandum of understanding with the universities, which will see three-year funding put in place, which will enable them to predict the amount of revenue that they are going to have much more effectively than they do now.

MR. GLAVINE: In the last four years, there's been no substantive debt relief for students; all we have are band-aids and tinkering rather than a long-term plan to control rising tuition. Students and parents simply cannot plan for financing a university education when there is so much uncertainty. When will the government finally provide students and universities with long-term stable funding so that students entering university today know what they will be paying in four years?

MR. MUIR: I don't think any government, in any country, in any state, is going to be able to say what it's going to cost for university in four years, at least, not given the current finances and I don't really think that was the intent of the question.

What I want to emphasize is that we are in the process of negotiating this memorandum of understanding. It will contain funding on a three-year basis and once we have this stable funding in place, much like the DHAs - they now know their business planning process is much easier than it was before the three-year cycle of funding was put in place for them. We expect, the same result for the universities once that agreement is completed.

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

COMMUN. SERV.: DAYCARE - UNDERFUNDING

MS. MARILYN MORE: Mr. Speaker, my question is again for the Minister of Community Services. In the last few months, two non-profit child care centres have had to close because of financial problems. Daycare operators met with the minister asking for an $11.20 per day increase for subsidized seats just to cover basic costs. Operational funding has not increased since 1998. This government loves to blame the lack of federal support but in a case where the federal government is providing some funding, the best you could do was 50 cents a day in increased subsidies. My question to the Minister of Community Services is, why is your government allowing the continued underfunding of daycare, jeopardizing the future of even more child care centres?

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HON. DAVID MORSE: Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the question. It is true that I certainly have been very critical of the federal government in some areas when it pertains to equalization and Medicare and I think rightly so. But, I would also tell the member opposite that in some areas the federal government has done very well in their support of early childhood development and specifically, Minister Stewart, I think, that her performance has been exemplary and, in fact, after the Cabinet shuffle, I sent her a letter commending her for her performance. I would say it is nice to see the federal government is in support of early childhood development. They are not the main funding partner, that remains the province, but we certainly welcome them as a funding partner. That's why we made child care the priority when we rolled out the vision document and made stabilizing the wages with a $4,000 subsidy per full time child care worker the first thing that came out of the new program.

MS. MORE: Mr. Speaker, there are several more child care centres that are just one unexpected bill away from being forced to close. Many of these centres serve low income, high-need families in this province. Daycare operators have been told there may be more federal money for their operating funds. It's my understanding that in the meeting with the minister, it was suggested that if any more money was coming from the federal government, that would be distributed as an increase beyond the 50 cents per day per subsidized seat. Now we understand that the department is suggesting that money will be reallocated after a review is conducted. So my question to the minister is, time is ticking for these centres - how long are you prepared to make them wait for adequate funding to finally become a reality?

MR. MORSE: Mr. Speaker, I do appreciate these questions because it's important that we clear up exactly what has been going on in this area. Effective April 1st, the 50 cent per day increase in the subsidized child care subsidy became effective. A letter has gone out to the various affected child care centres. Also, there has been a request to do a subsidy review of the department which was undertaken before I met with the non-profit child care centre executive directors. I have taken steps to expedite that process so that it will be completed within, I would anticipate, a couple of months so we can act on the recommendations as was requested by the sector.

MS. MORE: Mr. Speaker, if this government truly valued child care services in the province, it would continue stable, adequate funding while conducting its review. The challenges facing the daycare sector have been obvious to the department for several years. I ask the Minister of Community Services, will you commit to ensuring not one more centre closes its doors while your department delays increasing operational and much-needed funding?

[1:45 p.m.]

MR. MORSE: Mr. Speaker, I want to refer to the vision document that was agreed upon back on May 1, 2001, Our Children . . . Today's Investment Tomorrow's Promise. That laid out how we would be investing the early childhood development monies and we have

[Page 2275]

followed that path and we'll continue to follow that path that was worked out with broad consultation, and we trust that the sector still agrees with the course that was taken at that time.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Glace Bay.

MR. DAVID WILSON (Glace Bay): Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Health. I think we were all waiting with rather eager anticipation today at the Premier's announcement where he would provide some details on how he plans to address the issue of wait times. But alas, we heard absolutely nothing at that announcement. If you don't know where your challenges are, you can't begin to address the problem with a proper plan.

I note, Mr. Speaker, in the document entitled Your Health Matters, a paragraph on Page 31 states that the ministers will by the Fall of 2003 report to all Nova Scotians on how long people are waiting for procedures. No report on how long people have been waiting has been produced, which translates to exactly what this government has done - absolutely nothing about the problem.

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

The honourable member for Preston.

MR. KEITH COLWELL: Mr. Speaker, I would like to initially make an introduction. In the west gallery, I would like to introduce residents of the Cherrybrook, Lake Loon, Westphal and Montague areas of my riding. The group is part of the Boundary Action Reversal Committee to have Cherrybrook, Lake Loon, Westphal, Montague and Little Salmon River reviewed for the regional municipality upcoming elections - the review that was done by the Utilities and Review Board.

I would like to introduce the people who are there: Edward Beals, Wynola Fraser, Russell Bundy, Bernita Hodges, Portia Ryan, Ruby Beals, Terrence Smith, Wayne Bundy, Sarah Bundy, Alma Johnston, Marion Bundy, Pearl Sparks, By Bundy, Evelyn Riley and Howard Riley. I would ask the House to give them a warm welcome. (Applause)

MR. SPEAKER: I certainly welcome our special guests in the gallery today and hope they enjoy the proceedings.

The honourable member for Preston.

MR. KEITH COLWELL: Yes, I would ask the indulgence of the House to revert to the order of business, Presenting and Reading Petitions, with their permission.

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MR. SPEAKER: Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

PRESENTING AND READING PETITIONS

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Preston.

MR. KEITH COLWELL: The petition: "We, the undersigned, hereby petition the Halifax Regional Municipality and the Nova Scotia Utility Review Board to amend the order of the proposed boundary of District D to include Cherry Brook, Lake Loon along # 7 Highway to Little Salmon River Bridge north to Lake Major up the middle of Lake Major to where it joins to District D" - and that would be in the upcoming municipal election to be held this Fall. Thank you.

MR. SPEAKER: The petition is tabled.

The honourable member for Halifax Clayton Park.

MS. DIANA WHALEN: Mr. Speaker, I would like to draw the members' attention to the west gallery, so that we can have an introduction, please. There are two members of the organization Video Online Lottery Terminators Society there. Bernie Walsh is the Executive Director - if you would stand to be recognized; also with him today is Regan Fraser, who is a member of the organization. Certainly the organization's work is well known to legislators. I would like us to welcome them today. (Applause)

MR. SPEAKER: I certainly welcome our guests in the gallery today as well.

GOVERNMENT BUSINESS

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Government House Leader.

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

PUBLIC BILLS FOR SECOND READING

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Government House Leader.

HON. RONALD RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, would you please call Bill No. 46.

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Bill No. 46 - Public Service Act.

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

HON. RODNEY MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, I rise today as the Minister of Health Promotion. I am pleased to stand to make a few comments on second reading of Bill No. 46, an Act to Establish the Office of Health Promotion, a bill which reflects our government's commitment to improving the health of our children and our families and our communities across our province, a commitment that we feel so strongly about that we believe it should be firmly established in legislation. The bill to establish the Office of Health Promotion gives my office responsibilities for matters related to health promotion and general preventative health measures.

Madam Speaker, the fact is that too many Nova Scotians are suffering from poor health, too many people are ill for much of their lives or die too young of illnesses and injuries that are preventable. The fact is our province faces many challenges, including inactivity and obesity which are putting our children at risk for a whole host of health problems, both now and in the future. We hear a lot more about waiting lists - in fact it came up during Question Period - and health care spending. While we continue to invest more money in those areas and to improve health services, the best long-term solution to wait lists is ultimately to keep people healthy. That's what our government intends to do.

We have reviewed research, Madam Speaker, during the past year, looked at best practices and consulted extensively with our stakeholders as we built a plan for our office. The strategic priority areas we've decided to focus our efforts on in the next few years are addiction prevention, tobacco control, physical activity, healthy eating, healthy sexuality and injury prevention. Some of these areas are well underway and are already making a difference, while others are new for our government, with many initiatives coming forward in the upcoming weeks.

Since the Active Kids, Healthy Kids strategy was introduced in 2002, we've seen more children getting active. Eleven schools across our province are active school community pilot sites. They've turned classrooms into fitness rooms. They've bought bike racks. They've started after-school programs with students as leaders.

Madam Speaker, since the time of our government coming into power, smoking rates in Nova Scotia have dropped by 5 per cent, since our tobacco control strategy was introduced in 2001. Interim numbers for this year thus far show an even further decrease, which is very positive news for all members of this House and certainly for our general population. We've cleared the air in public places, and we've provided help for people to stop smoking, and we will have further commitments in the days ahead. Our continued commitment to this strategy will see a further decrease, as I mentioned, in our smoking rates.

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Madam Speaker, more than 400 Nova Scotians die each year from injuries, injuries that are predictable and preventable. This is a new area of focus on a health crisis that we cannot ignore. We are one of the only provinces in our country to have a focused injury prevention strategy, and details on that strategy will be rolled out in the coming weeks.

Madam Speaker, as a schoolteacher previous to becoming a politician in 1999, I have seen many of the challenges our young people face. Really, truly, we must make a generational change, if we really want to make a difference, a change in the culture of our province. If we can help our children form healthy lifestyle habits now, they will be more likely to carry those healthy lifestyles forward into the future. We need to teach our residents, both young and old, to be active, to eat healthy and make wise choices when making those decisions on their food choices, to make healthy decisions and to value their health.

Madam Speaker, some of these things can happen overnight. People can start wearing a seatbelt, they can join a quit-smoking support group, they can go for a walk, but the real results will take time, perhaps even a generation. To get there, though, we need to spend money now. We need to invest, and that is the very reason we have made a commitment to the Office of Health Promotion to double the funding during our mandate as a government. We will see some of those investments being made as the Minister of Finance puts forward his budget in a couple of days.

Madam Speaker, legislating the Office of Health Promotion underscores our commitment to improving the long-term health and well-being of Nova Scotians. I look forward to hearing the comments of my colleagues in the Legislature, both from the NDP, the Official Opposition and also from the Third Party, the Liberal Party. I believe this is a bill that we can all agree that is in the best interests of the long-term health and well-being of Nova Scotians. I certainly look forward to their comments as we move forward to second reading. Thank you.

MADAM SPEAKER: The honourable member for Cape Breton Nova.

MR. GORDON GOSSE: Madam Speaker, as I look at the Act to Amend Chapter 376 of the Revised Statutes, 1989, the Public Service Act, to Establish the Office of Health Promotion, Clause 1, Section 25D, "The Office of Health Promotion is responsible for all matters related to promoting a culture of good health and general preventative health measures, in the areas of (a) healthy living; (b) addiction prevention, including problem drinking and problem gambling;", I don't see anything in there to do with drugs or prescription drug use. I look at tobacco control - this government to date collects all these revenues from taxes on tobacco but yet those revenues go into the general coffers of the government, not into the Health Promotion Act. Maybe they should look at actually putting some more money from their recent increase in tobacco taxes into funding some of these programs around here.

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As the minister just said about his former job, my former job was as a youth worker and Executive Director of the Whitney Pier Youth Club, so I have full knowledge of what it's like not to have recreation programs for the kids in my area of Whitney Pier and how much the money is needed to promote healthy, active living and making kids more active. Obesity is on the rise in the country.

I think there are some good things in this bill. I think overall the Party will support the bill, but question the government's actual commitment to health promotion, the actual commitment of spending the money and making sure that the money is going where it's needed the most. That's my concern with this bill.

I see proper nutrition in the bill. Does that mean that the Office of Health Promotion is going to start funding breakfast programs in the schools in the Province of Nova Scotia? Is that a good idea for them to start funding those programs? A well-needed program that started in my youth centre in the Pier 10 years ago this May, we had the first breakfast program. So I'm just wondering, with those new taxes maybe from the tobacco and other taxes that are going up, the government could actually look at funding some of those programs. Sexuality programs? We saw the trouble that they had with the brochure.

This money could well be spent in these non-profit organizations like Boys and Girls Clubs and other groups out there that are actually hands-on and do the work 24/7 today with these kids. Not bureaucracy and communications - I do have difficulty with that. As recently as December 2003, the Office of Health Promotion put out a tender to create an image for the office, a tender worth $70,000. I personally think those resources should have been directed to the actual health promotion - $70,000 for a logo, for image and there was nobody in the office at the time the tender went out. I'm trying to figure out where the office is.

I agree with the bill but there are some things in this bill that without a proper health promotion strategy to tackle the growing demands on our health care system, our Health budget will continue to be pushed to the breaking point in this province. I think this is a good way for us to start to deal with some of those health issues. Start at the grass roots, not in the bureaucracy and not in the communications. Get out there and work with the people who are hands-on in every community in Nova Scotia.

Less than 4 per cent of the Department of Health's $1.9 billion is spent on health promotion in this province. Maybe we should have a look at putting the percentage up a little higher and spend some more money on our most valuable resources - our kids and youth in these communities.

The Office of Health Promotion, the government is going to put some more resources behind it and emphasize programs. I understand that, but results rather than bureaucracy is what I'd like to see; I'd like to see some results. If the office is going to be highly involved in doing some youth programming, whether it be Boys and Girls Clubs, the Whitney Pier

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Youth Club and other things, I'd like to see some kind of strategy, some kind of commitment from this government of where that money is going to be spent to make sure that our youth have something to do.

Maybe also, I know that there was a bill that the government announced this week to do with paying for the schools. In my community, the school was always free - not the P3 ones, no excuse over there. The other schools in my community, all we had to pay for was the custodian, to come up and shut the alarm off and then the kids could play floor hockey or basketball and everything else. But with this head Office of Health Promotion, maybe the minister and his office could have a look at paying for this custodian. You know, a small non-profit organization pays $40 every two weeks to have somebody come to the school to turn the alarm off, while their staff look after the kids, maybe with this office they can have that paid for.

[2:00 p.m.]

I noticed in the blue book, recently in the election, there was a thing, if my memory serves me right, they were going to pay $150 per child - and I did send a letter to the minister on this and asked him about this funding - to get them involved in sports and the minister did reply to me in a timely fashion, I'll give him credit for that, and said that wouldn't start until the year 2005 or 2006. (Interruption) It didn't say that in the blue book, but it said it in the minister's letter to me and I thank him very much for sending me that letter.

You know that MP Peter Stoffer, from here in the Halifax area, also has a Private Member's Bill in the House of Commons, to deal with having tax credits for kids that are involved in sports. The honourable MP is trying to push that in Ottawa right now. So maybe with his bill and the Tory blue book promise, we will finally get some action on this very serious matter of drug use, obesity, smoking, tobacco use. Physical activity, as achieved through sports and recreation just great for the kids. I think if you're busy hands, you're happy hands, so I think if you're in the gym playing basketball and floor hockey and everything else, you're not down the road, you're not hanging out on the street corners, you have something to do.

I remember myself starting a midnight basketball program on Friday night. It was actually a theory to start the kids on Friday night to come into the school to play basketball. The reason I started that program at 10:00 at night, was because I wanted to tire them out, so that at 12:00 midnight they wouldn't be able to go down the road and hang out, then they'd go home and have a shower and go to bed. They didn't know there's always a method to somebody's madness. By having the gym on a Friday night and making them physically active, whether it be programs.

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In my facility in Whitney Pier, we have a self-defence program, weight lifting. Maybe the Office of Health Promotion could look at sponsoring some programs in my area, at the youth centre. It's well established. It's been 10 years this May since that club has been there, with weight lifting and tai kwon do, Breakfast for Learning, computer program, gardening program, environment program. So I'm looking at all these here, proper nutrition, sexuality, injury prevention. Maybe some pamphlets out by the government to some YMCAs, they're getting involved in all those organizations.

I think there are some good aspects of this bill, Madam Speaker. Also, the Provincial Health Council was disbanded, and when that was disbanded there was $348,000, that was diverted to community health boards. I think that money should have been given to the Office of Health Promotion. All those extra dollars to keep our kids active and healthy. (Interruption) I'm glad to hear that, I hear the minister say we are involved in that, so I'm glad to see that.

Overall, I think we will support this bill, but there are some things in this bill and like I said before, and I'll stress this fact, I'd rather see less bureaucracy and communications and actually the money going to where it's needed, with the youth of our communities here in Nova Scotia. Thank you.

MADAM SPEAKER: The honourable member for Glace Bay.

MR. DAVID WILSON (Glace Bay): Madam Speaker, I'm pleased to stand and speak for just a few minutes on Bill No. 46, the Public Service Act. This is a bill that has been about a year in the making, and the bill makes up a rather integral part of our health care system. A component actually of our health care system, that this government did not see fit to recognize as a crucial component, didn't even recognize it as being important until we in the Liberal caucus started to talk about it. Then all of a sudden it becomes an important issue.

Like any of the good ideas put forward, by this government, they've come from others, which is not necessarily a bad thing, as long as the intention goes beyond the public relations aspect of just creating the department. There must be a budget for this department to begin to address the multi-faceted aspects of Health Promotion. It's not sufficient just to put together the budgets of sport and recreation and tobacco control and certain components of population health within the department and say there we're done. That's not sufficient in this case. If Health Promotion is going to be a priority, then they need the dollars to ensure the success of that department would follow and spending dollars cannot be done without a plan. So there needs to be a plan in place to address all the components of Health Promotion and that plan needs to be legislated so that this government can be held accountable for that plan.

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What has to follow, Madam Speaker, is a Health Promotion Act. That's what's needed and I stress that the creation of this Act would be developed with the co-operation of all the key players involved in the delivery of Health Promotion programs in this province. There has to be a concerted effort to ensure that the chronic disease prevention strategy is given priority and also given resources. We've been hearing for four years now that a chronic disease prevention strategy is imminent, yet we've heard nothing in terms of any commitment towards that from this government.

Madam Speaker, let me give you an example of how this government can make health promotion a priority. Last month the Minister of Health Promotion was the one who announced a cigarette tax increase - an announcement that's usually reserved for the Minister of Finance. Increasing taxes on tobacco is usually done by the Minister of Finance, usually part of a budget. Well, if this government is serious about health promotion, then the minister at the same time would have announced an ear-marking of some of those anticipated revenues that should be going for health promotion purposes from the Tobacco Tax Act, but we've yet to hear whether this will become the case.

Madam Speaker, we, as a caucus here, have requested that the money be used for health promotion purposes, not just go into general revenues, but in the spirit of what I talked about earlier, which is incorporating good ideas from political Parties, then I encourage the minister and I encourage this government to do so - to make a significant contribution to health promotion programs as a result of that increased revenue from cigarette taxes. I suggest that would make common sense.

In closing, Madam Speaker, this is an issue which in our opinion is far too important to be treated just as window dressing. We look forward to hearing from all the other interested parties through the Law Amendments Committee process about their interest in holding this government accountable to a vision and a plan for health promotion but, more importantly, a budget that will ensure that that plan will be executed. What we don't want to see is just a piece of paper that establishes an Office of Health Promotion and with that I will take my place.

MADAM SPEAKER: The honourable member for Halifax Needham.

MS. MAUREEN MACDONALD: Madam Speaker, I'm very pleased to have an opportunity to stand and speak on second reading on Bill No. 46 which is an amendment to the Public Service Act which will allow the government to establish an Office of Health Promotion. For people who haven't followed this issue, I think it's important that the record reflect that last year in the Spring the government announced their intention to establish this office. That announcement took place in my constituency of Halifax Needham. The honourable minister, I believe, was there along with the Premier and the former Minister of Health, the current Minister of Education, and perhaps at least one other minister.

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Members of my constituency certainly participated in that announcement at the George Dickson Centre in the north end of Halifax which is a very active community centre for mostly young people, children and youth. A lot of recreational services and programs go on in that community centre that is operated by the Halifax Regional Municipality, and has a very good relationship with the Sports and Recreation Commission in the Province of Nova Scotia, for which people in my community are very grateful and very pleased.

I look at this bill and am certainly very much in support of the direction that the government and the minister have laid out here. I think the wording is interesting in that the purpose of the office is described as attempting to promote a culture of good health and general preventative health measures. I think that's an issue that needs to be explored and examined a lot more. Culture is an interesting phenomenon. Often when we think of culture, we think of the arts and music, but actually, certainly in a province like Nova Scotia with a very rich historical tradition and many different diverse cultures that make up our community, we know that this means a lot of different ideas and practices and arrangements and beliefs. These things, once they're established often aren't that easy to change.

So the challenge that the Office of Health Promotion has in a province where we have some of the worst rates of chronic disease is not an easy challenge in many respects. I know that my colleagues in the Third Party, the Liberal Party would like to take credit for this idea, but I also think it's really important to say that there was a Royal Commission on Health Care in Nova Scotia that really examined the health care system, and the fact that we were continuing to build large acute care facilities and the health status of Nova Scotia wasn't improved, in spite of the fact that we continued to spend the largest part of our financial resources annually on health care. Really, the recommendations out of that Royal Commission that were worked on by the Blueprint Committee were that government needed to rethink and to spend more time and more of its efforts and more of its resources looking at prevention, looking at dealing with improving the health status of Nova Scotians, so we weren't constantly having to spend dollars for chronic illness. I think that this is the intent of this legislation.

Having said that, last year when the office was announced, certainly, myself and members of our caucus were really concerned that there were so little resources actually allocated to the important work that's going to be required in this department - or in this office, it's not a department. There were parts of the Department of Health, such as the tobacco control strategy or the tobacco control unit that were moved from the Department of Health into the Office of Health Promotion; prevention and addiction services were moved.

Just moving pieces of existing infrastructure from the Department of Health into the Office of Health Promotion is not enough, Madam Speaker. What we really need to see, to make this office successful, is an infusion of some additional and some new resources, not just a hiving away of existing resources in the Department of Health. We really are going to be looking forward to the budget later on this week to actually see that this government is

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serious about advancing the health status of Nova Scotians and really having the necessary tools to promote a change in culture that will result in good health in Nova Scotia.

Madam Speaker, when I look at the specific areas that this government lays out as being the major areas that the Office of Health Promotion will focus on, they talk about healthy living, addiction prevention, including problem drinking and problem gambling, they talk about tobacco control, physical activity, proper nutrition, healthy sexuality, and injury prevention. I'd like to speak briefly to some of these areas where this government still has a fair ways to go. Also to point out to the minister, that there are some contradictions in the government's behaviour so far.

[2:15 p.m.]

Tobacco control. We have a Smoke-free Places Act introduced by this government, that in fact, continues to allow smoking in many public places, that continues to allow work places, specifically many bars and restaurants, to in fact have smoking go on in particular designated spaces or during particular times. The workers who work inside those designated areas or at that time are exposed to second-hand smoke, and this is a concern we had with the government's legislation, and it's a concern we continue to have. It is something that I'm hoping that this Office of Health Promotion will take seriously as a health promotion plan is developed to promote a culture of good health.

The government had an opportunity to protect the health of workers, in other words, Madam Speaker, and they didn't take that opportunity when they had it. The measures that were put in place were to date half-hearted and half-measures. This is something that somebody needs to address. If this government won't address it, then some other government in the future will have to address it.

MADAM SPEAKER: The honourable member for Preston on an introduction.

MR. KEITH COLWELL: I would like to introduce, in the west gallery, more members of the Boundary Action Reversal Committee. And I would ask them to stand as I read their names. Rev. Wayne Desmond, Merlin Riley, Joyce Riley, Marva Wyse, Irma Pope, Rick Pope, Brenda Downey, John Harlow, Marie Harlow, and David Sparks. I would ask the House to give them a warm welcome. (Applause)

MADAM SPEAKER: Certainly we welcome everybody here today and hope they enjoy their time here. Back to the honourable member from Halifax Needham on Bill No. 46.

MS. MAUREEN MACDONALD: I, too, would like to welcome members in the gallery, and I'd like to continue this discussion on the Public Service Act, to establish the Office of Health Promotion, Bill No. 46. I was pointing out the government had an opportunity to protect the health and safety of workers in certain industries, specifically the

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bar and restaurant industry. That was an opportunity that they failed to live up to, in terms of promoting health.

There does seem to be a bit of contradiction in what the government likes to tell people they are doing, and the reality of what they are doing, when you examine more closely what it is that their actions tell us. This government has indicated in this legislation that addiction prevention is of concern to them, including problem drinking and problem gambling. Some of the reports that we have seen recently about the current examination of video gambling, the possibility of on-line video gambling, the introduction of changes in the technology that will allow video gambling to become more lucrative to the gambling authority, but also, possibly, more addictive to the people who engage in gambling is certainly a concern and appears to be in somewhat of a contradiction to the stated goals and objectives of the Office of Health Promotion. I think it would be really important to have the minister talk about what the concrete plans of this government are with respect to reducing the rates of problem gambling in Nova Scotia.

Madam Speaker, not very long ago - a few weeks ago - there was a press conference on March 24th, out at Mount Saint Vincent, where a group of researchers, who are part of the Atlantic Health Promotion Research Centre, released their findings from Phase I and Phase II of a participatory research project on food security in Nova Scotia. In other words, their research was looking at how much income a family would require to meet the nutritional requirements as set out in the Canada Food Guide. The groups that are participating in this research are the Nova Scotia Nutrition Council, the Nova Scotia Family Resource Centres, the Canada Prenatal Nutrition Program and Community Action Programs, and the Atlantic Health Promotion Research Centre.

I was able to attend that press conference, as were many other people. I think we were all quite startled at the findings from this research, because it demonstrated that there is a growing number of families in our province, both lone-parent-headed families but also dual-parent-working families whose incomes are so fundamentally inadequate because of the low rate of salary due to minimum wage or other fixed income supplements that they are unable to eat nutritionally. Now this particular bill, Bill No. 46, setting up the Office of Health Promotion, says that one of the areas - and the minister spoke to this - of concern for this office is proper nutrition.

I would say to the minister that it would be very important for him, if he isn't aware of this research, to become aware of this research, so that he could understand the absolute struggle that many families are having to maintain a nutritionally-adequate diet for themselves and their children. This is research that has been conducted in an objective and quite a legitimate way that demonstrates that we have some serious problems in Nova Scotia with respect to people being able to get adequate nutrition.

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In a way, this should come as no surprise, certainly to some of us. My background is in social work, so I'm not surprised by this. I'm not surprised because the Liberal Government, in 1993, froze the rates of social assistance in Nova Scotia, so that for more than 10 years, the rate of payment that is given to a family today for food is what it was in 1993. Does this surprise people, then, that families who are living in poverty are unable to afford an adequate, nutritional diet? It's no surprise.

This government has been in power now for a number of years. They had an opportunity to address that whole situation when they brought in the new income security program, and they failed to do that. They didn't address this problem. They've allowed it to continue to occur, and the result is the findings in this study. I think that these are questions that need to be asked and they need to have discussion and they need to have some serious

plan for addressing.

Madam Speaker, I had indicated that in this province we have some of the highest rates of chronic disease in the country - high rates of heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, cancer. We have a Chronic Disease Prevention Strategy. We hear very little about the government's plan to put into action the features that will help us develop the response to chronic disease prevention. This is an area that is of some urgency for a whole variety of reasons because chronic diseases place quite a heavy burden on our acute care health care system so the more we can do to prevent the development of chronic disease, the better. I think it's a very important thing that we need to look at.

I know that one of the standing committees had the Heart and Stroke Foundation in front of them talking about other places in the world, specifically Finland I believe, where they had developed a very comprehensive strategy and action plan to improve the health of the population and to reduce chronic disease. In a very short period of time, actually, they were able to see the health status of the population improve using population health interventions. I think this is very much something that we need here in Nova Scotia.

I think that it's clear, and so much of the research has told us, that the determination of health, people's incomes, whether or not they live in poverty, whether or not they have adequate housing, whether or not they've got a job that pays a decent salary, whether or not they've got some control in the workplace over their employment, whether or not their children are adequately taken care of in adequate child care, the amount of stress that people are under, these are all features of whether or not you are going to be well, whether or not you're going to be healthy, whether or not you're going to be able to have the kind of lifestyle and to make the lifestyle choices that will lead to better health. I think about this government's strategy in terms of economic development - call centres, investing in call centres where people sit for long periods of time in front of video screens, they have very little control over their work. They aren't the highest paid jobs and they're subject to real insecurity in terms of whether or not that call centre is going to stay around and whether or not there is going to be regular employment because of the contracts are coming into the call centres.

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In many ways, the choices that the government made have been a "low wage, insecure kind of workplace strategy" in this province and this does not bode well for healthy lifestyle choices and being able to promote a different culture. If anything, we're creating a bit of a rat race culture and the race to the bottom. So although this is somewhat outside of the scope of the bill, you have to look at what this government wants to do with this particular piece of legislation in the context of what else is occurring.

I don't have a great deal more to say with respect to this bill. I mean, obviously, it is important that we codify in law the Office of Health Promotion. It's been a long time coming in many ways. If you go back and think about how long ago it has been since we've had the Royal Commission on Health in Nova Scotia. That must go back - well I would think that it goes back a good deal more than 10 years.

[2:30 p.m.]

This is not rocket science, this is something that we've known was needed to be done for a long time. The fact that it's happening now is good; The fact that it took us so long to get to this point is not so good. Let's hope that it doesn't take 10 years before we have a plan, and let's hope that it doesn't take 10 years before we have the adequate resources to actually put a plan into operation so that we see those rates of chronic disease start to fall in our province, we see the health status of our population start to improve.

The real test for this legislation will be when we start to see the resources that are given to this particular office, and whether or not there are new resources being injected into the work of this office or whether there's merely a transfer of resources from the previous Department of Health and maybe possibly some other departments - Education, the Sport and Recreation Commission or something like that - into this office. We want to see real resources for real change. Thank you.

MADAM SPEAKER: The honourable member for Halifax Citadel.

MR. DANIEL GRAHAM: Madam Speaker, it's a pleasure to rise on this occasion to speak in relation to Bill No. 46. The member for Richmond turned to me just a short time ago and said that this is the day for me to get a lot off my chest - first with the Premier's announcements about the rescinding of a part of the tax cut and today to have the opportunity to have health promotion on as a matter of some discussion. I understand that the draw for late debate today went to a question of whether or not the tax cut is appropriate, and I look forward to the opportunity to speak on that at that time.

When I first prepared my remarks for this topic, you can appreciate that much of it was sprinkled with references to the choices that government has to make, choices that it makes with respect to the tax cut. I signalled earlier today that this is a good day for Nova Scotia with respect to the tax cut. We see it as a step forward, but I think that for many Nova

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Scotians they feel that they may have been duped, and that this raises questions of competence overall. But for doing the right thing, the government deserves credit, even if it is a partial step. It will be interesting to note what the details of the rescinded tax cut ultimately turn out to be.

Either something is important to us and we commit ourselves to it, or it is not. I've often asked the question: what could be more important than the health of our people? What could be more important than the health of our children, our parents, our friends and our neighbours? Perhaps nothing. So if something is that important we need to examine whether or not we in Nova Scotia are doing well with respect to that. The member for Halifax Needham and others have pointed out the chronic problems in Nova Scotia and I'd like to refer to those. But, this ultimately is a question of making choices.

We have a significant problem in Nova Scotia with respect to the health of the population. I think one of the most important things for use to do - and I will attempt to do at the end of my remarks - is connect the notion that good health means a good economy; that good health means strong communities; that good health means better education. Good health, at the bottom line, means that Nova Scotia will be a stronger, prouder, better province, and for too long we have forsaken these vision pieces for short-term carrots.

Many will repeat, as I will repeat, the challenges with respect to health in Nova Scotia. But I can say, as I've said on a number of occasions, that it was one of the principal motivators for me to get involved in public life. When we read that in our province - our proud Nova Scotia - we have the highest rate of death from cancer, we have the highest rate of death from respiratory disease, we have the second highest rate of death from lung cancer, the second highest rate of death from circulatory problems. We have the highest rate of several preventable chronic diseases, the highest reported number of disability days in Canada. Nova Scotians developed a health disability at an earlier age and suffer with it longer than do other Canadians.

What kind of a Nova Scotia do we want to grow up in? That's the problem that faces us. What's the cause of the problem? It's not the Progressive Conservatives. They didn't cause this problem. We all share responsibility for the problems that we find ourselves in, but they have responsibility for finding solutions and leading us through with some vision and direction and acting on it in a way that is meaningful to Nova Scotians, not with the glacial speed - with the greatest respect - that they have acted on this issue of health promotion.

The cause of this problem, and there is a risk of oversimplifying it, comes from inactivity, it comes from heavy smoking, it comes from the culture that this bill, in fairness, attempts to address. But let's consider some of the issues that we face in Nova Scotia. We are amongst the least-active Canadians. Nearly twice as many youth in the Province of Saskatchewan, which has about the same population as us, are involved in sport as our

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Province of Nova Scotia. Saskatchewan spends five times as much as we do on sport development.

It's also interesting to note, Madam Speaker, that in this Province of Nova Scotia, when you do the math, the government takes more money out of sport in taxes than it actually invests back in sport for development. How bizarre and how twisted is that, that we take more money out of sport in taxes than we actually use to promote it through better activity and more activity, especially amongst our young people? Where are our priorities? Our rate of obesity is the second-highest of any province in the country. Our smoking problems, which, as the Minister of Health Promotion would point out, have been improving over the last 12 months - it would appear, they still remain remarkably higher than in other parts of the country. So what's the solution?

The solution is in mustering the political will, the insight, the courage, the money to champion the cause of health promotion. Provinces and states all around the world have been successfully taking up the challenge of health promotion. The member for Halifax Needham made reference to a project or an initiative in Finland, it's actually in North Karelia, where the government of that province took on the serious challenges that were facing the population in North Karelia, and made significant advancements as a result of putting resources behind this, as a result of not just talking about this issue but having a vision and having a plan and moving it forward, a clear vision.

What's the Nova Scotia solution? It was interesting to note that the member for Halifax Needham made some reference to the fact that the Liberal Party likes to take credit for raising the issue of health promotion. Madam Speaker, it's hardly so. When you look at the work of the Nova Scotia Cancer Society, when you look at the work of the Heart and Stroke Foundation of Nova Scotia, Sport Nova Scotia, those are the people who've kept this issue alive, those are the people who have continued to press it forward, but I will say this, that it was only the Liberal Party that brought this issue forward to the front burner and not the back burner fo the political will in this province.

So where do we go? We find ourselves, last year, with the announcement in December 2002 of the Office of Health Promotion with an office at that time without a budget, without a lead, without even an office. They didn't even have a nameplate on the door to call themselves the Office of Health Promotion. At the time - the minister will recall this - the Progressive Conservative Government was accused of hijacking a priority of the Liberal Government, and in response to that the Premier and the minister said, no, no, we're serious about this and we're going to take action.

Madam Speaker, that was 16 months ago. They didn't come forward in the Spring of 2002 with this simple piece of legislation; they didn't come forward in the Fall of 2003 with this simple piece of legislation. It has taken them 16 months to come forward with something this straightforward, which still doesn't get the ball moving. It establishes a framework into

[Page 2290]

which we try to move this ball forward. That kind of leadership is a betrayal of the promises that they made to Nova Scotians when they first announced this in December 2002, and clearly reveals that at the time that this announcement was made, it was a political ploy. It was intended to take the issue of health promotion away from the Liberal Party, where we had tried to put it more and more on the front burner.

We continue to try to do this, and we will press this government to actually take action. We applaud them for appointing the executive director who they have, the former head of Sport Nova Scotia, someone who truly has vision, but unless he has the resources to chart out that vision, it's not going to go anywhere.

The first announcement that the Minister of the Office of Health Promotion made was that approximately $4 million, for last year's budget, was going to be taken from those who smoke in Nova Scotia. It's not something that we objected to, because we accept the notion that when smoking prices increase, the use of cigarettes decreases. But every cent of that went to the general revenues of this province, not a single cent from that original $4 million went to promote health, not a cent.

So we look back to the announcements that were made, and I see the former Minister of Health making some comments, and I would like to speak about the establishment. (Interruption) Wait until Thursday, I'm being told by the former Minister of Health, and I'm encouraged by that. Let's consider the ominous mountain that the Finance Minister will have to overcome, when one considers it in the following context.

On April 5, 2001, this government increased taxes for cigarettes, in this province, and at the time, it's interesting to note what their promise was. They said, "A portion of the tax revenue will be used to support new programs planned as part of the strategy . . .", and this is their smoking cessation strategy, " . . . to be released later this year. Health Minister Jamie Muir welcomed the announcement as another punch in the department's fight against smoking."

On November 1, 2001, still the same year, the government didn't have enough money, so they decided to tax smokers again. And in that release in paragraph two, the government said, " . . . the Nova Scotia government is raising tobacco taxes to help discourage smoking." In the next paragraph, "The intent is to convince Nova Scotians to stop smoking or refuse to start.", and then two paragraphs later they continue, "We quickly came to a consensus that raising tobacco taxes is the most effective tool in the fight against smoking . . ." Fast-forward to just a few months later, they still didn't have enough money, so on April 4, 2002, they announced further increases.

On January 8, 2003, the government still running short on dough, decides that they should raise money through increased cigarette taxes, and in paragraph two of that news release it says, "We are committed to creating a healthier province by reducing our high rate

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of smoking, particularly among our youth . . ." Increasing the price of tobacco is an important part of our overall strategy to help Nova Scotians live healthier, smoke-free lives. No argument with that, Madam Speaker.

March 16, 2004, yet again, the province increases the price of cigarettes, and on that occasion, the first two paragraphs start, "The province is taking another step to curb tobacco use in Nova Scotia by implementing a tobacco tax increase . . . Reducing tobacco use continues to be a priority for this government as we fulfill our commitment to improve the health of Nova Scotians . . ."

Anyone who listens to that wouldn't fully appreciate that through those increases, since this government has taken power, they have taken $90 million more, through increased tax revenues from cigarettes, and on each occasion when they did it, it's curious to note that they always spoke about health promotion. So surely, most of that $90 million went to health promotion. In fact, it didn't. Less than $2 million of that money went to health promotion. The rest of it went to tax cuts, waste and needs that this government seems to be out of step with Nova Scotians on.

Where is the commitment to health promotion? How much of the remaining $88 million could have been put to good use to really address what's important for Nova Scotians? Most or all of it I would suggest. So where are our priorities? What is important? Is it the health of our citizens, or is it now still $60 million worth of tax cuts? Is it the problems that our children face in not having access to sports, to sex education, through the kinds of programs that the Cape Breton Wellness Centre put together?

Now for anyone who wasn't following, the Cape Breton Wellness Centre is a centre that received a Leadership Award for Women's Health in Atlantic Canada from the Atlantic Centre of Excellence for Women's Health. They've undertaken several significant and positive programs. They've initiated a healthy school food policy, they've increased women's access to cervical cancer screening, they've explored how recent coal mining closures are affecting the health of the people living in Cape Breton.

It's interesting to note, Madam Speaker, that by all national standards the people in Cape Breton suffer perhaps as badly as almost anyone and need the support of a centre like this. They've established to the Cape Breton Wellness Centre bikeways, pathways, green spaces. They've spoken about the needs of post-rehabilitation for cardiac patients. They've talked about the economy and health projects. What has this government done with respect to the measly $150,000 worth of funding that they used to receive from this provincial government? Two years ago they cut it off and despite the badgering that has been placed at the feet of the Department of Health and the Department of Health Promotion, none of it appears to have gone back in to that centre. Is it a priority or is it not? Are you going to walk the talk or are you only going to talk the talk with respect to health promotion? Are you going to put before this Legislature a piece of legislation that only establishes finally an office

[Page 2292]

16 months later or are you actually going to do something? Are you going to put your money towards this?

I can see from the signals that I'm getting from the Minister of Education, and he's referring to the Minister of Health beside him, that something is going to be done in this budget and it's welcome to be done, but what will you have done with the $88 million that is already there, that has already come from tax promotion? Will that go into these types of programs?

I would like to talk a little bit about some of the programs, Madam Speaker, that should be considered. We have with respect to smoking, because I've placed some emphasis on that, the issue of whether or not the patch should be more available, Zyban, whether or not there should be more physical education in our schools, whether or not, for example, we should finally start a Healthy Starts Program. This government, like Health Promotion, has paid lip service to the issue of health promotion. All the research tells us that the most important formative years of our lives happen from a pre-natal period to Grade Primary and that is the time at which we should be focusing all of our attention and money.

This government at one time, when I first arrived on the scene two years ago, was spending, what they touted as a Healthy Starts Program, $9 million or $10 million towards healthy starts and tried to rebut our suggestion that they need more of a commitment to this. Well, in fact, we learned that almost all of that money was federal money and in terms of putting together a comprehensive Healthy Starts Program in the way that they started it in Hawaii, really committing ourselves to actually making sure that our tots and our pre-schoolers are having a leg up, requires a commitment of resources. Those are the kinds of ideas that this government should be committing itself, fully funding the issue of kids sport that undoubtedly the Minister responsible for Health Promotion is fully aware of.

We know that this is a multi-faceted problem. My background is with the criminal justice system and, in particular, with youth justice. In the time as a policy worker that I was working on trying to advance the issues of youth justice, I was amazed at the number of times that I would read reports that didn't have the political will but made complete sense about how we need to connect the dots about healthy people, better educated people in a healthy, strong economy. Those are issues that we need to begin to connect the dots on or we, as a province, are going to continue to languish when it comes to the importance of social issues, the importance of economic issues. These are the challenges that face us. Health promotion is, hopefully, on the front burner and it will stay on the front burner for a long period of time.

Thirteen per cent of our Gross Domestic Product in this province is spent on chronic illness and 40 per cent of chronic illness is preventable. Recently the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives spoke about all of the challenges that we face as a province. Nobody is pretending that this is easy stuff, but the bottom line is that the pretense must end, that smoking cessation programs need to be properly funded, that health promotion and wellness

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in this province needs to actually be put into action, and that the tax dollars that are taken from Nova Scotians on the pretense of health promotion need to be put straight back into Health Promotion or keep quiet about whether you're truly committed to this issue.

In this province, Madam Speaker, we've had too much of a history of dangling a short-term carrot - one has to think clearly of the $155 cheque that was spent last year - and forsaking long-term vision. Long-term vision is what this province needs. It needs it most importantly when it comes to the health of our citizens. At the end of the day, nothing could be more important than the health of Nova Scotians. Thank you very much.

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

MS. MARILYN MORE: I'm really pleased to have this opportunity to speak to the amendment to establish the Office of Health Promotion, Bill No. 46. While I applaud the government's interest in health promotion, I do have some concerns about this particular bill. I think my first concern is that the bill seems to encourage a very narrow definition of health promotion. I must say that I actually was motivated to run for office because of my long-time interest in building healthy communities. I'm interested to see, as one of the responsibilities, injury prevention, because my former organization Community Links, was actually the lead on the provincial initiative to develop a strategy on preventing falls among seniors and injury prevention in general. This is an issue that is very near and dear to my heart.

My concern is that the focus in the bill seems to be on individual health promotion practices and lifestyle choices. While perhaps 10, 15 years ago, this was seen as the way to go, research seems to indicate these days that you have to take a much broader approach to all the factors that affect a person and a community and a province's health. Earlier speakers have talked about the determinants of health. We know that the level of education, your physical environment, your social environment, your level of income, child development, culture, your gender, all of these things have a tremendous impact on your health status.

In fact, you might be interested to know that middle income earners are actually twice as healthy as low income earners, and high income earners are twice as healthy as middle income earners. So that just shows you the impact of having discretionary funds and the options that they provide to a person has on your health. It is a very narrow view to just talk about healthy living, addiction prevention, tobacco control, physical activity, proper nutrition, healthy sexuality, and injury prevention, without looking at these broader concerns.

I'm also worried that the narrow definition may be a way for the government to justify spending such a small percentage of the health budget on health promotion. Four per cent is not going to provide the long-term broad sector interaction of health promotion activities and strategies that are going to be required.

[Page 2294]

Talking a little bit more about the determinants of health, I have a school in my community that has the exhaust for a dry cleaner coming into its playground, and it's across the street from an oil refinery, and a propane exchange unit. I'd like to suggest that adding a half hour of activity to that student population's schedule, or providing the early morning breakfast program alone, is not going to have a terrific impact on their health status. It's no surprise that this particular school population has a very high incidents of asthma. You have to work on a number of these factors together.

I want to suggest that it would be easy with a narrow definition of health promotion to be able to place the blame on the victim or the individual, and suggest that their ill-health is actually due to their own particular lifestyle choices. It is much more broad than that. I would like to see the Office of Health Promotion being given responsibility for taking a broader sort of population based approach in government.

I know in some provinces they actually have a cross-sectoral or cross-department committee that looks at collaboration, it looks at new initiatives, it looks at all the new policies and legislation coming in and provides sort of a health screen. They check to see what the impact will be on the health of the province before that legislation is introduced into the Legislature or the policy is changed. I would like to suggest that that kind of healthy public policy lens would have a much greater impact on improving health for Nova Scotians than any single action that could be taken by an individual department. I would really like to encourage the government to look at providing that kind of screen for its legislation and policies. It would have a much greater impact on the quality of life of Nova Scotians.

It was interesting for me to read that in Newfoundland, the residents of Newfoundland and Labrador actually rate their health much higher than Nova Scotians. The explanation given is because they sense a strong community and family support system in place. They feel protected and supported by the strong sense of community and their strong sense of family in Newfoundland and Labrador. They recognize the importance of that in maintaining their health status. So they rate themselves actually much healthier than they do in Nova Scotia.

We need to be looking at a number of different issues; affordable and safe housing, decreasing the income gap, giving people a better sense of control over their life and employment. We need to be looking at fairness and equality, social inclusion and safety, both personally as an individual and within a community. These much broader determinants will have a much greater impact than some of the individual items being listed here as the responsibility of the Office of Health Promotion.

I agree with the earlier speakers that we have an extremely high rate of chronic disease, disability and death in Nova Scotia. We're not going to have any impact on that until we invest many more dollars and much more time and energy on broad health promotion strategies in this province. Ever since the Royal Commission on Health Care report came in in, I think it was, 1989, we have known that we almost have to double-fund our acute care

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and rehabilitation care system in Nova Scotia, that until we add significant new dollars to health promotion, we're not going to be able to slow down the health expenditures on acute and rehabilitation care.

If we want to be serious about this, there's almost a bottomless pit that we can continue to pour the taxpayers' dollars in to treat people after they become injured or after they become ill. Until we turn that around and promote safety, promote health and wellness, we're not going to be able to decrease that bottomless pit into which our tax dollars are going. We have many examples around the world, Australia, North Karilea, these are all long-term projects that have shown significant benefits for their citizens.

So there are models out there in the rest of the world that we can follow, and I would really encourage our government to take seriously what has worked well in other areas. We can learn and be very efficient in terms of using our tax dollars, public money. I do want to suggest it's certainly time that the Office of Health Promotion has been made official. I would encourage the government to put significantly more money into its operation, and I would strongly recommend that the priority change from a narrow focus on things such as physical activity and some of these other sort of personal lifestyle choices and embrace the much broader population health approach that has worked so successfully in other countries and would really make a serious dent in the high rate of chronic disease, disability and death in Nova Scotia. Thank you.

[3:00 p.m.]

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

MR. GERALD SAMPSON: Madam Speaker, I am pleased to stand and speak for a few moments on Bill No. 46. Not to bash anyone, but to agree wholeheartedly that the time has come when we realize that what we are doing is not working, now it's time to change what we are doing. A change of lifestyle is a long time overdue.

I'd like to point to the fact that the young gentleman from Middle River, Daniel Canning, who I referenced the other day who, at 16 years of age, has won a national championship in weightlifting by following an active lifestyle and training himself in the meagre surroundings he has, without a professional gymnasium or any professional training, but being active, staying clean and staying away from smoking and drugs. If it can work for him - he's an example for youth - it can work for everyone.

Boularderie Elementary School, I was fortunate to have a community there that thought it would be good to introduce a karate program, which we did for the youth and it's working very well. The children are active not only during recess hours but immediately after school.

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Tobacco control, the taxes for it, the money that's gained, that's additional money. Rather than taking it and - as we've heard other speakers say - putting it in the general coffers, I applaud the fact that, hopefully - I'm looking forward to Thursday when the budget comes down - this money will be put in specifically for what it's intended for. Give health promotion a priority and it'll be amazing over a period of time. You heard reference to North Karelia, I think that process took 15 years. I was made aware of that from my contacts with the Nova Scotia Heart and Stroke Foundation and how it took 15 years to evolve to get to where they are today.

The plan needs to be put into place to address all the components of health promotion and have it legislated into government so that the program can be accountable. There will be resistance to active living. People get lazy, they'd rather lay on the coach, have a cigarette, eat excessively, so you are going to get resistance to that. On the other side, the small amount of resistance will be meagre when compared to the actual results that we will gain.

Chronic Disease Prevention Strategy, if it's given a priority, will need to educate people away from medication and a sedentary lifestyle. That's for their own benefit. It's nice to go to the doctor. I'll use myself as an example. Once a year I get a check-up and the first thing they ask is, what medication are you on, and you can answer, none. They look rather surprised. Maybe there are times throughout the day in this House a person should be on medication, I'm not sure, Madam Speaker.

The additional dollars that will be gained, I would really like to see results for it. I'm looking forward to that, and I can't reiterate enough that I don't want to see the monies go into general revenues. I'm looking forward to Thursday for the budget and hope that money is earmarked for that. A significant contribution to health promotion, yes, we could change a negative into a positive.

Cigarette taxes, most of us agree that smoking is bad. Well, let's take the taxes on that bad habit and change it into something positive. The GPI Atlantic study revealed in 2002 that chronic illness is costing Nova Scotians more than $3 billion in medical costs and lost productivity. Active living will change that around. Just a few more statistics, Madam Speaker. If just 10 per cent of Nova Scotians were physically active, the province could save an estimated $4.6 million in avoided hospital, drug and physician costs, and $7.5 million in total economic gains. Active people are more productive - there's an added estimated $17 million in productivity. Add it all together, it comes up in the vicinity of $24.5 million. A lot of money that could be used for a lot better things than having somebody laying on a chesterfield, smoking and eating excessively.

I'm looking forward to this bill going to the Committee on Law Amendments, so that we can have the input from other interested parties. And, more importantly, I'm looking forward that the budget will ensure that this plan can be executed. Thank you, Madam Speaker.

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MADAM SPEAKER: The honourable member for Halifax Atlantic.

MS. MICHELE RAYMOND: Madam Speaker, we all seem to be very grateful for the opportunity to welcome this bill into the Legislature, and I think it's because a great many of us look at issues that arise as health promotion issues. More and more frequently I find myself saying, of what presents itself as a crisis health issue, really it is a health promotion issue. So, I am very glad to see this overture and I'm looking forward to the work itself.

As has been pointed out by a number of people, Nova Scotia has an existing culture which is not to be envied. Very high cancer rates, respiratory disease, and the highest disability rate - at 20.6 - of any province in Canada.

Health Canada has just released a report - which I will table for later reference - entitled The Tides of Change, Addressing Inequity and Chronic Disease in Atlantic Canada. And I think that that again, promoting health promotion, is something which we must do. In that report the quote is made that "Social determinants of health and disease are 'political' matters beyond the physicians's purview . . . medicine is a social science, and politics is nothing more than medicine on a large scale." Those words were written in 1842 - we have been delaying for some time.

I would hope that in the implementation of the Office of Health Promotion we will take a broad view of the parameters which have been set forth. Nutrition is, as we know, something very difficult to achieve on a limited budget. We need to look at the limited budget. Injury prevention and disease prevention, both, can be viewed at least partly as functions of stress. As the developing science of psychoneuroimmunology clarifies, immune function is severely depressed by stress.

Mental health promotion is at least as important as any of the other forms that we can take, and as I have pointed out, most recently, the incidence of postpartum depression is highly correlated with incidents of child depression, and suicide rates are climbing amongst children between the ages of 6 and 12. We cannot afford to ignore this aspect of health promotion. Perhaps what's needed is a sleep strategy - and at this time I say it less jokingly than ever before.

Smoking rates are highest amongst those diagnosed with mental health issues. This is something as well which needs to be addressed before we go at it. I would like to add a single comment on the culture of physical inactivity. I have long heard, and have been very uncomfortable with the term "elite athlete". It is a very important thing that we encourage sport amongst young people. It is equally important that we encourage physical activity without expectation of elite accomplishment amongst all of our population - and that is something that can be done by using the health promotion filter - to look at every enactment this government passes. Thank you very much. (Applause)

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MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Dartmouth East.

MS. JOAN MASSEY: Mr. Speaker, I'm not going to speak too long on this. When I was sitting up there and listening to everybody speak, there was a lot of good information that came out and I certainly enjoyed listening to everybody's comments. I learned a lot in the time that I was just sitting up in the Chair.

Mr. Speaker, I would like to talk about a couple of issues that I'm aware of. Recently the Dartmouth Community Health Board held a consultation in our community and that was attended by 130 citizens, 47 community organizations and groups, MLAs and our federal MP and some of our municipal councillors. A lot of issues were brought forward due to that evening of consultation and they fell into four general themes.

One was sustainable funding and sustainable support for community programs and services. The second issue was communication and coordination between groups including Capital Health and the Dartmouth Community Health Board. The third issue was communication and coordination between groups and the general public. The fourth issue was health promotion activities including nutrition, physical activity and healthy lifestyle choices. So number four actually is the issue that sort of stuck out for me when I was reading this document.

Mr. Speaker, I will go to Page 15 of the Dartmouth Community Health Board's community consultation report to Capital Health. In that they strongly support a number of health promotion initiatives and some of them are targeted towards tobacco control and youth health. Some of the issues they listed below here - excuse me for reading directly from the script, but I haven't had a lot of time to prepare my own notes today - "Nutrition: Poor nutritional habits and inadequate access to healthy food choices are impacting individual and family health."

"Physical Activity: Members of our community understand the value of physical activity for all age groups and have expressed a desire to find more opportunities for physical activity to promote their own health and well-being."

Social isolation was another point brought up. "Social isolation creates a barrier to achieving community and individual health. It should be noted here that the impact of social isolation, while common in the 'seniors' age bracket is felt across all demographics."

Mr. Speaker, on Page 16 they point out that poverty is a major factor affecting the health and well-being of many individuals and families in Dartmouth. "Though this concern is immense and flows into the jurisdictions of many areas of authority, Capital Health cannot ignore the impact it has on the individual and family health."

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Primary Health Care was listed. "Primary health care, and the initiatives underway to develop 'closer to home' delivery and intervention systems, are key . . ."

They did speak to some direct action recommendations and one of them was to increase support for the development of additional co-operative service deliveries with parent and families resource centres in the Dartmouth area. They will continue to advocate, where possible, for increased restrictions around food marketing to children and they would like to see more opportunities to collaborate with school boards in the support of nutritional programs in schools.

"Capital Health must advocate with its provincial and HRM stakeholder partners and organizations to create affordable opportunities for people to use recreational services and facilities, and promote the need for green spaces . . ." Mr. Speaker, in particular, in my constituency we do not have a recreational facility. We have the Dartmouth East Boys and Girls Club, which is right now operating out of five areas or places in the community that people have been kind enough to make available to them. So definitely there is an issue there.

While attention needs to be placed on lifestyle factors that influence health, Capital Health should strongly advocate for healthy public policies.

Mr. Speaker, another issue that came up recently in some articles in the newspaper was the connection now between the cancer rates and the use of chemicals. The Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives have done a study that points out the spectacular increases in the incidents of cancer over the past few decades. They're saying that this can't be explained primarily by genetics or lifestyles such as diet or smoking, although these are big components of the big picture. They're saying that an even bigger culprit is chemical pollution - in our food, air, water and our workplace. They're saying that if this rate continues, stats show that we will have an epidemic of cancer in a few years; 44 per cent of people now living will develop some form of cancer and over half will die of it. These are very scary figures for someone to read.

[3:15 p.m.]

Nova Scotia, as we know, already has some of the highest incidents of cancer in the country, not to mention asthma and other diseases. When I hear people speaking today about all the different issues around promoting good health in the province, I believe what I'm hearing everyone saying is that we have to look at the bigger picture. One of the big things that is in this big picture is the way that Nova Scotia is continuing to pollute the environment in which we live. Nova Scotia Power, in particular, is of grave concern as far as the health of Nova Scotians goes. They continue to make it into the top 10 polluters list every time that you see a list published. They're producing 84 per cent of the province's air pollution and you have to wonder if there is anything that can be done about this.

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Mr. Speaker, there are things that can be done. Other provinces across the country and power companies are improving efficiency by increasing incentives. The New Brunswick Public Utility provides free inspections to homeowners. P.E.I.'s Maritime Electric does phone consultations with people and they will loan them a watt metre so they can determine how big an energy user they are. They provide free inspections. Manitoba is far and beyond the other provinces. They do community efficiency workshops, provide loan and long-term payment options to people wanting to improve the efficiency of their homes. These are just a few of the things that we can be doing and that this government could be initiating and helping to move along. Other provinces encourage people to use renewable energy. For example, in Manitoba, extra energy produced by a farmer's wind turbine can be sold back to the Maritime's hydro power grid. There's no incentive provided in this province for Nova Scotia Power to do these kinds of things.

Mr. Speaker, I won't go on and on about the conditions in the province caused by Nova Scotia Power. I would just like to say, yes, there are things that can be done in regard to this issue and we can move towards a cleaner and a renewable energy source that will help us all in the long run as far as our health goes and, therefore, I will support the bill going forward and definitely look forward to seeing what comes out in the end.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Dartmouth North.

MR. JERRY PYE: Mr. Speaker, it's always an opportunity to speak to legislation that's brought before this House. Today I'm speaking on Bill No. 46, for the establishment of the Office of Health Promotion. I want to tell you that it's a good day that finally we recognize that we are going to establish an Office of Health Promotion.

I want to say though, Mr. Speaker, as I stand in this Legislative Assembly, that I want to acknowledge the tremendous work done by my Party's Health Critic, the honourable member for Halifax Needham. I also want to recognize the great contribution that's put forward by the honourable member for Dartmouth South-Portland Valley. The honourable members have brought some really good issues to this Legislative Assembly which I know the Minister of Health Promotion has duly noted and made record of some of the points that they have brought forward and hopefully will address.

Mr. Speaker, I want to talk about the Office of Health Promotion. Although it is not established now, I want to talk about what will be the role of Health Promotion. My hope is that the role of the Office of Health Promotion will be a department that will seek information from other governmental department offices. I want to say to the honourable Minister of Health Promotion that, in fact, this wide blanket that goes across all government departments is one in which the honourable minister will look at with respect to seeking input from because the Office of Health Promotion will have a significant impact on the Department of Education, what the Department of Education can do to promote health, obviously the Department of Health, but also the Department of Community Services, and what can be

[Page 2301]

done in the Department of Community Services to, in fact, bring about health promotion and healthy lifestyles within the citizens of our community.

Mr. Speaker, I want to tell you that these are significantly important. There will also, hopefully, be conversations with the Gaming Foundation, that dispenses the dollars in the Department of Health, which will find itself moving forward to the Office of Health Promotion. I do know that a private member's bill has just been introduced, today I believe, by the honourable member for Annapolis, which is going to make a request - if that private member's bill comes to the floor - for 10 per cent of the gaming revenues to be used in sport and recreation. I do know that is already a bill that has been put forward, and that's for another day of discussion.

Today, the importance of the Office of Health Promotion is to make sure that every Nova Scotian lives in a healthy province, and that every Nova Scotian has a healthy community in which Nova Scotians can live, and that every Nova Scotian, irrespective of their status within the province, will, in fact, benefit from the Office of Health Promotion. That, to me, is significantly important. I do want to acknowledge the honourable member for Dartmouth East, as well, who is the Environment Critic for the Party, who has recognized that the environmental issues that affect communities also affect the healthy well-being of Nova Scotians as well, and that the Office of Health Promotion will have to work with all those departments in order to bring forward what this Office of Health Promotion recognizes as a truly comprehensive health program.

Also, Mr. Speaker, it is my hope that when this Office of Health Promotion is brought together, the foundation is there, that there is a CEO or a chief administrative officer of the Office of Health Promotion, that there is a staff in place, that the Office of Health Promotion will guarantee and assure this Legislative Assembly that it will bring forward an annual report of the Office of Health Promotion, discussing the progress and the progress that has been made to date with respect to its initiatives and drives and promotions into the office of that department. I do know the honourable minister will make sure that that's an annual report that comes to this Legislative Assembly, because only by way of an annual report can we as Members of this Legislative Assembly measure the performance of government and watch the outcomes with respect to this Office of Health Promotion.

Mr. Speaker, I want to tell you that Bill No. 46 was in my mind on last Wednesday, when I attended a public meeting on youth concerns within the constituency of Dartmouth North. I want to tell you that although this not only encompasses youth, it is a part of the Office of Health Promotion, and that the youth in that community recognize that there were some serious deficiencies with respect to being able to get access to funding and money to be actively involved in programs in the community.

[Page 2302]

Mr. Speaker, it even costs money to be involved in a gymnastics program in the school. If you're not out there fundraising or being a part of that and you live in a community where you cannot fundraise, then the bottom line is that you don't participate. That, I'm sure, is not what the Office of Health Promotion wants to see happen. I'm sure that the Office of Health Promotion wants to make sure that those dollars are put in so that those individuals who live in the communities, where they are working poor and where they're on fixed incomes and so on, whether they're youth or whether they're seniors, whatever level, that they are able to participate.

Mr. Speaker, my hope is that the Office of Health Promotion makes sure that there's a brochure readily available to Nova Scotians, indicating to Nova Scotians how they can access funding. Another important issue that came up that night is that I do know that through Sport Nova Scotia many of those individuals indicated that they must make the individual application. Some of those families, as the minister is very much aware, are not qualified to make that application, nor are the individuals. They have difficulty producing that application and getting it forward. There needs to be a way that the agency or organization, who can tap into the Office of Health Promotion for the funding to help that individual or individual agency or groups, is able to do that, so that the individual and the individual's family members don't have to put themselves in a burdensome position of having to fill out that application.

We live in a real world, Mr. Speaker, and the real world out there is not very favourable at the present time, the minister knows, with respect to obesity, with respect to chronic diseases, with respect to the inability to participate in active programs in one's community. The minister is aware, I don't have to stand in this Legislative Assembly and tell the minister of these, and I do know that my honourable colleagues on both sides of the floor have already informed the minister with respect to those very important issues.

MR. SPEAKER: Would the member allow time for an introduction?

MR. PYE: The honourable member certainly would.

MR. LEO GLAVINE: I'd like to draw attention to the Speaker's Gallery, to introduce two constituents from Kings West. Lane Myers and Glenn Bowlby, owner of Bowlby Quality Meats. I would like the House to give them a warm welcome please. (Applause)

MR. SPEAKER: Thank you and indeed welcome to all our visitors in the gallery today.

The honourable member for Dartmouth North.

[Page 2303]

MR. PYE: I speak passionately about the Office of Health Promotion, because as a disabled person I know the importance of having a healthy community, a healthy city and a healthy province. As a matter of fact, Mr. Speaker, I know the importance of having health for one's physical well-being. I want to tell you that I was fortunate enough to serve in municipal government for the former City of Dartmouth, when the former mayor, John Savage, who was also the former Premier of this province, brought in the promotion of healthy communities. The former Premier and the former mayor of the municipalities was so impressed with the fact that it ought to be carried on, not only in the Province of Nova Scotia but also carried out over the entire Country of Canada, so he did bring it to the Federation of Canadian Municipalities with the intent of making Canada promote healthy communities across the country.

Mr. Speaker, I happened to be there. It was important to be a part. Mind you, this happened in the late 1980s, and the early 1990s and we made progress. As a matter of fact, the honourable member for Dartmouth South-Portland Valley sat on some of those committees which promoted healthy communities within the Province of Nova Scotia, and across the country. To say that this is an extension or a branch of would be wrong. I hope that the honourable minister's establishment of this office is one that will certainly allow the dollars to be put into that office and allow the programs to come forward through that office and allow Nova Scotians to have access to those programs and services, particularly the resources with respect to money so that they can become actively involved in better lifestyles than what we presently have.

I did get off track a bit with respect to last Wednesday, speaking to and speaking with a number of concerned citizens in the constituency of Dartmouth North, particularly around programs and services. Many of the young people who were in that community certainly felt that there was a lack of funding from all levels of government. The funding from the levels of government both from the Halifax Regional Municipality and the province and the Government of Canada with respect to accessing dollars to help them get actively involved in programs and services in their community was virtually impossible to access. I do want to say to you, Mr. Speaker, that the community health board, and I'm sure that the minister and the Office of Health Promotion will work very closely with the community health board. I have to say that the Dartmouth community health board, has been working very strong in my community and working very closely with the activities and interests of that community to bring about healthy lifestyles in Dartmouth, as well as within the constituency of Dartmouth North.

[3:30 p.m.]

Mr. Speaker, I want to say once again, and I don't want to sound repetitive, but I think it's important that in the establishment of this Office of Health Promotion, make sure that there's adequate funding and dollars that carry out the programs and services, that there is consultation with every single department within government, and that every single

[Page 2304]

department within government work closely with the Office of Health Promotion, and the Office of Health Promotion work closely with the community health boards.

Finally, at the end of the day, that annual report comes out so that we, as politicians, can measure the performance of the Office of Health Promotion, so we will know the outcomes and we will be able to see the performance of the government of the day.

With that, Mr. Speaker, I look forward to this bill going on to the Committee on Law Amendments. I will wait until the bill comes back from the Committee on Law Amendments and listen to the witnesses and the presenters at the Committee on Law Amendments to see what they have to say, before speaking on this bill on a future day. Thank you.

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

MR. RUSSELL MACKINNON: Mr. Speaker, I rise to make a few comments on Bill No. 46, An Act to Amend Chapter 376 of the Revised Statutes, 1989, the Public Service Act, to Establish the Office of Health Promotion.

Mr. Speaker, any attempt or any effort to improve the health and well-being of Nova Scotians is certainly a welcome addition to the legislative process and, indeed, the entire Province of Nova Scotia. I'm sure all Nova Scotians would agree. I would like to point out at the outset that while the object is correct in what the minister is trying to achieve, I believe there has to be some considerable work done to this particular piece of legislation that would make it a much better piece of legislation. I know we don't get into clause by clause as we debate second reading of the piece of legislation. We generally debate the principle of the bill, and that allows us a certain degree of latitude to expand on certain health-related issues whether it be an organized sport or whether it be some of the other issues such as addiction prevention and so on, that the minister has outlined in this bill.

I do believe it's important to highlight some of the points on this particular piece of legislation, because there are only two clauses to the bill with a number of subclauses. I would suggest, we've all often heard the old saying that there's more meat to a hockey stick, well I think this would certainly classify as a hockey stick. It's a Cape Breton saying, albeit the minister would be familiar with that. You know, when things are rather skimpy, we usually use that analogy, because you don't find meat on a hockey stick, and much akin to what this legislation, the optics of what it's attempting to achieve as opposed to the reality of what it is achieving, and I felt it was important to point that out.

Mr. Speaker, in this particular legislation, on the second line in, the minister says, "There shall be an Office of Health Promotion.", and then in Subsection (2) it says, "The Governor in Council may assign to a member of the Executive Council responsibility . . .", so they may and they may not, depending upon the order and the business of the day. It

[Page 2305]

should be, I believe, firmed up considerably more, and remove the word "may" and insert the word "shall" because it's a significant issue, as has been demonstrated.

For example, with the Youth Secretariat bill that is now before the House, not the one that we had, the private member's bill, the one that's already in approval, and it shows that the youth of the province, the Youth Secretariat comes under the purview of seven different government departments. So, at any point in time, the youth of our province, particularly if it comes to an education issue, or in this case a health issue, it can be if one government department doesn't want to deal with it they'll put them onto another government department. So what happens is you just eventually - as simply put, one can be passing the buck and not really achieve your goals and, given the fact that to date things have been really slow with the government on this particular issue, I would suggest that there is some concern with that because the word "may" is used on several occasions - in terms of the appointment of an executive officer for the Office of Health Promotion, as well as any other officers, right up to the ministerial responsibility.

So there's no firm commitment per se in this legislation that these initiatives will take place; there's no guarantee because it's all permissive legislation and it's contingent upon when the Governor in Council - again - may decide to give Royal Assent to this particular piece of legislation. I believe that there have to be a lot of additions to this and I'm sure that our caucus and our representative in caucus will be bringing in some amendments.

I would be surprised if we didn't, based on what we're seeing here, because in one of the subclauses of Clause 1 of this bill, Mr. Speaker, is the reference to the different issues that will be addressed through the Office of Health Promotion. Clause 1, Section 25D(b) says one of the areas of concern will be addiction prevention. Well, we've seen earlier today, in the Cape Breton region, where Addiction Services on the weekend in the Cape Breton Healthcare Complex, and in particular in Richmond County as well, they've been eliminated. So while it looks great and it sounds great, we're here talking about all the wonderful things we're going to do, on the other hand the minister and his colleagues are cutting back the resources to keep people healthy. They're cutting them loose.

Now, your need for an addiction service is not based on going out and making an appointment - particularly with issues of alcohol and drug abuse, the need is immediate. The need is genuine and we don't have to expand too much on it, Mr. Speaker, when we've seen what has happened over the last number of months. We've had one death a month for the last 18-19 months, and what has been done? The only real addiction service for that type of drug abuse is 400 kilometres away. I mean we have two Cabinet Ministers from Cape Breton, and why aren't they standing up for their constituents? Why aren't they doing something for their fellow Cape Bretoners? Why aren't they doing something for those people who need that very important service?

[Page 2306]

It's not just good enough, Mr. Speaker, to bring legislation before the House and say we may - we may - do something. That's not good enough. They've cut their budget and then they bring in a paper tiger.

Look down in Colchester County on Hope Farm - what happened there? The member for Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley wanted to do what he could to keep that place open to help people who had alcohol and drug addiction problems and the Minister of Community Services cut them loose. Another operation gone down. So while the government is saying it's doing lots on the issue of health promotion, one of the key issues spoken about in this legislation is addiction prevention, including problem drinking and problem gambling.

Well, we have problem drinking in Colchester County, we have it in Richmond County, we have it in Cape Breton County and I'm sure every county in this province and what's the government doing? It's cutting back its funding. The point has already been made by my colleague, the member for Halifax Citadel that the government is taking millions of dollars more from Nova Scotians and from the taxpayers than it's putting back into health promotion. We know that the issue of nutrition is absolutely imperative if we are going to have healthy Nova Scotians, in particular, the children and the youth of this province.

Do you know, Mr. Speaker, that there are close to 2,000 students that go to school every day in the Cape Breton-Victoria Regional School Board without having breakfast? Out of 16,000, over 2,000 or close to 13 per cent go to school each and every day of their school year with no breakfast, no nutrition. Despite requests to the Minister of Education, despite requests to the Minister of Health, despite requests to the Minister of Health Promotion, they haven't done one iota to help those children.

It begs the question, what's the value of the legislation if the government doesn't have a real serious commitment to that? I'm sure, with the budget coming up in a couple of days, we'll have something outlined in there that there'll be more money for the Office of Health Promotion. Well, why wouldn't there be? Because the government is shutting down these other services like Hope Farm in Colchester County and heaven forbid, that honourable member for Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley who's on the government side, couldn't even get his own colleagues - in particular, the Minister of Community Services - to help him. So if the backbenchers on that side of the government can't get the ministers to listen, what hope do we have on this side? What hope? (Interruption)

Well, isn't that nicely put? The backbenchers on the government side said, none. That's the indictment that member has for the people of Nova Scotia. That's the indictment that member who comes from rural Nova Scotia has for his own constituents. No, Mr. Speaker, I won't embarrass that member by naming the member because he has enough problems in his riding, in his constituency. So, the question I ask - rhetorically because it's not Question Period - but I ask the Minister of Tourism, Culture and Heritage, soon to be the

[Page 2307]

Minister of Health Promotion, what is he doing for those 2,000 children who go to school every day in the Cape Breton-Victoria Regional School Board? What's he doing? Not a thing.

The issue of health promotion is very important. The elementary students in our school system here in Nova Scotia receive physical education training as part of their curriculum, but if you look at the way the curriculum is set up - and I suppose I can speak to a certain extent for one or two of the boards that I know, and it may not be universal, I know some people who have an educational background would be more attuned to this - but at the elementary level they may only have a half hour of exercise, maybe an hour at most, a week. That's not enough. That's not even nearly enough.

[3:45 p.m.]

Let's say if you're going through the five-period cycles in your curriculum, it may be a week and a half before you get back to physical education for those students of that particular class. So they're not even getting physical education, exercise, once a week. It may be once every week and a half. Then if you go to the junior high or, more particularly, the high schools, where they have the PAL program (Interruptions) Physically Active Lifestyles, Grade 11 and so on, that's not addressing all the needs. The minister knows that, and what has he done? He has done absolutely nothing.

Mr. Speaker, this bill, the title and the optics, very promising, very noble, but the reality is it doesn't have the substance. There's no meat to it. I would ask the minister, from the time it leaves the Chamber here, goes to the Law Amendments Committee and comes back, to show the leadership and show the initiative, to take some of the permissive language out of it and put something a little more in the true legislative format to make it compulsory.

AN HON. MEMBER: More meat in a hockey stick.

MR. MACKINNON: That's right. More meat in a hockey stick. Well, there are certain things that could be said. (Interruptions) Well, you know there are different sports, and they say that golf is just a good walk spoiled. Now, for the golfers in our audience, I'm not sure they would agree. I really haven't been able to come to terms with the fact that you hit this little white ball as hard as you can, until you almost can't see it, and then you go looking for it, and when you find it again, you have to hit it again and go look for it again. I haven't gotten past that. It doesn't seem to make any sense. If you're looking for the ball and you find it, put it in your pocket and go home. I guess there's therapy there that I just haven't been able to come to terms with. Mr. Speaker, avid golfers know that there's good, therapeutic value, as well as the physical lifestyle that goes with that, if they don't make it back to the clubhouse before the sun goes down.

[Page 2308]

Any type of sport or physical activity is very important. I think the point has been made that Nova Scotia is perhaps one of the least physically fit provinces, in terms of its citizens, than any other jurisdiction, at least the documentation has been pointed out to that effect. As I say, if you're in a race, don't stop and turn around, because those who are coming behind you may overtake you. Well, I would suggest that in Nova Scotia's case, we were overtaken years ago, and we don't have to worry about looking back because there's nobody behind us, in terms of health promotion. We are at the bottom of the heap. I would ask the government to address that.

Yes, I'm glad to see that the good member for Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley is listening, because he knows about the issue of addiction prevention. He knows how his colleague, the Minister of Community Services, has cut his constituency loose, on Hope Farm and the genuine need for the citizens in his constituency. (Interruptions)

MR. BROOKE TAYLOR: Mr. Speaker, on a point of order. The honourable member for Cape Breton West, the very learned member, is making some erroneous statements here in the House. I know it's unusual that I would make that claim against that member, but I do have a letter that the Minister of Community Services sent to the board of directors at Hope Farm. The letter was requesting accountability, Mr. Speaker, and I'm sure you're aware of the contents of that letter and how hard we worked and the minister worked on that file and for that member to stand in the House and say that we didn't try to save Hope Farm, he should stand up and apologize. It's absolutely unacceptable. Thank you.

MR. SPEAKER: It wasn't a point of order, it was more a point of clarification.

The honourable member for Cape Breton West has the floor.

MR. MACKINNON: Mr. Speaker, as usual, there's consistency with the member for Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley. He's the one who always says that there's a lot of bafflegab in the Legislature - he's proven it here today by his comments.

They don't ask for letters, they don't ask for cheap talk, they ask for support. They need the financial commitment to help these people who are suffering from alcohol and drug addiction. They didn't get it from this government. All they got was a letter and a lot of cheap talk. There's lots of opportunity for accountability in that process and that honourable member knows it. He is trying to be an apologist for a government that has a right-wing agenda and cutting any social agency in this province loose like it's done to the Cape Breton Regional Hospital Addiction Services, like they've done in Richmond County, like they've done with Hope Farm in his own constituency. He would rather apologize for that government than to stand up and fight for those who need that help - the weak, the vulnerable, the innocent.

[Page 2309]

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

MR. BROOKE TAYLOR: Mr. Speaker, I wonder if the honourable member would entertain a question?

MR. MACKINNON: From this distinguished gentleman, yes.

MR. TAYLOR: I'd like to ask the honourable member if he could tell this House whereas he seems to have so much profound knowledge about Hope Farm in Coldstream, Colchester County, if he could tell the House who the former executive director of Hope Farm was?

MR. MACKINNON: I do stand to be corrected, but I believe the last name is Turner. I stand to be corrected. (Interruptions) I am right? Yes, okay. So, unlike the honourable member who would like to kind of cast out these little rabbit snares thinking that we don't know what's going on, and it's just outside political optics, I'm sorry, I do have a lot of minutiae and details on that particular file.

Mr. Speaker, talking about health promotion and helping people in this province . . .

MR. BROOKE TAYLOR: Mr. Speaker, on a point of order. The honourable member for Cape Breton West would like this letter tabled. I think it's only fair that I table the letter and it should answer all his questions and concerns. Thank you.

MR. SPEAKER: Okay, it's not a point of order.

The honourable member for Cape Breton West has the floor.

MR. MACKINNON: Mr. Speaker, perhaps we should have had this issue before the House long before now and we could have given more hope to the folks in his constituency rather than just idle words.

As well, you talk about health promotion and helping Nova Scotians live a healthy lifestyle. There was a new regional plan just put out recently by the Department of Community Services with regard to the homes - I forget the proper word, I guess, for transition homes - in this province. If you look at the fine print, what has this government again done with its right-wing agenda which flies in the face of this legislation? This regional plan is the code word for reducing the total number of transition houses in the province, a regional concept which is a way - the Minister of Community Services finally acknowledges that that's what they want to do - to reduce the total number of transition houses in the province. Well, at least he fesses up to it and the executive directors of transition houses are quite concerned about this.

[Page 2310]

There's another example of the government saying one thing and doing another, and where is the largest need in many cases - in rural Nova Scotia. Again, for a government that's represented predominantly throughout rural Nova Scotia, what are they doing - turning their backs on their constituents. So there are two issues right there. Having an abused mother and her children travel all the way from Cumberland County to New Glasgow at 2:00 a.m. for help, 100-some kilometres away, doesn't seem to me to be a rather efficient use of resources. Now these children . . .

MR. SPEAKER: Would the member yield his time for an introduction?

MR. MACKINNON: Mr. Speaker, with your permission, I would take great pleasure in introducing the former member for Dartmouth South who is in your gallery. He was a former Minister of Natural Resources and a very colourful member when he was here to say the least, and I take great pleasure in introducing him and ask all members of the House to give a warm welcome to the former member, Tim Olive. (Applause)

MR. SPEAKER: Indeed, it's always great to see former members come to the Legislature.

MR. MACKINNON: And he does look good up there, Mr. Speaker.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Cape Breton West, you have the floor.

MR. MACKINNON: Mr. Speaker, I know the former member for Dartmouth South would be very excited about this legislation, about healthy lifestyles, proper nutrition, injury prevention, tobacco control, healthy sexuality, physical activity, and a lot of other things that are in there and I'm not going to go into too much detail. I don't want to belabour this particular debate too long, but I do want to indicate to the minister through you that, in fact, this bill needs substantive improvement. It's a good piece of legislation. The intent is there, but it would be like trying to get across the Mira River in a basket. You're not going to make it. You may make it a quarter of the way, but you're going to sink before you get there unless you make some improvements to this legislation. So I would ask the minister to give this a healthy second look.

MR. SPEAKER: Seeing no more speakers on Bill No. 46, I will recognize the Minister of Tourism, Culture and Heritage for closing remarks.

HON. RODNEY MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the comments my colleagues have made throughout the debate on second reading. I'm hearing various remarks about population health from various members and certainly the approach that we are taking, we intend to take through the Office of Health Promotion, is very much based on a population health model because it's vital that our office is much more than working just with stakeholders, or just within our own office, it's vital that we work with departments such as

[Page 2311]

Community Services on food security, on various other issues, on providing more opportunities for young people to get involved in such areas as sport, on working with Education, whether it's facilities, whether it's on healthy eating, working with the Department of Health on addiction services, and right across the board.

[4:00 p.m.]

So I certainly appreciate the comments made throughout second reading and I can assure the members that it's very important for the office to take a multi-sectoral approach and that an appropriate plan will be put forward very shortly, in fact. We have made a commitment to increase resources, we will do that and be investing in such areas as physical activity and healthy eating initiatives, and tobacco that was brought up by few members from the other side, including the member for Halifax Citadel, and certainly I think that is appropriate that we do make an investment in the tobacco strategy. Indeed, the tax increase on tobacco is part of that strategy, but it's just as important that we invest in such programs as cessation aids.

With that, Mr. Speaker, I will move second reading of Bill No. 46.

MR. SPEAKER: The motion is for second reading on Bill No. 46. Would all those in favour of the motion please say Aye. Contrary minded, Nay.

The motion is carried.

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

The honourable Deputy House Leader.

MR. WILLIAM DOOKS: Mr. Speaker, would you please call Bill No. 47.

Bill No. 47 - Council of Atlantic Premiers Act.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Deputy Premier.

HON. RONALD RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, in the absence of the Premier this afternoon, I'm pleased to move second reading of Bill No. 47. I have some notes here that have been prepared for me, and I intend to go through them because I think that perhaps some people, and I'm one of them, are not absolutely aware of what this bill does. (Interruptions) Well you might as well be honest about it.

Mr. Speaker, I have no aspirations to become Premier of the province, so I wasn't with the Premier when he visited with the other Atlantic Premiers and they discussed the introduction of this bill right across the Atlantic Provinces.

[Page 2312]

This bill will enshrine in legislation the Council of Atlantic Premiers, which was formally established by way of an agreement between the four Atlantic Canadian Provinces in May 2000 in Moncton. Prior to this agreement being signed, the Council of Maritime Premiers operated from 1971. On occasion, Newfoundland and Labrador joined the three Maritime Premiers for the meetings. For example, early in our time in office, through such informal discussions among the four Atlantic Provinces, Nova Scotia was able to negotiate a more favourable agreement through Atlantic Loto, generating millions more to Nova Scotia each and every year. But there was no formal body in place to represent Atlantic Canadian interests on the national stage and to foster co-operative initiatives between the four Atlantic Provinces.

I think all members, regardless of political Party will agree with me that it is vital that Atlantic Canada speak with one voice on issues of common concern. Issues like health care funding and the ongoing refusal of the federal government to adopt the funding formula recommended by Roy Romanow in his Royal Commission, et cetera. It is shameful that Ottawa continues to pay only 16 cents out of every health dollar spent on health. Issues like equalization. Canada's constitutional guarantee that all Canadians, regardless of where they live, receive comparable levels of service at comparable levels of taxation. It is shameful that Ottawa has failed to adopt the equalization formula presented unanimously by the provinces for the last five years.

Issues like transportation infrastructure and the systematic confiscation of federal gas tax dollars to its general revenues, when it should be spent on the regions' national highways. I say confiscation, because more than $140 million Ottawa collects in gas tax on Nova Scotia motorists, less than $10 million is returned to Nova Scotia highways.

In Nova Scotia, unlike most other provinces, the provincial government is responsible for more than 90 per cent of the highways, roads and bridges in the province. Mr. Speaker, that's an item that I think sometimes the federal government, when they speak of sharing gasoline tax dollars with municipalities, forgets. In this province, 90 per cent of the highways are under the jurisdiction of the province and only 10 per cent under the municipalities, whereas in Ontario it is exactly the opposite. The Province of Ontario is only responsible for 10 per cent of the highways in the province and the municipalities are responsible for 90 per cent.

That means, whereas in the Province of Nova Scotia, with only 900,000 people resident in this province, we - I mean the provincial government - look after something in the order of 24,000 kilometres of highway. In the Province of Ontario, a province with approximately 10 million people and a much larger land area, the province only looks after about 25,000 kilometres, only a couple of thousand more kilometres of road than Nova Scotia does. So I think that's a very important item that we'll have to continue to keep tabs on when the feds finally get around to sharing tax dollars with the provinces and municipalities.

[Page 2313]

The council has been doing much to advance Atlantic Canada's agenda at the federal level and among our provincial/territorial counterparts. The Council of Atlantic Premiers is a body that fosters real, tangible co-operation as a region. In late 2001, the four Atlantic Premiers signed Working Together for Atlantic Canada, An Action Plan for Regional Co-operation. Through the action plan, we now have harmonized trucking regulations, as they pertain to weights and measures of trucks. Through the action plan, we have a common review for new pharmaceuticals. Through the action plan, we have established the Atlantic Provinces Community College Consortium. This consortium will help standardize program development and the delivery of community college courses throughout Atlantic Canada. It will also expand the transferability of credits at the campuses throughout the region.

More recently, the four Atlantic Provinces have worked together through the joint Insurance Harmonization Task Force. This task force is providing valuable advice to the four Atlantic Provinces, as we deal with the cost of insurance on all our consumers. Just this past February, at the last meeting in Cornerbrook, Nova Scotia and P.E.I. were successful in convincing our Atlantic colleagues of the need to take action to support our agricultural industries. The Atlantic Canada Action Team on food is working hard to increase consumption of local beef and other food products in Nova Scotia and across Atlantic Canada.

Mr. Speaker, the Council of Atlantic Premiers bill is worthwhile legislation. It will update our existing laws which refer only to the defunct Council of Maritime Premiers. I move second reading of Bill No. 47. (Applause)

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Richmond.

MR. MICHEL SAMSON: Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure for me to rise here in the place of our Leader, the honourable member for Clare, to say a few words on Bill No. 47, an Act to Establish the Council of Atlantic Premiers. Clearly, our caucus does welcome the creation of this new council, and the welcoming of Newfoundland and Labrador as part of this new body. This is something that we believe should have been done a long time ago. We find it quite ironic, the words from the Government House Leader, that the agreement was reached in the year 2000 to create this new council, yet it's 2004 before it actually takes place. Once again, Tory Governments working at lightning speed, another example of it here. Someone has even suggested that the fact that Newfoundland and Labrador had a Liberal Government up until 2004 had more to do with why this hadn't taken place prior to today. I will leave it to the minister, the Government House Leader who now hopefully is actually aware of what Bill No. 47 is about, having not been aware when he first stood. Maybe he can confirm for us whether that was actually the case.

There's no doubt that Atlantic Canadians would support seeing the four governments working together and speak with a common voice and become more of a viable force on the national stage to fight for issues facing Atlantic Canada. As individual provinces, it is easy for

[Page 2314]

the larger provinces to dismiss us, but as a group representing the needs of our region, it's clear that we'll become stronger and more effective. The people of Newfoundland and Labrador and their governments over the years have proven themselves as important players on the national stage. Adding their culture, diversity and unique perspective on Canada will make the new Council of Atlantic Premiers stronger and more effective than their successful predecessor, the Council of Maritime Premiers. The Liberal caucus is clearly glad to support this bill, a bill that we believe will strengthen the negotiating power for all Atlantic Canadians.

Now, I'd also want to point out that it's interesting we're bringing Newfoundland in as part of this new council, and I would certainly hope that the Premier will take this opportunity to sit and listen to the people of Newfoundland, especially their governments who have obviously proven to be one-up on the Premier on several issues. One can be reminded of just how well the Premier did for the people of Nova Scotia in the battle for the Laurentian sub-basin, where at one point it looked like Newfoundland was going to get Glace Bay as part of the agreement - that's how close they came to our shores. I know the MLA for Glace Bay was concerned that he was actually going to lose his riding to Newfoundland and Labrador, whereas our Premier was gallantly fighting for us to try to get us as much of that sub-basin as possible. He could certainly learn a few things from Newfoundland on that front.

One of the other things he might want to learn from Newfoundland is some of the protectionism that they have been exercising in regard to their offshore. The fact that Nova Scotia crews leave this province, go work on the offshore, and the minute they hit port in Newfoundland are promptly told you're off the ship, a Newfoundlander is going to replace you. That continues to happen, we continue to raise those examples with the Premier, and the Premier keeps writing back about these wonderful agreements that are in place and that they'll continue to monitor the situation. Clearly, that is not what is taking place right now.

I do know that although the Government House Leader professes to have no idea what Bill No. 47 is about, the government spin doctors who wrote his notes were clear to take their usual shots at Ottawa, which is something Nova Scotians have grown very tired of repeatedly hearing from this government over and over again. A foggy day in Nova Scotia now certainly is the blame of Prime Minister Paul Martin in Ottawa for having sent the fog down to us here in Nova Scotia.

It was a bit amusing today to hear the different messages coming from the Premier when he announced that he was going to break his promise with regard to a tax cut. He said Ottawa - and he started arguing about how much money they were not receiving for health care and then went on to say because of Ottawa's decisions they have interrupted our plan for tax cuts. That begs the question, are you asking Ottawa for more money to give tax cuts in Nova Scotia or to fix health care? Which one is it? I think even the Premier is confused as to what he's actually looking for in that regard.

[Page 2315]

Nova Scotians all support the notion of getting more funding from Ottawa, but the hypocrisy of this government continually attacking Ottawa, when how many times have we caught the current Minister of Health and his predecessors making announcements of new hospital equipment around this province and trying to take credit when clearly the funding was solely coming from Ottawa? How many times have we caught the Minister of Community Services going to announce daycare spaces and support for early childhood education only to once again find out 100 per cent of the funding was coming from Ottawa? Yet they have the gall to stand here in this House and continue to criticize Ottawa without ever once acknowledging some of the investments that have taken place. Then they wonder why they have no success in Ottawa. Well, it may be . . .

HON. JAMES MUIR: Mr. Speaker, on a point of order, I guess. I just want to make sure I'm clear on what the honourable member for Richmond is saying. He's saying that at the meeting of the Prime Minister with the provincial and territorial Premiers this summer that he is opposing Ottawa giving any more money to the provinces and territories for help. I think that I just heard him say that, but I would like to have that clarified.

[4:15 p.m.]

MR. MICHEL SAMSON: If that is the interpretation that he had, it's no wonder his government's in a minority position right now. I'd say the future doesn't bode very well for them either, but I have come to expect that from that member during his days as Health Minister, and he clearly couldn't understand anything at that time, or understand any of the messages from Nova Scotians, so apparently nothing has changed. He has landed in the Education Department, and based on the fact that he says universities are getting more money, tuitions continue to rise under his nose and he doesn't appear to be catching on to that either.

AN HON. MEMBER: A famous line, Muir, Purves to MacIsaac.

MR. MICHEL SAMSON: Legion of doom is what we could call that. Mr. Speaker, the message is quite clear. Do we agree that we should be receiving more funding from Ottawa? Yes. But it's all in the process taken by this government. The minute they get elected they say, okay, we are going to go after Ottawa for more money, we are going to make this great reasoned argument - or at least that's what Nova Scotians thought - we are going to send a delegation, we are going to establish facts, we are going to put a presentation together.

Well, that's not what we got. We got postcards. Mail Ottawa postcards, that was the approach from this government. Send out postcards that land at the desk of the Prime Minister, and that's going to convince them to give Nova Scotia more money. Not logic, not reason, a postcard. Mr. Speaker, I think it's clear what kind of effect that has had, and the fact that this government continually has to blame Ottawa for their own financial woes on a continual basis.

[Page 2316]

HON. DAVID MORSE: Mr. Speaker, on a point of order. I was very interested in the honourable member's comments, and as it pertains to funding from Ottawa, I was always fascinated that former Premier MacLellan would agree to go to a per capita basis for CHST - that's health care funding, essentially, the health and social transfer - even though his staff encouraged him not to sign that agreement. Perhaps the honourable member could explain, not only to the House, but perhaps to all Nova Scotians, why the Liberals were in favour of going to a per capita funding basis, when Nova Scotia has a disproportionately older population and the previous formula was better for Nova Scotia?

MR. SPEAKER: It's not a point of order.

The honourable member for Richmond has the floor.

MR. MICHEL SAMSON: Mr. Speaker, it's quite obvious as you watch that the government ministers will do everything they possibly can now to try to deflect from their own ineptitude at being able to get money from Ottawa, and the fact when they look at their counterparts in New Brunswick for example, if I'm not mistaken, Bernard Lord, $400 million for highway infrastructure in the province. What have we received here? Nothing close to that same amount of money.

Who is to blame in that case? Do we blame Ottawa for that also, or do we accept the fact that other provinces are having better success in dealing with Ottawa, than how this province has been successful to date? The reason why? You see the Minister of Health announcing new health equipment, and the Minister of Community Services announcing new childcare spaces, then trying to take full credit for it, knowing that the money is solely coming from Ottawa.

It's quite clear that this government's approach is not working, and it is not going to work. Nova Scotians have been sending the message, this government has been doing polling, and they are hearing from that polling that's clearly telling them that Nova Scotians have grown sick and tired of seeing the Premier continually blaming Ottawa for everything, rather than putting together a concrete plan and proposal to present to the federal government as to why Nova Scotia requires more funding. The minute that logic and reason come into this government's approach with Ottawa, I will submit to you, Mr. Speaker, at that point we will have better success.

But until that is achieved we will continue to see other provinces having success with the investments being made from Ottawa and Nova Scotians being left behind because of a government that simply does not know how to deal with the federal government. In fact it certainly didn't even know how to deal with Newfoundland and Labrador when it came to the Laurentian Sub-basin considering the deal that Nova Scotians were left with.

[Page 2317]

Mr. Speaker, I also found it a bit amusing to hear the Minister of Transportation and Public Works, the Government House Leader criticising Ottawa for the amount of gas tax investment. I'd encourage the Minister of Transportation to come visit Richmond County, or some of the other rural areas of Nova Scotia and justify to them just how many investments his government has been making, especially in light of the fact that in the past two years they have collected an extra $50 million dollars in gas tax revenue due to Neil LeBlanc's 2 cent per litre increase, $50 million. Where did that $50 million go? Have we seen an additional $50 million in funding for transportation? That's certainly not the case.

So, before the Minister of Transportation and Public Works starts shooting arrows over at Ottawa on how they've dealt with the gas tax, he would probably do best to look at what his government's record has been. I'm curious why the member for Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley doesn't stand in his place to object, he being the one who was so proud of his government, that they would commit every cent that was raised through gas tax, license renewal, vehicle registration back into roads. That was promised five years. It still has not been done today.

We haven't heard that member for Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley say one thing about truckers, ever since this government took power. Before that, every session, if there was an increase in gas tax, an increase on tire costs, a decrease in some of the tipping fees, in some of the freight rates that were being provided, we would hear from that member, he would speak up for the truckers. Unfortunately, he has fallen silent due to this government's inability to deal with any of the issues facing truckers or any of the issues facing so many other small businesses here in this province.

If this government wants to see more money come from Ottawa in gas tax, I say, on behalf of the people of Richmond County, we want to see more money coming into our roads from the gas tax that we pay here in this province. Let the Minister of Transportation and Public Works lead by example in this particular case.

Mr. Speaker, with those comments, I'm sure with the budget being announced on Thursday, we will continue to hear from the Finance Minister and the Premier, blaming everything on Ottawa. Let's be honest as to the situation we're in. In 1999, John Hamm told the people of Nova Scotia, health care does not need any more money, health care needs better management. Too much administrative fat in health care is why we have trouble in health care, it does not need any more money. The blue book says it, in case the Minister of Education has forgotten that also. No more money for health care, better management.

Five years later, $600 million later, we still have the Premier saying that health care is out of control, it needs an influx of a ton of money, and there's no end to how much money it's going to need. At what point will the Premier finally stand in his spot and say, I accept that the health care system has been my greatest failure as a Premier of this province. I have not been able to fix health care. I've come nowhere near fixing health care. It is out of

[Page 2318]

control. I need more money from everywhere I can possibly imagine to put into health care. Just look at the words in the Premier's own blue book. Once the Premier is prepared to admit that to Nova Scotians, admit that he has failed to get control of health care, I think Nova Scotians will finally start to believe in him, and he will have a bit more credibility.

One of the other realities, not only in 1999 did he say he could fix health care without putting any more money into it, better management, since 1999, based on the increase in taxes, the increase in user fees, the government enjoying a strong economy, today, this government has $1 billion in additional yearly revenue than the government that it defeated in 1999 had. One billion dollars extra per year. Where has it gone? Why are Nova Scotians not reaping the benefits of an additional $1 billion in yearly revenue? And it's only going to get higher, because his tax cut that he gave, well, he had to cut that today, he's increased 500 user fees, so it's only going to grow.

But ask Nova Scotians, is this province better off today with that extra $1 billion in revenue? Well, even if there are any Nova Scotians who thought that, we have the Premier of the province telling us we're not and we need more money from Ottawa and more money from Ottawa. The question that Nova Scotians must ask themselves is, how much longer can the people of this province afford the John Hamm Government? It's truly coming to the point where Nova Scotians are going to have to tell us and the Opposition, we've had enough. One billion dollars more. He said he could fix health care, he didn't need any more money, and $600 million later, he still needs more money. The roads are in disastrous shape, schools are not built at the rate they should be being built to replace aging infrastructure. Roads, bridges, other necessary infrastructure for this province to grow are not being replaced at the rate it should be.

The question is, how much more is it going to take for this government to be able to provide Nova Scotians with the good governance that they deserve, to provide them with the framework for this province to grow, to provide us with an ability to allow our young Nova Scotians to remain in their communities and to remain in this province, so that we can grow our province, rather than continually see them leave, year by year, and our population continues to decrease whereas it should be increasing.

Bringing in Newfoundland, I hope is going to make this council stronger. I think the Premier has a lot that he can learn from Newfoundland, based on our previous dealings with them, and how we've always come out on the losing side, when we've been up against Newfoundland. Nova Scotians deserve a better government, they deserve a government that's not going to send postcards to Ottawa, but is going to sit with Ottawa, look for strategic investments, be able to point out to Ottawa, here is exactly where we would like to spend money, here's how much it's going to cost, here's what the resulting benefit for that will be.

[Page 2319]

The minute Nova Scotians see that this government actually has a reasoned plan, that they can present to Nova Scotians, present to Ottawa, to say here is where we need money, here is what we will do with it, and here is how it is going to grow this province, at that point, I believe this province will start achieving success, will start matching the investments that other provinces have been able to get from the federal government, and at the end of the day, provide all Nova Scotians from one end of this province to the next, with the good governance that they deserve. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

MR. SPEAKER: If I recognize the minister it will be to close the debate.

The honourable Deputy Premier.

HON. RONALD RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, I move second reading of Bill No. 47.

MR. SPEAKER: The motion is for second reading on Bill No. 47. Would all those in favour of the motion please say Aye. Contrary minded, Nay.

The motion is carried.

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

The honourable Government House Leader.

HON. RONALD RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, would you please call Bill No. 48.

Bill No. 48 - Education Act.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of Education.

HON. JAMES MUIR: Mr. Speaker, I'm pleased to rise in the House to speak on Bill No. 48, an Act to amend the Education Act, and more specifically, it has to do with expanding or making it easier for members of the public and worthwhile groups to have access to school facilities. What it does is it enables a school board to make school facilities available, free of charge, to community youth groups or other groups which are designated by the minister.

This is a much-needed amendment to the Education Act and it is also a major part of the Learning for Life plan which was introduced by this government some years ago. It is consistent with the efforts of the Minister of Health Promotion, the Minister of Health, the Premier and myself, to encourage more of our youth to live a more active and healthier lifestyle.

[Page 2320]

Over the course of years, there have been many reports, including one called, Active Kids, Healthy Kids, recommendation for a Nova Scotia strategy. These reports have recommended and encouraged greater access to community facilities like school gyms and playing fields as appropriate ways to improve opportunities for physical activity, particularly among children and youth. With this amendment, Mr. Speaker, the government is taking a significant step forward, by making more of schools and school facilities available at a more reasonable cost to children and youth.

What it does, is it allows young people, up to the age of 21, which is the age limit for public schools, to use publically-owned school facilities, such as, gymnasiums and playing fields without rental fees. A youth group will pay only for additional costs that a school board would incur as the result of the group's use of the school. Now some of these additional costs could include, extra custodial services, if the group doesn't clean up, replacement of supplies, such as, paper, damaged equipment or staff that would open and close the school if it was deemed necessary by the school board or by contracts. The fact is that there would be no rental fee for the facility. Any costs that would occur would be because they are out-of-pocket costs for the school board.

[4:30 p.m.]

This means, Mr. Speaker, that schools and youth groups will be able to arrange many opportunities where there is not going to be any cost at all for the use of a school facility. For example, if a youth group uses a school gym on an evening when staff are in the school anyway, or they have the opportunity for their own supervision and clean up after themselves and they don't damage anything or use any school supplies, then there will be no charge for this group to use the school gym. Not-for-profit groups will have access to schools at nominal fees that cover school board costs like heat, electricity and supervision and, of course, they will also pay for any direct additional costs in the same manner as youth groups.

School boards may charge commercial or for-profit organizations a higher fee. I should say, Mr. Speaker, that it's not in the intent of this piece of legislation to put public schools into competition with the private sector, such as those that rent facilities for profit or as a business, and, thus, the for-profit groups or commercial groups, if they choose to use school facilities, would be charged a higher fee.

Mr. Speaker, the amendment which we are introducing is also part of a new provincial policy on the community use of schools. Historically, school boards have developed their own practices which has led to some variation in access and user fees. The new provincial policy will help to standardize requirements for obtaining access to schools by user groups. It should provide greater consistency in user fees, and it will help address issues of scheduling, cleaning, security, supervision and liability. We hope that our efforts will ensure a more uniform access across the province of public schools for community use. We also believe it will ensure a more standardized approach to setting fees, particularly for non-profit groups.

[Page 2321]

In addition, Mr. Speaker, the policy allows for enhanced partnerships between communities and schools. As we know today, many school boards and municipalities have agreements to use each other's facilities. These existing joint-use agreements will continue and, indeed, through this legislation, we believe it will encourage more.

I must say, unfortunately, that this policy does not apply to P3 schools. This is a difficult thing (Interruption) and it is a shame, but there was an arbitrator's decision in January 2003 which determined that private developers of P3 schools have the sole right to manage community access to their buildings. Nevertheless, a P3 developer could decide of its own accord to adopt our provincial policy just the same, and we hope that they do. If that happens, we're sure that people in the communities where P3 schools are located will be most appreciative.

Mr. Speaker, the Department of Education has worked with school boards on the policy and we have also worked with the Office of Health Promotion that would support a recreation staff. I thank Minister MacDonald for making the services of his staff available. I want to thank all of the partners for their help. Together we've developed a policy that will give young people more affordable opportunities for physical activity, and at the same time, will not burden school boards with additional costs. We sent a nearly final draft of the policy to school boards last Fall, and the boards are now working at that policy and adapting it to a specific use for their own community and developing school policy to match it. The school boards, of course, are going to have the flexibility to establish their own operating procedures and to address local needs in ways that makes sense to them within a broad framework.

Mr. Speaker, this is a good amendment. It is an amendment which is a good move for all Nova Scotians to help us improve our physical activity and to help reintegrate our schools into the community-use type of facilities that they should be. Thank you very much. (Applause)

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

MR. WILLIAM ESTABROOKS: Mr. Speaker, I look forward to making some comments on this very important topic, not just in the growing community that I'm fortunate enough to represent but from parents and young people and for seniors that I have heard on this issue all across this province.

Mr. Speaker, I know all members will agree with us, no matter where we represent, that schools have to be and must always remain the focal point of our communities. The focal point where people can come and have a meeting in the evening, where they can go and pick their kids up after a practice, where they can, if the need arises, use the facility on Sunday as the church, perhaps, wants to have a presentation of some sort, they can use the cafeteria, they can use the kitchen facilities, a school that is a focal point in the community.

[Page 2322]

Now, Mr. Speaker, I've brought this to the attention of the Halifax Regional School Board on a number of occasions. I have brought it to the attention of members on all sides of the House and there have been other members of this Legislature who have brought the concern forward saying, it doesn't work that way in my community. I wish it worked the way in the community that I grew up in where I was fortunate enough to have a dad who had the keys to the school. The principal gave my father the keys to the school and when my father wanted to have a dry land hockey practice or if he wanted to take us into the gymnasium so that we could work on some plays, because, of course, the ice time in the small community that I was living in at the time certainly was in big demand, my father had the keys to the school. He had the keys to one of the most important facilities in the community in which I grew up. Those are the good, old days. Because the principal in my community trusted my father with the school keys and he always said, just turn the lights off when you're finished Mr. Estabrooks and make sure the guys don't leave a mess. How appreciative we were of that.

Now, there are communities across this province where I have been told that still happens. There are communities where there are principals and there are school boards who say that there are certain people in the community if they want to use the school, I mean how can you turn down the minister of the local church whose congregation is having a drama presentation at Easter or at Christmas? You certainly can trust the minister of the local church to make sure that when he or she goes into the local school, turns off the alarm systems in the schools that I represent, and turns the lights on and they have their rehearsal or the drama presentation or afterwards when they have the keys to the kitchen facilities they leave it just the way they found it. Well, I want you to know, Mr. Speaker, those days do not exist in the Halifax Regional School Board and that is a shame.

That is a shame because taxpayers pay the dollars to make sure that these schools have been built, that these schools are heated and that the lights work and that the plumbing works and that the school that they paid for they can have fair access to. In December last year, I wrote a letter to Carol Olsen from the HRSB and Ms. Olsen replied back to me December 22nd, and I will table this letter in a moment, where she says, there are three ". . . Clerks who administer this function for over 137 schools in our region. There is a well defined process for booking schools that is fairly simple and clear." I want you to know when I talked to Ms. Olsen about this letter I pointed out to her in her new job as the CEO, she had better get her facts straight, because that is certainly not the case.

It is not the case at all in the growing community that I represent, because there are two tiers of access to schools. I am going to come to those two tiers in a moment. But let me tell you, when the Liberals were on that side and there was a negotiation in place with certain private developers, I want to know who was asleep at the switch. Did anybody understand how schools operated? Does anybody have any grasp on cafeteria profits; on access to the gym; on access to the computer room? Who possibly would have been negotiating those contracts than somebody else who knew absolutely nothing about schools and how they

[Page 2323]

operate? Did that government at the time just turn it over to the lawyers and say, you take care of it? Let me tell you, that is a shameful excuse, an absolutely irresponsible way of negotiating a contract and how important schools, however they're built and however they're financed - schools have to have access to communities around which they are built.

Let me tell you, I know the ministers at the time pointed out that in the growing community that I represent there were three P3 schools, that communities that I represent welcomed those schools; not a question. We were desperate. I know the member for Sackville-Beaver Bank who represented part of the Hammonds Plains Road at that time, I know that member could testify to the fact that Hammonds Plains Elementary had 10 portable classrooms around it, and, Madeline Symonds, when it was built, was well received, and that, St. Margaret's Bay Elementary, old, ancient schools that the Acting Leader of the Liberal Party attempted to have a press conference at one day during an election at which time he was shooed off the school grounds. Let me tell you that school, St. Margaret's Bay Elementary, was well received. That P3 school was needed in the community.

In the historic community of Beechville, settled in 1815 by Blacks who came to this province out of their own choice, Black Nova Scotians who looked forward to having access to a new school in their community, Ridgecliff Middle School, which takes in Grades 6, 7, 8 and 9. The matter of financing the schools was something that I as an MLA at the time questioned, but without doubt the people in the community that I represent looked forward to the opportunity of being in these schools.

Mr. Speaker, I want to clarify a few facts for you as we look at this. Let's look very carefully at a number of matters. We are looking at the fact that the community wants access to schools. I like to point out that that is more than just young people. I would like to use a couple of examples from the community that I represent. The seniors' gardening club on the Prospect Road always wants to have the opportunity to be able to have their meetings in the school. They don't need a gym, they don't need the library, they will just take a classroom. A group of seniors that likes to get together in the growing community that I represent and at some times they like to meet in the afternoon. In the afternoon there's that opportunity when the school is being emptied, an elementary school, it's a prime time for some of these seniors to have a place to meet.

Is this piece of legislation considerate of these seniors? It is saying, as the Minister of Health and Promotion has rightfully said, as the Minister of Education has said, we have to have these young people busy, we have to have these young people involved and they should have free access to our schools, to our gymnasiums. I want to clarify something here - when you get access to a school there are other important facilities that are also there, not just the gymnasium, and I know that particular minister and I know the great school that's in his community, the Cobequid Educational Centre, and the facilities that are used there, the rental of those facilities revolve more than just around that fabulous gymnasium that has all those championship banners hanging around it from the home of the Cougars, it involves the other

[Page 2324]

parts of the school that are necessary for a community to be able to meet, meet and greet, whether it's the church, whether it's a seniors' group - or let's try this particular piece of clarification and I'm interested in how this is going to unfold.

[4:45 p.m.]

You know the toughest time in the school year for me was the Monday after March break. I want members opposite and members of the Third Party to listen to this. I want members of this Assembly to understand that the toughest day in the school system is the Monday after March break because it's on that day, Mr. Speaker - and perhaps a member of your family when she had the opportunity to say, so what did you do on March break, and you look at the kids and the kids say, well, sir or miss, I didn't go anywhere, my parents can't afford a trip to wherever. We didn't go skiing. We stayed in our community. And what did you do? Well, you know, I usually got up out of bed about 11:00 a.m. and then I played a few video games and many a day I went down and hung around the mall.

Many of those young people would have absolutely relished the opportunity to be able to drop into their school, not to be in class - no, let's be clear on that - but to drop into the school, shoot some hoops, play some table tennis, or perhaps just sit around in the cafeteria or the drama room and listen to some music. I want you to know that is one tough day when you look at that Monday after March break and those young people haven't used their March break well. They haven't been physically active; they haven't been mentally active. They have done nothing. And why? Because they cannot get access to their school.

So I wanted it to be clarified and it's something that I'm looking forward that it will be brought up at the Law Amendments Committee, that we're talking about schools that are going to be open and accessible over March break, over the summer vacation when you have an opportunity if you wish to use the gymnasium or, if you wish, with proper supervision to use the cafeteria or to use the computer room - and I bring up that word "computer" room because there are some schools in this province where there are adult groups that have the opportunity to go in and use the computers with supervision. Now, there are other schools that say, no, the computer room is off limits.

So let's look very clearly at what we're saying about rental of school facilities. I would like to make sure that the ministers opposite, that when we look forward to the Law Amendments Committee we're talking about access to the school completely, complete access to the school so that if we want to have a meeting and it's a non-profit organization and it's the annual general meeting of whatever the organization is - and I have the opportunity to attend the annual general meeting of the Beechville-Lakeside-Timberlea Rails to Trails Association next week and where are we going to meet? Well, we have to meet where we have little or no rent. We can't get into the schools in our community because of the rents.

[Page 2325]

We're not using the gymnasium, I want to make that clear to the House. We are not using the expensive cafeterias because we probably will get 25 or 30 people at the annual meeting of the Rails to Trails Association in the communities of Beechville-Lakeside-Timberlea. We would like to have an opportunity to take one of the classrooms to set up the overhead, to plug in the coffee pot, and to have our annual general meeting. We will put all the desks back in order. We will make sure that when we leave - as adults, we're trustworthy enough I hope that we can have the AGM in a rent-free facility. That doesn't happen in the community that I represent and there is absolutely no excuse for it to be allowed to continue.

Mr. Speaker, I have some concerns about consistency, as we look at how things are going to go across this province. Consider the fact that a bunch of young people in the community that I represent come to their MLA just prior to March break - I know many of them by first-name basis and they call me Bill, not Mr. Estabrooks anymore - Bill, we want to have an old-timer like you come in over March break and supervise a ball hockey league, and we want to have it every afternoon from 1:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m. They aren't organized, they're not a member of a club, they're not a member of a team, they're not a member of the soccer association, they have no minor hockey affiliation, they're not a member of a basketball team from the community, they are a bunch of young people who want to be busy and they want to organize themselves, and they've come to their MLA as a responsible adult - although you might question their choice of choices - they have decided that they would like to just set up a league over March break and play ball hockey every afternoon from 1:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m.

I think it's important that this piece of legislation clarifies the fact that clubs, teams and groups or other groups that the minister deems will be available for free rent. Let's face it, Mr. Speaker, some of the best things that happen with young people aren't organized. In fact, at times I question the fact, particularly with our great national game - although I know lacrosse is our national game - our great national ice hockey game, I question the fact that at times kids are over-organized; they are over-structured when it comes to just being able to play. I've heard the member for Cape Breton Nova, based upon his experience in his previous career, tell me numerous times that it's good to be there as an adult to help them, to supervise the activity, to be present just in case, but it's important to allow them to organize themselves so that they go and they have some plain, old-fashioned fun.

Now, will that type of group, will that informal type of organization, a bunch of kids who just want to stay busy over March break - and let's be clear, they're not a member of a soccer association, they have nothing to do with the local minor hockey group, they just want to have the chance to go and use their school, they just want to be able to go in there in a completely structured fashion and play, just play, and I as the responsible adult would have the responsibility of refereeing or sitting there watching them or whatever else - will that particular group be allowed the opportunity to have rent-free use of school facilities?

[Page 2326]

Let's take another example, and it's an example that I can tell you personally of in my community. You try to have a place where the kids can drop in, the drop-in centre, the feared drop-in centre that parents hear of. The number one concern is, how loud is the music going to be? How loud will the neighbours complain when the music is too loud for them? The place to have that drop-in centre, the place that if you could advertise the local recreation facility is available or, heaven forbid, the local school is available, and that kids who want to drop in between 6:00 p.m. and 9:00 p.m. every evening, room 228 is available, bring your own CDs at whatever time, we said 9:00 p.m., 8:30 p.m. we're going to clean up and we're out the door. Isn't that a wonderful opportunity to use our school facilities?

But it's an informal group. It's not a team, it's not a club, it's not a recognized group, it is after all just the opportunity for young people to be able to feel this is my school; this is my school where I can go when I don't have to sit there and read out of a book or pick something off a computer, this is my school. Guess what, Mr. Speaker, they will have ownership of their school. You won't have the problems that we have now, and I've heard my good friend for Dartmouth North speak of the problems, I've heard him speak of John Martin Junior High. I've heard him speak of how it's so difficult to get into the schools.

You know the kids will hang around the schools, they're like magnets. They will hang around the schools all hours of the day and night and if you give them that time on their hands, there will be some vandalism, there will be some difficulties and inevitably, Mr. Speaker, as you well know from your previous career, they will be showing up, you know where to find the kids, they're hanging around the locked school. They're hanging around a school that has its lights turned off. Let me tell you, that's a concern in my community and you're going to hear from the other members of my caucus who are going to bring this forward. That's a concern in all our communities.

Kids have to feel comfortable, seniors have to feel comfortable, church groups have to feel comfortable in their community school. But how schools are being run in the HRSB in particular, they have no ownership. They have nothing really involved in it. When a senior goes into a school during the day, the ultimate compliment is that the young person who sees them coming in opens the door and says to them, welcome to our school. Where I've been fortunate enough to teach I have had seniors come into the schools as resource people. Seniors who've come into the school and spoken to my history classes, who've talked about their historic communities, who've come in and actually given history lessons that I guess really count with these people. Local history lessons, and that interaction, Mr. Speaker, between students and seniors, where seniors can feel they can come into the school.

You know, there's a walking club in one of the communities that I represent, and the walking club meanders along, goes by the trail and comes to the school. Now what a wonderful opportunity for them to feel comfortable enough to come into the cafeteria for a moment, to grab a cup of tea, or to have a glass of water, to sit down in an informal situation and say, we're going to take a break here between 1:00 p.m. and 2:00 p.m., or 1:30 p.m. and

[Page 2327]

2:00 p.m. during our afternoon walk because we just like to have the opportunity to come into our school. Now there's the message for the young people. The young people are changing classes, and they look into the cafeteria and there's the seniors group. The senior walking group in the community has a regular tour and gets the opportunity during the day, or after hours if they wish, to use the facility at no cost. That's the key thing, at no cost.

Mr. Speaker, I'll table for the members of the House the interesting article written by Cathy Nicoll, in the Daily News of April 19th, in which she quotes Doug Hadley. "School board ponders impact of ending fees." I think it's of real importance that we understand that if this piece of legislation is going to be truly successful, it has to be outlined very specifically, the conditions when it comes to free rentals of school facilities.

I've heard the stories. They come because of the fact there's still going to be a door person when you come into the school. The door person, rightfully so, is the person who makes sure that the lights are off and the alarm is back on before he or she leaves at the end of the evening because she's the door monitor. But who's going to pay for that door monitor? Is that going to be one of the fees that's going to be decided, well you have a door monitor here, we no longer have the custodian costs, but the door monitor has to be covered, and we look at that, whatever that amount is going to be, who's going to cover that? That's a concern, because if you look at how things have happened in the Halifax Regional School Board, I can give you the short history when it came to continuing community use of schools.

There was a noble experience in Flint, Michigan. Flint, Michigan was a part of use of the schools in that small city, in that particular part of the United States. There were Halifax County School Board members who took the opportunity to go to Flint, Michigan and see how community schools work in that area, and how you can make your schools such an integral part of the community, and not have it with its lights turned off and its doors locked, night after night. And sure enough, a community school example was established in the Halifax County School Board. Then suddenly, Mr. Speaker, we had administrators, we had bureaucrats, we had clerks signing contracts. We had a complete bureaucracy created by the school board that I worked for at the time, where before, if I wanted to use the school I went to the principal, and I know there are members opposite from other parts of the province who say, well, that's the way it is in my community. Well, count your lucky stars that it's that way.

[5:00 p.m.]

If you can still go into the school and say to the secretary or to the principal, look, I want to use the school next Wednesday night, is it available? The secretary or the principal or his or her designate should say, yes, you can use the school between 6:00 p.m. and 8:00 p.m., just make sure that you have the classroom back in order and we'll let you use such and such a class. Well, that's a wonderful amount of flexibility that makes common sense, but it does not exist in the community that I represent. To try to get into schools, there is

[Page 2328]

paperwork that has to be put in place, clerks that you have to go through, answering machines that you have to deal with, and you have to make sure that they are booked so many weeks in advance. Then, of course, comes the issue of real consequence, you have to have $1 million deductible in insurance.

If I am using the library for a meeting, I - if I'm the one responsible for signing the contract - have to have insurance. It's not that I'm playing ball hockey or shooting a few hoops, Mr. Speaker, I have to have $1 million in insurance if I'm the one signing the contract. Is that open access to schools? So I think it's of real consequence that in the negotiations that are taking place across this province by the department staff and the Minister of Education that we point out that in some areas it works. I've always believed as a school teacher, as an athletic coach, in the KISS theory. Keep it simple, and the word I'm not allowed to use in my home, stupid - KISS.

Why does it have to be that we create these bureaucracies when it comes to such a simple thing as the renting of schools? Why with the 137 schools does the CEO, who has the new job at the time, tell me in the response, it's clear and it's simple. Well, as Ms. Olsen knows from the follow-up conversations that I've had, it is certainly not clear and it is certainly not simple.

I also want to clarify this particular point and it's a real concern and I know members are going to bring it to the attention of the House. We're talking about the use of school facilities, what about school fields? Now, you want complications - I know there are members from the Halifax Regional Municipality who served as regional councillors - who's actually responsible for school fields in the Halifax Regional Municipality? Don't ask me, Mr. Speaker. Try to get onto a ball field and how do you do it? Who does the cleanup? Who does the maintenance? Who takes care of any kind of grass cutting?

The answer, of course, is, it's the HRM and if you want complications when it comes to using any type of facility, especially a school field, well, you're really headed for trouble then. You want to make sure that it gets complicated, then you have a real problem when it comes to using outdoor school facilities. So that has to be clarified. Again, we're not just talking about the gymnasium, we're not just talking about the physically active part of the interior of the school, we're talking about the outdoor part of the school also.

I know that there are members present who go like, what are you telling me? It's Sunday afternoon and your team wants to have a ball practice and no one is using the diamond in the school field, you go over and use it. No, Mr. Speaker, that doesn't work. All kinds of forms have to be filled out in advance, and, of course, if the field, heaven forbid had lights, which only a few school fields in my community do, then you're looking at other costs that have to be involved. So I mean there are those sorts of issues that have to be clarified before we deal with the approval of this piece of legislation. I know I'm talking about the HRM in particular, but that's my experience as a school teacher. I know the HRM is currently

[Page 2329]

going through a review of indoor facilities. I know the member for Preston is very relieved with the fact that there will be a facility in his community, and I congratulate the work he's done for that and I also congratulate Mr. Hendsbee for his initiative in getting that particular recreation centre built. That review of facilities has identified the area most in need of facilities, and I'm talking indoor facilities - this is what the HRM is having a committee on at this very time. They have identified the Prospect Road as the area that needs more indoor facilities. That's because we can't get in our schools. We can't get into them in a regular fashion, in a fashion that we can use them for all kinds of reasons.

I want it to be clear, there is an example in the HRM that works and works well. It is in the beautiful community of Cow Bay. That is the Tallahasse Community School. The Tallahasse Community School is a one-of-a-kind where there is a part of the building where you get a different access in the evening, where you have the opportunity to come in and use that school as the ones in Flint, Michigan were designed, but what happened with that? Other schools across this province are as tight with the security as probably we could say from our experience in penal institutions across this region. They are guarded by the fact that that is something that no one is going to be allowed in for one reason or another unless they have the right insurance, unless they have the amount of fee in their pocket, and that, of course, they are an organized group.

Mr. Speaker, what does that do? I will tell you what it does, it puts young people, it puts seniors, it puts people who are in the lower incomes at a tremendous disadvantage, because they cannot afford. What about that young man who wants to play ball hockey over March break? He can't afford to play ice hockey, he can't afford to go away with mom and dad skiing to wherever on MarchBbreak, but he wants to have the opportunity to use the school gym for an informal game of ball hockey, unstructured, drop in and play ball hockey, and someone will be there, an adult, to get you through the afternoon, just to make sure that the lights are off and the doors are locked before you leave. That, after all, is what it's all about.

Mr. Speaker, I want to return to something, and it has to be addressed, and I know a member of the Third Party will be upset with this, because I know some of the new members of the Third Party, they don't quite want to remember Robbie Harrison. (Interruptions) Remember Robbie Harrison, they don't quite want to remember some of those Ministers of Education over there who were in the middle of this disastrous thing called P3 schools. There are 39 P3 schools in this province, which serve an estimated 13,000 students and untold numbers of community groups.

Scotia Learning schools are the big problem. Let's be clear on it. They are the problem. Rental fees in these schools can run from $50 an hour for a single gym to $95 an hour. Now there are two other companies involved, Ashford Investments and Nova Learning have said rental fees in their schools are collected by the school boards. So I say, if it can work for Ashford Investments, if it can work for Nova Learning, why can't it work for the

[Page 2330]

Armoyan Group? Now heaven forbid we use that name, because heaven forbid that name is brought up, because whatever the umbrella organization is called this day, I know that Mr. Armoyan must have seen the Liberal Education Ministers coming when they negotiated that contract, must have seen them coming, because, to his credit and to those businessmen's credit, let's face it, they negotiated a contract in the hard-nosed fashion that they are usually doing in the business world.

But I bet when they came out of those meetings, they would say, well, that was like leading a lamb to the slaughter. I mean can you believe that they agreed to allow us to have those cafeteria profits. Didn't they see that coming? Guess what, we can charge $95 a pop, we can charge those fees, but they never said a thing, never said a thing. Now what is happening? I will tell you that in the community that I represent, P3 schools are the bane of our existence when it comes to community access. These P3 schools must be dealt with.

A growing community that has wants, needs access to the facilities, they want access to the gymnasium, they want access to the cafeteria, they have to pay through the nose, Mr. Speaker. They have to pay big fees. St. Margaret's Bay Elementary, the school field, we would like to be able to hold soccer tournaments on that school field if and when it is ever ready and up to speck. It has been operating now for three years. The school field has always been in such bad shape because it was sort of an add-on - oh, we'll put the school field over there.

Look at what is happening. In the middle of these growing communities, and there are other ones across this province, where these schools were needed, no doubt, to get away from the overcrowding and the difficulties that we were facing in the classroom, these three schools that I speak of, Madeline Symonds, St. Margaret's Bay Elementary and Ridgecliff, are not part of our community. They're not part of the kids' community. They go there during the day, they get a quality education because of the teachers and the books and the proper facilities that they have and they are bright, shiny, nice buildings, no doubt, but in the evening they are empty, they are not being used.

Those schools are not part of the community that I represent, Mr. Speaker. They're not part of the community because the community, the seniors, the young people, the people in the community who are volunteers, they drive by that school and say that's a P3 school. That's not our school because we can't get fair and free access to it. When this particular piece of legislation was introduced, when we went to the bill briefing, to the credit of the media, the very first question that Paul Withers of CBC asked the acting minister at the time was, does this include P3 schools? The acting minister, of course said, I'm afraid not. I'm afraid not because we just can't deal with that contract. I mean, let's face it, it's a contract that works to the advantage of the private owner who is running that school and not the public, not the parents, not the pupils. That's the three Ps that should count - parents, pupils, public, not private partner.

[Page 2331]

Mr. Speaker, that issue must be addressed, otherwise we will have a two-tier access to schools across this municipality and, I guess, in certain areas across this province. Now, I can point fingers at them and I will be interested to see what they're going to say about this, but it would seem to me that we have to take the bull by the horns - if that's an appropriate expression, Mr. Speaker - we have to take this issue on, because if these other private developers, if Scotia Learning schools is going to be treated differently from Ashford Investments and Nova Learning, the people I represent are going to be treated unfairly. They are going to be treated in a fashion that does not speak of fairness. Let me tell you, that is what Nova Scotians expect, they expect fairness.

So when this piece of legislation came forward, there is no doubt that many people across the province said, good for this government, that's a positive step. Now, mind you, the school board will have to offset some fees in another way, but that's a positive step to allow some consistency across the province to facilities across this province in schools. That's a positive step, but then there are other communities that are saying, oh, it doesn't apply to certain communities because they are stuck, they are burdened, they have to face P3 schools.

Now, the ministers who are involved in this negotiation, I would encourage them to look carefully at the other contracts and, if it is possible in any way, we have to make sure that there is access across this province to all communities whether they have P3 schools or whether they have the regular schools. That's fairness, Mr. Speaker. That's what Nova Scotians expect from that government. They expect it from this Party and the members of the Third Party who negotiated such a disastrous deal called P3 schools. It's come back to haunt us, it will continue to haunt us. My children and my grandchildren might have to live with this contractual problem called P3 schools.

[5:15 p.m.]

I have various other comments that I am going to make. I know it's a real concern to members when we speak of personal experience. I know the member for Dartmouth North is going to be concerned about access to John Martin Junior High School. I know the situation at John Martin because I had the opportunity to take sports teams there and play in that facility. That community turned out on those Saturday tournaments to support their home teams. They were there because it was their school. However, we are not going to have that continuing affiliation with schools unless such groups are allowed to have free access to the entire facilities.

I know the member for Dartmouth North is very fortunate to have a community centre close to John Martin School. It's a wonderful facility. I'm sure that when he was in the HRM as a Dartmouth councillor he worked for that facility but can you imagine John Martin Junior High and the community centre in the North End of Dartmouth working together? That would really demonstrate to kids, to seniors, to volunteers - if we can't get into the John Martin gym or classroom tonight, perhaps there might be a space for us over at the

[Page 2332]

community centre. I know, Mr. Speaker, you understand, based upon your experience in your wonderful community, how a school is such an integral part of the community. Such an integral part of the community.

I look forward to hearing from my young friend, the member for Sackville-Cobequid because I want to join this House in telling the story of the event of having a 6:00 p.m. practice at Sackville High School. This particular athletic team that I was coaching lost. I take some of those things personally, so I said to the gentlemen in the dressing room that night, tomorrow morning I'll see you at 6:00 a.m. because you're going to school a little early. Make sure you're there because when you come into that gym, the country music's going to be blaring and you're going to have from 6:00 a.m. to 8:30 a.m. two hours of one upset coach.

So, at 5:55 a.m. I showed up, I turned the alarm off and I went in and turned the lights on in the gym and the young men began to arrive. About half an hour into the torment that they had to put up with, who showed up but an RCMP officer. An RCMP officer showed up because the doors were open - and if you know where Sackville High School is, people are going by and we must have been reported that somebody had broken into the school. Why would somebody be using the school at 6:30 in the morning? Well, it was being used because it was a wonderful opportunity to demonstrate to those young men who had the opportunity the next time they lose that athletic event, they will have another 6:00 a.m. practice and again, it will be to country music.

But, do you know what I had to receive later? I received a call from the school board because of course, once the Mountie arrived, oh, that's right, you're the coach, you're the vice-principal. What are you doing here at 6:00 a.m.? We're having a little fun, we're having a little practice. I was having lots of fun - I had my best music going, those teenagers had to listen to what I was going to play and we had it cranked. As they went through that music, I faced the music at about 9:30 a.m. when I was told I didn't have the forms filled out. I didn't have the forms filled out. What was I doing in the school having an athletic event when school wasn't operating? I mean school operate, most schools across the HRM from 8:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m., but if you go outside of those parameters, what was I doing in my school, in the community that I was so fortunate enough to work and teach and coach, because I didn't have the forms filled out. Now, Mr. Speaker, is that laughable, is that after all, the absolute height of ridiculousness, when I have to, in that situation, have a 6:00 a.m., practice that I'm supposed to fill out in advance. That's an indication of a system that isn't working and this particular government, and this particular piece of legislation, will address issues such as that, I hope.

They will address the issue, because I think it's important, going back to the good old days. I began my comments by saying how proud I was in the community that I grew up in, that the school principal trusted my father enough to give him the school keys, so that when my dad wanted to use the school, here's the keys, Mr. Estabrooks. You open it up and when

[Page 2333]

you're finished, you turn the lights off and you lock it back up. It's not rocket science, it's simple. You're part of it. You're part of your school. It's your community, it's your community's school. It's used in a way that we all feel comfortable.

Mr. Speaker, as you can tell from my comments, my friends will be following me with other comments. This is a piece of legislation at this stage of which we have many more questions than answers. This is a piece of legislation that we're looking forward to going to the Committee on Law Amendments, but we want clarification on a couple of points, clarification, if I may - and I want the member for Lunenburg West to know, that I have to wear the tie, but I can't have my own handkerchief. The community has to know, the specifics. They have to know the specifics, not just the gymnasium. Do they get use of the school cafeteria? Do they get use of the school kitchen facilities, or the library? Do they get use of the computer room? These are all issues. Do they get use of the school fields? I understand that in other jurisdictions that might not be the case, but do they get use of the school fields? Because it is a complicated process here within the Halifax Regional Municipality, unlike in other areas.

So, as I wrap up my comments, I look forward to this piece of legislation going through to the Committee on Law Amendments. I thank the minister for bringing this piece of legislation forward and I look forward to hearing from groups as they make their views known in the valuable process in this Legislature of the Committee on Law Amendments. I know that we'll be hearing from school boards associations, hopefully we'll be hearing from community groups, because if we are going to allow schools to truly be part of the community, they must have free and equal access to all schools, public schools, P3 schools, schools all across this province, in a manner that is not just for our young people, not just for our organized groups, but for our seniors and for citizens of all ages. I thank you for your time, Mr. Speaker.(Applause)

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Annapolis.

MR. STEPHEN MCNEIL: Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the Minister of Education for bringing this forward. Our caucus supports this bill in principle. I must say it's standard, true to form; the politicians are behind the public, because our communities have been calling for this for quite some time. I also want to commend the government for giving the school boards a draft policy last fall, to give them an opportunity to have a look and see how this will affect their year.

One of the questions that we have surrounding this bill has been whether or not that the minister has given the school boards the assurance that they will cover the shortfall of revenue that is covered coming forward from this bill. Is the province prepared to put funding that may be lost as a result of this policy? We've heard a lot today about the P3 schools. I'm quite fortunate to have one of those in my riding. The parents of the students in Annapolis Royal, Parkers Cove, Delaps Cove, Victoria Beach, don't ask whether it's a P3 school or not,

[Page 2334]

they ask whether or not their children are going to a safe environment and getting an opportunity of learning in a quality school, and the answer is a resounding yes. I heard the minister when he was speaking earlier, he said that they would be hindered by a P3 arbitration ruling. My question, I guess would be, has there been any negotiation with the P3 school operators? Has anyone moved forward to ask to see if there were any avenues that we could work towards to develop to make sure that these schools were open?

The other thing which I think is sadly missing from this piece of legislation, we talked today a lot about health promotion. One of the things that is missing from this is making physical activity part of the school curriculum on a daily basis, when we have the auditoriums there. I've been quite fortunate in my riding, Mr. Speaker, that the administrators in our schools are quite open to allow us the opportunity to come in and use the facilities whenever possible. The real problem for my riding with this legislation is the fact that we don't have enough gyms, we're limited.

In 1999, Bridgetown Elementary School was a top priority of the Annapolis Valley Regional School Board to have a new gym. Lo and behold, last year just prior to an election with all the announcements that were taking place, one of the schools that was left off the equation was Bridgetown Elementary School, it somehow kept getting bumped further and further down the field. We have one high school where the gymnasium time is completely booked in there. We have an elementary school without one. No matter how much legislation we put in front to open up the community schools to our community without a gym, it is useless.

The minister spoke earlier about a partnership between the school and community. I listened to that with quite a bit of interest. The community of Middleton has put before the Department of Education a wonderful proposal, a $1.8 million proposal. It was to develop and build on to their existing high school a double gymnasium. The impetus behind this was the fact that their gymnasium is 90 per cent booked. What is really pushing it forward now is they have a music room which has been deemed unfit for the teacher to be using because of the decibel sounds of the music. The room is not fit for a music room. The school has said we can move the music into our multi-purpose room. At a cost of about $400,000 we can make that room fit.

The community has then come forward and said instead of putting in $400,000 to build an addition on to that room to make it fit, why don't we take that money and put it into a double gym. Why don't we put it in so then we can not only solve the issue of music, but solve the issue of access to our gymnasium for our community. We are talking a lot today about health promotion and all the things that go along with this.

This bill is a good step towards some of that, but in my community one of the things that we need to be brought forward, not only this legislation but we need some money to come forward to be able to develop those school gymnasiums. I look forward to hearing what

[Page 2335]

is going to come forward in Law Amendments Committee, Mr. Speaker, and I thank you for the opportunity to speak on this.

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

MR. GORDON GOSSE: It is a privilege to get up, Mr. Speaker, and speak on this bill, on Bill No. 48 and education facilities. For many years in my job as an executive director of a youth centre, I had access to the provincially-owned school across the street from the youth centre. It was just great. Many activities for many kids there, we had many functions there and it was all free of charge. I'm just hoping that this bill would make all schools in the Province of Nova Scotia free of charge.

The P3 schools are a sore point, and I represent a community where I have two P3 schools in my community. Two of them, absolutely. Harbourside Elementary School where my son, Daniel attends, and Sherwood Park Educational Centre. Very high-tech schools, beautiful schools, cafetoriums they call them, with the cafeteria and auditoriums. But with no access for the community groups like Girl Guides or the 587 Squadron in Whitney Pier, they use the provincially-owned school every Tuesday and Sunday for their sports day and Tuesday nights when they have the squadron in. They are all free of charge.

The P3 school was an expensive experiment to the taxpayers of this province. It was an experiment that failed drastically in this province. As far as I am concerned, it was a good business deal for the people in the business community that made this deal. They are laughing all the way to the bank. They outsmarted the government of the day. If I was a member of that business community, I would be very happy that I outsmarted a provincial government - I took their coppers to the bank and into my account.

[5:30 p.m.]

AN HON. MEMBER: A provincial Liberal Government.

MR. GOSSE: Well, a provincial government was outsmarted by a bunch of businessmen.

We talked about it earlier today, Mr. Speaker, about the Office of Health Promotion and the province's activity youth strategy. This will completely undermine the strategy of the Office of Health Promotion, not having access to these P3 schools. The reality is that many parents cannot afford to pay for the high cost of the P3 school rentals, they just can't. In my riding they cannot afford to pay that school rental, there is just no way at all. Some of those young people, they just can't - 49 per cent of student population at Harbourside Elementary School come from single-parent families. How many of those single-parent family members can actually afford to pay the price for the gym for their children to get physical activity? None.

[Page 2336]

AN HON. MEMBER: How about the breakfast program?

MR. GOSSE: The breakfast programs in the school. They get permission to open the school up early in the morning to have volunteers come in and serve breakfast to kids on the way to school in the morning, to make sure that they're having a nutritious meal before the day starts.

The gym rates are five times higher in the P3 schools than they are in the provincially-owned school. Earlier today, Mr. Speaker, I spoke about the youth strategy and activity. I would like to say that obesity is deadly and has been linked to a number of chronic diseases such as diabetes. Promoting an active healthy lifestyle to our young people is one way to battle this epidemic, but with no facility for these young people to get active, how are we going to tackle this problem?

By the way, Mr. Speaker, the non-Strait Area of Cape Breton Island has the highest obesity in the Province of Nova Scotia, at 24 per cent. Now, we do need access to these schools, to get our young people access to put on some physical recreation programs for these kids. There are serious implications in society in general and in families today. I know as a young man, if I had not been able to have access to a gymnasium, I would have been in a lot more trouble than I was growing up. I would have been in some trouble by being on the roads all evening, but I spent many, many a good evening in the Trinity Church Community Hall playing basketball, playing floor hockey, playing baseball, supervised by the local reverend - and I was a Roman Catholic, yet the reverend spent time with us kids in our community giving us the physical activity in that little community hall down there. I just think that busy hands are happy hands - if you're marching, you're not fighting.

So in those days there were a lot of volunteers, Mr. Speaker, who would come in and put on these programs for us. In my community alone we used to have three little league ball teams in the community of Whitney Pier, now we have none. We had a four-team Midget B hockey league. We don't have any. We had a five-team basketball league. We don't have any. Now it's only been a generation, so where have all these leagues and all these programs gone? Because of the inaccessibility of the P3 schools in our community we cannot get the kids in there. We just cannot get in there.

How many thousands of children across this province are not active because they can't access these schools? How many of the adults and the seniors do not have access to a walking program or Tai Chi or any of those kinds of programs. What about the people who rely on these schools for their regular meetings, whether it be quilting or sewing or any of those kinds of things. I will tell you, Mr. Speaker, in 2000 the Tory Government did a great thing. They cancelled the P3 school program in the year 2000. I think that was one of the better moves in the last five years in government in this province, by the government across the way. With the help of this Party, yes, I think that was a very good thing to do.

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Mr. Speaker, I wonder, when I look at this and think of the social aspect, to understand that by the activity of these kids, it reduces the crime rate, it helps socially, it helps dysfunctional young people in the sense of giving them something to do and making them active. Instead of being on the street corners, being in the gym in a midnight basketball program on a Friday night where there's less crime rate. There are no B & Es, no break-and-enters, there's nobody drinking over in these places where they go drinking in the evening, the teenagers, if they had access to these gyms.

I just think that there has to be more accessibility for the normal people, middle-class people, people who can't afford to put their kids into the rep hockey team, where it costs thousands of dollars to travel, you have to have thousands of dollars just to have your kid in those programs. The sad part about this is the high cost and the rental fees. We've heard today from my esteemed colleague, the member for Timberlea-Prospect, on the high cost for these schools and the rentals for these schools. There's nobody in my district who has to pay for these schools.

Also, we looked at what my colleague, the member for Timberlea-Prospect, said about having the ballfields and the soccer fields. They're fenced in and locked up, Mr. Speaker. In other words, in order for these kids to access these fields, they'll have to get a ladder to get over the fence. There's no way that they should have these fields locked up, these ballfields and these soccer fields. I think it's important that we have more people involved in opening these schools and getting them up.

Mr. Speaker, inactivity can lead down the road - we're talking about health promotion. Can you imagine how much less burden it is on the Health Department for somebody who is active and healthy and leading a good style, like biking and promoting stuff and having access to these programs? There are 39 P3 schools in the province, an estimated 13,000 students, an untold number of community groups looking for access to these schools, which they cannot get.

AN HON. MEMBER: Shame on those Liberals.

MR. GOSSE: Shame on them. Mr. Speaker, I just wish that the government of the day would legislate, somehow or another - I'm only a rookie in this Legislature - to get rid of these P3 schools and take them back somehow or another. We can legislate increases, pay decreases, we can legislate all kinds of other things in this province, but we can't legislate getting rid of these P3 schools. I think it would be a bold move if somehow we could legislate being responsible to the taxpayers of this province, to get rid of these P3 schools. We can do all kinds of things in this legislation, but it sure would be nice to get rid of these schools where they're charging an extraordinary amount of money for young people to get active, an extraordinary amount of money.

[Page 2338]

It's just that so many of those diseases today, Mr. Speaker, that we talk about and the government is planning on targeting some of these strategies, about getting the kids active and getting them going and keeping them active, but we need to have this P3 school stuff taken care of. Somehow we should look at it as all Parties in here. (Interruptions) It's going to cost my son and my grandson out of his pocket for years and years to come, to pay for these schools. I just don't think it's fair. I think the people in the community deserve a better deal.

It's just that the whole province's idea of a youth strategy for healthy activity is undermined with these schools. There's no way in the world that they can access these schools. I just think it's improper and I think that the cost is just so high. I think it's time we looked at actually (Interruption) well, yes it sure would be nice to have a look at that some day, legislating to make sure that we own those schools one day down the road. (Interruptions) I've pretty well had her, Bill.

AN HON. MEMBER: Okay.

MR. GOSSE: Mr. Speaker, I would be interested in seeing this bill when it comes before the Law Amendments Committee, to have a look at it and hear what the people of the community have to say. I hope some people travel up from the school boards. I'm just wondering about the cost that's going to be the new cost by the school boards. How are they going to inherit these new costs? These new costs that they're going to have by eliminating these fees, where is that hundreds of thousands of dollars going to come from to pay for this? Hopefully, we're going to hear from many people - many people in Cape Breton and many people in the area who would like to know what this bill actually means and how they feel about it. Maybe the Cape Breton-Victoria Regional School Board will come up here with a representative at the Law Amendments Committee and find out what the cost will be for them. Do you know what I mean? Maybe we should look at that.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker, for letting me speak on this bill, and you have a good day.

MR. SPEAKER: Thank you, sir. That's very kind of you.

The honourable member for Cape Breton West.

MR. RUSSELL MACKINNON: Mr. Speaker, I'm pleased to rise and speak on this particular piece of legislation, albeit that it's only of three lines. I agree with many of the comments that have been made with regard to community access to the schools and so on because I think it's vitally important. It fits in with this holistic approach to healthy living in Nova Scotia. In that context, I think the government is doing the right thing, albeit when you read the contents of the press release that was put out by the government, the Minister of Health on behalf of the Minister of Education, this idea of free access to schools and the reality of the free access to schools don't match. They don't match at all.

[Page 2339]

I'll refer you to the press release of April 15, 2004, where the announcement by the government is made suggesting that ". . . a new provincial policy on community use of schools. It will allow young people up to the age of 21 to use publicly owned school facilities for physical and recreational activities without rental fees." Yet, the government goes on to say in the same press release "They will only pay for direct additional costs including extra custodial services if they don't clean up, replacement of any supplies and equipment that are used or damaged, or staff needed to supervise activities or open and close the school". Then it goes on to say, "All groups using school facilities must have their own liability insurance.

Well, where does the freeness come in? Where's the freebie? Where's this general concept of social justice that the government is talking about and the NDP seem to be supporting? The bottom line is, it's not free. There's still somebody at the end of the day who has to pay for this. There's only one taxpayer. Whether they take it out of the Department of Education, Department of Health, Department of Finance or wherever, there's only one taxpayer, and these facilities have to be paid for.

I've heard some rather brutal attacks on the P3 system. Let's make no mistake about it, there have been mistakes in that system. I wasn't part of the government of the day at the time.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please.

The honourable member for Timberlea-Prospect.

MR. WILLIAM ESTABROOKS: I was wondering if the member would allow a question?

MR. SPEAKER: Would the honourable member for Cape Breton West allow a question? Yes, he will. We'll revert to Question Period. The honourable member for Timberlea-Prospect on a question.

MR. ESTABROOKS: So, can you tell us, during this time, you were not a member of the government? You were not a Cabinet Minister at that time? You had no role in the negotiation of P3 schools?

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

MR. MACKINNON: Mr. Speaker, you only need one answer for three questions - I was on sabbatical. Let's make no mistake about it. That issue came before Public Accounts and every senior public official within the Department of Education, Department of Finance, you name it, within government of no political stripe, supported the P3 concept because it was the only viable opportunity for the people of Nova Scotia. The Deputy Minister of Education, the senior directors in that department, yes, and many supporters of the NDP

[Page 2340]

caucus supported it. The member for Halifax Fairview stood in her place and she said, I don't care where you get the money or how it's paid, make sure we get a P3 school for my riding. Go check with the Legislative Library, it's public record. She didn't care how it was paid for, just gimme, gimme, gimme, but the bottom line is, somebody has to pay. Somebody has to pay and I agree that we have to have as much access for the people of Nova Scotia as can possibly be made. We don't have a direct charge, a user fee as the government may use, or maybe we umbrella it in as part of a departmental charge, or what, which still by the way has not been clarified by the government. This looks to me, if you read the legislation very carefully, it's another opportunity for the provincial government to download on the school boards because all they're doing is establishing a policy by which the school boards can make these schools available to students, to young people, to groups.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please.

The honourable Government House Leader.

HON. RONALD RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, I would move we adjourn the debate for the present moment.

MR. SPEAKER: Would the honourable member like to move adjournment of the debate, please.

MR. MACKINNON: Yes, Mr. Speaker.

MR. SPEAKER: The motion is to adjourn the debate.

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

The honourable Government House Leader.

HON. RONALD RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the adjournment to enable us to revert to the order of business, with the approval of the House, Introduction of Bills.

MR. SPEAKER: Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

INTRODUCTION OF BILLS

Bill No. 57 - Entitled an Act to Amend Chapter 62 of the Revised Statutes of 1989. The Cemetery and Funeral Services Act. (Hon. Barry Barnet)

[Page 2341]

MR. SPEAKER: Ordered that this bill be read a second time on a future day.

The honourable Government House Leader.

HON. RONALD RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, I would now ask the consent of the House to move this bill onto the order paper for second reading. The intention is that the bill will pass second reading now. Tomorrow at some suitable time to both Opposition Parties, we will hold a short session of the Law Amendments Committee and then refer the bill back here for passage on Thursday, subject to the consent of the House.

MR. SPEAKER: Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

The honourable Government House Leader.

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

PUBLIC BILLS FOR SECOND READING

Bill No. 57 - Cemetery and Funeral Services Act.

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

HON. BARRY BARNET: Mr. Speaker, I move second reading of Bill No. 57.

MR. SPEAKER: The motion is for second reading of Bill No. 57. Is the House ready for the question? Would all those in favour of the motion please say Aye. Contrary minded, Nay.

The motion is carried.

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

The honourable Government House Leader.

HON. RONALD RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, I think at this time we will adjourn the House. (Interruption) Yes, understood.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please.

[Page 2342]

The honourable member for Cape Breton West on tomorrow's hours and order of business.

MR. RUSSELL MACKINNON: Mr. Speaker, tomorrow's hours will be from 2:00 p.m. until 6:00 p.m. and we will debate Resolution No. 493 and Resolution No. 485.

MR. SPEAKER: The motion is that the House adjourn until 2:00 p.m. tomorrow.

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

Order, please. We have reached the moment of interruption. The subject of tonight's debate is:

"Therefore be it resolved the $147 million tax cut and $155 cheques mean less money is available for vital services like health, education, and transportation."

HON. RONALD RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, excuse me, I don't want to interrupt proceedings but are you waiting for a member?

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. Do you wish to start and then relinquish your time once the member arrives?

The honourable member for Glace Bay.

MR. DAVID WILSON (Glace Bay): The member is on his way and he has prepared this all afternoon, so he's looking forward to speaking.

MR. SPEAKER: The House will recess until 6:00 p.m.

[5:52 p.m. The House recessed.]

[6:01 p.m. The House reconvened.]

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. We've reached the moment of interruption.

[Page 2343]

ADJOURNMENT

MOTION UNDER RULE 5(5)

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Halifax Citadel.

FIN. - TAX CUTS: VITAL SERVICES - EFFECT

MR. DANIEL GRAHAM: Mr. Speaker, it gives me pleasure to rise in late debate today to talk about an issue that is of some great importance to all Nova Scotians, and at the time that we submitted this subject for debate we hadn't realized that this was going to be such a momentous day with respect to tax cuts. I see the Minister of Justice waving his hands in an obliging way. It was nice and convenient perhaps for both of us that this subject came on conveniently today. I'd like to recognize the government for doing the right thing, even though in a half measure, with respect to this matter. It clearly wasn't an easy decision for them to make, given all that's been said about this particular matter over the last 12 months. But clearly, what Nova Scotians expect at the end of the day is that government does what is in the best interests of Nova Scotians.

It was plainly obvious to many that it was unaffordable for us to have a tax cut back in 2003. It has become more obvious that it was unaffordable in the recent months. To stubbornly stick with a plan that jeopardizes our health care, our education, the quality of our roads in Nova Scotia, was simply unconscionable. For many Nova Scotians, however, today's events come as something bittersweet. For the unions, for the Chamber of Commerce, for the nurses, for the teachers, and especially those men and women who put their lives on hold and fought unsuccessfully on this message in the summer election to have the privilege to speak in this Chamber openly and honestly, it must be a particularly bittersweet pill to swallow.

But most importantly, my thoughts are with the average Nova Scotians, who have had it confirmed today that at best, their government made another huge mistake that requires more backpedaling, on top of the backpedaling they've already done, in labour standards and auto insurance legislation. And at worst, Nova Scotians learned that they were duped in the last election. While we recognize that today's decision was the right thing to do, we can understand the frustration that must be felt by average Nova Scotians who are finding that the government is now reaching back into their pockets to take money that was given to them, starting in January 1st of this year.

All of this was avoidable. None of it was necessary. One only had to look at the biggest challenges that were facing our province in order to fully appreciate that this was not necessary in the first place. The state of poor physical health of our young people, the underachievement in our schools, and the poor state of our roads, and not surprisingly we find that we have the lowest expenditure for these types of services of any province in Canada.

[Page 2344]

We had to appreciate that it was a mistake to go forward. We've said repeatedly that a tax cut is deserved, it is needed, but it is just not affordable given the mess that we find ourselves in. Should it all go, or is this enough? We'll wait and see. To date, we don't see enough to confirm this one way or another, but it must go to areas of highest priority, like health. The Premier has said repeatedly that health was his highest priority. That's fine, but I'm left a little bit uneasy when I see the report of his press release today in the final paragraph and one notes the quote, "While Ottawa's choices have interrupted part of our plan for lower taxes, as premier, I want Nova Scotians to know this - we will not take one more penny than we need to manage the financial problems the federal government is causing every single province and territory in Canada."

Two thoughts come from that, Mr. Speaker. First, when the Premier says while Ottawa's choices have interrupted part of our plans for lower taxes, I thought that the extra funding from Ottawa was intended for health, not tax cuts.

Secondly, they raise again the issue of this being Ottawa's fault. To this I offer three responses - someone in the government, I would suggest, must have some form of amnesia about the huge - I believe it was $18 billion injection for additional health care funds that came, I believe, in the Fall of 2001; new money for health care. Or, the billions more that were added in this past year which, for Nova Scotia, meant that in additional funds in the year 2003-04 there was a total of $180 million extra for health care in 2003-04; 2004-05 $60 million; 2005-06 $119 million; 2006-07 $134 million; 2007-08 $162 million; a total of $655 million new dollars being injected from Ottawa for health care. This as a result of federal-provincial discussions.

Now, the Progressive Conservative Government is fond of raising the name of Roy Romanow, conveniently, as the person who said that even more money was required in order to fix the health care system. But what is forgotten when they make those comments is that Mr. Romanow has also more recently said that none of this money should go until there is reform of the system in the provinces, until provinces like Nova Scotia get their act together in reforming the health care system.

Finally, with respect to the fed-bashing for more money, never has the federal government reneged on its obligations under equalization agreements. While I would say more money to provinces is needed generally, it has never been promised. So why complain in the light that this government is presently complaining? We say this is obviously just an attempt to deflect. In fact, in our specific case, back in the budget debates of 2002 in Supply it will show that the honourable member for Halifax Fairview was asking questions - he's present in the Chamber right now - he was asking questions of the then Minister of Finance, Mr. LeBlanc and at that time Mr. LeBlanc admitted that equalization storm clouds were gathering. Later in 2002 the record shows that the provincial Finance officials knew there were problems and the government failed to account for these problems. This is a

[Page 2345]

circumstance of self-inflicted wounds; blaming Ottawa as part of a recent strategy that is part of an old game that doesn't wash in this particular case.

Mr. Speaker, let me speak about the position that the NDP has taken in this matter. I don't take pleasure in repeating what I hear other people say, but on this occasion it's almost ridiculous. The very first words from the honourable Leader of the Official Opposition upon being asked today what his response to the partially rescinded tax cut, it was, this was what our Party was asking for. Now, there's a good friend of mine back in Cape Breton - Blair "The Bear" Joseph and he had an expression that rings in my ears when I heard that and it's a simple word - pardon? You what? You were asking for what?

In response to what the Leader of the Official Opposition had said, I'd like to table for the House a copy of The Daily News dated April 15, 2004. That would be Thursday of this past week. In the past week, the Leader of the Official Opposition made these remarks in response to the possibility of the tax cut being chopped. He said, "The idea that there is some kind of tax cut is erroneous in the extreme . . . They have not made this the cheapest place to grow, work, to raise a family, to grow old. They have made it a more expensive place to live." Then it goes on to say that, "Even the Centre for Policy Alternatives, usually an ally of the NDP . . ." is not in agreement with them. It goes on to say, "NDP Leader Darrell Dexter now finds his party the only one opposing tax hikes."

That is the context in which all of this needs to be understood. Mr. Dexter and his Party have been nowhere while the battle has gone on. They were nowhere last summer during the election, they were nowhere last Summer when this matter was raised in the Fall, they were nowhere in the debates of the House. Questions were being asked of the Minister of Finance, a document was tabled by the federal Minister of Finance where he said it was completely possible for all of this to happen.

Every four years Nova Scotians have the opportunity to measure up the efforts of its government, to make it accountable and perhaps rescind their mandate. In these circumstances, it is absolutely clear that neither the New Democrats nor the Progressive Conservative Government lived up to the expectations that Nova Scotians wanted from them. Thank you very much.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of Justice.

HON. MICHAEL BAKER: Mr. Speaker, it's my great pleasure to rise to speak for a few minutes on this subject. I would like to thank the honourable member for Halifax Citadel, and I think that we have to give credit where credit is due. The timing of this resolution in front of the House today is masterful. It's masterful because it comes on the day when the Premier spoke, and he was speaking to Nova Scotians about the decision that he has made on behalf of Nova Scotians to recognize the changes that were inevitable as a result

[Page 2346]

of the federal government's failure to adequately fund health care and equalization in this country.

Mr. Speaker, that's what I wanted to speak about for a few minutes, about the complete lack of commitment on the part of the Government of Canada to perhaps the most fundamental issue facing Canadians, and that is health care. The federal government has utterly failed to fund health care. The Romanow report indicated that funding increases were required. They have failed to deliver on that commitment.

In fact, Mr. Speaker, the present Prime Minister has failed to provide any new money other than what was previously provided by the Chretien Administration, and it's that decision, despite all the rhetoric at the time of the leadership race on the part of Mr. Martin to deliver any new money to fund health care, that provides one of the problems that made the decision inevitable today.

The second part, Mr. Speaker, of course, is equalization. Nova Scotia has been affected negatively as a result of equalization adjustments and particularly on the failure of the federal government to recognize that we should have a 10-province standard for equalization in this country. Nova Scotians should be judged not on an artificial standard involving some of the provinces, but on a standard that involves all the provinces and the combined effect of equalization and the failure of the federal government to fund health care adequately at a time when this government's main commitment is to ensure adequate funding for health and education. That made this day's decision inevitable.

I wanted to talk to you, Mr. Speaker, about how our government is committed to lower taxes for Nova Scotians - because that will improve the lives of Nova Scotians - but that we have to also balance that against, obviously, the important social services and community services like health and education. I also want to talk about the fact that tax cuts, benefits to families and low-income Nova Scotians - and I'm very proud of our commitment as a government to maintain that type of tax relief for low-income Nova Scotians because it's those low-income Nova Scotians, those working Nova Scotians, who are so affected by the tax burden because they're paying taxes, frankly, which affect their ability to provide for their family. By reducing those taxes by 10 per cent on low-income Nova Scotians, they have some money in their pockets that they will be able to put to the needs of their families in the way they choose and not the way the government chooses.

I also want to talk about the fact that this government has shown a commitment, and a consistent commitment, to providing health care with the kind of funding it needs. We are growing the DHA budgets at 7 per cent a year, year over year. That's a tremendous commitment. We're providing in addition to that 7 per cent growth all of the cost increases on the wages and benefit side of things which, as honourable members would be well aware, is a huge part of the cost of providing health care in this province.

[Page 2347]

Mr. Speaker, I'm very proud of the decision that our Premier made today, and which he announced to Nova Scotians, because it demonstrates that this government is committed to both improving the lives of Nova Scotians through tax reductions, but also to maintain those critical services which Nova Scotians depend on.

[6:15 p.m.]

Now, the honourable member in his comments made reference to a number of things, and I guess one of them that I've been here long enough to remember is a former Finance Critic of the Liberal Party of Nova Scotia, Mr. Downe, who stood in this House and waved his finger at the Premier and the Minister of Finance of the day, demanding that when Nova Scotia had a deficit, that we implement tax reductions. Mr. Speaker, that Party was committed to not only tax reductions, but to tax reductions that would have enhanced a deficit that we already had. That, I think, is somewhat ironic coming from the point of view of the honourable member for Halifax Citadel. I also heard the honourable member for Glace Bay, who referred to the same tax reductions and demanded those tax reductions. Again, when this province was in deficit, not as it is now, with a balanced budged.

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the comments from the honourable member, but I think it's fair to say that the Liberal Party has not been very consistent in being supportive of the government's agenda, vis-à-vis the fiscal responsibility. (Interruptions) They're very flexible, indeed, as the honourable member said. In fact, some would suggest that whatever the government does that they are simply on the side of doing something different.

Mr. Speaker, there's another couple of things that I think that may be useful for Nova Scotians to consider as part of this debate. That is, and again this is historical revisionism, but the labour standards issue that the honourable member referred to, it is important to remember that I believe he's referring to what would be called the Sunday shopping bill, which had labour standards provisions inherent in that bill, I just, for the record, want to remind everyone that all Parties in this House voted for in third reading. Therefore all Parties have ownership in the decision that was made. While, upon reflection, I think there may have been some adjustments that may have been desirable, obviously none of the Parties in this House thought of that at the time or else they wouldn't have voted for the bill in third reading, because obviously no one would support it unless they believed the overall thrust was for the benefit of Nova Scotians.

Mr. Speaker, to revert to the main issue that we are debating at the present time, and that is tax reductions. We in Nova Scotia have been the beneficiary of a very strong economy partly as a result of the tax relief that we were able to provide last year to Nova Scotians in which we had hoped to continue through this year.

[Page 2348]

Mr. Speaker, I want to go back to the fact that I believe Nova Scotians want to fundamentally ensure that they have some choices with respect to their finances. That they have some choices with how they spend their money, and they want to make sure that they can make the choices for their family. I also believe that we all recognize that those lower-income Nova Scotians, those Nova Scotians who are less well off then some us, deserve tax relief particularly. Those are the Nova Scotians who I believe, by virtue of the Premier's announcement, will be best protected today.

Mr. Speaker, part of being government is making difficult choices. I believe we've held the line on non-essential spending items. We made sure that the budget was balanced last year, and that was no small accomplishment, I might add, because it was a very difficult series of choices that allowed us to balance last year's budget and create a small surplus. Now, this year, as the government has indicated, we are looking forward to doing the same thing. We are looking forward to balancing the budget in the upcoming fiscal year. We are looking forward to bringing down a budget that is responsible, that provides the kind of funding for health, for education and transportation. Those programs that Nova Scotians absolutely demand.

I believe we have, Mr. Speaker, a balance that Nova Scotians can and will support, a balance that will ensure that Nova Scotians have the services they need and they demand, that we provide protection for the less fortunate among us, and that we have tax relief that will put some money in the hands of those people.

In closing, and I know my time is running short, I believe that today was a courageous day, where the Premier made decisions for the best of Nova Scotians. I believe that Nova Scotians will recognize it is a courageous day, one where they can be proud of their government. Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Halifax Fairview.

MR. GRAHAM STEELE: Mr. Speaker, what we have, unfortunately, is a government engaged now in the blame game, pointing the finger at Ottawa. Every issue that comes forward these days on the eve of a federal general election is Ottawa's fault. It's a new line they've taken, something that they take now on every topic that comes before the House. It's not particularly helpful I think in helping Nova Scotians understand how the members of this House are tackling the people's priorities.

It's not particularly helpful when the Liberals stand up still trying to fight the last election, and say, well, it's the NDP's fault or it's the government's fault. I wanted to spend my time today talking about what the people's priorities are, and what we are trying to do to achieve that. I am going to do that, but before I do that, I really have to take issue with something that the member for Halifax Citadel said, and he said it not for the first time in this House. I took issue with it the first time he said it, and the second time he said it, and I'm

[Page 2349]

going to take issue with it again, the third time that he said it, which was today, or that I have heard him say it and that it is his idea that Nova Scotians were duped in the last election. That's his word. They were duped.

The Liberal Party cannot believe, still, that they came third. For the first time, in I don't know how many years, it's hard to remember, it's at least 50 years, and maybe longer, maybe ever since the Liberal Party was third. The NDPs has come third, the Progressive Conservatives have been third. We all recall that when Mr. Stanfield became Progressive Conservative Leader, the Progressive Conservatives had no seats in this House - none.

The Liberals, the only explanation that they can offer for why people did not support them and have relegated them to being the Third Party in this House for the first time in a very long time, is that somehow the people of Nova Scotia were duped. The words that are coming to my mind I think are unparliamentary so I'll try to move them out of my mind. As an analysis of what happened in last summer's election, I would suggest that the Liberal Party might want to take a different line of thinking. There are reasons why the Liberal Party came third. Until they come to grips with those reasons, they will remain third.

What we did in the last election was we tried to focus on the priorities of Nova Scotians. We had said to the government over and over in the budget debate leading up to the election, that they were taking the wrong course. We said, Nova Scotians need a break, they need a better deal, and delivering that to them through the income tax system was the wrong way to do it. It was the right idea, insofar as it was offering a break.

After four years of relentlessly raising regressive taxes and user fees, which disproportionately affect people in the lower end of the income scale, that at the time, when the time came to offer relief, that's where they should have done it, through those regressive taxes and through lowering user fees. Instead, after raising the overall burden on those worst off among us, they then delivered the reward in such a way that those best off among us got the most. What the Minister of Justice left out in his analysis tonight, that today's announcement somehow benefits the poor, of course it doesn't.

There are 200,000-plus Nova Scotians who don't earn enough money to pay any provincial tax. To them, this whole debate about income tax cut or not income tax cut was utterly irrelevant because it delivered no dollars and no cents to them and their family. There was another 200,000 - there was a total of 400,000 people, and I can't remember how the groups broke out, it's something like 230,000 got nothing, and another 170,000 would get $100 or less. That was what they were going to get, because they only earn enough to pay a little bit of tax.

The people at the higher end of the income scale were going to get, for the very richest Nova Scotians, tens of thousands of dollars back. That was the reward. It was unfair. It was not the way to deliver a break. Now, what's different between us and the Liberals was

[Page 2350]

that their plan is just to take people's money and the Liberals are almost saying today's a great day for Nova Scotians, your taxes are going up again. (Interruption)

You know it's a great day because you're going to pay more to our government because that's where the Liberal analysis stops, is we want your money and we know what to do with it, right, and here's the Liberal Party who has probably done more than any other Party in Canada to raise the level in cynicism about politics - $100 million at the federal level evaporates. Nobody can say where it went and there's no paperwork. It went to Liberal- friendly ad firms and they can't explain what exactly they did to earn the money - $100 million - and the Liberals here in Nova Scotia say give us your money, we know what to do with it.

Well, I bet the Liberals know what to do with it. A $1 billion gun registry, $1 billion, one followed by nine zeros, $1 billion, and nobody is even sure if it's going to work or if it's going to need more money. Who did that? That was the Liberals and if there's anything that's increased people's cynicism about politics and about the ability of their governments to do what it is the people want them to do, a lot of the blame for that lies at the door of the Liberal Party.

Today is a good step because what the government has done is they've not only provided themselves some more revenue room, but they've done it in a way that's more progressive. They've left it alone, they've left the cut alone, the income tax cut. Now, let's not fool ourselves here. Taxes and user fees have gone up a great deal under this government. They talk about a tax cut, but there is only one thing that they've cut and that's income tax and they've cut it a little bit. So some people will be keeping all of their income tax cut and the people at the higher end will lose more, and the 5 per cent or so, the very highest end, will lose all of it. If that's making a bad choice a little more palatable, but what we would like to see and what we said last year we want to see and what we're saying again this year we want to see is a break for Nova Scotians delivering on their priorities and the number one priority for this Party is the long-term care issue. We must stop the practice of charging residents of long-term care facilities for their health care costs - the only people in Nova Scotia who do not have their basic health care costs covered under universal Medicare, that has got to stop and it has to stop on Thursday when the budget is delivered. So that's the other shoe. Today was step one - freeing up the money. We don't know yet what the government is going to do with it, but that has to stop on Thursday.

We haven't solved the auto insurance problem in Nova Scotia and anybody who thinks we have is fooling themselves. That issue will be back, it will be back this Fall when the 12-month freeze comes off and there is nowhere further to cut in the benefits available to injured Nova Scotians. Nova Scotians want a real break, a permanent break on their auto insurance rate, and this government with their Liberal supporters haven't done that.

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We need to tackle this issue of a tuition freeze. Again, you know, the government announced yesterday $8 million new dollars for universities and colleges, but it turned out not to be $8 million new dollars, it was $2 million new dollars. Why couldn't they just say that? Why can't we just have the government stand up and say, okay, it's $2 million new dollars? No, yesterday's press release says $8 million and people have to dig and talk to universities to find out, well, no, that's not really true, it's really $2 million, and that is not going to go very far to address the universities' needs or the need to do something about tuition which is in one sense a user fee for a higher education.

People need a break on their HST on essentials. We had said during the last election that we felt that one of those essentials was home heating fuel, but we think Nova Scotians have other ideas. We're sure that when we consult with them, that they will say that's one of their priorities. There may be others, but they need a break on regressive taxes like sales tax on essentials of living like heating fuel. We need to address waiting times. We need more resources in the classroom. This is all possible, it can be done within the context of a balanced budget. That's the people's priorities and that's what we need to address. Enough of the blame game and enough of the government pointing at Ottawa, and enough of the Liberals pointing at every direction but themselves. Let's start addressing the priorities of the people.

MR. SPEAKER: The time has expired for the late debate. I would like to thank the honourable members for taking part in this very important debate this evening.

We stand adjourned until 2:00 p.m. tomorrow.

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

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NOTICES OF MOTION UNDER RULE 32(3)

RESOLUTION NO. 971

By: Mr. James DeWolfe (Pictou East)

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

Whereas 12 special women were recently honoured in Pictou County for the important contributions they have made to their respective communities; and

Whereas the 12 women were honoured by the Pictou County Celebrating Women Committee in conjunction with the Nova Scotia Advisory Council on the Status of Women; and

Whereas organizers are hopeful that Celebrating Women can become an annual event paying tribute to the many Pictou County women who make such a difference across the county, often behind the scenes;

Therefore be it resolved that MLAs recognize the meaningful efforts of the Pictou County Celebrating Women Committee, while congratulating them for their work in honouring the special activities put forth by these special people toward their communities on an almost daily basis.

RESOLUTION NO. 972

By: Mr. James DeWolfe (Pictou East)

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

Whereas the Thorburn Atom B Golden Hawks have completed a successful 2003-04 minor hockey year; and

Whereas the Hawks, under the guidance of Coaches Darin Whidden, Bob Foote and Darryl Arbuckle, won the Pictou County Atom B Hockey Championship and were also winners in the Aaron Blackwood Memorial Hockey Tournament; and

Whereas the Hawks exemplified a true desire for their winter passion in completing such a successful season;

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Therefore be it resolved that the MLAs in this House of Assembly applaud the efforts of the Thorburn Atom B Golden Hawks, while wishing them every success throughout their minor hockey careers.

RESOLUTION NO. 973

By: Mr. James DeWolfe (Pictou East)

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

Whereas small business entrepreneurship is a dream for many, yet a success more times than ever when people put their minds to it; and

Whereas such is the case for Anita McIntyre when she took over the former Nan's Kitchen in the town of Westville and turned it into what is known now as the A&T Diner; and

Whereas the A&T Diner is a family affair as Anita gets help from her husband Tom Davis, her mother Diane, who works as a waitress, and their 14-year-old son who provides assistance in whatever way he can;

Therefore be it resolved that the MLAs in this House of Assembly commend Anita McIntyre and her husband Tom for their foresight in wanting to run a local eating establishment and for having the necessary organization in place to go about doing it.

RESOLUTION NO. 974

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 Sidney Crosby is without a doubt the brightest young hockey talent to emerge from the Maritimes over the past number of decades and more than likely will prove to be one of the game's greatest players, like Gretzky and Lemieux; and

Whereas Sidney was recently honoured with the Roland Michener Canada Games Award, presented to one male and one female from each Games, for exemplifying strong leadership skills on and off the playing field and an ongoing commitment to scholastic and athletic experience; and

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Whereas after his phenomenal performance at the 2003 Canada Winter Games, Sidney led the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League in scoring this past season while playing with the Rimouski Oceanic, who are presently tied in the league best-of-seven semi-finals with the Moncton Wildcats at a game apiece with Game 3 tonight;

Therefore be it resolved that the MLAs recognize the tremendous hockey treasure we have here in Nova Scotia and wish him nothing but continued success.

RESOLUTION NO. 975

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 Nova Scotia has a strong tradition of developing talented and dedicated hockey players with hockey tournaments played across this province; and

Whereas the 2004 Joe LaMontagne Memorial Tournament was recently held in Cole Harbour; and

Whereas the Atom AA Gold Medal Champions of this great tournament for 2004 is the Eastern Shore Mariners Atom AA;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House congratulate the talented members of the Eastern Shore Mariners Atom AA hockey team and their coaches on winning the gold medal at the 2004 Joe LaMontagne Memorial Tournament and wish them much success in following their hockey dreams.

RESOLUTION NO. 976

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 small businesses account for more than 70 per cent of jobs in this province; and

Whereas small businesses are the lifeblood of our rural communities and play a significant role in growing the economy here in Nova Scotia; and

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Whereas Jupiter Foundation Ltd. in Jeddore Oyster Ponds is one such company that is making a positive contribution to the economy on the Eastern Shore of Nova Scotia;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House join me in recognizing Jupiter Foundation Ltd. in Jeddore Oyster Ponds for all the contributions it makes to Nova Scotia, particularly the Eastern Shore.

RESOLUTION NO. 977

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 small businesses account for more than 70 per cent of jobs in this province; and

Whereas small businesses are the lifeblood of our rural communities and play a significant role in growing the economy here in Nova Scotia; and

Whereas Down East Carpet Centre in Musquodoboit Harbour is one such company that is making a positive contribution to the economy on the Eastern Shore of Nova Scotia;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House join me in recognizing Down East Carpet Centre in Musquodoboit Harbour for all the contributions it makes to Nova Scotia, particularly the Eastern Shore.

RESOLUTION NO. 978

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 small businesses account for more than 70 per cent of jobs in this province; and

Whereas small businesses are the lifeblood of our rural communities and play a significant role in growing the economy here in Nova Scotia; and

Whereas Budget Glass and Mirror in Musquodoboit Harbour is one such company that is making a positive contribution to the economy on the Eastern Shore of Nova Scotia;

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Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House join me in recognizing Budget Glass and Mirror in Musquodoboit Harbour for all the contributions it makes to Nova Scotia, particularly the Eastern Shore.

RESOLUTION NO. 979

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 small businesses account for more than 70 per cent of jobs in this province; and

Whereas small businesses are the lifeblood of our rural communities and play a significant role in growing the economy here in Nova Scotia; and

Whereas Bernfield Kennels Ltd. in Porters Lake is one such company that is making a positive contribution to the economy on the Eastern Shore of Nova Scotia;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House join me in recognizing Bernfield Kennels Ltd. in Porters Lake for all the contributions it makes to Nova Scotia, particularly the Eastern Shore.

RESOLUTION NO. 980

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 small businesses account for more than 70 per cent of jobs in this province; and

Whereas small businesses are the lifeblood of our rural communities and play a significant role in growing the economy here in Nova Scotia; and

Whereas Aquaprime Mussel Ranch in Ship Harbour is one such company that is making a positive contribution to the economy on the Eastern Shore of Nova Scotia;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House join me in recognizing Aquaprime Mussel Ranch in Ship Harbour for all the contributions it makes to Nova Scotia, particularly the Eastern Shore.

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RESOLUTION NO. 981

By: Hon. Murray Scott (Speaker)

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

Whereas Zack Knol of Oxford, Nova Scotia, is a member of the Oxford mini boys basketball team; and

Whereas Oxford hosted an eight-team tournament on April 2nd and April 3rd; and

Whereas Zack Knol won the award for sportsmanship for the two-day tournament;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House congratulate Zack Knol on this prestigious award and wish him continued success in the future.

RESOLUTION NO. 982

By: Hon. Murray Scott (Speaker)

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

Whereas Springhill's Highcrest Nursing Home, a division of Highcrest Enterprises of Antigonish, made a solid commitment to the community they have operated in for a number of years; and

Whereas Highcrest donated $5,000 to the Dr. Carson and Marion Murray Community Centre project; and

Whereas Highcrest is making their contribution over three years and have made their first instalment of $2,000 to the committee in March 2004;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House congratulate the Springhill Highcrest Nursing Home on their commitment to their community by making such a generous donation to the Springhill Dr. Carson and Marion Murray Community Centre Project.

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RESOLUTION NO. 983

By: Hon. Murray Scott (Speaker)

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

Whereas Andrew Bragg of Oxford, Nova Scotia, is a member of the Oxford mini boys basketball team; and

Whereas Oxford hosted an eight-team tournament on April 2nd and April 3rd; and

Whereas Andrew Bragg won the award for most valuable player for the two-day tournament;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House congratulate Andrew Bragg on this prestigious award and wish him continued success in the future.